Friday, January 31, 2014

'All the Boys Love Mandy Lane' (Movie Review)

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane finally arrived on Netflix. Hooray!

Seriously, people in Qatar got to see this movie back in 2008, and here I am reviewing it six years later.  Mandy Lane was floating around the top of the "you've gotta check this movie out" recommendation list from friends and internet well-wishers and with so much hype around it , I had pretty high expectations. Did the film live up to them? Well, sorta.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane tells the story of Mandy; the girl who got "surprisingly hot" over the summer and all the guys at school want to be platonic friends and not have sex with. Just kidding, they all want to have sex with her, and the first twenty minutes of dialog beats you over the head about it. Once it's established that Mandy is pristine and every other girl at school is a tramp, there is a tragic accident at a party that causes Mandy's only friend Emmet to be ostracized. Fast forward a few months and she gets invited by stoner stereotype Red and his friends for a party weekend at his parents isolated ranch.

After the partying and drug-fueled infighting begins, people start to die. There's someone on a Texas ranch, massacring teens, but not with a chainsaw. All joking aside, Mandy Lane gives many a subtle nod to Texas Chainsaw and the setting of a broken down ranch works to the movies advantage. There's even a slow paced chase scene in the middle of the day. The movie does a lot of things right in terms of building tension as the party-goers are unwittingly knocked off and look to Garth the ranch hand as their only protection.

At its core, Mandy Lane is a teen slasher flick. It's smarter than the average splatterfest, but suffers from the Xanax-laced acting of Amber Heard, and some inane dialogue. Ultimately it wraps up with a tight and unexpectedly satisfying ending. Despite some flaws it's still a cut above than many of its contemporaries. Put this one in the mix for your next Netflix horror movie marathon.

Grade: B-

Reviewed on VOD via Netflix. Running time 90 MIN

Friday, January 24, 2014

Freddy vs. Jason by NECA

Here's a quick one for all you Freddy vs. Jason fans!

While cleaning out some stuff in the closet, I uncovered this gem from 2004. Created by NECA and Reel Toys, this boxed set has two amazingly detailed 8 1/2" figures of the iconic villains and was created to celebrate their big screen battle!

It comes with a nice base to pose Krueger and Voorhees in mortal combat against each other, but I only know this from pictures on the internet because I never took them out of the box! This is one I really wanted to open, but even the packaging is cool, and I always hesitated to break the seal on them.

Apparently this box set can garner a pretty penny on Ebay with the sought after "N.I.B." status, but that would mean parting ways with these evil icons, and I just don't have the heart to do it. They'll remain a sinister centerpiece on my office bookshelf for the foreseeable future!

Monday, January 13, 2014

'You're Next' (Movie Review)

After so many recommendations from friends, readers here on Terrorphoria, and random strangers on the streets, I finally sat down to watch the much lauded home invasion romp You're Next. I have to say I wish I had watched it sooner so I could slot it on a "Best of" list.

If you enjoy slasher movies this one is a no-brainer. Director Adam Wingard manages to create a fast paced, terrifying ride while playing with a lot of the "home invasion" movie tropes and turning some on their heads. Right from the start, the movie just has an overall sense of unease. It's one of those intangible feelings that comes from quality direction. Even when nothing bad is happening, you feel like something "just isn't right".

As soon as the Davison family comes under attack, the quality of writer Simon Barrett's script really shines. The action is scary, chaotic, and darkly funny. At no point do you feel bad for almost anyone, because they are all fairly horrible people. The only person who  evokes any sort of sympathy is Erin (Sharni Vinson) which is ironic considering she is the most capable of taking care of herself. As the movie progresses we learn more about Erin's background and some of the prior events make much more sense. The action slowly builds to a psychotic crescendo that is one of the best, most plausible finales I've seen to a slasher flick in years. Even through all this, the dark humor is always present, and the audience is let in on the joke.

I'm keeping this review intentionally short because revealing much more will get into spoiler territory. The movie's concept is very straight forward so I don't want to give too much away. Just know that You're Next is a tightly written, smart, and fun fright flick that anyone who enjoys this sub-genre (or horror in general) is likely to love.

Grade: A 

Reviewed on VOD via Amazon. Running time 95 MIN

Monday, January 6, 2014

'The Devil Brigade Part One' (Book Review)

Freak shows are always good for a scary story.

I recently had the chance to read the new novella The Devil Brigade Part One by Toni Odell. It tells the tale of Ben "The Bubonic Boy" and his freakish companions that have somehow become part of the "Devil Brigade" sideshow helmed by the sinister ringmaster Tom. He is a drunk, and no one really understands how he manages to operate the show or how any of the performers came to be part of this nomadic dysfunctional family. The only thing that's for sure is the show is more than it appears to be.

The Devil Brigade is a fast and well crafted read. At roughly 150 pages I tore through it in a few hours start to finish. Odell is certainly talented and has a strong grasp of the language. She's adept at creating vivid descriptions without being overly verbose. Neither the events of the story or the characters feel forced, especially considering the short length. Even minor characters like Werewolf and Commodore are fleshed out more than the average supporting staff in a short form work. The story is quite dark and there are some great, gory moments with Odell describing gruesome acts in excruciating detail.

If I have any complaints about The Devil Brigade it's that a few of the overall concepts and ideas have been seen before, but the author manages to put her own spin on them and make them feel fresh, so it can be overlooked in the larger context. I could easily see it being converted into a screenplay since it's easy to get into and accessible.

I would recommend The Devil Brigade to anyone looking for a quick read who enjoys sideshow stories like Something Wicked This Way Comes and the like. It's a well-crafted tale and provides a strong opener for what will hopefully be a great horror series.

Grade: B

Reviewed on Kindle via Amazon. 148 pages.