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All reviews - Movies (78) - TV Shows (1)

Saw review

Posted : 1 day, 1 hour ago on 6 May 2021 03:14 (A review of Saw)

The reputation of the "Saw" franchise has ebbed and flowed over the years, sometimes declining thanks to an endless stream of sequels. While these subsequent installments became increasingly centered on the series' signature death traps and eventually became big-budget gore films, it's easy to forget that the original "Saw" was a much different case. Having more in common with "Seven" than "Hostel", this film stands as one of the best horror films of the 2000's decade. While the modus operandi of antagonist "Jigsaw" remains the same, this first installment is much more concerned with plot and suspense than buckets of blood. That's not to saw that it doesn't have it's grisly moments, but they aren't the main focus of the film. Instead, director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell seek to combine the serial killer-thriller and horror genres, and do so to wonderful effect.

The plot here is much more complex than one may expect, filled with genuinely surprising twists and turns. The way the story unravels is methodical, but the moments of gore and intensity are spread out perfectly, so that the film never lulls or becomes boring. For the majority of it's run-time, the main narrative is confined to one room, but through flashbacks and recollection of the events leading to that moment, it weaves an unpredictable storyline and never feels restricted. The cast is mostly good as well. Cary Elwes may be a bit stilted, but his natural charm and confidence shines through, and his performance becomes quite intense by the denouement. Meanwhile, Whannell not only writes, but stars in the film, and gives a solid turn as well. Though his screen-time is lesser here, Tobin Bell is also brilliant as "Jigsaw". His voice alone is more chilling and iconic than words can describe. He truly inhabits the role.

But the real sucker-punch comes from the film's ending shot, and final, incredible twist. It's a moment that one never forgets the feeling of experiencing for the first time. Everything comes together. The twisting plot, the well-rounded characterization, brutality of the horror aspects, the emotional impact and chilling philosophical implications. All of this tempered by Wan's surprisingly stylish and mature direction. The film has an atmospheric look, despite being shot on such a low-budget. It builds a world of shadowy city streets and gloomily-colored industrial locations. This is a horror film that truly has it all. Suspense, gore, an astonishing amount of humanity, and a clever script to boot. Jigsaw has become an icon for a reason, and at the end of the day, despite continuing sequels, this film remains that reason. A true masterpiece of it's genre.

My Rating:ย  10/10

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The Hills Have Eyes review

Posted : 1 day, 4 hours ago on 6 May 2021 11:50 (A review of The Hills Have Eyes)

This is a case where I believe the remake turned out better than the original film. This one isn't bad. It has more directorial flair and better cinematography than Craven's previous effort, The Last House On The Left and there's some tension and suspense. But, compared to the remake and even on it's own, there's a lot of problems as well. Foremost being, that once revealed, the antagonists are not the least bit frightening. Unlike in the remake, where they were presented as inhuman, hideously deformed monsters, these characters are much more human. They talk and laugh, and come across as nothing more than desert hillbillies with cannibalistic tendencies. This takes a lot of punch out of the second half of the film.ย 

The family we're supposed to root for is also, mostly comprised of unlikeable characters, which doesn't help. The teenage son, the mother and the adult daughter and her husband are likeable enough, but there's also the headstrong, racist father (whose stupidity leaves his family stranded in the first place) and the squawking, annoying teenage daughter. However, when the film works, it works admirably, with some intense chase scenes and satisfyingly gruesome moments of revenge. It's worth a look for it's place in horror history, but as said, the remake is superior in every way. Sorry, Wes.

My Rating:ย  6/10

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The Last House on the Left review

Posted : 1 day, 6 hours ago on 6 May 2021 09:46 (A review of The Last House on the Left)

Although I'm not someone who usually enjoys rape/revenge type horror films I had to give this one a pass seeing as it was the first feature film by Wes Craven, my favorite horror director. I also thoroughly enjoyed the remake, as the only of it's type that I have found merit in. Sadly, this is probably one of Craven's worst films, and though I understand it's place in history, I don't understand how it managed to gather any admirers as, vileness aside, it's simply an astonishingly inept film. The cinematography looks like it was shot on a broken lens, the acting is either cheesy as hell or just plain bad, the music is annoying and out of place and worst of all, the two bumbling, comedy relief police officers are grating, annoying and in poor taste.ย 

Perhaps intentions were good, in presenting a raw, unglamorous depiction of violence in opposition to the hero-fetishizing of the armed forces (as Craven muses in the DVD documentary), but when the film lacks any real punch and is often just laughably crafted, it has no real effect. Maybe it was the most shocking film ever back in 1972, but nowadays we have even more shocking, more meaningful and most certainly better produced films. It's worthy of it's historical interest, but holds no real power and is not well crafted in the least.

My Rating:ย  3/10

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Two on a Guillotine review

Posted : 5 days, 20 hours ago on 1 May 2021 07:53 (A review of Two on a Guillotine)

This is a mostly forgotten picture, despite being produced by Warner Bros. and starring some familiar names. But it's very much a product of it's time, and not all that different or special from many that were produced in the 60's. One feels that the studio was obviously trying to cash in on the Hammer films that were popular, as most of the plot points are borrowed from the psychological thrillers that the studio was producing. It's still a decent film, well directed and acted with a witty script and loveable characters that keep it watchable. But for the majority of the runtime, nothing that spooky is even happening.ย 

Our main character has moved into the house she inherited from her recently deceased father, a magician who promised to return from the grave. But most of the scares involve his booby-trapped house, filled with practical jokes such as skeletons on strings. Only towards the end do things begin to pick up, but the film manages to capture a reasonable level of creepiness. The twist is easy to see coming, but the ending is executed in suspenseful enough a manner that it doesn't feel cheap. But despite being an efficient, watchable production, it's not a really a special one. I can see why it has fallen into obscurity, despite not being a bad film at all. Worth a watch if films from this period and in this niche are up your alley.

My Rating:ย  6/10

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Bloody Hell review

Posted : 1 week, 5 days ago on 25 April 2021 08:03 (A review of Bloody Hell)

It's been some time since I've seen a film that is as simply, and purely random as "Bloody Hell". It's refusal to settle on a tone or single plot-thread may lead one to believe they're in for a kooky ride. But while the film certainly is chaotic and surreal, it never becomes the surprising, memorable cult classic it's so desperately trying to be. Things start off well enough, and with the film shifting so quickly from being a satirical action flick to backwoods horror, it seems as though this will be a very unpredictable viewing experience. Sadly, once the action moves to Finland and the horror elements take over, it becomes a pretty by the numbers cannibal flick. There's not much here that you haven't seen in other films from the sub-genre, like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Wrong Turn".

The sole difference is that our main character is quite unique. Most of the comedy and entertainment comes from his unusual habit of projecting his conscience as a physical duplicate of himself, that he holds conversations and rationalizes with. Main man Ben O'Toole is simply a joy to watch. He's charming, personable, has a solid range, great comedic timing and he can pull off bad-ass flawlessly. The one thing that remains a constant is how much fun he is to watch in his zone, and I can only hope we see more of him in the future.

Meanwhile, while the jarringly different plot-points never converge in any meaningful way, when the gore and violence kick in closer to the climax, the film becomes an enjoyable example of it's sub-genre. However, it ends up feeling cluttered and unfinished. There doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to why anything happens as it does. The film is at it's best when trying something different, but it spends far too much of it's time being a fairly generic backwoods horror. It's enjoyable to watch in the moment, but I can't help but feel that I'll have forgotten much of it in the following days. What will remain is Ben O'Toole's superb performance and the quality moments of comedy. It's worth a look for those who enjoy horror comedy, but it's just shy of the mark it's trying to hit in the end.

My Rating:ย  6/10

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The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) review

Posted : 3 weeks, 5 days ago on 11 April 2021 08:10 (A review of The Tomb of Ligeia (1964))

This was the final film in Roger Corman's series of Poe films, known as the "Poe Cycle". This one is based off the tale that was apparently Poe's favorite amongst his own work. I'm not sure how closely the screenplay sticks to the original story, but if it's faithful, this is far from Poe's best work, or Corman's. In fact, this just may be the weakest of the entire series of Corman/Poe films. There's just nothing whatsoever to keep one interested by the proceedings. The story is executed in a dragging fashion with no memorable or exciting moments of tension or fright.ย For most of the film, there is simply nothing of interest happening on screen.

This could be because Corman regular Richard Matheson was absent in the writer's seat, replaced by Robert Towne, who zaps the life out of even the dialogue. And worst of all, it's blatantly obvious to anyone familiar with 1960's horror films exactly where things are going from the start. There's no signature twist as in most of these films, and even the finale is a bore. Vincent Price is the only bright spot, and his performance shines, but he's left with an empty script that gives him nothing to chew on. All together, this is not a conventionally terrible film, but it's indeed a mediocre bore. Even Corman fantatics can sit this one out without missing anything.

My Rating:ย  5/10

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The Curse of the Werewolf review

Posted : 3 weeks, 5 days ago on 11 April 2021 07:48 (A review of The Curse of the Werewolf)

This was Hammer's take on "The Wolf Man", and one of their less remembered films. In the beginning it shows great promise, setting the stage with a tragic opener that is narrated like a legend. Sadly, this is the only memorable part of the film. The explanation provided for lycanthropy is incredibly silly, and basically equates the mythical creature to possession, along with some misguided, ignorant bullshit about the children of rape being prone to curses.

Furthermore, the film has difficulty making it's characters feel like real human beings, and the werewolf is never even seen until the final 10 minutes of the film. Oliver Reed is the only bright spot, in an early role that's just as fiery and impassioned as any other in his career. Otherwise this is an empty-headed, rather insulting addition to the lycanthrope genre. And it's easy to see why it's one of Hammer's less fondly recalled efforts.

My Rating:ย  5/10

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The Terror (1963) review

Posted : 4 weeks, 1 day ago on 8 April 2021 01:43 (A review of The Terror (1963))

This is perhaps the most poorly received of the Corman Poe-Cycle (even though it is not actually based on a Poe text), and it's easy to see why. Not only was Corman working with what was obviously a much smaller budget than most of his Poe adaptations, but the film is a mess in many other ways as well. The cinematography is muddy and much too dark in some scenes, the plot unfolds in a manner that is pure cheese and towards the end some twists are thrown in that make the whole ordeal next to impossible to understand.

There is some good, though. The acting keeps things moving along with great performances by Karloff, a very young Jack Nicholson and Dick Miller. They don't have much to work with, but they give it one hundred percent all the way. Also, there are a few effective moments, though nothing frightening, and the film does sport a spooky atmosphere. The ending also closes things on a fiendish note, but by then you'll be far too restless with the tedious plot and near incomprehensible twists to look back upon it with favor. It's not notably awful or anything of that sort, but a very messy film indeed. I can't really recommend it to anyone. Even Corman fans are better off skipping this one.

My Rating:ย  5/10

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Villains review

Posted : 4 weeks, 1 day ago on 8 April 2021 01:42 (A review of Villains)

We've seen a glut of these "role reversed" home-invasion films by now. The trend started way back in the 90's with "The People Under The Stairs" and gained real traction with "Don't Breathe" in 2016. Stories of likeable, anti-hero criminals who break into someone else's home, only to find the homeowners to be the true psychopaths, have become commonplace. And the trope is nearly worn down to it's last leg. This little film doesn't exactly bring anything innovative to the table, but thanks to a fantastic cast and witty writing, it becomes a very watchable example of this sub-genre.

As said, most praise must go to the cast, who elevate the humdrum plot by giving wonderful performances. Bill Skarsgard and Maika Monroe have absolutely perfect chemistry and make an adorable, believable couple. Their comedic timing is great as well, and their interactions are often genuinely funny. Meanwhile Jeffrey Donovan gives a powerful turn as the man of the house, shifting from comically overblown machismo, to appropriately intense menace. Kyra Sedgewick is much the same as his wife. A prim, proper little woman, always on the verge of a psychotic episode.

The script provides plenty of involving dialogue and comedy between the characters, and that's what keeps the film going. Because outside of these aspects, it's a completely predictable affair. It has it's moments of suspense, but never becomes frightening, intense, gory or quite bizarre enough. This is one horror film which rests entirely on it's script and actors, and it's a worthy watch for that reason alone, if you like horror comedies. It could've been really special, though.

My Rating:ย  6/10

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No Telling review

Posted : 4 weeks, 1 day ago on 8 April 2021 01:42 (A review of No Telling)

Thanks to a recent Blu-Ray release by IFC, this film is finally available to the general public. This is Larry Fessenden's feature debut, and it's surprisingly good. Fessenden's work is hit or miss nowadays, and he's mostly known as an indie producer under his "Glass Eye Pix" banner. But this film showed tremendous potential for a man that would become one of the most instrumental voices in independent filmmaking over the next few years.

While it certainly functions as a horror film, it can feel a lot more like a drama. And it wears it's political statements on it's sleeve, taking a very bold, but not overbearing ecological stance. It's one that will be uncomfortable for environmentalists and vegans to watch at times, but a film that carries their statements well in the end. The unknown actors are unexpectedly fantastic in their roles as well, and really help sell the drama and create relatable characters. And while the budget can hold the film back, it never becomes boring or amateurish. If you dig Fessenden's work or independent films in general, and you can track this one down without paying an insane amount for it, then it's worth a watch.

My Rating:ย  6/10

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