February 27, 2011

Chain Letter (2010)

HUGE SPOILERS are contained herein, especially about the ending, so beware!  

Chain Letter is a story about a bunch of mid-20's High School Students who receive a creepy chain letter via text, stating that they have to pass it on to five more people within 24 hours, or they will die.

Sure enough, they scoff at the text and ignore it (but pass it on anyhow), and one by one they start to die in grisly ways... killed by a hulking figure dressed all in black, who seems to be able to sneak around this upscale suburb escaping any and all notice.

Not only that, but he can access homes and Schools at will, abduct people, set up elaborate torture schemes, and slowly kill them... all as if no one else in town is awake through all of this.

Now, it's odd to me that amidst all of these "teenagers" dying off that we never see much of the Parents getting involved, nor do the Police seem to be all that frenzied to find out what's going on. The town in which the movie takes place is the "multimedia capital of the world" or some such shit, so wouldn't you think at least the Police would be on the cusp of technology? Maybe there are web-cams everywhere that might catch something odd? Or, better yet, would anyone in town use a smart phone, which are non-existent in the movie?

Chain Letter sat on the shelf for a few years, so I'm guessing that the filmmakers have no clue that Phone and Computer technology changes about 50 times over that span of time. The frigging movie is about TECHNOLOGY! How can they get that aspect of things wrong? Nikki Reid (as our Final Girl), takes about a year and a half to figure out that "something just isn't right here," and she's the smartest of the bunch. She deduces that there's something about a cult that hates electronics so much that they feel the need to torture innocent (if not annoying) kids to death to prove their point... which is what? Technology is the Devil?

I'll chain her letter...
This movie is so loose and haphazard that it's hard to even rip on it. The plot meanders and winds in so many different directions, that the movie never really makes up its mind about what it's supposed to be. We get no answers about much of anything that happens, like who, why, and even how. We never find out who the killer is; sure, we have a creepy teacher, a creepy profiler, and a mongoloid bumpkin that does the killing, but what the hell is going on? What just happened? The script is such a mess that it really makes no sense to talk about the movie and try to understand what went wrong.

Some of the kill scenes were bloody and fun, but really, they were so elaborate and Saw-like that they just seemed ridiculous and out of place. And the genre favorites who star in this movie, like Brad Dourif, Betsy Russell and Keith David? Wasted here on sub-par material. Hell, Bai Ling is supposed to be in this, but she wasn't? Whatever.

And the ending? The scene that the whole movie seemed to exist to build up to? A joke.

So the hulking "Chain Man" is able to sneak into a house, drag a kid to the garage, chain her up to two cars... that are outside of the garage and facing the street, mind you... without the parents noticing this at all? A town on edge with kids dying left and right, and the parents are oblivious to what's going on in their own home? Before they leave the house, they're watching a news report about the kids being killed, and they don't have any instinct to go check on their own kid? Sure they have no reason to suspect that she's gone, but piece of mind is a Parents thing, you know? They don't even notice two chains coming from under the not-closed garage, that are attached to their cars? And how clever, they both pull out of the driveway at the same exact time, and go in different directions... forget it, I'm just stopping here. 

This movie is a sad state of affairs for the Horror genre. It got a Theatrical Release while a movie like Trick r' Treat goes straight to DVD. And yes, I always go back to Tr'T in these cases, because it really is an excellent example of exactly how Hollywood shits the bed with most American Horror releases. Unless your Horror bar is set really, really low, avoid this suck-fest at all possible costs. 
 

February 24, 2011

Fritt Vilt 3 (2011)

"I'm pretty sure that the 3rd time is not always a charm..."

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1464535/*If you haven't seen the first two films in the Fritt Vilt (Cold Prey) series, you may want to read our reviews for Fritt Vilt and Fritt Vilt 2, to get yourself up to speed. Then again, if you haven't seen at least one of the first two movies, then why are you watching part 3 to begin with? Cheaters.

Sub-Genre- Backwoods Horror/Torture Porn

Cast Members of Note- Ida Marie Bakkerud, Kim S. Falck-Jorgensen, Julie Rusti, and a bunch of other Norway people that I can't seem to keep straight in my head.
Set in the 80's, FV III tells the story of the series' killer as a child and troubled youth. Yes, it's a prequel and an origin story, and I guess someone in Norway thought both were somehow necessary.

