Movie Review: Adam Chaplin (2011)

Action, Crime, Horror, Movie Reviews

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They say we fall in love when we least expect it – and after watching ”Adam Chaplin”, I can wholeheartedly relate to this sentiment.  Every once in awhile, you stumble upon a movie that caters so well to your tastes. you think it was made just for you.  That’s the feeling that overwhelmed me when watching ”Adam Chaplin”, the manic action-horror hybrid revenge story from Necrostorm – an Italian film production company who specialize in gore and insanity.  Inspired by Japanese manga and violent B movies of the 1980’s and 90’s, this self-proclaimed ”Italian gore extravaganza” is an amazing triumph of micro-budget cinema.

Set in the fictional country of Heaven Valley, the film tells the story of Adam Chaplin – a demonically possessed vigilante with superhuman strength hellbent on avenging the death of his wife, who was burnt alive at the hands of Denny, a sadistic mob boss who is impossible to touch.  With a corrupt police force and a hired killer on his case, Adam and his demon sidekick must slaughter their way through their foes before vengeance can be claimed.

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To compare ”Adam Chaplin” with other movies, I’d say it’s a combination of ”The Crow (1994)”, ”Faust: Love of the Damned (2000)”, ”Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)” and ”Fist of the North Star (1986)” to name a few.  Essentially, it’s a comic book come to life: the story is a Faustian tale of revenge, with cartoonish characters in a city ruled by crime and corruption.  The villains are grotesque, maniacal and savage, whereas Adam is a trench coat clad killing machine who can punch through faces. Visually, it’s dark and grimy, with an ever present blue flair which further enhances its comic book aesthetic; this provides a stunning contrast to all of the crimson splatter, which sprays, splurts and slithers in gallons.

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Gore is the obvious appeal of a film like ”Adam Chaplin”, and it makes sure to bring it to the forefront whenever possible – which is often as the story was tailor-made to include as much visceral carnage as possible.  Blood sprays, limbs are torn and heads are bashed; eyeballs and brains are squished and allowed to pour out from skulls and lay with rotten carcasses.  However, the plot – as thin and simple as it may be – makes for an engaging story to be told.

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The film is a showcase of practical effects, which look absolutely outstanding considering the budget they were working with – which was less than the daily catering of a Michael Bay movie.  I imagine this will be very inspiring to any up and coming horror filmmakers.  At times it is a little rough around the edges, but the sheer ambition of the project – as well as the heart and effort put in – is so incredible it blurs out its minor flaws.

”Adam Chaplin” is the type of film many horror fans yearn for: a violent, frenzy of bizarre madness that’s so off the rails you wonder if it was even on track to begin with.  It’s a balls-to-the-wall splatter fest full of non-stop action at its most hyper and deranged.  It’s style over substance at its most entertaining and a sure fire cult classic of popcorn entertainment. Necrostorm are bringing Italian splatter back to prominence in the 21st century.  And they’re doing so with style.  8/10

Written & Directed By:

Emanuele De Santi

Starring:

Emanuele De Santi, Valeria Sannino, Chiara Marfella

Genre:

Action, Horror, Crime

Running Time:

84 min

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Movie Review: American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts & Gore (2015)

Extreme Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews

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The original Japanese ”Guinea Pig” series is regarded as a landmark achievement of extreme cinema, famously receiving notoriety after Charlie Sheen reported Flowers of Flesh & Blood (1985) to the FBI in 1991 because he was convinced that it was a real snuff film.  This led to an investigation, with the creators going on trial and having to prove that the atrocities being committed on screen were indeed fake.  Suffice to say, the film is now regarded as a cult classic as a result; if Federal authorities get involved, then your movie has achieved its goal.

