Movie Review: ALBINO FARM

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ALBINO FARMMTI Home Video
2009
R

“The Lord’s house is always open to those in need.”

An Ozark Mountain town–with a century-old history of religious fanaticism–inadvertently creates a modern sadistic society of in-bred misfits who prey on stray travelers. Four young college students–lured into exploring the legend of the Albino Farm–uncover its disturbing past, while enduring a night of horrors.

Tell me, what’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the words “Albino Farm”? Is it a farm that employs down on their luck albinos, ran by an altruistic yet kind of creepy religious person that on the surface wants to give these misunderstood pariahs of society a chance to make an honest living and provide food and shelter to get by? Or, perhaps you’re weird enough to think it’s an actual farm where they grow albinos, like I did. Sorry, that’s how my brain is wired with these things. But, whatever you think, there would at least be a farm, and especially at least one albino individual, right?

Well, the movie that we’re talking about here, Albino Farm, has neither of these. No farm, and there may have been a brief glimpse of an albino in a scene involving a revival tent full of inbred freaks, but it was so quick it didn’t really count, if I remembered it correctly. This was immediately after watching the movie, I couldn’t recall whether there was one or not. And I certainly wasn’t going to rewatch just to make sure. There’s not even an albino on the DVD cover up there.

What Albino Farm does have instead, is more of a Hills Have Eyes kind of vibe, with the aforementioned town of deformed misfits, and the cliche’d group of annoying college-age young’uns managing to get stuck in said town with everything you would expect happen does happen to them.

The story really hits all the beats: A bunch of annoying college kids are on a road trip because they’re working on some kind of history assignment about backwater America history and customs, when they almost hit a dwarf (as you do) and get a flat tire. Okay, so maybe the dwarf part wasn’t exactly expected, I’ll give the movie that. They happen upon your standard Gas Station In The Middle Of Nowhere Ran By A Creepy (Blind) Redneck, and while dickering for a new tire, who starts babbling a bunch of Bible stuff at them trying to warn them off. They of course don’t listen to the guy, and head on down the road and come across a Tent Revival filled with Freaks, which is where they hear about the legend of the titular Albino Farm. They then mosey into town, get the general stink-eye from the citizenry, then run into pro wrassler Chris Jericho dressed up like the Creeper from Jeepers Creepers who leads them to the so-called Albino Farm, where they end up captured by mutant hillbillies (one of which does a “I’m seducing you” dance that made me throw up in my mouth a little), and so they fight to escape. Then the survivor ends up back at the revival tent and goes insane. The end.

Albino Farm is your standard–I hasten to say “sub-standard”–unoriginal and unremarkable teen slasher flick. It’s a low-quality “been-there, done-that” plot with actors that aren’t even entertaining in their hackneyed performance. And yes, Chris Jericho is probably the most interesting thing in this movie, and he’s not even in the movie long enough to justify the billing he got on the DVD cover; clearly most of the budget was used on him as a draw. He has both the sweet, sweet WWE Wrestling demographic, as well as those fans of his metal project, Fozzy as a built-in audience for this flick. Which, I have to admit, was the reason I decided to check Albino Farm out. There. Curiosity sated. I’ve never been so underwhelmed in my life. Pass.

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Movie Review: Edgar Allan Poe’s The LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER

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eap the lighthouse keeperThunderhead Entertainment
2017
NR

A young man awakens alone on a remote beach, marooned there by a violent storm. Above the rocky crags, a lighthouse stands like a sentinel. The man seeks the help of Walsh, the enigmatic lighthouse keeper. Walsh insists they are the sole inhabitants of the peninsula. But the man is haunted by fleeting glimpses of a beautiful young woman, and plagued by visions of hideous phantoms reaching out from the depths. As this horror tale races toward a mind bending finale, the man must confront the grotesque denizens of the night, or heed the lighthouse keeper’s cryptic warning to “Always keep a light burning.”

In the pantheon of Edgar Allan Poe stories, The Light-House is a rather controversial one, mainly because it’s been disputed as a genuine Edgar Allan Poe story. It being an unfinished fragment (two pages) that was written in the final months of his life, “The Light-House” has the same themes that Poe was famous for, but it’s been pointed out that the writing style wasn’t consistent with his previous work.

So, logically, this was used as the basis for a full-length feature movie. It happens all the time, really. The question remains, though: Can it be pulled off?

Kind of. Sorta.

