22 January 2015

DEAD GIRL/2008

Hope I am back to doing some regular posting here at Necrotic Cinema [NOTE: This originally appeared long ago in my now defunct Necrotic Cinema blog. Resposted here to preserve the material]. Have figured out a method to keep the post updated using proxies and hopefully it will continue to work until Blogger is unblocked again here in China. I have a lot of material to draw on and lets hope and pray that my little method continues to work, as things can change. I had no problem with deciding which of many horror films to write about with this return to Necrotic Cinema. I was simply taken back by the R-rated, independent horror film Dead Girl. I am so tired of PG-13 horror and lost my passion for locating Sam Rami’s new return to horror movie Drag Me to Hell when I read it was PG-13. Of course I will see the film, I simply wanted something that would knock my socks off and usually PG-13 just cannot do that. Deadgirl did. Now I am not saying that this is some super great film. It is fine indie horror film with a cast of essentially unknown faces. I read some reviews that over analyze the film and call it a “sub-standard horror film”. Look the film is basically a horror film about necrophilia and you can criticize how effectively the filmmakers explored their characters motivations and reactions to what they do but in the end it is a film about raping, if not a corpse, a zombie of some sorts. There is gore, action and loads of teenage angst. So if you want to set back and over analyze the film’s intentions and symbolism you may find it wanting. If, on the other hand, you just want to see a couple of screwed up geek boy misfits, and even a couple jocks, have sex with a putrid zombie and get wants coming to them in the end then I can highly recommend this film from directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel and writer Trent Haaga. From I read the movie was not even shot or edited on film but rather employed the same digital technique David Fincher used on Zodiac. I had my doubts about the new digital movie making processes when I read about them a couple years ago but the movie looks like it was shot on real film.
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The film on one level is a black comedy coming of age film. If coming of age is to be interpreted as having sex for the first time and leaving the innocence of childhood behind then Deadgirl could be seen a sick spoof of the Porkys, American Pie and Fast Times at Ridgemont High type films that seemed to send the message that all American teenage boys are so horny and pent up that they do anything for sex and especially to lose their virginity and become ‘real men’ finally. The two lead characters Rickie and J.T. (Shiloh Ferdandez and Noah Segan) play the brooding high school outsiders who have given hope of having a really great girlfriend since those types of girls (like good girl JoAnn played by Candice Accola) only date the popular jock types. J.T. admonishes Rickie’s lingering stares at JoAnn, a girl he has loved since she kissed him when he was five years old. Look, say what you want, the guy may harbor dreams of true love with a good girl but he is a little creepy and disillusioned as he gazes longlingly at JoAnn. J.T. is a little more grounded in reality when he reminds Rickie he has a snowball’s chance in Hell if having anything to do with JoAnn. To relieve the tension of their anguished teenage lives the lads decided to go chug some brewskies at an abandoned insane asylum and break a bunch of things. The boys go down into the basement area and are chased by a guard dog that lives in the basement (this would imply some human tends to the dog food needs and most likely occasionally patrols the area as well but this never seems to the case). The chase leads them to a locked door that they see as a possible way out but instead it leads to a dark room that contains what appears to be a dead girl wrapped in plastic. They inspect the strapped down girl (Jenny Spain) closer and find that she is not dead at all. Legitimate criticism could be made here regarding the boy’s decisions and Rickie’s blind loyalty to an asshole like J.T. who even punched Rickie in the face real good in order to prove whose opinion is right. We never find out who the girl is or why she is strapped or why she was left here when all other important supplies were removed when the asylum was closed down. Suspension of disbelief is required and we must accept a few loop holes in order for the story to move along and get to the necrophilia and mayhem we know is coming.

Rickie returns the next day with a gun toting J.T. who has discovered that the girl is not only not alive but cannot be killed off in her current state. To prove this he pumps a few slugs into her in front of a shocked Rickie. J.T. also used the girl as a punching bag. The next logical step after finding out you have a bound up zombie chick who cannot be killed and who is probably smelling ripe is what? Report it to the cops or a responsible adult? No, you have sex with her. J.T. is soon doing the dead girl and Rickie refuses to participate, earning J.T.’s scorn. After all, what would JoAnn thInk if she knew he was banging a corpse in the basemen of the deserted asylum. Soon another geeky stoner named Wheeler (Eric Podnar) is humping the pathetic dead girl (at $10 a pop going to J.T.). Rickie’s plans to free the girl with bolt cutters is put on hold and he simply is overwhelmed by all that is going on. In a later attempt he manages to cut one iron bracelet with the bolt cutters, with the girl showing kindness by caressing his finger slightly, but is interrupted by J.T. and hides. Later J.T. gets his face clawed by an angry dead girl who obviously has no kind feelings towards her captor and tormentor.

Ricthie is seen gawking secretly over JoAnn in the library by her jocko boyfriend Johnny (Andrew DiPalma) and his sidekick Dwyer (Nolan Gerard Funk) and they meet him and Wheeler and in parking lot and beat the hell out of them both. Dumb ass Wheeler can’t keep his mouth shut and tells the jocks they don’t a girl like JoAnn because they have the pussy (his words not mine) they could ever want. I guess this intrigues the jocks and soon they in the basement looking on the dead girl in amazed disgust as a pimpish looking J.T. eggs them on with challenges and dares. Soon Rickie is pushing the jocks on, betting they have never even had a blowjob before. Well after Dwyer decides to have some of the necro-action Johnny is getting his first ever hummer and his first ever ‘gnawjob’ as the dead girl takes a bite out his manhood. Rickie had a change of heart as he realized the impending danger, but it was a little too late I fear.

The next day in class Johnny ain’t looking or feeling to good and go to the john were he has the worst bowel movement of his short life and spills his guts (literally) in the can. J.T. is actually getting sort of disgusted with the oozing dead girl and devises some plan to create a new zombie lover. He and Wheeler foil their first attempt at kidnapping a female when she beats both their asses. As luck would have it though JoAnn shows up wanting an explanation for what happened to Johnny and soon she is tied up to a pole with the dead girl. A final confrontation in the basement leaves Wheeler with a hand or entrails and J.T. with a bitten face wanting to die rather than become like his victim. The dead girl shows Rickie mercy and escapes but JoAnn is infected from a wound received by the dead girl. There is a is a happy ending to all this when at the end a cheery looking Rickie returns to the basement to tend to a strapped up, and ‘dead’, JoAnn. We can only assume his intentions are honorable. There never seems to be any police investigation into the disappearance of all these high school kids but we can figure that happens later off camera. I am actually glad they did not write in any cop characters even though it would have added some reality to the story. The sex and violence is fairly graphic and is at times gratuitous and exploitative. That’s does not bother me but it might some people. And despite some flaws in the storyline (flaws any horror movie is going to have really) I found it to be a good horror film and hope the open ending here spawns a well done sequel though the film would be perfect if left alone as is.
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A COLLECTION OF ORIGINAL DEAD GIRL
VIDEO CAPTURES AWAITS YOU RIGHT HERE

ALBINO FARM/2009


A definite prerequisite before sitting through the low budget hick-horror film Albino Farm is a liking for inbred, mutant hillbilly killer movies. I personally like these kinds of films. There is nothing new in Albino Farm and the viewer should also have a tolerance for all things derivative as well. In reading some reviews of Albino Farm I just have to wonder how original horror movie fans want a film to be before they can at least say it was a watchable movie. I too can get a little fed up with the ‘car trouble in the boondocks’ formula but it is simply a workable method of putting unwitting victims (usually snobby city dwellers) into some sort of dangerous situation in an unfamiliar and threatening environment. It may be the castle of a vampire or a hotel managed by psychos or a bunch of hillbillies who have nothing better to do than chop up college kids but the victims need to be put in harms way as soon as possible and then need to start dying off in gruesome fashion quickly with some attempt at character development along the way so you can feel a little bad (or happy) when they get a pick-axe through the eye socket. It is what the film makers do with the formula, not the formula itself, that can become a problem for the viewer. Albino Farm explores no new ground and the familiar territory it does venture into leaves nothing for old horror movie fans like myself to get too excited about but I can give the movie a moderate recommendation. It is in no way as bad as many of the reviews make it out to be. It could have gotten three skulls instead of two and a half had it not been for the fact that most of the action occurs outside the Albino Farm, much of it in a poorly lit cavern with that crappy, shaky camera work I hate. When is that ‘arty trend’ going to end? If the last part of the film had happened in the actual Albino Farm and been the violence been much gorier this would have been a pretty fair horror film.
I do not go into a movie like this expecting miracles but I do at least expect the film to try and live up to its title. Other than a roadside revival albino preacher there are no albinos in the film. The title really evoked some image in my mind that the film never got close to. And if you’re interested the film is based on an actual urban legend of sorts. The real Albino Farm was a turn of the century house and grounds called Springlawn Farms near Springfield Missouri and was an institution for deformed and mentally retarded people. I don’t know if those are the politically correct terms but if you’re reading blogs like this and watching movies like Albino Farm in the first place why get hung up on little social improprieties like that? The residents of Springlawn Farms were fairly isolated and cut off form the communities around them and as one might expect some local tall tales and legends sprang up regarding the people there and what might have been going on beyond the walls. Seems there was possibly a cantankerous albino gardener or caretaker on the premises or maybe even a family of albinos that resided there, perhaps against their wills. The only real source of all these legends seems to be local folklore and school children's campfire stories.
In the film we have four college students traveling the back roads of rural America for some sort of school project on urban legends. The characters are all standard horror movie clichés. The good girl. The bad girl. The jerk. The nerd. Eventually they run into car trouble in the form of a blown tire and wind up at a desolate service station where the jerk Brian (Nick Richey) insults the hillbilly attendant to such a degree that we cannot wait until he gets the comeuppance we know smart ass city slickers like himself will get eventually. They get some information on the local legend called the Albino Farm but not directions. They are warned to stay away but why would they listen to any sound advice like that. They are soon in the small town of Shiloh insulting the locals to no end. They seem to have no luck getting anybody to want to talk about the Albino Farm but eventually Brian and bad girl Stacey (Tammin Sursok) figure out a nifty way to get some local redneck freaks, led by Levi (wrestler Chris Jericho), to give them a lift to the Albino Farm: Brian has Stacey flash her ample hooters at the inbred goof balls in exchange for a ride. Brilliant!  While all of this is going on nerdy nice-guy and ethnic Indian Sanjay (Sunkrish Bala) and good girl Melody (Alicia Lagano) visit a local church and find out how amiss things in this little town really are when they get a look at a mutant baby. They freak out and discover Brian and Stacey are gone get help from a mute boy in getting directions to the Albino Farm. There Brian and Stacey have been left stranded by the surprisingly rude local thugs. Don’t these hicks know how to treat asinine city kids who have been insulting you to your face from the word go? Which brings us to an important point; the deal with most all of these backwoods killer films, including as a good example the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, is that in the end you just do not like the spoiled, arrogant city kids that much anyway (except for the virgin heroine) and when they start dying off one by one there is a feeling of relief. I mean, haven’t you ever felt yourself silently rooting for Leatherface? Well, I know I have.

The story finally shifts to the kids at the Albino where they begin to fall prey to the deformed inhabitants who prowl the grounds there, the victims of perhaps genetic experimentation or simply generations of inbreeding. Who knows. It is never explained. In what is considered to be the high point of the film Brian is held captive in some sort of shed and becomes the amorous target of them grotesque ‘Pig-Bitch’ (played by the super sexy looking in real life Bianca Barnett). Luckily for us he spurns her advances and is done in the way any city-boy should be who rejects any Dixie gal with the nickname Pig-Bitch. The others are hunted down by the Farm residents but the action does not occur inside the institution itself, which could have been a boost, but rather quickly shifts to a cave. This was the biggest let down for me in what might have been a great horror film story. We never see any albinos to speak of and we never even see the farm itself in order to get some sense about what has happened to these creatures. Maybe there will be a sequel and if there is I will check it out. The ending is left open as good girl melody staggers shaken and disoriented into the roadside revival tent and perhaps mutant salvation. We do not know for sure.
The direction by Joe Anderson and Sean McEwen is fairly tight overall but the script could have used a little more work. I would guess budget constraints dictated how the film finally looked and a cave with shaky camera work probably cost less than indoor shots of a decrepit old laboratory with a mounted camera and cameraman who was trained in how to do his job. Okay. I am a bit harsh there but overall I thought this could have been a great psycho-hick film if a little more effort had gone into it but I still say it is worth at least one viewing for fans of hillbilly horror. 





A DARIO ARGENTO FILM I LIKED: GIALLO/2009


God knows I have tried to like Dario Argento. His name pops up everywhere in the horror world and yet I have to admit I have cared for very little he has ever done. His sycophantic supporters say that even if his newer work is weak we must acknowledge the genius of his ‘high period’ when he helped to usher in the great giallo films of the late 60’s and early 70’s as well as his unique brand of horror. And that may well be unarguable. Some of his films from the period, that I have seen, are Bird With the Crystal Plumage, Tenebre, Deep Red, Suspiria, and Phenomenon. While these are classics of some sort, I guess, I have to admit that  all of these films are some of the most confusing and haphazard movies I have ever sat down to watch. When the killer and her motives is finally revealed in Deep Red (some minor female character who had about two or three minutes of screen time earlier in the film) I was so disappointed. Not to say that that is a reason to pan a film and not see it but I seem to missing something that hordes of other people are getting and don’t know what it is. Why is Deep Red (Profundo Rosso) considered to be one of the great giallo films of the 70’s? It is a mediocre film at best. One defense I have read of Argento (and most Italian giallo and horror in general) is that one must not look for a linear story in the Hollywood fashion and instead you have to let yourself go along with the surreal quality of the film and receive its messages on an almost unconscious level.  One is to not watch and analyze the film as a whole but you have look for those special moments that cannot be found in any other genre. I am not sure about all that but as time has gone on I have to admit I have developed a liking for Italian horror and suspense films I did not have when I was younger. I liked Italian post war dramas and pepla and spaghetti westerns for some reason but was confused by Italian horror until I explored Mario Bava’s work. Then I read that Bava was an inspiration for Argento and the men even worked together on some projects at the end of Bava’s career. I decided there had to be something there my Cro-magnon mind could not fathom. Years later I finally concluded some of the stuff is okay after all though I can still be at a loss and typically cannot finish an Italian made horror or crime film in one setting.
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Now what totally surprises me is how much I enjoyed Argento’s latest film Giallo. In fact when I bought the DVD I did not actually know it was an Argento film. Shows how out of touch I am I guess. I could tell by the title and cover art that it was going to be an homage film and I like both Adrien Brody and Emmanuelle Seigner so figured it had to be a decent enough film for an evening’s viewing. In fact I watched it after watching the really disappointing remake of The Taking of Pelham 123. I picked up the box and noticed for the first time it was a Dario Argento film and my heart sank. I had recently rewatched Suspiria (which I mostly enjoy) and had not seen anything recent by Argento since the TV movie Do You Like Hitchcock. In that case I expected an homage type film with lots of clever references to Hitchcock’s work but I was so disappointed that I went back into another long period of Argento loathing. I do not understand why I liked Giallo but I simply did. I have read scathing reviews of the film online and how the old master has lost his touch. I guess for me I never thought he had much of touch to begin with so I did not expect much. After seeing it I decided to find some other recent Aregento works, like Mother of Tears, I have dismissed in advance in a childish, judgmental fashion not appropriate to a purveyor of trash cinema. It is time I rethink this bias and deal with it and lay it to rest.

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Giallo tells the story of a ugly, tormented and more than slightly demented man who suffers from jaundice, ergo the nickname ‘Yellow’ or giallo. The charcter of yellow is played by Byron Deidra. It is also the story of the eccentric and focused cop, Enzo Avolfi (Brody), who is obsessively on the bloody trail of Yellow. Avolfi does things his own way and is left alone by the department for the most part as he has a history of results. The name Byron Deidra happens to be a clever little anagram for Adrien Brody and both Avolfi and Yellow are played by Brody. Some sites have totally panned Brody’s performance but I feel it is pretty good. The lines he is given by writers Jim Agnew, Sean Keller and Argento are the most inspiring and he delivers them in a dead pan fashion that recalls troubles film noir detectives more than the classic giallo style detective who often lacked any dimension at all. Also coming into the mix is the American Linda (Emmanuelle Seigner aka Mrs. Roman Polanski) who is in Milan with her fashion model sister Celine (Brody’s real life fiancée Elsa Pataky) who suddenly vanished the night before. Seems Celine took the wrong taxi, driven by Yellow, and is now held captive in a creepy basement with what is left of Yellows last victim Keiko (Valentina Izumi). There the bitter Yellow engages in his hobby of torturing and disfiguring beautiful women before brutally killing them in various fashions, like pounding a hammer through their foreheads. Celine is a little more resistant than his last victims and eventually causes him a bit of trouble.
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Linda seeks the help of the police and is sent to Avolfi’s isolated office in the police head quarter’s basement area. Of course Avolfi is rude and wants to be left alone but soon he drags her into the case and even starts showing her graphic crime scene photos and asking her for her opinions of them. Maybe not the choicest thing to do a woman whose kid sister is being held by the same killer that sort of thing happens a lot in mystery films. Of course a connection forms between Linda and Avolfi and at one point she invites him to spend the night at her place but in true lone wolf fashion he passes on the offer and sulks off into the night to brood over the case more. The violence in the film is pretty graphic,  as it is in most all of Argento’s work,  and there is a strange scene of Yellow choking his jaundiced chicken while looking at pictures on his laptop of his past victims. He is sucking on a baby pacifier at the same time and you can’t help but wonder what the hell Argento is really like as a gray haired man in his twilight years. There are of course inferences to past giallo flicks and while this film has it flaws I can’t help but hope it inspires a trend in this type of movie making for a while. The film score by Marco Werba is suitable and is an improvement in the type of scores that usually accompany Argento’s films, though I do like Goblin.
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I am not saying that this is a great film and many of the criticisms are applicable. But if you go into with the idea that there will be some cheesy moments, perhaps intentionally cheesy for all I know, and that the leads are hamming it up here and there then I don’t think you will be all that disappointed. My wife watched it along with new The Taking of Pelham 123 and said she preferred Giallo of the two movies. I was happily surprised. I will probably give it another watch or two in the future and I feel Argento did well enough here. Definitely an improvement on things like The Phantom of the Opera and Do You Like Hitchcock.
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GIALLO TRAILER



PARANORMAL ACTIVITY/2007


When it comes to watching a horror film the types of films I prefer are the ones about ‘real’ make believe things. I mean, I like monsters and psychos and slashers. I like zombies. I loved zombies long before zombies were cool and two out of three films became simple parodies shot with a video camera. I like space monsters and mutants. I like biological terror and things that ooze around and dissolve people. I like giant insects and spiders or sea monsters and things mad scientists create that they lose control of. What I typically shy away from are films like Paranormal Activity, which is an ‘independent’ film (another type of horror film I shy away from anymore) by first time director/writer Oren Peli. I have never been a huge fan of supernatural thrillers with some exceptions of course. All the Exorcist clones from the 70’s did little for me. In fact I never really freaked out too bad on the Exorcist although I did a little the first time I saw it. It was at a reshowing of the film in theaters in San Antonio Texas in the 80’s. I was the only person in the theater and I was more than a little under the influence of marijuana and some red wine, something common for me in those wild days. Sort of blew my mind but when I have seen it sober (which I how I see all films any more as I have become a cultured tea-tottler these days) I I did not really find it so terrible, though it was a well made film. Sure I like the Sam Rami supernatural stuff and I am able to suspend disbelief and enjoy a film whose premise is based on something I actually may dismiss. I simply cannot really get into some paranormal type films. Films about ghosts, haunted houses, ESP, communicating with the dead and poltergeists really leave me wanting about 75% of the time, but not all the time. Lets be clear abut that. They can be well made and acted and yet I am going into them with a bias already. I admit it. 


