February 28, 2013

Crawlspace (2013)

(aka Aliens 2: Scanners Down Under)
Release Date: On various VOD platforms now, Blu-ray and DVD releases TBD.
Country: Australia
Written by: Eddie Baroo and Justing Dix.
Directed by: Justin Dix.
Starring: Amber Clayton, Ditch Davey, Peta Sergeant and Nicholas Bell.

When I think about Australian movies, I tend to think of them fondly. I mean, the land down under has given us Mad Max, Crocodile Dundee, George Miller, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, The Hemsworth Brothers... and I could go on.

To us, Australia has always been a treasure trove of talent.

Horror-wise, Oz is no slouch either. With offerings like (but not limited to) Lake Mungo, The Loved Ones, The Tunnel, Undead, Wolf Creek, Acolytes, The Horseman, and Red Hill (not to mention the creators of Saw, and their various projects.) The Aussie's have more than paid their Horror dues.

So when we catch wind of a new genre flick coming from the land where women glow and men plunder, we tend to take notice.

"Traveling in a fried-out combie..."
Crawlspace is the story of a group of Special Forces Soldiers sent to contain a security breach at a remote Government facility, somewhere out in the middle of the vast Australian Outback. It seems as if a bunch of naughty Scientists have been performing some crazy-unethical experiments on people, leaving the facility overrun with monsters and pissed-off telepaths.

"... on a hippy trail, head full of zombie..."
Down Undah Fowce Teen (The Australian translation of "Down Under Force 10"), or whatever they're called, is thrust right in the middle of a hellish labyrinth of shadowy corridors, and even more shadowy crawlspaces, and they have absolutely no clue what it is that they're even looking for... until, of course, they find it.

"...I met a strange lady, she made me nervous..."
Eventually the rag-tag band of tough-as-nails Commandos come across Eve; a crazy hot blond who seems to be as bewildered as she is afraid. Maybe she's a victim, maybe she's something more... alright, she's something more, mainly because a mad scientist made her into something more, because that's what mad scientists do.

"... she took me in and made my head explode me breakfast!"
What follows is Down Undah Fowce Teen fighting for their lives against crazy monsters, pissed-off telepaths, evil scientists, and each other. There's possibly some Aliens involved in all of this too, but we can neither confirm nor deny that... mainly, because we're not really sure.
*This whole time I've had the song "Down Under" stuck in my head, so be warned that this review is chok-a-blok with Men at Work Lyrics.

For being a smaller movie with what I'm guessing is a smaller budget, Crawlspace manages to deliver an interesting plot and a decent amount of tension. In all fairness, much of the movie feels a bit like Aliens (and every film ever made that was like Aliens), and it borrows elements from other genre classics such as Scanners (Yes, that scene from Scanners), but it manages to be fun enough that we didn't particularly care about all of the pilfering going on.

The cinematography was tight, the acting was solid, and the story was engaging, even though at times the narrative felt confused and sectional. All in all, it was a fun Horror/Sci-fi hybrid that fed our appetite for something dark and moody. Most importantly, it never felt like a cheap movie, although it was certainly made on the cheap.

"I've done no harm, I keep to myself..."
There's an awful lot of exposition to be found wandering the dark hallways of Crawlspace, and much of it tended to slow the movie down a bit. Low budget flicks can be a bit of a double-edged sword sometimes; either they tend to have too little plot development going on, which makes them feel hollow, or they have too much plot development going on, which makes them feel slow. Smaller films really can't win either way. On a smaller budget, exposition is the way to go though, because it's cheap. Like I said, this movie and its exposition slowed things up a bit, but it wasn't the worst thing in the world to have to endure... it's just that most movies tend to be front-loaded with the slower bits, and this one felt more like it packed it all into the third reel.

"No surface noise now, not much to say, they've got the bad guys on the run...."
At one point while watching Crawlspace, I became convinced that this top secret Australian Government facility was comprised of only hallways and crawlspaces, and maybe two rooms, max. I get that this movie was one constrained by a modest budget, but the whole "walk down this hallway, turn the corner to the next hallway, and keep walking..." thing felt a bit repetitive.

"At least there's pretty lights..."
Director Justin Dix is an accomplished VFX/SFX man at heart, so you know his directorial debut was bound to have some good action and gore gags packed into it. Our favorite of them all is a toss up between the mongoloid gorilla monster-thing and the exploding head bit. Then again, the part with the saw was pretty good too... Suffice it to say that there is plenty of blood and gore to he had in this one.

Johnny was not good.
No nudity, but the brief cleavage shot was kinda neat.

"Oh yeah, yeah!"
We're definitely fans of Australian genre flicks around here, and while not perfect, Crawlspace does manage to be pretty solid and entertaining. If you can overlook its flaws, you'll find yourself enjoying a well-made and clever (sometimes too much for its own good) flick, that will leave you feeling a bit claustrophobic by the time it ends. Catch it on VOD right now if you can, or if you're lucky enough to live in the U.K. (and OZ as well, I'm imagining), you can grab a copy when it hits Blu-ray in April.


There is certainly no shortage of hot chicks down under, as evidenced here by the lovely Amber Clayton and Peta Sergeant. *Peta Sergeant's name makes her sound like she's in some sort of animal liberation army or something, doesn't it?


February 27, 2013

The new Gallowwalkers Trailer is very Blade-ish!

Wesley Snipes is back in Blade form, in a non-Blade movie!

Call me crazy, but I'm kinda geeked to see this flick.

We haven't seen Wesley Snipes star in much of anything for about a minute -Brooklyn's Finest was about his only notable movie since 2005's Blade: Trinity- but all of a sudden, we find ourselves on the Snipes bandwagon again.

To be fair, this movie looks like it should be titled Blade 4: Old West Zombie Hunter, but who cares. It looks pretty good.

DDP's in this, so all I'm saying is that if no one gets the Diamond Cutter put on them, it's all been for nothing. Bang!
I'm also saying, that if these girls don't get naked, it's all been for double nothing!. (Bang!)

February 26, 2013

The Digital Dread Report for February 26th

The last week in February is a rather uneventful one as far as video releases are concerned.

With all of the higher profile releases that came out last week, and the ones coming on March 5th, maybe the powers that be are just giving our wallets a break?

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If there's anything that should bear the "Must Have" moniker this week, it would have to be the Redemption Films releases.

Oasis of the Zombies and Zombie Lake are both early 80's B-movies involving Nazi zombies, and... well, a lot of cheesiness. For hardcore Horror fans, these are a no-brainer of a purchase. For those on the less rabid side of the fence, a rental might be more in order.

I will own these because of the wicked new cover art alone. Those are some truly fantastic covers.

Let it be said that Redemption Films usually does a hell of a job bringing some of the older and more obscure Horror titles of the world back to life again, especially on Blu-ray. So, kudos to them.

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The rest of the week's offerings are all rental material for us. Boys Against Girls and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D are most likely to draw people to them, while the rest of the movies here are mostly re-releases of older catalogue titles, that will cater to a more select crowd.

That's why they're better off being rentals; you pay a few bucks, and whether you like the movie or not, you're not out all that much. Except for time. You can't really ever get that back.

February 23, 2013

Girls Against Boys (2013)

(aka Destroy All Men!)
Release Date: On VOD and in Limited Theatrical release now, available on Blu-ray and DVD on 2/26.
Country: USA
Written & Directed by: Austin Chick.
Starring: Danielle Panabaker, Nicole LaLiberte, Liam Aiken, Michael Stahl-David and Andrew Howard.

We're all about good revenge flicks around these parts; if you're a fan of Horror movies, you pretty much have to be. So many great Horror, Thriller, Action flicks (et al.) have plots that revolve around someone getting revenge, avenging something, or evening up the score, that it's hard to find many that don't.

Just think about some of the great movies you've seen and loved that involve women getting revenge for whatever reason; Fatal Attraction, Kill Bill 1 & 2, I Spit on Your Grave, Carrie, The Dragon Tattoo series... In movies, women are often times wronged, and they just as often seek to right those wrongs through violent means.

Hell, even Friday the 13th (1980) was all about a woman seeking bloody retribution.

Is it odd that we always mistake these three lovely ladies for one another?
When we first saw the trailer for Girls Against Boys, we were intrigued. We're definitely fans of the movie's star, Danielle Panabaker, so the idea of her getting some good old-fashioned rape-revenge on a bunch of douchebag guys, was all good with us.

Let us say right off the bat here, that we love to be snarky and lace the serious parts of our reviews with humor, and oft times it's humor of the inappropriate kind. Horror is a heavy subject, so we aim to keep things as light as we can, even if only through ridiculous picture captions or the like. Plus, we fancy ourselves funny.

On that note, I'd like to say that rape isn't really a topic to be making jokes about. We do it anyway, because humor is always the best way to make a tough subject feel a bit less harsh, but we really don't think it's funny. *On a side note to that note, rape is pretty funny if it involves a clown, and maybe some sort of zany horn or whistle. Or Benny Hill music. 

Alright, fine, It's not funny. Relax.
The premise of this movie involves a sweet college student named Shae, who gets dumped by her married boyfriend when he decides he wants to focus more on his wife and young daughter, and not bang her on the side anymore. Like most women who sleep with married men and don't understand that they are nothing more than a piece of ass on the DL, this sends her into a state of sadness and bewilderment.

"OMG why me?"
Lucky for her, she works with a sassy rocker chick named Lulu, whose actions and attitude are even more annoying than her retarded name. Lu tells Shae that they need to go out and dance and have some fun, and to forget the no good bastard of a married man who cast her to the side like some toy, even though that's exactly what she was. Sounds like a reasonable plan.

"Wait... I'm a toy?"
They meet some hipster d-bags at a club, and after getting completely wasted, decide to go back to their trendy SOHO (?!?) loft with them, because they have their own DJ waiting there! (They really need to make a revenge movie where people who don't suck just go around killing Hipsters. I'd watch that shit in a heartbeat.) Anywho, back at the douche loft, one thing leads to another and Shae finds herself at the business end of a raping. Naturally, she calls her married ex-boyfriend to comfort her in her time of need, and he thinks she wants some post break up sex... and there she is, abused again.

"Why do I keep meeting guys like this?"
At this point, alone and doubly abused, Shae turns to her Riot Grrrl pal Lulu, who decides that killing every man they come across will heal all rape-inflicted wounds, and would be a hoot to boot, because men have it coming anyhow, right?

Overtly bloody revenge ensues.

The only consistant thing in all of your failed relationships, is you.
For all of its issues, Girls Against Boys was a visual treat for us. We loved the way the Cinematographer chose to shoot the movie, and the way that so many scenes seemed to take their time, and even linger, in places. The film's atmosphere is on par with its visuals; strong and well executed. As violent and crazy as some parts of the movie were, its best moments were its more subtle and quiet ones.

Danielle Panabaker did a hell of a job here. Her use of  facial expressions and body language to convey her character's inner feelings and Demons was great to watch. I don't know that she'll get the credit she deserves for her performance in this one or not, and that's a shame, because she really harnessed the movie's atmosphere and subtext and made it her bitch.

Stop staring like that, you're creeping us out.
I have a few big issues with this movie, which I will now go on a short tangent about, alright? Alright.

