Category Archives: Movie Review

These Final Hours (2014) – Raw Review

Audiences across the world never seem the slake their thirst for the apocalypse. Movie after movie after movie are made depicting the end of the world, or nearly on the brink. You’d think given the abundance of world ending tales of woe we (the audience) would become hardened to its tropes, accustomed to the standard conventions of finite time on Earth, that filmmakers would give up on trying to create a new feeling or impression of the end.

 

They don’t. They don’t because zombies and vampires and supernatural calamities are an entertaining way to visit terrible ends to our species, without the underlying reality of possibility. We love our apocalyptic tales dressed up in monsters and otherworldly themes that stand no chance of happening in the real. When we do get a tale of the end that tries to stay grounded it’s usually tempered with hope and light. A little cream added to cut down the bitterness of our beverage. Something to take the edge off. Dull the blade so to speak.

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Not in this review. These Final Hours is a razor sharp depiction of life at the end. A beautiful and smartly rendered snapshot of how people might react in the face of complete destruction and devastation. A film that shows the hidden nature of humanity. Exposes the fragility of societal bonds. Shows just how quickly the social contract becomes null and void in the face of extinction. Makes you ask the question – If the world were coming to end, what would my priorities be?

 

The story follows a young man (Nathan Phillips) as those around prepare for an Extinction Level Event to reach Australia. In his quest for a friend’s end of the world party (so he can drug out and enjoy his final hours) he is set on a road of redemption after saving the life of a little girl (Angourie Rice) who has become separated from her father.

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These Final Hours is a tour de force. Writer/director Zak Hilditch does a masterful job depicting Perth during the final twelve hours of it’s existence, creating a landscape that is all at once eerie, haunting, deadly, and fascinating. So many filmmakers are tempted to dilute the atmosphere with endless carnage and action; over the top spectacle from beginning to end, as if to constantly remind the audience that things are horrible. That hell on Earth has come.

 

Hilditch does it right. Relying mostly on subtle set pieces depicting people at their best and worst. Images of what people have left behind. Messages written on sidewalks, cars and garage doors. The occasional remains of those who’ve either succumb to violence or their own self inflicted fate. The subtle environment makes all the more effective those moments when brutality and insanity take center stage for necessity of a scene. The entire landscape is so masterfully staged I found myself wanting to walk among the streets as a ghost, observing, glimpsing the most realistic depiction of the apocalypse I’ve ever seen on screen.

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Adding to the canvas are the performances of an amazing cast of characters living out their time in Hilditch’s tragedy. Nathan Phillips is simply amazing. Playing James, a man who’s never really grown up or taken responsibility for himself. A character who isn’t a hero, isn’t an anti-hero, but just a normal man. Scared, lonely, unsure of himself from beginning to end. His uneasiness and uncertainty is so believable in the context of this film that you feel everything he feels as he’s torn between doing the right thing and doing nothing. After all, if the world is ending why does the right thing matter?

 

Balancing out Phillips performance is Angourie Rice, playing Rose the little girl whose fate is altered by a chance encounter. Seeing the end of the world through the eyes of child, she provides a counterbalance in perspective that is powerful, emotional, and devastating.

 

These Final Hours pulls no punches. It’s an end of the world story from beginning to end. It doesn’t cheat. It shows the best of people in the worst of times and it does it extremely well. With grace, beauty and brutality.
This is now my favorite movie in it’s genre and the best Australian film I’ve seen to date. I truly hope those filmmakers from down under keep at it because they are blowing Hollywood out of the water.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – Raw Review

Saying Fury Road is the best action movie of it’s kind comes across a bit hyperbolic, but then I’m not sure I’ve seen too many films of it’s kind.

George Miller really has outdone himself. There may not be a more beautifully rendered action movie. The entire film is an exercise in surviving the completely bat-@*## crazy post-apocalyptic universe Max lives in, and it’s so much fun you won’t want the movie to end. The story is extremely simple. Extremely simple, we’re not talking Shakespeare here. However I don’t see that as a problem. There is no obligation to make a survival movie about anything but survival.
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Fury Road kicks you right in the teeth and keeps right on going. You can taste the dirt, smog and gas fumes from beginning to end. The film never really slows down, keeping the action going for most of the movie. Action that is unbelievably visualized and over the top. The stunts are top notch, appearing to be mostly physical stunts and not overly CGI’d. The vehicles, both design and builds, are interesting as hell and reminiscent of Warhammer 40k Orc warmachines. Everything has a purpose, even the ridiculous Cirque du soleil poll swingers have a completely functional use that is both cool and effective.
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The number one criticism the movie seems to be getting is that the plot is too thin leaving the film to rely on a bloated budget and over the top special effects. I’d like to know if any of those people actually watched Mad Max, The Road Warrior, or Thunderdome? With the exception of Mad Max (which has a stronger revenge motive) all the Mad Max movies have the same basic story line… Max get’s ripped off and does what’s necessary to get his stuff back. His primary motivation has always been survival and in Fury Road it’s simply amplified to the point of nearly pure nihilism.  Strangely it seems the most critical of reviews are by people who prefer the original movies and/or Mel Gibson to Fury Road and Tom Hardy.  Lucky for them those movies will always be around to keep watching. Unlucky for them, Mel is gone and won’t ever be playing Max again so on we must move.
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As an action movie Fury Road is already in the elite group of amazing film accomplishments. As a fourth and new installment in Miller’s series on the human wasteland of what once was – Fury Road is a fine addition, kicking Max and the nihilistic warmachine of the world into a new century.Mad Max Fury Road, Mad Max, Tom Hardy, George Miller, action movie, action, sci-fi, science fiction, sci-fi movie, apocalypse, end of the world, Australia, gonzo, crazy, violent,

Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman (2012) – Raw Review

Latin exploitation film that has gangsters pitted against a machine gun toting badass.

