Movie Review: DEADTIME STORIES Vol. 1

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deadtime stories volume 1Showcase Entertainment
2011
R

Horror master George A. Romero keeps you too scared to sleep with these chilling tales about a woman’s frantic search for her missing husband, a lonely man finding a strange companion, and a mother seeking medical treatment for her peculiar son.

While perusing the various horror titles offered upon the online streaming one night, I came across the two volumes that comprise the Deadtime Stories anthology, a two DVD set released separately, each DVD containing three films, all introduced by George A. Romero himself.

Volume One comprises of the short films “Valley Of The Shadows”, which involves tribal cannibals stalking some travelers on the, um, Amazon-like river, I guess; “Wet”, which involves a mermaid (MUR-mai-DER!  Sorry…); and “House Call”, kind of an interesting take on a vampire tale.

Of the three presented, “House Call” is the strongest one going, as it was actually interesting.  Problem was, I had to sit through the first two short films to get to that one.  “Valley Of The Shadows” was just boring, with a couple of very unintentionally funny moments.  And “Wet”, while having some decent creepy moments, had some serious pacing issues, and I caught myself glancing at the duration clock more than once.  Never a good sign.

Having the Master himself – George A. Romero – acting as a Crypt Keeper of sorts, a master of ceremonies to these low-budget nuggets was a stroke of…well, it was a good idea.  Slapping his name on the title didn’t hurt, either.  It got my attention.  Here, he greats everyone, introduces the films, and bids us farewell, looking and acting like a gleefully twisted grandpa who likes to play with his grandchildren’s minds.

Overall, I’d say the first volume of Deadtime Stories is a step up from mediocre, being only one-thirds interesting in the end.  Watch solely for “House Call”; otherwise, bring caffeine.

Movie Review: CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2011)

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conan the barbarian 2011Lionsgate
2011
R

“Run from me…and I will tear apart the mountains to find you!  I will follow you to hell!”

A quest that begins as a personal vendetta for the fierce Cimmerian warrior soon turns into an epic battle against hulking rivals, horrific monsters, and impossible odds, as Conan realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from an encroaching reign of supernatural evil.

I will preface this by openly admitting that I’ve never seen the original Conan The Barbarian.  Yes, I’m well aware of what kind of scorn this might inspire in my fellow geeks.  Don’t care much, really, as I’m not not much for sword and sorcery type fantasy.  Though, I shall point out that the original Arnold Schwarzenegger cult classic is one of those movies I know of despite never having seen it.  I know the premise.  I know the quotes.  Heck, I know that James Earl Jones turns into a giant snake.  It’s been ingrained in modern pop culture.

So why did I decide to watch this recent remake, instead of checking out the original?  To mess with you, obviously.  That, and this remake version was readily available on Net Flix streaming, and the original wasn’t.

So, we start with a young Conan going through some trial thingie, as his father (Ron Perlman?  This just got one Awesome Point just for him, there) doesn’t think he’s ready to wield his own sword.  The village is attacked by some guy looking for pieces of a mask to revive his dead wife with (I’ve seen this particular episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer; these things don’t end well, trust me) and lil’ Conan is the only one left alive and swears revenge.  Obviously.  Fast forward, and Conan has grown up to resemble Ronan from Stargate: Atlantis, and he’s a pirate that sets slaves free and enjoys the womens.  Since he still remembers about that revenge thingie, he gets a bead on the evil sorcerer guy, who now has Rose McGowan as his freaky daughter (she used to date Marilyn Manson, what do you expect?), he gets into fights, tangles with a Cthulhu spawn, other weird stuff happens…then Conan is victorious, ready for the sequel.  The End.

Really, this Conan The Barbarian is everything I came to expect when I plopped down to watch this: a big pulpy fantasy tale, gorgeous to look at and exciting to watch.  The actors exhibit more than their share of ham and cheese, and in a movie like this that’s more than enough to keep me interested.  I’m sure to get around to watching the more popular Ah-nold version, but even then I urge anyone to drop any hangups they may have about this being a remake and enjoy yourself.

