"Autopsy" A Movie with Guts but No Heart


"Autopsy" was apart of the After Dark Horror Fest 3 which was a collection of eight movies released in 2009.  Keeping with my current theme of movies featuring insane doctors and medical madness, "Autopsy" fits the bill with mixed results.  With an extremely simplistic plot and generic characters, all the movie has to offer is shock value.  Most of it is pretty creative and gross but still unable to support any sort of story.

A group of college kids are partying at Mardi Gras having a fun time, but when they get back on the road to wherever they're going next they accidentally hit a man in a hospital gown who comes running out of the woods.  A few moments of panicked arguing and finding out their cell phones can't get any reception an ambulance shows up out of nowhere.  Hesitant at first but the paramedics take the kids back to an eerily empty Mercy Hospital to get checked out.  An older nurse runs the show up front as Dr. Benway takes care of thing behind closed doors.

In typical horror movie fashion, they are quickly split up, some just wander off to explore the dark and spooky building, while others are taken by the orderly to be fodder for the doctor's experiments.  Emily is the girl we follow the most and will undoubtedly be the final girl who will have to fight for her life against the doctor and other crazies.  When things start to go bad Emily is able to call for help and a lone police officer shows up.  It's no surprise that he doesn't last more than a few scenes before he is taken out.

The character of Dr. Benway is pretty weak and uninspired for being the main bad guy.  He is not scary, threatening, or all that interesting.  He has a very thin and clichéd backstory and most it leads up to a few shocking gore filled scenes at the end.  The gore and effects as I have said are pretty good, but this is a strictly by the numbers horror film that will drift off into obscurity.  One final note for those interested the film was scored by Joseph Bishara, who has most recently done the two "Insidious" movies.

"Pathology" is Another Medical Misfire


"Pathology" is another med school horror flick like the previously reviewed "Anatomy", except Americanized and in English.  Before the credits, a title card displays the Hippocratic Oath, then brings us into the life of young Dr. Ted Gray, played by Milo Ventamiglia".  An extremely smart robot, I mean human, who graduated from Harvard medical school and just got back from a Unicef tour in Africa. 

Pathology is the study of the cause and effects of the disease.  Figuring out what killed a person and why.  Ted accepts a position at a prestigious pathology program and must once again leave his fiancé for a long period of time, which she seems pretty okay with.  Ted is introduced to the other students who amount to the cool kids at any high school.  A tight-knit group of immature cocky kids who try to outdo each other at everything.  Early on we get a big dose of dissected corpses and gross-out jokes, but Ted seems to be taking the high road (at first anyway).  He is ethical in the treatment of the cadavers and shows up a lot of the other students with his far-out theories of how certain people were killed.

Ted's loneliness finally gets the better of him and he finally joins the ranks of the "cool" kids and they introduce him to their secret game.  Each of the students has to try to commit the perfect murder.  While the others must find out how it was pulled off.  Needless to say, the story and so-called plot are absolutely absurd.  Not to mention the added spiciness of several sex scenes, although not with any of the dead people (darn).  Although sometimes done in the same room as dead people.  Mmmm it must smell good in there, sexy.

Ted is not the good guy and hero he is originally made out to be as he is easily seduced into violating  When things really start to get serious and his life and career are in jeopardy he goes to extremes to protect himself and then some.  Just like life though nobody is perfect and to protect a way of life or an image some will go to extreme lengths.
his ethics and morality for a few cheap thrills.

"Pathology" is not a good movie but it has a bunch of sexy people doing sexy things with a dash of gore. If that's all your looking for then by all mean watch it, but know you have been warned.

"Dr. Giggles" Early 90's Horror Dies on the Table


Laughter is the best medicine in this early 90s horror film.  "Dr. Giggles" is like an updated '50s style mad scientist B-movie.  Larry Drake of "Darkman" fame plays Dr. Evan Rendell a sort of third-rate Freddy Krueger who spouts off cheesy one-liners at every opportunity.  

Dr. Rendell escapes from the mental hospital that has been keeping him and goes back to the small town that killed his murderous Doctor father.  Out for vengeance, he hides out in his families abandoned old house.  The story fills in all of the usual horror elements.  We follow high school girl Jennifer, played by Holly Marie Combs, who has a faulty heart valve.  Jennifer's mother died in the hospital with what was supposed to be a routine operation and now has had to deal with her evil stepmother.  Keeping with old horror clichés the first kids to feel the wrath of Dr. Giggles were the black characters.  Although Officer Reitz the main cop hunting Giggles is black and he survives.  Sex and drugs are also off limits if you intend on surviving.

