Identity (2003) – movie review

Identity 2003 - pic 2

Identity (2003)

directed by James Mangold
Written by Michael Cooney

starring:
John Cusack
Ray Liotta
Amanda Peet
Alfred Molina
Clea Duvall
William Lee Scott

Rebecca De Mornay
Pruitt Taylor Vince
John Hawkes
Jake Busey

This is one of my favorite movies of all time. It has all of the qualities that make a great film for me; suspense, atmosphere, horrific violence, a mystery, and a wickedly intelligent twist. It has identity posterexcellent stars playing great characters, and all the actors give top performances. It takes a classic mystery and turns it on its head, while adding modern, non-chronological filming and exciting pacing.

Eleven strangers become trapped in a desolate roadside motel as a storm and resulting flood cuts off their escape. Roads are closed in either direction of the motel. To make matters worse, Ed Dakota (John Cusack) accidentally ran into a woman and she is badly hurt, and Officer Rhodes (Ray Liotta) was transporting a dangerous criminal from prison and has to stay the night at the motel with the prisoner. So these 11 people are stuck at this motel and one by one they are being murdered according to the room numbers they are in. In the meanwhile, we see clips of a hearing regarding a death row prisoner who is not one of the eleven people in the motel. If this part seems disconnected from the rest of the film, don’t worry, it will connect in wonderful fashion before the film’s end.

There are many WTF moments in this film as you think you’ve figured out the killer, but then that suspect turns up dead. Gruesome murders occur in the film as the motel attendants dwindle, but there’s no real gore. If you have seen this film you probably know why I regard it in high esteem. If you haven’t seen it, you owe yourself to watch it.

A stark thriller, combining hard-boiled mystery and horror, tightens the suspense until a surprising twist ending.
I give it 5 mangled mystery twisters out of 5 on the scale of malignant murderous maniacs

Identity 2003 - pic 1

Yesterday upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…

Excerpt from a poem titled, Antigonish by William Hughes Mearns


parlor of horror – movie review

 

The Night Flier (1997) – Movie Review

Night flyer

“Don’t believe what you publish, don’t publish what you believe.”

The Night Flier (1997)

Directed by Mark Pavia

Starring
Miguel Ferrer
Julie Entwisle
Dan Monahan
Michael H. Moss

Richard Dees is top reporter for the Inside View, a sensationalist rag, comparable to Weekly World News, (you know the type of stories; the bat boy, I gave birth to five pound turnip, Bigfoot stole my girlfriend, etc). Dees is a bitter senior reporter that hasn’t had a good story in some time. His boss offers a new item for him to investigate but he turns it down thinking it’s a flop, that is, until a new young reporter, Katherine, digs up some additional info. Dees disregards the young reporter and steels back the assignment knowing it will get front page coverage. He’s on the hunt for a killer that drains his victims The Night Flyer - Cover artof blood to make it look like a vampire is on the loose. Dees is a total asshole but likable for his hardboiled style.

The killer is visiting small civil (non-commercial) airports in a black Cesna Skymaster 337 and dispatching the few workers on the field. He signs the airport manifests as Dwight Renfield. Maryland, Maine, Vermont; he sky hops to rural airports that don’t ask many questions because, quite often, they know they’re catering to drug runners. The story intensifies as Dees closes in on the killer and strange events take place in the killers wake. Katherine is also hot on the trail and Dees rushes to get the scoop. The story climaxes at an airport in DC, somewhat larger than the others, where Dees finds a mass carnage and the truth about his killer.

This near faithful and exciting adaptation to Stephen King’s novelette of the same name brings back some of the dark creepiness of King’s earlier film adaptations such as Salem’ s Lot. Miguel Ferrer plays an exceptional part in the film making it all believable by his dismissal of the events. Despite negative reviews from critics, I enjoy this film tremendously. It might not be for everyone. but it‘s entertaining to me. It’s a smaller film, not a huge blockbuster but worth a look for King fans. I think it’s an overlooked King classic.

The Night Flyer - pic 1

A fantastic King adaptation that quietly trumps many of his bigger budgeted films.
I give it 4.0 bloody bodies on the flying fanged fiends scale of wretched creature killers.

———————————————–

Fun Facts:
If you are familiar with The Dead Zone, you may remember character Richard Dees attempting to interview psychic, (main character) Johnny Smith for an Inside View article. He was played by Miguel Ferrer in that film also.

One of the headlines shown on the cover of the Inside View reads, ‘Kiddie Cultists in Kansas Worship Creepy Voodoo God!‘ which refers to ‘Children of the Corn’ a story (and film) also written by King.

Late Phases (2014) – Movie review

late-phases-werewolf-creature

Late Phases (2014)

Directed By Adrián García Bogliano

Starring:
Nick Damici
Ethan Embry
Lance Guest

I often like small films with only a few characters that are story driven and don’t rely on big effects to move the plot. This is a cool low-key film that fit’s the bill. It has a well written script and a good message of honor, redemption and reconciliation.

