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Summer of Blood – 7

January 18, 2015 Leave a comment

Director – Onur Tukel

Cast – Jonathan Caouette, Zach Clark, Dustin Guy Defa, Juliette Fairley, Dakota Goldhor

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I only found out about this film until recently, and what gave me the drive to watch it is it was referred to as a “hipster horror film”. I don’t count because that would be mainstream, but I know I have plenty of “hipster” friends who would get a kick out of such a film, so I gave this a watch and left pleased with the results. The story follows Eric Sparrow – a self-centered asshole who sucks in bed and makes the mistake of his life when he turns down his beautiful girlfriend Jody’s marriage proposal. He tries to move on without her…and to no avail. Each date ends worse than the one before, his job becomes more and more unbearable, and to make matters worse…Jody is now dating her college crush. Eric’s life is falling apart, but he receives the chance of a lifetime when he is bit by a vampire. Eric awakes as a different man. He is confident, strong, and now a sexual maestro with the opposite sex. There is only one problem – he is a vampire, and vampires need to eat.

Writer/director Onur Tukel stars as Eric and delivers one hell of an opening sequence. The story begins with Eric and Jody having an exquisite dinner at their favorite restaurant. When Jody proposes Eric uses his bafoonish wit to say “no” with the highest number of words possible, turning the issue to himself and the fallacies of married life. This intro lasts almost 8 minutes and will leave you shaking your head over how much of an idiot he is. I am sure lots of us, both male and female, have been in situations where we let a good person go for stupid, selfish reasons, and this intro did a good job of reminding me of the hurt I felt. Tukel’s writing is fantastic, with excellent dialogue from Eric that shows how arrogance and a “hipster” way of looking at things can cost you. Of course, this is done so in hilarious fashion. The head-shaking continues as you watch Eric fail at everything that matters. He has a pathetic way of using his logic to rationalize the life he lives, and before he can realize how much he is bullshitting himself…he becomes a vampire.

The second act is where Eric begins to bring home his new life. He is epically fired from his job, gives no f*cks about the rent he owes, and unlike before, he is having lots of success with women. So is this even a horror film? Yes it is. The first kill occurs 39 minutes in, and it is gory as hell. The kills continue at a brisk pace for the next 10 minutes or so, with kills coming from many angles, including while engaged in coitus with a beautiful woman. Conflict eventually arises, and while it is tame in comparison to the rest of the film it still managed to keep me engaged. At times I felt like despite its mere 86 minutes in length that the film dragged here and there. Eric’s long responses/monologues about this or that hipster case-in-point eventually exceed their welcome, yet he somehow manages to remain a guy that you’d love to hang out with – at least in small doses. I would not exactly call this a horror comedy, but it does have its comedic elements. Thankfully they blend well with the horror and the carnage does not take a backseat to the lulz.

Tukel’s direction is fantastic, and he secures a great performance from…himself as Eric. Tukel’s acting (if he’s even acting) dominates the character-driven experience and as I mentioned earlier, it’s hard not to love the guy. He’s a dick, and he’ll piss you off, but I’d love to hang out with him just so I could laugh at his troubles. Despite some dragging moments his execution, via atmosphere, music, and laughs, is enough to keep you engaged and into what is going on before you. Most importantly, though, his execution of the horror is fantastic. I was surprised at the level of gore seen in the film, and it all comes via live-action effects and not that lamestream CGI nonsense. His execution is full-frontal and with the kills drawn-out to gory extremes you will leave pleased at experiencing more horror than you expected for a “hipster” horror flick.

Overall, Summer of Blood is a fun watch and one that I recommend to all, even if you’re not a hipster.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

The Battery – 8

February 13, 2014 Leave a comment

Director – Jeremy Gardner

Cast – Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim, Niels Bolle, Alana O’Brien, Larry Fessenden

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

The Battery is a film that I heard a lot about in 2013, but like many others I was skeptical and took my time getting to it. What astonished me about the positive buzz surrounding this film is its very low budget of $6,000, and I constantly asked myself the question “How do they pull off a good experience with such a low budget”, and then I found out first-hand. When this 101 minute experience was over I realized I had just witnessed the biggest film accomplishment of 2013 (that I had seen) and one of the best horror films of the year as well. While not devoutly horror, The Battery mixes zombies/horror with comedy, drama, and an amazing soundtrack to make for a remarkable experience I highly recommend.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies, Ben and Mickey, two former baseball players, find that their personalities clash as they travel across rural New England as a means to stay alive.

