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




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.





Review: Grabbers (2012, IFC Midnight)




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.




Review: Dog Soldiers (2002, Kismet Entertainment Group)




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.




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



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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.




Review: I Saw the Devil (2010, Magnet Releasing)




Category: Crime/Noir, Thriller
Directed by:
Kim Ji-woon

Written by: Park Hoon-jung
Starring: Choi Min-sik, Lee Byung-hun
Music: Mowg
Cinematography: Lee Mo-gae

I Saw the Devil is a violent revenge film from prominent South Korean film director Kim Jee-woon. The story follows NIS agent Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun, Joint Security Area) who goes on a mission to avenge the rape and murder of his wife at the hands of serial killer Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik, Oldboy), becoming just as violent and dispassionate as the man he hunts down. Despite how grisly and gory the film is, it shows through Soo-hyun’s actions that violence only breeds violence.

In the beginning Soo-hyun seems like a nice enough guy, looking forward to a future with his wife, Joo-yun. Once he becomes embroiled in his quest of revenge he quickly becomes a cold, removed psychopath focused only on making Kyung-chul suffer, not thinking of how his actions effect anyone else. I feel like you actually get more of an emotionally performance from Min-sik, although his character, who is a serial killer/rapist, is disgusting enough to where there’s no sympathy felt. Once Soo-hyun discovers who killed his wife, he repeatedly tortures Kyung-chul before letting him go. Tracking him with a GPS device, he hunts him down over and over again so as to torture his victim mentally as well as physically. While this doesn’t sound like a bad thing to happen to someone as terrible as Kyung-chul, by letting him go Soo-hyun puts others at risk to suffer at Kyung-chul’s hands, who becomes more frustrated and unpredictable with each assault. Soo-hyun also puts himself at risk, who’s blood lust consumes him, driving the point home how his actions do nothing but harm those around him and continues the cycle of violence.

Despite the two and a half hour run time the film moves at a fast enough pace so that it never drags and keeps you pulled in. Cinematographer Lee Mo-gae, who’s worked with Kim Jee-woon before, outdoes himself shooting a beautiful and slick looking movie that carries a dark, tense atmosphere. Both lead actors are superb, as is the whole supporting cast, with Choi Min-sik really stealing the show. When it comes to graphic violence, this film holds nothing back, it’s one of the most violent films I’ve seen in awhile. From action sequences to scenes of torture, there’s blood splattered all over this movie, no gorehound will leave disappointed. Despite this, there’s enough emotional weight felt throughout the film to keep it from feeling like a heartless gorefest.

I can see I Saw the Devil reaching the ranks of such cult Asian exploitation classics such as Oldboy, Ichi the Killer, or Tetsuo: The Iron Man with it’s powerful story and extreme violence, albeit more comparable with the former with it’s dark revenge themes and lack of campy flair. Although Soo-hyun’s actions may seem too extreme for his character to be believable, it’s meant to be over the top to show the dangers of violence corrupting a once good person. I recommend this to any fan of extreme cinema and a good, gory revenge movie with some heart behind it. But mostly blood.




Review: Funny Games (1997, Madman Entertainment)




Category: Arthouse/Experimental, Home Invasion, Psychological
Directed by:
Michael Haneke

Written by: Michael Haneke
Starring: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering, Stefan Clapczynski
Music: N/A
Cinematography: Jürgen Jürges

An Austrian home invasion thriller that mixes elements of meta-fiction and dark humor, Funny Games centers around two men who take control of their victims’ homes and subject them to senseless acts of brutality. Director Michael Haneke’s initial vision for the film was to critique violence in media with a frustrating film centered around pointless violence lacking a real plot.

The beginning hints that you’re not in store for an average horror/thriller movie, when at random a track from experimental noisecore outfit Naked City (which features jazz legends John Zorn and Bill Frisell) interrupts the classical music that’s playing once the opening credits pop up. I was so confused that I actually thought that maybe the video file on my computer got corrupted by an mp3, since I have a few of their CDs on my hard drive and my computer has spliced things together at random before, so I went to Netflix and realized that it wasn’t an audio error. The movie seems to go back to normal when two overly polite men in golfing attire, named Paul and Peter, show up and purposely annoy the three piece family with their odd antics. Eventually one of the them busts the patriarch Georg’s knee and they begin toying with the family in a variety of sadistic ways.

