Archive | November, 2012

Meatball Machine – Review

30 Nov

I gotta say, Japan is a pretty eccentric place, and I mean that in the best way possible. I know that they have very dramatic and artistic cinematic pieces, but what I’m going to be talking about today is something totally different. I’m talking about Meatball Machine, a film that’s in the same league as the outlandish Tokyo Gore Police. It’s gory, violent, hysterical, strangle romantic, and truly bizarre. That goes without saying, but is it any good?

Freakish and murderous creatures have begun popping up through all of Japan without any rhyme or reason. Some theories say space, but no one is sure. All that is known is that these parasites infect humans and turn their bodies into tools have war to not kill other humans, but other creatures. Yoji (Issei Takahashi) witnesses this first hand after the girl he is enamored with (Aoba Kawai) is infected. Yoji soon learns that the only way to save her is to put her out of her misery, but how?

I don’t even know where to begin. People may criticize this movie all they want, but you have to admit that it sure packs a wallop of imagination in its story and its presentation. The creature effects were designed by Yoshihiro Nishimura, who actually directed Tokyo Gore Police and some other movies whose reviews are to come! While the story is pretty cool, the effects are what steal the show. They look low budget and cheap at times, but they are! Nishimura still did an excellent job with what was available.


The thing with this movie is that it felt like it wouldn’t end. This movie isn’t even long, only 92 minutes. The climactic showdown starts off pretty bland, stays bland, then all of the sudden explodes into bloody awesome over the top goodness. I just felt like I had to wait so long to get there. There’s a point in the movie where all of the cool stuff has happened, and all we really want to see is the resolution. This is the weakest part of the movie, and the film makers should have pushed things along.

Everything else is still pretty solid as far as something as ludicrous as this goes. The acting was ok, and the writing was even well done. I feel like I don’t really have too much to say about this movie, which could be a bad thing, but I don’t really think it is. It’s just not really a movie to sit down and nit pick or compliment. It’s a movie to watch when you’re in that weird kind of mood, where a normal narrative with normal situations just won’t suffice.


I can’t say that Meatball Machine is a good movie, but I can’t say that it’s a bad movie either. As far as Japanese “splatter” movies go it’s not my favorite, but I can still appreciate it for what it is: an imaginative blood bath into mayhem. I said before, you have to be in a certain mood to watch this movie for it to really be enjoyable. Just have an open mind, know what you’re getting into, and brace yourselves for bloody silliness.

Closer – Review

28 Nov

I love the feeling when the credits of a movie begin to roll and I feel like I just got the shit kicked out of me. That may sound weird, but it’s evidence that the movie achieved some sort of strong emotional response. That’s how I felt at the end of Closer, a brutal war of words and deception among four lovers, where love is often absent and lust is the puppet master.

After helping the eccentric Alice (Natalie Portman) after getting hit by a car, obituary writer, Dan (Jude Law), becomes romantically involved with her. Everything seems to be fine once his true lustful nature is revealed when he meets a photographer named Anna (Julia Roberts). She denies Dan at first and meets another sexually frustrated individual, dermatologist Larry (Clive Owen). Soon, the lives of these lovers intersect through their lies and deceitful acts of love and hate.

This is a dirty tango of words with dialogue that aims to stab the characters through their hearts. I would argue that this isn’t a love story, but more so, a story of hate. Many times do the characters flip between love and hate, lust and disgust. This isn’t a “romance” movie you’d want to go on a first date to see.

Across the board, the performances in Closer are intense and feel legitimate. For me, Clive Owen and Julia Roberts are the real stars of the show, but this doesn’t mean that Natalie Portman and Jude Law shouldn’t get recognition. All I can say is that the scenes between Clive Own and Julia Roberts explode with passion and emotion that I haven’t seen much of recently.

What also adds to this passionate intensity is the expertly written dialogue written by Patrick Marber, who also wrote the stage play, and the fluid camera work and framing by master film maker Mike Nichols. One scene in particular is a beautiful long take through the apartment of two characters. It gives the scene a touch of realism and genuine life. It played so naturally that I didn’t notice at first. The dialogue is sensual, jagged, and rarely tender mixed together in a cauldron of unpredictability.

As an adult “love” story, you may not be able to find anything better than Closer. Well, maybe you can, but this might just turn out to be my favorite romance, if you can call it that. It’ filled with human drama and surprising emotional conflicts that keep the viewer guessing where the plot is going to go. If you can get you hands on this movie, I highly suggest you check it out.

Dario Argento’s “Three Mothers” Trilogy (Suspiria, Inferno, and Mother of Tears) – Review

27 Nov

Anyone who loves the ins and outs of horror knows and respects the name Dario Argento. As a director, he helped redefine the horror genre and made great contributions to the Italian style of giallo with famous movies filled with infamous scenes. His films are gory, gothic, and absurdly colorful, giving his style a visual trademark that isn’t soon forgotten. He may be best known for his 1977 film Suspiria, which I was going to review, but I got to thinking that I should review the whole Three Mothers trilogy, all of which are tied together through themes of black magic and covens.

