Movie Review: SAW

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Movie Review: SAWLionsgate
2004
R

“Doctor Gordon, this is your wake up call…”

Okay, I repent. I went into this movie (on Halloween night, mind you) thinking, “Yeah, it’ll be another flashy but mediocre serial killer thriller.” I left feeling like I just got pounded into dust and smoked out of a corn cob pipe, the ashes of which were then disposed of in a vat of acid. Yeah, that’s about it…

Anyway, I’ve got to once again give it up to Lion’s Gate Films for putting out a way edgy and ballsy movie. There’s no way in hell this kind of film could have made it to screens like this if it was distributed by, say, a more mainstream studio. It would have been sliced, diced, and re-edited for a more consumer-friendly PG-13 rating, and this would have sucked big time. Nope, not here. This is a perfect example of not messing with flawed perfection…

Basically, the movie starts off with two guys waking up in scummy enclosed space, chained to pipes on opposite ends of the room, with a dead body in the middle of them. It just gets weirder and much more terrifying from there, as we learn that these two people (one a successful doctor, and the other a freelance photographer) were chosen to play a sick and twisted game of “Earn The Right To Live” by a psychotic madman nicknamed Jigsaw. From there, this genre bully had me by the scruff of my neck, pressing me against the corner of the wall until the end credits rolled. Not only was this a nifty twist on a familiar concept, but the way it’s executed (mucho flashbacks illustrating the character’s everyday lives, little subtle clues as to the killer’s identity, the knock-you-over-the-head-with-a-blackjack twists, and the investigation subplot) worked like the killer’s nickname- it was all sorted out like a jigsaw puzzle, begging you to try and piece this sick puppy together. Parts of me wanted to see the big picture, but another part didn’t want to leave this sick and twisted maze so soon. Ooooh, the sweet, sweet darkness…

Like the bastard child of the movies Se7en and The Cube, the high suspense tone, the fearless glimpses of the violence, and the overall characterization and smart script (is someone really considered a murderer if they technically don’t kill their victims, they just have them do it?) had me on the edge of my seat. The minor quibbles I have, really, are 1) the needless MTV-like editing job at places (got a headache from the quick-cuts…tone it down guys), and 2) the overacting at the end (seriously, I half expected the two guys to kiss). Otherwise, this movie touched me deeply…and it didn’t wear a rubber glove when it did. Check this out…highly recommended by yours truly…

Movie Review: SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER

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Movie Review: SATAN'S LITTLE HELPERScreen Media Films
2004
R

“When you were trick-or-treating, did Satan kill Alex’s father?”

Due to his unhealthy obsession with a cheesy game called Satan’s Little Helper (I think it was put out by Tiger Games, I’m not sure), little Dougie decides to go out and look for Satan himself on Halloween night. Why? To be his little helper, silly! But, instead of Satan (who, I’m told, actually likes to spend a quiet night at home on Halloween), Dougie runs into some guy in an elaborate Satan-esque costume who’s going door-to-door slaughtering people and then putting their corpses up as Halloween lawn decorations. Of course, this serial-killer-with-a-mask knockoff is more than happy to take on Dougie as his helper, so the two gleefully scamper off for some mischievous Halloween fun: Beating people into pulp, killing kitties and writing with their blood, running pregnant women over with shopping carts, tying the police up with packing tape, pouring Drain-O into the punch bowl…you know, stuff I used to do when I was ten. When he introduces “Satan” to his family, though, it seems to be all fun and games…until Dougie realizes that it’s all good until someone gets their entrails tied to a chair…and then it’s freaking hilarious…

Yet another indie horror flick I rented on the name alone. When I saw that cheesy-cool mask starring at me, with the words “Satan’s Little Helper” emblazoned, I knew I was obligated to watch it. Blame it on my genetic inclination to bad movies. It’s the same uncontrollable disposition that made me want to watch such stinkers as Vampyaz and The Last Slumber Party, as painful as they were…

Unlike those afore mentioned examples of synaptic misfires, Satan’s Little Helper was actually a fun 90-minute low budget romp. What made it better than most serial-killer-with-a-mask knockoffs is that the guy behind the mask looked like he was having some twisted fun behind the latex. Whereas established icons like Michael Meyers or Jason Voorhees just walk around with not much going as far as expressive range beyond the way they stick the pointy things into their victims, this guy (who, for lack of a better term, shall be referred to as “Satan”) obviously loved what he does, and proves it by dancing jigs, posing for pictures with his victims, clapping with glee, and various usages of the thumbs-up gesture. And for a deranged killer, he had class. I mean, to allow an annoying and whiny 10-year-old in a devil outfit (ironically proclaimed as “gay” by a small group of kids dressed as ninjas, a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black), and then try to make it with his hot college-age sister. Well, sure, this was after he took out her boyfriend, but hey…at least he’s not totally dead inside, right?

