June 7, 2008

My Skin! (2002)

Before watching My Skin! I had not seen any of director Christopher Alan Broadstone's movies. This is something I now need to rectify being as though I enjoyed it so much.

My Skin! is about the murder of a lady by her husband, however, Death is none too pleased by this. She wasn't scheduled to die until much later in her life, and he is not happy about someone else doing his work for him.

The plot outline is brief as this is a short movie, running at about 13 minutes, and to say much more would spoil your enjoyment of watching this incredibly dark and twisted piece of cinema. Suffice to say that there is an incredibly mean streak to Death, his portrayal by Tony Simmons being outstanding. This isn't Death wearing a hooded cloak and carrying around a scythe, this is a much more intimidating interpretation.

Although we don't actually see the murder itself, as we don't really need too, this is still an amazingly stark film. It almost reminded me of some of David Lynch's earlier movies, without being quite as far out there, but still had a unique feel of its own. The camerawork was superb and seemed to follow the mind-frame of Death as he goes about his business from what I am guessing was his office, for want of a better description.

Accompanied by a terrific score, this was one of the most atmospheric movies I have seen in some time, even though it only utilised two locations and had a minimal cast; for the most part it revolves around the conversation between Death and the murdering husband. To me My Skin! was probably the best, and most authentic, portrayal of Death as a being that I have seen on screen; Dark, vengeful with a sick sense of humour, it was terrific.

One thing I did notice whilst watching this is that it was set on September 12th 2001, which as you know was the day after 9/11. I can only imagine that this was a conscious decision by Broadstone.

My Skin! is part of a trilogy, which includes the movies Scream For Me and Human No More, as well as this one. I for one will be checking the other two out, I recommend you definitely check this one out though, as it is dark, atmospheric and incredibly original.

Rating 3.5 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

The entire trilogy entitled 3 Dead Girls can be picked up here http://www.blackcabproductions.com/STORE.html

You Don't Mess With The Zohan (2008)

When it comes to the movies of Adam Sandler most people fall into either the love him or hate him categories, there doesn't seem to be all that much middle ground with him at all. Personally I like his style of humour, even if I don't like all of his movies. I thought The Wedding Singer was fantastic, it did a wonderful job of paying homage to, or taking the piss out of, the 80s' (which he does again in this movie). So, chances are if you don't like his movies there probably isn't much chance that You Don't Mess With The Zohan will change that.

In this movie Sandler plays the eponymous Zohan, an Israeli counter terrorist soldier, who for reasons unknown is virtually indestructible; he catches bullets in his nose for example. After fighting the Palestinians for many years he decides that he has had enough and wants to leave for America to be a hairstylist. So, he fakes his death whilst fighting the Palestinian super-terrorist The Phantom (John Turturro), and heads West.

Upon arriving he soon finds out that getting a job, with no experience, is not as easy as he would hope. However, after meeting up with an Israeli admirer, who recognizes him, he lands a job working in a Palestinian salon. Oh my, what comic genius. There he becomes a hit by servicing the clientele, especially the older ladies. That is after he has cut their hair.

The main plot though involves a property tycoon who wants to buy up all the property owned by immigrants, primiarily Israeli and Palestinian, in order to build a super-mall, and will go to any extreme in order to obtain the property.

Oh, and there is a love story thrown in there too.

Basically the entire movie is an excuse to play up to all the racial stereotypes, and fears, of the Middle East, and their inexplicable passion for Mariah Carey, Hackey Sack and Disco music.

Whether you see this movie as racist will no doubt be down to each individual, I just thought it was bloody funny, albeit it a little preachy in places. Politics and religion aside there were plenty of hilarious gags, both visually and in the dialogue. Of course there is the chance that this movie will offend some people, but in this day and age there is always something that offends someone. To me this was just another crude, yet very funny, comedy, even if it isn't very subtle.

There are plenty of familiar faces here too, including Rob Schneider, Henry Winkler and Chris Rock (the latter two in small cameos), as well as other faces who's names escape me, but they seem to turn up in all Sandler's flicks.

Sandler fans will no doubt enjoy this, his detractors will no doubt hate it.

Rating 3 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

June 4, 2008

Psycho Hillbilly Cabin Massacre! (2007)

Without even telling you anything about this short movie, you might well guess at least some of the content. Yes, there are Psycho's, Hillbilly's do make an appearance, a cabin is their place of residence and lo and behold there is a massacre. This movie does exactly what is says on the label.

