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Halloween Monday Movie Marathon and Beer: Hillside Cannibals and Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

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I am disappointed to end this day on a low note, but that’s how it is. I am not a huge fan of Dogfish Head, but I decided I’d give them one more shot, in the spirit of the season. The problem isn’t so much with the brewery as it is with brown ales. I don’t like brown ales. I don’t like brown ales when they’re wearing the mask of pumpkin seasoning either. If you like Dogfish Head ales, you’ll probably like this. Me? Not so much.

 

And, on top of that, I didn’t really enjoy Hillside Cannibals either. It was a mean spirited little flick that didn’t do much in the way of scaring or anything else. It didn’t try and get you to care about the few characters it didn’t murder straight off the bat and it didn’t really invest much time in the villains either.

I spent a large amount of time flipping through things on my phone while pointless, meaningless violence played out on the screen. The few times I decided to pay attention, I discovered that the people in charge of making sure the plot made sense were on vacation.

Assuming you had a character hellbent on dispensing vengeance and he knew what he was in for; would you equip him with one hand gun and a machete? In his shoes, I’d pack a goddamn arsenal and I sure as hell wouldn’t let myself get caught in five minutes and dispatched just as quickly!

It was the most polished, well put together and best acted movie I’ve seen all day and it was, without a doubt, the worst. It could not follow through on its basic premise, could not deliver on the savagery it implied and it was not scary. It was not horror.

All in all, I’d say there must be chart that describes the failure of a budget to deliver on a movie’s premise. The higher the budget, the greater the disappointment and the angrier I am.

Stay away from these middle of the road flick. Go lower or go higher, but never stray too close to the middle of the road.

This is -D-, concluding his great Monday Halloween Movie Marathon and still ready and rarin’ to go for October 31st.

Boo.

-D-

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Monday Halloween Movie Marathon and Beer: Alice in Murderland and Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin

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Like before, let’s start off with my review of the beer, Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin. I smell cinnamon.  I taste cinnamon.  This is a cinnamon beer. There’s not much in the way of pumpkins here. I’m not sure what cinnamon has to do with pumpkins aside from pumpin pie, but, at least in the eyes of brewers, pumpkin flavor has become irrevocably linked with cinnamon. This is not as watery as some other beers that rely so heavily on cinnamon and is a pretty solid beer through and through. It’s just disappointing that they rely so heavily on a spice that is only tangentially related to pumpkins.

Alice in Murderland is a movie I started off hating and ended up liking because of its plucky charm. It’s one of those low budget horror movies that relies heavily on treading that fine line between black comedy and horror. It tries to be funny and it tries to be sca2ry and, in all honesty, it doesn’t do either one very well. It’s not scary or gorey enough to count as horror. The kill scenes are lackluster and most everything happens off camera. And it’s just not that funny, though there are moments that are humorous.

There are a few moments where the acting rises above what it should; Malerie Grady, Kelly Kula and Heath Butler all manage to make the most of it and the ending was what it was because Miss Grady just went balls to the walls crazy with her laughter. Kula brought home some truly intense moments of sadism and Butler was poignantly ditzy and actually provoked an emotion in me beyond wry cynicism.  Those three managed to bring enough to the table to ensure that I wouldn’t just write off Murderland.

Also, what event is Alice in Murderland supposed to be based on? I don’t really want to research it. Someone just tell me.

The beer and the movie were perfectly matched here. It’s time for our third and final filmbrew.

I can’t wait.

-D-

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Halloween Monday Movie Marathon and Beer: Cryptic Plasm and Imperial Pumking

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First, let’s talk about the Imperial Pumking, before we jump into the movie. Pumking is one of my favorite pumpkin ales, a fact I forgot before I opened the bottle. I has a strong pumpkin flavors and does not rely so heavily on cinnamon flavoring as other pumpkin ales do. In fact, I would be hard pressed to identify any cinnamon flavoring at all in this beer. There are far less spices utilized and it relies far more on single, strong flavor notes.

There is a very nutty flavor and aroma, with a very crisp and clear bitter bite as its finish. All in all, this is one of my favorite pumpkin ales and I’m glad I remembered that.

Five…pumpkins…or something.

Onto the movie!

Morbid Vision Films is a local film company that specializes in exceedingly gory horror films. In fact, right on the back of the box it states that no CGI was used in the making of the movie, a hallmark that I wish big budget horror films would use as well. There is nothing that shakes you free of an illusion than noticeable CGI. Do as many effects as possible practically and you will get away with far more.

Crytpic Plasm (which, technically, has not been released yet. The copy I have is a pre-release) follows two guys as they film weird and unusual happenstances in Massachusetts/New England. There are lake monsters, exorcisms, dimensional rifts and more. And there is a lot of blood. More blood than in Kill Bill. There is broad swathes of blood everywhere in this movie and it is in such impressive quantities that I became concerned that they had sapped the fake blood resources of North America.

