Movie Review: GREEN ROOM

Leave a comment

green roomA24
2015
R

“It’s funny. You were so scary at night.”

Down on their luck punk rockers The Ain’t Rights are finishing up a long and unsuccessful tour, and are about to call it quits when they get an unexpected booking at an isolated, run-down club deep in the backwoods of Oregon. What seems merely to be a third-rate gig escalates into something much more sinister when they witness an act of violence backstage that they weren’t meant to see. Now trapped backstage, they must face off against the club’s depraved owner, Darcy Banker, a man who will do anything to protect the secrets of his nefarious enterprise. But while Darcy and his henchmen think the band will be easy to get rid of, The Ain’t Rights prove themselves much more cunning and capable than anyone expected, turning the tables on their unsuspecting captors and setting the stage for the ultimate life-or-death showdown.

I know, I know. I had the chance to see the movie Green Room during its blink-and-it’s-gone run time in the theaters. I kept hearing very, very good things about the movie, how it’s not only a tense independent thriller featuring great performances from the cast as well as a fantastic cinematography that really brought out the claustrophobic nature of the story, but I kept hearing from acquaintances in the underground punk scenes that the depiction of the hardcore punk aesthetic was quite legit. The thing was, I rarely want to go to the movies alone nowadays, and since most if not all of the Exalted Geeks I would go with aren’t into horror movies, I decided to wait until the VOD release.

My mistake. I admit that now. I should have worked past my anxiety to take in this flick on the big screen when I had the chance. Because, boy does Green Room pack a significant roundhouse kick to the midsection with a steel-toed boot.

So, here we have a story about a hardcore punk band, named the Ain’t Rights, trying to get by on their DIY ethos and playing some seriously righteous hardcore punk wherever they can. Before they decide to call it quits on the tour, they’re given a shot at an out-in-the-boonies bar for a decent payout for gas to get back home. Only, the bar has a rather narrow kind of clientèle–namely, skinhead Nazis. But, money is money, and they do the set anyway, and when they’re getting set to leave, they accidentally stumble upon a murder in the titular Green Room, and now they have to spend the rest of the night trying to survive getting snuffed by the bar’s owner and his army of skinheads to cover everything up. Things…don’t go well.

There are two things that make Green Room a fantastic horror thriller: 1) the depiction of the whole hardcore punk aesthetic, I’m told from acquaintances who adhere to that scene, is pretty authentic. I say “I’m told”, because I don’t claim to be part of or even an expert on the scene; while I read up and try to understand and have an appreciation for the scene and the music, I also hold no delusion as to claiming I’m part of it. The ones I know of who are have given their seal of approval, though. As long as they’re not really messing with Poser Boy here, I’m going to accept it. 2) This is a well-crafted and tight horror thriller that is claustrophobic, quick-paced and doesn’t take any easy way outs. There were a few times where I caught myself drawing my knees up to my chest and getting unnerved at the goings on I was witnessing. Add to this a fantastic performance from none other than Patrick Stewart as the head Skinhead, and you’ve got yourself a chilling time.

Really, don’t make the same mistake I did. If you haven’t watched Green Room, do yourself a favor and rectify that oversight. Highly recommended by your Uncle NecRo.

Movie Review: GREMLINS 2

Leave a comment

Movie Review_ GREMLINS 2Warner Bros.
1990
PG-13

“They put me on at 3am. People who are awake at 3am aren’t afraid of the Wolfman. The only thing that frightens those people is sobering up and going to work.”

The rules are the same but the laughs are bigger and the thrills are better. This time Billy and everyone’s favorite Mogwai, Gizmo, must face off against a new batch of Gremlins that definitely think New York is their kind of town.

There’s no denying that the original Gremlins is a classic. It managed to take a standard horror movie premise and turn it into a whimsical Christmas gem, which remains so to this day. So, of course it was inevitable that it would get a sequel to cash in on all the merchandising…er, movie magic that it’s spawned since. The only problem being that they waited six years to actually make one. And while the suits at Warner Bros. and Amblin Entertainment managed to get the original director Joe Dante to make the sequel, Dante had no interest whatsoever to do so.