Now, it is always tough for short movies, as it isn't always easy to get ahold of them. Occasionally a company will surprise us, as did Unearthed Films with Nacho Cerda's collection of short movies, but for the most part you may have to hope for a compilation release, maybe find a copy at a convention, or do what I did and ask for a copy, because lets face it your local video store is unlikely to have it. With regards to Psycho Hillbilly Cabin Massacre! I do recommend that you try to grab yourself a copy; what the filmmakers show us here in 17 minutes is far better than alot of feature length movies.

The basic plot is about Sophie, a young college girl, who wants to get accepted into a rich kids secret society because she has the hots for Spencer, who is one of the members. Spencer, along with Brad and Gillian, take Sophie out into the woods for her initiation; which at this point hasn't been revealed. Along the way they stop off at a roadside store where they find a strange object made of a skull and a snake. Asking the vendor if they have anymore like it they are told that no they don't. The vendor gets them from the local Hillbilly's who live on the mountain, but advises them against going up there as "today is hunting day". Of course the kids pay no attention and head on up the hill, where quite soon they meet the locals.

I can assure you though that Psycho Hillbilly Cabin Massacre! doesn't unfold quite as you might expect though. This is a well written and highly enjoyable movie, with a dark sense of humour, very dark indeed. Compacted into the short running time is plenty of gore, good looking girls, mud wrestling, a Gil Gerard narration, a cameo from The Bad Seed's Patty McCormack and banjos; you have to have banjos in a movie like this!

The influences are quite apparent and the filmmakers have obviously taken a great delight in twisting these and playing up to the cliches of the backwoods psycho sub-genre. But rather than poke fun at them this seems to me as more of an homage, albeit a slightly warped one. The production values are quite terrific, the budget having been used to great effect; this is an incredibly professional looking movie, something I doubt that would have been possible if this had been a feature length movie.

The cast are all impressive too, playing everything totally straight and in turn giving believable performances. Angela Schnable, as Gillian, in particular was great fun to watch.

If I had any real faults with this movie it would be that the roles of the Hillbillys weren't quite developed enough. They seem to be window dressing really to the actions of the four kids, but they still looked cool.

Psycho Hillbilly Cabin Massacre! is a refreshing and damned enjoyable take on what can sometimes be a very tired and predictable sub-genre. In my opinion this would make a great appetiser to a night of horror movie viewing. A great combination of dark humour and horror.

Rating 3 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

June 2, 2008

Cloverfield (2008)

Before I start this review I am going to go on the assumption that you know roughly what the movie is about, as I will be discussing it and won't be as vague as I sometimes am. So, if you don't know, and don't want to know, stop reading now. Don't say I didn't warn you, because I just fucking did.

Right from the get-go I have to say that I was quite excited about the prospect of a big-budget style movie shot from the perspective of a Handycam ala Diary of the Dead, [REC] or The Blair Witch Project. For me the whole idea of having the events portrayed captured first hand was something I thought could work quite well, given a decent budget and a modicum of talent in the filmmaking department. The fact that it Cloverfield is set in New York further enhanced these thoughts; you just know that if the shit goes down that people are going to grab their cameras and cell phones etc. to try and capture what is going on, should the situation permit.

The movie is "filmed" on Rob Hawkins' (Michael Stahl-David) camera, and starts off with some frivolous exploits of him with his potential girlfriend Beth (Odette Yustman). This soon cuts into footage of the preparations for Rob's leaving party; he is off to Japan to start a new job. This then turns into the party itself with the cameraman, Rob's friend Hud (T.J. Miller), moving around the party trying to get Rob's friends to record their well-wishes on camera.

Truth be known I felt this part was a little slow, but before you know it the shit does well and truly hit the fan, the building shakes, the lights go out and pandemonium ensues. The party-goers rush to the roof of the building, only to see some terrific explosions as someone, or something seems to be attacking New York.

The movie then continues on a get the Hell out of Dodge style movie, before quickly turning into a "Oh shit, we have to go back" style movie, as Rob, Hud and friends forego trying to escape the carnage in order to go back and rescue someone. Easier said than done when you see what is in their path.