Instead of focusing on a single mystery, they go out of their way to throw their intrepid crytpozoologist filmmakers into numerous situations before things really take a turn for the worst. There are hair, teeth and eyeballs flying everywhere and I’d have to say that I haven’t seen better low budget special effects in a long time.

Also, on another note, the acting in Morbid Vision Films movies tends to be of higher quality than other studios. It’s not winning any Oscars, but they’re more believable and less obvious than a lot of other indie horror flicks I’ve watched in the past. On the whole, they’re a pretty well rounded group of filmmakers.

Their movies, the few I’ve seen, are reminiscent of Fulci movies; extremely over the top and to the walls extreme with the amount of gore they feature. While Cryptic Plasm is a little more staid and restrained than their more extreme creation (Banned in Germany!), it does not fail to deliver.

If you’re a fan of low budget horror, check this one out, if only for the effects. You won’t be disappointed.

Stay tuned for more of the Halloween Monday Movie Marathon! And, of course, beer.

-D-

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Movie Review: V/H/S/2

V/H/S was an interesting, albeit flawed, horror movie anthology. It featured six short films, all of which were found footage with an overarching frame. There were one or two strong entries, but, for the most part, they were average horror stories that didn’t really make full use of the found footage genre.

Still, I have a soft spot for found footage. But, like all horror, it must abide by very specific rules in order to be scary. Found footage is about convincing the audience that what they’re seeing is real. It’s not a slasher film or a monster movie, it’s something that really happened and we somehow stumbled across this missing tape. To that end, any found footage horror film must follow these rules:

1. No big name actors or people you’d recognize. It pulls you out of the narrative the very moment you see Robert Englund or Kane Hodder onscreen

2. No digital effects. Unless it’s used in a very minor way to enhance a practical effect, digital effects are immediately obvious. No matter how good they are, no matter how real they appear to be, you still say to yourself, “Oh, that’s some cool CGI.” and it’s ruined.

3. The more supernatural or sci-fi or unrealistic the plot is, the harder it will be to keep the audience invested in the idea that the movie really took place in our world and we’re just viewing a dark and strange corner of it. That’s not to say that they must avoid the supernatural at all costs, just that it’s harder to pull off.

With all of this said, they’re just about to release the sequel to V/H/S, creatively titled V/H/S/2. Let’s see how it fairs by my draconian rules.

Like in the first movie, there is a framing story. Two private detectives are on trying to track down a missing college student. They break into his house and come across a familiar set-up for anyone who has seen the first movie.

TVs

 

When breaking and entering into someone’s house and confronted with dozens of TVs that were on when you arrived, there is really only one thing that you can do….

InfrontofTVYou start watching the tapes.

Instead of the six shorter vignettes that were in the first V/H/S, the sequel only features four stories this time, which is a shame. I preferred the shorter, quicker films of the original film. No matter. Away we go.

Tape 1

Our protagonist has had his damaged eye replaced with a bad-ass looking cybernetic eye that works just as well as any other eye, but the doctor warns that there may be…glitches (ominous foreshadowing). Everything that the character sees will be recorded. What’s odd is that his eye also records sound which…doesn’t make a lot of sense. Possibly there’s an upgrade package for cybernetic eyeballs that lets them capture sound as well.

CameraEyeAfter seeing a couple of bloody people roaming around his apartment he freaks out, meets someone with similar problems and all hell breaks loose in rather rapid fashion. All told, it’s nothing special, but still entertaining. A couple of jump scares, twitchy acting and some gruesome scenes and then it’s all over. All told, this ranked dead middle for me out of the four shorts.

It did win a lot of points by not pandering too much to the audience. Through some context clues, you realize why the guy is being haunted. It’s not extremely subtle, but they never once say it out loud, which is impressive in this day and age where every motivation apparently needs to be loudly explained with a couple of exclamation points to boot.

Tape 2

This one, this was my favorite one. It’s about zombies, which made me groan and nearly turn it off, but then it turns into a zombie movie that I had never seen before.

It’s a zombie movie from the point of view of the zombie.

It’s one of the few entries that could only have been done effectively as found footage and makes good use of the genre. Tere’s not much else to say about it since the concept really says it all.

Great, bloody, gory and my favorite out of all the shorts in V/H/S or V/H/S/2.

Tape 3

Right after the cozy little nastiness that was Tape 2, we hit the worst of the four. This one breaks pretty much all of the rules I laid out, except for the first one. It’s about a cult in Indonesia that’s being investigated by some young people with cameras.

And there are subtitles. In a found footage movie, there are subtitles. While these can be explained away, it stills pulled me right out the narrative and wrecked any chance of me immersing myself in the thing.

There is also some pretty bad and obvious CGI. It’s not even always good CGI. Even if this had just been run as a regular old horror movie, it wouldn’t have been very scary and was wracked with spooky cult cliches.

Except for this guy:

CreepiestDudeEverThis guy creeped me right the fuck out.

Tape 4

While their parents are out of town, a brother and sister prank each other mercilessly while recording the results and then they’re attacked by….somethings.

This one, like the first, is average. There are some creepy moments and great visuals. There is CGI, but it’s better done than in the third video. It’s very frantic and hectic and blazes through.

In a lot of ways, I think it most accurately reflects what it would be like to suffer this kind of attack. It was pure chaos, lights and sounds flashing and blaring out in a confusing cacophony. It’s good, basic horror except there’s a crying dog throughout most of it and I don’t like dogs being hurt, so I was just sad instead of scared.

F–

Summary

All in all, I think V/H/S/2 suffers by having fewer shorts than its predecessor. V/H/S had one or two clunkers, but, for the most part, it was pretty entertaining and if you didn’t enjoy one short, it would be over soon. V/H/S/2, on the other hand, limits itself. The Cult Story just never seemed to end and went on interminably merely because I wasn’t digging the story. By the time it had ended, I had checked out mentally. More films and shorter films, I think, is the way to go with this style of filmmaking.

In the end, V/H/S/2 was a disappointing follow-up. I wanted more variety and more stories and more chances to delve into a subgenre I love.

I give it Two Tracking Errors, One Rewind Snarl and A Betamax.

V/H/S/2 comes out in theaters on July 12, but is available for rental now through various providers, like Amazon.

-D-

 

 

 

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Movie Review: Evil Dead (Remake)

Last night, I went to see the Evil Dead remake and I was less than impressed.

For those that don’t know, the original The Evil Dead is a horror cult classic that exists in its own realm of awesome. It is a frantic, kinetic, slapstick gore-tastic explosion of excess. The sequels that followed are less innovative, but far more fun and added more to the sub-layers of pop culture than the first. The first was a horror movie that was as much informed by the Three Stooges as it was by George Romero and drive-in horror flicks.

The remake was, in a lot of ways, going to fail before it even got out of the gate. You cannot, absolutely cannot, remake the magic that makes a cult movie a cult movie. And nor do you want to. A cult movie is popular with only a small portion of the movie-going audience, hence the name. The studio is not going to go out of their way to try and please a very cranky, persnickety cluster of fans.

So the remake was far less frantic, more reserved and more by-the-numbers, more tailored for the average Friday night ticket holder. It followed closely along in the footsteps of the original movie and every “cabin in the woods” formula movie that followed.

But the more I thought about it, the more I began to consider the idea that the remake was, in a sly way, tapping into the same ideas that the first The Evil Dead did. It was violent. Ridiculously so. Almost Black Knight violent. It even made me wince once or thrice. Much in the way the first The Evil Dead reveled in the gooshy red stuff, the remake over-indulged as well, but catered to an audience that has been emotionally stunted on a steady diet of Saw and Hostel movies.

And as it progressed, Evil Dead became steadily more over the top and more absurd. At the time, when I saw duct tape routinely used as the cure-all for injuries, including, but not limited to, a severed arm, I thought that there was a very desperate or very ignorant screenwriter at play. But now, in retrospect, I think there were just screenwriters at play, trying to tread a very careful line between the goofy, over-the-top slapstick violence of every horror movie from the 80’s and the grim, ultra real, ultra gritty torture horror that has come to, disturbingly, dominate the market in the last ten years.

I hesitate to call Evil Dead a good movie, but I am willing to give it more credit than I initially gave it. If you’re a fan of the original or of 80’s horror in general (Hello Re-Aimator fans), give it a spin, keep an open mind and see it as an amalgam of the now and then.

I give it one, over-amorous tree.

-D-

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Tension

Since today was my day off from my job-that-pays-me-money, I decided to do some research for my job-that-is-more-fun-but-way-less-lucrative. I watched four horror movies, most of them slightly-above-average. However, when I got to Insidious, I began to get angry.

There’s a difference between bad horror movies and horror done badly. Bad horror movies acknowledge that they’re never going to be art and go, instead, for cheap thrills and black cat jump scares (“What’s that noise?” “Oh my Jesus! The cat jumped at me.”). That’s fine. They’re like roller coasters or junk food.

But horror done badly is maddening. Good horror is about tension and release. The creator ratchets the tension, notch by notch until you can’t stand it anymore. You’re on the edge of your seat, wondering what’s going to happen next. Then BAM, the creator delivers a blow and you ump in your seat and you’re good and proper scared and the tension is released. A good horror movie starts slow and then doesn’t stop or let up. It  should be relentless.

So when I see a horror movie, like Insidious, ratchet up that tension with excellent visuals and then blow it on a cheap laugh on two-bit comedy relief, I get angry. It already didn’t have a lot going for it. The script was terrible. The plot was derivative. It was Poltergeist, but badly made. But it had creepy, effective visuals. And that can save a horror movie, if the director knows what to do with that tension.

And it’s NOT blow it on two gag characters! You had it, in your hands and you threw it away for a LAUGH.

I’d rather watch a dozen cheap slasher flicks than one atmospheric, decently-made film that backs down from being truly scary.

-D-

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