Let’s start with Argento’s masterpiece, Suspiria.

Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper) has arrived in Germany to study ballet at a prestigious academy in Freiburg. Almost immediately, Suzy encounters several strange, almost surreal, occurrences that makes her begin questioning what is really going on with this school. With the help of her friend Sarah (Stefania Casini), she starts to explore the maze and unravel the mysteries of the academy which sends her face to face with the occult, a dangerous coven of witches, and their malevolent master, Mater Suspiriorum.

Suspiria is a psychedelic trip down a horrific rabbit hole that exists to disorient and confuse. The first thing anyone will notice is the brilliant cinematography which utilizes colors like I’ve never seen before. Hallways are splashed red and blue which mesh wonderfully into purple. This is just one example. Every color is brightly used and covers every corner of the darkened academy. It’s beautiful, yet in context, bizarrely unsettling.

The insane beauty doesn’t stop with the cinematography. The soundtrack provided by the band Goblin is unlike anything I’ve heard before and the camera movement is what makes everything so disorienting with strange low/high angles, the use of negative space, and camera tracking through the labyrinthine corridors. Mixing the soundtrack and the camerawork together is a perfect mixture for memorable art house horror.

The only detraction I can think of for this movie is the acting. It’s piss poor. One reason I could think of is that a lot of the film is dubbed because of the Italian actors. If not that, then the only reason I can think of is bad acting combined with not too great acting direction on Argento’s part. I could see how he would be so into the framing and cinematography that the acting would be a second thought.

Suspiria is easily one of the best horror movies ever made. It’s artistic approach in both sound and visuals, combined with the shameless gore makes this a horror movie for the ages. Plus, the opening scene is famous as being one of the scariest scenes in film. I recommend Suspiria for anyone and everyone. It’s unbelievable.

In 1980, Dario Argento released a thematic sequel, Inferno.

A mysterious book instigates Rose (Irene Miracle) to begin investigating her building for evidence of a witch. She enlists the help of her brother, Mark (Leigh McCloskey), in Rome. At first, Mark is skeptical of the entire situation, but once he arrives in New York City, he begins to see this evidence of the witch Mater Tenebrarum, and also witnesses terrible murders and supernatural occurrences that pushes him to defeat this evil.

Suspiria is a tough act to follow, and to compare it with this film, Inferno feels pretty weak. While the story in Suspiria isn’t extremely solid, the plot of Inferno feels almost nonexistent. The working title could have been called People Run Through Colorful Halls A Lot. That sums up a great amount of time spent in this movie. I didn’t feel like the characters had too much of a goal up until the very end of the story. Having a plot that exists to confuse is good for certain genres, and this isn’t one of them. Leave the disorientation to the cinematography and camera angles, not the plot. It left me confused and a little aggravated.

Still, I can’t complain about this movie too much since it kept the same psychedelic atmosphere as the first film, and it does have memorable moments. One excellent example is showing a killer in the reflection of a broken door knob. It conceals the identity and distorts the image and is the most clever shot in the entire film. The colors once again mesh fantastically although it may have lost some of its effect after seeing it all before in Suspiria. It was still a very nice touch.

And of course, how could I forget about the horror and the typical Argento gore. While the scares may be a little underwhelming, they are still prevalent. Two things come to mind which I don’t really want to ruin: a makeshift guillotine and an awesome “transformation” scene that can be credited to Italian horror master Mario Bava.

So, while Inferno may not achieve the thrills put forth by Suspiria, it is still an above average horror movie that seems to sneak its way onto “Best Horror Movie” lists, and as it should. Compared with the drivel that passes for horror now, this is a masterful work of sight and sound (the soundtrack may even top Goblin’s work).

Finally, in 2007, Dario Argento released the last film of the Three Mothers trilogy, The Mother of Tears.

After a mysterious coffin is unearthed with a box-shaped urn chained to it, the find is immediately sent to the Museum of Ancient Art in Rome. Once the urn is tampered with, a legion of demons led by Mater Lachrymarum (Moran Atias) are released upon the world. These evil creatures begin possessing the citizens of Rome, driving them to commit horrible crimes or go insane. After soon realizing a power that has been hidden for her whole life, art student Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento) discovers that she is the one the world needs to stop the final and most evil Mother, and save the world from its demonic apocalypse.

The first thing the viewer may notice is its lack of visual flair. Yes, it’s true. The colors that heightened the atmosphere of Suspiria and Inferno are nowhere to be seen. Instead, and what is a big improvement over Inferno, we get a coherent story! Yay! Also, the gothic architecture is still there and looks as menacing as ever, especially the Mother’s lair. It’s beautiful set design, and one of the best parts of the entire movie.