Before I come off as trying to canonize this guy, Satan’s Little Helper is fairly decent for an indie flick. Instead of trying for serious and then coming off as cheesy bad, this is played off like a really twisted black comedy, therefore making this film more campy fun than unintentionally hilarious. There’s a point where “Satan” changes into a Jesus costume (seriously) to throw off his pursuers, the realization of this giving us one of the funniest lines in the movie: “That means Jesus is Satan!” Mmmmm…sacrelicious. Acting is, well…you may have already guessed, but it’s a bit on the campy side. The actress that plays Dougie’s sister does really well with her part, all without having to flash some skin. Dougie is one of those annoying, high-pitched whine-when-I-talk kids I despise, but then again, he’s just a kid, and I can’t expect every child actor to be on the same level as Dakota Fanning, so the complaining stops here. And like I said, for a guy who has to act behind a mask (while not saying anything at all, I might add), “Satan” looked like he was having fun with the roll. Not bad, really…

All said, Satan’s Little Helper is a fun romp that doesn’t pretend to be any more than what it is, and has fun with it. Recommended for a mass horror night…

Movie Review: SANTA’S SLAY

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Movie Review: SANTA'S SLAYMedia 8 Entertainment
2005
R

“Awww, Grandpa got run over by a reindeer.”

It seems that everything we knew about Santa Clause, that jolly lovable avatar of the secular holiday season (and Coca-Cola spokesman), was wrong. Far from the magical giver of gifts and consumer of sugar and dairy products everywhere, Santa is actually the demonic son of Satan. Seems, about a thousand years ago (give or take), he lost a game of curling to an angel, and as his penance received a bout of amnesia and had to take up giving gifts to children around the world every year for 1000 years. And as you guessed, 2005 was the cut-off date, and now Santa’s making up for lost time. And the only person on earth to know the truth of the whole thing is the wacky father of a deli worker…

Listen, this yule-log hasn’t been released on DVD yet, at the time of this writing. For those twisted enough to want to see this horror comedy gone horribly wrong, Santa’s Slay hits the shelves (and later, the Bargain Bin at finer retail store everywhere) on December 20th. I, however, was fortunate enough to catch a viewing at work on one of the movie channels during a rather slow day. So consider this an advance warning, mein kinderschnitzel…

First of all, the first indication that this would possibly not be listed among the more memorable Christmas classics is the fact that it’s a horror movie. More to the point, a horror movie that claims that Santa is really a diabolical psychopath. And, no, I’m pretty sure Dial-The-Truth had nothing to do with the concept. Thus far, anyway. Second indication- former pro-wrestler Goldberg plays the title roll, making this the first Santa I know of that’s only 280 pounds and Jewish. Slap in there an origon sequence that’s done entirely in stop-motion animation, a’la Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer, and you’ve got a true fruitcake, heavy on the nuts. Although, I must admit some of the carnage was quite amusing. The truely horrifying part, though? The ending left it wiiiiiide open for a sequel. *brrrrrrr* Still, I’m pretty sure there isn’t enough Christmas cheer available to make this movie watchable more than once…okay, maybe more times just to see the look on your friend’s face when you trap them into watching this…it’s worth it, I’m sure…

Movie Review: ‘SALEM’S LOT (2004)

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Movie Review: 'SALEM'S LOT (2004)Warner Bros. Television
2004
TV-14

“Town looks a little dead today.”

Ben Mears, a writer returns to the small Maine town of Jerusalem’s Lot (also known as Salem’s Lot), where he spent the first few years of his life, to write a book. Little does he or the townfolk realize that a couple of other new residents are coming…Straker, a antiques dealer, and his partner and master Barlow, a ancient and malevolent vampire bent on making Salem’s Lot his new home.

This version of ‘Salem’s Lot is a two-part cable TV miniseries adaptation of the classic Stephen King novel about vampires that invade a small Maine town. Those old enough (or suave enough in your horror history) might recall that ‘Salem’s Lot was previously made into a TV movie back in 1979, toned down with changes to the book’s plot because it was on network television, and with vamps that bore more in resemblance to Nosferatu than the post-modern freaks-with-fangs that we’re all accustomed to. I have yet to really care enough to locate a copy of the 1979 version to watch, and it’s been quite some time since I’ve read the novel on which this adaptation is based, so I came into viewing this with nearly a clean slate.