The Battery is so much more than your basic zombie film and that is what I loved most about it. Auteur Jeremy Gardner’s story takes off right away and makes the viewer feel as if he/she is living the life our protagonists are forced to live. Much like sharks, they constantly love and never stay still for longer than necessary, and Ben, the more adventurous of the two, loves this way of life. Mickey has yet to adjust to it, instead drowning himself in his headphones and the film’s highly engaging soundtrack. Despite their friendship and their love for baseball, their personalities clash often, and they make for good drama as well as humorous conflict. As with most zombie films that “do things right”, the true focus of the story is not the zombies but mankind’s reaction to their new way of life, and Gardner’s story focuses heavily on our protagonists. There are zombies in the film and they provide both horror and kills, but they are more of an afterthought and take a backseat to the amazing chemistry between Ben and Mickey.

You can write a screenplay for less than $6,000, but can you bring it to life on such a low budget? Jeremy Gardner did and his direction is so incredible it has to be the most impressive direction of 2013 for the horror genre. The camerawork is amazing and plays a major role in keeping the viewer engaged in what is going on by really putting us inside the lives of our protagonists. Gardner’s soundtrack is also highly engaging and is sure to be looked up by the extreme majority of the film’s viewers. What really sells the film direction-wise are the performances from Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim as Ben and Mickey. Their interaction is incredible and they themselves are what brings Gardner’s fantastic story to life, taking us from triumphant joy to gut-wrenching sorrow. Gardner’s execution of the horror is great as well, and thankfully so given the horror’s backseat to the film’s heavy emphasis on character-play. The zombies were positively executed and served their purpose as the source behind the sorrow surrounding Ben and Mickey, although one zombie inadvertently aids Mickey in a way I never thought possible – one of the funniest scenes I have ever seen involving a zombie.

Overall, The Battery is an incredible experience that I highly suggest you become a part of. An epic story complimented with good direction makes for one of the best horror films in recent years. The horror does take a backseat to the more prevalent elements going on, but the horror is still worthwhile and with a film this good you will hardly notice its absence.

Rating: 8/10

…Additional Stills…

Good Neighbors – 4

December 4, 2011 1 comment

Director – Jacob Tierney

Cast – Jay Baruchel, Scott Speedman, Emily Hampshire, Anne-Marie Cadieux, Diane D’Aquila, Xavier Dolan, Clara Furey, Kaniehtiio Horn

Release Year – 2011

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Good Neighbors was recommended to me as an engaging horror film with a unique serial-killer element going on, and that was really the only reason I decided to dive into this Canadian thriller, one that resulted in much disappointment on my end. This is by no means a bad film, but it IS a pretty bad “horror film” due to how much the storyline leaves to be desired. It could be the victim of poor advertising looking to bring on the $$$ in the horror/thriller genres, or maybe writer/director Jacob Tierney just failed to give the film an identity.

When a series of grisly murders leave a small Canadian city on edge over fear of a serial-killer lurking among them, newcomer Victor and his two neighbors Spencer and Louise find themselves on edge and living in constant suspicion when evidence points that the killer may be living among them.

Sounds like a pretty cool horror experience right? Well if the storyline actually followed this plot summary then it would have been a good one, but sadly this is one case where “there is so much more to the story than meets the eye” worked against the film. I love horror films that give us characters in closely knit spaces and this one does that by setting the story in an apartment complex. Sadly much of the film plays on our characters instead of the actual horror, giving us the usual quirky tidbits associated with “indie” films of this “dark” nature. We follow Victor as he begins to fall for the unlikable Louise, much to the behest of their neighbor (and Louise’s confidante) Spencer. The serial-killer element plays here and there, but we never see him/her actually kill anyone – instead we are just forced to witness the psychological impact the killings have on our protagonists. This is not so bad for a drama, but for a horror/thriller you have got to give me more than just that. Thankfully Tierney did manage to write in an amazing kill sequence that was one I had yet to see used in the genre and one that consisted of some pretty brutal material, and that is the only reason this film is not receiving a lower rating. There are numerous twists and turns that about during this piece, some that bring on a bit of tension and others that simply increase the drama involved, but in the end Tierney’s storyline was a bit too complicated and left too many things wide-open. Sure it creates debate among those who watch it, but this was done in unfavorable and bland fashion.

Thankfully Tierney’s direction is pretty damn good, giving us awesome visuals and perfect atmosphere for the film this one TRIES to be. The sets were great and added to the somewhat claustrophobic feel felt at times, and the tension he employed was good despite how short-lived it was. We get good acting performances from all involved, however some were truly unlikable and I have a strong feeling that that was exactly how Tierney wanted them to come off. His execution of the main kill sequence mentioned earlier was fantastic and shot in pretty brutal fashion, and had the rest of the film consisted of such subject matter this would have been an incredible experience, but of course that was far from the case here.

Overall, Good Neighbors is a film that tries to be many things and fails when it comes to the horror film it claimed to be. The horror that we do get is strong and pretty awesome to watch, but the storyline provides little horror and along with the unengaging character play we are left with a flick that could have been great but instead wound up one I’d rather not watch again.

Rating: 4/10

Birdemic: Shock and Terror – 3

October 20, 2011 2 comments

Director – James Nguyen

Cast – Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Tippi Hedren, Rick Camp, Patsy van Ettinger, Colton Osborne

Release Year – 2010

Reviewed by John of the Dead

When I first heard of Birdemic: Shock and Terror last year I thought “Hey, a cheezy no-brainer film about killer eagles? Sounds sweet to me.” and admit I was really looking forward to this film. Then when the very positive reviews hit the major horror websites my interest in this film reached supreme levels and I went into this very low-budget effort with expectations of enjoyment, and boy was that a big mistake. I had never seen a trailer for this film and basically went in blind, but from the get-go I knew I had made a grave mistake in buying into the hype created by other reviewers who seem to have gone mad in thinking this is anything more than a poor effort that may just be the biggest joke on the horror genre this millennium.

When a small town falls under siege by an army of vicious eagles it is up to the remaining survivors to seek the reasoning behind the avian onslaught if they wish to survive this hellish platoon of angry birds.

This reminds me a lot of Paranormal Activity before it first hit theaters. The hype was huge – we were going to view a flick filmed on such a miniscule budget it should never see a wide theater release, nor should it be scary. Paranormal Activity lived up to the hype, whether you personally enjoyed it or not, but that is far from the case with Birdemic: Shock and Terror. I applaud writer/director James Nguyen for creating positive hype in this $10,000 flick that somehow surprisingly took him four years to complete, but my applause stops there since I usually do not enjoy being the center of a joke. Simply put: if you defend this piece as a legitimate entry into the horror genre, if you “read” into this experience as more than it really is…the joke is on you. Keep laughing Nguyen.

As far as story goes this really isn’t a bad film overall. I enjoy killer-creature experiences in horror, and killer eagles is something that I do not recall seeing in the past, so there is a creative element involved in Birdemic: Shock and Terror. Nguyen stated that he felt compelled to make this film after watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, which makes a lot of sense given this flick gives us killer birds and a strong pro-environment element. There are numerous instances where Nguyen throwns in pro-environment propaganda of all sorts, which I would not have minded at all had it not been so prevalent. When I go into a horror film I expect to see horror over anything else, and the level of propaganda in this film was just too much to enjoy for me. Humanoids From the Deep had a pro-environment element, but it never took over the film and stayed below the horror as it should have, and it lead to one of the best films of 1980. Nguyen’s pacing sucks as well, giving us 45 minutes of mushy love story before the horror finally kicks in, which comes and goes way too often and results in annoyance.