The movie starts off with a young man washing up on the shore of an island after a storm, unable to remember his name or where he came from. After seeing a lady run off into a nearby cave, he gets knocked out from a fall and wakes up in the bed of the lighthouse on top of the cliff on the beach. This remote lighthouse is curated by a cantankerous old salty man who’se none too happy to have surprise visitors, and tell the young man that the only ferry off of the island arrives in two weeks. While he waits, the young man helps out with the general upkeep and maintenance of the lighthouse, as he also puzzles out the mysterious past of the old man. Soon, though, he runs into the lady he first saw on the beach (despite the old man claims to him being the only one dwelling on the rock) and soon they hit up a bit of a romance. The young man is smitten, and vows to take this lovely young lady with him when the ferry comes. But then zombie ghosts of dead sailors start appearing at night coming after them, and before you can say “overACTING!”, the dark secret past of the old man is reveled, along with his ties to the young man, with the zombie ghosts overtaking the lighthouse and the young man managing to escape in a rowboat, only to be caught up in a twist ending. The end.

On the one hand, The Lighthouse Keeper works on a certain level as a slow-burning, Gothic style tale, full of atmosphere textured with heavy dollops of dread and madness-inducing claustrophobia. Think of it as an ultra-low budget The Others-style ghost story.

And unfortunately, it’s that lack of a budget that works against it where it counts. It’s shot on video, which gives it a PBS show quality, and features effects right out of the Spirit Of Halloween stock. It’s not for lack of trying, but the zombie masks do take me out of the movie, there. The acting is…wooden. I don’t know if it was chosen deliberately for that Victorian overacting style for the period, or if they were just local theater production actors who’ve never acted in a movie before.

Overall, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Lighthouse Keeper isn’t really all that bad. If you can get past the cheep effects and the acting, the movie is a pretty good ghost story with a decent twist at the end. It’s worth a rental for a look-see.

Movie Review: SPIDER-MAN Homecoming

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spiderman_homecomingSony / Marvel
2017
PG-13

“Can’t you just be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man?”

Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker returns home to live with his Aunt May. Under the watchful eye of mentor Tony Stark, Parker starts to embrace his newfound identity as Spider-Man. He also tries to return to his normal daily routine–distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a friendly neighborhood superhero. Peter must soon put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear.

So, here we are. Fifteen years since the very first Spider-Man movie made us believe it could be done. Since then, there’s been two sequels, a reboot, and another sequel. Now, everyone’s favorite web-slinger is back home with Marvel, and we have a third reboot. Did we need another redux? Have you seen Amazing Spider-Man 2? I haven’t yet, I was just asking. I hear it’s not good. I digress.

So, as I mentioned, Marvel Studios, through a deal they brokered with Sony (who has held the rights to Spider-Man for quite a while), they were able to play with their own toy again. And after a well-received cameo in Captain America: Civil War, I couldn’t wait for the full-length stand-alone movie to see how bad they could screw things up.

You may have picked up that I’m a tad cynical about these Spider-Man movies. Since Spider-Man 3 ten years prior, my wide-eyed fanboy love had felt jaded that anything after Spider-Man 2 would be disappointing at best. There was a glimmer of hope with the introduction of him in Civil War; but, would a side character rol translate into a feature-length movie? Could Marvel make Spider-Man…well, amazing again?

Well, they did a good job trying.

Don’t misread that–Spider-Man: Homecoming is a very good Spider-Man movie. Easily my second-favorite to date, right behind Spider-Man 2.

There’s a lot to like about Homecoming: Tom Holland is probably the best teenage Peter Parker / Spider-Man going, as he convinced me that he could be bullied and picked upon in his civilian garb. The chemistry between the main characters was fantastic, especially between Pete and his best friend / “Chair Guy” Ned. And Michael Keaton as The Vulture was inspired, as he took what I consider to be one of the more goofier Silver Age villains in Spider-Man’s rogue gallery and made him into something genuinely chilling. The script was well-written, witty and smart, and had me laughing out loud more than just a handful of times. The action scenes were very well done as well, culminating in a final battle scene that had me holding my breath. Good job there, movie. And yet, with all of that going for this thing, I do have to point out what I found to be kind of, sort of not good about it. Minor quibbles, maybe, but they have to be said.

