Movie Review: ABC’s of Death 2 (2014)

The follow up to the original film makes you rethink your fragile existence with 26 more interesting short films of bizarre deaths. Not all of these are horror (though many are). The plots range from sadistic killers to vacations gone bad to children’s fantasies gone awry. Most are live action, but some are claymation or animated. Some send chills down your spine while others are quite poignant, and another references The Three Stooges.

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Some of Radio Of Horror’s favorites: A is for Amatuer gets the ball rolling with an action packed romp about a beginner level assassin. The most bizarre short was D for Deloused directed by Robert Morgan who is known for directing Tool music videos which are also bafflingly creepy. Believe that this stop motion animated freakshow of beheadings and bugs will make your skin crawl. E is for Equilibrium  switches the tone to something completely different with castaways fighting over a woman who washes up on shore. Then F is for Falling tugs on my heartstrings with the story of a female Israeli soldier whose parachute gets tangled in a tree is found by an armed Palestinian young man, in just a few short minutes Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado tell a modern story more gorgeous and heartbreaking than “Romeo and Juliet” that ties into current affairs that seem intangible and far away to much of the West and instantly it’s relatable, it’s just fascinating.

H is for Honorable Mention: H is for Headgames is an interesting concept: a man and a woman kiss and it turns into a surreal power struggle. I am a huge fan of Bill Plympton and I really wanted to like this one a bit more than I did. It was good, and instantly recognizable. I’ve been a geek for Bill Plympton since I Married a Strange Person came out in 1997 (just kidding, I was 12. I probably watched that for the first time in 2003).

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Bringing the horror: The contest winner (chosen from 541 submissions); M is for Masticate takes a turn for true crime and reminds us all about bath salts (did everyone just smarten up real quick about those or what?) and it was great, both humorous and terrifying. Hajime Ohata’s O is for Ochlocracy a mother protecting her child from zombies finds herself not in a struggle for survival but a legal battle when zombies are “cured” and coexist. S is for Split sees an ill fate for one half an unfaithful couple. In Jen and Sylvia Soska (The Demon Twins of Berlin in American Mary)’s T is for Torture Porn a woman harassed at an audition gets her hentai on. U is for Utopia gets sci-fi, big brother meets cosmetic culture when an unattractive man is targeted in a crowd of the fit and well groomed. V is for Vacation gets gritty and real with killer prostitutes. French actress Beatrice Dalle appears as a creepy and unstable babysitter in X is for Xylophone. Z is for Zygote creeped me out …mostly because the idea of being pregnant for 13 years is terrifying.

This film has many high points, although it is up for debate which ones are king. With bites from various genres, demographics, weapons of destruction, style and sentiments there is something for everyone. And it’s worth watching for that alone. Most of the actors are unknown and so the only thing to judge on is the direction, which is something so rare in the typical reboot and sequel cinescape, that’s what really makes this unique (even if it is the second time). The showcasing of new or relatively unknown directors with cult favorite directors made for innovative and enticing bites of film.

Worth the watch -just put down the popcorn during D for Deloused.

4/5

Produced by Ant Timpson and Tim League, distributed by Magnet Releasing.

Have you watched? What were your favorites?

Movie Review: 13 Sins (2014)

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Elliot Brindle (Mark Webber Scott Pilgrim vs The World) is a down on his luck salesman who always bore the brunt of his family’s needs. He pays for his special needs brother’s care, he puts up with a father who is unpleasant and ornery, he’s not respected at work. He does have a loving fiancee, Shelby (Rutina Wesley, “True Blood”) and a baby on the way. But Elliot’s already bad luck takes a turn for the even worse when what should be an interview for a promotion turns into a firing; with scathing comments from his superiors. He’ll lose his insurance and his brother’s program won’t be covered and his father (played by Tom Bower, Thr3e, Hills Have Eyes) is in failing health and has to move in with him.

Certain elements make me feel for Elliot. He went to college but studied a foolish major, he’s a Type B with a Type A job. He never could take risks because he had responsibility beyond his years already caring for his brother while his father acted like a self centered asshole following their mother’s death when Elliot was nine.

But when he lets his father move in… his father -a vehement racist, sexist and all around asshole.. Elliot lets that shitbag move in with his black bride to be. A man who asks Shelby to zip his pants for him. I lost all sympathy for Elliot there. Worse yet, it was just thrown in to give another reason why Elliot’s life was so shitty… but in a twist of somewhat bad writing it’s also made out that Elliot wants to impress his father. It was just pointless really, just to show that Elliot was wishy washy -understandably as a way to show how quickly Elliot evolves (and devolves) in the film.

