Friday, January 30, 2015

The Red Shoes (Korean 2005) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A troubled woman and her daughter find themselves haunted by an angry spirit after picking up a pair of cursed shoes.

Review: I knew I had made a mistake after I saw my own comments on imdb trashing this film (7 years ago). Well, nothing has changed--if anything, the second viewing was all the more frustrating. It's a shame too, because underneath all the pretentiousness, contrivances, cliches, and outright stupidity there was probably a good movie. This is to say, the source material, a fairytale of the same title, is particularly disturbing and ripe with potential to explore. However, the writer/director opted instead to pursue a story that makes almost no sense and delivers an ending so incoherent and forced you may find yourself spiraling into a homicidal rage after witnessing it. There is a fine line between spoon-feeding the audience and outright leaving them in the dark wondering what the hell they're even watching. What a fucking mess.

I'm just going to explain this shit in chronological order since the twists and turns are too stupid to tolerate anyway. Besides, the origin of the cursed shoes was infinitely more interesting than the main story. So...during WWII, Japan had occupied Korea and they were putting on a pro-Japanese ballet. There is a love triangle between two of the dancers, Oki and Keiko, and some dude; they really don't explain this enough. The main factor at work are these dumb pink shoes the ladies fight over since they were a token of affection from the dude. They even fight during a photo shoot that holds some relevance I'll try and explain later. At one point, Oki screws the dude with Keiko catching her. This leads to Oki going apeshit and killing Keiko. For whatever reason, the dude is cool with this and helps bury the body. Oki, clearly crazy, decides she wants those godforsaken shoes from the dead body and cuts off the legs in order to put them on. Later on, when performing the ballet, Oki can't control herself while wearing the shoes. When the dude tries to intervene, the two are supernaturally hung from a rope and choked to death with the precious shoes falling off. All these events are witnessed and explained by the Hunchback of Notre Dame who just happens to be alive more than 60 years after the events, hanging out in the same place, and just happens to run into the main chick. Yeah...that's a good one.

Now things get a bit ambiguous as to what the hell has been going on for the past 60+ years. You could say that a company using a photo of Keiko from that photo shoot is what awakened her spirit, but that's taking a big leap of faith in the writer's capabilities. Besides being a huge ass contrivance unto itself, why would her photo surfacing allow her spirit to do jack shit if we are to believe her essence is tied up with the shoes? Hmm. The other way to look at things is that the whole photo shit was a contrivance for the main characters to figure things out. If that's the case, seriously, what the hell has been going on with these shoes over the years since people end up dead or losing their feet? Wouldn't there be an epidemic of footless murders? No matter what, this entire plot is a contrivance one way or another. Also, it's good we see that the cops don't give a shit--lets this awesome story keep rolling uninterrupted by logic.

In the present, the main girl, Sun-jae, discovers her husband cheating and kills him--though the movie doesn't reveal this until the end; don't worry, it's not as if they even bother to explain how she covered up his murder all this time. She then discovers the beloved pink shoes which are promptly stolen by her annoying daughter, Tae-soo. By the way, get used to hearing the name Tae-soo as half the film's dialogue appears to be nothing but someone screaming the brat's name! I should note that the shoes do appear to partially control the mind of those who come into contact with it, but this is not consistent or thought out. In order to drag out the running time, Sun-jae finds a dumbass boyfriend who is a complete bitch. In fact, Sun-jae is a crazy bitch too and one of the most unlikable protagonists I could possibly think of; why her loverboy would ever be interested boggles my mind, but, then again, this is a movie and contrivances get what contrivances want.

Blah blah blah, a haunting sort of happens but makes little sense. The shoes kill some people whenever but not always. I don't fucking know. Add a dash of dead end plot lines and some padding sprinkled in for good measure. Sun-jae makes Quasimodo spill the beans about Keiko and they attempt to return her dumb shoes to her body. Thinking this is "The Return of the King," we get like 3 fake out endings or so as we realize how truly crazy Sun-jae is; though she seemed pretty damn crazy to me the whole time. We get that she killed the husband, but she also appears to have killed loverboy, every other victim of the film, and...Tae-soo as well...huh? Keiko emerges from the shadows, in an admittedly cool shot, as she seemingly kills Sun-jae. Then we get a shot of Keiko dancing and then Tae-soo dancing. Oh god...

In case you're wondering, why are the shoes pink if the title is about red shoes? You're not thinking pretentious enough! It's because everyone who wears them covers their blood on the shoes. As for Sun-jae killing everyone...wikipedia claims it's because she's the reincarnated Oki. Where is there evidence for that? And fuck that, even if that was the intention, you want me to believe Sun-jae killed people who picked up the shoes then would put the shoes back so that she, personally, can pick them up? Yeah, okay. Something else that pissed me off was all the annoying relationship drama. My goodness, is this a horror movie or a fucking soap opera?! The only thing I liked about Sun-jae is that she made steak for dinner.

I don't know if anything I just wrote made sense, but that's this film's influence on me. There is surprisingly very little action going on here; it's nothing but bullshit drama used for padding. I explained the plot in a practical sense, but it doesn't reveal itself in such a way. That final reveal that Sun-jae has been killing everyone is nonsensical and off the charts stupid. I wanted to kill all the characters especially Tae-soo; one does not simply create a Jar Jar-esque character and get away with it. I don't know what else to say. If you love a ton of pretense, every Asian horror cliche under the sun, and a story with more holes than Swiss cheese, then be sure to check this out with my most humble blessing.

Notable Moment: When we finally get a good shot of Keiko in her ghost form at the end. Wow, what a complete waste of a respectable makeup effect.

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Pit (1981) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The horniest boy on earth and his teddy bear decide to kill off his tormentors after discovering a hole in the ground with carnivorous monsters inside--yeah, I just wrote that.

Review: You know that feeling when you have a hazy memory of seeing a movie as a kid? Like, all you can remember is one noteworthy scene or questionable aspects of the plot? Well, this film is one of those instances for me. Hell, I don't even know for sure if this is what I'm imagining; all I distinctly remember is a boy talking to his teddy bear and the doll talking back. If there was another '80s movie where this happens, please let me know! Regardless, I'm going with it, and what can I say--this movie is bizarre. This is another circumstance where someone had to be dropping acid to envision this kind of a plot; sane people don't just think this shit up. Although I can forgive shenanigans quite readily, the film keeps bouncing back and forth between serious and odd, comedic moments. I think this could have been surprisingly good had they simply played the boy as some kind of serial killer and presented a visceral point of view where the supernatural elements are in his head. Instead, the kid simply comes off creepy and little else makes sense.

