Review: The Sleeper (2012, Gamma Knife Films)

“IF I DIE BEFORE I WAKE…”

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Category: Retro, Slasher
Directed by:
Justin Russell

Written by: Justin Russell
Starring: Brittany Belland, E. Ray Goodwin, Jason Jay Crabtree
Music: Gremlin
Cinematography: Justin Russell

I just reviewed Justin Russell’s Death Stop Holocaust, and it was a shining example of a grindhouse throwback film. He totally captured that classic aesthetic. It wasn’t insanely over the top, it was CGI free, and the film took itself seriously. Russell continues this endeavor into retro horror with his latest offering The Sleeper, providing an old-school 80’s slasher. It just reeks of a classic slasher film. The camera work, the cast, the plot, and the soundtrack! Russell is proving himself as a formidable director in the throwback  horror department.

The plot is typical of an 80’s slasher. Two girls go to a sorority party looking to join the crew, along with a few melvins who are totally trying to score. A deranged killer obsessed with Alpha Gamma Theta starts to hunt them down. The premise might seem cheesy but that’s what I love about it! Russell totally goes for an old school feel with this flick.

As with Death Stop Holocaust,Russell is on a very low budget. Luckily for us he has an affinity for cheap slashers, so he utilizes the miniscule budget to produce such a film. Yet again Gremlin provides a fantastic soundtrack. I need to get in contact with these guys! They do such amazing job of capturing that 80’s, synth driven feel. If you know how to reach them please let me know, I seriously want to employ them! And as with his last film, the cinematography and atmosphere of this film is spot on for an 80’s styled flick in the modern age. The script is also a little better! A lot of the same actors/actresses are utilized from his last film, and they are a little bit more believable in this. But the acting is still stale, especially from E. Ray Goodwin.

Alright the script isn’t that much better, but it is an improvement. It’s still totally cheesy though.

The director tries too hard to make the killer deranged, he reminds me of Gollum; he cries too much and his level of unexplained obsession is ridiculous.  If he was just a little bit more toned down then he’d be perfect. Also there’s a syncopated disco dance scene that, while entertaining and goofy, detracts from the the whole tone of the film. I feel like it’s thrown in there just to add to the hokey “80’s vibe”. Most un-enthusiastic dance off ever!

Unlike a lot of retro horror, this film doesn’t try too hard; It’s not over the top insane (other than the disco scene), it’s just a straight forward slasher. There’s a little T&A, classic gore, practical effects, and a typical storyline. Russel has proved that he can capture a classic, old school, horror aesthetic. Death Stop Holocaust definitely captured that feel but it had it’s down falls. With The Sleeper, there is a sense of revision but not perfection. Russell is on his way to making a great film. The story flows much smoother and the characters are much more believable, but there are a lot of flaws. The Ahab of the film sucks and the villain could be more intimidating. Russell has written unique storylines and plots and he is an fantastic cinematographer. I have high hopes for his future films. Other than the weak script, this film is pretty tight for a slasher. With a better cast, tighter editing, and a stronger screenplay we could see a truly great horror film from Justin Russell. Keep your eye on this guy. With each movie he has released, the next has been better that the other so his next film may just blow your mind!

If you love cheesy, 80’s styled slashers then please check this out! Expect some poor acting, occasional boobs, gore, great murder sequences, and girls running around screaming. Russell definitely tries to make an 80’s slasher flick, so if you’re not into that then skim by this. This is for true slasher fans only! And watch out for this filmmaker, he is a truly passionate director, making great, classic styled horror films and I have a feeling he will be sweeping the common horror community by storm. His films looks so fantastic! How can they not appease slasher fans? I am anxiously awaiting his next film, he completely nails that VHS era exploitation feel!

7/10

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Review: Death Stop Holocaust (2009, Gamma Knife Films)

“FOR TWO YOUNG WOMEN, AN ISLAND PARADISE IS ABOUT TO BECOME…A NIGHTMARE OF TERROR!”

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Category: Retro, Slasher
Directed by:
Justin Russell

Written by: Justin Russell
Starring: Lisa Krenisky, Jenna Fournier, E. Ray Goodwin, Beverly Kristy, James Emmet Lenahan
Music: Justin Russel, Gremlin
Cinematography: Justin Russell

As I said in my review of Dear God No!, retro styled horror films are making a comeback. Maybe these low budget filmmakers are sick of all the remakes and PG13 horror flicks and want to bring us back to a simpler, happier, and bloodier era of filmmaking. I love late 70’s-mid 80’s movies the best, if I ever get around to turning one of my half-written slasher scripts into a feature they’ll definitely be in that vein! So I get excited when I see newer directors going the old school route, and Justin Russell succeeds in making a pretty honest homage. Unlike Dear God No! and the Grindhouse family of films this isn’t an over the top caricature, he tries to make a serious movie with a good ol’ grindhouse tone.

The premise is two young female friends, Liz (Lisa Krenisky) and Taylor (Jenna Fournier), head out to Liz’s father’s summer home on an island (well, peninsula) for a little time away from the city. Unfortunately for them the locals are more interested in rape and murder than showing tourists lovely places to go site seeing. They also enjoy wearing weird animal masks, maybe they attend Furry Parties on the weekends to get some serious yiffing done. Liz’s dad (E. Ray Goodwin) comes a bigger part of the picture later on to make a really lame rescue attempt.

The acting is really the biggest downfall for this movie, the script ain’t great either. Liz’s character started to drive me mad after awhile from the all the screaming and being a giant pussy. Yeah I know it’s a horror movie, women screaming is a trademark in almost every slasher, but for some reason she started to really bug me, spending most of the movie screaming “Help Mee!!!”. Shut up and help yourself! Half the time she’s screaming for help she’s alone in her car or in her attacker’s clutches, who the fuck are you yelling for?! I initially hoped she was so feeble and annoying because we’d get some character developement and she’d transform into a boss, like any Final Girl should. I got a glimmer of hope when she kills one her attackers in a brutal fashion screaming a war cry. She then immediately drops her only weapon and goes back to being a crying mess. From that point on I was hoping for the crazy locals to disembowel her and promptly shove in guts down her throat to shut her up. I couldn’t tell if the killers were just trying to fuck with the girls like a cat does when it finds a bug, catching and releasing them repeatedly, or if they were just really bad at holding two small girls captive. Maybe they need a slasher lesson from Leslie Vernon.

Other than the acting, this movie rules! It looks like it’s straight out of the late 70’s. The cinematography is fantastic, the whole look and tone of the film is gritty as hell. There are some really great looking dream sequences. There isn’t a ton of gore, but the blood that gets spilled is sure to appease any goregeeks’s appetite. My hand’s down favorite part of the movie is the soundtrack. Between Justin Russell and a composer called Gremlin (couldn’t find any info on them unfortunately) they totally nail that classic, synth-laden slasher aesthetic. It sounds like a mix of Goblin and John Carpenter. If I make a movie like I’ve mentioned, they’re definitely getting hired for the music! These guys were working on a micro budget, a total indie production. If you watch the credits (there’s a lovely little post-credits easter egg), you’ll noticed that the same four or five people multi-task on about every crew role out there.

This movie really got that classic grindhouse feel down, I can’t get over how good it looks! It’s fantastic if you’re a hardcore slasher fan like me. If you can deal with the sub par acting and Krenisky’s nonstop screaming, then check it out.

5/10

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Review: Dear God No! (2011, Big World Pictures)

“WHEN THE BLOOD BEGINS TO FLOW…WHO WILL BE LEFT TO SCREAM?”

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Category: Exploitation, Retro
Directed by:
James Bickert

Written by: James Bickert
Starring: Jett Bryant, Madeline Brumby, Paul McComisky, Olivia LaCroix, Shane Morton, Johnny Collins
Music: Richard Davis, The Forty Fives, Bryan G. Malone, Adam McIntyre
Cinematography: Shawn Maurer

Grindhouse has been making comeback as of late, possibly due to 2007’s Rodriguez/Tarantino double feature Grindhouse which spawned three movies based on some of the fake trailers (Hobo With a Shotgun and the two Machete films). Grindhouses were former burlesque theaters that screened exploitation films, most famous were the ones located on 42nd Street in NYC. Exploitation covers any type of cinematic excess: porn, horror movies, monster movies, westerns, martial arts films, etc. There have been a few movies coming out imitating the low quality production, faux trailer and concession ads, gore, T&A, ridiculous storylines, and bad acting of these classic exploitation features. Like the film Grindhouse, most of these movies are too over the top and ridden with CGI to feel like a real grindhouse feature. This film does a much better job of capturing that 70’s feel, although it’s still an extremely ridiculous film.

You’ve got a biker gang, The Impalers, that go on a murder and rape spree then shit goes down when they piss off a sasquatch. Strippers with tommy guns rocking Nixon masks, heavy drug use, random acts of violence, nuns getting raped and butched, abortions, Nazi science. Director James Bickert tries to stuff every exploitation subgenre into this movie.

This was shot on actual 16mm, so it looks like a straight up 70’s flick which is awesome, and all of the effects are practical. The gore and nudity is pretty excessive in this movie. The acting is all pretty bad as well as the script. There’s a lot of random shit thrown in this movie just to have it there, e.g. some dude blowing down lines in the shape of a swastika. The pacing is pretty bad, this film could’ve used some serious editing. The ending is just really weird. Everything you need in a grindhouse film.