Also, I should point out that I’m probably going to be letting lose with some spoilers ahead, so if you’re one of those who haven’t seen this yet…go see it first. Also, welcome back from whatever isolated cave you emerged from. Anyway…

Spider-Man: Homecoming didn’t feel like a full-on Spider-Man movie. The second half did, certainly. But for the first half or so, this felt more like a teen show on the Disney Channel. Which, okay, I understand that Marvel is owned by Disney, and this is a teenaged Peter Parker, interacting with his teenage chums in high school. But for a handful of Spidey scenes, the first half was more of a sloggy, sudsy teen soap. A very well made and engaging teen soap, but a teen soap nonetheless. Freaks And Geeks, if you will. I would wager to say that it wasn’t until Peter got his high-tech Stark suit taken away from him, that this truly became a Spider-Man movie. The moment that Peter steps up to the hero plate despite not having all the nifty gizmos and gadgets, you didn’t have to say “With great power comes great responsibility”, it was demonstrated by the actions perfectly.

I could continue on like this for pages, but I’d rather just urge you to watch Spider-Man: Homecoming for yourselves. It’s a rather good take on Spider-Man, and kudos for finally getting back home to Marvel. Here’s to many more.

Wait…”Homecoming”…back home at Marvel…I think there was more to that title than just that Homecoming dance in the movie…mind blown…

Baptisms, the Death of an Icon, and a New Doctor…

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NecRoSarX Chronicles Header

[NOTE: This was supposed to be posted yesterday, but I forgot to email it to me after work; sorry about the tardiness – Uncle NecRo]

I have just emerged from a rather surprisingly full weekend. I never plan these as such; they just happen to…well, happen. Mostly, though, it was the Sunday of the two days that fall under my Blessed Days Off from my Place of Enslavement Employment. I wasn’t really running around a lot, but there were some things that made my head swim a bit.

baptism church birthday

The first thing that happened on July 16th was the first ever Baptism Service at my church. This also functioned as part of the One Year Birthday of the formation of said church that I’ve been involved with since the split with my former church. Fifteen…or sixteen, I can’t recall exactly…souls were baptized in the Blair swimming pool as an outward expression of their faith in Christ Jesus. We had set up in the parking lot for the worship service; I set up near them, at the best place I could find that was in the shade. Then, of course, after a few minutes, the Daystar found its way through the shade and stabbed me in the eyeballs. No matter where I moved to, it found me. Gads. So, for a little while, through the worship singing portion, I had to endure the angry ball of fire’s rays, and hope not to burst into flames in front of everyone. That would have been embarrassing. Fortunately, the trees managed to obscure the sun once again, putting me in some shade by the time the sermon came about. Fortunately, it was a truncated 15-minute sermon, so that it could include the baptisms. The sermon’s message in keeping with the event. Everyone was baptized, then it was time for the birthday celebration by way of a massive grillout potluck picnic, with a couple of bouncy castles set up for the kids. The heat of the day was getting redonkulous, with the heat index starting to soar as high as eagle. Weather sucking mighty buffalo. As such, I decided to forego the picnic lunch and the inevitable mingling that came with it (did I mention my anxiety level was starting to rise along with the heat? No? Huh…), and left as everyone was standing in line for their lunchy-munchy. I just picked up some drive-thru stuffs and headed back to the Haunted Victorian, ate my din-din and then settled in for a much-needed extended nap.

The thing about naps is, sooner or later you have to wake up from them. And so was the case with this one: I woke up, and had to once again exist in the “real world”. Eh, standard Sunday afternoon. Late afternoon. Okay, it was early evening. I sleep a bit more than your average individual. I think it may be hypersomnia due to my crippling depression issues. Either way, it was close to 6pm, and I wasn’t hungry yet due to the ginormous nature of the fast food item I consumed upon arriving back at the Haunted Victorian around 1-ish. So I fire up the Fun-Sized Lappy, summon the interwebs, and the first thing I am greeted with upon signing into my Facebook page is a news item that the legendary George A. Romero had passed away.

george a romero

For those of you sad, deprived individuals who don’t know who George A. Romero is, he is the man that helped to not only redefine the zombie horror genre to what we recognize as today with the release of Night Of The Living Dead in 1968 (undead ghouls who wander about and only want to eat your flesh and nummy brains…up until then, “zombies” were of the voodoo magick variety), he also inspired generations thereafter in the art of independent filmmaking. He made more than just a bunch of post-modern zombie flicks, and didn’t just stick to directing, either. Nor did his influence remain in movie making, as several novelists and artists cite him as a great influence in what they do.

As for me, Romero helped to rekindle my love for the horror genre as not only an entertainment outlet, but also as a genuine means of conveying a message in a subversive manner. I salute you, good sir; and should you once again rise from the grave, I shan’t forget to double-tap.