Like I said, the main kid, Jamie, is soooo fucking horny, but no one simply comes out and says this. He's also well known in the town for being a pervert and peeping Tom; all at the ripe old age of 12! This is why a movie like this can't exist now, because all he would do is look at internet porn all day long. Anyway, contrivances are dictating that the parents leave town or whatever while Jamie is looked after by his millionth babysitter/nanny. Brace yourself, but here's a radical idea...what if, I don't know, maybe you hired a guy instead of college girls, you wouldn't have to worry so much?! If your kid is the town pervert, stop feeding his obsessions and maybe this kid needs a little male advice as well. And come on, no sooner have the parents introduced Jamie to the babysitter he's getting an upskirt shot! Those contrivances, I tell ya. If the situation weren't weird enough, Jamie's only friend is a teddy bear that telepathically speaks to him; and the teddy bear is like just as horny! "Ted," I think you owe somebody a royalty check.

It's probably easy to accept Jamie as the film's villain, but they keep trying to make him sympathetic and I hate mixed messages. The kids in the town are assholes. For example, one girl keeps fucking with him after he asked to ride her bike one time. Then another kid beat Jamie up simply for trying to befriend the boy. Let's face it, no one is going to feel bad for any of these idiots either. Worse, that babysitter keeps fueling Jamie's horniness (not a word?) by wearing skimpy clothes (really, a see-through nightgown and you're naked underneath?!) and talking about how she likes him. Eww. That's another thing, the awkward perversion is all over the place here, and it felt as though they were holding back too. Anyway, Jamie stumbles across these creatures that are trapped in a large hole in the ground. It doesn't take long for him to realize they only eat meat which is stupid since shouldn't these freaks have died of starvation by now? It shouldn't come as a shock, but Jamie decides to feed the people that have messed with him to the creatures. Again, they keep his motives ambiguous as he keeps saying he doesn't want to kill good people or animals--just the people that messed with him.

So Jamie kills that bratty girl with the bike, an old lady, the babysitter's boyfriend, the kid who beat him up, and that kid's little girlfriend. All the deaths feel comedic with clownish music for whatever reason. However, it's especially awkward when Jamie kills that one kid's girlfriend since he somewhat strips her clothes before feeding her to the creatures. This scene comes off extremely disturbing, and, keep in mind, this girl is like 12 tops. Don't worry though, the teddy bear is encouraging all of this. Eventually, with everyone disappearing, the babysitter wants to find out what's happening and is shown the creatures. But, like an idiot, she falls into the hole and gets eaten. I was hoping this would be the point when we'd realize the creatures aren't real, and they were made up as a way for the kid to cope with his murderous tendencies. Nope. Jamie all of a sudden becomes a genius serial killer as he plants evidence on the babysitter's second boyfriend (well, that was quick) to frame him for the disappearances.

Toward the end is when this film completely lost whatever story it was trying to tell. Jamie leaves a rope for the creatures to use since he doesn't want to feed them anymore people. The creatures then go on a killing spree as the cops take center stage trying to catch them. Instead of reporting these creatures to some scientific journal and becoming famous, the cops and random imbeciles decide to blow the creatures away, bury the hole over, and call it a night. Well...okay...sounds plausible. Next thing you know, Jamie and the teddy bear are hanging out with his grandma when he meets a little girl to befriend or whatever he plans to do. Since we gotta close this shit out with a zinger, the girl leads Jamie to another hole with more of the creatures and pushes him in. Oh geez. Yeah, she's clearly thought this murder out. What kind of idiot would murder someone they were seen with only 2 minutes after meeting them? Come the fuck on! Plus, more of these godforsaken creatures trapped in a hole? How the fuck did these dumb things live this long without the murderous charity of humans? More importantly, what is going to happen with teddy?! Actually...uhh...did we ever get clarity on whether that teddy bear was really alive or not? It's obviously implied it's Jamie's imaginary friend, but why did they have that shot of it moving on its own with the babysitter?

Umm...this is script in a blender at its finest. We've got Patrick Bateman: the Early Years, a '50s b-movie, a helping of Chucky, and some crazy writer's, seemingly, real life fantasies. If this was the movie I've been imagining, I blocked all this shit out. I just wanted to find a nice, innocent little film about a boy and his teddy bear! I got a hell of a lot more than I bargained for. As surreal and strange as this film can be at times, it's not entirely bad. It keeps your attention that's for sure, but they inconsistently take the material seriously. It's almost as if they realized the potential this film had to be truly dark and had to keep downplaying the scenes with terrible music and random bouts of idiocy. If you like offbeat tales that make little sense, then check this out. If not, well, you're not missing much.

Notable Moment: When the babysitter's boyfriend dies. Yeah...just fall right into a giant gaping hole in the ground during broad daylight. I know he was supposed to be dumb, but was he supposed to be a fucking idiot too?!

Final Rating: 5/10

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Top 10 Worst Movies...So Far

Before I begin, let me preface this list by saying this is the top 10 worst movies I've reviewed to date. Though, the number 1 position really is the worst movie I've ever seen. As for the rest, they're terrible--one might even say they are a disgrace to cinema--but they may or may not deserve their ranking as time goes on. We'll just have to see! I'll have to do another list in a couple years or something to see what's changed and what hasn't. Anyway, I figure I've covered close to 450 movies to date, and a lot of it has been utter shit. Wouldn't it be fun to take a look back and laugh? If you've read many, or all of my reviews, you should be familiar with these abominations; if not, be sure to check out my many scathing reviews. With that said, there is the caveat that movies so bad they're good are not included. Yeah, I know, we all hate "The Room," "Troll 2," "House of the Dead," "Batman & Robin," etc., but they're too funny. I gave those films low ratings, however, I enjoy watching them; I seriously was choking and crying of laughter the last time I saw "Batman & Robin." Any film that can bring me such joy can't be that bad!

Now for the honorable mentions. These were the closest to making the list, but there were plenty of possibilities that's for sure. So, yeah, I may get a kick out of "Batman & Robin," but I can't say the same for that piece of shit "Batman Forever." Getting rid of Tim Burton was a huge ass mistake, and the new direction was painful to behold. They also ruined the momentum Batman was amassing and presented a story more childish and campy than the cartoon for kids! Worse, it was successful! The reason it didn't make my cut was because it almost crosses into so bad it's good territory...almost.

Next, "The Godsend." What can I say? It's beyond stupid and the whole film builds up to one of the worst endings ever. The only reason it's not on the list is because it has enough '70s elements for me to forgive the shenanigans and its lame attempts at ripping off "The Omen."

Fucking "Seed of Chucky." What a piece of shit. Like I said before, how do you go from the original "Child's Play" and end up with this monstrosity? It's only off the list because I can somewhat forgive the failed humor. Hey, at least they were trying, right?

Lastly, "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare," as it was an inexcusable attempt to end the brilliant Nightmare franchise. You had a pathetic skip to the future, disregarding of parts 3-5, retconning the continuity, a laughably bad 3-D gimmick, and a lackluster death for Freddy coupled with it being a complete ripoff of part 1...which didn't even kill Freddy. Yeah...this came VERY close to being on the list. And as someone who saw it when it first came out, being a big Freddy fan, I was furious to say the least. I'm still pissed!

Now, without further ado, my most hated 10 movies!

