SLIMY LITTLE BASTARDS (2015)

 

Dave Parker (AKA Mr Parka) has been dabbling in filmmaking over the last few years.  After some great performances in movies (such as Headless and Applecart) he has decided to step into the director’s chair with a new anthology film called Slimy Little Bastards.  This film is a love letter to some of my favorite movies; the little monster sub genre.  It is a brand of horror that exists in its own world of silly effects and (mostly) crass humor that appeals to the inner fourteen year old in us all.  Slimy Little Bastards is a confident, no budget debut that has the charm of a much older film.  It is pretty rough around the edges, but makes up for it in fun and a very DIY attitude.

The film opens with its eccentric Curator talking about his “collection” to a man whose car has broken down nearby.  He tells three stories to the man, all linking back to these bottles of fluorescent sludge that are on display. The first is “Organic Shit”, a tale of a green blob forming in a man’s garbage disposal.  Next is “Brain Busters”, where a young lady is prescribed a mysterious drug to deal with her mental illness.  Lastly is “The Crusties” and this is the ultimate send up to Ghoulies.  Pitting a group of flatulent role players against a gang of little monsters.

Ultimately this is a collection of shorts, but the oddly fun wrap around ties it all together nicely.  If you are familiar with Dustin Mills’ films, you will recognize a lot of faces.  The acting is pretty good and it feels like everyone is having a blast making the movie.  There are some flaws, but most are minor technical issues.  Sound and lighting is a little off, but this is a debut and I am sure that these issues will get better as Mr Parker keeps making films. What works the best is the pacing.  The vignettes never overstay their welcome and the whole film clocks in at only 66 minutes. Overall, this is a fun send up to shot-on-video, rental store-era fun that is worth picking up and watching with your friends.  Slimy Little Bastards is currently available on DVD at Amazon.com

3.5/5 STARS

PIG PEN (2016 Days of the Dead 48 Hour Independent Film Festival)

 

Every year there is that one indie release that really grabs me. That movie that strikes an emotional chord, that feels both cinematic and intimate.  In 2014 it was Found, last year it was Androgynym and this year it is Jason Koch’s Pig Pen.  This film is a masterful example of “true to life” horror, telling a grim story of poverty and the toils of boyhood.  This departure from traditional horror is refreshing and really shows the signs of a maturing artist who is not interested in being kept to one genre.  Pig Pen is a moving, but intensely ugly film that is just as much a thriller as it is a coming-of-age tale.

The story follows a thirteen year old boy who has recently been kicked out of his home by his mother’s maniacal boyfriend.  We see him trying to survive the harsh world of inner-city Baltimore. He is forced to shoplift for food and find a way back home to protect his mother.  What unfolds is a voyage of vagrancy and revenge that will ultimately end in blood (lots of blood).
Jason Koch really shines as a director in this film.  Even when scenes seem meandering they serve a purpose that feels much larger than the movie itself.  He took a risk, hiring his son (Lucas Koch) in the lead, but manages to get an incredibly honest performance that you rarely see in young actors.  As great as Lucas’ performance is, Nicolette Le Faye is the one who really gets to show her range.  Her role is so nuanced and has to portray kindness in a grisly world she cannot handle on her own.  I would go into more detail, but I would hate to ruin some of her scenes that appear late in the film. What I can say, is that I am excited to see her take more serious roles and look forward to seeing more in the future. My only complaint was the end of the film. It bookends the story, but felt a little too unambiguous.  Upon rewatching, I am happy to say that I now understand why Mr. Koch had to end it this way.  This movie is not meant to be an easy viewing and is intended to challenge its audience.  With all that said, I can honestly say that Pig Pen is the first great movie of 2016!  Pig Pen will be released on DVD soon and is currently on the Film Festival circuit.

5/5 STARS

 

THE LEGEND OF WASCO (2015)

I am not usually one that cares at all about killer clowns, especially ones based on viral videos, but after seeing the names attached I had to check it out.  The Legend of Wasco has a plethora of talented filmmakers involved, including Scott Schirmer (Found, Headless), Brian Williams (Time To Kill, Headless) and Ellie Church (Time To Kill, Headless).  This was enough for me to toss out my prejudices and fork over my ten bucks for the DVD.  I am happy to say that this film is a mixed bag, where the good really outweighs the poorer aspects of this movie.  First time directors  Shane Beasley and Leya Taylor show a lot of promise and offer something way better than anyone could expect.

The story centers around Tyler and Christy, a young couple being visited by Christy’s older brother Byron.  He has just left the Army and is excited to reconnect with his sister and get to know his future brother-in-law.  Tyler is a clown performer, flipping signs for a local carwash company.  After a few drinks they start to discuss a local legend about murderous clowns that send our protagonists on a drunken adventure to create a viral prank.  But once the pictures go viral, people in town start dying…one by one.

The major problem that I have with this film is in the comedy.  The first two-thirds feel very organic, but somewhere in the third act something changes.  The comedy begins to feel forced and some of the more menacing elements disappear entirely.  In spite of these gripes, they never stop The Legend of Wasco from still being a fun and sometimes amazing film.  The biggest standouts come from both the cinematography and the score.  Grand, cinematic shots really add to the experience and fool you into forgetting the low budget that the filmmakers are working with.  Along with the camerawork, you get a very intense and serious score that sets the mood nicely.  In the end, I think this is another win for Forbidden Films and a good movie to tide you over until Harvest Lake.  The Legend Of Wasco is currently available on DVD and VOD. 

3/5 STARS

THE FOREST (2016)

Its officially January and it is time to dig through the dumping ground of Hollywood.  It is no secret that January and February is the black hole of theater releases, allowing us the chance to watch whatever studio execs have lying around.  When I saw the trailer for The Forest and its January release date I wasn’t overly excited to see it, but one thing grabbed my eye…no Jason Blum.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not hating on the guy but I just can’t trust his name (on a film) anymore.  After seeing this supernatural thriller I can say that The Forest is much better than it has any right to be.  It is a strange blend of great cinematography and terrible CGI that is entertaining up to its lackluster ending.  It is a great example of enjoying the ride, but not necessarily liking the final destination.

The story begins with a young woman having an feeling that her twin sister is in danger.  She wakes up from her dream and immediately leaves for Tokyo to try and help her sister.  She does a little digging and finds out that she has ventured into the “Suicide Forest” at the base of Mt. Fuji.  Through her ESP-like superpower, she can sense that her sister is still alive and fenagles her way into a guided tour to find her twin.  Once she is there she finds out that the forest is a sinister and dangerous place full of spirits.

The best part of the film is the setting and the amazing camerawork.  There is little to no shaky cam and nothing ever seems static or boring.  The actors are passable and the script seems like it may have had a lot of last minute changes.  Some of the red herrings are less than brilliant and there are major clues that are either ignored or abandoned.  The film does best at building up tension and there were more than a few scenes that had me on the edge of my seat.  The biggest problem was how the filmmakers decided to wrap up the story.  I won’t go into any spoilers, but the last 10 minutes do not seem to gel with what we had seen up to this point.  All in all, this adds up to a serviceable (and sometimes exciting) popcorn flick that you will probably forget about a few days later.  The Forest will be available 1/8 in theaters everywhere.

2.5/5 STARS

BLAINE’S TOP 15 OF 2015

Holy Shit!  Another year has come and gone and now its time to see which films rose above the rest.  This year’s list includes all of the blood, guts and nudity that you would expect. But don’t worry, I included a few “classier” flicks for all you college grads out there. 

15.  The Duke of Burgundy (Directed by Peter Strickland)

A cold and confounding movie about a woman obsessed with moths who tests the limits of her relationship with her lover.  An exercise in obsession and repetition, that is worth enduring.

 

 

14. Tantrum (Directed by James Bell)

There are a lot of words that can be used to describe Mr Bell’s most recent film, but there is one that I keep using: indescribable. Not narrowly fitting into any real genre of horror or scene. It blurs the line between avant garde film experiment and performance art in a masterful way.

13. Girlhood (Directed by Céline Sciamma)

On top of covering the usual coming of age drama, there is a naturalness that feels so real and universal. From the boring technical side it is nearly perfect. Camerawork  is impeccable and its pace is perfectly meandering. The film may suffer from an unfortunate title, but hopefully people will see it without the looming Boyhood comparison.

12. Death-Scort Service (Directed by Sean Donohue)

A fun throwback to blood, guts and boobs.  The sleaziest film of 2015 and should not be missed.

 

 

 

 

 

11. Circus Of The Dead (Directed by Billy Pon)

Great sense of direction and great acting by Bill Oberst Jr and company. Also, some of the most enjoyable gore gags in years. When it finally gets a release, it is worth a look.

 

 

10. R100 (Directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto)

Like a blend of Quentin Dupieux and Sion Sono, with a little Bunuel on the side. I can’t decide if anything or everything matters (in this film) but there is something so unique and appealing about this film that really sticks with you.

 

9. Headless (Directed by Arthur Cullipher)

Found was one of my favorite movies of last year and this “lost slasher” is a excellent companion piece.  Great effects, fun acting and some of the nastiest kills in the history of cinema.

 

 

 

8. Der Samurai (Directed by Till Kleinert)

A spectacularly violent and mysterious film that feels both existential and playful throughout its run time. This is the kind of movie that requires multiple viewings to truly grasp.

 

7. Flowers (Directed by Phil Stevens)

This is the kind of film that is missing from underground horror lately. A grotesque, but beautifully shot film that mutely tells the story of 6 women and their murderer.

 

 

 

6. Androgynym (Directed by Nick Iway)

 This is a brave movie that does not gloss over things like addiction, loss and self identity.  In fact, it barrels itself directly at it.  There are scenes of extreme and shocking violence, but I hope they do not overshadow the beautiful experience that is Androgynym

5. The Interior (Directed by Trevor Juras)

There is very little when it comes to plot or story and instead focuses on the existential horror of being a young man who may not live long enough to figure out what he wants in life. That is much scarier to me than monsters or masked killers and there is no place better to experience this than deep inside of nature.

 

 

4. Turbo Kid (Directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell)

In the year 1997…

This is the movie that captures nostalgia without coming off as pandering.

 

 

3. Spring (Directed by Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson)

A beautifully shot genre bending project from the guys who brought us Resolution.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Bone Tomahawk (Directed by S. Craig Zahler)

If there was any justice in this world this film would sweep the Oscars. From best screenplay to best supporting actor, this film would win it all. This first time effort is everything that a fan of cinema could ask for.

 

 

 

 

 

1. The Tribe (Directed by Miroslav Slaboshpitsky)

“Don’t tell me, show me!” That is my battle cry when watching movies and this film couldn’t tell you if it wanted to. If you do not already know, this movie is told entirely through Ukrainian sign language with no subtitles or voiceover.  It is an unsettling, unique experience that cannot be compared to anything else.  A great example of how a film can transcend genre and language to stands on its own.

Some honorable mentions: Metalhead, The World Of Kanako, Mad Max: Fury Road and Under The Rainbow

Thanks for checking out my list!  Now let us know some of your picks in the comments below!

Blaine McLaren

Lead Writer for Mondo McLaren

Franklin: A Symphony Of Pain (2015)

My favorite thing about being a genre fan is that there is never a shortage of strange, interesting movies to check out.  Every few months I stumble on an oddity filled to the brim with bizarre, original material that reinvigorates my interest and sends me back to the web to find that next hidden gem.  This current gem that I am discussing is this year’s Franklin: A Symphony Of Pain.  It is a psychedelic freakout of faith, sex, torture and self-realization that is unlike anything that you have ever experienced.  The director (Jeremy Westrate) takes the “kitchen sink” approach to storytelling and packs more ideas into this film than a corporate think tank.  In case I am not being clear, this is an ambitious and absolutely batshit crazy flick that needs to be seen to be believed.

This won’t be easy, but I am going to attempt to explain the basic story.  The titular Franklin spends a day out in nature and is quickly abducted by masked occultists who torture and exploit our protagonists until he submits to his pain.  After waking in a new location, he is then assaulted by foul-mouthed 60’s “street toughs” who then beat the breaks off of him again.  These run-ins repeat to differing effect and are inter-cut with hellish vignettes and dialogue with a less than comforting priest.

Each scene reveals a little hint of the developing story and is accompanied by a maddening score of both classical and pop-inspired music.  Colors shift, as well as perspectives and the camera never sits in any kind of static state.  “Break neck” is how I would describe its pace.  With this kind of experimental filmmaking, not everything works.  There are some scenes that may feel a little indulgent, but with a film like this, it is expected.  Actors can be middling to cartoonish, but good writing and spot on camera work makes up for the performer’s shortcomings.  There is very little to compare this film to and that (in itself) is a great reason I recommend this movie.  If you like acid trip cinematography mixed with absurd levels of violence, then this is the flick for you.  Franklin: A Symphony Of Pain is currently available on DVD and Vimeo.

4/5 STARS

American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire (2015)

Being a Southerner, I am always excited to see a “killer hillbilly”/”psychos in the woods” film that does not take place in the American South.  Every region has its “rednecks” and I always enjoy seeing what other areas have to offer in this genre.  If this film is any indication, I would be weary to go into the woods of New Hampshire.  It appears to be full of murderers, monsters and rapists.  A terrifying combination that plays out pretty well in American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire.

Director, Flood Reed, has assembled a very sadistic and playful adventure that can be simultaneously exciting and frustrating.  The acting is incredible, the direction is imaginative, but there are a few things that really hold the American Backwoods from being one of the best low budget horror flicks of the year.  But, before going into the details lets talk about the story.

The movie takes place in 1994 New Hampshire and follows a group of close friends that are on a road trip to find a local rite of passage.  By “rite of passage”, I mean a legendary strip club.  The trip turns out to be an incredibly deadly one.  These guys are going to have to survive multiple groups of murderous humans, as well as something else that lurks in the woods

American Backwoods offers more than just blood and guts, Mr. Reed knows how to develop likeable/despicable characters that you cannot help rooting for.  The actors all nail their parts and feel like real people, rather than just filling an archetype that is ultimately just fodder for gore.  For as much praise that I have for this film, there are still a few things that did not work for me.  Most notably, the choice of a soundtrack over a score.  The music can be incredibly distracting at times and would yank me out of the movie, especially the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal.  Also, Flood Reed makes some creative flourishes that work well at times, but can also muddle the story and pace.  These moments of flashbacks and distortion sometime offer insight, but (more times than not) just distract you from what is happening in the scene.  Overall I really enjoyed this movie and will go out of my way to see more films from this director.  He is ambitious and I praise him for the chances that he is willing to take, even when they don’t work, I cannot help but admire him for trying.  American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire is currently available on DVD and VOD.

3.5/5 STARS

 

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

 

 

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