This 2007 film is about a young couple who move into a first home in San Diego. They suspect that there is something strange going on in the house and are soon using a video camera to record events while they sleep and seeking the advice of a psychic. It is one of those types of films where the story is always being told from the perspective of the person holding the video camera, in this case that is mostly Micah the boyfriend (the couple are not even married). His girl friend Katie appears to be the object of the supernatural events attention and as the movie unfolds we learn she has had a history of such things. It is not the house that is haunted but rather that Katie is the object of some spirit’s obsession. Or something like that. This movie has done well financially and seems to have a following of people who feel it is one of the scariest films in recent history if not in horror film history period. A quote from Horror Film News Site Bloody Disgusting goes: "Peli deserves props for milking the maximum amount of tension out of the spare, modern setting – an ordinary, cookie-cutter tract home in San Diego. It doesn’t sound very scary, but Peli manages to make it terrifying. If you aren’t white-knuckling your armrest at least once or twice while watching it, you probably don’t have a pulse." I guess I lack a pulse then because this was simply one of the most boring films I have seen in a long time. Nothing happens okay. The people are not professional actors and it shows in every scene. You have here a story where 90% of the action is being performed by two people. That can work in a movie when the actors can act. I am not going to take the road that says “oh given the budget and the fact it was the director’s first films and they were not professional actors but tried hard you should give them some “props”. I had heard a lot about this film and it all seemed favorable. I knew I did not usually like ‘supernatural’ thrillers much. I liked Rami’s Drag Me to Hell but was Sam Rami. I am not going to compare Peli to Rami as that would not be fair. But this films fails on the all the points, to me, that most people say it succeeds. Seeing all the scenes filmed inside the same house inside the same house becomes redundant and tedious not claustrophobic. The use of the hand held camera as a documentary tool does for this film what it does for most others that try this technique; gives evidence they cannot frame a shot or mount a camera. Many great film directors try this approach in their films including Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen. But they do it because they choose to do it not because it is all they are capable of. I just cannot stand this style f film making any more and I am not going to be nice about it. 
 


The video camera is set up in the couple’s room to film events will they sleep. We are treated to brief scenes of doors closing, shadows on the door and foot prints appearing in talcum powder or something or Katie standing motionless for a couple hours then not remembering it the next day. These scenes are then followed by the ‘alarmed’ couple watching the tapes the next day and engaging in poorly written or poorly improvised dialog. In either case the acting is such a low level it is not tolerable. It never has the feel of being natural, which I assume is what they are going for here. Real people don’t act and talk like actors in the film. The problem is you need a really good actor to act like he or she is not acting. As the strange activities increase (it takes a long time for them to increase too) they couple stays in the house and still manage to fall off to sleep rather easily. There is not really a shocking moment until the end when Micah is hurled into the camera as it is recording events. Okay, I spoiled the big ending. Man, so what. Who want s to sit through an hour and a half to get one jolt. That scene is followed by a scene of Katie looking into the camera and smiling an evil smile. Maybe some people find this spooky but I forced myself to finish the film and the ending of her appearing to have become possessed was an ending out of the 70’s really. It reminded me of the endings of those Italian supernatural films of the time. There are supposed to be a couple alternative ending but I do not see how those can rescue this plodding, boring piece of tripe. It is not the last couple minutes of the film that is the problem, it is all the minutes before the ending that is the problem. Is the term ‘independent  horror’ coming to refer to films only shot with a video camera with a cast of unknowns who recite lifeless dialog? Independent films used to be things that were made outside the studios were done so because the studios did not want to deal with the production and distribution of a film that was too controversial for a big name studio to stick its name on. There is nothing, nothing about this film that a big studio could not have handled and handled better and evenly with more shock and controversy. Paranormal Activity is not shocking or controversial. It is simply boring and poorly made. Don’t listen to me. Check it out. Maybe you’ll like it but I do not see what the hype is around this one at all.

VAMPIRELLA ARTWORK














Never a super fan of the Vampirella stories but always liked the randy drawing the character generated over the decades. In reality the whole vampire in a seductive swim suit thing was a bit corny and too preposterous to accept, pushing the character more into some sort of Marvel superhero look really. But I guess, looking back,  it was a bit European Fumetti inspired and meant to be more tantalizing in a straightforward lurid way than to offer up something believable character wise. Hell, when I was 16 I didn't think that deeply anyway. I just thought "wow, great knockers and ass, and gory violence too! This is something I need to grow up on!"

