Category Archives: Horror Movie

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.
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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.

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.  

 

From the Dark (2014) – Raw Review

Welcome to Ireland! Potatoes, Whiskey, Vampires?

From the Dark is a single location horror film from Irish writer/director Conor McMahon (Stitches). Set in the Irish countryside the premise is simple enough:

 

Unaware of the fact that digging holes on Irish farms is an extremely dangerous activity to engage in, a farmer (Gerry O’Brien) discovers a body while digging a hole on his Irish farm. The body turns out not to be dead (but rather undead) and shenanigans ensue. Meanwhile a young couple (Niamh Algar and Stephen Cromwell) out for holiday happen to wander into the wrong place after their car gets stuck in the mud. From there it’s simply a matter of survival for the couple while the creature stalks them throughout the night. We learn quickly the monster is allergic to light of any kind (the brighter the better), then watch as the couple try to figure a way off the farm with what little illumination they can find.

 

The reviews I’ve seen online focus on the limited scope and simplicity as reasons for disappointment. The general consensus is that From the Dark takes a basic horror plot and does almost nothing with it, leaving audiences underwhelmed and frustrated.

 

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I disagree. From the Dark’s simplicity turns out to be a hidden strength. McMahon keeps a nice steady pace throughout the film, never letting it drag but also never rushing too quickly from one scene to the next. The film is shot almost entirely at night making it a dark film on screen which works well to set the atmosphere and environment through which the creature lurks in and out of the shadows. A technique I rather enjoyed. Not seeing the monster up close, but rather outlined in the background keeps the focus on the couple and their ordeal. As a viewer it helps create a feeling that you’re standing next to the couple, trapped in the same situation.

 

The monster (which may or may not be a vampire) looks very familiar. Most genre fans will see some resemblance, especially when it’s hands splay outward from it’s hips, long nail-like claws glowing in the moonlight. It’s creepy and fun.

 

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So why are the reviews online lukewarm to crapfest? I have no idea but I’ll speculate. Horror film fans and critics can be ruthless when it comes to critical analysis of the genre. Genre fans understand that most horror films are formulaic or derivative so they look for uniqueness, style and over-the-top antics to set one film apart from it’s predecessors. Makers of horror films know this and often get caught up in trying to set their movie apart and forget the basics. I feel for the filmmakers. It’s difficult to create original spin on rehashed ideas but fans hope for that each time a new slasher, zombie, monster, murder, mayhem, creature feature film gets released. This is why From the Dark deserves a lot of credit. McMahon doesn’t do anything flashy. Doesn’t throw in a twist for shock value. Doesn’t worry about backstory, exposition or details. He focuses in on the nuts and bolts of what makes good horror good horror – simplicity.

From the Dark is available on Blu-ray for $10 and I recommend you take a look.

V/H/S – Raw Review

Old School Horror That Surprises.

Horror movie anthology where robbers view video tapes with death, monsters, murder, and killers.

I have to admit, I stayed away from seeing V/H/S for a long time. The volume of ultra-terrible low budget horror out there makes it difficult to sift through everything in search of those rare nuggets of gold. Guess I’m just getting old. I know it’s always been this way but time is more precious than it used to be, mainly because there isn’t as much of it to watch movies.
V/H/S surprised the hell out of me. Adam Wingard is credited with directing one of the short films, and given the awesome job he did on You’re Next perhaps it’s not as surprising this film has some genuinely good moments.

The movie isn’t perfect, or even great, but several of the mini-stories are really well done and mindblowing. The film is an anthology. We the audience follow a group of scumbags as they burglarize a house.

sex blood murder monster college party guys get eaten by naked girl

The house is creepy (which doesn’t seem to bother these guys at all, making them even scummier) and as they look for the item they’re to steal they come across a room full of TVs and VHS cassettes. Naturally the groups first notion is to sit and watch the tapes, presumably in the hope of finding something of value.
haunted apartment with horrible little alien monsters and a plot twist that  is killer
From there we get a series of short films, all hand-cam. This is where the movie really shines. We get a series of stories ranging from sex monster to homicidal lover to serial killer to alien something or other and haunted house. Some of the films are better than others but each has its own unique style and voice. All of them are violent, and all of them are bloody.

So is it worth seeing?

Surprisingly, yes. Yes it is. The arc story isn’t done very well and one short story is too long and boring for the payoff, but the sex monster, serial killer and haunted house clips are well worth your time.

serial killer who cannot be filmed kills college kids in woods with a knife

What’s an anthology?

A collection of stories. In this case short movies. It works well in V/H/S because flash horror doesn’t require structure, logic, or resolution. We don’t know where the tapes came from or why, we just enjoy the them.

Is this a good date movie?

V/H/S actually could be a good date movie. It’s hip and fresh, has a lot of young college characters in it, and a nice blend of sex/nudity/violence.

So is the whole movie hand-cam (shaky-cam)?

Yeah it is, and I’m sure that will turn some people off, but if you can handle hand-cam (even if it’s not your favorite filming style) and like low-budget horror that’s fun then give it a shot.

college party group stumble into a haunted house with human sacrifice and horrible death
“Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…”

Is there CGI?

Probably, but all the blood and gut scenes looked like props and latex to me. Bonus points for that!

What the hell is a V/H/S tape?

It’s like Betamax only larger and with less quality. VHS won the video cassette format war… Just like Blu-ray won the HD disc war against HD DVDLaserdisc?
I’m getting too freakin old.

The Deadly Spawn (1983) – Raw Review

Aliens Deadly Spawn is a product of the early 80’s fascination with fake blood and giant latex monsters. Filming on  a meager budget of just $25,000 dollars (approx $59,000 today) director Douglas McKeown does wonders with what would otherwise be a total crap-fest.

Fans of monster movies will love this film. Fans of bloody b-movies will love this film. Fans of anything 80’s will love this film. Basically, anyone who actually found their way to this blog and is taking the time to read this review will love this film.The most successful film formula back then (and probably today as well) is the single location, limited cast, horror film. Wondering why? Simple:

  • Single location means the studio doesn’t need to spend a lot of money renting locations or moving everything around. It also means the director doesn’t need to spend months in pre-production scouting locations.
  • Limited cast means exactly that, limited. Don’t need to spend a lot of money on actors and/or contracts with a small cast. This allows more money for other expenses, or extra money to nail down one well known actor.
  • Horror film is pretty self explanatory, but because I love to hear myself type I will explain anyway. Horror films are popular, have always been popular, and will always be popular. So if you have a low budget, a decent script, and some people willing to work for almost nothing (or preferably nothing) you have the opportunity to make a film that will be remembered long after you’ve realized your dream doesn’t pay the bills and you go back to working 9-5 somewhere you hate.

The Deadly Spawn cashes in on all three formulas for success. The film is obviously low budget but you’d never expect it to be $25k! Even today’s inflated rate of $59k is ridiculous when compared to some of the shit sandwiches Hollywood is pumping out with million dollar budgets.

What makes Deadly Spawn exceptionally fun to watch is the creature effects. Remember this is the pre-CGI era of film making, when practical effects ruled the medium. In this case, the aliens and their spawn are just a pleasure to witness in action. Unlike today’s reliance on CGI everything, these monsters are down right terrifying with their undulating tubular bodies and the wet blood they clearly bathe in each time they score a kill.

Q: Why the two names? Is it Return of or just Deadly Spawn… You’re confusing me!
A: The original title was just The Aliens Deadly Spawn, but they changed it to Return of the Aliens Deadly Spawn to cash in on the success of Alien (yes, Ridley Scott’s Alien). I know right, total marketing whores.
Q: So you’re saying the cheesy monster with the fake blood looks better than a CGI monster does nowadays?
A: Absolutely, and it makes filming more realistic because the actors are actually interacting with the big monster rather than imagining where it is and what it’s doing.
Q: This movie look stupid.
A: No you’re stupid. Besides, that’s not a question. 😛 

Q: Good date movie?
A: Yea. It’s fun and campy, lots of blood and body parts but the inclusion of the monster makes it pure sci-fi/fantasy.

Q: How about the kids?
A: Sure! Get some popcorn and the whole family together. It’s like watching a Disney film only with mass amounts of people eating.      SERIOUSLY??!! Come on, it’s bloody as hell and has body parts in it. My kids will need to wait until they are at least 6 years old.

Q: Where or where can I get a copy of this?
A: Anywhere. It’s a cult favorite and is available on blue-ray, Amazon, etc.

Under the Skin – Raw Review

Naked Alien Eats Men

Ahhhhh… extensive nudity, disturbing imagery, and a near lack of exposition make Under the Skin is one helluva interesting film.

Under the skin poster art scarjo
Read any review on any website and it becomes clear that either people love or hate the film. Not a lot of middle ground exists on this one and that’s not surprising given the style and execution.

Note: I feel compelled to address anyone who is only interested in seeing Scarlett Johansson fully nude (because you totally do!). Find the pictures or gifs online, don’t waste time watching the whole movie. If all you’re after is quick thrill the story/theme/concept will pass right by you, then you’ll feel compelled to write a shitty review based on nothing and who wants to read that.

I digress. Movie review. Focus… Ok, the movie is…

Boy being eaten by alien fluid in Under her skin movie


In a word… disturbing. More disturbing than this one. The film is disturbing for several reasons. First, the idea is altogether creepy if you’re a guy who likes to cruise bars and pick up women. Second, there is a scene on a beach that is nearly unwatchable if you have small kids and/or a dog. It’s necessary to the theme and it works. Oh god does it work. Just be warned.

Scarjo checking out the human world.



The scenes in the van were shot with hidden cam, the men being picked up aren’t actors. I know crazy right, but it makes the scenes more believable. Here’s a good analysis if you’re so inclined.

The cinematography is amazing, and relevant so pay attention.

Universe communication between aliens


What is the story about?

Predator vs Prey. Humanity. Empathy. Stuff like that.

Do you get to see ScarJo nude?

Please see my note above.

Is it a good film?

It’s a well made film that is very thought provoking. You’ll either get it or you won’t, but either way I don’t see this being re-watched on a regular basis.

How about children. Can I let my kids watch this film?

I wouldn’t, and I generally don’t have an issue with kids watching most horror movies. I started with Dawn of the Dead at six years old and I turned out o.k. I think. No, this movie not only has a lot of nudity but some of the scenes are very disturbing, and very realistic. Keep the kids away.

Martyrs (2008)

Two girls are tortured when young, escape and find those responsible. Then they kill everyone in a bloody gore infested horror scene, then get caught and tortured again.

Tour De Force That is All At Once Brutal and Beautiful

This film is one of the most intelligent films I have seen in recent years. The beauty is dressed neatly in a suit of violence and brutality that is hard to find in most contemporary films, including many in the torture porn genre.

The premise revolves around two young girls who seek out revenge for brutal acts committed against them as children. Sound too heavy for you? Well be prepared because you’ll be shocked by how hard this film punches you in the gut. Violence is quick, bloody, and almost without reason during the first half of the film. If you stick with it into the second half your resolve will pay off in spades. The story draws in and begins to come full circle shedding light on everything previously seen in the movie.

I’m not saying you’ll have a religious experience, but what appears to be another ‘violence for the sake of violence’ film isn’t at all what you end up with. This is an incredibly existential film that will keep you thinking about it for quite a long time.

French movie about two girls tormented as children seeking revenge and violence.

Q: Is this a good film?

A: Yes, it is an extremely intelligent film. Well acted, well directed, but very violent.

Q: Is this a good date movie?

A: Negative. I’d avoid seeing this with a date unless your both philosophy majors who like to have long deep debates on the meaning of life.

Q: Is there nudity in this film?

A: Yeah a bit, but its situational not sexy.

Q: Should I let my kids watch this film?

A: I grew up watching blood and guts at an early age but I’d avoid letting the young ones see this. Not because of the violence, more because they will probably miss the meaning behind the movie.

Q: Is this film subtitled?

A: Yes, it is a French film and it does have subtitles. Don’t be so lazy!