Gotta tell ‘ya, I was pleasantly surprised with this movie. Most of the time, any made-for-television (be it network or cable) adaptations of Stephen King stories tend to fall flat for me. And at a grand total of three hours, while there are a couple of bumps along the way, overall I was very much satisfied with the execution on ‘Salem’s Lot. I was completely geeking out on the cast at times (Donald Sutherland! Rob Lowe! Rutger Hauer! That last one played the vampire king Lothos in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie, there…), the overall creepy vibe was well-used throughout, and the vampire effects were very effective. The story starts off with a small town, somethin’ ain’t right vibe, then when the vampires are revealed later in the second half, it becomes a fun bloodsucker romp with just enough visceral scares to keep you going.

Overall, I’d say that this collected miniseries is a good way to spend a vampire-themed night. Pair this up with The Lost Boys, a pizza and munchies, and you’ve got a party, there…

Music Review: S. DARKO

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Movie Review: S. DARKO20th Century Fox
2009
R

“Four days, 17 hours, 26 minutes, 31 seconds. That is when the world will end.”

July, 1995, the time is out of joint. Two teen girls, Sam and Corey, have left Virginia for L.A. to start over. Sam’s brother has died and her family’s shattered; Corey’s too wild. They have car trouble in a small desert town, where Corey immediately starts her partying ways, where a meteorite strikes a windmill, and where a burned-out Desert Storm vet predicts the end of the world in four days. Sam hallucinates while sleepwalking, young men have disappeared from town, and cars come out of nowhere to cause accidents. Time travel may be possible, but it takes courage and resolve. Is the addled war veteran right? If he is, can Corey or Sam make things right?

I’ll preface this review by saying that I am a big fan of the movie Donnie Darko. I own the movie, and watch it frequently. I fall in with the many who find Donnie Darko to be a very well-done independent flick, a period piece that blurred the lines between fantasy and reality, had a very poignant existential theme, and managed to pull off a sci-fi time travel theory angle without an ounce of cheesiness. The movie was also where I began to foster my fan crush on Maggie Gyllenhaal, despite also featuring another one of my fan crushes — Drew Barrymore. Seriously, I can’t really see ever getting tired of watching Donnie Darko.

So, yeah, when I discovered there was a direct-to-video sequel to Donnie Darko, focusing on Donnie’s younger sister Samantha, and made by some guy who wasn’t involved in the first movie, my first thought was “pointless Hollywood sequel.” Sure, morbid curiosity made me want to check it out once, that was inevitable. But I did at least wait until S. Darko was available on the $1 Rental rack at my local rental store. That way, at least I would have been out only a buck…a dollar that more often than not could have been put to more satisfying use at Taco Bell. But I digress…

I will say this — S. Darko could have been a disaster. I know how easy it could have been to just take the basic surface points of the original, and completely skip over the deeper aspects that made that a good film. Happens all the time with sequels and remakes. And while the famous Frank the Bunny mask does come into play, it’s regulated to the backburner in the overall story.

I think that having a director who was a fan of the original film, and wanting to make something that was more of a companion piece than an actual sequel, something true to the spirit of the original, worked in S. Darko’s favor. Truly, it could have been way worse than what it was. The movie had that dark trippy tone, and there were some truly creepy moments as well as some twists on the original to give it more of an identity of its own.

As a movie in and of itself, S. Darko is actually quite decent. A dark little existential fantasy that doesn’t take the easy ending route. Problem lies in the unavoidable comparison to the source movie, in which there is a noticeable lack of charm that keeps me from wanting to watch S. Darko more than once, let alone own it. I would recommend at least checking it out, though. You might be surprised…

From the “The More Things Change” Files…

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grumpy catI’m sitting here tonight, winding down my thoughts before climbing into my coffin for sleeping, musing a bit. This Saturday, I shall be joining some of my fellow members of the Coven of Exalted Geeks to celebrate the birthday of one of our own. While I make preliminary mental lists and notes as to what to bring and buy for that night, it occurs to me:

When I was a kid, the best birthday parties that I attended were the ones where we ate a lot of not-quite-good-for-you food, and played a lot of games, video or otherwise. We also couldn’t wait to be adults, all sophisticated and stuff. Certainly our celebratory markings of our yearly milestones would be much more…well, grown-up.

Now, here we are, adults–“grown-ups”, if you will–a couple of decades under our belts, and we’re celebrating the birthday by…eating a bunch of not-quite-good-for-you food, and playing a bunch of games, video or otherwise. Granted, part of the food involves a sushi bar, and the drinks having a bit more than your standard punch, and the video games a heck of a lot more involved than the old NES and Atari systems I would remember (though, I wouldn’t put it past any of these guys to have those available), but the basic structure remains the same.

Not certain whether there will be hats or not. Hats would be awesome.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Sunday A’La Carte – September 21, 2014

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daily lobsterman hangover bathSUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY! Ah, yes, that time of the week again. I just got back from the yearly end-of-summer church family picnic. This was my first year going, as the entire time that I’ve been attending Country Bible (since 2006, in case anyone cares), no one has clued me in to where this so-called “Grandpa’s Farm” was. It was always “Grandpa’s Farm”, like I should automatically just know where this place existed. Or stumble upon it after wandering inside an old Victorian-era wardrobe. Finally, after nearly ten years, I figured I would at least show up once, and to do that I had to socialize with someone at the church to give me an actual address to work with. And not just general directions, like the farm folk community around here tends to do (“You drive down on that highway there, turn left-ish at the water tower, and keep driving until you come to old man Rutherford’s son sitting atop that fence post. He hasn’t been quite right since the accident, there. Anyhoo, you turn right, and pop in this here copy of Deep Purple’s greatest hits, and when it just gets to “Smoke On The Water”, you’re there. That’s if you have it on side one. If you’re listening to side two, then it’ll be halfway through “Highway Star”…what d’ya mean, ‘What’s a cassette tape”?”). Sorry about that mental detour. It happens. Anyway, I found the place–surprisingly easy to locate, really–and partook of the massive amounts of seared cow and pork flesh, and what you humans refer to as “side dishes”, and “macaroni salad”. Also, there was pie. For the evening’s entertainment, there was a gospel cowboy band playing. Not a Country Band, a Cowboy Band. There is a difference. Like you half expect Graham Green to show up from beyond the grave and say, “Life’s a true bonanza,” at some point. Talked with the scant handful of people I knew, and spent the majority of the time watching people meander by. Also, there was a couple of air castle jumping-thingies. I should have brought the two youngest nephews. I would have looked less conspicuous. Though, wearing all black and a Megadeth shirt to boot, I’m certain that maybe wouldn’t have helped. Still, at least Dylan would have had a blast. And made new friends. He does that. And now I’m really off of course, here…

Then again, this is the Sunday A’La Carte, after all…

Due to a link in this week’s Saturday Ramblings (which was part of the inspiration of me doing this weekly post, by the way) on iMonk, featuring this hi-larious Onion-like news piece, I think I have found a new thought-provoking and snicker-inducing time waster…

Because of a family gathering of sorts in Grand Island Saturday morning, and because I really needed to walk around a bit after we all went to Valentino’s buffet afterwards for lunch (“dinner” if calling the Noontime meal “lunch” makes you twitch pedantically), I went to the local Conestoga Mall in the afternoon. I did need to pick up a more portable external hard drive to replace the bulky MyBook that I’ve had for a few years; but, I decided to do a bit of Halloween’ng and check out this place in the mall that my cousin’s wife (“cousin-in-law”? I never really know how to address that) tipped me about, one of those seasonal Halloween costume and brick-a-brack stores called Halloween Spirit. And oh my, was this place fantastic to look around in. Not only was there the standard costumes, accessories and fun stuff to be had, but they really went out of their way to build some very fun and effective animatronic displays, including a video-based one right in the front entrance that was very nice. Alas, I figure this will be my only time to go there, as I rarely am out to Grand Island, but I did take some pics in the store, of which I shall share with all of you now:

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Click to embiggen…go on, you know you want to…

STUFF I’VE WRITTEN: I review the fourth in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary series of re-released novels, and I give my thoughts on how Season Eight of Doctor Who is going so far. Yeah, it’s a bit Who-centric this week. Blame my obsessions, I guess…

It’s a bit short this week, as I’m still fighting off a bit of fatigue due to the change in seasons (always happens this time of year, nothing to get worried about). I leave you now with this video I stumbled upon while watching a video someone in my youth group showed me. I like to think of it as “Cosplay Metal”. These guys are now my new METAL obsession. Cheers, all.

::END TRANSMISSION::

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