Period Piece

The Remains

I’m not sure what drew me to the The Remains. It could have been I was itching for a ghost story, or that Todd Lowe is the main star? Except that I didn’t know either of those things, because The Remains had a very rare privileged and that’s that I went into it completely blind. Which sadly didn’t do all that much to better the experience. Mostly it was that I didn’t quit get what this movie wanted to convey. Unless that was it wanted to be a mediocre way to kill an evening. Because if that’s the case The Remains nailed it. The issue that The Remains uses a lot of current tropes, but with out anything real thought into them. Which is a shame since there is some good acting and what could be a good story in there.

The Remains starts in the 1800’s with Madame Addison (Maria Olsen), a well-known spiritualist is holding a seance. Among those in attendance is a young couple looking for their missing daughter. While the seance is going the father of the missing girl breaks the protective circle causing Madame Addison to become possessed. She then kills everyone in attendance before dying herself. Modern day, John (Todd Lowe) has moved his family into the home as it’s a steal for the price and fits their needs. The move is prompted by the death of his wife and is using the move as way to help is family move on. His three children Izzy (Brooke Butler), Victoria (Hannah Nordberg) and Aiden (Dash Williams) are all handling the move fairly well and start adjusting to their new home. Aiden finds a chest in the attack containing items used during the seance. He shows them to his father after Victoria see’s it. Victoria and Aiden slowly become possessed by ghosts as the times are haunted. As his children start acting more and more strangely John digs into the history of the home and receives warnings from the dead…

It’s the small things with this film that bother me most. At one point Izzy complains about John moving her away from her friends. But her boyfriend Tommy (Samuel Larsen) has no problem showing up when every Izzy needs to be removed from the plot for a while so it can move along. It’s like the writers didn’t know what to do with her character. Which is a tragedy since she was one of the best characters in the film.

The exact nature of the haunting bothers me too. Since Madame Addison’s evil ghost is the antagonist. Why was her ghost evil? She didn’t strike me as an evil woman. Also the ghost looks like Addison when she was possessed, not when she was normal. So is her ghost supposed to be possessed? Or is it a demon that’s taking the form of a possessed Addision? Why the two other ghosts to possesses each kid?

The acting though really saved this film for me. Both Todd Lowe as a grieving husband and Brooke Butler as the rebellious teenage daughter. Ashley Crow does a great job as Clair the realtor who sells them the house, but I don’t understand the characters angle. Brooke Butler is very little of the film and most of it is eye candy, which is a shame as she puts on the most emotional and memorable performance in the film at the end.

Final thoughts, well acted but generic. The ghost story never sold me, and the frights didn’t really frighten. But the acting as good and under the generic ghost gonna get you story-line is a great look at a family in mourning.  You sympathize with the family, which makes them relatable. But the ghost aspects of this film are a little boring and make little sense. 6/10



So, Rob Zombie. I’m not the biggest fan of his films. Music yes, films no. But for some reason I always find myself watching his films. I will always admit that the man is a great director, his films just don’t do it for me. 31 is my favorite of his films, so there’s at least that much going for it. In all fairness 31 has a lot going for it with its 70’s exploitation mixed with psycho murder games vibe.

31 follows a group of carnival workers containing Charly (Sheri Moon Zombie), Roscoe Pepper (Jeff Daniel Phillips), Venus Virgo (Meg Foster),  Panda Thomas (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) and Levon Wally (Kevin Jackson) are traveling. While in the middle of nowhere they’re attacked and taken hostage. The group are held hostage by an insane trio consisting Father Murder (Malcolm McDowell), Sister Serpent (Jane Carr) and Sister Dragon (Judy Geeson). The deadly trio forced in a deadly game named 31. They have twelve hours to survive while being hunted by murderous psycho paths…

There’s a bit of a slasher vibe in this film. A group of friends are stalked and killed, and Carly as the final girl. So, once this film hits that point I actually really enjoy it. The lead in dragged for me. Though lucky the lead in is short.

I liked the acting, mostly. It took me a while to warm up to the characters. But once I got there I was invested in them. Charly for the most part is the main character, if you have to pick one. 31 focuses on all the characters fairly evenly and every actor does a great job with the time he has and all the actors and actressess display a wide range over the course of the film.

The mood, again once I got into is good. With that spooky, haunting vibe indicative of Rob Zombie’s work. The 70’s atheistic are fun, and pair nicely with the dark terror of the second act. Creating an atmospheric experience.

The psychos are fun and memorable with two of the sticking out the most. Sick-Head played by Pancho Moler and Doom-Head played by Richard Brake. Both are wildly entertaining and are the end caps for the psychos, makes the best notes the first and the last.

The film is incredibly well shot and is in my opinion Rob Zombies best looking film. The films look is distinctly Rob Zombie and those familiar with his work would have no problem identifying this film as his.

Final thoughts, 31 one is okay. Hell, I push it as far as saying its good. It hard horror that doesn’t focus on the gore, which while present is never the forefront. For that I have to give this film a lot of credit as the lacks of visceral action is more character and mood driven. As where the quick shock tends to wear off and be forgotten. 31 is more than then that providing a genuine horror experience. That said I still personally didn’t love it, I just see the merit in it. 7/10

The Wraith

I was surprised that I didn’t see or even know of The Wraith. Given that it stars a number of actors that I simply adore such as Randy Quaid and Clint Howard. Also the soundtrack is simply amazing and makes the film drip with the aesthetics of the 80’s. Which holds up really well as The Wraith doesn’t have the feel of forced 80’s but simply set in the time. But it does suffer a bit as I expect more from my horror films.

The Wraith opens with lights dancing over the desert that join and form a Dodge M4S piloted by a helmeted, leather clad driver. Said driver starts coming after a local street gang consisting of Oggie (Griffin O’Neal), Skank (David Sherrill), Gutterboy (Jamie Bozian) and Rughead (Clint Howard), who are all lead by the feared Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes).The gang forces people to race for the their cars under threats of violence to either them or their loved ones. Often turning to cheating it win the races. Until the Wraith shows up and starts racing them, killing them off during the races. While the gang deals with the mysterious racers, Jake Kessey (Charlie Sheen) comes to town. Quickly befriending Billy Hankins (Mathew Barry), who’s brother Jamie was murdered and Keri Johnson (Sherilyn Fenn), Packard’s unwilling girlfriend. Keri and Jake strike up a romance, one that is not approved of by Packard. Who set’s his goons upon them, though they prove to be little problem as they keep getting killed. The deaths are all being investigated by the local sheriff, Loomis (Randy Quaid).

I like it and The Wraith is pretty okay. It just doesn’t feel like it accomplishes much with its run time. Wraith has some great ideas and actually does a good job delivering most the time. Though it would have been nice to see the characters and the traumas they’ve suffered more deep explored and expanded upon.

One of the gripes I do have is Randy Quaid’s character. Who is fun, because of Randy Quaid. But that’s the extent of the enjoy-ability of the character. If he can be called one, mostly it feels like he’s brought in to chew the scenery and suck up some screen time as the character provides nothing to the story. I’m positive you could cut all of his scenes and it would have no baring on the plot of the film.

He does do a good job. A lot of the actors do a remarkably good job. Mathew Barry has a number of great moments and his final scene is sad, though not what I would call heart breaking. Also Clint Howard stood out in what could have been a very mediocre role.

Final thoughts, Charlie Sheen is bland in the film. The man is devoid of emotion throughout the film. He comes off as bland and uninteresting, which is awful as everyone is treats him like he’s not either of those things. The revenge angle doesn’t work for me either as so little time is spent on the catalyst, and is only brought up briefly for no other reason than to hold on the vague plot. Lastly, I was bothered by how Keri’s character felt more like a something that is being fought over, rather than a functioning individual. 6/10

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperior

mummy_tomb_of_the_dragon_emperor_ver4So, this film isn’t what I could a horror film. The other films in the series don’t even try to call themselves horror after the 1990 version, the other films being solely action/fantasy. But its origins go back to the classic universal monster movies. So having not seen The Mummy films in years, but seeing the classic far more recently. I was wondering what the newest in the long running franchise looked like and I really didn’t like what I saw. At least The Mummy and The Mummy returns had some elements of dread. In Tomb of the Dragon Emperor doesn’t give its horror origins a passing thought.

Tomb of the Dragon Emperor opens with the Dragon Emperors (Jet Li) armies sweeping across China. Until he controls all of China, but having conquered all of his enemy’s he turns to his ambition of conquering death itself. He sends his most trusted friend to find the sorceress Zi Yuan (Michelle Yeoh), how is rumored to know the secret to eternal life. She doesn’t know it personally, but knows of where to look. She uncovers a book of spells that contains the spell. She seemingly casts the spell in Sanskrit. After which the Dragon Emperor kills her lover, his close friend. Before stabbing Zi Yuan. Her curse takes hold though turning the Emperor and his army into terracotta soldiers before fleeing the castle. Fearing the day he’s woken up as he will wash over the world. Fast forward to 1949, Alex O’Connell (Luke Ford) with the help of Professor Roger Wilson(David Calder) uncover the Dragon Emperors tomb. Inside Alex is attacked by a masked assailant when he reaches the tomb of the emperor. After the assailant is chased of the pair take the Dragon Emperor to Shanghai. Meanwhile a very bored Rick (Brandon Fraser) and Evelyn O’Connell (Maria Bello) are asked to return The Eye of Shangri-La to the Chinese government. Though they don’t expect to run into their son in Shanghai at Evelyns brother Jonathans (John Hannah) night club. After breaking up and family drama everyone goes to see Alexs find at the museum. Where they learn that Rick and Evelyn were tricked to bring the Eye to Shanghai, by Professor Wilson and his friends in a military faction led by General Yang (Anthony Chau-Sang Wong). They use the water of life inside the Eye to bring back to life Dragon Emperor. But The Dragon Emperor’s curse isn’t lifted until he bathes in The Fountain of Life at Shangri-La. So The O’Connells and Lin (Isabella Leong), the masked tomb guardian, set off to stop him.

If anything the major sin of this film is feels very paint by numbers. Set up, Magic McGuffin used to bring back mummy, action, twist, action, mummy end fight. At no point was I ever surprised by this film. Well, No that would be lying, as I have to take a moment now to talk about the Yeti’s.

I have no idea what was going through the writer’s mind to make Yeti’s be the best move. When they first show up I was like “Ok, Sure. Yeti’s because why not some Yetis?” Which is perfect since they add nothing of substance and are inconsequential in the scope of the film. There was no reason to even have them, anything that the Yetis do or are attributed requires them. They are really when this film lost me. As their addition is so distracting that The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor lost any sense of suspense that it might have held before then.

The acting is, no good. The chemistry between Fraser and Bello feels genuinely forced, lacking the charm and whimsy of the previous films. Their isn’t one performance that feels like a solid attempt. Each actor and actress come off as overblown to the point where they come off as cheesy.

Now another gripe I have as how underutilized Jet Li was. His performance is limited to the beginning of the film and the last act. The rest of the time theirs a terrible CGI monstrosity sucking up valuable time. Not that any real character is there for Jet Li to convey as the Dragon Emperor compared to IImhotep.

Final thoughts, a wasted two hours. While it has been a long time since I watched the first two films, I remember enjoying them. There is at no point in my life that I would have enjoyed this film. Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a shameless cash in and for once do I agree with RottenTomatoes rating. 2/10

Blair Witch

blair-witch-poster-newI remember The Blair Witch Project well from my youth. It was a big film when I was young and developing my taste in horror films. What I remember most vividly was the viral marketing, the fake sci-fi channel documentary about the film, building up the films cult of personality. The next thing I remember the best is how awful the sequel, Book of Shadows was. I know that film has its supporters, I’m not among them. But Blair Witch is everything I wanted Book of Shadows to be.