First, Shae is a totally non-sympathetic character. She's having an affair with a married man (which makes her sad and pathetic to begin with), whom she stalks after he breaks it off with her (making her look even more pathetic.) Then, as a cure all for her heartbreak, she hits the club, gets wasted, and ends up going home with some complete strangers, which results in her being raped. Then... yes, there's another then... after enduring that horrific trauma, she revisits her dysfunctional relationship and calls her married ex, which results in more abuse... I mean are we really supposed to feel for a girl who constantly puts herself in these situations? Get some self esteem and get your shit together already.

Second on my ire-filled list, is her only friend in NYC, Lulu. Silly name aside (Lulu? Come on), there's nothing whatsoever that's likable about the girl. She's portrayed as being a crazy bitch who thinks all men are horrible and useless pieces of trash, and yet she claims to have never suffered any childhood trauma that warped her into this mindset of wanting all men dead, which makes her character not only annoying, but troubling; she's not a pissed off, strong woman who is tired of being trampled on by self entitled men at all... she's just crazy.

Come on. Who does this? (Insane people. That's who.)
Third, and most important of all, is that these two nutty bitches are supposed to be the good guys. You know, two women who are out to teach the evil men of the world not to fuck with girls who have guns and katanas. Problem is, they aren't the good guys at all. Shae goes from sweet and innocent to a menacingly silent death dealer in the space of a few days, which shows us that maybe she's not just traumatized, and that she's really just a bit wonky, and always has been. Lulu is just plain wonky. All men are worthless to her, and so lets kill them. It all just felt disingenuous to us.

It felt like the point of the movie was that these girls are supposed to be strong female archetypes, but they end up being nothing of the sort. They're weak and off-kilter, and to me, that doesn't spell feminist at all. *As a man, I'm obviously offering a man's viewpoint of what the word "Feminist" should mean here, but come on. If these girls are supposed to embody Feminist ideals, then Feminism is a bunch of sad B.S.

She really was great in this movie though.
Rape is bad, and in fact, it's just downright horrific. It's just that I'm not sure that scantily-clad girls running around with guns and killing those who have wronged them, is much better. I'm all for rapists being put down like dogs gone bad, because that's just a service to humanity. What I'm not all for is throwing a couple of hot chicks on screen in slutty clothes, placing them in situations that no strong woman would ever find herself in, and set them to killing a gaggle of men "because they're all worthless pigs anyway," and trying to paint it all as some sort of female empowerment.

Had it just been Shae exacting her revenge all alone, sans the help of her bitter Suicide Girl wannabe crimey, I may have bought into her descent into madness and revenge more than I did. An isolated person, suffering a succession of major traumas in a short span of time, and becoming unhinged because of them, sounds fairly possible to me. I can even buy into the whole "she snapped and did some crazy things" bit too. It would have definitely been less annoying without the antagonistic Riot Grrrl pushing her towards it. It just didn't feel realistic at all.

She would have never done all of this on her own, which I know is the point, but still.
Let's not even get into how the one nice guy that Shae meets, and who treats her with nothing but respect and decency, sends the movie on a lame Single White Female sort of bent either. That whole thing just served to reveal Lulu for who she really was; a girl who wanted to get another girl in bed. It just cheapened things even further, in our eyes.

Aside from some great visuals and some really great Cinematography, and what we feel is a great, nuanced performance by Danielle Panabaker, this movie ultimately doesn't work for us. Its characters just couldn't generate enough sympathy from us to make us care about them in any sort of real way, and thus the story felt thinner and less substantial than it should have. It's not a bad movie, per se, it's just that the parts of the movie that we didn't like, kept us from liking the parts that we did. 

For us, Girls Against Boys is a D+/C- affair, that really could have been way better than it was.

So here we are at the end of a review in which we ranted about what is or isn't Feminism, and we're posting sexy pictures of Danielle Panabaker. Pretty sexist of us, huh? Well, I would argue that the fact that Ms. Panabaker is confident enough in herself to pose for pictures like this is, in and of itself, the purest form of Feminism... the sexy kind!

You go, girl!