PANDORUM/2009/DENNIS QUIAD


This post here at Necrotic Cinema [This is unedited orphaned text from the post as it originally appeared at my now defunct Necrotic Cinema blog...Bill] will mark a slight change in direction for some, though not all, of my reviews here and at The Uranium Café. Up until recently most of my reviews have been pretty much filled to the brim with spoilers and I am going to try and restrain myself from giving away too much of a film’s plot and storyline. It is not that I am adverse to spoiling a film with my reviews but I just want to try and talk about the movie in a new way. Reviews I read go either way but in terms of newer films I think I will try to hold back. Now if someone is going to complain (and I have had no complaints about spoilers) that over at my more ‘classic’ film blog The Uranium Café I spoiled some film like Them, The Blob or The Bride of Frankenstein then I do know what to say. I just assume everyone knows those stories already even if they have never seen the film. But even there I am going to try some new approaches for a while and see where it leads. 

  
So onto the film for this post called Pandorum, directed by Christian Alvart and starring Ben Foster, Dennis Quiad, Cam Gigandet and  Antje Trau. I tried again to watch the British zombie film Colin and I am sorry I just could not get into it. Some people see genius in the lack of production values and I simply did not. Anyway, I will not bash Colin here today and will get around to finishing it eventually and reviewing it. But I simply got tired of all these ‘indie’ horror films I had gotten from Demoinoid and Horror Charnel recently. I wanted something with some technical skill to it and some passable acting and a camera that was actually mounted on a tri-pod once in a while and a film where the photography consists of what appears to be a drugged spider monkey running around with a cheap video camera. I had not heard of Pandorum before and took a chance and was pleasantly surprised by the experience. In that horror movie sort of way of course.

The film has gotten some good reviews on the net but of course there are those who just feel the need to see lack of absolute perfection in any horror/sci-fi film that comes out and I wonder why some of these people even run horror/sci-fi blogs in the first place. I wonder if many horror viewers have just become too jaded and cynical. One criticism I read from a couple sites is that the look of the film and storyline are ‘derivative’ of prior great and original horror/sci-fi films like Event Horizon, Alien, Resident Evil and a few others. My response is so what? A student of classic horror will discover that even those great films were inspired or influenced in style or story by films that date back to the 50’s.  That’ does not take away from those newer films in the least and how original would a new film have to be so that there is not one malcontent’s declaration it is ‘derivative’. Totally original does not mean good or watchable either. There are reason that rock songs built around simple chord progressions like A, D, E are listenable but ones with way out diminished minor chords are never heard. Okay, I like diminished minor chords and King Crimson but I am trying to create an analogy here. I certainly felt the look of the film was influenced by Event Horizon, Outland and Alien and that school of thought in regards a space ship. That a rusted and dark and a smoky, ill-lit space ship looks cooler than a brand spanking new craft where everything is spit polished and working. 

 

The general story (with minimal spoilers I promise) involves various crews of people aboard an ark type space ship called the Elysium. Most people spend the entire trip to a new world in hyper sleep but the flight crew must be awakened in shifts to run the ship. During one such crew’s watch affairs aboard the Elysium are discovered to be completely out of sorts. Flight crew Bower (Hudson) and Payton (Quiad) are jolted out of hyper-sleep and into amnesia and mayhem. The ships controls are not working properly and the reactor seems on the verge of a melt down. There are other passengers who are awake and surviving on the gigantic space ship by any means they can. Not only is food an issue but there are bands of mutant hunters who are super humanly strong and fast who track down the humans as though they were animals. We are never sure who the mutants are or where they come from despite various conflicting theories. On top of these and other matters is the possibility one could be suffering from a form of space madness called Pandorum and not be aware of it. Bower must make his way to the reactor room and restart the reactor in order to give the ship enough power to be operational and to prevent it from becoming unstable and blowing up. Bower must crawl through claustrophobic passage ways and fend off hostile mutants while trying to decide which freed passengers he can trust and which ones he can’t while trying to regain his memory and make it to the reactor room in one piece.


The film succeeds on all required levels including acting, direction, film score, photography and set designs. Don’t pay attention to reviews that say Ben Foster and Cam Gigandet (James from Twilight) compete with other for ruining the film. They do absolutely fine as does Quaid. Are there some criticisms I might have? Of course. I am a cranky old guy anymore. The whole matter of the space madness, Pandorum for which the film is titled, is not really explored enough. I agree with a couple criticisms that this could have been more a part of the story and the mutants could have been less. The mutants are okay but the photography in those sequences is edited too quickly. The shots are bouncy, dark and rapid, like the shots of the monsters in The Descent or Feast. Or the mutant side could have been explored more. More crew members could have been woken from hyper-sleep and stalked by the mutants and brutally killed off. But I can watch any film, horror or otherwise, and say ‘I wish this and I wish that’. I wish Woody Allen had not broken with Diane Keaton at the end of Annie Hall. But what the hell do I know. I watch movies and I do not make them. That does not mean I have to accept anything I shove into my DVD player either (like Colin) simply because I cannot write or direct a film.

I have been waiting for a film to get me back in the mood of reviewing modern horror films and Pandorum did just that. I read that this film was originally to shot on video in an abandoned paper mill for a budget of about $200,000. I guess if that had happened I would not be praising it now. Luckily it got big studio backing from Impact Pictures. The ending, which I will not spoil and it is a good ending, does leave the door open to a sequel but if there is not one that would be okay. This movies stands on its own as it is now just fine. And see, hardly a spoiler at all.


(NOTE: This post goes so far back in my blogging history that it actually is from a time when I dabbled in giving a rating system to films, using the skulls from Bloody Disgusting as my "stars".)



PANDORUM TRAILER

THE LAST EXORCISM/2010

I can't say nobody bent over backwards to make this film.

I can’t believe I actually read some positive reviews about this utterly abysmal mess that Eli Roth had something to do with in terms of production.  Are people just trying to like horror movies anymore out of desperation? Trying to find something nice to say about a modern horror film? God knows I am trying. I will admit that I fell for the eye catching cover art on the DVD package –which I bought as a pirated version here in China for about $1 so thank Lucifer I am not out any real cash on this one- and the Eli Roth endorsement. Now that I think about it what the hell has this guy ever done since Cabin Fever or Hostel that is really special? Has he even done anything? Now he is a ‘producer’! I do not even know what a producer does but in old films it always went A) Producer B) Writer C) Director, at the end of the opening credits. Now it goes A) ten or twelve producers or associate producers B) Ten or twelve executive producers C) Writer D) Director. So it seems a producer does less and less these days but it must be nice to have one's name among the dozen or so people may recognize it and then plaster it all over the DVD jacket to dupe people into thinking it may have been actually been creatively controlled in some way by some one or two hit wonder like Eli Roth. For all the influence Roth actually seems to have  had on the film you may have well plastered another producer’s name, like Thomas A. Bliss, on the cover. What a scam. There was a time when a producer’s name gave you some idea about what a film was going to be like but those days have long vanished. It was directed by some German guy  but who even cares unless he's the one to contact to get your money back from if you unwittingly paid to see this tripe.

And while I am at it I would like to get something off my chest. I have said this before here at Necrotic Cinema [This review was originally posted at my now defunct Necrotic Cinema blog] and that is that so called paranormal horror movies are the worst for me. I guess if you allow for the possibility that there is something like ESP or another world where the dead hang out and torment the living by turning toasters on and off then these kinds of movies will probably scare you. I know here in Asia all of that is scary stuff. Especially ghost films where there is a young girl who just peers at you through her unkempt hair. Well I don’t think its scary in the least though it makes for some great DVD cover art. I would lump in exorcism films along with paranormal horror, as I would haunted house films and stuff like The Sixth Sense. I like tangible monsters and slashers. And I am not really that into The Exorcist as I used to be. The last time I watched it, with the crawling backwards down the stairs bit and all, I just did not like the film like the first time I saw it though I think William Friedkin is a good director. But no exorcism film has ever topped that one. Remember all those god-awful Italian exorcism films from the 70’s? Even the great Mario Bava did one and it sucked. The horror genre itself needs to be exorcised of these lame films but like Beelzebub himself the damned things keep crawling back out of the sulpheric depths of hell to torment movie-goers over and over. Not with great cinematic horror but with crappy effects, bad acting and sub-standard script writing.