Thursday, October 31, 2013

'Aftershock' (Movie Review)

Shaky ground.
I generally trust Eli Roth. He didn't steer me wrong with Cabin Fever or Hostel. I've even enjoyed his over-the-top acting in movies like Piranha 3D and Inglorious Basterds. So I held out hope that Aftershock would have some redeeming qualities with his name on production and in the cast. Eli has broken my circle of trust.

The basic premse of Aftershock is a lot like Hostel. A group of friends takes a trip outside the United States in an attempt to "find themselves" for various reasons. This particular group goes to Chile, and thus begins the horrendous first third of the movie. The first third of this movie is mind numbing. I'm not quite sure what director Nicolas Lopez was aiming for. There is no action, a completely pointless set up, and the dialogue is abysmal. I can see there was some attempt at character development in order to garner sympathy for the soon-to-be endangered group. These are fairly ineffective, however, due to the painful and contrived script.

Once the quake hits, things quickly shift gears into total chaos where the dialogue is (thankfully) minimized and it's one gory death after another. I will give Aftershock credit for remaining unpredictable in the way it eliminates cast members, and for a few twists and turns along the way, but by the time the finale rolls around you've had to endure 80 minutes of eating a crap sandwich. I don't want to forcibly eat an entire crap sandwich just to get to my dessert.

Brutal violence and scantily clad women have a storied history in horror movies. They've also been ramped up quite a bit as tropes in the past decade, and while there is totally a place for those things, you can't compensate for a complete debacle of a movie with gore and short shorts. It's unfortunate that Eli Roth wasn't able to have a little more influence on the final product so it would live up to the quality of the material he personally directs.

Grade: D-

Reviewed on VOD via Netflix. Running time 89 MIN.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Splatterhouse Retrospective

I've loved the Splatterhouse franchise for as long as I can remember. Growing up in the 1980's amidst a steady stream horror movies and pizza parlor brawlers like Double Dragon, when Splatterhouse first arrived I felt like it had been created just for me. "It's a game where you play as Jason!" was the general description and review it first received from everyone in the neighborhood. It was a gruesome and "controversial" game at the time, in an era long before video game violence was fodder for network news.

With so many incarnations, a few sequels, and a reboot, I wanted to pen a short retrospective on what I feel is an important series of entries in the horror gaming sub-genre. Check out my full write-up after the jump.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut Hits PC on Halloween

Lone Survivor is one of my favorite survival horror games from the past few years. Classic "limited resource" game play, cool retro graphics, and an engaging story make it a standout supernatural thriller.

The extended Director's Cut version of the game was released last month on PS3 and Playstation Vita, and wasn't slated to hit PC for a few months. On Monday developer Jasper Byrne announced that Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut will hit PC  and Mac on Halloween!

If you're a fan of retro gaming or the glory days of survival horror games like Resident Evil then this is a must-play. Plenty of replayability as well with multiple endings.

Be sure to check it out!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

'Magic Magic' (Movie Review)

A different type of horror.

While marketed as a horror movie, Magic Magic should really be classified more as a psychological thriller or suspense piece. It revolves around Alicia, an American girl with a shrouded past who joins her cousin Sara and a group of friends who are vacationing in southern Chile. Right from the start, plans get mixed up and she is forced into an uncomfortable situation amidst unfamiliar people and surroundings.

Tension begins building as Alicia (Juno Temple) has auditory hallucinations brought on by insomnia and is oddly antagonized by her cousin's friends, especially Brink, played by Michael Cera, who walks a fine line between eccentric and sociopath. Cera and Temple really give the standout performances with everyone else fading out as background noise. They manage to build a ton of anxiety without ever really doing anything particularly wrong. It's that excellent brand of suspense that makes you start guessing who "the bad guy" is, or when something really awful is going to happen.

Unfortunately, this is where Magic Magic runs into issues. After a constant stream of escalating events, including a bizarre scene where Alicia may or may not be hypnotized, there is no pay off. Writer/director Sebastián Silva does fine work building things to a fever pitch, but ultimately doesn't deliver. The movie becomes a character study in mental illness, and never really seems to go anywhere, outside of the finale that steers things in a slightly different direction. This is one of the cardinal sins of horror/suspense/thrillers. Good stories go somewhere. If you're going to build up massive tension then there needs to be a catharsis for the audience, otherwise they'll end up feeling cheated.

Non-ending aside, Magic Magic is still an engaging film with excellent atmosphere and a good soundtrack. It definitely held my interest through the end, so I wound up slightly disappointed (and frustrated by the studio's deceptive trailer marketing) but not hating it. If you're looking for something that's downbeat and frightening in a less traditional way, give it a shot.

Grade: C+

Reviewed on DVD via Red Box. Running time 97 MIN.

Friday, October 25, 2013

'Apartment 1303' (Movie Review)

Far from the scariest thing in Detroit.

Maybe you're like me and pondered out loud "What would happen if Mischa Barton and Rebecca De Mornay got together to make a horor movie?" Director Michael Taverna's Apartment 1303 3D answers that question for us. Frankly, now I wish I hadn't asked.

This re-make of a modern Japanese ghost story takes place in lovely Detroit, Michigan. Young Janet Slate (Julianne Michelle) is no longer capable of living with her musician-turned-alcoholic mother (De Mornay) so she moves into a great apartment that just happens to be right in her price range. Unfortunately, the budget rent comes with more than a silver fish problem. Janet is soon plagued by frightening noises and visions at night in her new home, prompting a lot of runny eyeliner and "OMG I am so freaked out" monologues. She also contends with a rude little neighbor girl, and her perverted superintendent O'Neil (Gordon Masten) who is easily the highlight of the entire movie. His delivery is the only thing that transcends from "bad" to "so bad it's good" territory.

After a short while, Janet meets her untimely demise and her sister Lara begins the search for answers behind her disappearance. Mischa Barton portrays Lara Slate with all the emotional intensity of a robot. In fact, Taverna should have pitched the name Android Girl Fights Apartment Ghost because I think it's snappier than Apartment 1303 3D. She teams up with her sister's boyfriend Mark (Corey Sevier) who says he is a cop, which she seems to take at face value since she never really sees him doing anything that would indicate he is a police officer. I chalked it up to her robot brain running all sorts of statistical calculations on the likelihood of him telling the truth. Thus begins their "investigation" that ends up being a bunch of poorly timed jump scares wrapped in a bow of limited tension.

The movie rounds off with some closure, a few plot holes, and a lot of amazing overacting by Rebecca De Mornay. Seriously, the acting quality in Apartment 1303 3D ranges between "Lifetime movie" and "middle school sex education video" but I have to give some points to Rebecca for going over the top as a lunatic drunk. She never phones it in.

I can't recommend Apartment 1303 3D unless you're really hard up for something to watch. It's available via VOD but most people probably won't have the 3D capability (I didn't) that is tacked on. It's unfortunately a cobbled together mess that never garners any scares, or enough laughs to move it into ironic territory.

Grade: D

Reviewed on Amazon Video. Running time: 85 MIN.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

AMC Fearfest 2013 Schedule

Every year I look forward to AMC's Fear Fest. Since the days of basic cable regularly showing horror movies are dead and gone, besides extended cable like FearNet and Chiller TV. October is the only month we get the chance to see gems from the genre on broadcast television.

While there is a plethora of horror titles ranging from classic to complete garbage between Netflix and Red Box, sometimes it's nice to see horror movies "the old way" (DVR is cheating!) when you didn't have as much control over them, and the goriest parts might be edited out and left to your imagination to fill in since you've most likely already seen what you're watching about twenty times before.

Plus, you can't argue with Flight of The Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane

For those interested, here's a schedule of the remaining days leading up to Halloween.