10. Halloween (remake): Oh god, I'm laughing already and we've only begun. There are seriously only two things good about this fucking disgrace: the high production value and Danielle Harris. And I love Danielle, but that doesn't mean I will go easy on her movies. Hell, if Danielle weren't here, this garbage would plummet down to number 5! Look, you don't fuck with the classics, Rob Zombie, you son of a bitch! Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to Zombie making movies--and I enjoyed "House of a 1000 Corpses" surprisingly--but don't pretend you have love for the franchise and then shit all over it in an attempt to pander to your own fans. The original, and REAL, "Halloween" is a legend, beloved by fans and critics alike, that helped launch a budding genre, the slasher, into the mainstream. This travesty, on the other hand, ruined everything we knew and loved about the characters and story. It was disrespectful and Zombie didn't even care to boot. To Rob Zombie, I say fuck you and fuck this godforsaken, piss poor excuse for a film! 

9. Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud: Few franchises have tested my patience as a horror fan as much as this one has. And there are only 4 of them--what does that tell you?! I shudder at the thought of going over the "Witchcraft" franchise. Uuugghh. The funniest part is I can't even remember anything about this anymore; I've blocked out too much. Even part 3 had a few memorable scenes with Pinhead. With that said, what I do remember is hating every waking second of it. Like my review mentioned, it took me 3 days to finish this shit; it was that insufferable! It didn't help that the production value made it look like it was made for TV in 1995. Finally, keep in mind the only reason why the "Halloween" remake is considered "better" than this, and films 8-5, is because of Danielle. Yes, she makes that big of a difference to me!

8. Episode 50: As I said in my review, check out that poster since it's the best thing going on for this movie. Like stupid "Pumpkinhead 4," this is another movie I had to take numerous breaks through. "Grave Encounters" was a surprise hit, and many fools tried to recreate that success; this being the worst wannabe. If you're going to exploit the success of a superior film, at least try to match its quality in some shape or form. The editing is one of the worst of all time, and the story makes no sense whatsoever. This was simply a mess, bland, boring, and a cheaply made ripoff of an already low budget movie. This would have served better as someone's youtube video or something rather than a full-fledged production.

7. Yoga Class: This is, unquestionably, the WORST Asian horror film! How anyone could think this film is good is beyond comprehension. The story is nonsensical, stupid, and full of terrible editing that's trying to rival "Episode 50." And that word. Somebody needs to get punched. Were they writing the script as they were filming or something? It didn't help that you can't see jack shit during the darker scenes. The only redeeming quality was the 30 seconds or so from that lingerie TV show.

6. The Bell Witch Haunting (2013): Oh no, I'm back to laughing again. My goodness, what a piece of shit. Talk about amateur hour. Like...was this funded by the Make-a-Wish Foundation? Why does this even exist?! The opening really wasn't that bad, but that's just to lull you into a false sense of security. The rug is immediately pulled out from under you when they're having a pool party in January! They do realize this was supposed to be winter, right? From there, everything goes downhill as you suffer through each torturous moment. Pitiful.

5. Jaws in Japan: Okay, had Danielle not been in the "Halloween" remake, this is where it would have been and the others would have been pushed up a notch. Since Zombie did one thing correctly, we get "Jaws in Japan" instead! I know I said "Yoga Class" was the worst Asian horror film, but this doesn't qualify as a horror to me. In fact, it hardly qualifies as a film in general. Like I said before, this is more than likely someone's footage from a vacation that they poorly edited into a feature. More so, that title is so misleading it makes me want to feed the creators to sharks. There is nothing here! There is no action, no story, no acting--NOTHING! It's just (admittedly) cute Japanese girls splashing around for an hour until the worst paper mache-looking, CGI shark jumps out of the water with accompanying ketchup blood. Believe me, if it weren't for the gigantic mammary glands bouncing around in each scene this would have been number 3. And the real icing on the cake...the site I saw this film on had this rated at an 8/10. EIGHT OUT OF TEN?!

4. 616 Paranormal Incident: Again with the cooler poster than the movie itself, eh? This is one of those movies where you can just tell the script was written in crayon. The story makes absolutely no sense when it surprisingly had the potential to be decent. However, they opted instead to fail in literally every facet of film making. Everything, from the acting to the shitty lighting and everything in between, is horrendous to behold. Can't forget the suicide-inducing ending--it is a hallmark of a bad film after all. The only aspect that stopped this from being number 3 were the halfway decent chicks--that's it.

3. The Haunted Dollhouse: This wasn't exactly one of my best reviews as I did not thoroughly explain how horrific this shit was to endure. With that said, I tried my best to stress how unbelievably stupid it was. This isn't even a true anthology film as it advertises. It's as if they edited together the worst home-movies sitting on some production company's shelf. The only odd saving grace was the inclusion of the last third of "Dollman vs. Demonic Toys." Not sure how that fits into this catastrophe but okay. Topping the shitacular nature of this film is going to take something special in the future.

2. Asian School Girls: Exploitation films aren't exactly known for being good, but this shit took things to a new plane of idiocy. Every single second of the running time is pure, unending torture. It's as if the creators set out to make the most insulting film possible to Asians. And it's certainly no secret that I love Asians, but these busted up, tranny-looking skanks frighten me--like, they're what Natre has nightmares about. Making matters even worse was the fetishistic pandering accompanied by making light of serious themes. I mean, really, an upskirt shot when a character is committing suicide after being raped? As I originally stated, this film is just gross. Of course I can't forget the monumental failure in all film making aspects as well. I could have completely forgiven this film's misgivings if the tone was lighthearted, but it takes itself quite seriously for some strange reason.

(Drum roll)

1. Howling VII: What else--it's the worst of the worst. Few words can express how fucking terrible this film is. I don't care what anyone says, this shit is on par with the likes of "Manos: The Hands of Fate," and imdb agrees with me! Besides having every single flaw I've mentioned thus far taken to the extreme, this film has the distinction of using the locals, from the filming location, for the "actors" almost exclusively. Worse, they included the personalities and inside jokes of the townspeople. You might be thinking, "Oh that sounds fun." Yeah...if your idea of fun is being put on a tiger bench (look it up). Now, I'll admit, I do find this film amusing and quote it whenever I get the chance, but that doesn't change the fact that it's the biggest blight to film that was ever conceived. Oh man, the dumb jokes...the predator-vision...the farting...that Halloween mask for the werewolf...fuck. However, this is the one bad movie I will recommend to check out. You know, I need to finally review this godforsaken franchise already.

Arrrggghhh! Too much shit--must get this rotten taste out of my mouth. I know--Rika, would you be a dear and close us out with a little of you being cute and dorky?

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Crone Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A J-pop trio visit a haunted nursing home with disastrous results.

Review: I'm usually the first to point out how bad a movie is, but this was nowhere near as bad as the reviews made it out to be. Don't get me wrong, there are a ton of stupid moments and mind-boggling decisions, but this was often countered with an interesting idea to balance things out. I think the main thing that will annoy a viewer is the cliched nature of everything. Let's face it, this could have easily been worked into a "Grudge" sequel and no one would have batted an eye. That's not a good thing, but, hey, a Kayako-clone is at least a safe bet. In fact, I was almost going to rate this as above average until that nonsensical ending. Never underestimate the ability of an ending to fuck up your movie.

J-pop idols visiting a haunted place is nothing we haven't seen before, but the actresses they used were each really cute; Shiori Kitayama, Miki Honoka, and Kaoru Goto in case you're wondering. While on the subject of these chickadees, there is a lot of thigh action going on with these girls! Definitely not complaining. Anyway, the movie doesn't mess around, and the ghosts are already coming out to play within the first 10 minutes. Considering how short this film is, I'm glad they didn't waste what little precious time they had on padding; though, they did focus a lot of drama on the girls not liking one another. As far as the scares are concerned, they weren't too bad, but why does no one react normally to them? If you found yourself being haunted by ghosts, would you keep showing up to work like it's no big deal? To give you a better idea of what I mean, one guy has his legs supernaturally broken and later amputated. Instead of being freaked out, or even taking time to recover for that matter, this asshole is seriously at work the next fucking day! Yeah...that would totally happen.

Essentially, the main ghost, or the crone, is running around like a fucking crackhead on PCP chasing after victims randomly. My god, these shots are laughably bad. I'm assuming they have a kid or some little ol' Japanese girl doing these scenes, but it looks hilarious considering it's supposed to be an old woman. Don't even get me started on the dumb noise she makes--needs to get one of my patented roundhouse kicks to the face for that shit. With that said, I did like the concept of the crone, and she's moderately scary looking. Again, the scares really aren't all that bad to see, they are simply cliched. At one point, one of the girls thinks she's Robin Williams in "Jack" as she ages rapidly to become a grandma. Instead of taking her to a hospital to be studied as a medical anomaly, the girl's mom decides to be a crazy bitch. Not sure what that was all about. And even though all of these scary things are happening, the girls still go back to the haunted nursing home to shoot more scenes! That's great.

We finally learn that the residents of the nursing home were abused and later tied up and left to die. But before this, the old people managed to create a doll that they channeled their vengeful willpower into; this magically turned into the crone spirit. The last girl standing is nearly killed by the crone, but the spirits of the other two girls come to her aid and help her defeat the crone. I really liked this aspect. I've been noticing more films lately featuring the ghosts of victims coming back to fight evil spirits. I mean, it stands to reason that if an evil spirit can exist a good one should also be able to. The last girl destroys the doll and things are seemingly over. Since this is a cliched horror film, they couldn't leave well enough alone, and the crone appears out of thin air sometime later. The last thing that happens is the crone turns the girl into a grandma. Let's just pretend the ending was some kind of subtle social commentary regarding the fact that Japan's retirement problem cannot be overcome by today's youth. That's what I'm going with at least.

I can't necessarily recommend checking this one out, but it's not as horrible as one would suspect. The crone notion is interesting, the girls are cute, the film is straight to the point with the pacing, and the scares were decent enough. On the other hand, the characters react nonsensically, the crone's running was unintentionally hilarious, there are a few shoddy effects, and there are a ton of shenanigans going on that seriously deter from the experience. If a lot of the idiocy had been toned down, this could have been a respectable little film despite the cliches.

Notable Moment: Any scene where you see the crone running around like she's Sonic dressed as Inuyasha. Unless you have some kind of fear of the geriatric community, you can't help but laugh each time.

Final Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Popcorn (1991) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A group of film students attract a killer when putting on a horror movie marathon.

Review: I think this was a holdover from the '80s since its formula fits that particular slasher mold; it certainly would have performed much better during that era. Plus, an ending theme song based on the movie's premise? Uhh, yeah, it doesn't get any more cheesy than that! As it stands, this wasn't too bad considering the kind of shit that came out in the early '90s. The parody of '50s b-movies was spot on, and using an old movie palace as a setting is simply amazing. Honestly, the switch to multiplexes (while practical) has been a huge disservice to younger generations and feels shallow and empty. With that said, I can understand why this movie failed. The killer's motive was questionable, if not completely ridiculous, and they missed the opportunity to fully utilize the story's concepts.

The film opens with a reoccurring nightmare by the main girl, Maggie, who is played by Jill Schoelen; horror fans will probably recognize Ms. Schoelen from her short-lived time as a minor scream queen. We are then introduced to an extremely annoying group of film students as well as Maggie's dumb boyfriend-ish character. Wait, this is supposed to be California and there are only a handful of film students? Really, we're sticking with that? Well, okay. There is something about them needing money or whatever so they decide to hold a horror movie marathon to raise said money. Cue '80s montage scene. While setting up for the event, the group stumbles across an old reel from a crazed filmmaker. Apparently this guy made a film that he intended to conclude in real life by killing his family. It would appear this film is actually the dream that Maggie has been haunted by.

I did enjoy the setup for the horror marathon as it was reminiscent of the shenanigans you'd see at Halloween. Of course I also loved the movies within a movie. They did a respectable job at capturing that cheap, over the top vibe of 50's b-movies; you know...the shitty stage-like dialogue, laughable effects, and nonsensical story lines. At the same time, their marathon played off the gimmicks they used to employ with things such as seats that shock you, props flying at the audience, and the many "ramas" like odorama. Hmph...remember the days when movies used to be an actual experience instead of utter disappointment? Yeah, me either.

As the marathon gets underway, someone begins to taunt Maggie whom she believes is that crazed filmmaker. The fodder is picked off here and there as the killer wears different masks that are molded from the corpses of each victim; in other words, he can look like the people he kills. For some strange reason, they start to spend way too much time dealing with Maggie's stupid boyfriend drama instead of focusing on the killer. When we do finally realize who the killer is, it's pretty much who you would suspect; he's like the assistant in the film class or whatever the hell. What's his reason for killing and targeting Maggie? Well, Maggie is really that crazed filmmaker's daughter who survived the attempt to kill her, hence, her dreams. The killer was also present for this incident as his mother was a follower of the filmmaker, and he was nearly burned alive during that struggle. For no logical reason, the killer blames Maggie for his horrible life as a burn victim stuck wearing a prosthetic face. To be fair, they do kind of point this out with the killer simply saying he is crazy after all. Good one. When trying to finish the crazy filmmaker's ending with Maggie's death, the killer involves the audience of the horror marathon who cheer him on. But before he can complete his work, that dumb boyfriend saves the day, and the killer is impaled on one of the props. Not the best ending, but I've seen worse.

There was a surprising amount of cool things going on throughout this film. I love the movie palace for a setting, the parody films and the audience's reactions to them were fantastic, the killer's face switching was interesting, and there was a certain self-awareness that made the presentation fun. On the other hand, there are a few plot holes (like the theater sign changing magically), the fodder was annoying, the boyfriend drama was unnecessary, certain plot elements weren't properly executed, and the killer's motive was reaching to the heavens. Overall, it's worth checking out as one of the rare horror films to come out of the early '90s that wasn't a complete trainwreck.