And who could blame him? The story in the original Gremlins was wrapped up nicely, with Mr. Wing walking off into the night with Gizmo, back to the safety of his shop, after a night of terrifying wackiness. Gremlins didn’t really need a sequel. And on the cusp of the Summer of 1990, we got a sequel, whether we wanted one or not. And boy howdy, what a sequel.

I don’t think anybody was prepared for what we got when we sat down in the theater seats, awaiting the second installment of mogwai wackiness. If we were expecting something like the first one, we were sorely disappointed. Instead, we were treated to a biting satire of sequels in general, as well as a gleeful deconstruction of the first Gremlins movie.

We begin this movie with the death of Mr. Wing, along with the demolition of his shop, forcing Gizmo to vacate and suddenly finding himself the acquired property of scientists working in a New York high-rise business building owned by the Clamp Corporation. Coincidentally, this is where Billy and Kate from the first movie have ended up working at, and manage to rescue Gizmo. Of course, it’s just a matter of time before two of the Three Rules get violated, and soon the entire business building is overrun by the nasty scaly gremlins. And one of ’em has gained some super-intelligence and has plans for world domination.

Of course, when I first watched this movie in the theaters back in 1990, I didn’t really like it as much as the first one. Because, like pretty much everyone else, we were expecting something like the first movie, and were confused as to the tone and general absurdity of this one. While the concept of different style of mutated gremlins was cool (Spider Gremlin! Electo-Gremlin! Super-smart Gremlin with the voice of Tony Randall!), we also got a very thinly veiled jab at the movie industry’s need to do sequels that gleefully goes for the jugular. The Clamp Corporation is clearly a send-up of the Ted Turner mass media empire of the day, complete with a division that handles the colorization of classic movies. We have the late, great Christopher Lee as a mad scientist that stumbles upon the whole genetic splicing of the Gremlins thing. There’s also a wacky meta thing where the Gremlins apparently break into the theater you’re watching this at and breaks the film, causing Hulk Hogan to get rather annoyed at it. I am not making that up. Apparently, there’s an alternate take of this bit for the VHS release, but I’ve only really watched this at the theater when it was released, then on one of the premium cable movie channels at my grandparents’ place whenever it was on when I was visiting, so I only know the theater-centric version. And, to top it all off, the big climatic ending involves a musical number.

And it is just that kind of gleeful abandon and surreal absurdity that, over time, makes Gremlins 2: The New Batch to be just as good–dare I say, even better–that the original Gremlins. Because you cannot compare this with its original counterpart. This is a perfect example of comparing apples with pineapples. They both have the word “apple” in their names, but they are completely different fruits. Or, a berry and a fruit, if you want to get pedantic about apples technically being berries or whatever. What I’m trying to say is, Gremlins 2 is a different entity in and of itself.

So, watch and enjoy Gremlins 2, and admit to liking it. Just don’t try and compare it with its predecessor.

Book Review: HELL HOUSE

Leave a comment

Book Review HELL HOUSERichard Matheson
Tor
1971

For over twenty years, Belasco House has stood empty. Regarded as the Mount Everest of haunted houses, it is a venerable mansion whose shadowed walls have witnessed scenes of almost unimaginable horror and depravity. Two previous expeditions to investigate its secrets met with disaster, the participants destroyed by murder, suicide, or insanity. Now a new investigation has been mounted, bringing four strangers to the forbidding mansion, determined to probe Belasco House for the ultimate secrets of life and death. Each has his or her own reason for daring the unknown torments and temptations of the mansion, but can any soul survive what lurks within the most haunted house on Earth?

One of the books that seems to be on everybody’s list of Top (ENTER NUMBER HERE) List of Horror Novels, not only from regular horror literary geeks, but from some of the bigger names in horror fiction. Notably, I read Stephen King refer to it as “one of the most brain-freezingly frightening haunted house novels of the 20th Century…”. That carries a bit of weight for me, as far as recommendations on what to snuggle up with on a dark and chilly night, to tantalize my imagination. Which also had the adverse effect of being a bit daunting to actually pick up and read. Not because it would be “too scary”, but like every other thing I’m hesitant to read, what if it turns out to be not as good as my brain hyped it up to be?

Fortunately, that didn’t stop me from picking up a copy of Hell House and reading it. My copy, with the cover art itself in the upper part of this review, is one of the many reprints that have been made of this, in case you’re some how curious about things like what was on the cover printing. I wouldn’t know why, but I’m sure there are people like that out there. Anyway…

As far as haunted house stories go, I have to admit that I agree that Hell House is one of the better ones written. If you’re familiar with Richard Matheson’s style of writing, then you know that he doesn’t necessarily write straight horror stories. He has said as much himself. They are horror, yes, but there’s also a heavy dose of science fiction that ties it down a bit more to earth rather than the supernatural. That isn’t to say there wasn’t a lot to cause my skin to crawl and want to turn on more than just one lamp while reading this, mind you. Such is Matheson’s style.

The story of Hell House involves a very old, very rich man hiring four people in different specified areas of research to investigate an old mansion that is rumored to be the site of many depraved orgies and debaucheries and death, and is now considered one of the most famous of haunted houses in the world. The old man wants to find out, once and for all, whether the nicknamed Hell House really is haunted, and if so by what, or if there’s actually a rational scientific reason behind the failed investigations done decades prior. To this end, he has hired a scientist and his wife to assist, a spiritualist, and a survivor of a previous investigation into the house that ended in a deadly disaster, who is tormented by his psychic abilities. Together they will stay inside the house for several days, attempting to determine if there really is something sinister behind the building’s facade, or if it’s something else with foundationally speaking. See what I did, there? I made architectural jokes. Yeah, whatever. Anyway, things start going wacky pretty much on the first day they arrive at the house, and everyone struggles to keep from going mad while sorting out the mystery behind the house itself. Or, you know, try not to die doing so.

This being written in the very early 1970s, there’s a bit more of, shall we say, an adult orientation to the story. And by that, I mean there’s a rather violent scene featuring necrophilia at one point, as well as some squeamish descriptions of possession and poltergeist manifestations going on. Add in some rather effective dark Gothic imagery with the house, and you really do have a spine-chilling supernaturally-tinged Gothic ghost story mystery that doesn’t end on a very up note.

I understand that there’s a movie adaptation made of this. I haven’t seen the movie, or even sought it out. But, I am glad I got around to reading Hell House, and seeing why everyone seems to hold it in high esteem. Recommended reading, my fellow horror hounds.

Movie Review: SIREN

Leave a comment

Movie Review SIRENUniversal Studios Home Entertainment
2016
NR

“I like you.”

One week before his wedding day, Jonah and his groomsmen hit the town for a wild night of club hopping and debauchery. The night soon takes a twisted turn for the worse when the group is invited to a seedy underground club. After Jonah frees a seemingly imprisoned dancer, he realizes that the woman he released is actually a terrifying, legendary creature that will stop at nothing to claim her prey.

Hey, remember the horror anthology movie V/H/S? If you don’t, that’s fine. I won’t judge you too harshly. But, the first short on that collection was something called “Amateur Night”, which, to quote directly from my own review, is about “three bros go bar-hopping and bring back a couple of girls to have sex with in their hotel room and make an amateur porn video in the process…until they discover too late that one of the girls is not what she seems”. Well, bravely traversing into SPOILER territory, that was because the young lady was a Siren, the beautiful creature of myth and legend that lures unsuspecting males to their doom by way of mystical singing. Also, in this case, transforming from their human form to a terrifying wing-ed gargoyle-looking thing that originally lead me to believe she was more of a harpie when I first saw the short. This, of course, was rectified by the full-length adaptation of that short, entitled SiREN.