”American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts & Gore” is the modern American reboot of the series, directed by first timer Stephen Biro, founder of Unearthed Films, a company which specializes in distributing movies made with the intention of making viewers physically sick.  From the moment I heard about this movie, I was intrigued:  These type of films aren’t usually my cup of tea by any means, but the hype surrounding ”Bouquet of Guts & Gore” was too great to ignore.  Deemed by many reviewers as the most unpleasant experience they have ever had to endure – in the good way, not the Adam Sandler way – I just had to check it out to see if it would break my threshold.  Unfortunately, it didn’t make me vomit; I’m the type of guy who can watch human beings getting butchered and not flinch, then go ball my eyes out watching ”Marley & Me.” However, ”Bouquet of Guts & Gore” impressed me as a visual spectacle: I was in awe at the gore FX, as opposed to sickened like many people will be. However, I was entertained for the duration, even though it’s not a movie anybody in their right mind would describe as ”entertaining.”  Thankfully, I’m not in my right mind.

Essentially, ”Bouquet of Guts & Gore” is the abduction, drugging, dismemberment and disembowelment of 2 females while a film crew record the vile acts.  It’s a faux snuff film with not much in the way of story or character development.  Shot on 16mm, it’s looks grainy and homemade; and is so unrelentingly cruel and mean spirited it’s sure to test the metal of most viewers.  There’s an audience for this type of film and anybody who watches it knows what they’re getting themselves into.  Enter at your own risk, because the butchering that takes place on screen is as authentic looking as you’re likely to see, outside of… you know… actual murder.

For me, the lack of attachment to the victims made it difficult to sympathize with their plight.  It’s very rare a film will make me feel sick or disturbed, so in those regards, ”Bouquet of Guts & Gore” didn’t succeed.  However, it will make a lot of viewers feel rotten to their core and in desperate need of a shower afterwards.  For gore lovers like me, they’ll sit and marvel at the FX courtesy of Marcus Koch, who, in my opinion, is the absolute best FX artist working in horror right now.

The score is another highlight of the film which will give viewers feelings of unease.  Orchestrated by Jimmy Screamerclaus, the weirdo genius behind psychotic fever dream ”Where The Dead Go To Die (2013)”, the ominous doomscape is sure to creep into the nerves of many a viewer and remain with them long after, when they replay the heinous acts they just witnessed over again in their head.

”American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts & Gore” isn’t a movie I recommend, due to its content.  It was made for a particular group of horror fan; the ones who openly bask in the nasty pleasures of the abyss.  If you’re a fan of extreme, transgressive cinema of this nature then you’ve probably seen it already – or will soon.  However, for a guy like me, who isn’t a fan of pseudo snuff films usually, I wasn’t bored for a minute and it’s definitely a stand out little nasty I won’t forget anytime soon.  I can’t say I was blown away by it – minus the outstanding gore – but I was entertained for 72 minutes and I have no doubt it’ll be regarded as a classic of its kind, much like its predecessors.  Stephen Biro is a successful Jack of All Trades, and he can add director to his list of talents.  Overall, this is a movie that will offend people and undoubtedly get banned in many countries, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do and deserves plaudits.  7/10.

Fun fact: Biro named the victims after his ex-wives.  I thought that was funny.

Written & Directed By:

Stephen Biro

Starring:

Eight The Chosen One, Scott Gabbey, Jim Van Bebber

Genre:

Horror

Running Time:

73 min

Movie Review: Kids (1995)

drama, Movie Reviews

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20 years ago, a movie was released which the New York Times described as ”a wake up call to the modern world.”  However, not all critics were as moved by Larry Clark’s harrowing depiction of street youth culture, with the Washington Post even going as far to call it ”child pornography disguised as a cautionary documentary.”  Needless to say, ”Kids” was a divisive movie upon its release, and remains as such to this day.

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Adopting the style of a quasi-documentary, ”Kids” is not a movie that was made to be enjoyable or entertaining; Larry Clark’s intention was to make ”the Great American Teenage Movie”; a looking glass of American youth at its most honest.  In order to achieve his goal, Clark enlisted Harmony Korine to help write the screenplay, who was only 19 years old at the time. While doing research himself, Clark would hang out with young skaters, building relationships and learning their habits, before convincing them to take part in the film.

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Of course, ”Kids” was not an accurate depiction of all American teenagers, but it was representative of a large contingent; one of which many people would not be aware of, or maybe even choose to ignore.  Here, every single character is driven by sex, drugs and drinking – with their days spent seeking only these things.  Telly, played by Leo Fitzpatrick, is as obnoxious as a teenager can be; a self-proclaimed ”virgin surgeon”, he spends most of his time deflowering young girls then laughing about it with his friends afterwards.  It could be argued that ”Kids” presents young people at their very worst: a deliberately bleak portrayal of a culture painted ugly. Telly, as a character, is the kid who gives parents nightmares – and Fitzpatrick’s performance is so natural and raw you sometimes forget that it’s an actor playing a fictional person.  He has no moral compass – neither do his friends, and it makes for uncomfortable viewing.

The use of an untrained, first time cast is used to great effect, as the film feels very authentic and true-to-life, much like a documentary.  While containing a plot and structured narrative like a movie, the cast evoke sincere realism.  The way they dress and speak, do and say feels so natural you feel like you’re watching days in the lives of real people.  With his intention, Clark succeeded effectively in that regard.

I couldn’t blame anybody for hating a film like ”Kids”; it’s an uncomfortable experience that will instill uneasiness and trepidation in even the most jaded viewer.  However, to dismiss it as ”exploitation” – like many critics did – is missing the point entirely.  Furthermore, it is not a movie that was made to make the culture it was showcasing look bad.  It was created as a wake-up call to highlight topics such as social injustice, disillusionment and the dangers of unsafe sex.  In fact, if you ask me, ”Kids” would be an effective film to show teenagers to encourage them to be cautious.  Even those with privileged, sheltered upbringings could suffer the same fates to those in Larry Clark’s depiction of a world that does exist.

”Kids” is not a movie I can recommend to the casual viewer, but if you can appreciate challenging cinema then it’s not to be missed.  Love it or hate it, there’s no denying it’s unique.  And the type of movie we might never see again.  10/10.

Directed By:

Larry Clark

Written By:

Larry Clark, Harmony Korine & Jim Lewis

Starring:

Leo Fitzpatrick, Chloe Sevigny, Rosario Dawson

Genre:

Drama

Running Time:

91 min

Movie Review: Vendetta (2015)

Action, Movie Reviews

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First off, I’d like to issue an apology if the wrestling fan boy in me shines through in this review.  If there’s one thing I love as much as a good bloody action movie, it’s men and women rolling around in tights, performing the greatest sport mankind has ever known (even if it is pre-determined soap opera).  The reason I mention wrestling is because Vendetta is the latest movie from WWE Studios, starring the ”World’s Largest Athlete” The Big Show, alongside Superman himself, Dean Cain.  It’s the first film in WWE and Lionsgate’s ”Action Six Pack Series” and the 2nd collaboration with horror darlings The Soska Sisters.  Given WWE Studios track record for enjoyable genre movies of late, along with having the Twisted Twins at the helm, it’s suffice to say I was excited for Vendetta.

Dean Cain plays Mason, a beefy detective who gets himself incarcerated to avenge the death of his wife, who was murdered in cold blood by the hulking criminal Viktor (Paul Wight).  Once in prison, he finds getting to Viktor to be somewhat of challenge, and must fight his way through inmates and corrupt staff to reach his target.

First off, let’s discuss the good points:  the fight scenes are impressive. Each one is bloody, hard hitting and downright brutal – and there’s plenty of them.  Credit has to be given to Dean Cain for his willingness to get down and dirty in such a physical role.  According to Paul Wight, Cain didn’t have a stunt double, which is admirable and scores him points on the ”Movie Bad Ass” chart.  Speaking of Paul Wight, he was the star of the show; despite not being able to convince wrestling fans he’s a bad guy these days = due to having a stale gimmick – he does make for a mean villain with imposing screen presence and unstoppable force.

In addition to Dean Cain and Paul Wight, Michael Eklund as Warden Snyder chews scenery with glee.  Although he plays your atypical corrupt B movie prison warden, he makes the role his own and it’s lots of fun to see. Nothing about any character is new; if there’s a book out there on how to write stereotypical characters for action movies then I suspect screenwriter Justin Shady used it as his guide when penning the script.

Thus, there lies the main issue with Vendetta: it’s too predictable.  Similar movies have been just as basic but so much better.  However, for 90 minutes of adrenaline fueled entertainment that’s loaded with testosterone, it makes for a satisfying watch.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It’s action packed, vicious and violent; the Twins horror sensibilities give the kills an extra punch and it’s relentlessly mean spirited throughout.  Definitely worth a one-time watch.   6/10

Directed By:

Jen & Sylvia Soska

Written By:

Justin Shady

Starring:

Dean Cain, Paul Wight, Michael Eklund

Genre:

Action

Running Time:

90 min

Movie Review: The Sky Has Fallen (2009)

Action, drama, Horror, Movie Reviews

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The zombie sub-genre, for me, got stale very fast.  While I enjoy a good zombie flick, my motivation for seeking out new ones out is pretty low at this point.  However, The Sky Has Fallen isn’t just another throwaway zombie film; there’s a lot more going on here than basic survival in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by the undead, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Winner of Best Feature at the 2009 Freak Show Horror Film Festival and Best Horror Feature at the 2009 Indie Gathering Film Festival, as well as  nominated for Best FX at the 2012 Maverick Movie Awards, Doug Roos’ The Sky Has Fallen is a feature deserving of its accolades.  Furthermore, the fact that it’s all practical effects is sure to make it even more appealing to horror fans.  However, as good as the practical effects are (and believe me, they’re good), The Sky Has Fallen’s main strengths lie in its characters and story; both of which are well-developed and interesting.

A post-apocalyptic love story which is heavy on both drama and horror, The Sky Has Fallen follows Lance (Carey McLaren) and Rachel (Laurel Kemper); 2 strangers who meet through unfortunate circumstance, who must battle their way through the wilderness against swarms of the undead. Sound too familiar?  Well, it isn’t.  These zombies are merely puppets used for killing by a more sinister force – a mysterious clan of shadowy figures with extraordinary abilities, which happen to include raising the dead and controlling them at their whim.

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The Sky Has Fallen is a beautifully haunting story, aided by a fantastic original score which enhances its emotional impact.  Of course, without characters to root, there would be no emotional impact whatsoever, and Kemper and McLaren do a great job playing the protagonists, while possessing an on-screen chemistry which makes their relationship and quest for survival one worth rooting for – and gives the story a very human core.  If that sounds off-putting to horror fans looking for blood and guts then fear not; the best thing about this movie is how refreshingly original it is, but it never shy’s away from being gruesome when the opportunity arises.  And it’s glorious.

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By stripping things back, The Sky Has Fallen goes far.  It’s a low-budget, character driven story, rich in texture and ambitious in its storytelling.  It applies the ethos of classic Kurowasa samurai movies to modern post-Apocalyptic horror to create a haunting, yet compelling story of mystery, violence, action, loss and love – with plenty of zombies, mysterious horrors and red stuff thrown in for good measure. This is a great piece of independent filmmaking I urge you all to support. You can find a copy HERE.  8/10

Written & Directed By:

Doug Roos

Starring:

Carey MacLaren, Laurel Kemper, Corey Knisely

Genre:

Horror, Drama, Action

Running Time:

73 min

Movie Review: We Are Still Here (2015)

Horror, Movie Reviews

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We Are Still Here is proof that the good old fashioned haunted house doesn’t need refurbished, spraying the walls with copious amounts of blood is some much welcomed decoration.  In recent years, homages to horror of the 70’s and 80’s has provided some highly enjoyable tributes, but with We Are Still Here, we’re transported back to 1970’s New England, where the cold winter serves as a backdrop for something more sinister lurking in the dark.

In 2009, Ti West’s House of the Devil showed that sometimes all it takes to rejuvenate stale modern horror is a potent does of the old school.  In an era of remakes, unnecessary sequels and recycled trends, it proved that the tried and tested tales still had the ability to create fresh excitement.  We Are Still Here evokes the same feelings.

Like West’s gem, it treads familiar ground with a slow burn approach, effectively building character, mood and suspense to create dread through simplicity, before escalating into an explosive final.  However, We Are Still Here is a different beast entirely.  It contains all of the elements of a haunted house story; the floors creak, the dangers lurk in the shadows and the terror could spring out at any time.  Having been overexposed to these traits in other features of its kind, We Are Still Here takes its time to ensure it doesn’t fall into the pitfalls of predictability.  The simplicity is handled masterfully, the scares are surprising and the payoff is a blood spraying, splatter filled finale; the one we’ve been missing for quite some time.

Ted Geoghegan is a director with capable hands, content to take his time telling a story and ensuring everything available to him is extenuated to great effect.  The house itself is old and dusty, with an ominous air that hints at something sinister.  The small New England town is a snow capped blemish on the map, distant from the rest of the world, easy to forget.  The town harbors secrets; the type the townsfolk make sure are kept under wraps.  The type they’re more than willing to go to extreme, murderous lengths to protect.  Danger isn’t just within the house for our protagonists. It’s everywhere.

Anne (Barbara Crampton) and Paul (Andrew Sensenig) are the main characters; a married couple grieving the loss of their son looking to start over somewhere new.  May (Lisa Marie) and Jacob (Larry Fessenden) play their hippie friends, whose occasionally comic relief is welcomed in an otherwise bleak affair.  Monte Markham steals the show as Dave McCabe; a seemingly friendly old man who proves to be the biggest threat to their survival.  Such a stellar cast as they are, they deliver due to well written characters who are interesting to watch, regardless of what’s happening around them.  Naturally, the actors and actresses deliver.

Overall, We Are Still Here is one of the better horror movies in recent memory.  I’d even go as far to call it a modern classic.  It’s a prime example of how to tell an old school story with outstanding execution and finely tuned tampering.  A movie which delivers on all fronts if there ever was one, this will top many a ”Best Of” list in 2015, then go on to cement its place as a cult favourite for many years to come.  10/10

Written & Directed By:

Ted Geoghegan

Starring:

Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Larry Fessenden, Lisa Marie

Genre:

Horror

Running Time:

84 mins

Movie Review: Suspension (2015)

Horror, Movie Reviews

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The slasher sub-genre, more so than any other, is often considered the brittlest branch on the horror tree; critics such as Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel dismissed these flicks as ”dead teenager movies”, whereas many who appreciate them still often equate them to that of cinematic junk food.  I love them personally; sometimes I think the sleazier the better.  But then something like Suspension comes along; a movie that, while not straying too far from familiar ground, employs a traditional framework and fiddles with it occasionally to successfully subvert viewer expectations.  When that movie comes along, I appreciate it forever.

Suspension, first of all, ticks all the boxes when it comes to the visceral delights we all expect from a slasher film.  We have an imposing villain with an intimidating appearance who has no qualms about sticking his knife in the groin of an obnoxious teenager.  The kills are more than satisfying in terms of the red stuff and the type of people being slaughtered.  When it comes to building terror and unleashing it, Suspension gets an A+ for effort and execution.  So if it’s just a mindless good time you’re looking for, it will satisfy.  However, underneath the surface, claws gently scratch the tapestry, becoming louder as the film progresses.

The core of Suspension is, primarily, a character study of its protagonist Emily (Ellen MacNevin), a teenage girl with a troubled family history who’s bullied by her classmates when her father isn’t killing them before he gets to her.  The loner with a fractured psyche is nothing new in horror, but Ellen MacNevin brings an authentic humanity to the role it feels true to life.  She’s so sweet and innocent, which makes her inherently likable; she possesses mental instability and an underlying mania which makes her interesting; the world has been unkind to her, yet she continues to survive, and thus, we root for her.  For a ”final girl”, she has layers of depth, and if you took away the horror element, the movie would still be interesting to watch just to see her character unfold.

The supporting cast all do a great job as well: Emily’s classmates who bully her are spectacular douchebags, and knowing that will all get sliced up eventually is somewhat comforting.  My favourite supporting character was Deputy Jacobs (Sage Brocklebank), the clumsy police officer whose ineptitude provides some comic relief, without ever feeling out of context. Horror and drama take precedence, but comedy is blended in at opportune moments, adding an extra dimension of enjoyment to a movie that only hits high notes.

Visually, Suspension is stunning to look at, with cinematography boasting lush grey skies that adds a sense of dreamlike dreariness to the atmosphere, which is effective for the more surreal aspects of the film. There will be moments when you start questioning what’s real; expectations will be subverted just when you think you have it all figured out.  That’s all I’ll say about that, because the line between reality and fiction blurs often – and the imagery enhances that blurred line.

Calling Suspension a thinking persons slasher makes it sound pompously grandeur, which it isn’t; it’s generally straightforward and can be enjoyed as such.  However, twists and turns aside, should you choose to look for deeper meaning, you’ll find some. Themes such as self-deception and the effects of mental illness were my interpretation, but I’m sure others will be different and more expansive. One thing is for sure: Suspension is a horror film with substance to compliment its style which breathes new life into a worn out sub-genre with just the tiniest amount of CPR.  8/10

Directed By:

Jeffery Scott Lando

Written By:

Kevin Mosley

Starring:

Ellen MacNevin, Duncan Ollerenshaw, Sage Brocklebank, Taylor Russell

Genre:

Horror

Running Time:

90 min

Movie Review: $kumbagz (2015)

Crime, Movie Reviews

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John Miller’s $kumbagz is my first time seeing a movie from The Sleaze Box, whose reputation I was aware of through Amerikan Holokaust (2013), a movie that’s received plaudits from some of my friends in the indie horror community.  Anyway, going into $kumbagz I was all set for a grimy exploitation movie which pulled me into a seedy underbelly, raped my soul and left me quivering like a broken shell with an inappropriate boner. Instead what I got was an entertainingly raunchy hip hop fever dream that’s unafraid to sprinkle its seedy debauchery with good old fashioned fun.

Kristal ”Pixie” Adams plays Stephanie, a 25 year old slacker still living at home and flipping burgers as a day job – until she gets fired for not inserting a cucumber in her bosses chamber of poop.  Down on her luck, she accepts a ride from a friendly stranger, who then drugs her and forces her into prostitution, until she’s discovered by 6’9 (John Miller); he offers her job doing the same for more money and better working conditions, which she accepts.  However, their new found success doesn’t sit well with a rival gang, who attack them and force Stephanie and 6’9 to take matters into their own hands.  Who will win and take control of the game?

$kumbagz embodies all of the sleaze, nastiness and degradation you’d expect from a feature where the main character spends most of the running time being used as a sex toy, often against her will and whose only hope for a brighter future is a better quality of prostitution.  There’s a sweet naivety about Stephanie that makes her plight uncomfortable to watch at times.  Not to mention she’s incredibly hot and deserves much better than the pieces of shit she has to hook up with.  However, $kumbagz presents the material in such a way that there’s comedy in it, albeit very dark and not for the faint of heart, easily offended or conservative in beliefs.

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Furthermore, $kumbagz has no problem flaunting the sex appeal of its attractive female cast to the full extent, gliding cameras over every inch of their naked bodies, and even throwing in an uncut lesbian sex scene for good measure.  I wasn’t complaining.  Your mom might.

What can I say about $kumbagz then to sum it up?  It’s ultra low-budget raunchy sleaze with colourful characters and a dreamlike quality in places it’s occasionally mesmerizing.  I was entertained throughout and with a 71 minute running time it doesn’t outstay its welcome.  The story moves along at a brisk pace, stopping from time-to-time to indulge in entertaining smut. It might disappoint those looking for gore, but it didn’t need it.  It’ll please the fans it was made for and that’s all that’s important.  This is pure debauchery drenched fun. 7/10.

Written & Directed By:

John Miller

Starring:

Kristal Pixie Adams, John Miller, Joe Makowski, David. A. Adams

Genre:

Crime

Running Time:

71 min

Movie Review: San Andreas (2015)

Action, Movie Reviews

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In a battle between the forces of nature versus Dwayne Johnson, my money is on the latter every time.  In San Andreas, that’s exactly what happens: after the largest earthquake in Californian history ripples through the San Andreas coastline, destroying everything in its path, rescue pilot Ray (Johnson) must make his way to San Francisco, surviving disaster after disaster, to save his daughter (Alexandra Daddario).  It’s generic, predictable and preposterous.  We know the main characters will survive the slew of grand scale destruction being thrown at them.  Physics… what physics?  Fuck physics.  San Andreas defies your physics.  It’s obvious that it’ll turn out fine for them all in the end.  The only thing surprising about this movie is just how damn good it is, despite knowing how it’s going to turn out from the outset.

There was no chance in Hell any of the main characters were going to die, yet the scenes of suspense had me on the edge of my seat praying that they’d make it out alive.  As I sat there watching Dwayne Johnson drive a speedboat up a tsunami dodging falling ships, my heart skipped a few beats, even though the brain I left at the door knew his stunt wasn’t humanly possible; the Dwayne Johnson fan sitting on that uncomfortable theater chair knew that a tsunami was merely a small obstacle for The Rock. Watching Alexandra Daddario swimming under water in a cleavage boasting tank top, I drooled like a cartoon dog staring at a cheeseburger, while screaming to myself, ”FIND A WAY TO SAFETY, YOU PERFECT CREATION.”  I don’t believe in God; especially not during San Andreas when Paul Giamatti confirms the scientific explanations for the mass destruction; but it’s difficult not to stare at Alexandra Daddario not and come to the conclusion that she’s an angel sent from Heaven.  Furthermore, her character Blake is so well written to be likable, Hollywood dupes us into cookie cutter emotional attachment.  Damn you, Hollywood.  Damn you for making me love again.

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The central characters, are all, in fact, just that – likable.  Hence why I couldn’t help but root for them in the face of danger.  Dwayne Johnson and his award winning smile would melt the polar icecaps he might have to face some day in a sequel.  Here, he shows dramatic range that proves he’s a competent versatile actor, even if he’s not Marlon Brando.  His movie wife (played by Gugino), drops the greatest F-Bomb in the history of a PG-13 film; her obstinate nature is a perfect accomplice for Dwayne’s unstoppable force of nature which makes the earthquakes seem human in comparison. That’s why we hope they manage to settle their marital problems, which stem from losing a child they couldn’t save in the past.  Sure it’s corny, soppy and intent on making us gooey eyed; it also further bolsters the obvious fact they’ll save Blake: no way would a family friendly Hollywood blockbuster have parents lose both children.  This earthquake is more than a disaster: it’s a chance at redemption.  That being said, worked.

The suspenseful action sequences are down to Brad Peyton’s expert direction: the CGI buildings and landmarks crumbling is some of the most believable I’ve ever seen as well.  Provided you can suspend your disbelief, you might get goosebumps.  San Andreas has fun destroying great American landmarks such as The Golden Gate Bridge and The Hoover Dam, but it looks so damn realistic it’s intense.

San Andreas isn’t for everyone: cynics will roll their eyes at its predictability and sentiment; those who can’t check their brain out will guffaw at the crimes against science; others might just find it to be too overbearing. However, if you can accept it for what it is you’ll have a blast: not only does it successfully execute its requirements, it does so better than most disaster movies.  The generically written characters are likable enough to emotionally root for and there’s plenty of destruction to keep the adrenaline pumping throughout.  This is a perfect summer extravaganza that scores high on the Richter Scale.  8/10

Directed By:

Brad Peyton

Written By:

Carlton Cuse & Andre Fabrizio

Starring:

Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioann Gruffudd

Genre:

Action

Running Time:

114 min

Movie Review: American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire (2015)

Extreme Horror, Horror, Horror Comedy, Movie Reviews

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American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire is the deranged brainchild of Flood Reed, who, according to his IMDB profile, is a circus performer and subconscious drifter who likes to appear in the nightmares of children and the occasional LSD-induced hallucination.  However, when he’s not scaring kids and enhancing trips, he sometimes acts in, writes and directs movies. One such movie is the topic of this review: a demented dose of backwoods debauchery that’s already received critical acclaim by winning Rue Morgue Magazines, ”Goriest Scene of the Year Award” and being nominate for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Editing at the 8th Annual Shockfest Film Festival.

A fitting way to describe American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire would be Deliverance (1972) meets Jack Ketchum’s Offspring (2009), although comparing it these films is only a brief indication of what to expect here. American Backwoods is a lethal concoction of hillbilly horror, cannibal caper and creature feature, infused with black humour and copious amounts of violent carnage to create one of the most gleefully gruesome movies you’re likely to see this year.

The story follows a group of 4 guys who set out for one last hurrah at a strip club before college life separates them for the foreseeable future.  They’re a fun bunch of miscreants who just want to see some boobs and find some loose women to engage in sexual acts with; very similar to groups of friends we’ve seen in countless other horror flicks.  Along the way they encounter a creepy professor, an unpleasant gas station attendant and a homosexual police officer who doesn’t appear to be who he says he is. After deeming their vehicle unfit to drive, the police officer calls a mechanic who takes them to his trailer – and prepares them for the hunt.

Up until they reach the trailer American Backwoods is an offbeat bro-comedy that wouldn’t seem out of place as a Harold & Kumar sequel. The strip club is their White Castle and on their journey they meet some oddball characters.  Kudos have to be given for leading the viewer into a false sense of security; just as we start to think it might be a lighthearted romp, it does a complete 180 and drags us by the teeth into the abyss.  Once it gets going it’s an unrelenting nightmare of inescapable danger at every turn – involving rapist yokels, cannibalistic cave dwellers and a mystical beast. With so many ingredients in the pot, it risks becoming a convoluted mess: I’m happy to report that it makes for a tasty treat, effortlessly shifting gears with unforced, natural ease.

More often than not, low budget independent horror suffers from the same pitfalls: bad acting, below par production values, paper thin characters, etc. In American Backwoods every actor is solid and convincing in their roles, with the majority of characters being given ample amounts of screen time to make an impression and flex their chops. Most of the characters are given enough of a backstory that they actually come across as people and not just bodies to be slaughtered.  Furthermore, the movie looks great: visually it’s clear to see what’s going on, and at times, it’s reminiscent of an Oliver Stone movie.  As for the gore, well that’s just outstanding: there’s one gag in particularly that’ll make you think twice about receiving oral sex in a trailer again anytime soon.  Let it be a warning to you hillbilly rapists out there.

All in all, American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire is a violent, visceral treat that takes a well-trodden formula and gives it some extra layers. This is a must see for those who like their horror unapologetic and sleazy, while creating some laughs at the expense of heinous acts without ever losing its horrific edge.  Excellent acting, a good script, an ambitious story and interesting characters provide a solid foundation for the mayhem to spray blood and spill guts all over, making it an unhinged, filthy little gem waiting to be discovered.  8/10

Pre-order American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire from Amazon HERE.  It will also be released on VOD at the beginning of June.  You can also keep track of it on Facebook and Twitter.

Written & Directed By:

Flood Reed

Starring:

Dayo Okeniyi, Shawn Thomas, Tyler Rice, Jeremy Isabella

Genre:

Horror

Running Time:

104 min