Latino Exploitation doesn’t often make it mainstream, and by that I mean Netflix streaming, so when Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman appeared out of the blue I had to take a look. The movie is surprisingly fun. A flash in the pan gangster film it uses certain movie and video game […]

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No One Lives (2013) – Raw Review

No One Lives - Horror movie, serial killer movie, slasher movie 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 Wilson 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. Horror movie No One Lives (2013) 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. No One Lives - Luke Evans is The Unfettered An extremely version of the anti-hero, the Unfettered has no limitations, no boundaries, no inconvenient moral code, no scrupules. 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. Luke Evans unique way of sneaking into the criminals base. 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 woodchipper, slicing off a woman’s face while smiling? You can? You’re a sicko who will probably really enjoy this film. 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. Lindsey Shaw gets a face full of blood in No one lives Adelaide Clemens No One lives hostage and possible anti-hero         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.        

Beastmaster (1982) – Raw Review

“Don’t Move, this beast is fierce.”

The sword and sandal genre is a long line of marginally decent too horribly bad films. When done halfway decent a semi-epic adventure story set in the bronze or silver age is a helluva lot of fun. Watching muscle bound men in loincloths swing ornate long swords while sorcerers raise stop motion skeletons and giant monstrosities is a large part of any adolescent boys film education. For those of us who first discovered film in the 1980s we have a unique perspective on sword and sandal films. Conan the Barbarian set a bar to which all movies that came behind it tried desperately to see, let alone rise above. Some films were successful in holding their own, others failed miserably. The Beastmaster is great example of the former. Released in 1982 the movie by all accounts was a box office flop. If IMDB is to be believed, the movie cost approximately $8 million to make. the U.S. gross three weeks after release at just under $11 million. For a lot of movies this return on investment would bury the film under the mountain of Hollywood failures never to see the light of day again. We aren’t just talking about any old film though, we’re talking about a sword and sandal film.

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The Beastmaster isn’t a perfect movie. It isn’t even a particularly good movie in many aspects. The dialogue is passable at best. The names of the animals are downright silly. Ruh? Koto and poto (I’m not even sure I spelled those correctly)? Marc Singer’s acting is rather bad throughout the film. I could go on but fortunately there are some many other things to love about the movie it’s easy to give it’s failures a pass.

First, the premise is cool. A king whose son is stolen away in the belly of a cow, via magic. The boy later grows up with the ability to control animals. Twin ferrets that play the role of the thieves (super cleaver). An army of black leather, deathmetal band looking, killer that do little more than look badass. Rip Torn looking like a hollowed out crack addict with cool skull adorned braids. What’s not to like!

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Second, The Beastmaster has a decent story. By today’s standards any remake would need to be at least three hours long. The movie suffers from a noticeable lack of large battle scenes. Other than the village raid in the first act there isn’t another major battle in the film. Dar storms the temple and saves the day, leading to the return of the Jun horde, but neither battle involves anyone other than the four primary protagonists. Dar, Kiri (the sexy Tanya Roberts), Seth (awesome John Amos), and Tal (Joshua Milrad) do all the fighting through the last half of the film, and although they are faced with what appear to be insurmountable odds they prevail each time.

Finally, and this goes to my last point about the battle sequence, the movie has the best use of deus ex machina ever used in a movie. The Winged Devourers are awesome. Possibly one of the most original creations in sword and sandal, they inject a huge amount of mystery and dread into the Beastmaster’s world. Take it or leave it, they make the film. So is The Beastmaster worth the time of day? Most of you have seen it before, of that I’ve no doubt, but if you’re actually reading this and haven’t see this film I highly recommend you do. I’ll add this caveat – 1982 was an era of practical effects. An era of multiple takes, over and over and over, until they got one right. An era of movies with grand ideas and small budgets. Take this into account, free your mind, drink several beers and you should be good to go.

 

 

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.

Rawhead Rex (1986) – Raw Review

9 ft tall phallus with teeth terrorizes Irish Country side…

horror movie raw review monster 80sBefore you begin rolling your eyes I want you too know it wasn’t me that called Rex a phallus. I have to much respect for my childhood to go around bashing every monster that made me love horror movies. Rex is certainly one of those monsters.

Rawhead Rex is a fun little movie based on a short story by Clive Barker. Released in 1986, it’s about a pagan deity that is inadvertently released from its place of rest by an Irish farmer. You’re probably scratching your head at that but remember this is the British Isles were taking about. King Arthur, Stonehenge, Monty Python, Dr. Who… a lot of weird shit going on over there.

Anyway, Rex is pissed (as in angry, not taking a piss) and proceeds to kill everyone he comes across. Pretty simple concept but the movie is fun and gory, not taking itself too seriously but also not playing for laughs. The phallus remark was made by Clive Barker in an interview back in 2004, at which time he was supposedly working on a remake that never seemed to happen.

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So what’s the verdict? 

Rawhead Rex is a fun 80s horror movie. Phallus or not Rex is a formidable evil that lays waste to a small Irish village. It’s bloody, gory, and dark (in a campy 80s sort of way). I’d recommend to watch it on DVD but it’s out of print and costs a small fortune to buy. If you don’t believe me click to top picture and see what their asking for on Amazon.

Fortunately someone uploaded the full movie to YouTube. Enjoy!