Jennifer eventually becomes the main target of the Doctor and she must fight for her survival not only from him but from her own failing body.  The horror films of the early 90s are all pretty bad.  Coming off the magical decade that was the 80s, the genre seemed to have run out of gas until Wes Craven brought it back from the brink with "Scream" in 1996.  Although "Silence of the Lambs" is always referred to as a thriller or a drama.  It was the best horror movie of that period.

"Dr. Giggles" is very 90's in its fashions, hairstyles, and music.  It hits every just about every know horror cliché but is still a sort of cult classic for being so bad.  It's cheesy and stupid but still strangely entertaining.

"Anatomy" German Medical Horror Film from 2000


This German horror film from 2000 stars Franka Potente, the breakout star of the 1998 film "Run Lola Run".  It answers the question how do they really get the bodies for those amazing Body Worlds Exhibits?  Real human bodies injected with a plastic-like substance leaving their muscles and vital organs on display in amazing detail.

Medical horror movies seem to hit a nerve, so to speak, as they prey on primal fears that everyone can relate to.  All the way back to the original Frankenstein, medical horrors have been a staple of the genre.  The environments are cold and sterile with lots of stainless steel instruments from scalpels, saws, and drills.  Putting your life in the hands of a possibly insane stranger, is there anything else scarier?  Yes, there is being operated on while still awake!  Ahhhhh!

Paula is a bright med student who gets accepted to the prestigious Heidelberg Medical School who discovers the existence of a secret society.  Heidelberg opens its new state of the art anatomy wing where the students have access to all the corpses they can handle.  But when Paula recognizes a guy who ends up on her table she starts to investigate his death.   She finds a mysterious tattoo on his ankle and a very unusual blood sample.  It is found to have a sort of plastic polymer in it.  Paula's investigations lead to an ancient secret society called the Anti-hippocratics.  All doctors take a Hippocratic oath to help patients, but not this group.  Their research is paramount as they use live people to practice on and learn from.  Putting aside medical ethics for "the greater good".

Although this movie is pretty dark and disturbing, there are several moments of dark humor that lighten the mood a bit.  The effects used are pretty awesome and the highlight of the movie.  It does, however, suffer from a poor script and doesn't hold up to a reality check.  "Anatomy" is an intense and graphic ride that is worth at least one watch.  The Body Worlds exhibits that continue to travel around the world did originate in Germany but thankfully use willing donors.

"American Mary" will Freak you Out!


The body modification subculture is sort of the like the old time carnival freak show. People surgically mold, sculpt and pierce their way into something else but the person on the inside stays the same.  The 2012 film "American Mary" features Katherine Isabelle, the breakout star of 2001's "Ginger Snaps", as a Med student who finds herself performing body mod surgeries that she finds out is quite good at.

Being a poor college student Mary Mason answer's a Craig's List style ad for a sleazy strip club owned by an even sleazier younger guy.  During her "interview," something goes terribly wrong outside and Mary if offered $5,000 to do some impromptu surgery on some guy.  She is freaked out but does it.  Word gets around to the underground body mod culture and she is approached by some pretty strange characters to help them finish their work.  Isabelle plays Mary perfectly, she is desperate enough to take these strange jobs but is still grounded and very professional.  She provides a desperately needed service to the extremely rich who believe she is an artist who works in the medium of skin.

She is first pursued by Beatrice who has transformed his/her body into Betty Boop.  After completing surgery on her for $10,000, her friend Ruby comes calling next.  Rudy is transforming her body to look like an anatomically incorrect Barbie Doll and has a few things cut off and one thing sewed up.  The film has a darkly comedic thread throughout.  Ruby, Beatrice, and the others are all portrayed as good people on the inside, but different on the out.  While the exact opposite is true about the other so-called normal people.

Back at school, Mary is invited to a swanky party thrown by one of the big shot surgeons, but she has unknowing just stepped into the lion's den.  She is drugged and raped by the surgeon, but little does he know the unique skills that Mary has recently acquired.  Mary exacts swift and painful revenge upon the Doc.  Making him her test subject for new procedures, keeping him alive and aware the whole time.

"American Mary" is full of interesting unique characters and well played throughout.  It was written and directed by the Soska twins, Jen and Sylvia, who also play parts as customers to Mary.  They bring a real sense of authenticity and care to the film, that would have been lost had it been done by anybody else. 

Take a Trip to the "Garden State" with Zach Braff


Zach Braff from "Scrubs" fame brought this indie classic to the screen in 2004.  He wrote, directed and starred in the critically acclaimed film about a man who returns home to New Jersey after a ten-year absence to attend his mothers funeral.

Braff plays Andrew Largeman, a struggling actor living in L.A. whose only big part has been playing a retarded quarterback in a cheesy movie.  His father is a psychiatrist who has been treating him for most of his life.  Prescribing all kinds of meds that have put him into a fog, moving through his life as a sort of emotional zombie.  His mother was a paraplegic and how she became that way is the event that has shaped Largeman's life.  Upon returning home he meets up with people he knew in high school.  Mark, played by Peter Sarsgaard, still lives at home.  He digs graves and scams the local hardware store for money.  Nothing changes in the old neighborhood.  Everybody goes about their business and every once in a while a guy like Andrew Largeman is able to escape and try to make something of his life.  Although one guy in the neighborhood did make it big by inventing silent Velcro.  Largeman is just as lost and messed up like everyone else. 

Soon enough everything is about to change.  While in a doctor's office waiting room Largeman meets Sam, played by Natalie Portman.  An almost too perfect local girl who we find out has epilepsy.  Their relationship builds over the course of the film to a satisfying but somewhat clichéd ending.  "Garden State" has a great overall feeling to it.  The characters a very real and down to earth.  They feel like your own friends and are quite relatable.  It's the timeless story of one man's journey to find his place in the world and to reconcile his past.  It's about Largeman coming to grips with what his dad had put him through as a child and being able to move forward.  It is the quintessential indie film with a great soundtrack that on awards in itself.  Take the journey with Andrew Largeman and watch "Garden State" tonight!

Get "Closer" with Natalie Portman and Clive Owen


It starts with a look and the unforgettable song the "The Blowers Daughter" provided by Damien Rice.  Walking the busy streets of London two people lock eyes and make an instant connection only to have it end in near tragedy.  Dan, played by Jude Law, is eyeing Alice, played by Natalie Portman, only to have their flirting session end when Alice is hit by a car.  With only a few cuts and scrapes, Dan waits with her in the E.R. and they get to know one another.  Alice is a former stripper who just moved to London from New York after a break-up, while Dan is a struggling writer and journalist who currently writes obituaries.

"Closer" is Directed by legendary Mike Nichols and adapted from the play by Patrick Marber.  It's the story of 4 characters that all get involved with each other and make each other rather miserable.  Along with Dan and Alice, we have Larry (Clive Owen) the dermatologist and Anna (Julia Roberts) the photographer.  We jump ahead a little bit and Dan has completed his book and is getting his head shot taken by Anna.  Although he's in a relationship with Alice, he can't help but fall in love with Anna.  She is also into him but doesn't want to hurt Alice.  Angered Dan sets up a prank that ends up backfiring on him.  In a very funny scene that is probably taken straight from reality, Dan poses as Anna in the sex chat room and strikes up quite the filthy conversation with Larry.  Knowing that Anna will be at the Aquarium he set up Larry to meet her where another very funny and awkward scene takes place.  Through that meeting, Anna and Larry fall in love and eventually get married.

All of the characters get their fill of jealousy, anger, and betrayal but Dan gets the worst of them all.  He is tormented and played around with by all three.  He is weak minded and easily manipulated.  His lack of loyalty and pure jealousy costs him, Alice, not once but twice.  Once he inadvertently introduces Anna and Larry he dooms his chances forever with her. Larry is the exact opposite, he is like a caveman with an overactive sex drive.  He is smart and will stop at nothing to get what wants.  Ana is a down to earth fine art portrait photographer who falls in love with both Dan and Larry and must make a choice, but it seems like it has already been made.  Alice is a strong independent woman who is looking for a new start in London but after her first break up with Dan, she goes back to her old ways.  Alice is a mysterious character and the one we know the least about.  Anna is jealous of how young and beautiful she is and this is probably why she is into Dan.  Alice is many things, a tease, a flirt, and a manipulator.  After a bitter argument, Larry goes to a strip club where Alice is working.  Since Larry is quite obsessed with her he pays for a private dance and she plays the part perfectly.  "Lying is the funnest thing a girl can do with her clothes on," she says at one point.  The story ends seemingly as it should almost like fate has intervened and told these characters what should happen next.  We close with more "Blowers Daughter" and Alice? walking the streets of New York looking as beautiful and as confident as ever.

"Maniac (1980)" is Completely Insane!


With it's off the charts creep factor and brutal violence, the low budget 1980 slasher "Maniac" was an early classic in a decade of memorable horror films.  What makes this film so utterly disturbing is the performance by Joe Spinell as Frank aka the Maniac. His homely look and doughy physique give him a very relatable everyman kind of quality.  He walks beside you on the street and is unnoticeable in a crowd, but he is completely and utterly insane.

Frank Zito lives in a small apartment with a bunch of female mannequins which he dresses up with his victim's clothes.  As a final touch, he scalps his victims and nails the bloody matted hair to the bald mannequins.  The creepiest element of the movie is its use of sound.  We constantly hear Franks heavy breathing like some obscene phone call.  His rambling thoughts are played as a voiceover on a number of scenes.  You are literally in the mind of a killer.

Like a lot of movie madmen, Frank has serious mommy issues.  His mother was a prostitute who brought numerous men into their apartment to conduct her business.  Frank was also beaten and abused as a child.  When his mother dies suddenly in a car accident, it sends Frank over the edge into madness he will never come back from.  His victims are primarily prostitutes who he gleefully strangles and scalps.  One day in the park he meets Anna, a fashion photographer, who shows an interest in him.  He sees Ana as his one last shot at a normal life.  He is a perfectly charming gentleman around her, but how long can this last? Apparently not for long as he dispatches one of her models while she's taking a bath in her unlocked apartment.  Talk about making it easy for him.

The special effects were done by the legendary Tom Savini who has the bizarre job of making his own head explode.  He has a small acting part in the film credited as "Disco Boy" along with "Disco Girl" are making out in a parked car when the Maniac starts peeping.  He eventually hops on to the hood and shoots him point blank in the face with a shotgun.  Savini's head explodes in a gruesome slow-motion scene that foreshadows a scene to come in Cronenberg's film "Scanners".  Unable to control the crazy beast within Frank loses Anna and falls into a sort of death spiral. "Maniac" is truly a carnival of insanity all the way to the gory end!

"C.H.U.D" Another Cult Classic from the 80s Horror Vault


Cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers or C.H.U.D's are the hideously deformed mutants living in the sewers of New York City.  Although back in the eighties it wasn't that much better on the surface.  Like many of the 80s horror movies, I've reviewed this one has also become a cult classic.  From its B-movie style monsters to its dirty and sleazy depiction of the big rotten apple.

George Cooper is a fashion photographer who lives with his girlfriend/model Lauren in a small apartment in the city.  She gets pregnant and they have the should we or shouldn't we talk about whether to keep the baby.  They give a very strong pro-choice message and she chooses to keep the baby and that's all were ever hear about it.  Professionally George is in kind of a rut and is looking to break out of it.  He got his start in photography by documenting homeless people in the sewers.  So he decides to revisit his roots and meets A.J., played by Daniel Stern, a young and energetic soup kitchen owner.  People have been disappearing and they set out to find answers.  This movie made me think a lot about the Clive Barker story than movie "Midnight Meat Train" which has a similar plot involving an NYC photographer discovering horrifying people within the endless sewer tunnels. Although Barker's story is pretty hardcore and violent, while "C.H.U.D" has more of a comical side to it.

George and A.J. find out that the nefarious city employees have been storing nuclear waste in these tunnels until they can move it somewhere else.  It's too late as it has started to change the sewer people into the C.H.U.D.'s who hunger for human flesh.  When the C.H.U.D's start appearing on the surface the city they must be dealt with.  The C.H.U.D's themselves look like guys in big slimy latex suits with glowing yellows eyes and are kept mostly in the shadows for obvious reasons. 

With the NYPD now on the job we go inside a cafe and meet a couple of New York's finest eating breakfast with one of them being played by the yet to be famous John Goodman.  The city plans to gas the sewer to kill off the C.H.U.D's but our heroes are still down there.  Will they survive both the C.H.U.D's and the NYPD?  This is a fun and schlocky movie from the 80s horror vault.

Stephen King's "Maximum Overdrive" is a Quart Low


In 1986 famed horror writer Stephen King stepped behind the camera to personally direct his one and only movie.  "Maximum Overdrive" is based on his short story called "Trucks" and stars Emilio Estevez as Bill Robinson, a short order cook at a truck stop who must save the day from a bunch of evil self-driving big rigs.

A comet passing by Earth triggers machines to start going haywire.  Pop machines shooting lethal cans of pop, Lawnmowers running amok and big trucks out to kill.  Yes, it's just as ridiculous as it sounds.  All played to several songs by AC/DC.  The comet is said to remain in the Earths atmosphere for eight days, but will humanity survive?  The never-ending battle between man and machine is resumed.  To quote the waitress "We made you, we made you!"

