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Horror Survival Tip #27

Fire Is A Weapon But Fire Is Not Your Friend

Fire is often touted as a potent weapon against all manner of evil. Seen as a cleansing agent, fire has been used in attempts to vanquish the big bad in more movies than I can count. Many of these movies show fire being used successfully. The villain goes down in flames – so to speak – the survivors go home, everyone’s happy again. Yay.

Not so fast. Kill It With Fire often doesn’t work, or shouldn’t work. Fire is a dangerous element. So dangerous in fact our societies have an entire branch of civil servants dedicated to the eradication of fire. We teach fire prevention, keep fire extinguishers in our homes, and tell our children to never play with fire.

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So why is fire considered such a powerful weapon?

Lies. Lies told by movies. You have to admit, and I will as well, that fire looks cool. Explosions look cool. Volatile gases mixing with oxygen is cool. There is also an entire encyclopedia of cultural, mythic and biblical reasons everyone loves fire but I’m not opening that can of worms.

What’s the Reality? 

Reality is that fire won’t do the job against a serial killer, xenomorph, zombie horde, shark, or any number of deadly movie monsters. Allow me to explain.
  • Guy is burned to death in his boiler room. BURNED TO DEATH. What happens? He comes back more powerful than they could have possibly imagined.
  • Nancy pulls him out of the dream and sets him on fire a second time. What happens? He follows her up the stairs then goes and kills her mother, THEN goes off to make six more movies. Seriously who are we kidding.

Freddy vs. Jason

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  • After watching Jason kill his friend the drunk party guy throws a pitcher of high proof alcohol on Jason lights him up using a tiki torch. What happens? Not only does it not slow Jason down, it makes him more fearsome. The partygoers see a flaming Jason (eh..a Jason on fire) and lose their shit, scattering into the corn field. What’s more, when the beer keg cools him off his hockey mask isn’t even singed.

Alien/Aliens

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  • Captain Dallas takes a flame thrower into the access tunnels to flush out the alien. What Happens? Dallas dies pretty damn quick. The Alien clearly doesn’t give a crap about his makeshift flamethrower.

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  • Colonial Marines carry flamethrowers with them when they enter the hive in Aliens. Furthermore, the flame unit is the only one they are allowed to use. What happens? All but three marines die and that’s only due to three soldiers disobeying orders and using their guns anyway. To make matters worse, when Ripley the badass hero flames the eggs in the queens chamber she clearly feels compelled to use nearly an entire magazine of pulse rifle ammo just to be sure the eggs are dead.
  • One of the helpless victims in a last ditch effort to fend off attack sets the shark on fire. Not a great plan given shes in a boat…on the ocean, but she gets points for being bold. What happens? The shark ends up with a nasty burn scar on the right side of it’s head but is otherwise uneffected. It goes on to kill a bunch of teenagers and scare the shit out of the rest.
  • At the end of the movie Dr. Loomis detonates a room full of explosive gas in an attempt to kill Michael Myers once and for all. What happens? Well Loomis and Myers certainly go out with a boom. As if to emphasize just how unnatural the Shape is, Lori sees him coming walking out of the room completely engulfed in flames. He stumbles, falls and dies. Or so we think he dies… Halloween 4 happens and it turns out not only did the fire NOT kill Michael Myers, it didn’t even kill Dr. Loomis! Hell, he looks pretty good for a guy engulfed in a fireball.
  • Before you start screaming about how fire is the only thing that can kill The Thing let me point something out to you. Fire really doesn’t work consistently at all, throughout the entire movie. The slit-head corpse they bring back from the Norwegian Camp along with the burned dogs are the specimens Blair uses to determine their is still cellular activity. They burn Bennings, Palmer, Norris, and Windows. What happens? All of the burning seems to work until it quickly becomes apparent the situation is so hopeless. We never really know if fire is the end-all-be-all weapon against The Thing because no matter how many Things they burn more Things keep appearing. Furthermore, exploding and burning are two different things. Palmer and Blair both explode, we have no way of knowing if all those little pieces of them actually died. The only fire related death in the entire movie that we know for a fact works is Fuchs – and he most likely burned himself!

Salem’s Lot (1979)

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  • Ben Mears and Mark Petrie set fire to the Marsten house at the end of the movie in an attempt to cleans the town of the vampire horde. What happens? The wind catches the fire and sweeps over the town driving all the vampires from their hiding places. How is that a good thing? Now the vamps are homeless, pissed off and hungry. Mears and Petrie really didn’t think it through and as a result not only are they being hunted but a lot of people in their wake probably got butchered and turned who might not have otherwise.

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

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  • The military blast a hole in the beast’s throat releasing a prehistoric virus that kills a whole bunch of additional people. Next they plan to set the beast on fire. What happens? Fortunately they are smart enough to realize setting fire to the beast could release the contagion worldwide (awesome science) and instead use isotopes. Moral of the story – fire would have made shit worse.

Zombies

Zombies get their own section for a couple reasons.

First, the term zombie is used very loosely today. I’m not going to be picky here, I’m just throwing them all together.  Dead, slightly dead, brain dead, undead, and dead-alive. Rage zombies aren’t really zombies but since they act and hunt like zombies it’s easier to lump them into the group as well.

Second, with such a broad group containing so many sub-classifications the examples begin to pile up quickly and I want to make it clear that use of fire against this group of monsters generally has the same effect on all of them. Or in this particular case the results could be explosive.

 

The Walking Dead

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  • There are a whole bunch of examples but let’s just go with the opening episode to season 5. Carol blows up the fuel tank as part of her master plan to free the group from Terminus, in the process setting numerous walkers on fire. What happens? The walkers don’t die. They walk right into the compound and start eating/attacking the living. Lighting zombies on fire while they are still mobile only makes them more dangerous, not to mention smell worse.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

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  • While trying to start the emergency generator in the parking garage the group is attacked by ‘fast-moving’ dead zombies. After getting boxed into the cage around the fuel station they decide to spray gas on the zombies and light them on fire. What happens? Well, the movie cheats is what happens. It works for narrative purposes but they never actually show the zombies burn long enough to stop being a threat. The fact they are fast moving zombies means they should be 10x more dangerous once set ablaze. This is an example of the divine hand of editing, otherwise the movie would have been a helluva lot shorter. A drop-kick might have been more effective. 

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  • In 28 Days Later Jim is pursued by a group of infected, Selena and Mark use molotovs to light them on fire. What happens? The infected don’t even slow down. They continue to pursue Jim until Selena and Mark blow the entire petrol station to hell. Considering the infected aren’t truly dead the fire probably would have worked, and much more quickly than if they were dead, but not until after they caught Jim. What’s worse than being attacked and infected? Being attacked by infected and set on fire all at once!

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  • In 28 Weeks Later the U.S military calls in the Air Cav to firebomb the secure zone of downtown London. What happens? They light London up like a Christmas tree and still fail to contain the damn infection. Seriously, it’s their first decision and it fails. We’re not even talking about undead zombies who could mill around for god knows how long while burning. The infected are still alive which means they would succumb to fire damage much more quickly, but once again fire fails and the world goes to hell.

Conclusion

Unless you’re a pyro or have absolutely no alternative, fire isn’t a great option when fighting the big bad. It’s a tempting option due to it’s area of effect, especially when it’s weaponized in the form of a molotov, napalm, or flame thrower. Unfortunately it’s just too unreliable in most situations and too difficult to control. Lighting the bad guy ablaze you’re just as likely to set fire to other people, items or locations you never intended.

Special note for zombie hordes – during a zombie attack fire is incredibly destructive. Once on fire the horde is likely to spread said fire to anything and everything in the area. This is how you end up with scenes in movies like this one:

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Dead Girl (2008) – Raw Review

Necrophilia Was Never So Disturbing.

So what would you do if you found a sexy, naked, dead woman chained to a bed in the basement of an abandoned mental hospital?

Seriously, what would you do? She looks alive but isn’t. Does that mean the normal rules of law and order, not to mention morality, don’t apply to your actions?

