FINAL DESTINATION 5 (2011) Review


Directed by Steven Quale
Written by Eric Heisserer & Jeffrey Reddick
Starring Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Arlen Escarpeta, Ellen Wroe, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, P.J. Byrne, Arlen Escarpeta, David Koechner & Tony Todd
Starts today in theaters!

Before I jump into this, I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of the FINAL DESTINATION franchise. I understand the appeal of the Rube Goldbergian scenarios. I loved seeing them in those TOM & JERRY cartoons as a kid. But after a discussion with @$$Hole co-editor Sleazy G after watching the film last night, I started understanding why the films are so popular. See, SAW and FINAL DESTINATION are the FRIDAY THE 13th’s and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’s of this generation of young movie goers. I remember fanatically going having to see the latest F13 or NIGHTMARE every time they hit theaters, which back then was an annual thing just as FINAL DESTINATION and SAW have become. As much as I scoff as the popularity of those films, a part of me feels that by doing so I’m giving in to my inner old man and not understanding that, as vapid and one note as these movies are, there is an entertaining factor at play here.

With this understanding, I have to say I came out of FINAL DESTINATION 5 last night thoroughly entertained. Do we go to see rich character development played by Oscar worthy actors? Hellz no. We go because the kills are fun and cartoony. And you know what? The kills WERE fun and cartoony. Every kill was as complex as they come, but also had a factor of gallows black humor that made it a blast to experience, especially in 3-D, as chunks and body parts are tossed in your face at a rapid pace.

The plot of the story is paper thin and simply a different scenario in which a kid predicts the death by catastrophe (this time it’s a bridge collapse) then one by one, the survivors are killed off because as the series only returning character played by Tony Todd states, “Death cannot be cheated.” There’s also a subplot where the lead kid wants to be a gourmet chef and must decide whether to stay in the states with his girlfriend or go to France on an internship—blah, blah, blah. None of that shit matters though. FINAL DESTINATION 5 is just shit getting fucked up in graphic, complicated and anus puckering ways. Though he doesn’t get too deep or spend much time letting the audience get to know these characters, director Steven Quale takes full advantage of the 3rd Dimension and fills this movie with one wince inducing moment after another—be it a nail into a bare foot or a laser to an eyeball.

But who’s looking for character and subtext in a FINAL DESTINATION film? It’s a visual smorgasbord of easily digestible food. You can like your heady, Cronenbergian, foreign horror all you want. I love those films too. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for lowest common denominator, in your face schlock too. FINAL DESTINATION 5 slops around in the red stuff like a fat kid in a mud puddle. Even the opening credits, which is basically just five minutes of shit comin’ at you, most of the time on fire (I swear, there was a barbed wired log on fire slamming in your face for no reason whatsoever) goes for the cheap in your face thrill that was the reason 3D films were made in the first place. So even though it will never stack up to the thrill I had every Friday the 13th when a new Jason flick was released, I understand the appeal of films like FINAL DESTINATION 5 and recommend you go see it this weekend.

MEDIUM RAW: NIGHT OF THE WOLF (2010) Review


Directed by Andrew Cymek
Written by Andrew Cymek
Starring William B. Davis, John Rhys-Davies, Brigitte Kingsley, Andrew Cymek, Mercedes McNab, Boyd Banks, Jason Reso, Landy Cannon
Available on DVD now! Find out more info on the film’s website!

Man, I would have loved MEDIUM RAW: NIGHT OF THE WOLF in middle school. In fact, I think I wrote a script once taking place in an asylum back in the day (I’m sure there are those out there who would testify to the same). The thing is, looking back on that dream script now after growing up and having actually worked for four years in an inpatient psych ward in a hospital known for extreme cases, the comic booky scenarios and psychoses I thought were so dark and edgy were actually so off base they’re offensive to read now. The reason why it was so bad? I didn’t do a shred of research, just pulled a bunch of crazy stuff from all of the comic books and movies I’d seen and put them into one story. MEDIUM RAW: NIGHT OF THE WOLF reads somewhat similar with every inmate being able to be summed up in a catchy ominous one sentence descriptor: foot fetishist, psychotic who hates the color red, god complex guy. I’d call it comic booky, but seeing as my other gig at AICN here is to cover comics, I don’t want to put down that genre by comparison.

The main problem in MEDIUM RAW is that it represents what a lot of people think is comic booky and what people think is what a mental institution is like without reading a comic or stepping one foot in an institution. The one note bad guys…the one note everybody in this film; the warden with issues of his own, the driven cop, the naïve nurse, the child brought into a hospital for extremely mentally ill patients (ok, that last one is just plain stupid)—with little or no explanation or depth, these madmen are seen as just that, not people suffering from mental disorders. It’s psychological fetishism where the patients are their psychoses in the broadest sense of the word.

Lack of authenticity aside, MEDIUM RAW is a somewhat slickly directed and produced piece of fluff. There are a lot of decently shot and lit scenes as the maniacs shamble through the halls and though the dialog is about as predictable as it is bad (I found myself mouthing the lines before the actors even said them and if you’ve seen enough films, I’ll bet you will too), it all looks professionally done. As I said above, there’s not a lot of logic in this one. Apparently, it’s ok to bring a child into a hospital for society’s worst madmen. The inanity of this plot point will make you slap your head so hard you may have the benefit of being knocked unconscious until the credits roll. MEDIUM RAW: NIGHT OF THE WOLF is basically a night in Arkham Asylum without the Batman, and unfortunately, without the sophisticated comic book storytelling that is abundant in that medium these days.

THE CORRIDOR (2011) Review


Directed by Evan Kelly
Written by Josh MacDonald
Starring Matthew Amyotte, Nigel Bennett, Stephen Chambers, David Patrick Flemming, James Gilbert, Glen Matthews

Find out when and where to see this film on THE CORRIDOR website!

There are a lot of films out there today dissecting what it means to be a man in this day and age. From buddy comedies like STEPBROTHERS to dramatic feats of cinema like FIGHT CLUB, modern man has been cast as nothing more than a grown up child—gorging themselves on life’s treasures and throwing tantrums and acting out when life serves up lemons. THE CORRIDOR looks at similar themes as a quintet of college friends get together ten years after one of them has a mental breakdown. For much of the movie, the film focuses on the initial event and the power of the relationships these men share despite the fact that they haven’t seen each other in years. Then for the latter half of the film, the focus is on completely and utterly annihilating those relationships. Though it’s obviously filmed on the budgetary low, it’s this attention to the rise and fall of this relationship between these men that makes THE CORRIDOR one of the most terrifying new films of the year.

A trip to a cabin in the woods seems like a good idea for these five guys. It’s a chance to shoot the shit, play football, watch football, ride snow mobiles, complain about the wife and kids, and pound brewskis. Director Evan Kelly is patient with tossing out the weirdness right off the bat and instead focuses on the strengths and insecurities of these guys, but not in a way that makes it obvious that these insecurities will be played upon later in the film. And these guys are a pretty likable bunch, making it easy to forget this is a horror film, but when the crew stumble across a strange energy field in the middle of the woods, the viewer is quickly reminded that this is a horror film.

The horrifying last portion of THE CORRIDOR mixes modern pop psychology with the darkest of humor as these men are reduced to monsters tearing each other apart. The film not only scares but makes you think about the fragility and maybe the futility of male relations by showing man at its most animalistic. Not the feel good film of the year, for sure, but THE CORRIDOR definitely is a small indie film that packs a wallop with an ending that is both heartfelt and melancholy all at once. THE CORRIDOR is making its way around the festival circuit. Find out when and where to see this film on THE CORRIDOR website!

THE CLINIC (2010) Review


Directed by James Rabbitts
Written by James Rabbitts
Starring Tabrett Bethell, Freya Stafford and Andy Whitfield

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much going into this film. I hadn’t heard anything about it and the cover of the DVD, reminiscent of INSIDE, didn’t seem like it was very inspired. So color me shocked when I witnessed a really engrossing thriller unfold before me with not only a gripping premise, but fantastic performances to boot. THE CLINIC is one of those under-the-radar films you’re sure to stumble across on cable and wonder why you hadn’t heard of it before. Well, consider yourself warned because THE CLINIC is a film in need of being seen.

