UNEARTHED AND UNTOLD: THE PATH TO PET SEMETARY (FARSIGHTED)

A recent review I did for Farsighted about the making of Pet Semetary.  Definitely some ups and downs, but I am a excited to hear your thoughts.

http://farsightedblog.com/2017/02/17/unearthed-untold-and-unfortunately-a-wee-bit-uninteresting/

FARSIGHTED FRIDAY FIGHTS “THE GUEST”

ANOTHER ALL OUT BRAWL FROM THE GREAT TEAM OF WRITERS AT FARSIGHTED (INCLUDING MYSELF, OF COURSE).  GET AT ME IN THE COMMENTS SECTION!

http://farsightedblog.com/2017/01/27/our-first-guest-joins-us-to-fight-about-the-guest/

SIREN (2016 ATLANTA FILM FESTIVAL)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

****THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED IN APRIL, BUT HAS BEEN UPDATED TO FIT DVD RELEASE****

Back in 2012 the anthology film VHS was released and we were all introduced a beautiful female demon who made the phrase “I like you” the creepiest thing we had ever heard.  This segment stood out and set the tone for the (now) famous series of films.  This segment was titled “Amateur Night” and it told an eerie tale of what can happen when you pick up strange women and have questionable intentions.  I loved this short when it was released and I was excited to hear that it was being turned into a full feature.  I was able to see the premiere and I am still a little torn about my feelings on the film.  While being a very enjoyable movie, I really don’t see why the filmmakers felt the need to tie it to the VHS short.  The story is told as a prequel/sequel to the original, but has very little to do with what we all saw 4 years ago.

 

Image result for siren 2016The film begins with explaining how this demon/siren is brought to this world and how an eccentric occultist is able to capture the titular character.  We are then introduced to our ensemble cast of mostly late 20s men who are on their way to a bachelor party.  They hear rumors about a strange party at the outskirts of town and set out to enjoy the less conventional fun of these private clubs.  Once they arrive they meet the occultist (Mr. Nyx) and set the film in motion, freeing a sexy and deadly beast upon the world.

What works best is the acting and writing in this film.  The characters feel very real and fleshed out, not just victims for us to watch die.  Their conversations are surprisingly real and I found myself rooting for everyone involved. Justin Welborn steals the show as Mr. Nyx and gives a charming performance that is both evil genius and sideshow carnival barker.  All in all, this is a fun monster movie that manages to elevate its material to something very exciting to watch.  My only complaint is that I feel like the film would have worked better by not associating itself with the short. I do believe that once people can get past its connection with the short, they will be able to enjoy the film as a stand alone movie with a lot to offer.  SIREN is currently available on DVD and VOD

[usr 3.5 /5 ]

 

C.H.U.D. (ARROW VIDEO BLU-RAY RELEASE)

Image result for chud arrowBY BLAINE MCLAREN

If you grew up in the 80s and early 90s you probably have some vague memory of seeing Daniel Stern in a (gritty) New York City movie called C.H.U.D. It was one of those films that always played after reruns of Star Trek and helped inform the tastes of a whole generation of burgeoning nerds.  The truth is that I had not seen this film since my teens and I was excited to visit this movie again with fresh eyes.  What I remembered was a very basic monster flick, but what I got was a smart and entertaining piece of Americana.  In my younger years I never noticed all of the social commentary (and there is tons of it on display in this film)…but lets not forget that there are also some kick ass monsters too.

Image result for chud arrowC.H.U.D. tells the story of a police captain (John Heard) who is investigating the mysterious disappearances of people in a neighborhood of New York City, including his wife.  His investigation leads him to the sewers and he uncovers a gruesome monster (or monsters) that is preying on unsuspecting victims.  He teams up with a local (Daniel Stern) and the two attempt to discover what is behind it all.

This film holds up and documents a lost era of a truly dangerous feeling New York City that my generation will only know from movies like this.  Most monster movies have some thinly veiled social message, but C.H.U.D. addresses social issues head on.  We are dropped into a world of homeless people and government cover ups that feel just as relevant now as it did in 1984.  This Blu Ray release keeps the magic this film offered over thirty years ago and will (hopefully) expose a whole new generation to its subtle genius.

Contents

Brand new restoration from the original film elements
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the Integral Cut from a new 2K film transfer
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the Original Theatrical Cut [Limited Edition Exclusive]
Original Uncompressed PCM Mono Audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary with director Douglas Cheek, writer Shepard Abbott, and actors John Heard, Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry
A Dirty Look– an interview with production designer William Bilowit
Dweller Designs – an interview with special make-up effects and creature creator John Caglione, Jr.
Notes from Above Ground: The NYC Locations of C.H.U.D. – featurette hosted by journalist Michael Gingold and filmmaker Ted Geoghegan
Behind-the-Scenes Gallery
Extended Shower Scene
Original Theatrical Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford
Fully illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Gingold [Limited Edition Exclusive]

C.H.U.D. IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM http://www.arrowvideo.com/product/chud/762

 

VAMPYRES (2015)

Image result for vampyres 2015BY BLAINE MCLAREN

I am not really sure who asked for a remake to the 1974 film Vampyres, but someone did it anyway.  Why someone would revisit this sleazy classic is beyond me, but I was happily surprised at how this film turned out.  What we got was a trashy, but wonderfully shot story of vampires.  Sexy, lesbian vampires who have some sort of plan that does not really much make sense.  Lets be honest, who cares, I  just said sexy lesbian vampires and that should give you an idea what you are in for.

Image result for vampyres 2015The film begins with two beautiful women who are vampires living in an English estate. Just feeding on travelers and holding a middle aged man hostage in their basement.  Once three young adults accidentally set up camp on their property, the blood thirsty couple is disrupted and forced to start feeding on these interlopers.  Will these uninvited guests compromise the vampire couple’s twisted lifestyle?  Maybe, but they wont go without a very (very!) sexy fight.

Image result for vampyres 2015I have a hard time not cracking jokes while discussing this film’s plot, but where this movie lacks in story it makes up in tone.  Very few filmmakers could capture the tone of an old Jess Franco film, but Victor Matellano did.  Between graphic sex and/or murder scenes, we are treated to beautiful scenery and the production value of a more expensive film.  The capturing of this era does have its sour notes though.  On top of nailing the vibe, it also nails the pacing…which is slow.  Whenever characters are clothed (or not bound to posts in a makeshift dungeon) the film grinds to a painful halt.  There is very little investment to be made in these one-dimensional villains and victims.  But, who really gives a shit…there are lesbian vampires and loads (and loads) of blood.  This may not win any major awards, but it is a fun way to spend a buzzed Saturday night.  VAMPYRES IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ON VOD AND DVD http://www.artsploitationfilms.com/film/vampyres/

 

DREAMING PURPLE NEON (2016)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

Todd Sheets is a living legend of no-budget filmmaking and he is a filmmaker that I am always excited to see anything that comes from him.  Movies like Zombie Bloodbath, Goblin and Nightmare Asylum were “go-to” films back in the VHS era and he has made a fantastic comeback over these past few years.  Contributing to a couple anthologies and his impressive feature House of Forbidden Secrets.  The title and one-sheet alone had me hooked for Dreaming Purple Neon, so when I had the opportunity to check it out I did not hesitate one bit.  This film packs a lot of genres and ideas into its nearly 2 hour runtime and Mr Sheets manages to pull it off to an impressive degree.

Dreaming Purple Neon begins with two drug dealers/gangsters, Tyrone (Ricky Farr) and Ray Ray (Antwoine Steel), who are dealing with an associate who has clearly crossed the two.  Once things go south, they kill the associate and scare the hell out of their employee Catriona (Millie Milan).  She freaks out, steals the mysterious drugs and flees to one of her friends who works for a dentist.  At the same time, Dallas (Jeremy Edwards) has returned to his hometown to try to settle things with his ex.  It just so happens that this leads Dallas to the same dentists’ office as Catriona.  Once all of these stories intersect it leads all of our players into the clutches of an evil Satanic cult that is manufacturing a drug called (you guessed it) Purple Neon.  It is at this point that things get messy and our characters end up in a fight for their lives and sanity.

This film harkens back to a lot of what has made Todd Sheets early films so enjoyable, but the level of craftsmanship makes this film much more impressive than what you would expect.  Scenes are shot well and scenes feel deliberate and lack the padding you would usually see in a film like this.  Todd Sheets’ direction feels very confident and this confidence affects everyone involved in the film.  The acting is a little rough around the edges, but the lines are delivered with that same confidence, which (instantly) sells the viewer into believing what they say (no matter how ridiculous).

The biggest star of this film is the practical FX on display in this film.  They must have gone through gallons and gallons of fake blood.  Gooey latex and prosthetics get torn to shreds by cleverly designed demons, people and monsters throughout.  I can only imagine how much work it was to clean up after these scenes, but this film puts every single dollar if its budget on the screen.  The sign of a true indie filmmaker that understands why we all love these types of films.  The only complaint I found was that the (occasional) CGI really stood out.  With these budgets it is necessary, but the top notch practical FX made the digital FX look worse.  That tiny (and easily overlooked) gripe aside, this is an original horror that rises above your normal glut of low budget horror that fans deserve.  Todd Sheets has blessed us with another great splatter-classic that gore fans will be singing praises of for years to come.   DREAMING PURPLE NEON WILL BE RELEASING SOON AND I WILL UPDATE WHEN IT IS ANNOUNCED.

SOUVENIRS OF A HITCHHIKER (SHORT FILM)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

Luke Ramer and (his company)West 2nd Productions have been pouring out a lot of interesting content over the past few years.  They have made 2 short features, a web series and now “Souvenirs of a Hitchhiker”.  This film is a short found footage film that was originally to be included in an anthology.  As these projects tend to do, the anthology fell apart.  Instead of just letting the movie sit, Mr. Ramer decided to let it loose on YouTube for free.  Lucky for us, its a pretty great little film!

The film opens with a young woman who is hitchhiking across the Northeast and taping her adventures.  Soon she is picked up by an odd guy, who is may or may not be a good Samaritan.  Once he convinces her to stay at his home, things take a turn for the worse and no one is who they seem to be.

This is another home run from this gang of no-budget filmmakers and I am happy to see them continuing to try new things.  Most of the acting is fairly good and seems to improve as the movie progresses.  Luke Ramer really shines when he is building suspense and the found footage aesthetic gives him a great opportunity to show off his chops.  I enjoyed that the camerawork (itself) feels more handheld, then completely found footage.  It reminds you that this is a movie and does not insult your intelligence or pretend that it is real.  I cannot recommend this film enough and I think that it is only a matter of time before Luke Ramer becomes a household name among horror fans.  Souvenirs of a Hitchhiker can be watched below for free.  Please support his other films and projects at https://www.facebook.com/west2ndproductionsPA/

THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK (2016)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

Joel Potrykus has been an interesting director over these past few years.  Both Ape and Buzzard were amazing exercises in nihilism, adding a new layer to the well worn territory of “slacker” films.  The Alchemist Cookbook is no exception and manages to do more with even less.  All of Porykus’ films have been small, but this flick boasts a cast of two, with a couple adorable cameos from some animals who play major parts in the film.  Most of what is on screen would be pretty boring if it was in the hands of a less skilled artist, but the casting and perspective makes for a fantastic depiction of the banality of solitude.

The story is very simple. A guy in his twenties named Sean (Ty Hickson) has moved to the woods to live the life of an alchemist.  He is trying to shift base metals to gold and is not afraid to turn to darker forces to achieve his goal.  His only companions are his cat and his friend Cortez (Amari Cheatom), who brings him supplies.  Once he makes a wager, these dark forces come to collect and they want what he has promised.

The description sounds more action packed than what the film actually offers.  Most of the “demonic” is off screen and portrayed brilliantly with top-shelf sound design.  Deep bellows rattle from the woods and the actors really sell what may or may not be out there.  The camera feels very natural and makes monotonous tasks seem reviting and even watching our protagonist eat a bag of doritos (in real time) feel cinematic.  Its very hard to describe this director’s work, but his style will either intrigue you or bore you to death.  I fall in the first category and cannot wait for more work from this truly unique voice in the world of independent cinema.  THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK is currently available on VOD.

[usr 4]

OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

I will be the first to admit that I chuckled when I first heard Universal was making a sequel to the Board Game based movie, Ouija.  The first film wasn’t my thing and I never bothered checking it out. Most of the trailers for the first film looked like it was geared for much younger viewers, so I just decided to skip it.  Once the trailers emerged for Origin of Evil I was surprised by the quality and more impressed by the Director attached, Mike Flanagan (Absentia, Oculus).  I have seen most of his films and neither of his features connected with me, but I could tell that he had the potential for a great film inside him.  Who would have ever thought that great film would be Ouija: Origin of Evil?

It starts in Los Angeles in the mid 1960’s and we meet the Zander family.  A recently widowed mother and her 2 daughters who run a bogus psychic business that relies on clever gags and theatrics to sell its authenticity.  Once they decide to add a new prop (the titular Ouija Board), it awakens a strange ability in the youngest daughter.  When it first starts it seems like a blessing, but quickly turns sinister and places the family in grave danger.

It seems odd to be praising this film. I did not expect much, but I was humbled to go to a screening (with other cynical bastards) with snarky comments and come out completely jazzed.  The scares are a plenty, but the greatest achievement is the way it is made.  The film could have been a lot of things, but Flanagan was skilled enough to make an old fashioned ghost story and breathe new life into it.  Mike Flanagan draws you in with fantastic mechanics and camera work, then envelops you into the life of this family turned on its head with grief.  Ouija: Origin of Evil is a masterclass in elevating your source material into something great and original.  The acting is solid all around and the script is fine.  In all honesty, the story itself is derivative but you won’t care once you are sucked into the film.  There are only a few instances (one long scene of exposition towards the end) where the story gets in the way, but (once again) it is forgivable.  I know a lot of jaded horror fans are never going to give it a chance, but the few who are not “too school for school” will be able to have a great theatrical experience just in time for Halloween!  Ouija: Origin of Evil opens wide in theaters 10/21.

[usr 4.5]

 

 

THE GREASY STRANGLER (2016)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

There are very few films as aptly titled as The Greasy Strangler.  This films oozes with unpleasant humor, bizarre vignettes and drawn out scenes emphasizing an older man’s penis.    It takes some time to adjust to the drawn out scenes and SOV acting choices, but once it clicked with me it went from revolting to oddly endearing.   I use the word endearing because beyond all of the disgust, it is the story about two outsiders who need each other more than either will ever admit.  All of this sounds pretty gross (and it is!), but it helps to create an unforgettable comedy that could be one of my favorite films of the year.

The story revolves around Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels) and Big Brayden (Sky Elobar) who are a father/son duo.  They lead a co dependent life where Ronnie lets Brayden live with him for free if he cooks only extra greasy meals for him.  They spend their time discussing grease and fat, only taking breaks to fart and call one another “Bullshit Artists” (a phrase used at least 50 times in the film).  Their dynamic seems to be working until Brayden meets a women named Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo).  This new relationship throws a wrench in their day to day life and could be causing more “greasy” stranglings in the neighborhood and the grossest love triangle in the history of film, maybe the world.

What’s most impressive about The Greasy Strangler is how well the film is actually made.  Scenes are shot well and the absurd characters make perfect sense within this gonzo universe created by Director Jim Hosking.  The casting is insane and they all give fantastic performances, especially Brayden.  He serves as the heart of this vile story, taking his abuse on the chin.  Every time Ronnie mentions him “crapping on the bed”, he shrugs it off and continues to care for his father.  The gore only adds to the surreal comedy.  All of the violence is played for laughs and never comes across mean-spirited.  Faces implode with punches and eyes pop out of socket when people are chocked, giving it a cartoon-like quality to it all.  I’m not really sure who this film is made for, but I am just happy it was made.  Hats off to Spectrevision and hope they continue to take chances on films like this.  The Greasy Strangler is currently available on VOD.

[usr 4.5]