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Well this is the premise the audience is presented with in this film. You could argue that it glorifies rape, bondage, and sociopathic behavior in young people; or you could just watch the movie for its entertainment value. The movie is definitely graphic and disturbing at times. Not as disturbing as Human Centipede but close enough. Don’t get too wrapped up in analyzing this film, just enjoy it for what it is – a horror movie with an incredibly original idea and great execution.Dead Girl, zombie, zombies, horror, horror movie, thriller, monster, sexy, nudity, necrophilia, disturbing, movie review, raw movie review
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Deadpool (Official Trailer #1)

 

 

Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, DEADPOOL tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.

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Friday the 13th: The Game (Announcement Trailer)

Earlier this week Tom Savini and Kane Hodder announced the development of a new Friday the 13th video game and it looks unbelievably awesome.

Working with Gun Media, Savini and Hodder along with Sean S. Cunning (original director of Friday the 13th) will be creating a multiplayer experience in which one player is the seminal slasher Jason Voorhees while up to seven other players play counselors working together to survive. Anyone who has fond (or not so find) memories of the original NES game will want to check this out.
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No One Lives, movie review, raw review, horror, horror movie, thriller, action, serial killer, Luke Evans, torture, gore, blood, Raw Movie Reviews

No One Lives (2013) – Raw Review

A lot of movies toy with the idea of evil being the good guy, or at very least the sympathetic protagonist. In many cases this premise is subverted and what starts out as the evil turns out really to be good, the good then becoming evil, etc.  No One Lives looks as if it’s headed in that direction until it abruptly doesn’t. A slick and polished slasher film, No One Lives decides to play, what might otherwise be a subversive anti-hero trope, as a serious evil vs evil duel of sorts. It works well when done correctly.
The story follows a ‘rich’ couple, played by Luke Evans and Laura Ramsey, who are relocating for an undisclosed reason. There is something different about them right from the get go, something eerie and undefined. Next we meet a group of highwaymen who are certainly the type of people your momma warned you about. Thieves, killers, lawbreakers, you name it. Lead by Lee Tergesen the group cross paths with our rich couple. Predictably the loose cannon of the group decides to waylay the couple and from there things begin to get good. As mentioned above, convention typically dictates that even if your protagonist isn’t a ‘good guy’ in a traditional sense they should still be empathetic or audiences won’t care about their struggle, conflict, or outcome. The one exception to this? Make your protagonist The Unfettered.
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An extremely version of the anti-hero, the Unfettered has no limitations, no boundaries, no inconvenient moral code, no scruples. They are unique in their focus on a specific goal or outcome. They care not for the ripple effect their actions cause to others or society at large. They may have emotions but don’t expect those to get in the way of their objective. Ruthless and cunning (assuming they are smart), devoted to to the end game, and completely immune to bargaining, reason, pity, remorse, fear, you name it. Sound scary? Absolutely.
 No One Lives, movie review, raw review, horror, horror movie, thriller, action, serial killer, Luke Evans, torture, gore, blood, Raw Movie Reviews
So when our protagonist decides these less than reputable people have made a mess of his grand plans, well… all hell breaks loose. We try to avoid spoilers here so I’m not going to get into any more specifics. Just know that this movie takes a bad guy vs bad guys plotline to the extreme. Uber violent, super bloody, over the top gory on a couple occasions, and unrelenting make it very hardcore film indeed. All that aside, it’s more an action movie than a horror film. Think Taken mashed with Friday the 13th. Can you imagine Liam Neeson on screen gutting a body, dropping arms and legs into a wood-chipper, slicing off a woman’s face while smiling? You can? You’re a sicko who will probably really enjoy this film.
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No One Lives is a fun gore-ride through vendetta turned sport. Luke Evans is fantastic from beginning to end. His counterparts, the beautiful Adelaide Clemens and creepy-ass Derek Magyar, are also dazzling throughout. If rampage or vengeance movies are your thing and you don’t mind a lot of onscreen murder then you won’t want to miss this one.
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Cooties (2015) – Raw Review

Cooties is a pretty run-of-the-mill zom-com. As an action horror it’s decent, yet unremarkable. As a horror movie it’s violent and gory, yet unremarkable. As a comedy it provides a lot of laughs, a few chuckles, and yet is unremarkable.

 

The premise is simple – tainted chicken nugget turns kid into a zombie of sorts, from there is spreads to other kids, and so forth. The film never really classifies it’s feral children as zombies. They start more as crazed infected until hair and body parts start dropping off. They are fast moving, intelligent, able to hunt, and dangerous. Always finding ways around the teacher’s tricks and traps. If you’re looking for more traditional zombie fair you might be disappointed, but for what the movie is trying to do, non-traditional works just fine.

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The main downside to the film is the canned storyline and underdeveloped characters. Elijah Wood and Amy Pill provide some good chemistry against the over-the-top shenanigans of Rainn Wilson, creating a funny if not completely ridiculous love triangle. Wilson plays the douche bag gym teacher to perfection, landing just about every one liner he’s given. Unfortunately even a great Rainn Wilson can’t hold up the film on his own. A always hilarious Jack McBrayer is woefully underutilized and Jorge Garcia’s role is almost non-existent, except to trip-out and be available when necessary.

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Adam Sandler has proven time and again that you don’t need a story or interesting characters to draw millions of people to the theatre. All you need is witty banter and a bunch of people not getting along. Cooties banks on this concept but makes the wise decision to dress the film in campy horror. A splash of gore, a few dismembered bodies, and just a touch of the apocalypse. It’s the horror that makes the movie better than it should be. Not a lot better, but fun and watchable.

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There are some genuinely awesome moments in this movie. The best involving a distracted mother, an SUV, a baby in a car seat, and an infected boy being picked up from school. First time directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion do a good job with this movie. It’s well directed and well filmed. The comedic beats are handled well enough to get the laughs, but the story beats feel like old hat a lot of the time. Had the movie been more comedic, or conversely more horrific, then it might have been a homerun. As it stands Cooties is an enjoyable film that most people will find palatable for a popcorn horror showing.  

 

Sicario Raw Movie Review, crime, drama, cartel, drugs, drug violence, thriller, movie, Mexico, Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, movie review, FBI, CIA, drug cartel

Sicario (2015) – Raw Review

Sicario is as dark and terrifying as any film you will see this year, proving that sometimes the best horror movies aren’t horror at all.

This review isn’t going to attempt to question or deconstruct the political and social tones associated with the U.S./Mexico relationship. This is a movie review, not an op-ed on U.S. drug policy, economic relations, or immigration. That caveat in place, Sacario is a movie unlike any other we’ve received from the big-budget Hollywood machine in quite awhile. Listed as actor Taylor Sheridan’s (Sons of Anarchy) first writing credit, Sicario is not a horror movie, but only because it’s based in a world that exists. A world is right next door.  

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Emily Blunt plays an idealistic FBI agent who’s brought in to work a special task force dealing with the Mexican drug cartels. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that just as the Cartels don’t play by the rules of law, American assets don’t always play by the rules either. Along with Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro, the cast is a powerhouse. If Oscar buzz isn’t already intensifying it won’t be long till it does.

From the first minute of the film to the last we are exposed to a world where humans dwell, yet humanity has been forgotten. The sheer brutality and graphic nature of the story might be considered hyperbolic if the subject matter wasn’t taken directly from real life. All it takes is a perusal of sites such as Blog del Narco and Wikileaks to see what both the Mexican Cartels and U.S. government are capable of, and while the brutality and inhumanity portrayed in Sicario may be a concentrated dose of the worst aspects of the drug war, the film is grounded in enough realism to be entirely plausible.

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Director Denis Villeneuve, whose previous films include Prisoners and Enemy, does a masterful job using long cinematic shots in conjunction with sharp direct close-ups to throw us deep into the dangers faced by his cast. The American Southwest is presented as a stage upon which a war is raging on both sides of the border. Combined with Johann Johannsson’s amazing score, Sicario establishes a suffocating intensity to every scene. In an article on Noisey by Joseph Yanick, composer Johannsson is quoted as saying:

I wanted to create music that had an underlying tension and a sense of coming from below the earth, like a throbbing pulse that resonates from underground or the pounding heartbeat of a wild beast that is charging at you. I also wanted to evoke the sadness and melancholy of the border, the border fences and the tragedy of the drug war.

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In many ways Sicario is reminiscent of films like It Follows, Gravity, and Mad Max: Fury Road. The score doesn’t just add background music, it’s an additional member of the cast, giving a powerful and pivotal performance that makes a great film even better.

Sicario is the dark, visceral horror crime-drama we’ve waited and hoped for all year. Take an opportunity and see this film. It shows what the perfect arrangement of writer, director and composer can accomplish in Hollywood.

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Insectula (2015) – Raw Review

Insectula! is the first film from writer/director Mike Peterson. Intended to be a parody/satire of 1950s/60s monster movies, it’s campiness and extremely low-budget spectacle is sure draw a large cult following.

 

Monster movies from the 50s/60s are very popular. At a time when the Cold War was in full swing and atomic energy new and mystical, filmmakers let their imagination run wild on screen. By today’s standards most of these films come across as silly, campy, hoaky, and over the top. What were cutting edge effects back in the day are now reserved for micro-budget and homemade movies. Dramatic scores were also a staple of the genre, often overshadowing the movie itself in scope and quality.

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Insectula! tries very hard to pay homage to these movie of yesterday while at the same time exaggerating their inherent silliness. The movie is a mash between Roger Corman, Ed Wood and John Waters. Leaning heavily on it’s dramatic musical score and hamed up acting from the first scene to the last.

 

The premise revolves around a giant alien that crashes to Earth in search of food. It quickly draws the attentions of an EPA Agent, whose girlfriends keep getting eaten by the monster, and a mad scientist who sees the monster as an opportunity to destroy the world.

 

The concept is fantastic. The drawback is that the film takes almost an hour to actually get to the monster stomping around and destroying anything. The first two thirds of the movie are dedicated to establishing and satirizing backstory for the main characters, but the narrative often wanders off into the weeds losing itself along the way. There are laughs to be had and the general wackiness of the endeavor is enough to make you giggle at times but the film breaks the cardinal rule of storytelling – every scene, whether serious or silly, needs to move the story forward. The first two thirds of the film could probably be shaved down considerably to expedite the narrative without losing the satirical feel.

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Insectula! tries too hard to make what is already an awkward and campy genre even more exaggerated. The acting is intentionally overdramatized to simulate the Corman era style and the score (while pretty darn good) is at the forefront for just about the entire movie. There are only a few scenes in which the music backs-off. A style choice for sure but I think it takes away from the film rather than adding to it.

 

The charm of the atomic era monster movies is that time has shaped the popular perception of the genre. Back in the day, monster movies may not have been seen as high level art but the filmmakers for the most part (Ed Wood excepted) tried to make serious and scary movies. Today the context under which the films were made is different making them come across to modern viewers as campy and fun rather than dramatic and scary. Had Insectula! dialed it down a notch and tried to make a semi-serious movie as opposed to a forced satire, the micro-budget special effects, cheese-ball acting and subject matter most likely would have created an end product much like what Insectula! was going for.

 

As a fan of early monster movies I completely understand what Insectula! is trying to do and I think it’s on the right track, just executed a little off the mark. I give writer/director Mike Peterson a lot of credit for getting this film produced and into the mainstream. Insectula! is clearly a labor of love and Peterson has a lot of talent and ingenuity. Trying to make a film with this kind of scope on a micro-budget is beyond difficult and while the movie itself may have missed the mark in a number of areas I’m sure it will gain a cult following as word of mouth spreads.

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Blue Ruin, violent, violent movie, feud, murder, movie review, raw review, thriller, crime, kickstarter, Macon Blair

Blue Ruin (2013) – Raw Review

Good but slow. Thats how everyone described Blue Ruin to me. Good but slow. Bullshit. The movie isn’t slow. Deliberate. Methodical. Unforgiving. That’s Blue Ruin.