NECRO SHOCK RADIO: January 21, 2014

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NSR Square Logo 300

January 21, 2014

 …another Therapy Session is upon us, as the cold of January continues!

 featuring: Afterdeath, Antestor, Barnabas, Behead Demons, Culture Whore, Deliverance, Dig Hey Zoose, Divulgence, Grave Robber, GROMS, Maximum Pentecost, Rackets & Drapes, and Zebulom…

CLICK HERE to listen!

 CLICK HERE to download!

Moive Review: EXPLORERS

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explorers_xlgParamount
1985
PG

“But thi – see, this isn’t real! A-a-and we don’t really kill people! Well, we do, b-but n-not aliens, ’cause we haven’t met any!”

Three schoolboys, tipped off by a dream, employ a computer to help create a sphere that can move very quickly and is impervious to gravity; they use it to power a spacecraft they build out of junk. Far above Earth they find a spaceship with, inside it, two aliens – their view of humanity entirely gleaned from old tv programmes – who turn out likewise to be kids on a joyride.

Nowadays, when I try to explain to someone, usually of a younger age than myself, the premise of this whimsical sci-fi slice of my past, when I was close to that transition period between child and teenager, I’m usually met with a look of confused incredulity.  Followed by a generous dose of smiling and nodding.  Sometimes a pat on the head and inquiries as to my dementia medication.

See, Explorers is one of the many sci-fi movies produced in the 1980s that were geared toward a younger crowd, yes, but held a sense of whimsy and imagination that adults couldn’t help get into themselves.  I was but an 11-year-old when I saw Explorers in the theater, watching a young Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix come up with a way to produce a force field that can take their homemade craft into space.  This was back when computers were still looked upon as a mystical machine that can do pretty much anything.  Which lead to quite a few interesting sci-fi movies in the 80s.

Fortunately, Explorers was one of the better movies produced during this period.  Three middle school aged boys who are into monster movies, comic books, and playing video games gery rig science into space travel, go shooting out into the Final Frontier (after a few tests of the “bubble” that results in wackiness ensuing), and then run across an alien spacecraft.  And, admittedly, that’s the point when this movie begins to lose steam.  The rubber alien suits took me a bit out of things, even back then.  And the humor seemed more forced, going for wacky slapstick, which seemed a bit out of place.  Though the big “twist” to all of that was funny, I’ll admit.

Overall, Explorers occupies a special place within the attic of nostalgia in my head and heart.  Watch Explorers along with Flight Of The Navigator for a nifty theme afternoon some time.  Otherwise, recommended lighthearted sci-fi fun.

Stupid Witnessing Tricks: GUNS N’ ALCOHOL

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So, I come home from work, and I’m in the middle of consuming the salad I bought for my dinner, and I surf over to the Stuff Fundies Like website, and see this post here:

STRANGE CELEBRATIONS

…which has this You Tube clip here:

Normally I don’t watch the YouTube videos posted on there, mostly due to there’s only so much crazy stupid I can put up with, especially after work. But, this one clocked in at a minute, so I figured why not.

Did’ja watch it, too, for that nifty interactive thing? Eh, either way, here are some thoughts I had on this:

— I have no idea what area of the Country this guy is from, but…are there no restaurants or buffets open after church there? That’s how I do my after church “celebrating”…

— I must say, I’ve never heard any kind of preaching of a sermon that inspired me to shoot things. Break and burn things, yes, but never shoot things…

— I believe the Scripture reference called for wine, not Mike’s Hard Lemonade, sir. And it also tells us NOT to gaze upon it, but clearly you’re forcing us to do so…

— Where, exactly, did he get the booze from? If he either bought it just to make this video, or stole it to keep from spending his money at a liquor store, then it seems rather counterproductive to the overall message, here…

— Had he used both hands in a proper stance, there would have been less recoil problems, thereby making all six of them in one shot possible…

— I’m not trying to cast doubt on the man’s faith, here, but…when he slowed down the replay at the end, he kinda sounded like Satan…just sayin’…

Look, I’m not trying to say this guy’s a nutter, either for his faith or because he’s obviously a gun enthusiast. It’s just that, this is the very kind of thing that I was doing back in the 1990s, where empty symbolism and mindless zealousness trumped sound reasoning with the Scriptures.

Only back then, I didn’t have YouTube or the internet to parade my stream of stupidity for all the world to see. For that, I am truly thankful.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Article: STUPID WITNESSING TRICKS

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So, today while surfing around the various sites on my favorites list, killing time until the inevitable little death of sleep engulfed me once again, I came across this pic at the Stuff Fundies Like page:

No Water In Hell photo

Of course, my first thought was, “I thought they didn’t serve breakfast in Hell, either?”  And, if you get that little obscure reference, congratulations on surviving going to youth groups in the 1990s.  Or, sorry about that little flashback, there.  But, anyway…

Yeah, this is a clear-cut example of what I like to call a Stupid Witnessing Trick.  It’s the kind of thing that, though the perpetrator’s heart and motivation were in the right place and full of good intentions, the execution therein falls a bit short, there.  That’s my nice way of saying it.

A bit different from the phenomenon known as the “Jesus Juke” (and I shall touch on that in a future post), a Stupid Witnessing Trick can range from the harmlessly amusing (Testa-Mints, various pop culture rip-offs and whatnot) to insulting to your intelligence (leaving one of those witnessing tracks that looks like money instead of actual money for a tip), to just being obnoxiously jerkish (telling a waitress your group won’t tip because you don’t believe in working on the Lord’s day, or something equally infuriating as such).

In the above picture, certainly the motivation there was obvious: You don’t want to go to Hell, because (among other things) there’s NO WATER!  Oh, and there’s also the eternal separation from God, but NO WATER!  BOOGA-BOOGA-BOOGA!  And probably no breakfast, either.  One has to wonder, though – why not a reference to how Jesus is the Living Water?  Something like, “If you drink from here, you’ll thirst again; but if you drink the Eternal Living Water of Christ, you’ll never thirst again”?  You know, like how Jesus told it to the woman at the well.  A little more Billy Graham, and less Jonathan Edwards to accompany my need for liquid refreshments is all I ask.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: REMAINS

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remainsChiller TV
2011
NR

This horror flick set in a chilling post-apocalyptic Reno, Nevada follows the survivors of a bizarre accident that reduced most of the world’s population to zombies.  The group holes up in a vacant casino and fights a losing battle against the undead.

If you don’t know the name of Steve Niles, let me go ahead and give you the rundown: He’s a writer that first gained prominence in 2002 with the release of the comic book 30 Days Of Night, a fairly decent and inventive vampire comic that put Niles on the map as the next big name in horror genre comics.  30 Days Of Night was of course later adapted into a movie, the review of which you can find here on my movie blog.  I knew the man wrote some other comics in different areas of the horror genre, but I wasn’t really that into his comic book work personally.  Then I happened along this title – Steve Niles’ Remains – on the streaming, and figured it couldn’t be as bad as the 30 Days Of Night movie adaptation.

Turns out, I was wrong.  Remains actually makes 30 Days Of Night look like a bloody horror masterpiece when compared to this.

Now, I have no way of comparing the 5-part comic book miniseries Remains is based on to this made-for-cable TV movie adaptation, but something tells me that the channel responsible for this thing – Chiller TV – is not exactly a premium channel like HBO.  Think more in line with SyFy, and their kind of made-for-TV original movies.  Actually, that’s not entirely accurate.  Because while they tend to lean on the bad side, at least the movies I’ve seen bearing the SyFy label (or the old-school and greatly missed Sci-Fi label) were fun bad movies.  Horribly fun cheese fests.  I would say, with Remains, that Chiller TV may have strove for that SyFy level of movie, but stopped short just on the border between that and a Lifetime Channel Original.

The acting is flat, uninspired and wooden.  The characters are devoid of any kind of chemistry between themselves that, try as you might, you just cannot care about any of them.  The dialog has to be some of the most awkward and stilted I’ve heard for a while.  And the scant times where they try to render something in CGI, it’s so badly rendered that it makes the robots in the show Reboot seem like photo realism.

Okay, sure, but what about the zombies?  Well…on the surface, they’re decent.  Still trying to figure out how something that was described in the movie itself as much more powerful than all the nuclear weaponry combined would just turn people into radiated zombies, and not dustify them.  To say nothing of blowing up the entire planet, among other things, but that’s just my pesky logic getting in the way.  The makeup jobs on these zombies is pretty good, and for the most part they’re the shambling and moaning type.  Unless they start running.  Which they do at times.  Also, and there’s no explanation for this, these zombies sleep.  Standing up.  At night.  Oddly enough, though, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this concept used, the first time being Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies.  Which actually has an advantage over Remains, as the characters there actually did something, rather than spend the majority of the time hanging out in the abandoned casino and bitch moan and complain.  And would you believe a rogue band of mercenary types show up and commandeer their supplies?  Yeah, had to shoehorn that trope in there.

The running time of Remains is 90 minutes-ish.  But trust me, it’s a rather long 90 minutes-ish.  I kept looking at the running times ever ten minutes it seemed.  There’s just no way I can recommend this movie to anybody.  Even the hardcore zombie freaks out there, as I am among your number.

Movie Review: CABIN IN THE WOODS

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cabin in the woodsLionsgate
2012
R

“Cleanse them.  Cleanse the world of their ignorance and sin.  Bathe them in the crimson of…am I on speakerphone?”

A rambunctious group of five college friends steal away for a weekend of debauchery in an isolated country cabin, only to be attacked by horrific supernatural creatures in a night of endless terror and bloodshed. Sound familiar? Just wait. As the teens begin to exhibit standard horror movie behavior, a group of technicians in a control room are scrutinizing, and sometimes even controlling, every move the terrified kids make! With their efforts continually thwarted by the all powerful eye in the sky, do they have any chance of escape?

There are times when a movie is, instead of being released, is placed upon the shelf for one reason or another, delaying the release for months, or even years.  Usually the reason is the studio felt the resulting movie wasn’t up to their standards, or something like that. In the case of the Joss Whedon scripted and produced Cabin In The Woods, the reason it was shelved in 2009 had to do with MGM’s bankruptcy and – I can assume – nothing to do with the quality of the film itself.  Because, after being released finally, I can attest to the fact that Cabin In The Woods is perhaps one of the top 5 horror movie I’ve seen this decade.  Strong and brave words considering it’s only 2012, I know, but I stand by this proclamation.

Within the first five minutes, you can tell that The Cabin In The Woods is a Joss Whedon joint.  That he brought in his long-time Buffy and Angel collaborator Drew Goddard (who also was producer on the series Lost, you may have heard of it) as both co-writer and director only helped to make this movie much more awesome than it should have been.  And with some other, less-than-worthy director and/or writer, this movie would have been just another exercise in stupid, exploitative teen horror I’ve seen again and again and again.

Really, from the general description above, I would understand if that’s all you thought this movie was going to be.  If you’re not even remotely familiar with the works of Joss Whedon, or even his now-classic series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, yeah, I can see how you would think “Another teen slasher set in the woods flick”.  And yes, that’s what Cabin In The Woods is.  On the superficial surface.  But, true to Whedon’s style of having to deconstruct pretty much everything he gets his hands on (and at the same time, lovingly crafting a tribute to it), this movie goes beyond being just another slasher flick with pretty white kids and explores the genre’s themes in very creative and existential ways.  Without giving much away (as I wish for you to watch this movie yourselves, kiddies), let’s just say there’s more to this madness than meets the eyes.  Or the entrails.

The actors are all top-notch, and it’s notable that the future Thor – Chris Hemsworth – stars, making the delay of its release rather fortuitous really, as it helped buffer things when he became Mr. Instant Superstar with the release of The Avengers.  The script is very smart (I loved the subtle little jab at Asian Horror tropes at one point), the effects fantastic, the dialog superb, and there’s one particular cameo that made me geek all over the place.  Really, about the only negative I can say about Cabin In The Woods is that it seemed to suddenly explode all over the place, literally and figuratively, which seemed to be a bit much.  But, overall, my inner horror geek was greatly satisfied after watching Cabin In The Woods, and would gladly recommend anyone to check this out, and maybe even buy a copy on DVD, as I shall.  I’m a sucker for commentary tracks and stuff.

Movie Review: EXIT HUMANITY

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exit-humanityForesight Features
2011
NR

A decade after the Civil War, Edward Young returns home from a hunting trip to find that his son is missing and his wife has become a zombie.  Edward sets out to find his son among the hordes of the walking dead and documents his story in a book.

I know what you’re thinking.  We already got an unhealthy dose of “Zombies In The Civil War” with Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies, right?  And haven’t I already learned my lessons well concerning low-budget independent zombie flicks?  The pain involved?  The hours upon hours spent after the final credits roll, lamenting the lost time, and possible loss of my personal humanity.  Why?  Why must I continually subject myself to this self-flagellation?