Cameron (SPARTACUS’ Andy Whitfield) and Beth (Tabrett Bethell) look to be a perfect couple, about to be married and expecting their first baby. When their car is run off the road by a frantic trucker, they decide to call it a night and find the nearest motel. When Cameron decides to go out for a midnight snack, he returns to find his wife missing. Beth wakes up in a tub of ice with a scar on her belly and her baby missing. One would think, given Whitfield’s star status from SPARTACUS, he’d be given the brunt of the action, but it’s Beth who has the most interesting arc here as she desperately searches for her baby. Encountering a pair of other mothers with similar scars, Beth finds her baby along with the others locked in cages. What unfolds is a twisted reality contest. Each baby has a colored tag. Sewn inside of each mother is a tag matching the one on one of the babies’ foot. And there’s a mother out there who is willing to slice open the rest of the mothers to find out which baby is hers.

The premise is simply badass, right?

With a mother stalking the rest, all of the mothers’ maternal instincts kick in to fight for their babies lives. What I thought would be a by the numbers medical thriller turned out to be so much more. I won’t reveal anything else, but THE CLINIC pulls no punches and offers up characters you actually care for. Writer/director James Babbitts shows skill with the camera with gritty scenes of action along with surreal and unsettling fever dreams of the mother of a baby in a pool of blood. Not to be missed, THE CLINIC is so much more than one would expect.

HOLLOW (2010) Review


Directed by Michael Axelgaard
Written by Matthew Holt
Starring Emily Plumtree, Sam Stockman, Jessica Ellerby, Matt Stokoe, Simon Roberts
Debuted at FanTasia International Film Festival. Find out more info on the film, when it will be released, and where you can see it here.

”Found footage” films are my guilty pleasure. I know folks may be getting sick of the genre, but I get sucked in every time. I love the way the handheld camera literally places me in the film and since I am a moviegoer who strives on being able to be transported to another time and place, the genre gets me every time. HOLLOW is a new film making its way around festivals this year and if you have a chance to catch it, please do so because it is an engrossing and effective little found footage gem.

The film follows two young couples with a complex relationship. The success of this film rides on the relationship between these two couples, which become more complicated and enmeshed as the film goes on. One couple, played by Emily Plumtree and Sam Stockman, are set to be married. The other is a more strained relationship with the male played by Matt Stockoe harboring a crush on the female in the other relationship. The four venture into Dunwich to visit Emily’s childhood home, a trip she is not all too excited about. The film starts off as most found footage flicks do–with a lot of day-to-day stuff of couples having fun, trips in the car, casual conversation, and a lot of shaky camera work. Things get ominous very quickly, though, when they pass a tree that Emily claims is haunted. Legend has it that couples have hanged themselves from the tree’s branches and that it’s haunted by a hooded figure. The tree is spooky as hell, yet the couple find themselves drawn to it throughout the film, ending in a climax that takes place in a car in the dark that is absolutely terrifying.

As with most found footage films, the limitations to what we see cause the most unease. The poor lighting and unfocused camera only intensify the frights. The couples do a convincing job acting as if they are not acting here, though at the end they do make a couple of dumb decisions to move the plot along. And though it is somewhat predictable how these couples are going to end up given the history of the haunted tree, director Axelgaard and writer Holt make the journey there a haunting one with scores of scary imagery and atmosphere to enjoy. Comparisons to THE BLAIR WITCH are inevitable, but this is more akin to the feel of THE WICKER MAN (the original) than anything else. AS I said, I’m a sucker for found footage films, so this was right up my alley, but if you’re looking for a clean resolution and a steady cam, this might not be for you.