While the story has its faults, nothing beats how bad Nguyen’s direction is. You know those really bad Sci-fy films with horrible digital effects that you laugh at? Well Birdemic: Shock and Terror is worse than those films. From the get-go I learned that Nguyen’s direction was going to be an utter failure when I was exposed to horrendously bad acting, poor camerawork, horrible audio, and things only became worse when the pissed off birds finally arrived. The CGI for the birds is probably the worst that I have ever seen, and even at that I don’t believe I can explain to you just how bad it really is, you just need to watch it yourself. Some of the most frequent comments I saw regarding this flick were that it was so funny it was deserving of a high rating, but in my opinion this falls from from the “so bad it’s good” type horror film proponents and playing it out to be. I guess if you were with a group of friends pounding lots of alcohol then you may find this film pretty damn enjoyable, as a joke, but if you need to inebriate yourself to enjoy a film then once again…the joke is on you.

Overall, Birdemic: Shock and Terror is a film I expected to like due to its crazy storyline and obvious cheese, but the end-result was one that was so bad I am left to question all those who gave this film such high ratings. When I say bad, I mean REALLY bad, and I highly suggest you not fall victim to the hype and bullshit reviews and stay away from this one.

Rating: 3/10

Top 10 Horror Movies of 2010

December 28, 2010 4 comments

2010 delivered more good horror to us in the form of awesome sequels, positive remakes, original films, as well as several of the film industries greatest directors making their impact on the horror genre.  Remember, this a list of the top 10 HORROR movies of 2010, which means they will be ranked by their horror first, then everything else will taken into consideration.  I now give you the top 10 horror movies of 2010, as well as 5 honorable mentions.

10. The Crazies (remake)

– The obvious remake of George A. Romero’s 1973 classic, this film delivers a slightly different take on the same storyline Romero gave us except this time focusing more on the infected people than on the military.  We do not get the same hard-hitting social commentary that Romero delivered, but the tension is high and we get some good infected action, as well as a great performance from lead protagonist Timothy Olyphant.  Read my full review for this film here: The Crazies

9. Dream Home

Dream Home is most likely the least-known film on this list, and in the horror genre that is never truly a bad sign.  This film gives us something we hardly EVER get in the horror genre…a female slasher film.  Coupled with a unique storyline that intercepts a thoughtful and relatable back-story about a woman’s who has worked her life to give her grandfather the comfortable life that he deserves with current gory events, this flick was a fresh breath in the Asian horror scene not only because it did not involve any ghosts with long black hair…but did not run longer than it should like most Asian films do.  Read my full review for  this film here: Dream Home

8. Black Death

– Christopher Smith’s 4th straight positive film since his initial entry, 2004’s Creep, Black Death gives us horror fans an element that I personally had not seen used previously in the horror genre…the bubonic plague.  Set in 14th century England, we watch a group of the Catholicism’s finest soldiers and a young monk travel to a secluded village believed to be using pagan acts to successfully escape the plague, and they encounter a horror similar to the pagan horror we are given in The Wicker Man, one of my favorite films.  Aided by a great screenplay from Dario Paroni(Wilderness), Christopher Smith once again delivers a very well executed horror film that I believe has solidified himself as one of horror’s premier directors.  Read my full review for this film here: Black Death

7. Piranha 3D

Piranha 3D was not a film that I was looking forward to this year, and that came as a surprise to me due to my love for writer/director Alexandre Aja(High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes remake, Mirrors).  Why was I not excited?  Because the film’s level of CGI looked very high, and I am not a fan of 3D films.  Well, I was wrong to think that I would not enjoy this film, and I found Piranha 3D to be one of the most fun horror films of the year.  It bears close resemblance to the original, but carries enough of its own weight to still give us a unique horror experience.  Alexandre Aja did a great job executing this film, and he included lots of fun gore and zany kill sequences that left me not just forgetting, but APPRECIATING the CGI usage in the film.  Read my full review for this film here: Piranha 3D

6. Predators

– It has been a long while since we were last given a standalone non-AVP Predator film, so I was pretty stoked when this film debuted, and thanks to producer Robert Rodriguez(From Dusk Till Dawn, Planet Terror, The Faculty) and director Nimrod Antal(Vacancy) we were given another solid entry into the Predator series of films.  We are given a unique plot that opens the door for lots of Predator vs. Human action, and I loved every second of watching mankind’s most vicious killers battle a superior alien race merely using us for their own entertainment.  Filled with lots of non-stop gun battles and ass-kicking elements, Predators is respectful to the Arnold Shwarzenegger-starring Predator, and gives us fans what we want to see.  Read my full review for this film here: Predators