The movie begins with a police officer and a powerful shaman stumbling upon the titular Siren that was summoned by a bunch of amateur (and very dead) black magick practitioners. He manages to charm the Siren long enough to get a mystical lock on her. “Now, we can be friends” and all that. Cut to the standard Guys On Their Way To Bachelor Party Shenanigans, wherein the younger brother of the guy getting married takes him and their friends to a less-than-stellar strip club, because why waste a good stereotype? While moping about how underwhelming the experience is, they’re approached by a guy in a bad goatee to check out a secret Gentleman’s Club where it’s promised their dreams of the perfect night would be realized. Of course, they follow him out there, where they’re met with, not only something completely different from your standard strip club, but the proprietor of this fine establishment, Mr. Nix. Which also happens to be that occult master we saw at the beginning of the flick. He takes the boys into the back, where the bachelor in question gets some time with Mr. Nix’s star attraction: the Siren. A slight problem arises when the Siren takes a shine to the young man, who in turn decides to bust her free from not only her cage, but also her mystical shackles. Now what started as a night of sub-standard bachelor hijinks is now a terrifyingly horrific game of cat and mouse, with neither side really knowing if they’re the cat or the mouse, with Mr. Nix doing everything in his power to get the Siren back, and the hapless groom-to-be discovering first hand the mating habits of said Siren while they attempt to elude her former owner. Things don’t end well, let’s just say.

Usually, padding out a short to make it work as a full-length results in something a bit more sub-standard than expected. Fortunately, expanding “Amature Night” into the full-length Siren worked very, very well. Mainly due to the fact that the story doesn’t really follow that of the short, outside of a bunch of guys going out for shenanigans and running into the Siren. The story in Siren was expanded to explain why the creature was on this plain of existence, as well as a bit more expansion to how the boys run into her. Oh, did I mention that the same actress that played the siren in the short also plays the titular creature here in the movie? And both times she manages to nail the character’s horrific yet curiously tragic mythical creature. She still utilizes the phrase, “I like you” in a way that still sent danger chills shooting down my spine and raising the goosebumps.

Overall, I found Siren (or SiREN, as it’s listed on Amazon and IMDB) to be a fun and very effective B-Movie horror flick that will give give you the creeps and give you an aversion to gentlemen clubs in the middle of nowhere that are run by possible Voodoo warlocks.

Movie Review: A CURE FOR WELLNESS

Leave a comment

a cure for wellness20th Century Fox
2017
R

“Do you know what the cure for the human condition is? Disease. Because that’s the only way one could hope for a cure.”

A Wall Street stockbroker travels to a remote location in the Swiss Alps to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious wellness center. He soon suspects that the miraculous treatments are not what they seem. His sanity is tested when he unravels the spa’s terrifying secrets and finds himself diagnosed with the same curious illness that keeps all of the guests there longing for a cure.

I have to say, so far the year that is 2017 seems to be a good one for horror movies of the psychological thriller type. It was kicked off in January with Split, now we have A Cure For Wellness in February to give us a good, refreshing psychological horror flick that will play with our minds gleefully like a drunken kitten.

While the reviews for A Cure For Wellness were mixed (to say the least), I went to see it on the opening weekend (caught a late Saturday morning showing), and personally, I found A Cure For Wellness to be a very satisfying, if not uneven, horror flick that really got under my skin, traveled upwards and burrowed its way into my brain, nesting there since.

The story of A Cure For Wellness has a young and upwardly-mobile business shark that gets the attention of the Senior Partners when one of his techniques nearly jeopardizes their long-term goals. So, they send the whippersnapper to the Swiss Alps to a retreat that specializes in hydration health restoration techniques, with the mission to bring back one of the Senior Partners who has been there relaxing, so that he may take the fall if things go south. Pretty simple, really. Except, of course, things seem a bit…off at the sanitarium high up in the hills, as the Senior Partner doesn’t want to leave, and the hospital staff seems to have a serious creepy vibe, as if they were pulled from an Ira Levin novel. Soon, though, something happens that lands the young shark boy as one of the patients in the sanitarium, which is when he discovers that everything that’s happening at the place might not be what it seems, and as he’s given a string of therapy session, his perception of reality gets even more wonky as he struggles to find the truth behind the sanitarium. Wackiness ensues.

