Movie Review: The Tower (2008)

Fantasy Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi

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Above the city of Detroit, a long abandoned tower rots in the skyline.  The structure appears lifeless, but in the dead of night a bright light shines from the top window.  Doug (Rick Kunzi) becomes obsessed with entering the tower after learning about its mysterious history: According to legend it’s said to be a gateway to another world.  When Doug goes missing, his sister Lucy (Roxy Strickland) is convinced that he’s trapped inside the tower, leading her on a quest to save her brother while coming face-to-face with the mysteries of the tower and the dangers that lurk within it.

”The Tower”, despite its flaws, is a highly ambitious, deeply imaginative low budget gem, where the sheer scope of the storytelling, abundance of atmosphere and creature designs draw you into a world that’s nightmarish and surreal.  This is not your standard horror film with zombies and beasts; the story is complex and full of mystery, where science fiction and fantasy intersect with horror to create something bizarre, engrossing and original.  It’s a journey into hell, where reality is a blur and danger awaits in every corridor.

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The horrors within the tower include an assortment of zombies, demons and spirits, with more other worldly beings introduced as the story evolves at a brisk pace, which never feels like its dragging.  The Clive Barker influence shines throughout; this isn’t your conventional type of horror film and it’s hard to categorize it alongside anything else.  The demons are reminiscent of Barker’s work, whereas the dimensional aspects and sci-fi crossover evoke memories of Don Coscarelli; especially the latter ”Phantasm” sequels.  However, this is its own beast entirely; boasting a nightmarish vision that drags us with its protagonist through a limbo between worlds as she tries to find her brother and a way out before she becomes just another victim of the void.

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The acting is the only gripe I have with ”The Tower”; nobody experts Marlon Brando levels of character portrayal from an independent horror film, but this cast was amateurish and bland.  However, it’s not the worst either and it doesn’t take us out of the story – which is as engrossing as it is haunting. All of the money they had has went into special effects, which are rather impressive – especially the creature designs which you’ll see in the trailer at the end of my review.  What really carries ”The Tower” though is heart and passion: These filmmakers have put their all into this project and it shows.  For fans of this type of cinema, especially myself, that goes a very long way and makes the flaws irrelevant.

One of the main strengths of this movie is how it transports us to another world.  It’s surreal and leaves a lot to be dissected and interpreted, but very few movies have captured the feeling of actually being stuck in a hellish limbo quite like this.  It possesses a strange, dreamlike quality similar very few movies have managed to capture; watching it is like being thrust into the haze of a nightmare.

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The only available DVD copies are Japanese bootlegs and they don’t come cheap, but you can buy it here.  Even trying to find it through more nefarious means will prove to be a challenge unless you’re a member of some exclusive sites which specialize in rare, underground films.  It’s quite heartbreaking to know this will fade further into obscurity as the years go by; there were even points where I doubted it was even a real movie.  There are no reviews to be found online, nor is there any trace of the filmmakers or any word of mouth about the film.  Movies with this much imagination, made by filmmakers striving to be different deserve to be seen.  But alas, the world isn’t fair sometimes.

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I could include spoilers as it’s highly likely you’ll never see it.  But I’m not going to.  If the following trailer sparks your interest enough to buy it or delve into the far reaches of the web to find it, you deserve the joy of experiencing it firsthand.  This is a movie which throws surprises at you and defies expectations.  Highly recommended.  8/10

Directors: Dan Falzone & Dan McGowan

Writers: Dan Falzone, Dan McGowan, Lon Strickland, Roxy Strickland

Starring: Roxy Strickland, Rick Kunzi, Norm Roth

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 90 min

Movie Review: Gargoyle (2004)

AcionHorror, Fantasy Horror, Horror Comedy, Movie Reviews

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Jim Wynorski (also known as Jay Andrews and other names) is responsible for cult classics such as the killer robot riot Chopping Mall (1986) and the hilarious Return of Swamp Thing (1989), along with hundreds of other titles which fit into the beloved unofficial sub-genre of ”so bad it’s good.”  I haven’t seen enough of his movies (because that would take forever and I don’t expect to live as long as that), but, from the little I have seen, his movies have been a trashy good time.  I went into Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness without any prior knowledge of the existence of the flick at all: but I like gargoyles and Netflix reviewers seemed to enjoy it, so I took a chance.  Needless to say I was not disappointed; for a brain switcher offer, this delivered an abundance of daft entertainment to waste a few brain cells to.  Mindless fun was what I needed and Gargoyle was the sweet, filling box of popcorn to satisfy my craving.

In the 1980’s Michael Pare was a star for awhile; Streets of Fire (1984) is the role he’s most remembered for, but since the 90’s his career has relegated to mostly straight-to-video action and horror movies that only get watched by connoisseurs of cheese such as myself.  Gargoyle probably isn’t one of his proudest moments, in which he plays a CIA agent sent to Romania to investigate a kidnapping only to be confronted with a centuries old computer generated gargoyle hellbent on the Apocalypse.

It opens in 1532 where a gargoyle is terrorizing attacking a village.  A priest and a hot village woman manage to put a brief stop to the beast and trap it underground.  Fast forward to the present day and the gargoyle is loose in Romania once again and it’s up to a poor mans Mulder and Scully to put a stop to it.  Halfway through the movie there’s a ridiculous sub-plot introduced involving a cult that makes little to no sense at all; but that’s not to say it isn’t welcomed.

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The special effects aren’t the worst you’ll ever see, the lines are witty and the acting is the right amount of bad.  There’s plenty of action involving gargoyle attacks and car chases to ensure the movie is never boring.  For an entertaining time passer, it fits the criteria and I’d go as far to call it a little underrated gem; albeit a crappy one.  It’s not completely inept – just really cheap and ridiculous.  7/10 (for pure entertainment factor).

Directed By:

Jim Wynorski

Written By:

Michael Pare, Sandra Hess, Fintan McKeown

Genre:

Horror, Action, Fantasy

Movie Review: Nightbreed: Director’s Cut (2014)

Fantasy Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews

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Let’s face it: As wildly imaginative and wonderful as the 1990 theatrical cut of Nightbreed is, it feels like a rushed effort that’s been more chopped and skewed than a Lil John album.  Despite being a film you can watch repeatedly, a black cloud hovers above it suggesting that it could have been so much more.  Upon it’s original release, the studio didn’t know how to market it and it suffered as a result, but there was enough fantastical beauty to make it a cult classic and make us wish that Midian was a real place.  Now, thanks to Scream Factory, we get to see Clive Barker’s tale the way it was originally intended to be without pesky studio meddling.  The question is: was it worth the wait?

You better believe it was.

In case you aren’t familiar with Nightbreed, it’s a film adaptation of Clive Barker’s novella, Cabal.  It stars Craig Sheffer as Boone, a troubled young man plagued by nightmares of a sub-cemetery community known as Midian, where monsters and creatures dwell.  Meanwhile, there’s a serial killer on the loose murdering families, and Boone’s ex-psychiatrist, Decker (David Cronenberg) convinces Boone that he’s the culprit and must turn himself in.  That night, Boone is hospitalized and he hears a mental patient talking about Midian, and said patient tells him how to get there.  Once he arrives, he’s chased out and shot dead by police, which was Decker’s plan all along so he could locate Midian for his own sick agenda.  Later that night, Boone rises from the dead and gains entry to Midian, but his girlfriend tracks him down and gets into a spot of bother with Decker, causing Boone to rush to her aid.  However, Decker escapes and brings the authorities and angry locals along to wage war on the creatures of Midian, and it’s up to Boone to save the day.

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When Nightbreed was released the studio didn’t know how to market it and missed the point entirely: If you’ve read Barker’s work, you’ll know that that he sympathizes with outcasts.  The monsters in Nightbreed were never intended to be the baddies: the real villains were the humans for trying to destroy what they didn’t understand.  Midian was a peaceful community, governed by law and hidden from the living world.  The humans on the other hand were all savages who wanted to kill the monsters just for being monsters.  It’s a metaphor for prejudice, but the studio wanted the monsters to be predators and not the victims.

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Thanks to the Director’s Cut, the backstory of the creatures of Midian has been fleshed out and they’re portrayed the way they were originally intended.  Furthermore, the relationship between Boone and his girlfriend is given more time to flourish.  While still retaining strong horror elements, the new version of Nightbreed is more of a fantasy love story, and if that puts you off, you might just find yourself missing out on a wonderful film.  Most of Clive Barker’s work is difficult to categorize due to the depth of it all: Nightbreed is his most transcendent movie to date and unlike anything else your bound to see.

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Boasting fantastic practical creature designs, striking cinematography and an epically menacing otherworldly score by Danny Elfman, Nightbreed is the type of escapism that sucks you into a world you’ll get lost in.  Clive Barker wanted this to be the, ”Star Wars of monster movies” and with this cut, he gets his wish: Although Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) might have something to say about that… Regardless, Nightbreed doesn’t have to be compared to anything because it’s a rare original beast no other movie has ever come close to being comparable to.  Pure cinematic gold. 9/10

Directed By:

Clive Barker

Written By:

Clive Barker

Starring:

Craig Sheffer, David Cronenberg, Anne Bobby, Doug Bradley

Running Time:

122 mins

Genre:

Fantasy, Horror, Romance