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: 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- Devoured (2014)

This film follows Lourdes, a woman who moves to New York to make money to provide for her son to have a life -saving operation. She winds up working the night shift cleaning a bar/restaurant and setting up for the next day. Throughout the film Lourdes is aggressively harassed by her male boss, snubbed by her female boss, propositioned for sex by skeevy customers. She toils endlessly and is victimized for her hard work. She had next to no social life, she dresses poorly. It accurately portrays what a bind Lourdes is in, she is unable to quit her job because it’s her last chance to save her son. Aside from the horrors of wage-slavery and the class struggle, Lourdes begins seeing dead people. Dead men pop up from behind fish tanks, dead women emerge from trash bags in the alley, Lourdes pulls out a tooth and spits a geyser of blood, something tries to pull her through a locker or trap her in the bar. But still she returns every day.

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The pacing of this movie is excruciatingly slow. As Lourdes walks the restaurant there are bizarre scenes of elaborate meal preparation in a way that is reminiscent of the opening theme of “Dexter”. We watch as tables are set. Again. The audience is forced to see these repetitive scenes, fitting since this is all Lourdes’s life consists of except for her phone calls home to her mother and son. 

The majority of the film is more depressing drama than horror. But after the mood is set, there are some true shocks and creeps. It’s wonderfully directed by Greg Olliver (whose other works are rockstar documentaries) who sets the mood well, orchestrates jump out of your seat moments and leaves the audience guessing til the end. It’s a slow burn, but there is no denying it is well done. (However, this is not an ending that’s never been done in horror either.) Olliver gets us into Lourdes’s mind state and will leave you wondering if her bosses are evil, if the place is haunted or if she is just losing her freaking mind!

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Marta Milans from ABC’s “Killer Women” stars as Lourdes, she is fantastic. She completely pulled off every aspect of this role and made this film relatable. Even through the depressing slog that was the first half of the movie, Marta Milans brings life to Lourdes and never allows the audience to forget why she is there and what is at stake for her.

That being said, this title doesn’t fit at all. I hear “Devoured” and I think “vampires, ghouls, shit that will eat you” and there’s really none of that. I feel like that’s why there were all those shots of the food, because people eat food and the movie was named “Devoured” for absolutely no reason and they tried to make it work. Or it was to throw the audience off of the cause of the horror. I don’t know. But it doesn’t make sense.

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3.25 out of 5 

31 Horrifying Days- Day 20: A Fantastic Fear of Everything (2012)

This is one of my favorites that I’ve watched since starting this project. I’m behind, I know, but I’m catching up.

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The film centers around Jack; a crime novelist whose research on serial killers has turned him into a paranoid, delusional, insomniac wreck must confront his worst fears when a film executive takes a sudden interest in his movie script. He assumes that the exec is planning to kill him of course. He’s suspicious of the only person who’s still speaking to him: Clair (Clare Higgins, “The Night of the Doctor”). Clair is his friend with money who buys him lunch and fluffs his hair and affectionately tells him that he’s sensitive. Clair also wishes that he would go back to writing children’s books. But Jack is past that. His new effort is consuming him. And he doesn’t understand why she doesn’t understand.

#1 I frigging love Simon Pegg and he really brings horror comedy to the next level.

#2 I love when academics/artists/workaholics get pushed to the brink.

 I have undying affection for anyone who does anything so wholeheartedly that it eats them alive. So Jack starts carrying a butcher knife everywhere, losing time, seeing things out of the corner of his eye, falling in to narcoleptic naps, seeing a “psychopathic stare” in people’s eyes, narrating his own life, envisioning Vietnamese crimelords and concocting relationships between people that make o sense.

“I’m not here to hurt anybody. I’m a professional writer.”

His terrifying moments jump from seeing ghosts with eyes in their mouth to the humiliation of tossing his dingy underwear across the laundrette in front of a beautiful woman, Sangeet (played by an actress who is of Sri Lankan descent. Diversity is cool). 

