THE GREEN INFERNO (2013)

Cannibal films have always held a very special place in my heart.  These sleazy, gory films always resonated with me and in the early 2000’s I made it a point to hunt down as many as possible.  From the great (Cannibal Holocaust, Man From Deep River) to the nearly unwatchable (Mondo Cannibal, Zombie Holocaust), I enjoyed the hell out of them all.  Each movie had its own strange charm, mixing old school adventure with extreme violence.  I would spend my time and money tracking down any italian movie with the word “Cannibal” in its title and wait for whatever bad VHS rip to come in the mail.  Each film had its own take, but they all shared a structure that felt like home.  Each would present a situation to get people in the jungle, a reason they would be captured and (most importantly) a reason to be eaten.

The obtuse dubbing and paint-red blood only added to my newly found obsession.  But, like all obsessions, you eventually drain the well.  I checked out a handful of recent movies that attempted to mine these ideas, but most failed and just presented neutered interpretations of what we had seen many times before. It was only a matter of time before someone was going to do it right and luckily Eli Roth came along and fulfilled my hopes.  I am happy to say that The Green Inferno is the real deal!  His premise is familiar, but avoids being just a cash in on nostalgia.  Mr. Roth contextualizes and updates the subject matter without losing the spirit of those early Italian films.  Its not perfect, but neither are those classic Amazon flicks of the late seventies and early eighties.

The movie is set in the modern world of armchair activists and introduces us to Justine (Lorenza Izzo).  She is a freshman in college who is looking for where she fits in the world and falls in with a group of activists with big plans.  The group’s leader, played brilliantly by Ariel Levy, puts together a plan to go to Peru and defend an isolated tribe that is being threatened by oil companies.  Once there, things go awry and the group eventually falls into the hands (and teeth) of brutal cannibals.

The standout of this movie is the unrelenting violence and I was surprised to see this kind of visceral action on a big screen.  The kills are brutal and funny, hitting that sweet spot that avoids being too mean-spirited or ugly.  The director is familiar enough with the genre to understand what makes it great.  You have to be allowed to laugh when presented with such grim situations or it becomes a chore to watch.  The gags are nihilistic, but in a way that feels therapeutic and liberating,

With all that said, I do have a couple small quibbles with Roth’s latest movie. The camera work (especially in the first act) is shaky and full of quick cuts that can be a little exhausting to watch.  The biggest issue that I had was with some of the digital effects.  The realism and complete immersion is interrupted a couple of times by terrible CGI that looks unpolished and sloppy.  But like I said, its not perfect but it is a lot fun.  I know the horror fanboys love to hate Eli Roth, but The Green Inferno should shut them up, at least for a while.  Its been a long time since Hostel 2, but this one was worth the wait.  It is currently available in wide release.

4/5 STARS

 

 

SOME KIND OF HATE (2015)

When you are a horror fan you watch it all.  You sift through piles of rubbish and hope that you find something worthwhile.  Some are good, some are bad and sometimes its a little bit of both.  That is the case when it comes to this gory tale of bullying and revenge.  It has the makings of a great supernatural slasher, but gets so muddled and lost in its own message that you eventually just grab your phone and start swiping through Tinder.  Don’t get me wrong, its not terrible.  Its a serviceable film that you can enjoy late at night but you are not going to be remembering much about it after a few days.

The story is about a young loner who gets pushed over the edge by bullies.  He eventually sticks up for himself and gets tossed into a desert camp for wayward teens.  He finds himself falling back into the cycle of bullying until a “gothy”, vengeful ghost shows up to help him rid the camp of bullies.  What follows is a confusing mess of blood spurts and useless exposition, pushing us toward its silly conclusion.

I know that I am not painting a pretty picture, but there are some fun elements that kept me watching.  The effects are a solid mix of practical and CGI that works well with the brutal style of each slaying.  The filmmakers do a good job of not overusing effects and keep you guessing how the next victim will meet their demise.  At the end of the day you can definitely find worse horror options. If you have already depleted your Netflix queue, then give this one a watch. Some Kind of Hate is currently available on all VOD platforms.

2/5 STARS

CIRCUS OF THE DEAD (2014)

Back in February I got a chance to see this movie at Days of the Dead and had a feeling that I was going to enjoy it based on the high energy trailer.  I missed its first showing due to unforeseen drinking, but the next day we were able to beg the guys at Jabb Pictures to show it again.  In retrospect, I owe Jason Hoover some drinks because Circus of the Dead is top notch, batshit-crazy fun that you rarely get these days.  Director Billy Pon takes us on a tour-de-force of depravity and violence that is mean-spirited but in all the most enjoyable (and dare I say fun) ways.