Looks so odd without the snow...
Remember in the first movie how we learned that the mountain-man killer was buried alive by his parents as a kid, because he had an odd mole on his face? Well he found himself a mentor in them there Norwegian woods, who went and dug him up, learned him how to kill and gut him some animals, and how to effectively act all creepy. Eventually, he decides he'd rather kill and gut him some people instead. That's basically the plot of this movie.

This is not the killer all grown up, this is Santa. From the looks of things, he's about to add another HO to his repertoire... He's supposed to have 3 of them, you know.
"A bunch of young, dumb-ass kids head into the wilderness of _______ for a weekend of _______, only to find a bloodthirsty _______ waiting to _______ them off one by one." Yeah, we've heard the same exact plot over and over and over and over again, so just fill in the blanks in a way that suits this film, and we have another cookie-cutter Horror flick on our hands. There really isn't much else to say about the plot.

Don't be pissy about it, you know I'm right!
Unlike its predecessors, which were Slasher flicks, Fritt Vilt 3 decided to go the Torture Porn route. Did it work? I suppose so, if you like the average Torture Porn offering, but it played more like Wrong Turn than the first two films in its own franchise, and that threw us off a bit.

As a prequel, it was decent; it told the back story of the killer in an interesting way, showing us how he got to where he was, and why. As an installment in the Fritt Vilt series, it was also decent, but felt oddly out of place. The first 2 movies were set in an isolated, snowy mountain top location, which added to the tension and isolation of it all. The other films also had a strong, dynamic Final Girl who we couldn't help but root for. I'm not taking anything away from the Final Girl of this one, but the material here just wasn't as good, so it felt as if she were less awesome in a way?

The movie did have some good kill scenes/gory gags that made us cringe, and if that's really all you care about, then you will enjoy FV III, I'm sure. Oh, and the girls were nice to look at too.

Dirty girl.
The charm of the series kinda died with this one. Instead of being a Slasher flick set in the wintry mountains of Norway, we get a Backwoods Horror flick set in the forests of Norway in the summer time... In our opinion, making those changes really took away the one unique thing the first two movies had going for them.

Why only a quick side boob? There were two really cute girls in this movie, and all they did was tease us. We, the audience, demand gratuitous nudity in our standard hack-and-slash movies, because we deserve it. It's like a little bonus for us having to sit through retreaded material, and poorly scripted,generic efforts. Weak story + no boobs= just not right.

Tease!
It's Torture Porn, so of course there's some good blood and gore to be had here; various stabbings, slashings, and shootings (shotgun and bow, mind you), and even a cat being gutted. Blood lovers will be happy with this movie.

Aside from a naked man ass and a brief shot of a side boob, everyone remained clothed in this one. For shame, Norway, for shame. You're supposed to be progressive with that kind of stuff!

They should have stopped at part 2.

Nowhere near the film that either of the first two Fritt Vilt films were, FVIII delivers some good kill scenes and blood, but not much else. The summer setting took away a bit of the charm established earlier in the series, or maybe I just really like snow. No. After the winter we've had so far here in Michigan, I think it's safe to say that snow can go fuck itself. So I guess then that it just felt more like every other Backwoods Horror movie that has come along in recent years, and the change of scenery didn't help things.

It's worth a watch, but I fear that it wont please fans of the series as much as parts 1 and 2 did.

C-

Isn't it good, Norwegian Wood? Also, Julie Rusti makes me want to move to Norway.

February 22, 2011

James Franco as the Night Stalker!

Here's a fun little piece of news that fits right in with our Serial Killer Month theme; James Franco is set to play a big screen version of the Night Stalker himself, Richard Ramirez. Ramirez, one of the countries most infamous serial killers, is definitely ripe for a movie treatment. Franco looks perfect to play him. The guy is a great actor, and he kinda has an odd resemblance to the Night Stalker. We'll be buying tickets to this one when it hits theaters. What say you?

February 21, 2011

The Pledge (2001)

The Pledge is a creepy (and a bit of a depressing) movie. It's about a retired cop who, on the night of his retirement party, takes up one last case by pledging to catch the killer of a young girl. He's apparently a sucker for distraught mothers.

And when Mickey Rourke is playing the Dad of said girl, you just don't refuse, even if you're Jack Nicholson... got it?!?! Don't make Mickey smack you one in the mouth!