Look at the picture above. Ew right? Needless to say, the gore/violence is amped up to an obscene degree that even made me cringe. Unfortunately, I’ve only seen the R-rated version, but I’ve read about the NC-17 version, and holy shit, it sounds crazy. Granted, it’s only about a minute of footage, but it sounds like its pretty hardcore. While the gratuitous gore was a dark joy to behold, the gratuitous nudity got to be a bit much. I’m not a stuck up guy who is against nudity in film. I don’t give a shit, but when there’s more than need be it gets to be kind of annoying. Kind of like Argento was like “LOOK BOOBS!” There was even a shower scene with Dario’s daughter, Asia. Hopefully a second unit crew dealt with that scene.

Finally, I’d like to touch on a few minor complaints. For one, the effects were a little lackluster. I’ve said before, small budget movies aren’t a bad thing, but you have to understand your limits. Some scenes with the goal to visually impress fell on their faces at times. Another problem, as with the entire trilogy, is the acting. Save for one small character, the acting is never really bad. Asia Argento is pretty stale, but shines at some moments. Unfortunately, she’s on screen for most of the movie and about 55% she’s a cardboard box. Pretty though. Very pretty.

Mother of Tears may not have the same artistic quality as Suspiria and Inferno, but it does push the story a lot better. In some ways it is superior than the previous two, but it’s mostly the weakest film in the trilogy. If you’re a fan of Argento and gore, then you should still check out this movie. It gets an undeservedly bad wrap. It’s pretty good.

There you have it, Dario Argento’s Three Mothers trilogy. It’s weird, psychedelic, brutal, and most importantly, different. They aren’t like any horror movies you’ve ever seen before. It’s guaranteed entertainment and if you can get past some bad acting, then you’re in for a great time.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Review

23 Nov

What can be said about Steven Spielberg? He has this way with movies that can only be described as “immensely imaginative.” You always know when you’re watching one of his movies just by the grand scope matched only by equally memorable characters. Close Encounters of the Third Kind was Spielberg’s second blockbuster after the mega hit Jaws, and further solidified Spielberg’s career.


The movie mysteriously begins with a team of investigators finding the planes from Flight 19 which was lost over the Bermuda Triangle in 1944. These investigators, led by Claude Lacombe (Fransçois Truffaut), begin piecing together that extraterrestrial involvement is highly likely and start a process of deciphering their messages in hopes of more advanced communication. The other story involves suburban father and line worker, Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), who becomes obsessed with discovering the alien’s secrets after a chance encounter with their ships one late night.

Any nerd or film buff will tell you that this is one of the best science fiction films ever to be made. After the massive amount of alien invasion movies of the 1950s and 1960s, it was probably nice to see a new kind of alien film where the visitors aren’t seeking global invasion, but more interested in scientific curiosity. It also tells a more human story. One where the world isn’t able to fully comprehend what’s happening without going into a state of panic and military control.


Speaking of human, Richard Dreyfuss gives a stand out performance. Spielberg said that he wanted someone in touch with the kid inside them, and there isn’t a bigger kid than Dreyfuss. His childlike excitement and fascination with the UFOs is a marvel to watch. Never is he really scared, just confused and excited. François Truffaut also deserves a lot of credit for breaking his language barrier and learning some English for his part. When these two interact together, although it is only a few times, it is natural and sincere.

This is also a beautiful movie with special effects done by Douglas Trumbull, who previously worked with Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Trumbull truly outdoes himself with a grand scale finale featuring multiple UFOs and one enormous mothership that is a colorful light show of red and blue, coupled with John Williams’ musical score. It is a scene not easily forgotten and one of the most iconic scenes in film history as the ship slowly rises above Devil’s Tower.


Spielberg has crafted a fantastic picture with themes of science, religion, peace, and government cover ups that he has revisited to improve many times. It answers the age old question and shows that we are not alone. I found it easy to compare this movie to E.T., a movie that I have always disliked. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the far superior film with adult content that never loses its grasp on childlike awe. Forget phoning home, and instead enter the ship for intergalactic drama.

Geisha VS Ninjas – Review

22 Nov

Japanese B-movies always seem to grab my attention when I’m browsing a DVD store. Normally they’re entertaining as hell with over the top scenes that make me laugh myself stupid. With a name like Geisha VS Ninjas, how could I possibly pass this movie up? Unfortunately for me, this movie is a derivative and cheap excuse for an action/martial arts film that has almost no story at all and fights scenes which you have seen the like of before, but done so much better.


Kotomi (Minami Tsukui) is probably the second most deadly geisha to ever live (RoboGeisha still ranks number one). On a mission to avenge her father’s death, she tracks down the killer, a samurai Katagiri Hyo-e (Shigeru Kanai). Of course, killing him isn’t as easy as it would seem. She must get through all of the warriors that stand in between her and the samurai, each warrior showing an increasing amount of skill.

Watching this movie is like watching your friend play the bosses of a hack and slash video game. Hell, I wished that I was playing a video game instead of just watching a movie play out like one. If I was asked what the movie was about in a more casual way than this review, I’d probably just say that a geisha has to fight a bunch of people. That’s pretty much all the movie is with some footage of her walking around the forest. There’s no suspense, no intensity, and really no payoff.


I don’t mind if a movie is made on a very small budget, but if you have these budget constraints, you have to think about what kind of movie you are trying to make. Low budget dramas and horror films work out just fine for me normally, as long as there’s a backbone to support it. Low budget action films are more difficult (although films like El Mariachi shows that it can be done), especially if its a costume piece at the same time. I will say that some of the costumes look really nice. The geisha looks like a geisha and the samurai looks like a samurai. The actual photography of the film is distractingly bad. It looks like a movie that was shot on the director’s own personal camera.  Maybe if the story was better, I wouldn’t be so critical of the camera work.

While the camerawork and image quality may look cheap, I will say some of the cinematography looks really nice, especially in the beginning and the end. When the action gets really dramatic during the climax, the scene almost becomes theatrical with hard light blocking off the background and really focusing on the action. It actually makes that scene stick out and easy to appreciate. That’s about all you can appreciate.


As I’ve said, this movie is a sorry excuse for a martial arts movie. While it does show some respect to the classic martial arts films of the 70s and the modern masterpieces like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it made me feel like I’d rather be doing anything else. Luckily, this movie is only 79 minutes long, so the torturous boredom didn’t have to last too long. Even if you love martial arts, samurai, and wuxia films, Geisha VS Ninjas is a weak attempt at storytelling that is better off being ignored.

Final Destination Franchise – Series Review Part 2

21 Nov

Just as a recap, my previous review said that the original Final Destination was a very good modern horror film, only to be topped by Final Destination 2. Unfortunately, Final Destination 3 was a bit of a disappointment, but still not horrible. It just didn’t need to be made. Well, if the third film served no purpose, what do you think I’m going to have to say about the the fourth entry released in 2009, The Final Destination?

While at a racetrack, Nick (Bobby Campo) has a premonition of a pile up that will ultimately cause the destruction of most of the stadium leading to the deaths of him, his friends, and many other people. He gets a group of people out alive, but, as we all know, that doesn’t mean Death is satisfied. As the people who survived begin dying, Nick begins to figure out the loopholes in Death’s plan.

I could realistically make this my shortest review. All I have to say is: The Final Destination made Final Destination 3 look like a masterpiece of modern cinema. But, I’ll tell you why. First of all, I owe you all an apology for lying in my last review. I said that the characters in the third film were some of the stupidest people in horror. The characters in this entry take the cake. The whole entire cake. Not only are they stupid, they’re obnoxious. It’s hard to care when they die because I genuinely have no interest. The were terrible.

Let’s just go down the list of all the atrocities of this movie. The 3D was so gimmicky and lame that I really hope to God that David R. Ellis was joking. He was the director for Final Destination 2, so I had so much hope. The plot holes in this move could possibly envelop the Earth. In one scene a character says, “If we save someone, then Death will just come back for them.” Not 15 minutes later the same character says, “If we save someone then maybe we’ll all be safe.” Wow. Need I say more? Finally, the deaths/gore. Not only were the deaths the weakest and least suspenseful of the series, the gore also looked so bad it wasn’t even funny. Of course, it was all digitized and thereby robbing the film of any grittiness. Since when are horror movies supposed to be so polished? Were we not supposed to notice? Oh, the questions I would ask these film makers.

Not only is The Final Destination a bad entry in this series, it’s a bad film in general. Even if you love this series, don’t watch this one. You’ll be bored out of your mind, be pissed off at the braindead characters, and not even get rewarded with cool deaths. It’s a rotten piece of trash posing for a horror movie.

I had no hope for Final Destination 5. Before I put it on, I had to keep telling myself that nothing could be worse than the fourth film. I wouldn’t listen to myself. To my ever growing surprise, Final Destination 5 isn’t just better than The Final Destination, it’s also one of the best entries in the series.


Once again, after an unexpecting person, this time a chef named Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto), has a premonition of a bridge collapsing he is able to get a large group of his friends to safety. This wasn’t Death’s plan and is now systematically coming back and picking off the survivors in order. It is found out, however, that there is a solid way to cheat death, but involves a large sacrifice.

I will admit, this is the same movie that I have watched 4 other times already, but this one was actually the most entertaining one since Final Destination 2. Everything that was a problem in The Final Destination is fixed, and newer ideas are included in a solid attempt to keep the series at least a little fresh even though it doesn’t work all that well. On another plus note, Tony Todd is back and even has the biggest role he’s had in all of the movies of this series.


The deaths look so much better, in fact, the entire movie looks so much better. The special effects are improved in a large way, so when they do have to do some of the gore digitally, it doesn’t nearly look as bad. These good special effects also help with the opening disaster at the bridge, making it one of the best introductions of the whole series. It seems these introductions prey on fears like planes, roller coasters, car crashes and even bridges. Racetracks? Really? Just saying. The Final Destination sucked.

In summation, this movie is a lot better than its previous two predecessors and a pleasant return to form for the series. It may not be not the same level as the second film but it does surpass the first in terms of entertainment, making it one of the best of the entire series. I gotta say, that really surprised me. It was suspenseful, shocking, looked great, and even the acting was pretty good. I definitely recommend Final Destination 5.

So there you have, the entire Final Destination series has been reviewed. To close, I’d like to say that this is a very important series when it comes to modern horror, even if they aren’t all gems of film making. They are innovative and draw a large crowd whenever they are released. If they were to make a sixth entry, I actually wouldn’t be too opposed. Why not? There’s already five with pretty much the same story. These movies also say a lot about where the human race is culturally. We pay money to see strangers die in strange and brutal ways. I’m guilty of it, but it really makes you think…

Final Destination Franchise – Series Review

19 Nov

Everyone’s allowed to have their guilty pleasures, and one of mine just so happens to be the Final Destination movies. They’re short and waste no time giving the audience what they want: watching a group of people die in the most ridiculous of ways. Says a lot about our society doesn’t it? Are all of the movies in this series gems? No, of course not. But that’s not to say that these films haven’t made a mark on the history of horror. This is part 1 of 2 of my reviews. Let’s start in the year 2000 with Final Destination.


Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) and a group of his high school senior class mates are about to board Flight 108 to France as part of a school field trip. Before the plane takes off, Alex has a vision of the plane exploding in mid-air, killing everyone on board. He starts a panic on the plane having him, a small group of the students, and a teacher kicked off the plane. His vision comes true, but Death isn’t about to let these survivors ruin its plan. Soon the kids begin dying horrible deaths. Alex recruits the help of one of the survivors, Clear (Ali Larter), to help him unravel Death’s mysterious ways and possibly save his friends.

I feel like, automatically, one should think that this is a pretty interesting idea for a movie. It’s actually based on an idea that writer/director James Wong was working on for an episode of The X-Files, which he worked for for some years. Instead it became a feature length movie that is actually pretty damn good. Like I said before, and I’m open to arguments on this, I consider this to be a landmark horror film, especially in the history of modern horror and it has even garnered a spot on the respected list of 100 Scariest Movie Moments put together by Bravo.


Sure, sure this isn’t a perfect movie. The acting can either be a little stiff or a little overdone, but for the most part it’s acted pretty well, especially for a movie considered to be in what Roger Ebert calls the “dead teen” genre. Sean William Scott especially gives a really funny side performance. As for the deaths, they aren’t the best that this series has to offer, but it was a good starting point and the intro plane scene is intense and still leaves me a little breathless. Still, there are some parts in the middle that get a little talky and uninteresting leaving me just sitting there waiting for the next kill to happen.

All in all, Final Destination is a good horror movie that I’ve kept near and dear to my horror movie heart since I was a wee lad. It has a lot of suspenseful and exciting scenes and gave a much needed boost to the horror genre. There’s even an excellent cameo for horror star Tony Todd. If you haven’t seen it yet, give it a watch.

As we all know, a series was spawned from this hit movie, but what is a little surprising is that Final Destination 2, released in 2003, is one of those rare movies that can be put on the list of sequels that surpasses their predecessors.


Much like in the original Final Destination, a student, Kimberly (A.J. Cook), is traveling to her spring break vacation spot with her friends when she has a vision of a terrible highway accident that kills her, her friends, and many people on the road. After the vision, she blocks the highway, saving many people’s lives. But of course, Death doesn’t go down without a fight and begins “targeting” the survivors. Kimberly and police officer Thomas Burke (Michael Landes) enlist the help of Clear (Ali Larter), the only survivor left from the previous film, to help them understand Death’s pattern.

This movie steps it up in a huge way. First of all, the highway pile up is absolutely incredible. So incredible that I rewound the scene three times to watch it over again. It’s brutal and left me speechless. The great thing is that this movie never loses that intensity. Even during the speeches about Death and the small talk, I still had no trouble paying attention, which is partly because of the surprisingly good characters, each with their own agenda.

But why do people really watch these movies. Not for the characters, obviously. We watch the for the deaths, and, holy shit, are they awesome. Part of this, I believe, goes to director David R. Ellis for not being afraid to show plenty of gore. Final Destination is incredibly tame compared to this movie. People are smushed, stabbed, and decapitated with the cameras rolling to show everything in vivid detail. This may sound kind of sick, but what can I say? Horror is cool.

Final Destination 2 is an excellent horror film that adds to the mythology in interesting ways and builds upon the story from the first. Tony Todd’s even back for another cameo. It’s bloody fun and definitely worth a watch.

Of course, based on the box office results there was bound to be a third entry. In 2006 we got that movie with Final Destination 3.

Do I really need to give the synopsis? I’m going to break the rules of my blog and not give one and just jump into my first complaint, which is actually a pretty big issue. It’s the same exact movie as the original Final Destination! The only real difference is that the introduction happens on a roller coaster instead of a plane. James Wong is back as the writer and director, so I’m even more confused a how he had no trouble making the same movie. What was so good about Final Destination 2, apart from the awesome death scenes, was how it built on the mythology presented in the first film. Final Destination 3 brings nothing new to the table besides more cool death scenes.

Don’t get me wrong, the deaths are pretty awesome, but not as wowing as in the previous film. The introduction is a little disappointing compared to Final Destination and Final Destination 2, but Wong does prey on the fear of roller coasters the same way he did with planes making the scene still effective. I just felt like it was over before it really started. I just wish there was an option on the menu screen to skip all of the same speeches and attempts to get people to believe and go straight to the death scenes.


When I say that this movie has some of the dumbest characters in horror films, I’m speaking from the heart. The same horror movie heart I’ve mentioned before. In the past two films, the theory of Death coming back to reclaim its escaped prey is met with skepticism, but after the proof builds up people begin believing. In this movie, everyone is completely ignorant to the idea making the characters so stupid and pointless that they are completely unlikable.

Final Destination 3 shouldn’t have been made. The series should have stopped after the second one wrapped things up perfectly. Nonetheless, it exists and I was disappointed, but I don’t completely hate it. It has memorable scenes that are sandwiched in layers of stupidity. It’ll kill and hour and a half of your time, but I can’t say that it’s really necessary to watch.

Look out for my next review where I will be finishing up this franchise with The Final Destination and Final Destination 5.

Hammer’s Dracula Films – Series Review Part 2

15 Nov

After Taste the Blood of Dracula, the films in this Hammer series took a wrong turn and left them in a really weird place. From this point on, all of the movies had easy to follow continuity and I never felt confused about where the story was going. Let’s be honest, these movies aren’t very difficult. Then Scars of Dracula was released in 1970 with the intention of being a reboot, but at the same time it wasn’t a reboot. This causes a great deal of confusion and sort of sours the movie experience.


After being reanimated by blood dripping from the fangs of a bat, Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) is back to his bloody business with the help of the bat and his servant Klove (Patrick Troughton). Soon Dracula preys on a passerby, Paul (Christopher Matthews), leaving his more responsible brother Simon (Dennis Waterman) to go to Castle Dracula himself and have his revenge on the undead Count.

If you’re looking for gore in this franchise, then this is the film to look at. It’s pretty over the top for the time period and the beginning is especially shocking. Christopher Lee also has a lot of great dialogue and delivers his lines in such a way that I thought I would overdose on the menace. Those are really the only two redeeming qualities of this movie leaving the bad outweighing the good.


Scars of Dracula is such a disjointed mess. The beginning scene with the vampire bat was tacked on at the last minute so I can’t really tell for sure if this is a reboot or a sequel. Klove is in it, but wait… didn’t Klove die in Prince of Darkness? But wait, according to the prologue, this is a sequel and not a reboot. What is this movie supposed to be? The characters are so uninteresting that anytime Dracula wasn’t onscreen, my interest flew right out the window. I don’t even want to get started on the ending. It’s preposterous. Watch this movie only for some awesome Dracula scenes and gore, but prepared to be confused and bored for a good portion of the film.

In 1972 the series really went off the rails with the release of Dracula A.D. 1972.



After a fatal duel between Lawrence Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) in 1872, Dracula’s ashes are buried by one of his servants by the church where Van Helsing was buried. Cut to 100 years later where a group of bored partiers led by Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame) conduct a black mass at the very same church where Dracula’s ashes are buried in order to resurrect him. Soon the group is started to be hunted by Dracula with only  the descendent of Van Helsing (also Cushing) to stop him and save his grand daughter.

Well, what do I have to say about this? The major plus is the retro vibe that radiates from the screen. What’s not to love about watching Dracula chase Van Helsing through an old gothic church to funk music? It’s also great to see Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee together and at each other’s throats once again. Saying that this is a quality movie on the other hand would be a flat out lie.


A lot of stuff happens really quickly in the middle without a lot of Dracula screen time, which is a little disappointing after the massive amount of time he had in Scars of Dracula. There are also a few characters in the young group of friends that just disappear without any explanation, which is a little weird considering they’re main characters. Why even have them in the story at all? There’s not a lot of specific things I can call out to critique. The movie is just not solid whatsoever, and the retro vibe almost turns it into an unintentional comedy. I would classify this in the category of so bad it’s good. For the Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee finale and the silliness in between, it may be worth a watch.

1973 brought a whole new layer of awful, however, with what I and most people consider the last of the Dracula series, The Satanic Rites of Dracula.


When a British secret service agent discovers a group of societal elites engaging in black mass rituals, the police once again bring in Lorrimer Van Helsing to help with the investigation. He ultimately discovers that these rituals were performed for Count Dracula, who is back and planning to release a new strand of the bubonic plague with the goal of painfully wiping out the human race.

Wow. Really?

Yes, really. Dracula can now be compared to a Bond villain. I have no idea what Hammer Studios were thinking when they passed this movie to be shot and released. I almost don’t even consider it a Dracula movie since he’s only in it for like 7 minutes, and the rest of the time is spent talking about espionage and science. I was shocked when I saw this out of the sheer audacity of it all. You think Dracula A.D. 1972 was strange? Well believe it or not, there were times during this movie that I wished I was watching Dracula A.D. 1972.


The only time this ever felt like a Dracula movie was at the end when Van Helsing and Dracula have their show down. Thank goodness Peter Cushing is in most of the scenes, and Dracula’s monologue at the end is great, but the rest of the movie is absolutely terrible. It’s not scary, unintentionally funny, or even that rewarding. It is, without a doubt, the worst entry in this series, and quite possibly one of the worst Hammer films.

Well that’s Hammer’s Dracula series. All in all, it’s a mostly positive series with an excellent beginning, shaky middle, and an unfortunate tragedy of a movie as its finale. For any horror fans, this is a great series to watch for Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and also the emphasis on blood and gore that was never really in any Dracula fins up until then. If you haven’t seen any of these films, give them a watchband enjoy the gothic horror that is Dracula.

Hammer’s Dracula Films – Series Review

13 Nov

Arguably, the most popular version of Bram Stoker’s infamous vampire is Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula in the 1931 Universal film. For modern audiences, there’s Gary Oldman as the title character in Francis Ford Coppola’s rendition. For me, the best version of Dracula was produced by a British company, Hammer Studios, and featured Christopher Lee as Dracula. This will be the first of two parts for the review of Hammer’s Dracula films, the first being Horror of Dracula, or just Dracula for European audiences, which was released in 1958.

Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) is supposedly Count Dracula’s (Christopher Lee) new librarian, but is soon revealed to have ulterior motives. Those being to destroy Dracula. Harker is soon killed leaving the mission to be completed by his ally, Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). Dracula is closer than he thinks and begins terrorizing those closest to Harker and himself. As the clues to Dracula’s location begin to pile up, Van Helsing prepares himself for a showdown with the Count, hopefully bringing an end to the evil once and for all.

I am absolutely in love with every aspect of this movie from the sets, to the performances, to the story. This is also the first Dracula film to really showcase blood, and showcase it it does. Terrance Fisher, the director of this film, really can’t get enough of the red stuff. It looks pretty fake, but I still enjoyed seeing the early use of “gore”, and I’m sure audiences were shocked. The final showdown is even so intense, that there is footage that had to be cut out. Apparently, this footage has been found in Asia. Hopefully we’ll be seeing that at some point.

Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing’s chemistry is what really drives the movie. Paradoxically, they aren’t onscreen much together, but it plays off this kind of overt chemistry that culminates in an epic finale. This is a beautiful looking film with outstanding performances and memorable scenes. To me, it is the perfect Dracula movie. Check this movie out. It’s awesome.

Hammer released  Brides of Dracula in 1960, but there’s no Christopher Lee in it, so I can’t really call it a direct sequel. Audiences had to wait almost 10 years for the sequel. It wasn’t until 1966 that the second film was released, Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Was it worth it?

When the Kent’s carriage driver refuses to drive them any closer to Karlsbad, a mysterious carriage with no driver arrives to pick them up and bring them to the looming castle on top of the hill. They choose to go there despite a priests warnings earlier in the night. Turns out they are staying the night in Castle Dracula. Using the blood from one of the Kents, Dracula’s servant, Klove (Phillip Latham) brings his master back to “life” to terrorize the world once more.

Horror of Dracula is a tough act to follow, but Prince of Darkness holds its own. Much like in the previous film, Dracula doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, but when he does, it’s awesome. Rumor has it that Christopher Lee HATED the dialogue he was given, and refused to speak it. This only makes his character more animalistic as his only drive seems to be blood and all the sophistication that comes with the character goes right out the window.

My gripe with this movie is that the pacing is just a tad slow. The first one isn’t a race at all, but this was bogged down with some over the top dialogue that tried too hard to be interesting. Once the film gets its footing, there’s no stopping it. I just wish we got there a little bit faster. The costumes still look great and the performances are still top notch, and there’s more blood than ever. I really liked this one, but can’t quite say I loved it as much as its predecessor.

In 1968, Hammer Studios released it’s third Dracula film, Dracula Has Risen From the Grave.

In an attempt to exorcise Castle Dracula from the evil that still possesses it, a priest (Ewan Hooper) inadvertently releases Dracula from his icy grave. Now Dracula and his priestly servant go to the nearby town for some blood hunting. Now it’s up to Monsignor Mueller and his atheist partner Paul (Barry Andrews) to save the beautiful Maria (Veronica Carlson) from becoming Dracula’s bride.

While this may not be the best entry in the series, it is arguably the most memorable. What I mean by that is that this film contains some of the best scenes, but overall doesn’t always feel to good. For instance, a major issue I have with this is filming in the forest during the day, but trying to make it seem like it is night time. Just film at night. It’s really distracting seeing Dracula walk around the forest with sun peering through the leaves. Sloppy film making with sloppy results. There’s also this weird orangish glow that shows up on the sides of the frames every now and again which can be cool at times, but also a bit overbearing when it isn’t necessary.

Still, this movie is iconic when it comes to vampire movies. The staking scene is surprisingly horrific and Dracula’s demise via impalement on a cross is excellent and will never get old. Christopher Lee is as good as ever, and he even speaks a little here and there in this one. I guess the dialogue improved a little bit. I’m even interested in the relationship between Paul and Maria. The film makers understand that these stories are about more than just Dracula killing people and sucking blood, it’s also about human relationships and the strengthening of them through the conquering of evil. Dracula Has Risen From the Grave is a great entry in this series.

Moving on to 1970, Taste the Blood of Dracula was released.

After three Englishmen who are bored with their aristocratic lives decide to join the infamous Courtley for a black mass ceremony to summon his master, Dracula, they are faced not only with the possibility of murder charges, but also one very angry vampire who wants revenge. Yes, that’s right. Dracula is back with a thirst for blood and won’t stop until all responsible for the death of his servant are killed. That is unless Paul (Anthony Higgins) can stop him and save his girlfriend, Alice (Linda Hayden).

I don’t want to say that this is where the decline of the series began because this isn’t really a bad movie, but unfortunately I’d be lying. This is the beginning if the end. Much like the previous film, Taste the Blood of Dracula has plenty of good scenes, but isn’t too well constructed all around. The violence is certainly brought to the next level and there is of course much blood and gore to be had. The black mass scene is creepy and memorable, but that’s about it.

I have two major problems with this movie. For one thing, nothing new is brought to the table. The structure of the plot can be related to all of the other films in the series that has come before and the whole Paul/Alice relationship is exactly the same as the Paul/Maria relationship in Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, which is a far superior movie. This is also one of the most anticlimactic movies I’ve ever seen. Right when the final showdown is getting good, it ends.

This review has covered films 1-4 in this series. My next review will cover films 5-7. Things only get weirder and weirder for Hammer’s Dracula series from this point on, so I’ll have  a lot of material to talk about. Stay tuned.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977) – Review

5 Nov

It’s pretty rare for a movie to really scare the shit out of me. In fact, I was thinking about this today and these movies include films like Audition and The Exorcist. Laugh if you will, but I can sincerely add the original version of The Hills Have Eyes to this small list of movies. To modern day horror fans this movie may seem tame, but to true appreciators, this is a horrific tale of one of the worst nights in the history of storytelling.


The Carter family should have listened to the old man at the gas station. Not only are they stranded on a desolate road in the middle of the desert, but are being watched by a family of hill people who stalk and cannibalize any unfortunate people to pass through. As darkness falls, the Carters are beaten, raped, and some killed by these hill people. Come daybreak, the remaining Carters become the hunters, making the hill people wish they never came in contact with one another.

The 70s were a great time for horror movies. The Hills Have Eyes fall into the same brutal category as I Spit on Your GraveThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I even saw some Cannibal Holocaust sprinkled in. It’s gritty without being too graphic with some of the most disturbing scenes being the hill family watching the unsuspecting Carters down below. Wes Craven understands the horror behind be watched, as we can see in Scream, but this movie raises the stakes with the desert locale in an era without cell phones or computers.


What suffers in this movie is most of the acting. The entire Carter clan are pretty typical for horror movies. Some of their dialogue was written really well, including a disturbing scene about the family dog killing another person’s poodle, accompanied by their rambunctious laughter. It really makes them appear to be more than what they seem. The real stars are the Jupiter clan. Michael Berryman and Lance Gordon are a great team as sons Pluto and Mars. Their father, Jupiter, played by James Whitworth is intimidating and scary with some pretty disturbing make up.

The pacing of this movie really keeps the viewer on edge and generally made me feel uncomfortable. Wes Craven understands the importance of suspense, and fully utilizes this to create a tense atmospheres packed with terror. The punch of the actual attack by the Jupiter clan feels more intense because we’ve had to wait about 45 minutes to fully see them and what they are capable of.

The Hills Have Eyes may have  a lot of similarities to previous horror/exploitation films of the 70s, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but Wes Craven’s talent in creating memorable scenes of violent terror and his ability to create and sustain tension makes this film a horror classic. Despite some of the stale acting and a few incidents of weird sound, this can easily be put on anyone’s top 10 horror films.