FARSIGHTED FRIDAY FIGHT “THE NEON DEMON”

Neon Demon

Here is a group review of THE NEON DEMON.  Check it out and holler at me in the comments!

http://farsightedblog.com/2017/01/13/friday-fight-argues-over-refns-the-neon-demon/

BLAINE’S TOP 15 OF 2016

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

This past year was an undeniable bummer.  We lost Prince, David Bowie and countless other cultural figures of society.  We elected a Twitter happy reality star as our Commander-in-Chief and rappers have decided its more exciting to beef on Instagram instead of releasing records.  The end may be nigh, but at least we had a great year of movie releases.  VOD continued to dump great films into our living rooms, companies like Vinegar Syndrome and Arrow restored fantastic, lost gems and even Multiplexes provided us with a consistent string of entertaining releases.  My list this year is a healthy combination of all three sources and had to dwindle a huge list into a measly fifteen films.  I am sure that I missed some great films, but of the 300+ I saw, these were my favorite.

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15.  Ouija: Origin of Evil (Mike Flanagan)

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.

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14.  Lung II (Phil Stevens)

Another beautifully shot, silent film from auteur Phil Stevens.  A nightmarish journey through the psyche of a serial killer shot entirely in black and white.  There are very few people doing what Mr Stevens is ad I hope to continue to see more highly original horror from him.

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13.  The Alchemist Cookbook (Joel Potrykus)

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 Potrykus’ 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.

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12.  The Greasy Strangler (Jim Hosking)

Bullshit Artist!!!!! Need I say more….

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11.  The Neon Dead (Torey Haas)

I’ve watched this film multiple times now and I am repeatedly impressed by the quality and care put into The Neon Dead.  The lighting and sets are spectacular, giving the film a dreamy vibe that is infinitely watchable.  The special effects are over the top and unique, offering a new mythology and cast of villains brought to life on a minimum budget.

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10. The Wailing (Na Hong-Jin)

An epic possession film from South Korea that utilizes its foreign concwpts to make a film even scarier.  Now that this film is on Netflix, I really hope more people get to see it.

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9.  Night Of Something Strange (Jonathan Straiton)

An over-the-top gross out film about a sexually transmitted zombie virus.  What a fantastic description for a fun film that turns the teenage roadtrip movie on its head.  Buy a six pack, invite over some friends and enjoy the hell out of this crazy flick!

8.  Dreaming Purple Neon (Todd Sheets)

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.

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7.  The Night Watchmen (Mitchell Altieri)

This slapstick, gore-soaked comedy came out of nowhere and left me with a smile on my face for its entire runtime.  Some may be too cool for its silly (and occasionally campy) sensibilities, but those people are not the target audience and will probably never see it.

6. BB (CJ Wallis)

BB is a cinematic example of watching an artist find his voice.  The film shifts multiple perspectives and is not afraid to mix things up (stylistically speaking).  This entire movie could have been done much easier (and lazier) as a found footage film, but luckily they choose not to and opted for a more stylish route. This film transcends its T & A concept and gives the viewer a look into the life of a camgirl on the edge.

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5. Another Evil (Carson Mell)

Another Evil dwells in that strange world where there is no real genre to place it in.  It is funny, but it is not a comedy and it is has ghosts, but it is not really a horror movie.  Where it falls in…who knows, but I can say that it is one of the best written and acted films of the year.

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4.  Train To Busan (Sang-ho Yeon)

Not since The Raid 2 have I seen an action movie that was this exciting.  A big budget Zombie movie full of emotion and action set pieces that should have Hollywood shaking in their boots.  Mark my words, once this film hits Netflix it will be the biggest movie of the year!

 

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3.  Pig Pen (Jason Koch)

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.

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2.  Frankenstein Created Bikers (James Bickert)

Make no bones about it, this is a 125 minute epic of exploitation and excess!  I Cannot stress how fun this flick is and urge you to check it out for yourself

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1. The Witch (Robert Eggers)

From numbers 15 to 2 it was hard to make my picks for the year, but my number one film of the was (undoubtedly) The Witch.  This is a complex, timely film that will go down as one the of the classiest horror films in history.  I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this film mentioned in the same breath as The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby.  Who knows?…but time will tell and Robert Eggers has solidified himself as horror royalty with The Witch.