Notable Moment: While watching one of the films in the marathon, an audience member has a funny reaction to a character saying, "Kiss me, Dick." Priceless.

Final Rating: 6/10

Monday, January 19, 2015

Crazy Lips (aka Hakkyousuru Kuchibiru) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After her brother is accused of being a serial killer, a girl enlists the assistance of a weird psychic to solve the case as zany antics ensue.

Review: What on earth? This is easily one of the most sick and twisted films I've ever watched. After all these years, and becoming virtually desensitized to everything, there are still only so many rape scenes a guy can tolerate! Dear lord. And that is only the tip of the iceberg--you've got headless schoolgirls psychically killing someone, perceived incest, necrophilia, scalping, a musical number, a guy blowing a dildo in his leotard (uhh...), and so much more. Yeah...uhh...this isn't for the casual moviegoer to say the least. However, because everything is presented in this ridiculous, comical, just go with it, manner--and I'm sure I'll go to hell for this--I found myself strangely entertained. To be fair, this film is fucked up, but it's not as depraved as it may seem; although, I'd imagine people have different thresholds as to what constitutes depraved. Oh well. What can I's Japan!

This probably ranks right up there with "Hausu" in random instances of shenanigans. It's as if they wrote the script at a prison in a pass-around style. Believe it or not, the film starts off normal enough as the main character, Satomi, played by Hitomi Miwa, is hounded by reporters who want to know the whereabouts of her brother who has been accused of killing four girls. Apparently we've run into Ms. Miwa a few times now though I did not recognize the face; it's funny too because she looks like Winona Ryder, and you'd think that would stick with me. Anyway, Satomi and her family are being tormented due to the perceived guilt of the brother, but Satomi has consulted a psychic who claims the brother is innocent; more precisely, that the real killer is female. This is when things start to shift into zany antics, and the film does not let up until the insane conclusion.

First, the psychic performs a seance that summons the headless ghosts of the murdered girls. When time comes to pay the psychic, the psychic's henchman seemingly rapes the mom. There is this implication that when this henchman fucks someone they are like under his influence or something; though, the psychic claims "he's just that good." Disturbing. Satomi's sister, Kaori, not believing in the psychic is annoyed, so she tries to rape her ex-boyfriend; not going to lie, the series of scenes surrounding this are quite funny. First you have the ex-boyfriend trying to escape Kaori who steals his pants, then the guy runs outside to the reporters while screaming, the reporters chase him down the street, and one reporter keeps repeating how strange everything is but adding an extra "really" with each statement. It's surreal. On a side note, the actress playing Kaori, Hijiri Natsukawa, is pretty cute but this was her only acting credit unfortunately (according to imdb at least). Maybe she was embarrassed when her character was the next to get raped.

After singing randomly, it is revealed that Satomi has psychic powers too as she accidentally uses the headless ghosts to kill a detective tracking her. Out of nowhere, the FBI shows up to explain that Satomi has been brainwashed in order to perform a ritual for the psychic; one of the agents keeps speaking in English one-liners as well. When going home--surprise--Satomi is the next to get raped! This scene was pushing it even for me. I'll try not to be too graphic so you can interpret what happened in the notable moment section; it's only so notable due to the fucked up nature of it. Wait...what was I saying about depraved? Might have to change that stance. Of course Satomi wonders why the FBI didn't help her as she talks to the TV. Yes, the TV; the FBI has a fake channel or something.

The psychic, her henchman, and the ladies, all head toward where the headless ghosts claim their heads are residing. When they arrive, the psychic reveals that the ladies are the actual killers, and there isn't really an explanation of their motive nor why they have forgotten this fact. They find the brother, who is working with the psychic, as well as the families of the dead girls who want revenge. The psychic claims all of this nonsense will bring forth a god or aliens or something--hell if I know! The film suddenly transitions into a halfway decent action film as everyone is suddenly a martial artist. Still doing nothing, the FBI attempts to help with the English speaking agent getting raped. Oh for fuck's sake! More so, she kept singing leading up to that, and she has her blonde hair scalped in mid-fuck by the psychic. The other agent finally kills that godforsaken henchman and kills the scalped agent for the lulz. This minor victory is short-lived as the agent is killed by the god or aliens or whatever.

Meanwhile, the combatants finish their fights with only Satomi and the brother left standing. This is when we get another revelation that Satomi is pregnant with the brother's baby! Even though the movie has gone all out thus far, they decide to somewhat hold back and claim they aren't biologically related. Yes, that makes it better. The two decide to start banging immediately until the psychic kills them. The film then ends with the guy in the TV pulling out a dildo, sucking on it, then shooting himself right before a nuclear bomb explodes where this god/alien is supposed to be. The end! What the fuck... this film any good? Well, that depends on what your definition of "is" is. Despite the twisted events and morbid sense of humor, I was amused. I mean, it was meant to be half comedy after all. In this respect, the movie was successful. This isn't to say it was great as almost nothing made any sense, and the story felt like a bad LSD trip. Actually, a movie this bizarre is hard to properly rate in general. What standards do I even compare it to? There is also a sequel, but I won't get a chance to see that anytime soon. I can't stress enough: this film will not appeal to the masses or many hardcore fans for that matter. But for those who are used to, or even intrigued by these kinds of weirdo films, it's an experience to remember that's for sure.

Notable Moment: Uhhhh...this whole movie is loaded with scenes you can't forget even if you wanted. I guess I have to go with the necrophilia, DP rape scene. My fucking goodness, how do you think this shit up?!

Final Rating: 6/10

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hack! Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A group of college students, on a biology trip, find themselves at the mercy of killers trying to make their own movie.

Review: I think this film was trying to be like "Scream" but more than 10 years too late. At the same time, they went a little too far with the parody aspects in some kind of attempt to rival "Scary Movie." Honestly, they should have played it straight with a more subtle sense of humor. Most of the jokes are horror movie related, as you might guess, but the references felt forced when they could have been spun effectively into the plot. For example, you can't just have one of the killers sitting around dressed up as Sadako/Samara on the off chance a victim will pass by! On the other hand, I did enjoy the numerous nods and nuances that only a well versed film buff will pick up on; I'm sure there were plenty I didn't even know. But the best part of the film is having Danica McKellar, aka Winnie Cooper, as the main character, Emily. Though she wasn't a childhood crush for me, I know she was for many, and she is hot.

The movie starts by killing off Kane Hodder--how many films can boast that fact? We are then introduced to ridiculously cliched characters who will be the fodder. It's supposed to be college, but these are the kind of flunkies you'd find at the high school level or lower. Supposedly they all have the same biology class or whatever but the odds these people would cross paths are slim. Actually, all of these actors are noticeably too old to be playing kids taking intro college courses. Emily is supposed to be a geeky film major with a crush on her pretty-boy classmate. Oh man, a dorky-cute film fanatic? Where do I find a girl like that?! In case you couldn't tell within the first five seconds of seeing her, Emily, of course, is one of the killers. Considering you learn very early on that she was in charge of deciding who goes on this little trip they take, that should have been the huge ass giveaway.