Thursday, October 24th
1:00AM-Scary Movie
3:00AM-Scary Movie 2
4:45AM-Violent Midnight
8:00AM-Comic Book Men
8:30AM-Comic Book Men
9:00AM-Silver Bullet
11:00AM-Puppet Master
1:00PM-Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
3:00PM-Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
5:00PM-A Nightmare on Elm Street(2010 remake)
7:00PM-Seed of Chucky
9:00PM-Bride of Chucky
11:00PM-Child's Play 2

Friday, October 25th
1:00AM-Child's Play 3
3:00AM-Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
8:00AM-Creation of the Humanoids
8:45AM-The Omen (original)
11:15AM-Damien:Omen 2
1:45PM-Omen 3: The Final Conflict
6:15PM-The Exorcist
9:00PM-The Walking Dead
10:00PM-The Mummy

Saturday, October 26th
12:45AM-The Mummy Returns
3:45AM-The Walking Dead
4:45AM-Slaughter of the Vampires
5:00AM-Comic Book Men
5:30AM-The Mummy Returns
2:00PM-Alien 3
4:30PM-Alien Resurrection
7:00PM-The Amityville Horror (2005 remake)
9:00PM-The Omen (2006 remake)
11:30PM-The Last House on the Left (2009 remake)

Sunday, October 27th

4:30AM-Comic Book Men
5:00AM-Silver Bullet
7:00AM-The Amityville Horror (2005 remake)
9:00AM-The Return of the Living Dead
11:00AM-Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane
1:00PM-Survival of the Dead
3:00PM-Land of the Dead
5:00PM-I Am Legend
7:00PM-The Walking Dead
8:00PM-The Walking Dead
9:01PM-Talking Dead
10:00PM-The Walking Dead
11:00PM-Comic Book Men
11:30PM-The Walking Dead

Monday, October 28th
12:30AM-Talking Dead
1:30AM-Comic Book Men
2:00AM-The Walking Dead
3:00AM-Survival of the Dead
8:00AM-Comic Book Men
8:30AM-Comic Book Men
9:00AM-Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane
11:00AM-Land of the Dead
1:00PM-Thirteen Ghosts
3:00PM-A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake)
5:00PM-The Amityville Horror (2005 remake)
7:00PM-Friday the 13th Part 3
9:00PM-Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
11:00PM-Friday the 13th-A New Beginning

Tuesday, October 29th
1:00AM-Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives
3:00AM-Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood
8:00AM-The Three Stooges-I'll Never Heil Again
8:45AM-Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
10:45AM-Friday the 13th-A New Beginning
12:45PM-Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives
2:45PM-Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood
4:45PM-Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan
7:00PM-Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
9:00PM-Jason X
11:00PM-Friday the 13th (remake)

Wednesday, October 30th
1:00AM-Friday the 13th Part 3
3:00AM-Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
8:00AM-Return to House on Haunted Hill
11:45AM-Tremors 2: Aftershocks
2:00PM-Tremors 3: Back to Perfection
4:30PM-Temors 4: The Legend Begins
7:00PM-Halloween (original)
9:00PM-Halloween 2
11:00PM-Halloween 3: Season of the Witch

Thursday, October 31st (Halloween)
1:00AM-Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
3:00AM-Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
9:00AM-Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
11:00AM-Halloween (original)
1:00PM-Halloween 2
3:00PM-Halloween 3: Season of the Witch
5:00PM-Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
7:00PM-Halloween 5: the Revenge of Michael Myers
9:00PM-Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
11:00PM-Halloween (original)

Bruce Campbell Confirms Army of Darkness 2

Usually when I hear about a horror movie sequel or remake, my reaction ranges somewhere between ambivalent and totally enraged. However, with news coming from Ash himself (Bruce Campbell) that a sequel to Army of Darkness is currently being written and that he will be directly involved, I was ecstatic.

The additional tidbit that Sam Raimi is at the helm only further solidifies my excitement, even though I actually felt that the Evil Dead property wasn't mishandled in the recent re-imagining headed up by Fede Alvarez.

I'll be patiently awaiting more information in the coming months.