 

Trimmed to the bone, Blue Ruin is a revenge story as raw as they come. A modern parable about holding hatred close, yet handled with a narrow focus and a razor sharp edge. The film follows a man named Dwight Evans (played by Macon Blair), a vagrant who quietly exists in New England, scavenging out an existance day-to-day. Quiet, unassuming yet morally imperfect, Dwight is an enigma to us, until he learns of the imminent release of the man who wronged him so many years before. This revelation sets Dwight on a collision course with his past, a very violent collision course.

 

I had the opportunity to watch Blue Ruin blind. Netflix has had it on streaming for awhile now and as usual the summary card doesn’t really provide an accurate idea of what the films about. Usually this is a problem because it warns off movies that might otherwise be decent, save the shitty descriptor. In the case of Blue Ruin, and hindsight is always twenty-twenty, it worked out in my favor. Had I known the story before seeing the film I definitely would have enjoyed the film, but seeing it completely blind made the entire experience that much more powerful.

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I know I usually gush about the movies I watch, and let’s face it, who has time to write reviews of all the crap movies. In the case of Blue Ruin not only am I going to gush but I’ll go as far as saying this is my new favorite movie of the year. The fact that the film was funded via kickstarter is impressive itself, but on a budget of $420k writer/director Jeremy Saulnier is able to produce more emotion and vicera than many of the tentpole movies working with hundreds of millions.

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Blue Ruin is a powerful film. Saulnier’s screenplay primarily relies on action and location. It’s tightly filmed with very little flash cutting. We see the word through Dwight’s perspective as he moves from place to place, making mistakes, barely surviving, recomposing and ultimately accepting the finality of the situation he’s place himself into. Placing myself in Dwight’s shoes wasn’t difficult. I found myself questioning if I’d take the same course of action were I in his place. A feeling of empathy that drew me into the movie, yet made my stomach turn at the choices he chooses and in turn is forced to make.

 

A sharp edgy film that capitalizes on efficient use of tension, violence and dialogue. Blue Ruin isn’t slow, it just knows exactly what it’s doing from fade in to fade out. Highly recommended.

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Welp, Cub, foreign, movie, movie review, slasher, horror, survival horror, horror movie, Belgium, kids, blood, scouts

Cub (2015) – Raw Review

Watching foreign horror movies is always a treat. The quality of the films may not match those of the more mainstream American movies at times, but more often than not non-American horror take risks that Hollywood execs tend to shy away from.

 

Welp (known as Cub in English speaking countries) is fun and fast paced slasher-in-the-woods from Belgium and the directorial debut of Jonas Govaerts. The story follows Sam, a twelve year old who joins his cub scout group for a camping trip into the woods. Little do they know the location chosen for their adventure is a hunting ground. A hunting ground for what you ask? To tell would ruin the surprise.

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The movie is tightly written and well filmed. The setting is genuinely gorgeous and used wisely through the story. Welp is a slasher film but has very heavy elements of survival horror similar to those in Wrong Turn, Eden Lake, and The Hills Have Eyes.

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What I give the movie a lot of credit for is not shying away from dealing with some significantly sensitive violence but managing to do so without going over the top. Govaerts handles two specific scenes (one involving a dog, the other a number of kids and pick-up truck) very well and although there may be some aversion from certain audiences to appreciating the content, it works without being gross-out or shock-and-awe.

 

The last item of praise I have for this film is the soundtrack. Written by Steven Moore, the sounds and background score are excellent. Without knowing his exact influences I’ll just say that I heard John Carpenter through the entire movie. Strong, direct synthesizers with deep beats, stripped down to the bone. Nothing flashy. Just tonally perfect music for a horror film of this kind.

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My primary criticism of the film is the third act. The reveal works and Govaerts does a nice job of bringing the film full circle, yet it felt there was something missing in the set-up. Paying close attention will give you enough info to buy off on the finale but just barely. Moreover, the final battle (of sorts) is a bit longer than necessary and the audience must accept a few standard horror tropes just because.

 

Overall Welp is a strong addition to the horror family. Well paced, well acted and bloody enough the slake the thirst of most horror fans. Jonas Govaerts has done a fine job on his first outing and it will be interesting to see what he comes out with next.