5. Hatchet II

– This was the film that I was looking forward to the most for 2010, and it gave me exactly what I wanted to see…more HatchetHatchet 2 takes off right where the first concluded, and delivered more gore(241% more gallons of blood), more insanely awesome deaths, and more laughs than the first delivered.  Adam Green obviously went for utter cheese in this one, and he delivered.  As if he hadn’t already, Victor Crowley has solidified himself as one of horror’s greatest killers/slashers ever, and I must give him extra props for the hilarious kills he has delivered.  With acting roles from Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, Tom Holland, and Danielle Harris, Hatchet 2 is a delight for fans of good ole American horror.  Read my full review for this film here: Hatchet II

4. Paranormal Activity 2

– I honestly expected this film to suck when I read that a no-name writer and director were attached to this sequel to the very successful Paranormal Activity, which is a big reason why I enjoyed this film so much.  Once again, lesser-filmmakers delivered a creepy watch that surpasses 90% of what big-budget studios put out.  More of a “companion” film than a sequel or prequel, Paranormal Activity 2 delivered heavily on the scares, and included possibly the absolute greatest “jump” scare that I have ever seen.  No other film on this list made me jump and receive goosebumps like this one did, and that says a lot nowadays in a day and age where horror films do not SCARE me anymore.  Read my full review for this film here: Paranormal Activity 2

3. Shutter Island

– After many decades delivering fantastic films, famed director Martin Scorsese has finally made his mark on the horror genre with Shutter Island.  Some may argue that Shutter Island is not a devout horror flick, and I respect that, but I believe the film harbors enough elements of fear and horror to warrant inclusion in this list.  From the get-go Scorsese sets up the film’s gloomy and creepy atmosphere, and from then on out he expertly delivers the film in fantastic fashion.  Great performances, awesome camerawork and sets, and Scorsese’s ability to make the viewer do and feel what he wants them to do make this film a memorable watch and one of the year’s best films overall.  The horror involved is of psychological nature, and this well crafted story from Dennis Lehane’s novel by the same name manages to keep us in the dark and in the same paranoid mindset as the film’s protagonist.  Shutter Island might be the “least” horrific film on this list, but this fantastic effort has earned its no. 3 spot.  Read my full review for this film here: Shutter Island

2. Black Swan

– Darren Aronofsky joined Martin Scorsese as another film giant who has finally decided to enter the horror realm.  Black Swan debuted to the masses just in time to make this list, and left me with the task of having to revamp this list to include it.  Focusing heavily on the element of psychological horror, we witness the deterioration of a young dancer’s mind as she strives for perfection in the claustrophobic world she lives in.  Reminiscent of Roman Polanski’s early psychosexual films Repulsion and The Tenant, Black Swan lives to tell the terror we put ourselves through to attain the feelings we seek in life, and comes with some nice horror as well.  Much like Shutter Island, Black Swan’s horror is not outright horror, but psychological and visceral, leaving you to put yourself in the protagonist’s shoes and experience what they are experiencing, which is truly horrific in nature when you consider what is going on around them.  As a film this is the best entry on the list, but this is not a list of the best films of 2010, but the best horror films of 2010, which left Black Swan with only the no. 2 spot.  Read my full review for this film here: Black Swan

1. Let Me In

Let Me In was possibly the most surprising horror film of this year due to the immense amount of backlash over this “remake” of Sweden’s Let The Right One In.  Many expected Let Me In to fall flat, but thanks to writer/director Matt Reeves(Cloverfield) the film not only silenced its numerous critics…but stands on it’s own, not as a remake.  Because Let The Right One In was sourced from John Alvid Lindqvist’s novel of the same name, it is an adapted story, which is the same case for Let Me In, meaning that Let Me In is NOT a remake, but an adaptation just like the incredible Swedish film.  Let Me In perfectly blends the art-house feel of the first entry with a level of horror not touched in the previous adaptation, resulting in a much more horrific watch than expected.  Reeves’ execution of the film is nearly flawless, with high levels of tension, despair, and some great horror as well.  Some have referred to Let The Right One In as the artsy entry and Let Me In as the “monster” film, and I believe that comparison to be true.  Great performances from all those involved sell the film to the viewer, and although the love element is not as strong in this film in comparison to the Swedish masterpiece, it is worthwhile and aided the film’s horror in achieving this no. 1 ranking.  This is not my favorite horror film of the year, but in my honest opinion Let Me In is the best horror film of 2010.  Now who would have thought that?  Read my full review for this film here: Let Me In