In 2014 footage is found surrounding the disappearance of a number of college students making a documentary surrounding the disappearance of the filmmakers from the original film. This is incredibly important to James (James Allen McCune), who’s sister Heather went missing. James uncovers a clip on the internet which he feels he shows his sister. This spurns him on to go searching. He’s joined by his friends Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Ashley (Corbin Reid), and Peter (Brandon Scott). They pick up the people, Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry) a local couple who found the footage that was posted to the internet. They take James his friends to the location where they found the tape and then deeper into the woods in search for the home seen in the footage. That night the group awakens to weird sounds in the woods, which sets them all on edge. Which grows worse when they wake up with stick figures hung around camp. The group makes the smart decision to bail. On the way out Lisa notices the twine used to tie the figures that were hung around camp. Lane and Talia admit to staging them. But only to get them to understand the danger they were in, but are chased off by James group. They still try and find the way out, though their GPS fails them and they end up walking back to their camp from the night before. Tired they decided to make camp for a second night, though as night falls, Lane and Talia emerge from the woods claiming to have been lost for days in an endless night. A night that soon none of them can escape…

The mood and atmosphere is much more fitting for a sequel. The updated camera gear allows Blair Witch to have a much more polished feel than The Blair Witch. But without compromising the authentic feel that it’s going for. The actual addition of Blair Witch making an appearance also adds a lot for me.

The acting is dicey at times, but manages to hold it together enough to not be distracting. At times James and Lane actually border on being human. Though my favorite character performance is actually Talia. Going through a wide range and her hunger when she comes back to camp comes off as incredibly genuine.

Final thoughts, I enjoyed this movie. Blair Witch is a horror film that builds on itself. With a slow start and strong finish Blair Witch is a great horror film. Though it is predictable in the sense if you’ve seen the original or at least have a strong understanding of it you’ll know how it’s going to end. I liked this film, but I like found footage films. 7/10

I Was a Teenage Wereskunk

i_was_a_teenage_wereskunk_ver2I have a soft spot for horror send-ups. I Was a Teenage Wereskunk being a blatant send-up of all the 1950’s I Was a Teenage films and Wereskunk does try to pay due homage. Though it’s silly tone and forced comedy miss the mark as often as it hits it. Though I do love its up beat charm and commitment to being as campy as possible. Being partially funded by a Kickstarter does a lot in my book.

I Was a Teenage Wereskunk opens with a pair of lovers, Jerry (Jonathan Rossetti) and Sally (Christian Derup) parked up on lovers lane. When they get attacked by an unseen monster. The film then travels back to the day before and we meet our protagonist Curtis Albright (Scott Monahan), an awkward high school boy trying to figure out how to ask his long time friend Mary Beth (Shey Lyn Zanotti) to be his steady girl in the local diner. A copy of Jack Keroac’s On The Road hanging out of Curtis jacket pocket catches the attention of Finn Potter (Sean Cork), a local beatnik. Finn invites Curtis to hang out at a local bar the next night, to which he agrees. After walking Mary Beth home, but still being unable to ask her to be his steady, Curtis takes a moment to be a peeping tom and spy on Dr. Nancy (Dawn Brodey) as she changes in her home. While in a tree peeping, Curtis’s surprised by a skunk that sprays him, forcing him to run off as not to be discovered. He goes home and bathes in tomato juice hoping to get rid of the stench. But, it’s noticed by his parents Sheriff Albright (Charlie Farrell) and his Mom (Melanie Minichino). Though he pins the smell on the dog, and gets asked to take the dog to the vet. Who happens to be Dr. Nancy. At Dr. Nancy’s he becomes aroused when pressed against her cleavage as she shows him his dog pulse causing him to emit a stink, like that of a skunk. Causing him to leave in embarrassment. Though that’s just the beginning of the changes as when he becomes aroused Curtis becomes a Wereskunk and the victims really start piling up.

As much as this film gets right, and it does get a few things right. Most importantly is the tone. Which hovers between slapstick, toilet humor, parody and genre knowing irony. The irony, coupled with parody is what worked best for me. Where the rest of it falls flat for me.