The group of misfits go to some island to study animals, or whatever, and they are sheltered by a weird couple. I mean, these two pretty much scream, hi, we are the killers. Their scheme is a bit convoluted, but they are trying to make their own movie out of killing people. It's been done before and made more practical sense in other movies. As you will learn, Emily is the niece of this strange couple and assists them at various opportunities. They try to incorporate the themes of other horror films with each murder, but it doesn't always make sense. The fodder characters are idiotic and unlikable so I wanted the killers to succeed, but, alas, they fail (to a degree). The husband of the weird couple decides to randomly kill his wife out of the blue for no apparent reason; it was all for the art or some bullshit like that. There were just a ton of nonsensical choices along the way. Most characters and situations are contrived to hell and back which was making things frustrating. I wanted Emily and her lover-boy to get together too but that didn't work out. By the end, all the killers are dead as one cop shows up to seemingly rescue to survivors. In the final shot, it is revealed that this cop was actually the fourth killer in this scheme; a keen observer could have picked up on that early on. Still...four killers, really? That's pushing it.

I get that the makers were approaching this film from the perspective of a fan, but they did not achieve the vision I believe they had. It's fun to see little references to "The Karate Kid" when the main killer was from part 3, or a ship called the "Orca," but these kind of things weren't enough to save the film as a whole. Even the notion of the killers trying to make their own movie could have been presented infinitely better with a proper explanation of how 4 people come together on such an outlandish scheme. The flunkies intended to represent horror cliches was a nice way to cover up their existence, but it doesn't make their Jar-Jar tendencies any less insufferable. Overall, this was an amusing effort, I liked the Emily character, and the love for film is to be commended. However, the film is too shallow, predictable, and cliched to really warrant anything more than a view from hardcore horror fans. This is an easy pass for casual fans especially with its made-for-TV look with the minor exception of some titties (no, not from Ms. McKellar!).

Notable Moment: When Emily is dressed up like Sadako/Samara. What can I say, I'm a sucker for references to "The Ring."

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Ms. McKellar killing it with that dorky-cute look.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Scary True Stories: Ten Haunting Tales From the Japanese Underground Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A series of TV specials presenting, allegedly, true tales of the supernatural from Japan.

Review: My goodness that title is a mouthful! And that's the English version of the title; the Japanese version was not that ridiculously long. Anyway, I don't know a whole lot about this series except that they claim they inspired the J-horror boom of the late '90s and early '00s. Maybe that's true, maybe it's embellishment, but I can definitely feel a similar tone and style to the direction. These specials came out in '91 and '92 respectively, and are anywhere from 5-15 minutes in length. The stories are a bit tame, but they have a certain charm and innocence to them. As to the validity of these stories being, I highly doubt it. The alleged ghost photos they show before the segments are especially fake as they're mostly nothing more than lens flare. Even if the stories were true, there is no feasible way we could prove this. I will also mention the oddity that every story is told from the perspective of a female--what's with that? Oh well, on with the ten haunting tales!

The Lonely Girl: Compared to other horror series', this was a decent way to kick things off. We have a girl and her friends on some kind of swimming team as the main girl kicks it to the coach; well, she claims that's flirting of some kind--I'd call it casual conversation. While the main girl showers up, her friends, done showering, discuss that a girl had died on their team in the past. Meanwhile, the main girl thinks her friends are screwing with her as the ghostly apparition lurks about. Confronting what she believes are her friends, the main girl tries to get the ghost to come out of a bathroom stall. When idiotically putting her hand over the stall, the girl is attacked by the ghost who then chases her about before she starts screaming. With her friends and the coach coming to assist, the main girl avoids the team until she learns about the outcast life of the dead girl. And I guess that's it. We don't get to see any full on Kayako-action, but I thought this story had okay scares and respectable atmosphere.

Spiritual Flight: After the death of her grandma, who was a kind of medium, a little girl comes into contact with a strange force when walking home from school. Later on, the girl has an out of body experience which we could assume was a kind of astral projection. The girl floats around town and eventually finds herself in a large cemetery where she feels a similar force from earlier. The next morning, the girl seeks to discover whether her experience was real or not. However, instead of a large cemetery, she finds a pet cemetery. The girl comes to the conclusion that her calling in life is to be a medium similarly to her grandma. Hmm, not all that scary, but I suppose others claim to have experienced things like this; maybe there's a small chance something like this could be real.

Mystery of the Red Earring: This was arguably the best of the tales. The story, while cliched, was kind of creepy, and the one girl was cute and geeky--my favorite combo; I mean, she must really love her Bart Simspon shirt! So my little geek has invited over her friend to keep her company as she's been scared of strange events surrounding an earring she found. Apparently, after picking up a stray red earring, every time she goes to throw it away it reappears. The earring also brings forth weird occurrences, noises, and a ghostly apparition. When the girls try to sleep that night, they are awakened by a loud banging on the sun roof overhead. Then the friend notices a bloody woman slamming her face against the glass in an attempt to get her earring back all the while that geek is hiding under her blankets screaming; this girl is really trying to win me over, huh? The next morning, they take the earring to a temple where a weirdo priest claims he will take care of the situation. He also says he knows the earring belonged to a woman who committed suicide. Yeah, okay, buddy. And that's it. Not a lot of resolution to these stories; I suppose that makes them appear more real. Not too bad overall.

The Gymnasium in Summer: Three classic-looking, schoolgirls decide they will break into their school for the lulz when they come across various spirits. At first I wasn't sure what was happening since two of the girls claim to see ghosts almost immediately, but they choose to stick around for whatever reason. The third girl thinks they are messing with her as she hangs out in some sort of balcony. Shortly after, a ghostly woman in red comes at the third girl who is too scared to move. The other two find the scared girl, and they cheer her up with a stupid Winnie the Pooh doll. I guess that's it. I'm not sure why so many adult spirits would be haunting a school but sure. My main gripe with this particular segment was all the damn soft touch. My god, wipe the vaseline off the lens!

House of Restless Spirits: After seemingly moving into the Saeki house, a family is haunted by evil spirits--predominantly in the form of a man in black. For some reason, this is the only tale to specify the date that the events were happening which makes me believe perhaps this entry could legitimately be based on a real incident. The mom is the one that sees most of the shit happening, but the young daughter also appears to interact with the spirit. I liked how the school calls and says the daughter is not making friends; uhh, is that a thing teachers do/did? Growing tired of the hauntings, the mom is like, fuck this shit, which prompts the father to call in a spiritualist who appears to struggle with exorcising the evil. The family then decides to move out but not before mentioning that great misfortune came to the following occupants. Though this feels like every haunting ever, it's a decent story that did feel as though it could have been based in reality.

