Under the ShadowThe Iran-Iraq War was an interminable sequence of horrors, largely unseen by the West and then quickly overshadowed by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Gulf War. The conflict stretched from 1980-88 and featured some of the most brutal warfare since the First World War including child soldiers, chemical weapons, trench fighting, human wave offensives, and wide-scale civilian bombing. To set a fantastical horror movie within the horribleness of this conflict would seem to risk trivializing the tragedy, but the eloquent, understated film Under the Shadow amplifies the terrors of the war and the all too real consequences for the populace. Read the rest of this entry »

img_0348The last couple of trips to the virtual drive-in have been pretty rough. The movies weren’t good; they weren’t drive-in good; hell, they weren’t even so bad, they’re good. They were just bad. The kind of bad that makes you wonder if you’re spending too much time watching movies and not enough time exercising or reading or talking to your family or engaging in some other bizarre behavior. Thank goodness then for Initiation, a little exploitation diamond in a rough patch of mediocrity.

This flick is just damn good drive-in. And what do we mean by that? The finest pieces of exploitation film make you feel just a little bit bad for even wanting to watch them. They tap into the primal, the urges we were meant to have put behind us, but still lurk just below the surface veneer of civility. Lurid is the perfect adjective to describe a good drive-in movie: gruesome, sensational, and unrestrained. Read the rest of this entry »

make.phpThe state of American movies can best be summarized by the old Borscht Belt joke employed by Woody Allen in Annie Hall as his metaphor for life. Two old women are suffering through a miserable meal at a restaurant. One says to the other, “This food is terrible!” And the other says, “Yes, and such small portions.” In 2016, American movies are terrible – and there are way too few of them.

There are a handful of reasons – some obvious, others not. Hollywood has become obsessed with gross over profit. Prestige is now measured almost strictly in box office grosses. Studios focus narrowly on numbers, particularly those generated in the opening weekend. The business model behind this approach is that individual movies are of far less importance than properties than lead to franchises that provide the opportunities for additional products. If you watch certain films as simply two-hour commercials of the type that generally run during Saturday morning children’s programming, they make a great deal more sense. The aim of the movie is motivate you to buy something: tickets to another movie, admission to a theme park, a comic book, an action figure. And when I say you, I don’t mean you. I mean the 10-year old kid sitting in front of you. Read the rest of this entry »

ThirstFirst things first – Thirst is a lousy name for this movie. It’s a pretty bad one for almost any movie at this point, considering how many times it’s been used in the last 40 years as a film title. On almost every occasion, the movie in question has been about vampires. That’s not the case here. This Thirst is about an alien that arrives on earth hungry. Yeah, apparently Hunger as a title might have given too much away.

And that beautifully illustrates the core problem for this movie – it’s lazy, sloppy work. The inspiration likely came from the mind of a nine-year-old boy who spent his school days drawing fantastical creatures in his spiral notebook and his nights watching Alien, Predator, and Terminator movies. The monster in Thirst is a B movie classic – with a lizard body, an alien mandible, predator dental work, a terminator metal skeleton, and an anus in the middle of its chest. Nice work, kid.

Unfortunately, that same nine-year-old apparently wrote the screenplay. How else to explain that the character among the group of eight wandering the Utah backcountry who is given the most backstory is among the first killed? Or that no proper motivation can be given for the group going further away from civilization after a dead body is found? Or that the most annoying among the many annoying characters sticks around until almost the end? Read the rest of this entry »

MV5BMjA4MDA4NzAzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTQ3MTA1OTE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,740_AL_Horror is a forgiving genre. Fans do not expect perfection; they generally do not nitpick to excess. They are adept at overlooking minor flaws such as bad acting, lack of logic, and narratives that take a sudden 90-degree turn at the end out of sheer desperation. All they ask is is to keep the pace up, keep the scares coming, and when in doubt, at least keep it weird. The one filmmaking error that cannot be forgiven in horror is when the movie is just flat-out boring. Read the rest of this entry »

Money Money MoneyThe oft-cited smart ass definition of insanity is the act of doing the exact same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Week in, week out during the summer of 2016, we have seen a vivid illustration of textbook corporate insanity, courtesy of the Hollywood studios. With metronome frequency, a new release  – new being relative as it is most often the case a sequel or reboot – comes out on Friday (Thursday night, actually). It plays wide, underperforms at the box office, is ravaged by critics not on the payroll or motivated to see their name in blurbs, falls off a cliff in its second week in the theaters, and then is forgotten.

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Train to BusanRap versus rock. The designated hitter or pitchers batting. And, of course, the most contentious of arguments pitting fans of a classic approach against a band of upstarts: slow-moving zombies or their quick-footed brethren.

These are the unresolvable debates of our time. And while the Korean horror action flick Train to Busan (aka Busanhaeng) will not end the vitriol, advocates for a more fleet flock of undead have received a major boost from writer/director Yeon Sang-ho. In his first live-action feature film, Yeon has crafted a thrilling ride through a society sliding into the zombie apocalypse, utilizing a passenger train as his literal and metaphorical vehicle. Read the rest of this entry »