The next thing that grabbed my attention from my nap-induced haze that was slowly clearing off, was the official introduction of the next Doctor. At first, I thought it was one of those fake-outs that have been making the rounds, the ones made by fans and such. But, no, this was an official BBC release: The next Doctor on Doctor Who will be played by one Jodie Whittaker. So, after months of denying that the 13th Doctor was going to be a woman, they finally came out and said that, yes, the 13th Doctor is going to be a woman.

13th doctor

Up front, I have to say that I am completely on board with this. I’m intrigued with the possibilities with this new dynamic. Hopefully the writers won’t go the route of “Hey, I’m the Doctor, and now I’m a girl!” and really write some compelling yarns with the character. That said, there were two points of irritation that immediately hit me the moment I saw the announcement: first of all, they do this all the time, denying something’s gonna happen, and then it happens to be the very thing they’re denying. “It’s Missy in that vault, right?” “Nope, it’s something different.” Then it turns out it was Missy all along. Same thing here: “Nope, we’re not looking at a female actor to be the new Doctor.” I understand the need to play things close to the vest in these instances, especially with the show changing producers as well as lead characters, but this is the same thing the previous show runners did since the relaunch in 2005. I just can’t help but think my intelligence had been insulted a bit, is all.

The second thing that kind of irritated me about this, was that the reveal was so far in advance of the Christmas Special, where traditionally the regeneration into the next Doctor would take place in modern Who. More or less. Now…there’s really no surprise. I don’t know, and maybe I’m in the minority here, but I should think something as momentous as this would call for secrecy until the actual Christmas Special. I realize that trying to keep a lid on this in this day and age of instant news leakage is nigh impossible at times, but think about the impact that could have happened when, finally, Peter Capaldi’s Doctor–my favorite one thus far of the “New” Doctors–dramatically regenerates and finally emerges as the Jodie Whittaker Doctor…then end credits. Boo-ya. Chills, mouths agape, multiple cries of “WHAT THE [expletive deleted]….?!?” Now…we will never have that moment. Spoilers and all that. Oh, well.

Still, the upcoming Christmas Special will be awesome because it has the 12th Doctor and the 1st Doctor, together at last. I just squeed again. Cheers, all.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: The VOID

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the voidD Films
2016
NR

“Statistically, you’re more likely to die in a hospital than anywhere else.”

When police officer Carter discovers a blood soaked man limping down a deserted road, he rushes him to a local hospital with a bare-bones night shift staff. As cloaked, cult-like figures surround the building, the patients and staff inside start to turn ravenously insane. Trying to protect the survivors, Carter leads them into the depths of the hospital, where they discover a gateway to immense evil.

There seems to be a resurgence of independently made horror movies that takes their cue from the 1980s era, and I for one can’t be any more giddy about this. It’s no secret that it was the era that I consider the best in horror and science fiction; you can argue with me to the contrary until you’re blue in the face, I stand by my statement until my final death rattle.

Take The Void, for instance, coincidentally the subject of this review. This movie plays like a compilation of John Carpenter’s Greatest Hits, mixing up themes from Assault On Precinct 13, Prince Of Darkness, and In The Mouth Of Madness (admittedly, not from the 1980s–1994, to be precise–but it might as well have been, it’s that kind of awesome), and resulting in a very dark and claustrophobic supernatural horror that will mess with your head and then stick there long after the movie is over.

So, the story begins when a Deputy comes across a man late at night in the middle of a deserted road, looking quite the worse for wear. He takes him to the nearest hospital for help, which happens to be the one that’s in the process of being closed down due to a fire some time back, and as a result, has a skeleton crew there, one such staff member that happens to be the Deputy’s estranged wife. Soon, two vigilantes that were tracking the young man arrive, as does the Sheriff to help with the processing arrest, when the hospital is discovered to be surrounded by robe-clad figures. Discovering the hard way that they were not the Polyphonic Spree and in fact mean them harm, everyone finds themselves trapped together inside the barricaded hospital, forced to work with each other to try and escape and survive. Then reality starts bending around them; certain individuals go a bit on the insane side and attack the others, and while the Deputy and the two vigilantes try to find a way out through the basement, they discover that the building is warping reality as well, discovering hallways and rooms that don’t exist according to the blueprints. Turns out, the doctor in charge of the hospital has been messing with some Lovecraft-level dark sorcery in an effort to defy death since his daughter died. Mind-bendy horror ensues, with an ending that will make you go, “huh?” In a good way, I assure you.