A Cure For Wellness manages to stick with you long after the end credits roll and you stagger back out into the world, causing you to chew over and process things, resulting in putting off hammering out a review to post in a timely manner. Sorry about that. This is definitely a Gore Verbinski movie, and as a psychological horror it’s rather effective…for the most part. It works best as in Ira Levin novel as filtered through Alfred Hitchcock. The last reel, though, turns suddenly into a William Castle flick, with a twist that made me rather squicky. But, fortunately, it doesn’t cause the movie to fall flat, and we’re left with a rather satisfying sense of paranoia and dread that will resonate for hours.

Overall, for a horror movie that was released so early in the year, A Cure For Wellness surprised me with a high-quality romp through mind-bending psychological horror. It’s subtle and slow-burning, and comes recommended if you’re burned out on all the recent paste-by-numbers horror flicks of late.

Movie Review: ABATTOIR

Leave a comment

abattoir movie posterMomentum Pictures
2016
R

An investigative reporter works to solve the mystery behind a mysterious man who has been buying houses where tragedies have occurred. Set in a world where it always feels like night, even in daylight hours, real estate reporter Julia Talben’s life is turned upside down when her family is brutally murdered. It is believed to be an open and closed case, but Julia quickly realizes there is much more to this story when she returns to the crime scene to find the murder room deconstructed and physically removed from her sister’s home. This ignites an investigative pursuit that eventually leads her and ex-lover Detective Declan Grady to the town of New English where they find the enigmatic Jebediah Crone and the Abattoir–a monstrous house stitched together with unending rooms of death and the damned. Julia comes to realize that her sister’s soul is trapped inside, but the Abattoir isn’t just a house–it’s a door to something more evil than anyone could have ever imagined. Julia and Grady are ultimately faced with the question: How do you build a haunted house? One room at a time.

So, just recently, I decided to rent a handful of movies based solely on the cover art and titles alone. I didn’t read the synopsis, I didn’t do any research into any of them; I just saw the cover, thought “this will do”, and picked ’em up to watch over the weekend. The results were…mixed, to say the very least. Although, it’s nothing I haven’t come across before.

Anyway, one of those movies was Abattoir, a movie that was released in the tail end of 2016, and is described as a haunted house movie with a twist. That twist apparently being that it manages to be original while being as disjointed at possible.

The story involves a young and plucky real estate reporter who has a taste for old-timey styles and is looking to move beyond her position and make a name for herself in the crime beat. Then her sister’s family is brutally murdered one night, which is bad enough; what’s weird, though, is that shortly thereafter the room where the murders happen is taken out of the house. Just the one room. Soon, said young and plucky real estate reporter and her Friend Zone’d detective guy begin uncovering other instances where a house that was the scene of a grizzly murder was purchased only to have the room or area where the murder occurred be removed. This and a coincidentally timed retrieval of a bit of documentation stating that her biological parents live in a small town called New English (seriously) causes our plucky real estate reporter to head out to the town, where she finds a weirdness that would give the denizens of Innsmouth pause. Seems that, decades ago, there was a very charismatic circuit preacher that arrived in the town, offering up not salvation, but more a chance to have their best lives now, if but for a pledge of a loved one to sacrifice. Faster than you can make a Joel Olsteen joke, our plucky real estate reporter discovers that she and her sister was sent away in an attempt to break this curse. But, now she’s back, and she’s stumbled upon the massive mansion that was built by all the bits of other houses, the ones that contain the specters of the murders past. A haunted house built from other haunted rooms, if you will. And it’s only missing one thing before it’s finished being built…and she’s the key to that capstone.