Paul and Peter maintain a very polite, playful and calm demeanor throughout the film, clearly taking joy and showing no remorse at all for their actions. Paul breaks the fourth wall at various points, addressing the audience and even effecting the movie in more drastic ways. Although none of the other characters seem to realize that they are in a movie, Peter makes multiple references to the typical formula of a movie. Neither character offers any reason for their actions, although they offer many conflicting backstories in the form of cliche origin stories. The family, consisting of husband and wife Anna and Georg along with their son also named Georg, basically fight an uphill battle most of the film while being subject to Peter and Paul’s sadistic games. The film is quite violent, which is basically the idea behind everything, although it’s not rife with guts and gore. The film would probably be more relevant now than it was back in the late 90’s with the torture porn sub-genre gaining popularity in the mid-2000’s with films like Hostel, Haute Tension,and the Saw franchise putting gory films in the spotlight again which are the type of movies that Funny Games was criticizing.

While it was never the intention, Funny Games is a smart, refreshing thriller that is a breathe of fresh air amongst a slew of generic horror films. With a sympathetic cast of victims, unique antagonists, and an overall good looking movie I definitely recommend this to any horror fan, although some of the random occurrences and deus ex machina moments may piss some people off, but that was the intention all along.




Review: Snowtown (2011, Warp Films)



Category: Crime/Noir, Psychological
Directed by:
Justin Kerzal

Written by: Shaun Grant
Starring: Daniel Henshall, Lucas Pittaway, Louise Harris
Music: Jed Kurzel
Cinematography: Adam Arkapaw

Snowtown is a bleak crime film that recounts the events of one of Australia’s most well known serial murder cases, The Snowtown Murders, masterminded by John Bunting. On May 20, 1999 eight bodies were found in barrels of hydrochloric acid in Snowtown, South Australia with three additional bodies found in Adelaide. In the film, Elizabeth Harvey and her three young sons; Jamie, Troy, and Nicholas, become acquainted with the charismatic John Bunting who manipulates those around him into murdering those he deemed unfit to live.

Our protagonist Jamie and his brothers have indecent photographs of them taken in the beginning of the film by their mother’s boyfriend. With the police not being much help, Elizabeth’s transvestite friend Barry introduces her to John Bunting who has a particular disdain for pedophiles and homosexuals. With the help of the boys he scares the man out of town and begins to rally together the neighborhood and slowly begins to manipulate them. Under the guise of vigilante justice, he’s able to get those under his spell to commit senseless acts of violence.

Shot in a gritty, realistic tone, Snowtown takes place mainly in the poor suburb of Salisbury North where the stoic atmosphere amongst the townsfolk and use of grey oriented color tones creates a depressing atmosphere from the beginning. Aside from Daniel Henshall (Bunting) and Richard Green (Barry), the rest of the cast consisted of non-actors which adds to the docudrama-esque quality of the film. Henshall’s portrayal of Bunting really steals the show balancing his charismatic, patriarchal personality he displays in public and the psychotic yet cunning and collected part of himself he keeps hidden. The other characters all seem rundown and share a similar sense of ennui which made it difficult for the supporting cast to shine, although this fit the tone of the film as to make it believable that these people can be coerced to murder.

The manipulation process was the focus of the film, with a two hour run time giving ample time for a believable story. Bunting preys on the weaknesses of those around them and breaks them to his will, taking almost complete control of his peers. His relationship with Jamie being a main focal point, using a fatherly approach to make Jamie feel as though his actions are done to protect him. While the acts of murder and torture take a backseat to the main plot, when they do show acts of violence it’s unforgivably brutal. Avoiding over the top blood and gore, the torture scene in the film is difficult to watch as John stares directly into his victim’s eyes as he’s repeatedly strangled, allowing him to breath just long enough to stay conscious.

I read up a bit on the actual murders when I first heard about this film, and it’s fairly accurate to the real events. The murders were extremely violent and gruesome and unlike many films based on serial killers, first time director Justin Kurzel shies away from the violence to focus on the relationship between John Bunting and the townsfolk. I very much enjoyed the film, the cast was great and it’s very well shot, the interactions between the characters is very believable although it’s fairly long and there are spans of time where not much action happens so I can see how some could get bored halfway through the film, especially if they’re expecting a plethora of murder scenes. Check this out of you’re into slow burning, psychological crime films.