Honorable Mentions

(Close But Not Good Enough)

Devil

– M. Night Shyamalan(Signs, The Sixth Sense, Lady In The Water) had fallen from grace as both a writer and direction after the mediocre The Happening and the horrendous Avatar: The Last Airbender, but Devil, the initial entry into his The Night Chronicles, has shown that he still has some good writing in him.  If you know me then you know that I LOVE nowhere-to-run scenarios, and I really cannot think of few situations more desperate than being stuck in an elevator with an unknown and unseen killer.  Director John Erick Dowdle(The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Quarantine) does a great job keeping the tension high and doing what he could with what little the film had to offer(given most of it takes place in the elevator) and in the end Devil delivered the positive horror experience that I expected from M. Night and Mr. Dowdle.  Read my full review for this film here: Devil

Monsters

– Nearly every year we get a low-budget surprise flick that gains attention and delivers to the fans, and that is the case with Monsters.  Debuting at this year’s film festivals and still lacking a DVD release, Monsters may be hard to get to for many, and only time will tell when this film will achieve the time of day.  I have always been a fan of alien-oriented films, and this flick gives us a unique story involving a NASA probe that discovered alien life on another planet and upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere crash-landed somewhere in Mexico.  Great FX and awesome looking Lovecraftian-creatures made this an engaging watch for me despite a high level of character drama between our two protagonists, but Monsters managed to deliver the horror nonetheless and is one of the best low-budget horror flicks for 2010.  Read my full review for this film here: Monsters

Saw 3D

– The Saw franchise has been one of horror’s most successful in recent history, and has become the only series in horror history to deliver 7 films in 7 years.  Well, Saw 3D(aka Saw 7) is said to be the last installment of the franchise, and while the film was not as good or epic as it should have been for a series closer, it delivered some good horror.  We get the usual unique yet grotesque traps that Jigsaw’s victims are thrown into, and the tension remains fairly high throughout most of the film’s runtime.  I really wished that this closer would have hit harder, especially when considering it did not a shocking climax like the other entries, but nonetheless Saw 3D gave fans of the series what they went to see…and hopefully put an end to the saga.  Read my full review for this film here: Saw 3D

The Wolfman

– A re-imaging of the 1941 classic The Wolf Man, The Wolfman surprised me as a cheezy yet enjoyable watch adorned with some sweet kills and enjoyable action.  Hugh Jackman does well as the man tormented by his inner beast, and we get solid performances all around from Anthony Hopkins, the under-used Hugo Weaving, and Emily Blunt.  The film would have  been improved with more live-action gore and less CGI, but for a big-budget Hollywood watch The Wolfman gave me enough of what I wanted to see.  Read my full review for this film here: The Wolfman

Frozen

– Preceded by the ever-awesome Hatchet and followed by the insane Hatchet II, Adam Green’s Frozen seems to have suffered the raw end of Hollywood politics.  Green fought hard to get this film the very limited release that it was given, and while Frozen is not a moneymaker by Hollywood standards(the reason it was given no love), it is still a darn good showing of how something very simple can be truly horrifying if you execute it properly.  Focusing on a group of friends who take a late joyride on a ski-lift and are left stranded aboard the lift overnight, we watch them suffer extreme conditions which force them to make extreme decisions that never end well.  I have always been a fan of “what you don’t see is scary” horror, and Frozen delivers much of that.  Read my full review for this film here: Frozen

My Other Top 10 Horror Lists

Top 10 Horror Movies of 1980

Top 10 Horror Movies of 1981

Top 10 Horror Movies of 2005

Top 10 Horror Movies of 2006

Top 10 Horror Movies of 2007

Top 10 Horror Movies of 2008

Top 10 Horror Movies of 2009

Thank you for reading.

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