The story picks up in rural Texas and introduces us to a band of sicko Clowns.  The ringleader, Papa Corn (played by the stellar Bill Oberst Jr), leads his gang of merry weirdos in a game of randomized terror.  The target is an average Joe named Donald and they explain that in order to save his family, he will have to do whatever they tell him.  What we get is a tale of what a man is capable of when it comes to the people he cherishes the most.

Bill Oberst Jr steals the show and gives a career defining performance.  He owns this character and gives life to a role that would be cliche otherwise.  The direction and writing is impressive and manages to tell a story without expository dialogue and unneeded role players.  Unfortunately there is not an official release date yet, but we can cross our fingers.  If there are any screenings near you, run (don’t walk!) to the box office and fork over your hard earned dollars for an experience that will stick with you for years to come.

4.5/5 STARS

HELLIONS (2015)

Its the beginning of fall and I cannot wait for the onslaught of horror films hitting VOD.  Every year we get our fair share of good and bad films, unfortunately Hellions is an early contender for one of the worse of the year.  God bless Bruce McDonald, he tries so hard.  He has approached the horror genre with a fresh eye (in the past), but falls flat in this go around.  Besides the very cool one sheets attached to this movie, it offers very little else.

The story is of a young lady who finds out that she is pregnant on the day of Halloween and is harassed by a handful of supernatural trick or treaters. During the attack she works out what she is going to do about her unplanned pregnancy and blah, blah, blah.  The acting is about as good as you would expect, but writing and art direction is lazy and unimagined.  Everything about this movie feels like outdated, Canadian television.  Imagine an R rated episode of Goosebumps, but less scary and compelling.

Hellions real crime is how boring it is.  I can forgive a lot, but boredom is the unredeemable sin of movie making.  Its a shame because Bruce McDonald has proven himself to be an interesting director (between Pontypool and Septic Man) but hit the wall with this droll, outdated flick.  The good news is that we have already made our way past one bad Halloween movie and we can look forward to next weeks releases.

1/5 STARS

THE VISIT (2015)

M. Night Shyamalan has become a punchline over the past few years.  Cranking out glorious failure after glorious failure.  But, lets not forget that there was a brief time that people were calling him “the next Spielberg”.  Pretty funny in retrospect, especially after seeing both The Lady In The Water and The Happening.  Just a few years ago his name was hidden from After Earth, like a dirty secret the studio was ashamed of.  All that said, Mr Night is back and I can say that we are finally laughing with him, instead of at him.

The Visit seems serves as  a vehicle to reinvent this “Auteur” and found footage suits M. Night pretty well.  The story follows two kids who are meeting their grandparents for the first time and are shooting a documentary to mark the occasion.  Once they meet their estranged grandparents, things escalate from odd to terrifying at a slow, but steady pace.

As snarky and critical as I have been, I have to admit that I enjoyed the movie.  The kids were annoying at first, but due to some pretty good writing, they grew on me by the end.  The biggest downfall of the movie is its second ending.  I won’t go into any details, but it just feels tacked on.  It is a little too sappy and probably belongs in another movie.  Minor gripes aside, The Visit is a fun ride and worth watching.  Maybe…just maybe M. Night has found a new way to re-brand himself and hope he continues in this direction.  The Visit releases 9/11 in theaters everywhere.

3/5 STARS

Heaven Knows What (2015)

I wish that I could review just the first 15 minutes of this new low budget tale of drug abuse and homelessness.  It would be filled with fun recollections of a fast paced, dangerous brand of filmmaking that uses real street people and utilizes its nihilistic approach to give us something genuinely scary.  Unfortunately this is not the case and I am sad to say that this one was a letdown.

The story is of a young woman named Harley (Arielle Holmes) who is addicted to heroin going about her day to day life.  Most of her time is spent panhandling, shooting up and trying to get high again.  The script is based on the lead actress’ memoirs and feels real at every turn.  Most of the conflict comes in the form of her on again/off again boyfriend (Caleb Landry Jones), who pops in to briefly torment our protagonist.   He nails the role as Ilya and is a menacing force in the lives of everyone around him.  His presence feels real and terrifying, making you dread what he may or may not do when he appears.  The film opens with Ilya telling Harley that he will only forgive her (for an unknown indiscretion) if she dies.  Harley quickly retreats to a corner store to buy razors and attempts suicide in front of a cackling Ilya.  Unfortunately the film loses a lot of steam after this and never really finds its feet again.

By no means am I saying this is a bad movie, it simply did not live up to my expectations.  I do plan on revisiting this film in the future and hopefully it will be better in its subsequent viewing.  Heaven Knows What releases 9/14 on DVD and VOD platforms.

2.5/5 STARS