The Hospital at Midnight: Lesson in how to start off a story correctly: open with a Japanese nurse putting on her stockings! Incident report! This segment has the unique distinction of breaking the fourth wall as the nurse is recounting to the audience her incidences as an early intern. When doing her rounds one night, accompanied by the primary nurse on duty, the two come across a patient walking about in the dark. When the intern nurse inquires about what to do, the other nurse says that that guy died recently. In another incident, the nurse is doing her rounds alone when she feels herself being dragged down the stairs by a force. Comically enough, the nurse is dragged down the hallways before being slammed into a wall. The nurse believes that this strange force is what comes for the dead at the hospital or something like that. Lastly, after being buzzed to an unoccupied room, she explains that she has gotten used to working the midnight shift and feels a certain empathy for the spirits. Hmm, she's clearly an insane weirdo...but I'd date her. This was another pretty cool story despite a few hilarious moments. Plus, you can never go wrong with nurses.

Be Gone Crone!!: This was one of the shorter tales, but it almost managed to be scary had the ghost looked cooler. A young girl is simply trying to study, but her friend tells her a ghost is coming to her house and wants to inform her on how to get rid of it. Interesting conversation to say the least. Sure enough, lurking at her window is a ghost that tries to get into the home. I'll give you one guess as to what you say in order to stop the ghost. BE GONE CRONE!! Begone? Actually, that ghost didn't look much like a crone but I'll go with it. Short and sweet yet shallow compared to the rest of the segments.

My Friend At the Stairwell: Two young, schoolgirls begin to bond over their strange feelings regarding a blood stain on a stairwell. The girls believe that something is not right about that spot as well as believing they see a ghostly boy in their peripheral vision. I enjoyed how the one girl, when talking to her other friends, is like, "I have a lunch appointment." Did kids used to talk like that? They should go back to that! Anyway, after finally seeing the ghost for sure, one of the girls becomes obsessed with making contact as she believes she can hear the ghost's cries for help in her head. doesn't sound crazy whatsoever. Going alone, the girl does speak to the ghost, but he tries to chase her with his blood-soaked face accompanied with sadistic grin. When the other friend shows up, the two realize that there is no way they can help the ghost. Screw that ghost! It was wise that they tried to make this a scary segment, but the lighting was far too bright; other than that, a solid effort for sure.

Paralysis: This is easily the worst of the bunch. It's as short as the "Be Gone Crone!!" story, but it's nowhere near as entertaining. All that happens is a woman comes home from work or whatever, talks to her idiotic friend on the phone, then goes to bed. Oh, and she appears to trip out on acid too. Later on, the girl feels herself unable to move which we could assume is the concept of sleep paralysis (thus the title). However, it would appear a bunch of goofy-looking ghosts are holding the woman in place. After the initial scare, the ghosts relent and that's it. Hell, I didn't even realize the story was over until a couple minutes into the next entry. I was still trying to figure out where they were going with this--apparently nowhere-land.

The Black Hair in the Abandoned Building: This was probably the closest contender for best segment, and was ripe with, what would become, many J-horror cliches. But I think it was my beloved geek-girl in the "Mystery of the Red Earring" that helps it one-up this story. So this story begins with a guy in the hospital already, from POV, while he's talking to his girlfriend-ish character. Some time ago, the girl, the boyfriend, and the girl's brother all visited some abandoned building as the title would entail. They were taking various photos which later turned out to reveal unsettling images. At one point, they stumble across a mirror as well as a box with a large portion of hair stuffed inside. "What's in the box?!" Sorry, couldn't resist. For whatever idiotic reason, the brother runs off to take more photos while the two lovebirds rest a bit. This is when they notice the boyfriend has long strands of hair on his arm. They decide they should put that hair back in its box, but, when they do, the boyfriend sees a wannabe-Kayako in the mirror. Scared shitless, they begin to run away from, what appears to be, It's deadlights. Narrowly escaping, we cut back to the hospital POV where the girlfriend says the guy's hair is starting to grow long and look like the hair from the box. When the guy looks in a mirror, his hair is long, but he sees the Kayako-clone saying howdy. I did like the atmosphere for this segment, and it was mildly scary; definitely a great way to close out a collection such as this.

I wish they had more segments, but I suppose I've been spoiled by the "Tales of Terror" franchise. The budget for the tales was low, as you might guess, but they worked with the material well enough. Plus, J-horror from the '70s-90s has a distinct flavor different than the films that came afterward, and I miss that on occasion. I only wished they were scarier back then. I get that they were trying to play off the fear that these tales are real, but I think this made them hold back too much. Had they went balls to walls, I would have rated this higher. However, I'll admit, if I can find any way to substantiate the claims that these are real stories, I'd up the rating a point. Overall, this was a cool collection, and it was really cheap--definitely worth a look for Asian horror fans.

Notable Moment: During the "Mystery of the Red Earrring" segment when the ghost is slamming her face on the sun roof. I don't know why, but this is really disturbing to me.

Final Rating: 6/10

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ouija (2014) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After their friend seemingly commits suicide, a group of teens try to contact her spirit with an old ouija board.

Review: Following the bizarre development of this film, I'm really surprised this managed to be so successful. This movie had a ton of alterations made during production which explains the shoddy editing and unusual flow of the story's events. However, the most fascinating thing about this film is that Hasbro appears to have fully backed it. Yeah...nothing like a bunch of people making contact with evil spirits and being killed to sell your games! I imagine they originally wanted this to be like a "Jumanji" type of deal, but, come on, there really isn't any other way to spin this material. Curiously enough, I discovered a ouija board in my closet too before I saw this film. I'm not even joking. Ahhhhh so scary! I simply gave it away to my mom as a Christmas present; it even glowed in the dark--thanks Hasbro! I'm sure she will be fine. Honestly, I don't believe in the ouija board; this is based on my own experiences playing with it as a kid, teen, and adult. If anyone wants to go on believing, or is convinced it's real, then you're free to do so.

The story is sort of a mess with an abundance of contrivances and a predictable twist. Thankfully, the atmosphere is commendable which helps ease you through. After discovering an old ouija board, and playing alone, a girl ends up awakening an evil spirit residing in her home; this somehow leads to her apparent suicide. When the girl's friends try to contact her spirit to find out what happened, they instead make contact with said evil spirit; as you might easily guess, the spirit pretends to be good at first in order to manipulate the group. After many zany antics, the group frees this evil spirit, which is a little girl, and they believe it's over. Thinking she's some kind of next-level Samara, this evil spirit attempts to kill what's left of the group as they realize they've made a mistake. Ending in the only way they could, the last two girls burn the body of the evil spirit as well as the ouija board. I'll give you one guess as to what happens next. Give up? The main girl finds the ouija board, unburned, at her house so we can get a closing zinger. No...I would never have seen that coming.