So he moves into the country, buys a gas station (seriously), and sets up shop... Jack Nicholson's creep finding shop! He hooks up with Sean Penn's hot, but oddly-toothless wife and her kid, becomes like a dad to her, and heads off on an obsessive mission to find the "Wizard", and stop him from killing little kids.

I suppose this is more of a drama than a true thriller, but it's the serial killer aspect of the movie that gives it its tone and drives it forward. Jack Nicholson and his hunt for the mysterious "Wizard" and his creepy little child luring porcupines is unsettling indeed.

Nicholson's portrayal of a far-beyond-driven retired cop, who basically finds himself consumed with this unsanctioned "case" he's adopted, is a thing of beauty to see. He still chews scenery with the best of them in this movie. He even tugs on your heart strings.

Directed by Sean Penn and starring Jack, Robin Wright Penn, Aaron Eckhart, Benicio Del Toro, Mickey Rourke, Sam Shepard, Patricia Clarkson, Helen Mirren, and Vanessa Redgrave (good lord that's a hell of a cast), The Pledge is a great film that shows exactly what kind of toll a serial killer can have on those whose lives they affect. It also shows what lengths a man will go to to see his obsession satisfied, in this case, using a child as bait to catch her would be killer.

 A- This is a superb movie, that forces a feeling of unease to settle in your bones that never quite leaves. Aside from the ending, which made sens but left things a tad too open for my liking, this is a must see for all fans of serial killers and the damage that they do to their victims, both alive and dead.

 Nobody makes Mickey Rouke cry, and escapes justice! Nobody!


Amer (2010)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1426352/ *Limited and Foreign lease in 2009/2010, American DVD 2011.

I think it's fair to say that Amer is a divisive film. On one hand, lovers of film will bask in its stylish glory, because this movie oozes visual pleasure like few others I've seen. Giallo lovers will also be like a cat in heat with Amer, as it absolutely takes Horror fans back to the Gialli favorites of decades gone by, with its music, pacing, color pallet, and not so subtle nuance. Some of it even reminded me of old school Argento.

On the other hand, I can absolutely see how the average film-goer will take issue with its meandering and metaphor-riddled plot, the utter lack of dialogue throughout most of its running time, and the nagging feeling that they just watched a pretentious Art House movie that really didn't accomplish anything. So which is it? Brilliant or pretentious? Well, it's both.

Put simply, Amer is the story of girl/teen/woman named Ana, which is divided into three parts; the first shows Ana as a child, the second shows her as a teen, and the final section shows her as an adult.

 In the first part of the movie, Ana is a little girl living in a big creepy mansion with her parents and grandparents. Her grandfather dies, her mom is a bit of a bitch, and her dad just wants to get laid. The best part of this section of the film is the shadowy figure in black. Graziella, whom I'm guessing is her grandmother; she lives in the room next door to Ana and appears to be a witch. She peeps through keyholes at Ana, put salt under her bed, and follows her around the house, shrouded in black lace, and basically terrifying the living shit out of her. Ana is obviously a disturbed little kid, with a creepy family. 

Don't go up there. You know what Mommy and Daddy are doing...
In the second part of the film, a teenage Ana and her mom walk to the store. Everyone stares at them either like they're a couple of whores, or like they're making rape plans for both of them in their minds.

In the final part of the movie, Ana is a grown woman, returning to her childhood home, which now stands dilapidated and abandoned. A shadowy figure is waiting for her... in the shadows... to follow her around like her own shadow. Shadow, shadow shadow... it had to be done. Things get bloody as Ana does her best to evade her tormentor, but is forced to confront them in a stunning climax of... well, there really wasn't much of a climax.

Methinks Ana's shadowy assailant want to unbutton that shirt.
Amer is a gorgeous film. It's a visual and aural work of art in many ways. In spots, it's tense and creepy. In other spots, it's erotic and dreamlike. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the whole erotic thing... Amer is basically a movie about a woman coming to terms with sexuality, at three different stages of her life. As a child, she learns to associate fear with sex. As a teen, she learns the power she has over men, and isn't sure if she likes it or it terrifies her. As an adult, I'm pretty sure she's a whore, but they never really make that clear.  