Elliot is having his worst day ever when he receives a phone call. The voice on the other end instructs Elliot to kill a fly, and then eat it for a reasonable sum of money. He is then told that he has the chance to win a life changing sum of money All he h) as to do is complete 13 challenges …and hey, he’s already done 2! On the list? Destroying a nativity scene, desecrating a corpse, amputating a childhood bully’s arm, making a small child cry …and killing someone.

The police respond to the crimes and get descriptions from eyewitnesses. They realizes that there is one perpetrator for all these crimes. Detective Chilcoat (Ron Perlman, Hellboy, “Sons of Anarchy”) starts to investigate and meets a conspiracy theorist who tells him about “The Game.”

This game has a few rules. The player can’t tell anyone about the game, for example. So Elliot spends much time ducking his wife on his quest. Once Chilcoat gets involved it reaches pandemonium. Then Elliot realizes that there are other players and the carnage ramps up again.

Only one problem. No one acts like this. Rutina Wesley’s Shelby is the only characters who acts like a human being.

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Everyone else acts like a caricature. The plot is good (and also ripped off from a Thai film called 13:Game of Death which makes more sense as a title since killing a fly and eating it is not a sin at all). But the character development is terrible. Especially towards the end. Chilcoat’s actions are random and make no sense. The movie seems to want us to root for Elliot over Chilcoat from the get go (even though Chilcoat is doing his job an Elliot’s actions are reprehensible) so they throw in this foolish twist to make Chilcoat corrupt. But Elliot has devolved into a frantic fiend at that point.

Elliot could have been a badass anti-hero. This film could have explored the human condition, what capitalism and desperation will bring out of a mild mannered person. But the character development is just not there.

Interestingly, Mark Webber grew up homeless living in cars and eating scraps and doing anything for money before he broke into the biz. He and his mother participate in activism to raise awareness about homelessness, attend protests and they volunteer time in shelters. …And he’s playing a man who becomes a murderous asshole in a matter of hours after losing his job. Done well, it would have been great. A man pushed to the brink because he’s in poverty, he’s unable to “be a man” in the eyes of society and he is driven insane on this quest to get rich quick and provide the American Dream for his family, like an able bodied man “should”. But instead, Elliot’s actions become so reprehensible that the only conclusion on his character is that poor people would kill you for a dollar. And fuck that.

Chilcoat’s actions also make no sense. He’s painted as the “bad guy”, the antagonist that’s going to stop Elliot. But he should! Elliot is causing wanton destruction and injury. But then Chilcoat joins up with the game runners and it makes no sense. Why? Money? So is the moral of the story that ALL people would sell their soul and toss aside their beliefs for a payout? What the…

Not only that, the game runners are everywhere and can see everything. It’s been happening for decades but no one knows because the police all sell out and cover it up. There are multiple people playing at once who run into each other all the time. Elliot has a bank app on his flip phone. It’s just not believable.

SO close, but so far.

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For the final challenge: Elliot has to kill a family member. His father who is a fucking racist is an excellent choice, especially after it is revealed that their father killed their mom to win the game. And I watched it screaming at the screen: “Just do it together, Elliot and Michael kill dad together and they both win!” but they DONT DO THAT. Elliot spends too much time yapping after dismissing Michael …why? To keep Michael innocent? Can’t be. Michael has already killed people. So Elliot is that greedy. Or ableist. Maybe both. anyway, dad slits his throat rather than let Elliot win. That leaves Elliot and Michael to face off. There’s also this weird connotation that Michael doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong which also seems ableist and gross.

And even more baffling: after Elliot kills Michael, Elliot kills Chilcoat and forfeits his prize.

It makes no sense.

It makes no sense and it was awful.
I could have suspended disbelief for the see all gamerunners but the ending was so terrible and the character development was heavy handed as all hell. The pranks were somewhat creative and there was plenty of gore and mayhem. Just didn’t hit the mark, even the badass cast couldn’t save this shitshow of classism and ableism.

2/5

Movie Review: Lizzie Borden Took An Axe (2014)

This Lifetime TV movie biopic on the legendary Lizzie Borden tried and acquitted for the 1892 murders of her parents is surprisingly hip and adorable.

