Movies+Beer: MANDY THE HAUNTED DOLL

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Uncle NecRo finally figured out how to use Skype (kinda), and enlisted the help of longtime friend Kari on her first time on the podcast, to watch a movie so terrible I couldn’t just do justice with a mere write-up: MANDY THE HAUNTED DOLL! Listen along as we go through this waste of a Haunted Doll movie, if you dare!

::END TRANSMISSION::

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Movies+Beer: BRIGHTBURN

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Brian, Andrea and James Classic took in a showing of the Superhero Horror flick Brightburn, then went to Sean O’Casey’s to talk about it…

Movie Review: WINCHESTER

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winchesterLionsgate / CBS Films
2018
PG-13

I’m a mother. A fighter. A protector. And I am not afraid.

On an isolated stretch of land 50 miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester fortune, it is a house that knows no end. Constructed in an incessant twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week mania for decades, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To the outsider it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman’s madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece or for the brilliant Doctor Eric Price whom she has summoned to the house. She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters.

To answer your unasked question: Yes, I am familiar with the Winchester House. You really can’t be an enthusiast of spooky legends and folklore and not know something about the house that ghosts built. I’ve never visited the place myself (as I rarely travel farther than a few states away from my neck of the woods); I do have a couple of friends who did tour the house during their honeymoon. They say it was…expansive.

It’s from this legendary house where we get the premise of the movie Winchester. Clearly, going into this, the notion that this was “based on actual events” is secondary to the horror flick this wants to be. Whether you believe in haunting and vengeful spirits or not, I find that going into these kind of flicks as straight-up fiction lends to a far more enjoyable watching experience.

As a movie itself, Winchester works well as a rather enjoyable slow-burning Gothic ghost story. Something like a classic Castle-style throwback, with lots of dark and spooky atmosphere, some decent jump scares (fortunately, the movie doesn’t rely on them like a lot of haunting movies out nowadays), very good visuals and some rather good acting from the cast.

Overall, I think Winchester is one of the better “true haunting” type horror movies to come out in these modern times. Far better than any of the long list of The Haunting Of… movies that always populate my video streaming suggestions. This works best as a late-night viewing, with all the lights off and preferably on a dark and stormy night, with a big bowl of popcorn. Recommended.

Movie Review: The SAND (Blood Sand)

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sand, theMonarch Home Video
2015
TV-14

“This is worse than the woman with the horseshoe crab up her ass.”

If ever there was a quote directly from this movie that encapsulates perfectly the kind of watching experience The Sand was, I would be hard pressed to find anything more on-the-nose than that one. Which is uttered by one Jamie Kennedy, who seemed equally annoyed as he was mystified that he is in this movie. And he was in Son Of The Mask. But, I digress.

I admit, it’s been a while since I’ve viewed a movie of this…caliber. I’ve gone through dry spells where I didn’t really want to watch cheesy B-grade movies, more out of apathy than any kind of shift of taste. The Sand (aka “Blood Sand”, because having multiple working titles is an indication of quality) was one that was, believe it or not, recommended to me by a lovely couple at my church who watched this and immediately thought of me. I’m assuming, actually, but this is something that I would go for. Unfortunately, I was still kinda going through a low ebb in my manic depression, and while I stuck it on my watchlist, I kept coming up with excuses not to watch The Sand. Or do much of anything other than sit and stare at the darkness surrounding me. Such is the nature of depression and all.

Before we begin with this antacid flashback, I want to throw in here that, with a bit of research to the background of this movie, it appears that, besides Blood Sand, there was also some early versions using Killer Beach as the title of the movie. Lovely. Probably would have went with that one, personally, but here we are.

*sigh* Let’s just get the rundown out of the way; I’m already spending too much time dwelling on this flick…

After a raging party on a secluded beach (the flashback of which is shown in Smartphone Video Vision), eight of the remaining partygoers wake up the next morning to find out that if they step on the sand, tendrils whip out and drag them under, eating anything delicious and meaty: Birds, hotdogs, humans. These eight were spared initially because they happened to pass out during the party on things that kept them from touching the sand itself: a picnic table, a convertible car, the lifeguard tower, a garbage can. It’s a situation worthy of inclusion in a Stephen King short story collection. Anyway, after a handful of the survivors, and a persnickety beach patrol guy that’s played by the aforementioned Jamie Kennedy (the only actual acting talent in this whole thing) get eaten by whatever it is that’s lurking in the sand, things are starting to look bleak…and whatever that thing is under the sand seems to be getting bigger…

As modern B-movies go, I have to admit that The Sand wasn’t as painful as I was expecting it to be. Don’t get me wrong; this is a movie that is firmly in the Hilarious For All The Wrong Reasons style of horror flick. The opening scenes do a fairly decent job setting up the plot of the movie, and I understand when we’re dealing with a low budget movie like this, keeping things in one location is one of the ways to keep within the budget.