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO READ AND SUPPORTED US THIS YEAR AND WE WILL SEE YOU IN 2017

 

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/

 

THE HILLS HAVE EYES (ARROW VIDEO BLU-RAY RELEASE)

Image result for arrow video the hills have eyes press bookBY BLAINE MCLAREN

There is not a lot to say about this 1977 classic that has not been said hundreds of times.  This is one of those great films that you may not appreciate when you are young, but grows on you as you get older and more jaded.  Wes Craven started his career with the one-two punch of nihilism know as (back to back releases) Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes.  What is fantastic about “Hills” is that it works out all of the goofiness in “House” and shows why (the late) Wes Craven would go on to be a master of horror.  He sets the tone and maintains it from beginning to end, making outlandish characters feel real and alive.  When it is time to turn up the tension, he never hesitates to show true ugliness and violence.  While being a great film, most of its releases have been fairly sub par.  Luckily the good folks at Arrow Video decided to rerelease it and give it the care/attention that it has always deserved.

Image result for arrow video the hills have eyes press bookThe 4k scan used for the blu ray looks great and you finally get to see the detail and great photography in this film.  Most prints have that very “brown” look that instantly makes a film seem older and less impressive, but this print corrects that.  The color shines through and you get a real feel for the desolation and heat these actors are enduring.  My favorite part of this release is the hour long “making of” that managed to bring back most of the central cast and crew.  Wes Craven tells stories and we get to hear the details of what it took to get this story from page to screen.  If you don’t dig great movies, then you can watch the “feel good” alternate ending (that is also included).  Overall, this is the home release that the film deserves and it offers a lot of goodies that make it well worth the sticker price.  THE ARROW VIDEO RELEASE OF THE HILLS HAVE EYES IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE AT RETAILERS, INCLUDING AMAZON.COM 

DETAILS

Brand new 4K restoration of the film, supervised by producer Peter Locke and viewable with both original and alternate endings

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • 6 x postcards
  • Reversible fold-out poster featuring new and original artwork
  • Limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Brad Stevens and a consideration of the Hills franchise by Ewan Cant, illustrated with original archive stills
  • Brand new audio commentary with actors Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Susan Lanier and Martin Speer
  • Brand new audio commentary by academic Mikel J. Koven
  • Audio commentary with Wes Craven and Peter Locke
  • Looking Back on The Hills Have Eyes – making-of documentary featuring interviews with Craven, Locke, actors Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace, Janus Blythe, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier and director of photography Eric Saarinen
  • Brand new interview with actor Martin Speer
  • The Desert Sessions – brand new interview with composer Don Peake
  • Never-before-seen Outtakes
  • Alternate ending, in HD for the first time  
  • Trailers and TV Spots
  • Image Gallery
  • Original Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM Content)
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper

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.

ANOTHER EVIL (2016 BURIED ALIVE FILM FESTIVAL)

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BY BLAINE MCLAREN

Another Evil dwells in that strange world where there is no real genre to place it in.  It is funny, but it is not a comedy and it is has ghosts, but it is not really a horror movie.  Where it falls in…who knows, but I can say that it is one of the best written and acted films of the year.  There is no rhyme or reason in the plot and these odd choices make sense in the bizarre world that (Director) Carson D. Mell and company have created.  This strange film may be tough for some crowds, but those who do connect with it will be in for a fantastic trip.

The film begins with a family who is indulging in a frantic and confusing game of Charades.  Midway through the game, they are interrupted by movement in the home and the eventual discovery of ghosts.  They immediately get a spiritualist and he tells them that the ghosts are actually “pretty cool”.  The husband decides to get a second opinion and then opens his home to a man who could be a much bigger threat than anything supernatural.

Image result for another evil 2016As I mentioned before, the script is one of the best I have seen in years.  All of the dialogue fits the characters perfectly and the odd sense of humor turns the darkest scenes into its funniest.  The actors are all on point and the two leads nail their roles as friends/foes.  The only gripe I had was that the ending seemed a little rushed and I would have liked to see some of the details fleshed out more.  This minor complaint aside, this film was my favorite feature of the festival and I am excited to see how it is received once it is released.  Another Evil is far from conventional, but it is a brilliant and original take on the well-worn haunted house subgenre.  ANOTHER EVIL IS CURRENTLY BEING RELEASED BY RAVEN BANNER, BUT DOES NOT HAVE A RELEASE DATE YET

CANNIBAL CLAUS (2016)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

Sleaze Box and Gatorblade pictures are back at it again…just in time for the holidays.  I am not sure who said “let’s make Bob Glazier Santa Claus”, but I want to personally thank them.  Cannibal Claus is a Christmas movie, but it is not exactly fit for the whole family.  It has all of the gore and naked breasts you have come to expect, but this time it is set to the jolly tune of Christmas carols.  It may not be the best film from Director Sean Donohue, but it is one of his most enjoyable.

Cannibal Claus starts with a mall Santa (played by Bob Glazier) losing his job to his smug employer.  This sets our central character into a tailspin of debauchery and violence, putting together “a list” of those who have been naughty and nice.  This includes anyone who has ever wronged him and his methods are as brutal as they are funny.

The company of actors that Sean Donohue and Sleaze Box films continually work with really seem to be growing as a whole.  These actors are clearly having a great time and it shows throughout the film’s brisk runtime.  The direction is solid and feels cinematic, but it does lack a little of the polish we saw in Death-Scort Service.  The scenes are a little choppier than his last film, but it’s not distracting and may help with the playful tone.  What works best is how this film interweaves the two storylines, giving an explanation for our Santa’s quick decent into insanity.  The family from the flashback sequences give great performances (They are played by a real family; Alberto, Mady and Lucio Giovannelli) and give the viewer a break from the non-stop gore flinging.

I would be remised if I did not mention the parade of lovely women in this film.  There is a list too long to name, but they all deserve credit for giving fun performances and never wasting a moment of screen time. So if you prefer your Christmas movies a little sleazier, trading cheer and snow for blood and boobs, then give Cannibal Claus a chance!  CANNIBAL CLAUS IS COMING SOON FROM GATORBLADE FILMS AND SLEAZE BOX

STREETS OF VENGEANCE (2016)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

Holy shit, this movie is full of nudity! I say this up front, because the film has a ton of it.  From beginning to end there is a cavalcade of beautiful, nude women on display.  Paul Ragsdale’s sophomore feature, Streets of Vengeance, is a whirlwind of sex and violence that has a lot of things going on in it.  Some things work and others don’t, but ultimately it is a lot of fun and does not shy away from female empowerment.

This is that age-old tale of an ex adult film star who is being stalked by a murderous cult of misogynistic men.  These “He-man, woman haters” call themselves The Sword and they are dead-set on reigning terror on both feminists and adult film actresses.  After Mila (Delawna McKinney) is attacked, the ladies band together in search of vengeance.

Streets of Vengeance is sexploitation, through and through.  It never takes itself too seriously and it relishes in letting the actors give fun, over-the-top performances.  Most of the actors kill it, but there are a few cameos that interrupt the vibe and (seemingly) stall the film’s progress.  Paul Ragsdale’s direction is spot on and the lighting is stunning.  The issue for me is found in its long runtime.  The film clocks in at almost 2 hours and (I feel) the film would have benefitted from editing down some scenes.  This may not be an issue for some people, but when it comes to exploitation films, I prefer them short and sweet.  This one may not have completely connected with me, but it still has a lot to offer.  After seeing Streets of Vengeance I am curious to see Mr. Ragsdale’s first film (Cinco De Mayo) and any other output, because I really enjoyed his stylistic choices.  STREETS OF VENGEANCE is currently playing in film festivals and please follow the release info at https://www.facebook.com/streetsofvengeance/

[usr 3]