Overall, The Void was a great horror flick that had a lot of substance to chew on, as well as tons of dark foreboding atmosphere and great practical effects. The acting was rather good, and the development of the characters was good as well, lending some weight to their plight. The reveal of the doctor as the main Big Bad was, admittedly, cliched and expected. However, the very Clive Barker style ending is very much worth it at the end. Well worth the watch.

Book Review: 2010 Odyssey Two

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Book Review 2010 Oddyssy TwoArthur C. Clarke
Granada Publishing Ltd.
1982

And because, in all the Galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, they encouraged its dawning everywhere. They became farmers in the fields of stars; they sowed, and sometimes they reaped. And sometimes, dispassionately, they had to weed.

Nine years after the disastrous Discovery mission to Jupiter in 2001, a joint U.S.-Soviet expedition sets out to rendezvous with the derelict spacecraft–to search the memory banks of the mutinous computer HAL 9000 for clues to what went wrong…and what became of Commander Dave Bowman. Without warning, a Chinese expedition targets the same objective, turning the recovery mission into a frenzied race for the precious information Discovery may hold about the enigmatic monolith that orbits Jupiter. Meanwhile, the being that was once Dave Bowman–the only human to unlock the mystery of the monolith–streaks toward Earth on a vital mission of its own…

The second book in what was to become the Space Odyssey series, this one finally being published in 1982, a good fourteen years after the original novel was published. This time around, it was written independently of any kind of film being made in conjunction, like with 2001: A Space Odyssey. 2010 was eventually made into a film a couple of years later, however; for all intents and purposes, Clarke wrote 2010: Odyssey Two as a stand-alone sequel to Kubrick’s original movie. If that last part seems confusing, it actually makes sense if you check out the reasoning behind it. Anyway, the book…

The story takes up nine years after the failed mission to Saturn Jupiter to check out the mysterious Monolith. A joint venture by America and Soviet Russia* head out to Jupiter’s orbit to investigate both the Monolith and the derelict Discovery One to see what may have gone wrong, and also account for the whereabouts of David Bowman from the previous book. And in case you were out of the loop, Boman isn’t dead, he just got upgraded to a higher-level intelligence that’s floating around and helping the aliens responsible for the Monolith out with some evolution upgrades to the critters on the moon Europa. Which is why it’s been deemed OFF LIMITS to the humans on Earth…which didn’t stop China from launching an exploration of the place. The Chinese Europa landing ends in disaster (think Mutant Kelp Monster), the Soviet spaceship Alexei Leonov arrives with American scientist Heywood Floyd from the first novel, and the creator of the HAL computer decides to switch the HAL 9000 to figure out why the AI flipped out and tried to kill everyone. Yeah, always a good idea, there. The Monolith then goes back to Stargate Mode, and chucks out David Bowman…who appears to Floyd to tell him to get everyone away from Jupiter in 15 days. Something big is going down, it seems. It takes a bit to convince the others on board that a space ghost of his missing colleague gave him that warning, but after the Monolith disappears and a growing black spot consisting of a bunch of self-replicating Monoliths start growing over the gaseous surface of Jupiter, they decided to listen to crazy American, and manage to get out of the way before Jupiter turned into a mini star. Oh, and HAL gets absolved for his murderous spree and gets absorbed into the Monolith along with Bowman. Then we’re given a glimpse of life on the moon Europa several thousands of years in the future. The end.

Having never watched the movie adaptation of this book (bits and pieces, actually…I would come across a scene or two while flipping through channels on the telly and spend two minutes trying to sus things out before moving on), nevertheless I do recall having a friend trying to describe this book to me in middle school, basically stating that Clarke wrote 2010 to make sense of 2001. Decades later, I’m still hard pressed to find any evidence that this was the case; however, the novel does go a bit deeper into the origin of the Monoliths, as well as what’s been going on with Bowman, and does explain why HAL went the cold, mechanical equivalent of psycho on the original trip.

Overall, as a continuation of the story started in 2001, 2010 was an interesting tale, if not a bit dry at parts. Clarke does come from the old school of Science Fiction writing, going into a lot of detail about the workings of certain science theories at work. There’s a few moments of tenseness, and there’s that overall metaphysical sheen that comes with advanced science that the humans encounter. It’s very much worth reading, yes; just don’t go in expecting space opera.

[* = keep in mind, this was written when the Cold War was still going on; if it helps, think of this as an “alternate universe”…because Clarke certainly did]