Those are not the lips of an innocent girl!
Amer is also slowly paced and it meanders an awful lot. The "plot" doesn't ever really go anywhere, rather it just kind of happens and gives you glimpses of different things. There's very little dialogue throughout the entire movie, which some may love and some may hate. Amer also suffers from a bit of style over substance, which is fine, but in the end it left me feeling a little bit confused and empty. Wanton even.

Green is the color of sex?
It also bears mentioning that this movie has about 537 closeup shots of eyes; you know that we do a monthly feature here at THC about Eyes from Horror flicks, so we loved it, but damn... there were a TON! It has some good blood and gore, but very little of it and almost near the end. It's creepy, but really only in the first part, and somewhat in the final section. It delivers a strong message about sexuality and how events in our life can shape our lust and desire, at least that's what I took away from it.

To me, the whole thing felt more like an exercise in visual bliss more so than a narrative driven film.

Never a good idea.
For lovers of Film, not people that like movies, Amer may be a little slice of Heaven. For people who prefer their movies to have straight-forward narratives -or any narrative at all, for that matter- this may be an exercise in frustration. I say see it anyway, because it was at the very least, interesting and different, and maybe it will make you feel deep nd artsy for a little while.

B+

With Amer, the eyes definitely have it.

February 15, 2011

From Hell (2001)

We can't really have a month spotlighting serial killers without at least one movie tackling the most infamous of them all; Jack the Ripper.

Directed by filmmakers extraordinaire The Hughes Brothers, and starring Johnny Depp, Heather Graham and Ian Holm, From Hell is one hell of a great movie.

It's 1888 in London's Whitechapel District, and ole' Jack is out and about killing hookers, because that's his thing. He kills them ruddy 'ores all messy like, and mutilates them post mortem, which makes it all the more creepy. Really, he's doing god's work, or must think he is at any rate. After all, there's a certain amount of ego that goes along with being a prolific Serial Killer.

All is going well with Jack's urban cleansing project when along comes psychic police inspector Johnny Depp, who sees a deeper pattern in the murders that screams high-level conspiracy. To complicate things further, he falls in love with a smoking hot bangtail named Mary Kelly (played by a smoking hot bangtail named Heather Graham), which makes things all the more sweet for we, the audience. Really, the movie could have been 90 minutes of her running around naked and talking in a cockney accent, and it would have been perfect.

The interesting thing about From Hell, is the way it twists the Ripper's legend a bit; his eyes go black when he kills, he's got a definite connection to the Freemasons (who were mysterious and creepy in their own right), and he utters one of the best fictional line I've ever heard with "One day, men will look back and say that I gave birth to the 20th Century." God that's a great line. It's so great, I wish it had been a real quote of Jack the Ripper, but his quotes and letters tended to be misspelled and a bit low brow.

The Hughes Brothers are great directors. From Menace II Society to the gone-way-too-soon TV show Touching Evil, they always manage to make their projects compelling and dark, and visually pleasing. Johnny Depp... well, he's just Johnny Depp. He could read the phone book for 90 minutes and make it interesting. Heather Graham is not only a good actress, but she's hot as sin and has one of the top 5 racks in Hollywood history. She's Rollergirl for the love of Pete, so how can we not love her to pieces? Ian Holm, Bilbo Baggins himself, if quite the accomplished actor as well, and he keeps pace with Depp throughout this one, and makes a sinister villain indeed. If you like serial killer flicks, Heather Graham's boobs, Great Britain at the turn of the 20th century, or just have an unnatural curiosity/obsession about Saucy Jack himself, then you will dig this movie. It's stylish, creepy enough, and has some great actors giving great performances.

They soooo need to make the musical "Saucy Jack" happen.

A All in all, this is a fun and engaging, if not a completely historically accurate telling of the Ripper's tale, and it deserves its place in the serial killer pantheon of celluloid greats.

Heather Graham is an all-time volcanic eruption of sexiness. It's a shame that she doesn't star in more Horror flicks... A true Bangtail indeed.
 

February 14, 2011

The Troll Hunter (2011)

"Oh, hell yeah!"

Sub-Genre- Hand Held/Found Footage/Creature  
Cast Members of Note- Otto Jesperen... is the Trolljegeren!  

Essentially this is Norway's answer to The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, except that there's not a witch involved, and it's not a lame rip off of Godzilla. This movie is about trolls; not the kind that wreak havoc on Internet message boards, but the kind that live under bridges, turn to stone in the daylight, rape goats, and eat sheep. People too. Maybe it's just a Norwegian thing...

So this movie is based off of a musical? Who knew?
Long story short, a film crew full of slacker dip-shits hook up with, and follow around, Norway's answer to Chuck Norris. Blasphemy you say? No one is as bad-ass as the greatest white karate man of all time? Well, his name is Hans, and until Chuck Norris fights a 100 metres tall troll with a flashlight, he wins the title of king bad-ass. (Chuck Norris, if you're reading this, ignore what I just said. It's all propaganda for the sake of a movie review. You will always be the king. Sir. )

Fights a 100 metres tall troll with a flashlight... think about that.
There are a bunch of different types of trolls in Norway you see; some have three heads; some are as big as mountains; some look like Gerard Depardieu... and due to something or other about power lines, they have been misbehaving of late. Hans, being the Trolljegeren (more like troll murderer actually), knows the types of trolls, their traits, and their weaknesses... and most importantly, how to kill them. Gloriously.

See that tiny little thing on the ground in front of the troll? That's a hummer-like vehicle with Hans and his rooftop flashlight cannon...
That's basically the plot; Hans and his film crew buddies track a bunch of naughty trolls through the forests and mountains of Norway and kill them. Add in a Government conspiracy to keep all talk of trolls on the DL, and it makes for some interesting moments. I won't spoil what happens towards the end here, but suffice it to say that Trolljegeren-ing is dangerous work. Also, it smells pretty bad too. It's all about rubbing troll-fat butter on your crotch and armpits... I'm just sayin'.

Gerard Depardieu is in this.
This movie was so much fun that I'm still smiling thinking about it. Aside from an ending that left us a bit wanting, we cant remember the last time we sat through such a fun, well made, and fresh Horror flick. Maybe Trick r' Treat? Yeah, that sounds about right.

Raglefant. Tussealadd. Rimtusse. Dovregubben. Harding. The massive Jotner. There are all kinds of trolls, and they are spread all over Norway; in the forests, in the mountains, under bridges. They kinda look like big, smelly, hungry puppets with phallic noses, almost cartoonish. Make no mistake though, they are intimidating and they want to eat you. They feel like something out of a fairytale, but are presented to the audience as a natural predator in such a realistic way, that I'm not entirely sure that Norway doesn't really have trolls. Alright, I know they don't, but it all sure felt real.

As far as the Found Footage genre goes, this movie is aces. It feels real. Nothing feels forced here like in so many other FF movies. Especially with Hans; he's just a gruff old timer who has a job to do. He hunts trolls. Not one thing about it scares him either, like he's hunting deer, or duck or something. He's a bad-ass because he's really just someone like your Dad or Grandfather, only he kills monsters.

The movie also does a good job of not only keeping you on the edge of your seat, but in letting us know just how huge, imposing and dangerous these creatures really are. It's almost like watching a documentary on the National Geographic Channel. They did a great job conveying the realism on this one.

Hans and his RPG flashlight... the dude is fighting a walking mountain!
Where are you going, Hans? You're in the middle of fucking Norway, which is all ice and snow mind you, so maybe wandering off into the desolate tundra isn't the best idea... at least tell us why! He always was a lone wolf.

The ending. Sure, as a Found Footage flick you have to expect that at some point the footage has to just end, and abruptly, but what happened? Were they shot? Did the one guy hitch a ride? Did Hans ever finish his hike? Are the trolls doing well? I need answers. Sequel please.

Troll piss, troll poop, troll slime (I don't want to know where it came form), sheep abuse, trolls explode, people are rent limb from limb... it's not really a violent movie overall, but the gross stuff is there.

Nope. Well, do the trolls count as far as a nudity quotient goes? If so, then there's all kinds of skin on display in this one.

People in Norway are tough enough to fight trolls. Also, trolls have penis noses.

This movie needs to be seen by all genre fans, and as soon as possible. It is not perfect, so don't let a great grade make you think that it is. What Trolljegeren is though, is a hell of an entertaining movie that does the Found Footage genre right, and puts Cloverfield and its ilk to shame. I can't imagine how someone could not have fun with this movie.

See it or suck.

A+

Did Carrot Top play the nefarious Mr. Wuzzles in Trolljegeren? The world may never know...