DEADHEADS (2011) Review


Directed by The Pierce Brothers
Written by The Pierce Brothers
Starring Michael McKiddy, Ross Kidder, Markus Taylor, Thomas Galasso, Ben Webster, Greg Dow, Natalie Victoria, Eden Malyn, Harry Burkey, and Leonard Kelly-Young
For more info on where to see DEADHEADS check out the film’s website here and Facebook page!

It’s been a while since I have seen a horror film that actually warms my cold dead heart. Ok, it’s been a hell of a long time. That is, until I had a chance to see this film. DEADHEADS is a lighthearted comedy about two strangers on a roadtrip. One is a wise-cracking slacker who goes where the wind takes him. The other is a dedicated nice guy, in search of his lost love. Along the way, these two gents encounter forces of all kinds that work against them achieving their goals, but love won’t stop these two from pressing on. Oh yeah, these two guys are zombies too.

Though THE DEFILED (a film I reviewed earlier this year and one I whole heartedly recommend) is one of the first films I’ve seen with a zombie protagonist, that film was a relatively wordless film, since the zombie star was your typical Romero zombies. The tone is dire and the story is bleak. DEADHEADS is the polar opposite. Due to a scientific experiment, Brent and Mike have become conscious zombies; zombies who retain their minds, though their bodies are rotting. Sure there are Romero zombies shambling around too, but Brent (Ross Kidder) and Mike (Michael McKiddy) are unique. They’ve escaped their lab after being experimented on for three years and now the lab wants them back. Mike, on the other hand, just wants to find his girlfriend. So Brent and Mike set out to do so, teaming with a mindless but lovable zombie they name Cheese and an elderly old man who doesn’t give a shit that they’re zombies as long as he has someone to talk to on the road. The quartet face scores of zombies, a government hazardous material disposal unit made up of a sensitive scientist (Greg Dow) and a gung-ho meathead who talks like a descendant of Macho Man Randy Savage (Ben Webster), and a survivor deputized by the government to track them down.

DEADHEADS shines by incorporating grossout humor with horror standbys seamlessly, but doesn’t forget to make you actually care about these characters. There are a lot of laughs to he had, taking full advantage of the fact that these guys are the undead with pieces of them falling off and being used as props no live character could do. Writers/directors the Pierce Brothers have turned in a punchy script that goes into the realm of sweetness without the sour aftertaste, most relationship comedies often leave you with. When can you say you left a zombie film feeling pretty good? DEADHEADS is an energetic horror comedy mash-up that leaves you with that very feeling.

STRIGOI-THE UNDEAD (2009) Review


Directed by Faye Jackson
Written by Faye Jackson
Starring Constantin Barbulescu, Camelia Maxim & Catalin Paraschiv
Find out more information on the film’s Facebook page!

Though many won’t have the patience to sit through this somber little vampire film, I was fascinated at the way STRIGOI: THE UNDEAD shed light on a culture that I am completely unfamiliar with. Though we all know that Dracula comes from a setting much like the Romanian township featured in this film, his trek to England is what folks remember most about Stoker’s classic piece of lit. STRIGOI peels away all of the Hollywood glamour often attributed to the modern vampire and tells a straight up tale of the undead through the eyes of the extremely traditional and superstitious population of modern Romania.

I was fascinated by the traditions followed involving death and dying observed in this film. Though set in the modern day, STRIGOI is a somewhat timeless piece of cinema. The horror is almost secondary to the age-old rituals and mores observed by the town. Often played for its ludicrousness; such as sitting with a corpse for a fortnight drinking vodka to make sure the body does not rise as a vampire, the tradition is scoffed at by our protagonist Constantin (played by the deadpan Constantin Barbulescu), but writer/director Faye Jackson never makes fun of the culture. Her lens focuses on the intricacies of this culture’s superstition and how important it is within their day to day life.

This story of a couple murdered by a lynch mob who raises from the dead to enact revenge is a subtle slice of Romanian culture, and thus different than most vamp flicks out there now. STRIGOI: THE UNDEAD isn’t explosive or over the top. The gore isn’t in your face and the actors don’t ape for the camera. But it is an effective little horror film, destined to be overlooked unless you want to take a chance, heed my advice, and check it out.