The problem here is that there’s not enough plot to propel The Sand to a full-length running time. The premise lends itself to a good tight 30- to 45-minute short film; to pad this one out, there’s a lot of arbitrary “tension” scenes, usually involving playing a rousing game of The Floor Is Lava (and just as exciting as watching a game like that in real life), and oh, there’s also a love triangle subplot that is shoehorned in so badly that it grinds the momentum of the plot itself to a halt to remind the viewers that these are people you should totes care for, instead of being a cast of chowderheaded dudebro alpha males and whipped-cream-for-brains scantily clad females that you’ll be rooting to die horribly pretty much from the get-go. Really, the only two salvageable characters here are Jamie Kennedy’s character (of course), because he voices the frustration of the viewers as a surrogate, and the token fat guy who spends the majority of the run time stuck in a garbage can with a dick drawn on his face. I can relate to his pain. Also, he has the best final line before being eaten by the sand monster thing.

Overall, while I don’t hate myself for having watched The Sand (I did get a lot of laughs from this, after all), this VOD offering falls short of the So Bad It’s Good status that affords a recommendation for all to watch more than once. A good once-over for a nice goofy Midnight Flick night, but really that’s all there is to this movie.

Movie Review: CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD

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city of the living deadMedusa Distribution
1980
NR

“The city of the dead. The living dead. A cursed city where the gates of hell have been opened.”

The Seven Gates of Hell have been torn open, and in three days the dead shall rise and walk the earth. As a reporter and a psychic race to close the portals of the damned, they encounter a seething nightmare of unspeakable evil. The city is alive–with the horrors of the living dead!

I will have to double-check, but I’m pretty sure this is my first experience watching a Lucio Fulci movie. I know, I call myself a horror aficionado, and I haven’t been experienced with any of the Italian masters that everyone keeps recommending me to watch. Well, City Of The Living Dead has been sitting on my external hard drive for a number of years now, and here I am finally getting around to watching the first in a very loose unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy. And my initial reaction would be…”huh.”

Let me clarify: City Of The Living Dead has something of a reputation as a legendary movie that’s full of really insane and gory moments, where even those who haven’t seen this yet know of its existence as almost an urban legend. You know the type of movie, where it’s hyped up so much in your head, by the time you get around to watching it, it kind of doesn’t live up to your expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, here; City Of The Living Dead certainly earns its reputation as a completely nuts and insane zombie flick, heavy on the gore and violence effects. Where the movie excels greatly is the establishment of atmosphere, with the settings and pace, and especially the music score. Also, the zombies are less the shambling Romero style undead, and have more of a Lovecraft feel to their menace. However, where the movie falls short is the plot. I realize that, when it comes to Italian horror movies like this, it’s mostly all about the atmosphere and visceral horror than the story itself. I get movies like that. However, City Of The Living Dead really could have benefited from a good tightening of the plot itself, keeping certain points from being forgotten about and especially giving it an ending that didn’t feel like it just ran out of gas and stopped, leaving you thinking, “Wha…huh?”

Overall, I would say that City Of The Living Dead is one of the required viewing type horror movies for anyone serious about the genre. The caveat being that, this isn’t really an undisputed masterpiece, rather an excellent movie that is also rather frustrating to watch. Highly recommended, regardless.

Movie Review: OVERLORD

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overlordParamount Pictures
2018
R

“Three months ago, I was cutting grass on my front yard. The mailman shows up with a letter from the army. Now I’m here, and no idea where I’m going to end up.”

In-between taking over the Star Trek and Star Wars movie franchises, along with other projects, J. J. Abrams went back to making a straight-up horror movie as a kind of change of pace in the previous year. That movie was this one we’re discussing right now, Overlord. It was the movie that was originally rumored to be another one set in the Cloverfield universe that’s already three movies deep. But, Abrams squelched those rumors, stating that Overlord was going to be its own standalone horror flick, with nothing to even remotely tie it into the whole interesting-yet-convoluted anthology of films. I’m sure there were those out there that figured he was just bluffing, fully expecting another fun yet kind of ham-fisted entry in the Cover-verse.

But, no, as it turns out, Overlord is not a secret Cloverfield movie, with nothing in it that even remotely pointed to it being one in the first place. Personally, I went in not really expecting some kind of tie to that series, as I have this nasty habit of taking people by their word. It’s gotten me burned on many an occasion, yes, I realize. But I gotta be me. Anyway, what I was expecting was another zombie flick. You know, one that was set during the sequel to the War to End All Wars, World War II (Electric Nazi Boogaloo). And…well, it was, but less Night Of The Living Dead, and more Herbert West: Reanimator, if we were to compare it to previous entries in the horror genre.

So, it’s the eve of D-Day, and a platoon of America’s finest parashoot into the heart of German occupied France, with a mission to sneak into a castle being used by the Nazis as a communications base and destroy a radio tower so that the Allied troops can land in Normandy without the Krauts knowing. And before I’m bombarded with accusations of racism, I am of German ancestry, and I have to say that “Kraut” is our word, you hate-filled bigot. Anyway. after being decimated by heavy fire, the surviving troop manage to sneak into the French village where the castle is at, befriend a local member of the resistance, and holes up in the attic of her house while coming up with their plan of action. As it turns out, not only are the Nazis using the castle as a base of operations, they’ve set up a lab in the basement (do castles have basements? Wouldn’t that be more of a dungeon? Or a lower level?), where the obligatory mad Nazi scientist is conducting experiments on the local townfolk and dead soldiers to refine a serum that would turn their soldiers into long-lasting and durable Ubermensch Soldiers that would serve their Thousand-Year Reich. Planning ahead and all that. Only, there are some glitches. Ones that the Americans discover when, while trying to save the life of a dying soldier, they inject him with some of the serum, and he comes back to life really thirsty, feeling really hot…oh, yeah, and also really violent, incoherent, and hard to put down. So, due to the Resistance lady’s young brother being kidnapped by a German officer and taken to the castle, she and the remaining soldiers sneak into the stronghold to take down, not only the communications tower, but also destroy the nightmares that the mad scientist is creating.

Overlord was a rather enjoyable sci-fi horror flick, overall. I liked the way that the movie went into this as more of a period piece war action movie at first, building up not only the story and the tension, but also giving some depth to the soldier characters and even the antagonist Nazi officers who interact with the heroes. So when the David Cronenberg-level horror is introduced, it’s really effective. And that aspect is done just as well, going less for camp, and more for a gritty and chilling portrayal of the mad scientist horror, when juxtaposed with the more realistic horror of the war raging outside of the castle walls.

It’s a pity that, ultimately, Overlord kind of came and went without much fanfare. J. J. Abrams can really do a good horror movie, without having to make it an obligatory part of his mythos. I wouldn’t mind seeing more like this from him. Besides that, Overlord is recommended.

Movie Review: R.O.T.O.R.

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rotorImperial Entertainment
1987
NR

“The only difference between a hero and a villain is the amount of compensation they take for their services. At our pay scale, I’d say we’re closer to heroes.”

The city is in chaos–society’s scum are running rampant, murder and rape are on the rose. A special unit to develop R.O.T.O.R.–robotic officer of the tactical operations research unit–is set up. Its prime objective is to build the perfect cop…a law enforcement machine programmed to overcome all obstacles and make sure the streets are safe.When the completion date for R.O.T.O.R. is brought forward, a major side effect is overlooked, and R.O.T.O.R. goes berserk. The dream turns into a nightmare. Can it be stopped, or will it threaten the very existence of the society it was built to protect?

Why? Why do i punish myself like this? I mean, seriously, I may have a serious problem, here. I see a movie title that I know is going to be painful to watch, and I’m drawn to it like a moth to flame. And when I saw the late-80s sci-fi cheeseball R.O.T.O.R. on the movie streaming service I use, I knew it was going to be a painful one to watch…but something deep inside me overrode that survival instinct, and urged me to click PLAY, sitting at rapt attention and taking in every minute until the end credits rolled, and not soon enough. And boy, what a painful experience that was.

What we have with R.O.T.O.R. (and I have grown to despise having to type out that acronym) is a low-budget mashup of concepts lifted from The Terminator, Robocop, and possibly the Judge Dredd comics. Scientists are developing a kind of robot cop to make law enforcement more effective, their corrupt corporate boss pushes them to release the prototype in a month instead of allowing the several years to develop it properly because of politics, and of course the robotic cop malfunctions right out of the box and begins ganking prole for the most minor of infractions. And when the disposed scientist who was warning everyone of the fallacy of letting this thing loose too early in the first place teams up with his body-building ladyfriend to take the rogue cyborg cop down, things get wacky.

Did I mention that the cyborg cop sports a porn ‘stash and looks like a Village People cosplayer? It’s hard to strike fear and terror when you expect the thing to break into a rendition of “Y.M.C.A.” at any given moment. Although, that would have improved the movie greatly if it did.

It boggles my mind how a derivative piece of garbage like R.O.T.O.R. made it to production, let alone get released to the general public. What’s worse is that, this is the kind of bad movie that you can’t seem to stop watching, just out of morbid curiosity as to just how bad it really can get. And when the end credits roll, you have no other choice but foist this pain onto your loved ones just so someone else can share what you just went through. Proceed with extreme caution.

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