The acting ranges from an on the nose performance courtesy of Christian Derup, to over-the-top such as Melanie Minichino as Deputy Gary. But all of the actors and actresses do superb jobs and manage to hit that sweet spot of fun and campy.

Though this film does have some issues. Mostly its roaming unfocused story. Which has a meandering pace that gets easily sidetracked by lame jokes. My other point is the film has a 50’s feel, but with 60’s setting. Which I find jarring, going from the 50’s lingo into a sudden slide into 60’s references. The most crass being the Charles Manson jokes.

Final thoughts, overall I liked it. But it has its issues. I wish that it had been a little more thoughtful in the references beyond the surface level. The acting is fun, but often pushes the jokes too far. But for a low-budget horror send-up I couldn’t have asked for better. 7/10

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

n8itxirFirst of all I feel the need to bring up that I’m not a fan of Jane Austin. I’m not saying she wasn’t a talented and influential writer, both of which she was. I’m not a fan of any real works of that period as I find that language arduous to get through and you need to have a firm understanding of the social structure of the time. Which is something I do not possess. That said, I am aware of her works and the cliff notes version of a meager handful of her novels. Mostly from friends who are more devoted fans than I could ever be. I went into this film with my head full of the bad reviews and internet trash talk that I had come across since its release. So when I got a steaming bowl of pretty OK, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

The film recaps the rise of zombie apocalypse across 19th century Europe, before getting to the Bennet sisters, Elizabeth (Lily James), Jane (Bella Heathcote), Kitty (Suki Waterhouse), Lydia (Ellie Bamber), and Mary (Millie Brady). The five sisters have received martial training in China, rather than in Japan as is considered fashionable among the wealthy at their father’s (Charles Dance) behest. A decision that the girl’s mother (Sally Phillips) disapproves with as she feels that it makes them less desirable for marriage. We also get quickly introduced to Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley), who hunts and fights the zombie menace with the aid of carrion flies. Mrs. Bennet’s worries of proper suitors are soon alleviated when the rich Mr. Bingly (Douglas Booth) moves into the nearby estate. While attending a ball there, Mr. Bingly and falls for Jane, while Mr. Bingly’s close friend Colonel Darcy falls for Elizabeth and her for him. Though through hardheadedness and miss conceptions neither is willing to admit their feelings for the other. Things get worse when Mr. Bingly breaks off his relationship with Jane and leaves the area abruptly. Elizabeth later learns he had done so on the advice of Wickham (Jack Huston), a soldier that shares history with Darcy. But dark times are ahead as Elizabeth keeps seeing visions of the Four Horsemen of the Zombie Apocalypse…

I honestly don’t get people’s complaints that this film isn’t that great of zombie film, or that it’s not that faithful of an adaptation of Jane Austin. Since it’s not intended to be either as it’s based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith. It feels more like a tongue in cheek joke on both, and for me it hits a real good blend. The action scenes are spaced out to keep the focus more on the relationships of the characters. With their marriage opportunities being the forefront over zombies.

Not that zombies ever fade from the film long enough to even begin to forget about them. As there is enough zombie action in this film to sate my appetite. My only issue with the zombie end of things is the battle scenes not being gruesome enough. Not that I require a vast amount of viscera in my zombie films. But the lack of gore during a the larger battle scenes is felt.

My one main gripe is that I was never worried for any of the principal characters. Given that it’s a spoof on Pride and Prejudice, all the main characters have solid plot armor. I wish that this film would have gone against the grain and killed off one of the sisters at least. Maybe even one of the suitors or even Mr. Bennet. Since knowing that they will survive on the grace of being established characters feels cheap.

Final Thoughts, I will admit that this film is no modern masterpiece. It is fun and entertaining, though. Which is a films primary goal. OK, maybe not fun. But most certainly entertaining. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies never tries to be deep, which is good since it would lack the chops to do so. Instead it goes for a cheeky zombie romp through classic literature. Some I’m more than happy to sit through. 8/10