Cloverfield is one Hell of a ride, it's a monster movie that doesn't rely too heavily on showing the beast, just glimpses here and there, instead focusing on the human element of the story. Don't be mistaken though, there is plenty of action, some stunning set-pieces and more than a few scenes that fit nicely into the horror genre. It's tense, frenetic and occasionally gruesome, and the style of camerawork works perfectly. The special effects seem to only be enhanced by the potentially motion sickness enducing camerawork, coming across as seamless and ultimately more effective.

There's no score throughout the movie, other than incidental music that comes from the party or stores or what-have-you. infact the only noticeable score is over the closing credits, and it is quite a phenomenal piece of music too.

Where the movie was slightly let down for me was with some of the cast, or shall I say one in particular, and that is Hud. My God, as the cameraman you just can't get away from his voice, and boy does this fucker not want to shut up. It's all Rob this and Rob that, pipe down mate for fucks sake. It just got very repetetive very quickly for these ears. Granted he does come up with the odd gem here and there, but by then the damage was done. Aside from that the rest of the cast all put in pretty good performances, their sense of panic and confusion coming across well, even if some of their decisions were questionable.

Producer J.J. Abrams has stated that he was influenced by Godzilla, after a trip to Japan, and it is nice to see some nods to the big old lizard here too. Apart from the fact there is a bloody great monster stomping about there are little touches here and there, old monster movie posters and the fact that Rob is off to Japan to work all hint back to the grand daddy of monsters.

Cloverfield is a well executed movie, one that bears up to repeated viewings and is damned good fun. I did think the ending was a little poor, not too mention convenient; the tape runs out mere seconds after the movie finishes. But as a showcase of events encapsulated in the moment it works bloody well. In fact I am slightly surprised at how much I did like it. Good times indeed.

Rating 3 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

Evil (To Kako) (2005)

When it comes to countries that churn out horror movies, or shall I say zombie movies, Greece probably isn't the first place that springs to mind. That is probably because Evil is the first zombie flick to come out of Greece; well, it's the first one that I know of anyway, so don't jump down my proverbial throat if I missed one!

A ridiculously simple plot involves three road workers that discover a cave whilst working, because that always happens. You know, you're doing your job, when all of a sudden you find a bloody great cave. Ok, so it could happen...

Anyway, whilst wandering about the cave the workers become infected by an unseen force. The action then flashes forward to the trio going about their daily business, with no recollection of how they got out of the cave. This is a minor worry though, and one that want bother them for long, as they soon turn into flesh eating zombies and start attacking whoever is near enough to take a chunk out of. Then, in quite poosibly the quickest transformations I have ever seen, the attacked start attacking other folk, and so on. Before you know it downtown Athens is overrun by the bloodthirsty critters.

Some of those that haven't been infected initially put the craziness down to over enthusiastic football (soccer) fans having a wild time. That is of course until they see them attacking and eating people. So, a small band of mis-matched Athens residents try to get out of town. Well, I gather that is what they are trying to do, they seem to go around in circles to me. Cue lots of fight scenes, plenty of gore and a dodgy strain of humour; some of which worked, some of which was lost on me.

First off, let me just say that this certainly isn't the worst zombie movie I have ever seen. Oh no, there are some real barrels of crap out there which this is no where near as bad. The trouble is it is by far not the best either. Having a low budget doesn't really appear to be the problem here as the gore effects I thought were bloody good, and damned amusing in places too. No, the real problem for me was that the story never seems to really go anywhere, a fact that really isn't helped by some incredibly disjointed dialogue and poor attempts at humour within the script. This could, admittedly, be put down to poor subtitling or cultural differences, but I get the impression that the humour was just poor.

Nothing is explained about the why's and wherefore's, not that that is really an issue, but some kind of reasoning might have been hinted at. Maybe the dodgy Greek sewage system finally gave up the ghost? Who knows?

Evil for me was no more than a mildly enjoyable splatterfest, and they really do throw the gore at us. I can't really bring it upon myself to recommend it on any other level. So if you like zombie flicks, and I mean the good, the bad and the terrible of the genre, or just a gory movie, then you might get some kicks out of this. Other than that, you're probably better off with something else. I just hope that writer/ director Yorgos Noussias comes up with a better script for his next project; he's nailed the more visceral side of things, now all we need is a decent plot, and some decent acting to accompany it.

Rating 2 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton