Category Archives: Horror Movie

Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse (2015) – Raw Review

Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse isn’t going to get anyone their film-making merit badge.

Scouts  is yet another offering in the zom-com genre, one that’s become saturated with lackluster and genuinely terrible films. Scouts doesn’t quite fall into the latter category but lackluster is an apt description for a film that for all purposes could have been much better than it was.

Starring Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan and Sarah Dumont, Scouts vs Zombies (original working title) follows three teenage ‘boy’ scouts who find themselves unknowingly thrown into a zombie outbreak during a camping trip. The film plays all the standard teen comedy, coming-of-age tropes you might expect but it does so half heartedly at best. Director Christopher Landon, whose writing career is prominent with films like Disturbia and all but the first film in the Paranormal Activity franchise, shows his lack of experience in handling Scouts comedy beats which come off silly and flat throughout most of the film. Much the way Cooties failed to hit the mark, Scouts suffers an even worse fate due to the lower caliber of acting from the cast. Tye Sheridan does a decent job, and silly but decent cameo by Cloris Leachman is a nice addition, but a pretty ridiculous recurring role for David Koechner will leave a lot of people scratching their heads.

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Zom-com films, when handled poorly, often enough go overboard on either the horror or the comedy. Scouts misses the mark on both, leaving horror fans wanting more fleshing eating zombie scenes and comedy fans stuck with the same ol’ stupid sight gags. I’ll give Landon credit for not relying on toilet humor, which one might expect for a movie of this caliber, but there are several boob and dick gags that do little in the way of laughs and nothing at all for story or character development.

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All-in-all, Scouts is a poor addition to the ever growing list zom-com films. For those who enjoy the genre there is little to find here that hasn’t been done exceptionally better in films like Cockney’s vs. Zombies, Shaun of the Dead, Zombeavers, Fido, Zombieland, Dance of the Dead, etc etc.

Demons (1985) – Raw Review

Heavy Metal Horror Done Italian Style

The 1980s horror craze wasn’t strictly an American phenomenon. Across the pond and to the south a handful of filmmakers were crafting their own vision of gore and mayhem. Their craft, vision and technique set them apart in many ways. Some good, some not so good.

One of the stand-outs is Demons. Released in 1985 it’s possibly the most popular and/or successful (in the U.S.) of Lamberto Bava’s work. Co-wrote and produced by Dario Argento (Suspiria, Deep Red), Demons is a hard rockin horror in which moviegoers at a midnight premire get trapped with an evil force inside the theatre. It’s a zombie survival style movie done with possessed living humans rather than undead corpses.

The American version’s voice over (if Demon with long tongue tries to make out with couple.in fact it is voiced over) is pretty bad, adding a large dose of campy/silly to an otherwise fun over the top gore fest. Trust me when I say gore fest. It was the 80s and practical effects were cutting edge and horror movies were always trying to push the boundaries. Much like Evil Dead 2, this film has a ton of yellow, green, blue, and red fluids oozing out of every opening, socket, pore and membrane. Some of it’s is silly and some of it is done really well.

Face is ripped off by a demon and he decides to go home.

Adding to the awesomeness is the soundtrack. Bava those in songs by Motley Crue, Billy Idol, Rick Springfield, and Go West. Then he slathers on even more awesome sauce by having Claudio Simonetti write additional score for the film. Who is he you ask? He’s none other than the keyboard player for Goblin, the band who scored Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Argento’s Suspiria, and more!

This film is universally reviled as poor, but equally loved as a mainstay of 80s horror. When you consider the hero not only hacks away demons with a katana while cruising a dirt bike up and down the aisles how couldn’t this film be a keeper!

Demons prepare to assault the remaining humans

Resolution (2012) – Raw Review

Resolution is a fascinating film, having received a lot of credit for being “genre-bending.” I think that’s just a fancy way to say the movie turned out not to be what a lot of people expected. The movie originally wasn’t on my radar. Not until I saw Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead’s superior film Spring did I learned they had a couple other productions under their belts, including Resolution and the extremely enjoyable skateboard segment in V/H/S Viral.

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So what’s my opinion of Resolution?

 

Benson and Moorhead are skilled film makers, there’s no doubt. They have a very good handle on the concepts of suspense, slow-burn storytelling, and creepy undertone. The film really is quite different from conventional thriller-horror films. The primary narrative revolves around Michael Danube (played by Peter Cilella), a professional city dweller who heads off on a last crusade to help his best friend  Chris Daniels (played by Vinny Curran) kick a destructive drug habit. Not much to it for sure and in lesser hands the film probably would turn into a moopy commentary on the perils of addiction.

 

Not here.

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The dynamic between Cilella and Curran is impressive and I had absolutely no problem believing the two were long time friends pit in a life and death struggle over each other’s fates. This is key, considering the supernatural (if that’s in fact the correct way to phrase it) elements throughout the first two acts are extremely subtle. Without a solid piece of acting from our two protagonists this film would have been dead on arrival. Instead, we become engrossed in strange and fucked up house that Chris has come to inhabit on a Native American Reservation. Why does he have so many guns? Why do the local tribesmen warn Michael of helping his friend? Why is everyone obsessed with the idea of a beginning, middle and end? The mystery is compelling and revealed slowly enough to make the ending invoke a “Holy Shit, WTF… that was cool” response.

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Don’t get me wrong, this movie isn’t going to be for everyone. Countless reviews compare it to Cabin in the Woods, and although I understand the similarities these two movies have regarding subversion of expectations, they really are completely different films. Don’t be expecting an underground complex full of nightmare creatures, campy one liners or Sigourney Weaver to arrive in the final moments with a full explanation of the film. Benson and Moorhead are much more subtle than that, doing a very good job with what must have been a tightly held budget. Resolution is a decent film for anyone interested in thriller with supernatural elements. Good acting, great direction and attention to storytelling pay off.

Looks Like Rob Zombie’s New Film 31 Will Be NC-17

Anyone who is a fan of Rob Zombie’s films knows they straddle the line between horror and outright torture porn. I’m not saying torture porn is a bad thing, but the more you ratchet up the violence and higher the chance a film won’t be accepted by the masses. Zombie sent out a tweet earlier in the week expressing his frustration on the matter.

Sure the theaters shouldn’t ban a film just because it has the tainted NC-17 branding, but let’s face it, when your entire industry is built on the backs of teenagers working part-time then policing the audience isn’t something theater managers want to get into. Not to mention ‘Bizarre Sexuality/Nudity.’ WTF does that mean?

Check out the images so far from 31. You can get additional info or updates from Rob Zombie’s Official Website.

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We Are Still Here (2015) – Raw Review

Anyone who enjoys small mystery, dark undercurrents and a shit-ton of gore will want to see We Are Still Here.

 

Set in the wintery fields of New England, a grieving couple purchase an old house that’s remained unoccupied for 30 years. A house that wakes up every 30 years to feed.

Filmmaker Ted Geoghegan has made a very good film here. A creepy and gore filled tale that has is extremely flavourful and engaging. What begins as a standard ghost story turns out to be a much darker and violent ride through the house’s history. There is a bit of set-up early on but the patience shown on the part of Geoghegan pays off in spades when the action kicks in.

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Exceptionally good performances by the veteran cast keep things interesting as the malevolent force works it’s way out of the shadows. It’s not surprising considering the amazing and genre savvy talent in the film. Barbara Crampton (You’re Next, Re-Animator, From Beyond), Andrew Sensenig (Upstream Color, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night), Lisa Marie (Sleepy Hollow, Mars Attacks!, Tales of Halloween), and Larry Fessenden (Stake Land, I Sell the Dead, Jug Face).

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What did surprise me about the movie is how economical it turns out to be. There isn’t a lot of extraneous dialogue or overly long shots. Either it’s very tightly scripted or was edited with some skill, or both. While watching We Are Still Here my mind kept drifting back to It Follows. Not because of similarities in story, but because both films use tightly filmed stationary shots of the environment to full effect. In this film, Ted Geoghegan’s superior cinematography is used to wrap this small but devious tale inside a beautiful landscape. A landscape that contrasts sharply with the boiling hot viciousness lurking within the film’s main location.

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Don’t go thinking this is a slow, boring ghost story. We Are Still Here packs a violent, blood and guts punch. Coupled with some really well handled visual effects, the gore does a fabulous job of relating just how horrible and cosmic the antagonistic force is, and what it is prepared to do to the souls who dare enter its house.

Highly recommended.

Krampus (2015) – Raw Review

Now that Halloween is in the rear-view mirror, the number of legitimate horror films traditionally take a nose-dive in favor of holiday blockbusters of various genres. Thanksgiving and Christmas films have generally favored heartwarming family fare, or PG-13 action-driven adventures. And although holiday  horror lovers have occasionally been thrown a bone or two (pun intended) in the form of killer turkeys (Thankskilling, 2009) or holiday-themed slashers (Black Christmas, twice, 1974 and 2006; Silent Night, Deadly Night, 1984; Slayride, 2016), the fables and mythologies behind our end-of-year celebration has received little attention, particularly from the standpoint of budgetary consideration.

Until this year.

This Christmas season viewers have been… er, treated… to not one but two newly-released films centering on a very old, primarily European mythology that has several variants but targets Krampus, an evil counterpart to Santa Claus who punishes naughty children during the Christmas season.  Depending on your source of information, the origin of Krampus dates back long before Christ was attached to “mas.” Some experts on European fables cite Norse legends; others say this child-stealer comes from Teutonic folklore, and indeed, parades honoring Krampus are a big deal in Austria. Search YouTube for the Krampus celebration in Graz, Austria, and find the current celebration full of terrifying costumes that are very consistent and similar in their depiction. Other stories handed down through generations reveal Krampus to be the brother of Saint Nicholas, sometimes known as Black Peter in Denmark, who came into being when the dualism of the Catholic Church took hold in both Eastern and Western orthodoxies.

Very few films have dealt with this wealth of background information. In 2010, Netherlands director Dick Maas brought Sint (Saint) to the US, a mashup of mythological characterizations in which Saint Nicholas manifests on Krampus Day (December 5) if there is a full moon, to punish, steal, and/or kill children who haven’t been nice. Saint is a reasonably entertaining horror film, full of action, blood, and guts, although it is muddled in the telling. By far the best European import of this type to date is Rare Exports (Finland, 2010), wherein a small group of families on the Russian border, find the actual Santa Claus (buried? sleeping?) in the Korvatunturi  mountains, and this version of Santa doesn’t toast them with a grin and a bottle of Coca-Cola. The Finns capture him/it, put him/it in a cage in a misguided attempt to make money for the struggling local economy, and then suffer his/its wrath when a multitude of Black Peter acolytes attack the people in a rather harrowing rescue attempt. A fine, exciting genre film with a child’s sense of wonder, Rare Exports is yet another story that plays a bit fast and loose with the traditional dichotomy of Krampus and Saint Nicholas.

Writer/Director Michael Dougherty, seemingly joined at the hip with director Bryan Singer (X-Men 2, 2003; Superman Returns, 2006; the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse, 2016) established himself as an excellent purveyor of holiday horror with the now-cult classic Trick ‘r Treat (2007), a set of connected Halloween tales that introduced Sam Hain, a creepy child-like figure wearing a gunny-sack over his head.

 ** WARNING!  Possible spoilers from this point! **

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In Dougherty’s new production, the incarnation of Krampus follows a mix of original traditions including a very strong fairy tale vibe. Krampus arrives on the scene after young Max (Emjay Anthony) tears up his Christmas letter to Santa Clause in a fit of rage and frustration brought about from bickering and lack of holiday spirit in his parents (Adam Scott and Toni Collette). When equally-dysfunctional familial relations descend on the already-troubled family, the stage is set for both black comedy and eventual horror. Although Dougherty’s opening fifteen minutes conjures up strong similarities to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (including Conchata Ferrell in the role of sour, sarcastic Aunt Dorothy while channeling Berta from Two and a Half Men), he invests each character with a compassionate, loving core that shines through now and then. When Krampus finally arrives, the peril encompasses not only children but adults as well, and their argumentative and contentious natures are supplanted by strong emotional bonding. Viewers come to root for the families. This is not a film that follows a linear slasher, one death after another, story format.

 

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Production design and set decoration by veterans Jules Cook and Daniel Birt, respectively, is absolutely stunning. From the arrival of a massive blizzard that takes out neighborhood power, to the appearance of twisted, nasty-looking snowmen that multiply in front of the protagonist’s home, viewers are taken into an entirely different dimension. Krampus himself is doled out sparingly, with shadowy images of something jumping across neighborhood rooftops, to gigantic cloven hooves stomping through the snow-covered streets. It’s an intense, highly suspenseful tactic. Viewers looking for standard plotting tropes will be pleasantly surprised to find very few. Dougherty inserts a few twists that keep the action and mystery running at top speed. Special effects are numerous, mixing very good CGI where necessary with some excellent practical puppetry. Every effect from creature design to matte painting and more is supplied by a group of New Zealand-based companies headed by the well-known Weta Digital. There is a decent budget for this film, and it shows.

The most recent issue of Rue Morgue Magazine (December, #162) features cover art, production snapshots, and an interview with Dougherty in which he discusses his motivation and rationale for this film. Most of us already know that Michael Dougherty can write and direct appealing horror films – and for this reason, I am willing to forgive him for Superman Returns – but with Krampus, he’s set a higher bar for himself. Trick ‘r Treat 2 has been announced, which is indeed good news. But I would like to see Dougherty continue with solid one-offs. He has a talent and imagination that should not be confined to franchise film production.

Stung (2015) – Raw Review

There is an understandable reluctance to give much print space to low-budget genre films, mainly due to the similarity of subject matter that inundates various forms of visual media. Zombies, vampires, slasher/torture porn, and found footage evil are themes that dominate the market, and act to dull viewer sensibilities to the point where new titles are generally avoided rather than sampled. The category dealing with large monsters/critters is particularly susceptible to cut-and-paste storylines using bad CGI (examples abound, but for the sake of verisimilitude, see any title involving a sharktopus, or a whalewolf, or a megapirahna). It takes a bit of skill, but mostly just dumb luck, to find a film of this type that makes even a token attempt to present a decent screenplay, good acting, competent directing, and professional production values. Fortunately, a new German-US film, Stung, which just popped up on Netflix streaming along with DVD and Blu-ray release, meets most of those criteria.

Stung grabbed this viewer immediately with a nicely-shot pre-credit scene that follows a bumblebee as it meanders lazily over a beautiful, bucolic countryside. Ho-hum, you say, another killer bee film. Nope. Following the bee is a sinister black insect that attacks its prey in mid-air, driving both to the ground, where a nasty, retractable stinger dispatches the peaceful bumble. We are talking killer wasps here. But it gets even better. There are BIG killer wasps in the immediate future.

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The single setting for the film is an isolated summer mansion where the wealthy owners are throwing an outdoor celebration of… something or other. This kind of detail is really unimportant in an extremely simple story. Our protagonists are Julia and Paul, two young entrepreneurs who are struggling to keep her catering business afloat. Julia, in a fine, emotive performance by Jessica Cook in her first feature film, is a focused, frightened young woman who wants to make a good impression on her customers, and is oblivious to her mumbling, moon-struck helper/bartender Paul, played by veteran actor Matt O’Leary (Frailty, 2001; Brick, 2005). They arrive at the mansion, begin the outdoor setup, and a horde of wasps erupt from an underground nest. Chaos ensues. But the extra added attraction is that the wasps lay eggs in their hosts that grow into gigantic flying monsters complete with host characteristics. Thus, human wasps, dog wasps, and even bovine wasps. The beasties are presented in quite competent CGI forms, mostly when flying, and in excellent practical animatronics when on the ground. And that is the entire 82-minute (plus credits) film. It ain’t major award material by any means, but neither is it remotely akin to a sharktopus.

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What is most interesting to this reviewer, however, is that Stung is the offspring of rookies. Adam Aresty’s script is his first screen credit; while the story is linear and simplistic, the dialog is sharp, occasionally funny, and surprisingly emotional. Director Benni Diez does a very competent job in his first feature film. The fine photography and scene composition by Stephen Burchardt is the sophomore effort after a TV movie (sf/thriller Killing All the Flies, 2013). Acting is confined to four major characters, all of whom are fine to acceptable. And it appeared to this reviewer that the director allowed some ad-libbing by O’Leary and supporting cast member Lance Henriksen (genre credits too numerous to mention).

As a complete package, Stung turned out to be a very entertaining little genre film, never pretending to be something it’s not. The effort by all of the creative people listed above is greatly appreciated by those of us who fondly remember the low-budget, black-and-white Big Bug films of yesteryear. There is still some life in this old trope.

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Raw List – Werewolf Movies

Halloween is just around the corner and if you are planning a monster movie marathon here are some excellent werewolf movies for your consideration.

 

 

 

 


 

 

Werewolves, werewolf, horror, horror movie, monster, monster movie, blood, guts, raw movie, raw movie reviews, article, raw listThe Company of Wolves

Neil Jordan is known for making some extremely provocative films and this one is no exception. If you enjoy Little Red Riding Hood but want to see it with a whole lot of sexual flare and some extremely major talent (Angela Lansbury, David Warner and Stephen Rea) then this one is right up your alley.

 

 


 

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An American Werewolf in London

This is a classic. For a kid who grew up in the 80s you couldn’t ask for a more well rounded werewolf movie. It had great special effects, lots and lots of gore and enough nudity from the beautiful Jenny Agutter to make a school boy happy. For a guy who cut his teeth with mostly comedies, John Landis did an exceptional job.

 

 


 

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Dog Soldiers

Neil Marshall’s breakout horror hit is one helluva lot of fun. The siege survival setting of the film coupled by some outstanding special effects make this one a thrill ride from start to finish. Seeing Sean Pertwee (the current Alfred Pennyworth on FOX’s Gotham), Kevin McKidd (Rome), and Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) all on the same screen can’t be beat.

 

 


 

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Silver Bullet

Yet another classic from the 1980s. Say what you will about this film, it’s one of the better Stephen King adaptations out there. Director Daniel Attias (whose directed episodes of just about every television show in the last twenty years) does a fine job, and horror favorite Everett McGill is fantastic as the unholy shapeshifter. This is really a film about family and the love they have for one another. 

 

 


 

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Wer

A relatively new submission to the werewolf genre, this one is as solid as they come. Set in France, the story follows the aftermath of a brutal series of slayings. What starts off as an investigative crime thriller turns full blown horror. A mix of hand cam and straight shooting makes this one a lot of fun and adds some TV style realism to what might otherwise be a standard monster movie.

 

 


 

 

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The Howling

Quite possibly the most revered werewolf movie, Joe Dante’s special effects laden monster movie is both campy and downright scary all at the same time. Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, and Kevin McCarthy round out what is really an exceptionally awesome cast for such a gore laden genre film. And of course it boasts one of the all time great horror movie endings.

Freaks of Nature – (Official Red Band Trailer)

If you haven’t seen the trailer for Freaks of Nature then you’re in for a treat. There is no way to know how good this will be but it sure looks like a lot of fun. Release date is October 30th in select theaters.

Synopsis: In the town of Dillford, humans, vampires and zombies were all living in peace… until the alien apocalypse arrived. Now three teenagers – one human, one vampire, and one zombie – have to team up to figure out how to get rid of the visitors.

 

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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