This is an appalling stupid movie but works as a sort of trashy fun entertainment.  The events take place at the Dixie Boy Truckstop in Willmington, North Carolina, and has its share of stereotypical southern characters. The cigar-chomping owner who calls everyone Bubba.  The slightly retarded grease monkey attendant.  There is also the story of an annoying just married couple and a twelve-year-old little leaguer.  There are several characters that I assume came from the short story, but on film, they seem quite one dimensional.  Estevez does his best with the material but its quite the step down from the previous year of 1985 when he broke out with "The Breakfast Club" and St. Elmo's Fire".  I'm sure he got paid and I don't blame him for cashing in on his newfound celebrity.

With the Stephen King name, this movie gets instant recognition but viewer beware.  Surprisingly it's unavailable from Netflix as the DVD is out of print.  Although if you still really want to see it go over to Amazon On Demand. 

Stephen King's Original "Children of the Corn"


Released in the Spring of '84 "Children of the Corn" is another in a long series of classic horror movies based on a story by Stephen King.  It mixes two popular horror sub-genres in religious horror and creepy killer kids.  Although there have been numerous sequels, 7 to be exact.  Nothing compares to the original in its iconic evil main characters Isaac and Malachi.  It's a great story that really is pure evil.

The story opens in the small Midwestern town of Gatlin, Nebraska in a little cafe where many of townspeople gather.  Little do they know that the children have planned a sort of reckoning and soon they will be left to fend for themselves.  Their leader is the child preacher named Isaac.  Isaac is probably about 12 or 13 and is short for his age.  His voice is fairly high and has quite the violent temper.  His second in command is the equally vicious red-haired Malachi.  They're a couple of little Christian fundamentalists that rule with an iron fist and warn to fear "The one who walks behind the rows".  They all congregate in the cornfields and listen to Isaac spew his sermons.

Our adult heroes are Burt and Vicki (Linda Hamilton) who are traveling across the country back to Seattle when they accidentally hit a kid who ran out a cornfield.  They find that his throat was slit and stick his corpse in the trunk.  Trying to find a phone (no cell phones it's1984) they run into one of the oldest horror clichés know to man.  The rundown gas station in the middle of nowhere run by a crazy old man.  The station's phone is not working and is also out of gas for that matter.  They are told to avoid Gatlin and to go to the next town over for help.  Although they do try to find the other town, it seems that all roads lead to Gatlin.  When they arrive they find nothing but a ghost town and no working phones.  They search a few houses and end up finding Sarah, a little girl drawing pictures.  She has the power to see the future and her drawings are very important to the group.  She and her brother Gob are two kids who want to get away from Isaac and the cult but are too afraid to do anything about it.  Vicki stays with the girl while Burt goes to look for others.  The house is then attacked by Malachi and company, taking Vicki hostage.

The plot is pretty simple but the characters are memorable.  Some of the visual effects are pretty laughable, but it's still a scary film even by today's standards.  Just like the classic films "Village of the Dammed" or "The Lord of the Flies" the children form their own society and things get pretty intense.  However, the "Children of the Corn" have a bunch of help from the devil himself or is it an angry God? 

A little Story about "Jack and Diane"


Writer/director Bradley Rust Gray's debut feature "The Exploding Girl" was a mild indie success with its star Zoe Kazan, a twenty-something girl dealing with life and relationship issues.  It's a slow burn character study that felt very real and relatable and looked to be a good starting point for the young filmmaker.  His follow up film "Jack and Diane" is here and it has taken a pretty vicious critical beating.  It stars current "It" girl Juno Temple and Riley Keough in a brief but intense affair, that includes metaphoric intercut with a werewolf-like beast.  The film also features brief stop-motion tidbits from the brilliant Quay Brothers.  In some ways, I think it has been unfairly picked on and doesn't deserve such a thrashing.

Diane (Temple) is a British girl in New York City who while trying to find a phone runs into Jack (Keough) the stereotypical tomboy.  The two girls are complete opposites.  Diane is tiny, meek and insecure.  While Jack puts up a tough and rigid exterior, full of false self-confidence.   After partying the night before, Jack is hit by a car while on her skateboard and for the rest of the film she has a nasty scrape on the side of her face. We find out both characters are caring around some heavy emotional baggage.

Diane has frequent nosebleeds and strange dreams about a big nasty beast ripping people apart, but this is by no means a horror movie.  The animated sequences are thick strands of hair moving around the inside of a persons body like a rope tightening around a heart.  It's sticky, grimy and a little gross, but then again so are some of the critics.  Early on in their relationship Jack finds out that Diane is leaving for Paris in a few weeks and she tries to distance herself and forget everything about her, but she can't.  Eventually, they start to embrace the time they have left together.  The film does feel a little awkward and strange but then again this is what the characters are feeling.  The story also meanders and goes in a few different directions but overall I didn't find it annoying. Towards the end of their time together Jack starts getting the nosebleeds and having these awful visions almost like Diane infected her with something.

I know I'm in the minority on this but I kind of dug the film.  It's currently available on Netflix watch instantly, so take a chance and give it a watch.

Spend a Night with David Cronenberg and "The Brood"


Canadian director David Cronenberg is the king of bodily horror.  Ever since his debut feature "Shivers" he has built a strong cult following with a long list of critically acclaimed films.

"The Brood" was released in 1979 and looks to be one of his most personal films.  It's about a dad fighting for the custody of his young daughter from his mentally unstable wife Nola.  Cronenberg himself was involved in a messy divorce at the time and this film looks to be his way of venting in some extreme and bizarre ways.  Art Hindle plays Frank Carveth, a father who after seeing signs of abuse on his young daughter, confronts his wife and psychiatrist.

The story begins with Dr. Hal Raglan showcasing his revolutionary new treatment called physchoplasmics.  Its a very theatrical approach as his patient, Mike, is on stage with Dr. Raglan impersonating Mikes father.  Mike then starts to develop these welts all over his body when they seem to have reached a breakthrough.  The doctor has also authored a best selling book called "The Shape of Rage".  He seems to be comparable to a modern-day Dr. Phil but in a very extreme sense.  Frank is furious with his wife and accuses her of beating their little girl Candace.  Candy as she normally goes by is a sweet and innocent little blonde girl who is very reminiscent of the girl from the "Poltergeist" movies.  But is she one of those devious and creepy horror movie kids or not?

The story only gets more bizarre as it progresses.  Frank's mother in law, who is quite the lush, is   Candy doesn't seem to be to shocked by this.  Repressed anger and frustration play big roles in the film.  Candy's teacher Ruth Meyer is the only comforting female presence in Candy's life and Frank asks her to dinner to discuss her behavior.
babysitting for Candy one night when what looks like a little kid breaks into the house and bludgeons the grandmother to death.

After Franks father in law is also beaten to death by a childlike person,  Frank is this time able to kill the perpetrator and finds it to be a kind of mutated troll-like being with no genitals or belly button.  The source of these creatures or the brood is the disturbing secret to this mystery.  "The Brood" is about the bitter anger and rage that people go through during a breakup or divorce.  It's about betrayal and retribution.  There are also themes of the lasting effects of childhood trauma and how it shapes us as adults.  "The Brood" is definitely strange but it is also classic David Cronenberg.

"The Grudge" Starring Sarah Michelle Geller


After the success of "The Ring", every studio was looking to cash in with their own Japanese re-make.  Columbia Pictures and Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures set out to make an American version of "Ju-on" or "The Grudge".  They got the director of the original film Takashi Shimizu to do the re-make and all things look great on paper for an epic film.  Unlike "The Ring" which relocated its story to Seattle, "The Grudge" takes place in Tokyo. 

When "Americanizing" a foreign film something is always lost in the translation.  The cultural gaps and customs are just too big to overcome.  "The Grudge" does alright in this respect but still comes up a little short.  First, let me say that the movie really is scary and has a great atmosphere to it.  The fact that it takes place in Tokyo is a big plus and adds to the whole experience.

The myth goes: When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage, a curse a born and consumes everybody who comes in contact with it.  This is explained in a prologue.

Sarah Michelle Geller plays Karen and exchange student who lives with her American med school boyfriend Doug, played by Jason Behr.  Both lead roles are miscast with Behr's part being completely useless.  Gellar is no stranger to horror and she does a serviceable job, but they could've found someone better.  In a bit of good casting famed Japanese actor, Ryo Ishibashi plays Detective Nakagawa who investigates the cursed house.  Ishibashi played the male lead in the horror classic "Audition".

The story is structured in a way that shows how each character has encountered the house.  Starting the family who bought it for there invalid mother Emma.  We see what happens to her kids, then her caretakers Yoko, then Karen. They all encounter the vengeful ghosts of Kayako and Toshio.  The curse is an unstoppable force of pure rage that seems to literally scare people to death.  Karen researches the house and the curse and we find out the history of the family that uses the life there.  She and the Detective aim to somehow stop the curse, but Kayako and Toshio are some pretty badass ghosts that are not nearly ready to give it up.  The ending gives some decent scares but is pretty uninspired and ambiguous.  The movie spawned a few sequels that didn't even stand up to the low standards set by the original.

Before You Die You Must See "The Ring"


*Contains Spoilers*

Based on the Japanese horror sensation "Ringu" the American remake "The Ring" launched the J-horror craze in the fall of 2002. Ever since several Japanese and Asian film have had remakes but none have had the power and success of "The Ring"

Before you die you see the ring. 