Eh, I have mixed feelings on this one. It was just so hard for me to overlook those godforsaken contrivances (all the parents left town at once, huh?). The odd pacing and editing certainly didn't do the film any favors in making it enjoyable. Don't even get me started on some of the acting, the joking after their friend died, and the dead end plot lines like the dumb sister's boyfriend. On the other hand, there was a genuine sense of dread to the tone, they didn't wimp out with killing the friends off, and there were a few creepy moments. Hmm, I suppose this is worth a view, but keep your expectations low enough and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Notable Moment: When they go to free Doris' spirit and then suddenly the mom is attacking them. Uhh okay, can we have a moment to set this up? This was such a terribly edited scene.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Friday, January 9, 2015

Talk to the Dead (Japanese 2013) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A girl uses a mysterious phone app to make contact with her dead brother.

Review: This year is not off to a good start with a mess like this. This is easily one of the most genre-confused movies I've watched to date. It's as if they keep forgetting this was marketed as a horror movie and insist on fighting against the scares in order to establish this as a lame drama. I mean, I'm tired of the J-horror cliches as much as the next fan, but I'd rather watch another Kayako clone than this kind of half-assing. Beyond not knowing what to do with the material, the film fails to tell a compelling story anyway. All that work to attempt a supernatural drama and you give us a horrible story and an entire subplot that never interacts with the primary story! Really?! My goodness...

The story revolves around a girl named Yuri who is some kind of prostitute. I really don't know what she is since, at one point, one of her "clients" is offering her money for "real" sex. I get this is Japan--and anything someone can think up probably happens--but nobody is going to pay these busted chicks just to strip and stand there or whatever. Besides, Yuri does eventually screw people so this is a moot point really--simply a nonsensical plot aspect to include. Moving along...Yuri feels guilty that the first time she fucked a client was when she was supposed to be watching her brother who somehow ended up dead. You'd think this mysterious death would somehow contribute to the story or come back as a revelation, but, alas, it is never explained. I guess he just keeled over dead--probably from watching this very movie. We could assume that Yuri's psycho mom was involved somehow, but they do not explore that angle at all. Speaking of the mom...there's something about Yuri being a prostitute to help pay off the mom's debts or something. I don't fucking know.

Eventually, Yuri's pathetic friend gives her the "talk to the dead" app, for her phone, that can magically allow an individual to have conversations with spirits. Of course Yuri contacts her brother, named Satoshi, but Yuri is hesitant as it easily seems like a hoax. Encouraged by that friend, Yuri tries to make more calls to Satoshi with the clarity of the calls growing with each attempt and Satoshi proving he's the real deal. While all of this is going on, we get a continual tangent plotline that serves no purpose nor intersects with the main plot! Apparently a reporter is seeking out the app in order to talk to her dead boyfriend or whatever. Eventually she finds out her boyfriend died because he was drunk driving after discovering she cheated on him. Then the reporter whines to the guy she cheated with as if she has no part in the situation. And that's it. Wow, so glad we got that huge ass filler to an already short movie.

An aspect I have neglected to mention thus far is that when talking to the ghosts, if you agree to meet with them, you will die. Yuri's dumb friend decides to kill herself after their, uhh, pimp(?), appears to ask her out but is not really interested. You see why I called her pathetic? Talk about fragile as fuck. Then Yuri decides to get herself killed by meeting with Satoshi's ghost on his birthday. Oh goodness gracious. As her final move, and with help from the pimp-guy, Yuri arranges for the psycho mom to get a phone with the app installed so that the mom will be tricked into getting killed by Yuri's ghost. Sure enough, the mom is killed in a ridiculous manner. Then, out of nowhere, the pimp wants to get killed by Yuri since he's in love with her and wants to be with her. Yuri's ghost says live, you little bitch, and that's the end. Rika, baby, what kind of shit ending is that?

I actually thought the premise held endless potential so how do you screw it up this badly? Besides being a drama with only the faintest horror elements, the drama itself is boring and lame. Really, fake prostitutes, that's the best you got? And, seriously, what was the point of the reporter? We didn't need to know her stupid story, and it didn't even have resolution! At no point did anyone wonder where this app came from or how it works; the characters accept everything at face value. While this plot isn't exactly original, they could have worked the story into a cliched J-horror and it still would have been infinitely better. Fuck...if you want to waste your time with this mess, be my guest; it's on youtube right now.

Notable Moment: When Yuri finds Satoshi dead in the bath. He looked kind of scary--too bad the ghost version didn't.

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Thursday, January 8, 2015

As Above, So Below (2014) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Adventurers explore the catacombs under Paris in pursuit of the philosopher's stone.

Review: Well, it's a new year and that means only one thing: more disappointment! Once more, this was a film I was really looking forward to seeing, and it's not at all as I had imagined. Look at the trailer for this movie--it looks truly frightening with all manner of potential! In actuality, the story is a cross between "National Treasure" and "The Descent" mixed with a few other cliches. These plot elements do combine interestingly, and the film is entertaining enough, but I wanted a full blown horror film especially with the notion of finding a gateway to hell within the catacombs. Eh, maybe my expectations were set too high.

The best aspect going for this film was a successful sense of claustrophobia; the sets felt dark, damp, confined, and suffocatingly tight. There was more than one instance where you could almost feel your own panic building. The catacombs themselves, and the endless tunnel complex, is a fantastic setting for a film and one that is explored far too little. The scares that we do see, which are almost exclusively featured in the trailer, are intense and offered up some cool scenarios. I wish they gave us more of those demons, or whatever, that were roaming around the tunnels however. Likewise, the ghostly visions that haunt the characters were cliched, but the subtle execution allowed me to enjoy it. Finally, the acting and other technical aspects were good.

As for the failings of the film...the worst, and most unexpected aspect to me, was the whole "National Treasure" vibe. The main girl is mindlessly pursuing the philosopher's stone, because no one would believe her father. There are multiple contrivances in the pursuit of the elusive stone that were hard for me to accept. Too much of the film feels like an adventure rather than horror, and it doesn't help that the first, somewhat, creepy thing doesn't occur until around the 35+ minute mark. More so, the plot elements don't mesh properly with the whole philosopher's tone, Paris catacombs, and a gateway to hell. Speaking of which, I had hoped the moment they transitioned into hell, or wherever, would have been a significant change but it's not. Plus, what's with the vague cult and that one stupid chick from the club that follows them? I felt like the horror elements were tacked on at the last second as a better way to sell the film's ideas. It tricked me that's for sure.

Overall, this film is not what it appears. If you were hoping this would be a nightmarish ride to hell (literally), while hapless victims explored the cool catacombs of Paris, then you would be wrong. If you can appreciate the idea of a lighthearted adventure film spiraling into chaotic horror midway through, then you should thoroughly enjoy this movie. I realize it sounds like I'm bashing this film to a degree, but that is simply my disappointment speaking. This was a decent film that had many awesome moments and fantastic atmosphere. It's worth a view, without a doubt, but the further you stay away from that misleading trailer the better.

Notable Moment: When they hear the phone ringing in the tunnels. That was a cool idea, but they didn't work the material enough for it be as scary as it should have been.

Final Rating: 6/10