Review: Bloody Bloody Bible Camp (2012, Maltauro Entertainment)

“HEAVEN IS FOR EVERYONE…EXCEPT YOU!”

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Category: Horror-Comedy, Retro, Slasher
Directed by: Vito Trabucco
Written by: Vito Trabucco, Shelby McIntyre

Starring: Reggie Bannister, Tim Sullivan, Ron Jeremy, Ivet Corvea, Deborah Venegas
Music: Reggie Bannister, Carlos Vivas
Cinematography: Michael Bates, Neal Trout

From the title and trailer, you pretty much know what you’re in for. A cheesy 80’s slasher homage about a cross-dressing killer nun hacking up members of a Christian camp group. And Ron Jeremy is Jesus. I see no reason not to watch this.

I was honestly surprised by the quality of the film. Despite wearing the typical trappings of a crappy 80’s slasher, it doesn’t quite look as authentic as say Dear God No!, which could easily be mistaken for a film made in the grindhouse era. Technology has come a long way, shooting something on your iPhone looks better than any independent venture shot in the early 80’s. The image is pretty clear and modern looking regardless of the fact that they were working on a small budget. The acting isn’t even that bad. I mean the script is purposely ridiculous and corny, but you can tell that the actors in this are above the amateur level of  most B-movie thespians. The script is pretty hilarious by the way, really capturing that hokey retro vibe and full of all sorts of sexual innuendos and lines that are just plain sexual. And of course plenty of humor at the church’s expense. Tim Sullivan as Sister Mary Chopper was just awesome, he really brought some charisma to that role. Christopher Raff as the chubby bible nerd Timmy definitely deserves a mention here as well, he’s every Melvin that you just love to pick on. Then you’ve got your pickle loving priest Father Cummings (Bannister), ditzy devout Jesus chick Brittany (Jessica Sonneborn), libido driven, short gym shorts bro Tad (Matthew Aiden), goth chick Jennifer (Venegas), curious camper Millie (Corvea), lame geeky Vance (Troy Guthrie), and of course the creepin’ Brother Zeke (Jay Fields).

My main gripe with the film was that after the opening kill scenes almost an hour goes by without any action. I still didn’t find myself bored but I also could’ve gone for some more gore. It’s not like you need space for character development in a movie like this. All that really happens is your typical, cheesy summer camp banter and some silly jokes. While I didn’t mind any of that, a kill between those scene would’ve been cool. Other than that, there’s not much to complain about. There’s plenty of fun gore moments courtesy of effects guru Marcus Koch; spilled intestines, decapitations, cunt punting, all that good stuff.

Bloody Bloody Bible Camp is a fun hack em’ up homage to b-horror that could be stomached by a more mainstream horror fan. It’s sort of the splatter genre’s version of Wet Hot American Summer (which is definitely one of my favorite non-horror title). So if you’re into nuns with dicks, perverted priests, lesbian tendencies, going in the backdoor (Jesus Approved) and watching a cast of all of your favorite John Hughes’ stereotypes getting butchered, then this is definitely up your alley.

6/10

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Review: Grabbers (2012, IFC Midnight)

“TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT.”

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Category: Horror-Comedy, Monster Movie
Directed by:
Jon Wright

Written by: Kevin Lehane
Starring: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey, Lalor Roddy
Music: Christian Henson
Cinematography: Trevor Forrest

Grabbers presents a monster invasion scenario I can totally get down with. A small town on the coast of an Irish island comes under attack by tentacled, blood sucking space creatures with an aversion to alcohol. Led by an odd couple pair of local cops, laid back alcoholic Ciarán O’Shea (Coyle) and peppy workoholic Lisa Nolan (Bradley), the town must get as drunk as possible yet still manage to keep their wits about them the survive the extraterrestrial attack. Needless to say, hilarity ensues. The U.K. really does take the cake when it comes to horror/sci-fi-comedies and this is no exception. I mean it shouldn’t be too hard to make a funny movie about a bunch of drunk Irish folk fighting aliens, but with the addition of a tight script, superb acting, beautiful camera work and great looking special effects (that’s right I’m not hating on the CGI here), Wright & Co. really pull together an excellent film.

Every character really shines in the movie, aided by Lehane’s smooth script, each performance comes off really natural and the witty, sarcastic banter flows well. Some of the shit these people said cracked me up, in one part a drunken local stumbles towards one of the grabbers, camera in hand; “I need a picture with it for National Geographic. And Facebook”.  Our two main protagonists have more dimension than you’re typical reluctant buddy cop archetypes, they’re both well balanced and likeable characters who don’t butt heads over every little thing like you see in a lot of those type of movies. Bradley’s drunk person performance is also noteworthy, it’s very believable. I thought she might’ve actually gotten hammered for those scenes. I guess Wright took Coyle and Bradley out drinking before the shoot and filmed them so Bradley took note of her drunken quirks and incorporated those into her performance.  Tovey as the more refined, snide yet still perfectly likeable Dr. Smith was a nice contrast to the O’Shea’s character  and of course Roddy as the town drunk was perfect, we all know a guy like Paddy. Once the shit hits the fan and the alpha male grabber goes on the attack it’s pretty hilarious watching a bunch of drunken of buffoons try to complete simple tasks, such as one scene where Smith tries to light a homemade flame thrower after a few swigs of moonshine.

This film was beautifully shot, cinematographer Trevor Forrest perfectly captured the sublime beauty of the Irish coast with nice, smooth transitions between scenes. As for the effects, the CGI looked incredibly realistic. I really like practical effects like make-up and guys in suits but for a sci-fi flick like this with all kinds of critters big and small, it would be damn near impossible to pull it off without computer effects. While lacking in gore, a few plaster cast heads do get tossed around here and there. The music is very well done, the orchestral score flows from traditional Irish compositions to a low, ominous crawl flawlessly; perfectly accenting the mood without every really drawing your attention away from the going ons in the film, which is what any good score should accomplish.

Grabbers was definitely one of the better horror-comedies I’ve scene as of late. It was perfectly paced with a comfortable balance between humor and tension. Each and every character is likeable and believable, as well as very drunk. Some horror fans think it would be exciting to experience a zombie scenario, there’s even an event in England that does just that, but the plot here would be my personal choice for an end-of-the-world scenario. If someone invests in a live-action game of Grabbers you can sign me up. Anyways, I highly recommend checking this film out if you’d like a good laugh paired with a fun monster movie.

8/10

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Review: Dog Soldiers (2002, Kismet Entertainment Group)

“SIX SOLDIERS. FULL MOON. NO CHANCE.”

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Category: Werewolf
Directed by:
Neil Marshall

Written by: Neil Marshall
Starring: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Liam Cunningham
Music: Mark Thomas
Cinematography: Sam McCurdy

This is the debut feature film of English director Neil Marshall who would go on to direct films such as The Descent and Doomsday and has even worked on the small screen directing episodes for Game of Thrones and Black Sails. I’m a fan of the aforementioned films so I went into this with high hopes but I feel that I’m with the minority that was a bit let down by this entry.

Dog Soldiers is the story of six soldiers carrying out a training exercise in the Scottish wilderness. Coming across the blood soaked camp of their opposing troupe, along with a survivor spouting annoyingly clichéd cryptic messages, they discover they aren’t alone. Facing off against a pack of werewolves the soldiers, along with a local woman, take up camp in an abandoned house and must fight for their lives until sunup.

Many of Marshall’s trademarks are evident in his debut: quick takes, erratic camera movement, practical effects, and an emphasis on action. This definitely has a more action movie feel as opposed to his other films, it actually reminds me of another movie that blurs the line between action and horror: Predator. A group of soldiers stranded in the wilderness fighting inhuman foes, cheesy macho dude banter, people miraculously surviving big ass explosions, squad members facing off mano-a-mano with the antagonist. Shot with a smaller budget, Soldiers even resembles an 80’s flick with the lower quality camera set up and color grading.

The acting and the script are definitely the weakest aspects of the film. All the soldiers are fairly stereotypical; Private Cooper the tough leading man with a past failure trying to prove himself, Sgt. Wells the strict-yet-fair squad leader who will do anything for his crew, Capt. Ryan the mysterious bad guy from a different branch of government, a bunch of no-fucks-given filler guys who like to rag on each other. These guys don’t seem very disciplined and organized for a bunch of soldiers. I’ve never been in the military but reloading with your back to window while enemies are attacking just doesn’t seem like a great idea to me. At one point Cooper tells his squad “shoot in controlled, three round bursts” then an attack occurs so the whole squad, Cooper included, fires wildly. Other than the soldiers there’s Megan, the werewolf “expert”, who’s kind of useless and doesn’t serve much purpose.

I’ve read some reviews with people complaining about the werewolves’ appearance, that you can tell it’s someone in a suit and such. Personally I think they look great, I like the 80’s quality to it; much better than some CGI monster. The gore, while not a ton of it, is all done with practical effects as well. I was kind of bummed out that there wasn’t a really cool transformation scene in the movie; I feel like that’s a necessary ingredient in a good werewolf flick. Also, despite being bulletproof, they weren’t very intimidating. They were easily warded off, their movements were awkward and clumsy, and they looked ridiculous throwing punches at people.

The camera work wasn’t anything too exceptional. Cinematographer Sam McCurdy has worked on all of Marshall’s films and he’s matured a lot since Dog Soldiers, really finding his own style. While quick shots and wild movement are sort of his bag, the camera jumps around a bit too much here which takes away from any sense of atmosphere that McCurdy is normally good at establishing. The still shots that are taken look amateurish and don’t really add anything to the film. The editing, done by Marshall, isn’t too great either. Between some scenes there are quick fade outs which almost make it look like this was a made-for-tv movie with the commercials cut out and the pace just doesn’t flow quite smoothly. With the score we again get that 80’s action vibe with cookie cutter orchestral parts with some emphases on percussive elements.

This isn’t bad for a feature debut, if you’re a fan of Marshall’s work you can see an obvious progression from Dog Soldiers to The Descent. His signature style evident throughout both but more honed and refined with his later features. While not the best werewolf movie I’ve seen, it’s mildly entertaining. I honestly got bored halfway though, but then again I’ve seen this movie praised in magazine reviews and apparently has a cult following so who knows, maybe you’ll love it.

4/10

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Review: Frankenstein’s Army (2013, Dark Sky Films)

“WHAT IS DEAD MAY NEVER DIE.”

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Category: Exploitation, Found Footage, Monster Movie
Directed by:
Richard Raaphorst

Written by: Chris W. Mitchell, Richard Raaphorst, Miguel Tejada-Flores
Starring: Karel Rodan, Joshua Sasse, Robert Gwilym, Alexander Mercury, Luke Newberry, Hon Ping Tang, Andrei Zayats, Mark Stevenson
Music: N/A
Cinematography: Bart Beekman

Frankenstein’s Army, taking place towards the end of WWII, follows a small platoon of Russian soldiers with a cameraman in tow headed into Nazi territory to heed the call of a fellow comrade distress signal. Instead they stumble upon grotesque machine-human super soldiers, created by the grandson of the legendary Dr. Frankenstein, that aren’t too fond of Mother Russia. Despite sounding like a hokey Nazi B-movie, this flick actually surpassed my expectations.

There’s really not a whole lot to say considering the storyline, it’s very simple, the above two sentence description basically covers the whole movie. Regardless the 84 minute runtime goes by pretty smoothly mainly driven my action sequences, badass creature design, and a few tense moments. Not that this movie is all action, in fact it’s sort of a slow burn. There’s a decent amount of build-up in the beginning and between the more intense scenes, but I never found myself bored. This is shot in the found footage format which is quite popular nowadays, some horror fans hate the style; personally, I don’t really care as long as I enjoy the movie and the camera work fits into the story. The first person POV works for the story, but it’s not very convincing considering that this takes place in the 1940s and the footage looks like is was shot on a Red Camera, plus the amount of close encounters the protagonist survives with the aptly named Zombots seems unlikely.

The HD camera footage isn’t the only illogical thing going on; both German and Russian characters speak in English throughout the film. Now that doesn’t seem right. Plus the accents aren’t very convincing. Speaking of the characters, none of them are really that likeable.  The Russians lack any real depth, plus they don’t seem like nice people. Any secondary characters are basically just cannon (or monster) fodder. Then you have Viktor Frankenstein who is your typical mad scientist archetype.

On a more positive note, the Zombot soldiers are awesome. They’re like a cross between something you’d see in Silent Hill and Hellboy at a Steampunk themed party. There’s a giant beast with drills protruding from all over it’s body, a big dude with an industrial fan for a face, a medical table with human legs, and all kinds of other mongoloid creations. Director Richard Raaphorst served as a conceptual artist for a handful a films throughout the 2000s before this directorial debut so it makes sense that he put some damn fine artists in that department.

Overall this is a fun, entertaining creature feature. While lacking in character development, authenticity, and a moving story this film makes up for with monster mayhem, fantastic production work and some decent acting. Check this out if you have some time to kill and don’t want to feel like you’ve wasted an hour and a half of your life.

6/10

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