The cast helps. Horror alum Christina Ricci (Addams Family, Cursed, Sleepy Hollow) plays Lizzie. Clea Duvall (“American Horror Story”, Helter Skelter, The Grudge) plays her sister Emma. Her mother and father are played by Sara Botsford (Tremors 4) and Stephen McHattie (“The Strain”, Septic Man).

The soundtrack helps as well, there are adorable indie tunes scattered about in a similar vein to Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. 

It brings modernization in a low key way that a modern remake never could. It makes the snafus -use of electric lighting, appearance of telephone poles- seem less foolish.

Budding sociality and bratty rich girl can’t get a new dress for a dance.

She was acquitted, mainly because it was inconceivable to a jury that a woman could commit murder with an axe.

So, there’s that.

Lizzie Borden is such a notorious figure. Ricci does an outstanding job portraying the immature sociality and the movie is aesthetically and auditorily pleasing. Overall, an awesome retelling.

3.75/5

Movie Review: Houses October Built (2014)

real documentary about 5 friends who set out to uncover the culture of underground haunted houses. Brandy Schaefer, Mikey Roe, Bobby Roe, Zack Andrews and Jeff Larsen are longtime friends who set out in an RV to 9 different haunts. Interviews are not scripted or manipulated in anyway, and the truth is more horrifying than the lie in this flick. People running haunted horror events notoriously don’t run background checks… some of the things participants say are down right deviant and terrifying. There are multiple actual news reports related about people dying in haunted houses while pranking their friends and no one knows until long after the night’s over.

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The crew travels across Texas in search of the most frightening events October has to offer. Along the way, they hit up all types of attractions (including zombie paintball) …and then they go in search of the Holy Grail of underground haunts but get more than they bargained for from locals.

Interestingly enough, this film was fascinating on it’s own. It won FearNET’s Shocker Award in 2011. Sadly, this project fell by the wayside for a while. The producers behind the Insidious films and Paranormal Activity decided that what it needed was a little mockumentary flair.

…and it works.

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I don’t know that it needed it; but it is well acted enough that the scripted portions fit well with the various interviews, news reports and first person filmings in dingy fake blood coated halls. It adds another dimension to the film that I hadn’t seen coming. I’m also not totally clear when it started. Brandy, the lone female, has an altercation with male hillbillies in a public bathroom. Mikey has an argument with locals that gets them run out of town. They pick up a bizarre hitch hiker. These brief elements break up the chatty drives in the sun on the long trek from destination to destination. So when things get more serious… it’s difficult to know what to believe. Is this a practical joke? Have they found the haunt they are looking for? Or are they facing deranged lunatics?

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A great look at extreme haunted houses and intense and escalating subculture surrounding haunted events …with a little Hollywood panache.

5/5

This film is out in select theaters and on itunes on Friday 10/10.

Brandy Schaefer will be on WCUW’s Radio Of Horror on Sunday.

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Movie Review: Devil Incarnate (2013)

Graci Carli stars (sort of) as a woman named Holly who has recently married. Her husband is played by Rod Luzzi. And they are a typical young couple ….who get cursed while on their honeymoon and Holly ends up pregnant with the child of Satan.

Emily Rogers plays Holly’s sister in law, Marissa. She’s queer and adorkable and video tapes everything like Wes Bentley did in American Beauty. Bafflingly; There are no pictures of her on the internet.

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Usually the “devil baby” plotline is a deal breaker. It’s over done. While that’s still true, the characters are far less annoying than their counterparts in other films. The focus shifts from Holly to Marissa early in the film, Trevor isn’t blind to the horrors that his wife is experiencing because of the chance to grow his progeny. Marissa is the first to notice that Holly is behaving oddly -from seducing Marissa and yelling at her in Latin, to making sexual advances towards Trevor’s father.

For reasons unknown, Marissa captures most of this on film. The sheer volume of memory cards required is irrational.

But Marissa’s odd fixation with Holly and her retelling of increasingly strange events to her pre-law BFFL on Skype is charming.

And no one says anything ridiculous like “We have to save the baby !!!!!!!!!!1” when Holly really starts becoming dangerous. Trevor and Marissa head back to the site of the honeymoon, Cassa Dega, to rectify the situation.

The plot doesn’t make as much sense as it could. The reason Holly is carrying the devil spawn is because she was cursed by an old woman, the curse had come to a family after years of infertility. It is revealed that Holly was adopted but the implications weren’t clear to me.

Everyone in the film is relatively unknown and I think that it’s helpful in this case. Found footage movies are just plain everywhere lately and I’m not sure that much was added by having Marissa be a nerd with a camera except aside from an excuse to use edgy camera angles and bad lighting.