A blind Vietnam Vet, Ambrose McKinney, is dropped off at his new retirement community home. He and his seeing-eye dog (and companion), named Shadow, are settling in. He is a hard personality, unfriendly to the neighbor’s welcome and stand off-ish to the community. He doesn’t want to know anything about any of them, until his neighbor is killed by something vicious in the middle of the night. He listens through the wall picking up sounds to late-phases--posterfigure out what is happening. The creature knows this and attacks him next. Shadow does his best to protect Ambrose and the dog is killed.

A werewolf mystery unfolds as Ambrose attempts to figure out who the shape shifter is before the next full moon. Though blind, he is quite capable and makes some headway to pin down the possible suspects. However the werewolf realizes what he is doing and makes some counter plans for himself. It all converges on the night of the next full moon. Meanwhile the cold relationship of Ambrose with his son grows even colder as the younger man attempts to discover why his father is acting so strangely. The werewolf transformation scene is nothing special but at this point, what could they actually show that hasn’t been seen already? Did I mention it also has a small part by Tina Louise…yes from Gilligan’s Island.

Wonderful acting, story and good characters drive the plot and make this a very good film. There may have been a few aspects that could have been explored a little deeper and the horror aspect was in low ratio compared to the drama of life and subject of getting old, but overall I think the characters felt real and that‘s what made this film watchable. It’s not the high action of most modern horror, but worth a viewing for those with a little patience.

latephases2

Worth a watch for those who want good story and a break from all the overwrought effects in Werewolf films.

I give it 3.0 gnarly snarls out of 5 on the cantankerous canine carnivore scale.

Starry Eyes (2014) – Movie review

starry eyes pic 12

Starry Eyes (2014)

Directors: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

(some spoilers in the review)
Sarah is a young actress living in Hollywood hoping to live her dream as a rising star. She works at a fast food restaurant, lives with her roommate and spends quite a bit of time with her group of friends, all striving to make it to the big time. The friends are the usual suspects, a musician who gets high most of the day, a director who constantly talks about his movie that never gets made, a bitchy girlfriend that puts Sarah down at every chance she can, and her more level headed roommate who seems to genuinely care for her.

Sarah gets an audition from a production company with some prestige and history in Hollywood. She is asked back for several more auditions, each one getting stranger than the last. It’s at the last meeting with the producer that she realizes she is being initiated into some kind of black magic cult. The Satan worshipers tell her of a transformation and a new birth that will take place enabling her to achieve success and be welcomed into the fold. She runs from starry-eyes-dvd coverthem terrified.

When she returns home from the last meeting, she is disoriented, unaware of passing time, paranoid of friends, and often lashing out at them for little reason. Her body begins to change as if her old self is rotting away to make room for the new person inside. Her skin turns black in places, her fingernails and hair fall out and her lips turn black. The tension gets taut as she changes, putting her friends in danger as her mind seems to loose touch with reality.

It’s unnerving to watch as her world turns ugly. Alex Esso is a charming actress and plays her part perfectly establishing the hope and dejection cycle of a person seeking fame. You root for her success but when you see how far down she falls, its tragic. It’s symbolic of many young people that go out to Hollywood with big dreams, only to find a life of drug addiction and of being abused by others. This is modern horror film, personal, ugly, and self inflicted in many ways. There are a few unanswered questions at the end, but I think it leaves the symbolism at the forefront and is all the better movie for doing so. You literally have to stab your friends in the back to make it in tinsel town and you will leave your old life and values in ruins. The end suggests that she makes the transformation and will live with a newfound success but at what cost? As I said, this is modern horror (Martyrs, Cabin Fever, It Follows, Human Centipede) and it doesn’t leave you with a good feeling afterwards. It’s a strong film and an original story, but sometimes I think I’d just rather have a good ol’ fashioned monster and a hero that defeats it in the end. That said, Starry Eyes should most definitely be on your ‘to watch’ list.

starry-eyes pic 4

A powerful film symbolizing the soulless path to Hollywood success.

I give it 3.9 creepy cultists out of 5 starry eyes on the blackened souls scale of hopeless dreamers.

Behind the Screams!

T-Rex_Spinosaurus

Behind the Screams!

Some fun behind the scenes shots of horror and sci-fi films…

 

Baragon the horny Kaiju

Baragon the horny Kaiju

The Raven (2012) – Movie review

The Raven pic 4

The Raven coverThe Raven (2012)
The Raven is a fictional account concerning the last days in the life of Edgar Allan Poe. On October, 7th, 1849, he was found on a park bench in Baltimore, close to death. He died a short time later. This film attempts to explain the events leading to his demise. A psychopath is stalking Baltimore, killing innocent victims and using Poe’s stories and prose as a guideline. Life imitating art. Poe is called upon by the Baltimore police to help unravel a series of clues and riddles left by the perpetrator. The killer kidnaps Poe’s love interest, Emily Hamilton, and holds her hostage – actually, he buries her alive, in a coffin – and dares Poe to unravel the mysteries he has laid out and find her.

The Pendulum scene is quite jarring as I myself began to suck in my gut as I watched every swipe of the blood splattering blade. The film portrays a thick gothic atmosphere as horse-drawn coaches race through the lamp-lit, cobblestone streets of old Baltimore, in attempts to beat the killer before the next death occurs. The Raven pic 1There are rich sets and wonderful costume portraying this period piece without being garish. John Cusack does a good job portraying the dark and egotistical drunkard, Poe, but the script never seems to take this aspect far enough. Alice Eve, as Emily, shows herself to be a solid actress, refined, and playing her part with an understated charm. All the acting is solid in this film, with equally good parts by Luke Evans, as Detective Fields and Sam Hazeldine, as Ivan. So, why isn’t this a better film?

One drawback is that much of the murders are not seen on film, which I think would have had more impact. Aside from the pendulum scene, in most cases we get to see the dead bodies but not the actual murders themselves. As far as mysteries go, this film leaves no room for the viewer to use their mind and intellect to solve the clues for themselves. Much like Poe’s stories, ‘The Raven’ must have a tragic ending. The impact of the ‘trade-off’ at the end could have been an emotional pinnacle for the film but the director failed to capitalize on it and missed a great opportunity. However, I think the biggest problem with this film is – it reminds one of just how good E.A. Poe’s stories were and makes you wish you were entrenched in one of those stories rather than this film. It is a watchable film for the Poe fan despite falling short in so many areas, but more likely for novelty reason and visual appeal rather than story.
The Raven pic 5 The Raven pic 2 The Raven

Texas Chainsaw – 3D (2013) – movie review

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texas chainsaw 3DTexas Chainsaw – 3D (2013)
Lionsgate Films

(spoiler alert – but I don’t think it really matters)

This movie is a direct sequel to the 1974 original. It begins with actual scenes from that film (in 3D nevertheless – don’t remember if it was 3D), with the young lady escaping Leatherface in the back of a pick-up truck. (Do the Leatherface ballet).  New footage starts and the townsfolk arrive at the house as an angry mob, shoot up the place and burn it to the ground. They save a baby which one young couple quickly adopts as their own. Everyone else is presumed dead, even Grandpa. Now its 20 years later (and its 2012 – fuzzy math) and we see a 20-something young lady, Heather, working in a butcher shop… in full make-up (first sign that things were going down the sh*tter) She inherits a house, so she, along with her three friends (and one hitchhiker) go to the town of ‘Newt’ TX, to stake her claim. She fails to read the letter her grandmother had left her that explains about her half-wit, violent, cousin locked in the basement and which states, she can live in the house but has to take care of him – and don‘t let him out of the cellar. One of the idiot friends unlocks the basement door – chainsaws, machetes, axes and hammers start swinging. The violence is harsh and graphic as blood splashes, heads roll, and body parts fly, all in glorious 3D. This part of the film is enjoyable for the horror fan. Its a gory intensity that fans of the genre expect. Unfortunately, after about twenty-minutes, its back to the lame storyline.

texas-chainsaw-3d pic 5OK, so Heather finds out the townspeople killed her real family and now the townspeople are after her to keep her quiet, permanently. Leatherface finds out that Heather is ‘family’. The townsfolk trap Heather in an abandoned Meat Factory – so, ok, wait for it…. Leatherface becomes the HERO and saves Heather from the evil townsfolk! They embrace. All is right with the world – wait a second Heather, did you completely forget that this masked man just killed all the friends you ever had in the world? I guess its ok now, cause we’re family (I’m gagging, swallowing hard to keep from throwing up).

Alexandra Daddario does a decent job acting, and we will see her later this year in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. Tania Raymonde, as the best friend, Nikki, may get best supporting actress, just because of the red hot-shorts and well placed camera angles – in 3D, may I remind you. The three buff guy actors were just there to be chopped, diced and sliced. (nobody has average looking friends anymore?) After a while, I actually enjoyed making fun of all the stupid actions of the characters – getting my own MSFT3000 kinda’ vibe going and having the whole row in the theater chuckling.

texas-chainsaw-3d pic 2This latest installment of the franchise failed to capture the character likeability of the 2003 remake, or the psycho-shock, bizarro feel of the original. But, I’m no prude that says only the original has merit… If you want some violence and gore in 3D (the 3D was cool), then go ahead and see it. If you can get over the dumb characters and the sappy ending, you may have fun watching this. Hey, Friday the 13th had no-brain characters and we all enjoyed that, didn’t we?

Three important things I learned from this film:

1) If you see a guy wearing a mask and wielding a chainsaw, standing in a cemetery, don’t ask, “Hey, what are you doing?”

2) If you hide in a barn from a guy chasing you with a chainsaw, don’t use a piece of wood as a barricade. (He has a chainsaw, duh)

3) When being chased by a psycho killer, don’t hide in a coffin.

texas chainsaw 3D pic 6 Texas-Chainsaw-3D pic 7