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All reviews - Movies (63) - TV Shows (1)

Zombieland review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:24 (A review of Zombieland)

The "zombedy" sub-genre really took off after the massive success of "Shaun Of The Dead". Most of these films range from decent fun, to uninspired, unfunny junk. However, "Zombieland" may be the one film in it's sub-genre that truly rises to the same level of that classic. Originally created and pitched as a TV series, this lighthearted flick combines pop culture and social satire with genuine emotion and gory zombie fun. It doesn't function particularly well as a horror film, and more attention is certainly given to the comedic aspects, but that's just fine. What this film is really about are a band of characters who were lost and searching for home long before zombies made the world a wasteland.

The cast simply couldn't be better, with Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson delivering remarkable bromance chemistry. The two couldn't be more polar opposite, yet their banter and relationship make the film what it is. Meanwhile Emma Stone gives a star-making performance that balances out her male co-stars. All of them have pitch perfect chemistry together, and I could easily see myself tuning in for the weekly adventures of this loveable band. The script is witty as well, delivering humor that tows the line between satire and crudeness, without ever slipping too far in either direction. And though, as said before, the horror isn't that prevalent, the zombie makeup is still top-notch and there's a few moments of comical, gory action to satiate horror hounds. This is one of those flicks that we horror fanatics can easily show our friends and family, whilst the film itself is still absolutely solid. Hands down, one of the greatest horror comedies of all time.

My Rating:ย  9/10

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Shaun of the Dead review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:23 (A review of Shaun of the Dead)

What is to be said of this magnificent film? It has done so much for not just the horror genre, but the cinematic landscape of the 21st century, despite being nothing more than a simple horror comedy. On it's release in 2004, it reinvigorated both the horror genre and the zombie film, it brought the oft-maligned horror comedy sub-genre into the mainstream, proving the two genres could work together, it created more widespread international interest in British film, launched the careers of a talented director in Edgar Wright, and comedic geniuses in acting duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and it did so much more than even that. There's good reason this little flick went from a cult hit, to a bona-fide classic the world over. It's simply a superb marriage of horror and comedy, but with a cast and crew full of genuine talent, and a beating heart beneath it's carnage and laughter. It's clear the film was a labor of love for everyone involved, chock full of references to cult films and pop culture. The comedy is the best sort of British humor, wry and sly, never too over the top, but not as somber as some British comedies become.

It's also full of witty subtext, if one notices small touches, like how Shaun's existence is so dreary and "zombie-like" that at first, he doesn't even notice the apocalypse around him. And as the icing on the cake, it becomes a full fledged horror film by the end, delivering some incredibly well directed moments of tension and gore. Not all horror comedies deliver the goods in equal doses, but this one does. It's most often overlooked aspect however, is it's complex emotional core. At moments it's sincere and sweet enough to put a tear in one's eye, whether it's the loveable bromance between Shaun and Ed, or the complex romance of Shaun and Liz. Even it's side characters are given much more nuanced characterization than many films of it's ilk. The quiet emotional moments are the ones that really stick with me, and the film makes some mature and effecting observations on friendship and midlife crisis. All of this is anchored by a truly flawless cast, that's absolutely perfect down to the bit parts. It's truly a perfect example of how to do a horror comedy right, and a genuine classic. Our cinematic landscape wouldn't be what it is without Shaun, and we're better off for it.

My Rating:ย  9/10

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World War Z review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:22 (A review of World War Z)

There was incredible hype surrounding this film when it released. It became the highest budget horror film to ever be made, and there was talk of "a horror film finally taking an Academy Award". But the truth is, this is simply a very generic exercise, often devoid of the things that make most zombie/infection films good in the first place. This particular film was stuck in development hell for years, cycling between a multitude of scripts, and it shows.

The film is huge in it's scope, detailing a worldwide zombie outbreak, yet it mostly ends up feeling like slides from an extended field trip. The main character darts around the globe in the timeframe of a few days, staying in each place just long enough for a set piece or scene of massive violence to break out, then the flimsy plot moves along to the next. The book the film is based upon was fascinating because it focused in detail, on how different countries and governments handled the outbreak, here all of the political subtext is thrown out in favor of quick and erratically directed action scenes.

There's plenty of good actors present, but none of them have anything to sink their teeth into. The film couldn't feel more cold, or emotionally empty, which is astonishing considering the human implications of it's story. It has only the most greeting card-like sentimentality, and the dialogue is mostly a prop. That's not to say it's a completely horrible film, as it does offer some escapist entertainment at moments. Some of the scenes, such as a nail-biting outbreak on a cramped plane, or the rather suspenseful third act inside a research facility overrun with the infected are quite effective. But that's the only thing the film ever offers, dumb popcorn fun, albeit with an overly-serious tone and direction and cinematography that are the definition of corporate filmmaking. It's worth a look for zombie fans, and as said, it has it's moments. But it's a surprisingly empty film for one with such big questions on it's mind.

My Rating:ย  6/10

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Doctor Sleep review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:20 (A review of Doctor Sleep)

I'm not at all a fan of "The Shining", so one may ask why I'm bothering to watch what basically amounts to it's sequel. The answer is Mike Flanagan. I've been following Flanagan's career since his debut film, "Absentia", and he has remained my favorite horror director of this decade, and one whose imagination and skill is seemingly endless. I'll watch anything this man puts out, and this film was to be no exception. And just like any of his other films, this one was well worth the watch. It works as both a homage to the Kubrick film, and to the King novel. Thusly, it will satisfy both those who preferred either the film or book version. A knowledge of the prior film is not needed, although it greatly helps to magnify one's appreciation of the story and the scenes that Flanagan so lovingly recreates.

Meanwhile, the story of a full grown Danny Torrance coming to terms with his psychic abilities and fighting a band of soul sucking vampires also works wonderfully. Ewan McGregor is as good as expected in the lead role, but Rebecca Ferguson and young Kyleigh Curran steal the screen. Ferguson is fiendish and stylish as the main villain and is a pure joy to watch and Curran shows great depth and range for such a young actress.

The film doesn't always work as a straight forward horror picture, containing elements of fantasy as much as anything else, but when the film does kick into the horror bits, it doesn't hold back. And the end is an especially stunning tribute to the source material, focusing at once on the visuals of Kubrick's film and the complex emotional core of King's novel. It felt epic to me, even as someone who isn't a fan of the 1980 film. It's a strange picture, and one that almost feels like it shouldn't work as well as it does, but I'll be damned if it isn't incredibly creative, full of heart and exceptionally directed. Easily one of the best horror films of 2019, and further proof that Flanagan is a master.

My Rating:ย  9/10

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Vampires vs. the Bronx review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:20 (A review of Vampires vs. the Bronx)

This little film appeared out of nowhere on Netflix. It didn't cause much of a stir, and I initially saw many reviews comparing it unfavorably to "Attack The Block", which is one of my favorite horror films of the last decade. And while those comparisons can be a bit much, the two films do share quite a bit in common. Both are tales of ethnic kids fighting back against supernatural intruders in their communities. Whereas "Attack The Block" saw aliens invading UK projects, this one, obviously, sees vampires taking on The Bronx.

One of the film's only original touches is using the pasty-white creatures of the night as metaphors for increasing gentrification, and the film is at it's best when wittily observing that comparison. It does have some loveable characters, and a few genuinely funny moments spread throughout. But the more the film wears on, the more derivative it becomes of other vampire flicks. It doesn't seem to know what to do with it's more horrific elements, which leads to some crumby CGI effects and goofy battle scenes. It's a shame, because there was certainly some potential here, and the young cast members are charming and likeable. But this is a generic, somewhat aimless film at the end of the day.

My Rating:ย  5/10

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Red Dragon (2002) review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:20 (A review of Red Dragon (2002))

This film simply has no right to be as good as it is. It's a prequel to "The Silence Of The Lambs", something that could arguably be seen as redundant, filmed only a year after the ill-advised disaster that was "Hannibal". Not only this, but an adaptation of the novel called "Manhunter" had already been filmed by Michael Mann in 1986, the first on-screen appearance of Hannibal Lector. But, despite all of this, the efforts of a superb cast, a talented director and writer, combined to make this an effective horror/thriller hybrid, that caps off the Hannibal trilogy quite nicely.

Thankfully, the film places Lector in the context in which he is most frightening once again, rather than him being the focal point of the entire film. Meanwhile, Edward Norton is inherently likeable as our main character, a gifted FBI agent with a knack for prying into the minds of killers. Most memorable however, is Ralph Fiennes as "The Tooth Fairy". Fiennes brings a strong emotional undercurrent and incredible depth to his role as a mentally unstable killer.

The film isn't quite as forward with it's horror elements as the previous two were, but there's still plenty of disturbing moments. And like the original, emphasis on the psychological terrors of it's characters and Lector's mind-games lend it strength. It can sometimes feel a bit to similar to the first film in the trilogy, but luckily the characters are distinct enough to stand on their own, and there's several scenes of nail-biting tension to keep viewer's on their toes. This is simply an efficient, superbly acted ending to the trilogy, and well worth the time of horror and thriller viewers alike.

My Rating:ย  8/10

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Hannibal review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:19 (A review of Hannibal)

Despite the illustrious pedigree of the talent involved in the making of this sequel, it simply cannot compare to "The Silence Of The Lambs", or even the prequel that comes after it. Not even the efforts of such superb actors as Hopkins and Moore, or the direction of Ridley Scott can keep this preposterous film afloat. And the main reason for this, is quite simply, the very novel it is based upon. In both book and film, gone is everything that made the characters of Hannibal and Starling so fascinating, replaced only with gore and a constant need to up the shock value factor.

Now, I'm perfectly fine with shlocky, campy horror films, but to degrade such complex, mysterious characters to cartoon characters is simply disrespectful. And truth be told, this film doesn't even function that well as a straight horror pic. It's far too busy keeping up the appearance of sophistication, thus never allowing it's colorful characters to become as unhinged as they should be.

Furthermore, the concept of Lector's interest in Starling being degraded to nothing but cliched sexual attraction is crushingly disappointing. It's staying true to the novel, of course, but this is a film adaptation of a novel that never should have happened. Neither can decide whether they want to uphold the thoughtful tone of the previous works, or descend into grindhouse horrors. And the two approaches only cancel each other out together. This is truly an embarrassing, pointless, cheesy endeavor for all involved. It destroys everything that made it's predecessor so masterful, and reduces Hopkins to playing a more well-mannered Freddy Kruger. Not the sequel that fans deserved, or wanted.

My Rating:ย  4/10

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The Silence of the Lambs review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:11 (A review of The Silence of the Lambs)

This may all together, be the most successful horror film of all time. It's easily the most esteemed, as one of the few more gruesome pictures whose artistry shone through enough that not even awards ceremony snobs could look down their noses at it. It also irrevocably changed the landscape of popular film, making serial killer thrillers and police procedurals the bankable industries that they remain today. Some would argue whether or not it qualifies as a true horror film, but I see no argument for it's not being one. This is a film very different from most thrillers. It focuses itself almost solely on the psychological torment of it's characters, and thusly, it's most often trying to scare and unnerve it's audience, in a manner that only horror films ever do.

But it's a refined, artistic film. One more concerned with character and subtle commentary than guts and gore. What truly elevates it, is the amazing cast. Nothing really need be said for the performance of Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector. He crawls under the skin, and stays there. Truly the boogeyman, if he was ever captured on screen. Foster's performance is just as fantastic, and layered with emotions. Even Ted Levine brings thoughtfulness and subtlety to Buffalo Bill, despite not being given as much to work with.

The film is also layered with subtle feminism, the kind that is ever-present, without ever needing to make statements out loud. Agent Starling is constantly fighting to be respected by her peers, in a clearly male dominated field. Men are attempting to manipulate her from all sides, whether it be Lector's riddles, leading her on, or creepy colleagues treating her as less. And the film's more graphic moments are handled with a sense of quiet urgency and humanism. For the mark it's had on film tropes, and the pure craftsmanship in it's making, this is forever a classic, and proof that horror can be so dignified and artful, that years later, the snobs are still trying to argue whether or not it is horror at all. It is, and it's a masterpiece at that.

My Rating:ย  9/10

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The Mummy review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:10 (A review of The Mummy)

Out of all the original Universal monster films, this one is easily the least fondly remembered. Even upon it's release it was much less well received than it's contemporaries, and only fares slightly better today. Truth is, it doesn't hold up as well as films like "Dracula" and "The Wolf Man" because it simply isn't as good. It starts off strong with a scene set in the night hours of Egypt, where a recently unearthed mummy slowly comes to life and terrifies a young assistant. Sadly, nothing of this incredibly atmospheric caliber is seen again for the entire runtime.

Instead, the film casts Boris Karloff as more of an ancient magician than the shambling, monstrous mummies we think of today. While Karloff's performance is excellent, the film really just plods along. It's plot is incredibly barebones, even for it's time, and there aren't many creepy or significant scenes. The terribly anti-climatic ending just seals the deal, making this a decidedly mediocre endeavor. Edward Van Sloan is wasted in a role that mostly feels like him just playing Van Helsing with less screen-time, and Zita Johann's stilted performance doesn't make her a very charming leading lady. This just isn't the classic tale of mummy mayhem you'll be hoping for, and it's easily one of Universal's weakest.

My Rating:ย  5/10

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Deadline review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 12:59 (A review of Deadline)

This is an incredibly obscure film. So obscure in fact, that it's exact release date is still a matter of contention. Most agree that filming was finished in 1979, but the film wasn't distributed in the US until 1984, despite having a Canadian theatrical release in 1980. But the film isn't the low budget shlock you'd expect from a long lost 1980's horror flick. Instead it's a purely psychological horror story of a celebrated script-writer, known for his gruesome horror films. His life slowly unravels, with the controversial public perception of his work straining his marriage, and ultimately causing a horrible tragedy.

The film itself almost functions more as a drama than a horror film, but is interjected with segments that represent the main character's films, and his brain-storming for a new script. These scenes are fiendishly inventive, and range from pure psychological horror to grotesque exploitation. Luckily, they are mostly used with tact, and represent the character's deteriorating mindset as the film goes on.

Sadly, Stephen Young just isn't good enough of an actor to carry such a demanding role. He overacts terribly, stretching his face into unintentionally comical expressions and forcing out his more emotional lines. The film's ending is also a little less than satisfactory, considering the build-up to it. But overall, this is an emotionally turbulent, haunting tragedy, with enough moments of gruesomeness to keep the horror fans entertained. It's certainly more polished and worthwhile than many other obscure genre efforts from it's era.

My Rating:ย  6/10

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