So, then, with Abattoir, you get the sense that there’s a fantastic horror movie underneath the surface, but the execution of it fell short of its potential. On the one hand, the concept of a house that’s haunted due to being built from the various bits of other houses that have ghosts with them is something that blows my mind considering all the story possibilities that come with it. The problem is, the actual house in question doesn’t show up until the final 20 minutes of the movie. What comes before is a kind of disjointed noir-ish murder mystery as filtered by Dario Argento, with zero chemistry between the two main characters and a plot that is rather disjointed, leading up to the last part with the house. There are some good points to the movie, like the character of Jebediah Crone. Had we focused on him a bit more, there could have been a better movie, here. And of course, Lin Shaye is always the best part of any movie she’s in, bit part or no.

Overall, Abattoir is certainly different and a bit more innovative than a lot of horror movies I’ve sifted through over the years. It certainly stuck with me a bit more than the one-and-done flicks I began forgetting ten minutes after the movie ended. However, this haunted house movie’s facade was shoddily constructed, and could have done with better building materials.

See what I did, there? I made a house joke. You’re welcome.

Movie Review: The FINAL GIRLS

Leave a comment

Movie Review FINAL GIRLS, TheSony Pictures
2015
PG-13

“I should have known something was up with this place. I mean think about it. What the hell kind of summer camp has waterbeds?”

When Max and her friends reluctantly attend a tribute screening of an infamous ’80s slasher film that starred Max’s late mother, they are accidentally sucked into the silver screen. They soon realize they are trapped inside the cult classic movie and must team up with the fictional and ill-fated “camp Bloodbath” counselors, including Max’s mom as the shy scream queen, to battle the film’s machete-wielding, masked killer. With the body count rising in scene after iconic scene, who will be The Final Girls left standing and live to escape this film?

Back in the mid-Aughts, I watched and reviewed a movie called Camp Slaughter, the premise of which was a bunch of young adults in the modern times get time displaced into an early 1980s summer camp that’s experiencing a time-loop slasher. I thought it had massive potential, but fell very short of realizing its own meta-greatness with its limitations on budget and lack of acting abilities. Fun, but it could have been so much more so.

Fast forward a bit over a decade later, and I believe I’ve stumbled upon the realization of that greatness, with the release of The Final Girls.

In The Final Girls, young Max is the daughter of the late Scream Queen Amanda Cartwright, who stared in the cult slasher flick Camp Bloodbath in 1983. While attending a special showing of that particular movie, a fire starts, and she and her friends manage to escape…right in the middle of the movie itself. There, she and her friends must find a way out of their bizarre situation, while interacting with the characters of the movie while avoiding being offed by the slasher picking them off and navigating through all the tropes that come with it. Also, Max has to deal with confronting her mother who doesn’t know she’s her mother, and just another character playing out the movie.

The Final Girls was a joy to watch. It functioned as an affectionate parody send-up of the 80s slasher genre, as well as being a well-constructed meta deconstruction of the genre. Self aware, funny, and yet still maintaining being a horror movie in its own right (with just a hint of cheese), this movie managed to do what the aforementioned Camp Slaughter couldn’t: be entertaining without coming off as forced. Also, the effects were way better.

Of course, the best part of the movie was the interaction between the kids from the real world, trying to convince the movie characters that they’re in a slasher film and they’re all going to die. Especially done well was the whole “flashback” scenes, where the movie reality starts melting around them, plopping everyone into a black and while flashback scene. Not to mention the whole Butterfly Effect that happens to the movie characters as these new people in their universe start messing with the natural order of things in attempts to try and save them from the doom that is to come. And, in case you’re wondering, The Final Girls doesn’t end up with one of those “It was all a dream” kind of endings. Although, it does make one wonder if this is all playing out in Max’s subconsciousness as she’s dying slowly in the hospital from massive burns and smoke inhalation from the theater fire. But, that’s just my playful nihilism speculating.

Of course, I can’t help but point out a few glaring anachronisms in the plot, like, say, the group playing a song on the boom box that wasn’t released until years after the date the movie was set in. But, considering my formative years were in the 1980s, and I would know this stuff, this is minor fanboy quibbles that come off as an old guy complaining. Regardless, The Final Girls was a fantastic meta horror comedy that needs to be checked out sometime soon.

Older Entries