This is a pretty bad movie overall, you’re not going to enjoy it unless you’re into low budget 70’s exploitation films. Even if you are into it, like myself, this just gets boring after awhile. Appreciate it for what it is; an over the top grindhouse homage. Check it out if you’re into B-movies, nun rape, blood & guts, boobies, blow, bikers, and/or Bigfoot.

4/10

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Review: The Haters – Tales From the Crypt (2006, Self Released?)

Genre: Horror Punk

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I usually like to do some research on whatever I’m reviewing but unfortunately there’s not much info on these guys! I know they’re Italian! I wasn’t aware that this is actually a demo tape until I tried to look these guys up. They re-recorded some songs for their full length Beware of Them which I will eventually get my hands on if possible.

The style in which they play is a combination of horror punk and good ol’ rock & roll with a rockabilly feel, and some heavy riffage in a few songs. The vocalist kind of reminds me of Alex Story of Cancerslug with less 50’s blues rock inflection and nowhere near as vulgar. Mostly power chord driven guitar with some classic 60’s style solos, rhythmic drumming, and really solid bass playing. There’s a clear Misfits influence which they proudly wear on their sleeves, they even cover “Horror Hotel”.

In true horror punk fashion all of the songs are titled after and concern B-Movies, although they go beyond just Hammer Horror and 50’s/60’s films with a song titled “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. The opening track “Night of the Living Dead” (Not a Misfits cover!), which starts with a sample from Dawn of the Dead 04′, has some Misfits-esque “whoooas” in the background and Johnny Thunders sounding guitar licks. “Jack the Ripper” has a heavier feel to it with an almost two-step type hardcore rhythm and chugging guitars, with a break featuring Univibe drenched guitar lines. “Nightmare” has some ballsier guitar power chording to it as well, with big anthemic backing vocals and some more Univibe effected leads. “Mutant” Monsters” has a great, catchy walking guitar line and delightfully cheesy sci-fi subject matter. For a demo, the recording doesn’t sound too bad but then again it’s a punk album.

If you want some straight forward, classic horror punk with a rock & roll feel then give this underground Italian foursome a listen! Good luck finding the CD, take a stab at digging through Google!

I couldn’t find anything off of the demo, this is the re-recorded version. It was the best I could do! Talk about obscure.

7/10

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Review: Some Guy Who Kills People (2011, Lightning Media)

“YOUR NUMBER IS UP.”

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Category: Horror-Comedy, Slasher
Directed by:
Jack Perez

Written by: Ryan Levin
Starring: Kevin Corrigan, Barry Bostwick, Karen Black
Music: Ben Zarai, David Kitchens
Cinematography: Shawn Maurer

I bought this movie on a whim last year and it blew my mind. It is fantastic. The perfect blend of dark humor, gore, slasher aesthetic, cinematography, acting. This movie nailed it. Director Jack Perez made a bunch of movies I never heard of and don’t give a shit about before and after this but this movie is a goddamn gem. And if you didn’t noticed, famed horror director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) co-produced this.

Synopsis: Former tortured high school mascot/mental patient Ken Boyd (Judd Apatow alumni Kevin Corrigan) works a shit ass job at an  ice cream cream parlor with one of his only friends Irv (Leo Fitzpatrick of Kids fame) and he still lives with his mom (Trilogy of Terror star Karen Black). His former Jock Chodebag classmates who bullied him start to die off, and after awhile the authorities start to make the connection. He starts a romantic relationship with some chick named Stephanie (Lucy Davis from Shaun of the Dead). Also his long estranged daughter comes into the picture.

I love this movie. Plenty of great kill sequences and an engaging storyline. The humor is very dry, but I love dry humor, LOVE IT. The awkward relationship with his daughter is one of the shining moments of this film, yet very relatable, especially as a new dad myself. The sheriff in this film, along with his deputy are fucking hilarious as well. Lots of great silly moments. This movie looks great, whoever handled the cinematography is fantastic. All of the acting is flawless. Some good gore too. And of course, fantastic title!

There’s really not much I can say to criticize this film. The pace might be slow for some, maybe the atmosphere this film presents might not interest certain people. If you like a well thought-out, well shot, independent horror/thriller film with some perfectly placed sly humor then check this out.

