The Eyes of My MotherEvery year, we invariably hear of one or more movies that “redefine” or “reinvent” the horror genre. Most times, careful viewings of the films in question reveal a slick repackaging of familiar conventions. Often, the redefining is a twist on a twist; the reinvention is a reversal of expectations. Horror fans take these slight alterations in style in stride, noting the degree of success by the extent of the imitations they spawn. The new becomes the old within a relatively short period of time, and the genre is reset. Read the rest of this entry »

braqueursThe Crew (aka Braqueurs) is a phenomenon – an 80-minute, pure adrenaline, perfectly crafted exercise in action filmmaking. Writer/director Julien Leclercq has assembled a dragster built for speed and stripped of anything that would weigh the story down for even one beat. This movie is mandatory viewing for all would-be genre directors. Scratch that. The Crew should be studied in film schools or shown to anyone interested in a pure economy of storytelling. Of course, not every film should be be built according to these specifications, but given that too many movies are simply too damn long, Leclercq beautifully demonstrates the art of the possible. Read the rest of this entry »

The Greasy StranglerHow you feel about The Greasy Strangler coming out of the theater will be directly related to how you were feeling going into the theater. In other words, the more altered your perception of reality, the more likely you are to spend the 93 minutes giggling and gagging, while enjoying yourself immensely. The designated drivers among you will not be having the same experience. In the spirit of full disclosure, when seen at a 6:30 screening by a stone cold sober critic, The Greasy Strangler still provoked some laughter and absolutely no ill will. Read the rest of this entry »

The Disappointments RoomYes, I suppose we need to get the obligatory pun on the title of this awful movie out of the way.

Q: What’s a disappointments room? A: Any theater showing this mess of a would-be horror film.

While we can acknowledge the guts, foolhardiness, or disregard surrounding the decision to title a film The Disappointments Room, nothing else in the endeavor merits recognition, beyond the scope of the disaster and a vague desire for answers to inexplicable questions surrounding this production. Simply put, The Disappointments Room is one of the worst major releases (1554 screens) of 2016. How bad is it? After the first weekend, Rotten Tomatoes had a reading of 0% on its Tomatometer for this movie, meaning that even the hack critics who live to see their name in blurbs did not have the balls to give this a thumbs up. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »