Willow Creek (2013) – movie review

Willow Creek pic 7

Willow Creek (2013)

Written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwaite
Produced by Aimee Pierson

Starring:
Alexie Gilmore
Bryce Johnson


What can I say about Willow Creek? I didn’t dislike it. I like the idea of Bigfoot, in both aspects, as a modern legend or the possibility of a real species. Either way it is an interesting subject. I do have an acceptance of found footage films and own quite a few. And I like indie horror, monster, and sci-fi films; I prefer them to Hollywood blockbusters.

There are many things I liked about the film. A young couple, Jim and Kelly, head deep into the Six Rivers National Forest in Northern California, making a documentary film on Big Foot. Jim is obsessed with Bigfoot and the 1967 archival footage willowcreekknown as the Patterson-Gimlin film. His intention is to reach the site where this footage was taken for comparison and investigation. He is really hoping to get his own footage of the elusive creature.

On their journey they interview shop owners from both ends of the spectrum, enthusiastic book store proprietors, to apathetic motel owners, on the subject of the enigmatic Bigfoot. The film-making couple is charming and their plight interesting. It appeals to the documentary film watcher in me. By the end I get the feeling that I would’ve preferred to watch the finished documentary over this film. The parts in the tent at night were similar to Blair Witch, only filmed with a better camera with better sound. It made this film somewhat more tolerable but wholly derivative.

(spoilers and angst)
In the end, I like a pay-off. It doesn’t have to be a big budget finale. Something as simple as a half dozen Bigfoot standing in shadow would have been quite enough. I’d like to see some Bigfoot in my Bigfoot movie. It’s like going to the zoo, and the curators talk about animals, but the end of the day comes and you haven’t seen any animals. Its like ordering a bacon and egg sandwich, you bite into it, and there’s no egg! This is not a freakin’ radio show! Film is a visual medium. The Forest Bride aspect seems like a side note and doesn’t really do it for me. Perhaps if the movie had changed course earlier and focused on women being kidnapped as the main plot driver it would have worked much better. The camera being dragged quickly along the ground was a cop out to me, a poor excuse for not having a real ending to the film. That ending has been seen a dozen times already in FF films and I feel it’s almost as bad as the It was all a dream ending of 1980’s horror flicks. At the very least it’s a cliché aspect to FF films and it actually ruined my enjoyment of Willow Creek to that point.

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An entertaining found footage film about Bigfoot that is only outdone by it’s own cliché ending and its lack of Bigfoot.

I give it 2.2 hooting hairy men out of 5 on the wood knocking scale of rock throwing forest dwellers.

A simple shot of a damn Bigfoot would have made me enjoy the film so much more…

The 1967 Patterson-Gimlin  footage

The 1967 Patterson-Gimlin footage

Alien Abduction (2014) – movie review

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Alien Abduction (2014)

Alien encounter films can be the most cliché and ineffective genre of films. There are few that successfully capture their intended horrific atmosphere. Dark Skies did nothing for me. Altered was a snoozer to me. The Knowing? Blah.

With such a generic title, (Alien Abduction – could you think of anything less original) I wasn’t expecting much. It sounded like one of those budget SyFy, cookie-cutter films – you know, with a sexy, big-boobed, military woman, wearing a camouflage, tank-top, tee-shirt and wielding a huge semi-automatic machine gun. However, the trailer looked interesting enough and I decided to give it a try.

Which reminds me, when is Netflix streaming going to make it so you can watch the trailers? The technology is there… get one of your employees in India to spend a day loading them in. I mean, come on already! Am I right?

The film starts and it’s a found footage film. I had no clue from the trailer that it was an FF film. Points off for that.alien abduction 2014 film

A young autistic boy is hyper-attached to his video camera. He barely says ten words in the whole film. His family is on a camping trip to Brown Mountain. On the first night the kids are awakened by strange lights. Emerging from their tents they see strange balls of light in the sky above the peak of Brown Mountain. In the morning, the video camera is dead and they can’t show their parents the footage until the batteries recharge. By that time, they are on the road again and get lost on a back road leading to Brown Mountain‘s summit. With the video camera back in service they come upon abandoned cars. They reach a tunnel in the mountain with cars and vehicles clogging their path. The Dad and his two sons go to investigate while Mom and the daughter stay back at the Caravan. When the men enter the dark tunnel, all hell breaks loose! From that point on, the film turns into a jarring creep-fest as the family is hunted down by aliens. They are picked off, one by one, in a thrilling attack and retreat cycle, which really boosts the tension and elevates the terror of the film.

At times the usual FF techniques are a bit monotonous and all too familiar, but there are enough tense scenes to keep you interested. The anger of the Dad about getting lost seems over-the-top. I remember being on road trips as a boy and my Dad getting mad, but not like that.

alien abduction 2014 pic 5think the quick flashes of aliens in the moving camera adds to the creepiness, showing just enough of the creatures to be freaky. There’s no strong violence in the film – as with most alien encounter films – it relies mostly on mood, atmosphere and suspense, which it does a good job conveying.

If you scoff at the premise of an alien abduction film, you’d be better off to leave this be. And if you dislike FF films, you are best advised to stay away. However if you are okay with both of these concepts, Alien Abduction is a very good entry into this genre. While it doesn’t offer any new ideas to the genre, the first person POV puts you squarely in the action. Decent acting, likable characters, and alien effects/make-up by the Chiodo Brothers make for a well-made film.

A tense alien encounter and abduction film in the found footage style – worth a watch for those who like the genre.

I give the film 3.8 illuminations on the strange lights in the sky scale.

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The film includes interviews of residents who actually witnessed the Brown Mountain Lights, a phenomenon that has occurred frequently in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Foothills for the past century.

Read more about the true phenomenon here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/26/brown-mountain-lights-nc_n_1302204.html

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And, for a completely different veiw/opinion of Alien Abduction 2014, check out the review at John’s Horror Corner

 

Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) – movie review

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above photo is not from the film

Hellraiser: Revelations (2011)

Who’s bad idea was this? If it’s the same guy who decided, we can do Pinhead without Doug Bradley, he should be FIRED! Okay, I realize that the studio had to do this film to keep the rights of Hellraiser. We wouldn’t want the rights to revert back to its creator, Clive Barker, because, what does he know? (I’m being sarcastic here!) So they put out a film that is so bad, no one could resurrect the franchise.hellraiser revelations dvd

How bad is it? First, this film doesn’t know if it wants to be a found footage film or not. It takes about 45 minutes for the director to decide. Second, the two main characters are such bottom-of-the-barrel, low-life scum, how could I possibly care if they lived or died. They’re abusive to women and eventually work together to kill them. I’m supposed to be interested in their plight? Nervous for them? 3rd  – It is quite clear that the cenobites are a bunch of actors in-costume. I mean, make some attempt at making it seem real. Whether that be, more subtle make-up, or veiling the designs in darkness, smoke or filters, it should seem less prosthetic. You can see where layers were glued on, liquid-rubber latex was pulled and sections were painted. I’m surprised I didn’t see zippers and Velcro holding it all together.

Hellraiser had 8 sequels since the original film came out in 1987. Some of them barely even have Pinhead in them. But every one of them were better than this. Just a bad film all around. Even the big scene at the end is just rehashed ideas. Stay away. Of course this is just my opinion.

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Tied with The Exorcist II for worst horror sequel ever!

I give it a 1.0 on the crusty crap scale of sucky sequels!

Devils Pass (2013) – movie review

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Devils Pass (2013)

This film just missed being an excellent sci-fi/horror film. A seriously good concept and plot can be found in this film. A documentary film crew sets out to investigate a true life mystery known as The Dyatlov Pass Incident, DevilsPassPosterwhere a group of Russian ski-hikers died or went missing in 1959. The great ideas include a back story correlation to a rumored US military experiment gone wrong known as the Philadelphia Experiment. Sounds like a sci-fi fans dream movie. Where this film goes wrong is in its execution. Like turds in a dog park, this film is all over the place. It starts with the usual 1st person found footage format. After a half hour it becomes clear that a story this intricate can not possibly be told in this format. But the film treks on, confusing the viewer and concentrating on typical found footage film fodder — survivors blaming each other, yelling each other’s names in the dark — instead of the more interesting aspects of the original story it desperately wants to tell. When the ‘big reveal’ ending comes, it sputters out like dredge from a gutter rather than a tidal wave of discovery. There is a good story in here for those with patience and deciphering abilities but it is a frustrating endeavor. The presentation takes a competent slipstream /time travel idea and turns it into a mediocre (at best) reality TV show style reject.

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I can only find this film disappointing for its potential unrealized.

I give it 1.5 dismal dunce-caps on the scale of suffering sci-fi dysfunction.

Frankenstein’s Army (2013) – Movie review

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Frankenstein’s Army (2013)frankensteins army cover

Directed by Richard Raaphorst

I love a director with a vision and who uses all his creativity to get that vision to the screen. The ‘monsters’ in Frankenstein’s Army are marvelous creations in concept and portray a unique vision of industrial bio-mechanics. In one scene a creature attacks, but instead of a human head, the creature has a prop-engine with blades spinning at high speed. Not only was I impressed with Richard Raaphorst’s imagination to envision this, but I was impressed with the small special-FX team that brought this to life without CGI. This is one of about a dozen man-monsters (referred to as Zombots) featured in Frankenstein’s Army.

The movie is a found footage film (what the crew from the Netherlands calls 1st person POV) under the pretext of a camera man recording a wartime film for the Russian Army. It is near the end of WWII and the Russian troops are making advances into German occupied territories. They come upon a desolate town and an old mining factory. When they investigate this factory, they are hunted and slaughtered by the horrors of Frankenstein’s Army. The acting is good, especially Karel Roden, who plays Viktor frankensteins army pic 6Frankenstein (grandson to the original), who seems to have inherited the mad-genius gene from his grandfather. FF films never leave much room for character development so aside from Viktor we only learn of one other character’s motivations. However, that doesn’t stop this film from feeling like a good old fashion monster movie. Laced with political satire and irony, the film takes the horrors of war one step further.

I don’t always watch the special features of movies, even ones that I like, but I watched the making-of immediately following the movie. It was amazing to see the ingenuity that brought the Zombots to life. While other filmmakers tend to use the FF/POV style as a crutch or to save money on filming, Raaphorst explains why he wanted to film this first person and the difficulties of capturing a special effects heavy film in this style. Many of the shots had to be completed in one take with multiple effects timed and choreographed just right. The making-of also went to the abandoned factory in the Czech Republic where the film was shot as the director explained how he used items on site for the film.frankensteins army pic 4

Starting with detailed drawings of his monster designs, Raaphorst took these ideas from concept to finished product on a small budget. This film shows he may be a visionary as unique as Tim Burton, Brian Yuzna, or David Cronenberg. I look forward to future films by Raaphorst and his team; I think they really put something special on the screen. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie!

Recommended if you like: Dog Soldiers, Society, From Beyond, Monster movies, Nazi zombie films, etc.

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