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For any aspiring professional, not having clean dress clothes for an important last minute meeting is as terrifying as any serial killer. 

Visually magnificent, great soundtrack. Written and co-directed by Crispian Mills, it’s his first feature and it’s truly outstanding. Chris Hopewell co-directed. For two unknowns especially: it’s outstanding. Part of it is reminiscent of James and the Giant Peach

Towards the end of the flick Jack and Sangeet end up in real danger, held captive by a madman. Can Jack pull it together and help get them out of it? Or will he crack? Or will Sangeet save them? Or will art save them?

But is it scary? Parts are actually creepy because you don’t know what to expect. But really? It’s just a ton of fun and amusement.

5/5

 

31 Horrifying Days- Day 16: Quarantine (2008)

I haven’t watched a zombie movie in a while and I’d never seen this one. Well, no one ever says the Z word. But it features humans affected by a rage-virus much in the same style as 28 Days Later and affected animals like in Resident Evil that fall ill and then try to eat your freaking face off, the afflicted are unhindered by pain, unable to speak and without reason. They are sensitive to light and hard to kill.

The modern interpretation of a zombie.

Jennifer Carpenter (“Dexter”, Exorcism of Emily Rose) stars as Angela Vidal, a television reporter working on a fluff piece about LA’s Bravest. She, along with cameraman Scott (played by Steve Harris, “Awake” and the voice of Clayface on “The Batman”) hang out with the firefighters at the station: shoot hoops, eat chilli, make small talk, then they head out on a call.

The call is medical and they arrive at an apartment building along with the police before the EMTs. When they get there they head upstairs and find an addled looking woman with blood around her collar and then the bodies start dropping. Sometimes literally. One of the firemen gets thrown down 3 floors straight onto the tile. They try to get outside, but the police (and later National Guard and CDC) have them locked in. Even with an injured officer and firefighter. Those inside search for alternate routes and are met with assault rifles and ordered to back away from windows. The police won’t tell them anything and soon they are without cell reception and electricity (this one’s weird. The elevator is on “auxiliary power” and a resident’s TV still works, but there’s no lights. Doesn’t add up except to add to the atmosphere). Angela tells Scott to keep rolling, that people won’t believe this. 

And he does. Of course, one of the things I dislike about mockumentary/found footage films is the implausibility of someone lugging a camera around with rage zombies actively trying to eat their face. He does bash one of the turned over the head with it. The lens gets bloodied. Slightly off camera Scott falls apart while cleaning the blood. Some of the camera angles don’t work. He’d be taping an infected chasing them right till they were face to face but then be first through the door to get the shot of everyone coming in. That’s a nitpick, though. At one point the camera is actually integral because conditions are pitch dark and it has night vision.

It is really good. And the characters work well, the first responders are freaked out but ready for a fight and regular people like Angela and Scott are not built for this. After seeing a firefighter get up walking on a broken leg and a little girl rip out her mom’s throat… she’s done. “I’m done. I’m not moving.” There’s a wealthier white man who wants to exercise his god-given right to die in his own apartment, a young Indian-American couple with nice clothes and a bathroom full of prescription sedatives and narcotics, a pair of North Africans who don’t speak English, the tough cop who is at first reluctant to go against orders (Columbus Short, “Scandal”), the hot firefighter who lives the longest (Jay Hernandez, Hostel, “Gang Related”) and a veterinarian (Greg Germann, “NCIS”) who diagnoses the infected with a mutated form of rabies.

The CDC arrives. The CDC also tells them that a blood test will confirm if they are infected. The veterinarian tells them that they’d need a brain sample. Everyone freaks the hell out. The CDC ends up getting eaten and no one gets their brain sampled. 

As numbers dwindle, the search for a way out leads to an unnecessary plot point. The virus was cultivated by some freakshow in rats first in the name of some cult. It didn’t add much to the plot. It didn’t need it. Dark apartment complex full of relatable people search for a way out while on the run from hyper-rabid former friends.