Prepare to be shocked and amazed, my wonderful freaks.  Exit Humanity does NOT rank as part of those psychological torture devices falsely mislabeled “Zombie Movies”.  Exit Humanity was one of those rare independent AND low budget zombie movies that not only strove to be more than just another zombie movie, but managed to succeed expediently.  Yeah, I know.  I’m still reeling from the shock myself.

What sets this movie apart, really, is the way it succeeds in painting some real depth to the characters, and not just relying on the same kind of cliched characters, even for a horror movie.  Sure, we’ve got the tried-and-true “the humans are the real monsters” theme that’s pretty much standard for movies like this.  But, there’s a lot of deeper and more complicated questions addressed here.  The survival is not just physical, but emotional and spiritual as well.  I like how the main protagonist, after losing his wife and son to the zombie scourge…gives up.  There’s no guns a’blazin’, running into the thick of the zombie horde blindly and becoming a berserker zombie butt-kicker.  No, he wants to off himself, take the easy way out, but not until he can deposit his family’s ashes at the site that gave him peace and tranquility during the Civil War.  Of course, his plans do get a bit of a restructure when he crafts a new family with other survivors he meets, helping him heal his psyche a bit.  Also, there’s a crazy Rebel officer and a bunch of his followers trying to find a cure for the zombie plague.  And stuff.

Those worried about this becoming a bit too deep for their sensibilities, don’t worry.  The zombie action will keep you riveted.  The makeup effects are top-notch, and just enough gore to sell the thing.  I have to admit, the ending where Edward Young rescues his friends and others from the clutches of the crazy General Williams was pretty cool, and a bit unorthodox.  Different, I’m saying.  In a good way.  Also, the actors – especially Bill Moseley, who proves here that if you only know him by the Rob Zombie movies he was in, you shouldn’t blow his acting skills off too easily – do a great job bringing the depth needed to actually care for the characters.  Even the General and his doctor manage to get a bit of sympathy from yours truly.

So, yeah, if you like your zombie movies to be a bit more than the sum of its usual parts, then I would strongly suggest you check out Exit Humanity right now.  It was a satisfying watch, and proved to me that the genre still has some (*at-hem*) life left in it.

Movie Review: DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND

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devil's playgroundE1 Entertainment
2010
R

When an experimental drug turns 30,000 test subjects into zombies, ex-mercenary Cole seeks the one unaffected woman, hoping she’s the key to a cure.  As the contagion expands, Cole becomes infected himself, and the hunt becomes personal.

Okay, first thing I need to get out of the way before it chews its way through my soul: Devil’s Playground is not a zombie movie.  Just as 28 Days Later and its sequel, Devil’s Playground is about medically induced Crazies that crave human flesh.  What’s the difference? you may still be asking yourselves.  Well, just to reiterate for you novice would-be zombie enthusiasts: Zombies are reanimated dead people.  Crazies don’t die first, they just get infected with something.

And that’s what Devil’s Playground is.  A movie about an experimental drug that’s turning the people of London into flesh-craving Crazies.  Of course, with a movie like this, the question is what happens when the non-infected get even more dangerous, due to their rampant paranoia?

As a post-contagion survivor movie, Devil’s Playground won’t be setting the world on fire anytime soon.  But, what it does have going for it are some very tense action scenes, impressive practical effects, and some nice set pieces (the lab interiors, especially, with their washed-out all white theme, like the Television Studio scene in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory) all stylishly shot in a way that really drives home the tension and atmosphere.

There is a bit of drag in the last quarter of the film, especially when the whole paranoia thing wears a bit thin.  And quite frankly, they could have disposed of that D-Bag American Dude & British Lady characters entirely, and I wouldn’t have cared much.  And while I tend to go for the more bleak, darker all-is-lost type endings in movies like this, the ending here that leans towards the optimistic side of things was more suited here, I thought.  Yeah, I know.  Next thing you know, I’ll be spouting daily life affirmations or some useless twattle like that.

Overall, Devil’s Playground, while NOT a zombie movie, was a good entertaining and tensely chilling viral infection flick.  Pop this on with a bunch of friends, turn out the lights and enjoy.

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