Set in the wet and ominously gloomy city of Seattle single mother Rachel, played by Naomi Watts, works as a journalist who comes across the mysterious story of a video tape that has deadly consequences 7 days after watching it.  Her son Aidan is a strangely mature and articulate little boy who seems deeply troubled but he is just another part in the thoroughly creepy and inventive story.  The opening scene of two teen girls talking about the tape has been spoofed many times but effectively sets up the urban mythology of the killer tape and gets Rachel involved as the victim was a relative and one of Aidan's closest friends. 

7 Days.

When Rachel starts to investigate she finds out that a bunch of teens that stayed in a cabin at some resort all watched the cursed video have all recently died.  So what would be the logical thing to do? Watch the video of course.  Rachel drives to the resort and stays at the same cabin, number 12, she views the short black and white video of bizarre images and immediately afterwards the phone rings.  When she picks it up a voice echoes 7 days and the countdown begins.  She enlists the help of ex-flame and current co-worker Noah to help her find out the origins of the tape.

The technology portrayed in the movie is in that period where everybody still had the big tube television and VCR's were still hanging by a thread.  Those two things made all the difference in making it as creepy and scary as it is.  HDTV's and DVD's are just too cold and clinical.  The old technology has a worn in grungy feeling that is indispensable.  But also in a strange way the movie invented the term viral video.

Their research has lead Rachel to a horse farm on a remote island where what's left of the Morgan   The old patriarch Richard Morgan lives there alone with nothing to do but work the land.  His wife Anna had committed suicide years earlier.  But wait there's more, desperate for a child the Morgan's adopted a daughter named Samara.  Now this is a creepy kid and the key to the cursed video.  We learn the disturbing back story of Samara and the Morgan's and its Rachel's job to set things right and stop the curse.  Then comes the clever twist that sets this movie apart and brings us the movies signature moment.
family resides.

Almost three years later we were given a lame duck sequel directed by the guy to did the original Japanese version.  Needless to say the original stands alone as an entertaining and frightening experience.

"Excision" is the Right Decision for Horror


*Contains Spoilers*

"Excision" is an exercise in angsty teen horror.  A shocker with many disturbing images in the shell of a well-worn story.  Actress AnnaLynne McCord goes "ugly" for her role as Pauline, a frumpy social outcast at school and at home.  Her younger sister Gracie is the favorite daughter who gets all of her parents and not just because she has cystic fibrosis.  Pauline's parents are pretty well cast with Traci Lords and Roger Bart (Hostel Part 2) chewing the scenery. Lords play the frosty evil bitch mother to Bart's weak and emasculated father to great effect.  Overall the movie is very well cast..  "The" John Waters plays a small part as a repressed Catholic priest to dry comic perfection.  There is also a cameo by Malcolm McDowell as a high school teacher.

Most of the horror and gory bits come from Pauline's demented dreams and fantasies.  She bathes in blood, microwaves a fetus, you know regular teenage stuff.   Although she gets bad grades and has no college plans, she dreams of becoming a surgeon with the ultimate goal of saving her sister.  Along with the gory and surreal dream sequences, there are also cutaways to her in a church kneeling and talking to God, not really confessing her sins, but trying to defend her actions.

Pauline seems to hate everyone and everything except her sister.  She openly provokes her classmates  Although she does have a bit of sick fun in the process. She is eighteen and decides she wants to lose her virginity so she makes a no strings attached offer to a popular boy at school and they meet up at a motel.  She happens to be on her period and has the guy go down on her.  Needless to say, the guy is mortified.  The movie revels in any kind of vulgarity it can think of with Pauline being the queen of gross.

When Gracie's condition takes a turn for the worse, Pauline must put her final plan into action whether she is ready or not.  All those dreams and fantasies are now turning into reality and we see just how crazy and delusional she really is.  A last-ditch effort to win the love and approval of her parents.  "Excision" is an extreme version of the outcast teenage girl seen in countless other movies, but with pitch-black humor and a complete disregard to tastefulness.  I applaud the boldness of director Richard Bates Jr.'s decisions and if you're a fan of the films of John Water's you will probably like this one.  

See "The Loved Ones" with your Loved Ones (if you dare)!