8/10

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Review: Juan of the Dead (2011, Focus Pictures)

“50 YEARS AFTER THE CUBAN REVOLUTION, A NEW REVOLUTION IS ABOUT TO BEGIN”

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Category: Horror-Comedy, Zombie
Directed by: Alejandro Brugués

Written by: Alejandro Brugués
Starring: Alexis Díaz de Villegas, Jorge Molina, Andrea Duro
Music: Sergio Valdés
Cinematography: Carles Gusi

We don’t see a lot horror films out of Cuba, or really any films for that matter, this was the first Cuban film for me at least. Director Alejandro Brugués presents us with a late-to-the-game zombie comedy with a unique setting. Alexis Díaz de Villegas and Jorge Molina, playing Juan and Lazaro respectively, are two jobbers surviving as small time crooks in a rundown Cuba. Both of them complain about their life in Cuba, but don’t really do much about changing it. One day a zombie outbreak occurs, the public confusing them for dissidents, and hell quickly breaks loose. At first Juan and a few of his crook friends capitalize on this by killing off people’s zombified loved ones for a fee. Eventually shit gets too out of hand so they look towards escape. There’s a side story involving Juan trying to win the approval/affection of his distant daughter.

The storyline is pretty solid as is the acting from our leads, although Lazaro’s stupidity gets annoying after awhile. For being a couple of petty, deadbeat criminals who have a total disregard for human life, they’re likeable. The gore is plentiful and the effects are good for the most part with some great looking zombies (though there are some pretty shitty CGI shots). A lot of the kills in the movie are pretty goofy and entertaining. This flick is strife with a lot of great humorous moments, although a good deal of them fall short. Throughout the movie is quite a bit sociopolitical criticism aimed at the Cuban government but not enough to come off as too preachy.  The film’s not perfect though, there’s a bunch of really cheesy moments and clichés that drag the movie down along with a weaker supporting cast full of stereotypes. Also the dramatic moments are too drawn out and sappy.

As with Howard Ford’s indie flick The Dead (shot in Africa), Juan of the Dead’s premise of a zombie flick in a foreign setting not really utilized before seems like a novelty, but it’s a decent zomedy with heart. As an over the top, silly apocalypse film it’s pretty entertaining. If you’re bored and can look past some of the corny moments to enjoy a fun, gory movie with a different setting then check this out. If you’re looking for a highbrow thriller then don’t bother watching this. Also if you’re illiterate and don’t understand Spanish you might want to avoid this since you’ll be reading subtitles.

5/10

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Review: Sons of Perdition – The Kingdom Is On Fire (2007, Gravewax Records)

Genre: Gothic Country, Traditional Country

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Me and my good buddy Matt were hanging out at my old pad awhile back drinking some beers and listening to some psychobilly band’s station on Last.FM. This popped up and we damn near shit ourselves. A dark, eerie, yet oddly upbeat song told from the point of view of some southern religious nut proclaiming that his Lord craves his blood in the last moments of his life. It was love at first listen.

Sons of Perdition is the brain child of “Zebulon Whatley” who writes all of the songs, plays most of the instruments and provides most of the vocals. Referred to as “death country”, this album is full of dark, simple traditional country songs utilizing great vocal accompaniment, acoustic guitars, lap steel, violin, and simple percussion instruments sung from the point of view of an old-school southern religious zealot, probably Baptist or something.

The intro track starts off with a tambourine and a choir of Whatleys, adding in slide guitar and acoustic arpeggi, then some Injun chanting comes in. The next track, “The Party”, presents a dark tale of a man being possessed by the cannibalistic spirit of the Wendigo and hacking up everyone at his little get together. Right from the get go you can tell this is going to be a pretty upbeat record full of smiles and sunshine. Most of the tracks on this album warn you of the wrath of God, such as “There Is A Judgement” letting you know the fate of those who take their own life or “An End to All Flesh” about the coming Apocalypse. “Blood In The Valley” is another song along these lines featuring a wild sermon shouted by Lonesome Wyatt from Those Poor Bastards, another great country band. If you dig this check them out. There are also a lot of tracks that are like old folk tales, such as “Death of a Shuckster” about a man who promises a dying town life and wealth, when his promises fall short he’s murdered by the townsfolk, then God destroys the whole town to punish them. “The Legend of Saw Jones” is a tale of a surgeon who’s son is slain, so he uses necromancy to resurrect him. Unfortunately, like in Pet Sematary,  the dead aren’t a happy bunch. The creepiest track on the whole record is “Cannibals of Rotenburg”, a short, sparse track warning you not to travel to said town for you will be devoured.

This isn’t your average country record. This is pretty weird and really dark. If you dig westerns, the bible belt, tales of murder and Satan, seriously alternative country music, or anything grim sounding you’ll probably like this. If you like Tim McGraw you should steer clear of this.

Fuck you Satan! (Just kidding, love you buddy)

8/10

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