Sunday, September 1, 2013

Back In The Chopper With Some Capsule Reviews

You just witnessed one of my "oh, yeah, I should probably write a blog entry today...hey, look, a shiny object" phases.  I didn't slow down watching horror/suspense films, I just didn't commit to sitting down and getting some writing done.  Plus, other writing endeavors took center stage.  But, hey, let's get down to business.  I took in quite a few movies, but wanted to highlight a few here with some capsule reviews, a few stray thoughts about a few flicks.

All Superheroes Must Die (2011) - Wait, a superhero movie in a horror blog?  Here's the thing, see:  it's a horror/suspense movie with superheroes as protagonists.  Also, I don't like making this blog too restrictive.  Anyway, this low-budget offering plants a group of de-powered superheroes in a desperate situation:  win unwinnable challenges put forth by a fed-up arch-nemesis (Dexter's James Remar).  It plays out like a Saw episode, with the heroes having to solve their own issues as well.  It wasn't bad, and I can't help but think how much better it would have been if the characters were slightly more well-defined.

John Dies At The End (2012) - Whenever you get a film from Don Coscarelli, you just know it's going to be tons of fun.  And this film doesn't disappoint.  Freaky, trippy, and playing the rules of space and time as well as throwing a few buckets of blood and guts at you, this film flies loose and fast and it's a thrill.  Poor David needs to convince a reporter (Paul Giamatti) of an incredible story involving insane elements like strange demons, a powerful drug, portals between dimensions, and a kick-ass dog named Bark Lee.  It's bizarre and has a film swagger that makes it incredibly charming.

Evil Dead (2013) - In a remake of sorts (there's apparently more than meets the eye), Sam Raimi's innovative 1981 low-budget screamer gets a modern makeover as a group of old friends gathers at the infamous cabin to stage an intervention for one of their own.  Unfortunately, they discover a few grisly secrets about the cabin, including that old chestnut, The Necromonicon.  Demonic possession galore and buckets of blood everywhere should please many fans.  It was actually a decent effort that had a touch of uniqueness about it.  Oh, yeah, and wait until the credits are done.

The ABC's of Death (2012) - This ambitious collection of 26 short films - each corresponding to a letter of the alphabet and created by 26 different directors - saw a lot of support and derision in the film community.  I could see reasons for both opinions.  Definitely a challenge to create, it obviously moves quickly.  Most of the entries are in the "OK" range, while there are some that are better left not talked about.  Some I really liked, including A is for Apocalypse, which leaves a little to the imagination as to why a woman is trying to kill a bedridden man; C is for Cycle, offering an odd little loop of time; D is for Dogfight, a wordless short about an actual dog fight with interesting changes in perspective and a good ending; R is for Removed, a strange bit about a man's skin being removed to be used as film and his escape from the hospital in a surreal world; and V is for Vagitus (The Cry of A Newborn Baby) in which it's illegal to have unregistered babies in a futuristic world and where one police unit finds more than it bargained for with one group of rebels.  It's interesting to see what these established and aspiring filmmakers came up with for their respective letters, and there is something here for all tastes - both good and bad.

Devil's Pass (2013) - Inspired by an actual mysterious incident in 1959 in which several experienced Russian hikers died on their way through Dyatlov Pass, Renny Harlin's 2013 film sees a group of college students filming a documentary retracing the same path.  Filmed in first-person, it shows the students discovering strange followed by disturbing followed by terrifying things that make escape look more and more unlikely.  What I thought might be a throwaway film turned out to be somewhat good and with an ending that makes sense.  It ran off the rails towards the end, but unlike other films that go crazy, it got right back on the tracks and said "See, that's what I'm talking about." 

V/H/S/2 (2013) - The sequel to the original first-person anthology, the framework is much the same, but this film - to me, anyway - delivered a more solid group of short films with a stronger surrounding narrative. A pair of investigators break into a home to find out what happened to a young man who disappeared.  While their own story unfolds, they watch various tapes the student has lying around.  The videos show stories about a man with a "camera-eye" seeing things he doesn't want, a biker in a park experiencing the beginning stages of a zombie apocalypse, a news team investigating a strange cult leader predicting the coming of a deity in Indonesia, and an alien invasion of a family's slumber party.  I found the zombie and cult leader stories to be the strongest and most intriguing, but the entire film was quite good and a step up from the original.

The Conspiracy (2012) - More of a thriller than a horror film, there are plenty of creeps in this neat little flick.  Two guys making a documentary about conspiracy theorists go from the frying pan into the fire when the subject of their documentary disappears and they decide to track down the elusive Tarsus Club to find out what happened.  You definitely know what will happen as everything unfolds, but that doesn't take away from a fine, suspenseful "mockumentary" that leaves you thinking about the consequences.

Well, dear readers, this old helicopter is back in the sky.  I'll try to keep up better, and expand the blog to include more "adjacent" genres to the horror field.  Hey, even more comedy.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

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