Many horror movies have been made about high school outcasts.  High School in itself can be and is a real horror story for many kids across the world. "The Loved Ones," tells such a story that goes to extreme and disturbing lengths.  The movie is from and based in Victoria, Australia and when it comes to bat shit crazy movies the Aussies really go all out.  Lola (Robin McLeavy) is a seemingly shy and meek girl who gathers her courage to ask her crush Brent (Xavier Samuel) to the prom.  While Brent who looks a lot like the late Heath Ledger, already has a girlfriend he is going with.  He politely declines her offer and leaves.  Obviously hurt and disappointed Lola who with help from her father have plans to make it a night to remember.

Ever since Brent was involved in a car accident that took his dad's life he has never been the same.  He was driving at the time and blames himself for his death.  His mom has also become an emotional zombie.  He spends his days smoking pot, listening to heavy metal music and contemplating suicide.  His girlfriend Holly is caring and supportive but can only do so much.  Just before picking her up for the dance he goes on another one of his lonely contemplative walks when he is assaulted and kidnapped.  If you can connect the dots you'll guess that it was Lola and her father.  They bring him to their house and tie him to a chair.

A lot of what we see in the first half of "The Loved Ones" is nothing new, but things do get a lot better.  Brent is tortured by Lola and her father.  The family along with their creepy comatose almost dead mother is somewhat reminiscent of the crazy family from "Texas Chainsaw" but so many films have gone there it has become quite the horror cliché.  At one point Brent does escape but is quickly rounded up.   

There is another storyline going on that really doesn't seem too fit.  It follows Brent's BFF Jaime as he takes this Goth chick to the prom.  They spend most of the time in the car drinking, smoking pot and being uncomfortable with each other until they start making out.  There are some good character moments and the filmmakers do try to link up some of the characters and their "loved ones" towards the end but the whole storyline seems a little misguided.  A third storyline involves Holly, Brent's mother, and a policeman as they search for Brent.

Lola's torture of Brent starts going to extreme lengths and we also find out a bunch of disturbing backstory of the family and what is really going on in their house.  Brent is not her first plaything as there have been many others just like him, and she is getting good at it.  The movie continues to go down a very dark path and gets just as insane as Lola and her father.  Brent throughout his ordeal shows a strong will to live as he fights back against his captors with every chance he gets.  The movie comes in at a very trim hour and twenty minutes and although it was made on a tight budget it looks and feels like something that cost a whole lot more.  The violence and gore are pretty intense and extremely well done.  This is director Sean Byrne feature debut and it will be interesting to see what he comes up with next.  "The Loved Ones" is available on DVD or Blu-ray and is a must see for any horror fan.

"Sinister" starring Ethan Hawke


"Sinister" follows a recent trend of low budget horror movies to make it to theatres and actually do quite well.  Usually done in the found footage format, a sort of evolution of the Blair Witch style.  This film is director Scott Derrickson's return to form from the disastrous crap fest "The Day the Earth Stood Still".  His breakout film "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" was one of the sleeper hits of 2005.  What's different about "Sinister" is that it owes a lot to its clever premise and script by first-timer C. Robert Cargil.

Ethan Hawke anchors this film as true crime writer Ellison Oswalt, who has been trying to recapture the success of his first book "Kentucky Blood".  His wife and two young children move to a new town for each new book and now they have arrived in a small Pennsylvania town where an entire family was hanged, except for one of the kids that went missing.  Ellison also fails to mention to his family that they are moving into the actual murder house.  The local authorities are not too happy with their new residents as Ellison usually paints the local police as inept bumbling idiots who botch investigations.

Instead of the standard creepy basement, we get the standard creepy attic where Ellison finds a box of old 8mm home movies.  They all have innocuous titles like Family BBQ, Pool Party, Lawn Work, Hanging Out and so on.  Desperate for leads and information on the murdered family he watches the movies only to find out that they are snuff films.  Sort of reminiscent of the Nic Cage film "8 MM".  Ellison is now determined to find out who made these films.  Although he contemplates reporting this to the police, he is blinded by the thought of what this could do for his fledgling career.  Ellison is a very self-absorbed and fame-obsessed man.  He tasted celebrity once and will stop at nothing to feel it again, even if it means putting his family at risk.  His son already suffers from night terrors which are becoming worse while at the new house.

After repeated viewings of the films, he starts to notice a shadowy figure in each of them.  He finds out that this is a pagan deity called Bughuul, the eater of children, who lives inside the images.  The films are a gateway to his world that Ellison has now opened, putting his kids in grave danger.  Ghosts and demons living in images is something you see in a lot in Japanese and other Asian horror movies like "The Ring", "Shutter", and others.  "Sinister" does a good job mixing and matching several common horror elements into a cleverly made film.  It's not something that's going to reinvent the genre, but it's always nice to see new twists in the same old thing.  The way the story and the whole mythology is structured they could and probably will make several sequels.