There are a few females in the film but no girl-power to speak of. I feel as though Angela’s flailing and inability to find a weapon suited her TV diva character… but I wish that there had been an Officer Deb Morgan somewhere.

4.25/5 (I fucking love zombies)

But it should be noted: this movie is based on the Spanish horror film [REC] from 2007, the main character’s name is even the same. I’ll definitely be watching the original.

31 Horrifying Days- Day 12: “Lucky Bastard”

The premise of the movie centers around a contest. The contest is run by a website called “Lucky Bastard” and the Lucky Bastard gets to fuck a pornstar. In this case, that pornstar is the smoking hot Ashley Saint (played by smoking hot Betsy Rue, My Bloody Valentine) and the fan is Dave (Jay Paulson, who has played a recurring role on “Mad Men”).

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Ashley Saint is one of the hottest girls in the company, but she has turned down participating in the “Lucky Bastard” contest because of her personal rule: “No anal and no amateurs.” She changes her mind when director Mike (Don McManus, looking very Big Lebowski) offers her more money. Ashley is more than a sexy cut out pornstar trope, she’s a single mother and at one point says in a breathy, sexy voice into the camera “Oh yeah, help my clip my double coupons” after Mike says she’s giving fans limp dick by saying that she’s a single mother. Her ex was an abusive meth-head, but it’s not played for sympathy. Ashley sees porn as a job like any other job that provides food, rent and school clothes for her kids. (Weren’t we just talking about legitimizing sex-work?)

But when she meets Dave… he gives her the creeps. He calls her by her real name, knows her kids names and then blows his load prematurely. Ashley yells, “I know I’m not a lawyer or Hilary FUCKING Clinton, but I am a professional! This is not professional!” She refuses to do the scene. Mike, whose main focus is on dollar signs has been ordering people around and trying to coerce everyone to his will. He makes it clear that he thinks Dave is a loser, he treats cameramen Kris (Chris Wylde) and Nico (Lanny Joon) like personal servants, bribes Ashley into uncomfortable situations and then tries to get his own pornstar girlfriend, Casey (Catherine Annette, Nobody Can Cool, upcoming Vampire Schoolgirls) to screw Dave as a backup plan -after telling her that she couldn’t shoot the B-roll footage. She takes being a back-up personally.

Mike gets angry. Like “Hulk-style: You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” And then frustrated loser Dave becomes concerned about what’s on the cameras. After a spitting mad shouting match, Mike sends Dave off. 58 minutes in is when everything comes to a head.

It seems like an easy setup, it is slow cookin, two-thirds of the film just doing everyday stuff (and porn), but throughout that time the audience gets insight into the characters. Ashley’s there for her kids, she’s thinking about being a Hollywood Actress, Mike wanted to be a big time director, Casey just wants to be a pornstar… And Dave has no idea who he really is.

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“Whatever I want is what I do, so whatever I do, that’s what I want. Now I’m a bitchin’ pornstar.”

An hour of this 94 minute flick is spent building up the awkwardness and egos and sexy shots of Betsy Rue’s naked body (full frontal, visible tanlines included) but when the violence starts, it doesn’t stop. And we see how far the victims will go to save their own asses.

But is it scary? Nope. But it was surprising. Uncomfortable to watch in the way I find “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” to be and once the violence amps up there are shocking edge of your seat moments. The premise that’s centered around a house full of cameras for porn shoots makes the mockumentary style more palatable unlike found footage films that are beyond belief (Like Devil’s Pass teleporting monsters are after you. How would you not have thrown the camera at it?).

3.75/5

Due to the NC-17 rating, the film didn’t get a wide cinematic release (although it was in select theaters), it is currently available on Amazon Video on Demand.

If you would like to know more, director Robert Nathan will be on Radio of Horror on 5/26 (technically) show starts at midnight EST so tune in for the dirt on the dangers of humiliation TV, hypocrisy towards the porn industry and real life inspiration for the characters.