3/5

Movie Review: Burke and Hare (2010)

This is a horror-comedy directed by John Landis (no one does this genre better) and starring Simon Pegg (who has found his forte in horror comedy, as well). It’s set in Victorian London, a setting that has found recent popularity again in the genre with NBC’s “Dracula”, Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful” …but this is more reminiscent of Sweeney Todd than any classic monster mash.

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Burke (Simon Pegg, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, Fantastic Fear of Everything) and Hare (Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) are two Irish immigrants living in London who can not find suitable work. They stumble on a profitable venture after trying to dispose of the corpse of another resident at their rooming house and they find that selling cadavers to a medical school could be quite profitable. Only, a good corpse is hard to find, and they become increasingly more desperate and ridiculous in their venture. Burke, for his part, isn’t that gung-ho about their scheme until he meets Ginny Hawkins (Isla Fisher) -a former sex worker looking for financial backing for an all women production of Macbeth.

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Burke becomes taken with her and their increasingly bizarre killing spree ramps up.

The find themselves in danger when the corpses become recognizable and the medical professor is confronted.

Some of this is based on a 16 victim killing spree in West Port in the 19th century, that much is true. The real story is much more macabre, Burke and Hare were found out and turned in by Burke’s lover, the duo found lure people in, get them drunk and suffocate them.

Slapstick murder, increasingly wild schemes and cover ups, naive lovers and neighbors, and a soundtrack and costuming that doesn’t try too hard at realism and atmosphere. It’s nearly perfect and I’m not sure why this film isn’t more popular.

That being said: all the women are side characters or motivation for the men. Not that they are quite 2-D… but they are not much more and there are virtually no PoC characters even in the background.

4/5

Movie Review: Night of The Creeps (1986)

There’s something so pleasing to me about 80’s cheese horror. I don’t know if it reminds me of shite my babysitters used to let me watch or if it’s just the overall aesthetic, frequent partial nudity, the inevitable jock vs. nerd duality,or the awesome female characters who always seem to pop up.

In this CLASSIC film, directed by Fred Dekker (Monster Squad, Robocop 3) we flashback to 1959 on Sorority Row. Masterfully pulled off in black and white. It’s only slightly tongue in cheek when a blonde bombshell out for a ride with her date, Johnny. Johnny hears a noise and goes to investigate. Which is where the alien brainslug turns him into a murderous zombie.

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In 1986, two dweebs pledging a fraternity so that a former Griswold can have a chance with his dream girl find the cryogenically frozen corpse of Johnny. The are supposed to dump to corpse on the steps of another fraternity. Instead, they freak out- but still unthaw the corpse and the brainslug is passed on to a new host and soon the whole campus is in peril ..and so is Chris’s dream girl. The original zombie peeps on Cynthia and Det. Cameron is called in. Cameron (Tom Atkins, who is is still making films and starred in 1951’s Thing From Another World) had helped take down a zombie axemurderer in 1959.

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Tongue in cheek nods abound to horror greats throughout the film, including the character’s names. Sgt Raimi (Sam Raimi), Chris Romero (George, obviously), JC Hooper (named for both James Cameron and Tobe Hooper).

Cynthia joins team nerd after uberjock fratbro trips the physically disabled JC. JC is my favorite character, he’s picked on for his physical abilities but he’s more self assured than Chris, he’s a great wing man, he stares down the cool kids, he doesn’t take shit from anyone and he lights a brain slug on fire without hesitation. Shortly after Cynthia recounts seeing a zombie’s head explode and slugs crawl out to Chris, JC gets turned. But instead of turning murderous: he fries himself and his brainslugs, before he does he leaves a tape for Chris explaining brainslugs, telling him that he loves him and good luck with Cynthia.

Meanwhile, the cops are zombie hunting. Det. Cameron confronts the original with a venomous, “I already killed you. You son of a bitch I already killed you.”

Chris meets up with the Detective and gives him the news. Then they head out to the homecoming party with flame throwers, Chris hands Cynthia a 12 gauge saying “Hold this, you’ll feel better.” Then they switch and Chris shoots and Cynthia lights ’em up. Going from near catatonic to certified badass with relative ease.

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The ensuing scenes are GOLD. Flame throwers made out of cigarettes and hairspray, running a zombie over with lawn mower, “It’s Miller Time”, infected science experiments. Nothing groundbreaking here, but damn if this isn’t enjoyable as all hell.

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