Posts Tagged ‘review’

Movie Review: 1313: Night of the Widow (2012)

October 8, 2012

So this is it. The end. The review which I’ve been waiting to write since 1313 Week began. Spoiler: I’m happy to report that we get to end it on a high note; This is the movie from the 1313 franchise that I’ve wished for as I put myself through Hell for four days. I hope you enjoy this review and I promise that this blog won’t return to the 1313 franchise for a very long time.

Written by Moses Rutegar and directed by David Deoteau, Night of the Widow surrounds an unorthodox funeral for Michael (Jake Lockett) — a now former millionaire who married a psycho, and his five friends who attend the service in Michael’s mansion. One thing leads to another, and as chaos ensues Michael’s friends learn that it might be their funeral too.

The acting isn’t all that terrible — the actors aren’t good actors, but in context their performance is okay for this movie. They come across as real enough where I’m comfortable not saying that these actors are doing a disservice to cinema. Maybe Louis Ferrigno Jr. comes across as weird and maybe Andrea Stine is irritating despite being cute. Otherwise, no complaints, take that as you will.

The writing is surprisingly okay; I think that of what I’ve seen, Night of the Widow has the best writing of the 1313 franchise. That isn’t saying a lot, but this is the first movie of the franchise which I buy from start to finish. I buy the characters’ relationships with each other. I buy how they act, I buy the drama. On top of all that I buy that people don’t take their shirts off to socialize!

It’s genuinely hard to believe that Rutegar, Night of the Widow‘s writer, also wrote Wicked Stepbrother and Billy the Kid, the quality is night and day! Rutegar must have had a revelation somewhere, because it’s hard to imagine that the person who wrote this movie is the same person who wrote Wicked Stepbrother. It seems vaguely impossible!

Honestly I’m torn on this. On one hand, Night of the Widow is a little fun and DeCoteau and Rutegar did a good job making me like a few of the characters. On the other hand it isn’t really that great. Of the seven 1313 movies which I’ve seen so far, this is the best in terms of character development, story, and even originality. Taking all of that into consideration, with the fact that this is the end of 1313 Week, I’m going to give it a pass.

It probably isn’t worth your time, but Night of the Widow is on Netflix USA as of this writing if you do want to check it out. It’s honestly bad, but think of it as the lesser of seven evils.

As a sidenote, I’m all for cutting costs, but I feel that I’ve seen the same mansion used as a set for DeCoteau’s 1313 movies way too many times. This isn’t a valid point against Night of the Widow, but it is against the 1313 franchise as a whole. DeCoteau has proven that the 1313 franchise has the budget for other sets, with Hercules Unbound! and Billy the Kid being that proof. Using this tired mansion set is lazy. At least switch up mansions.

That said, most people probably won’t watch more than one of these movies, and as such won’t have the chance to experience déjà vu — lucky them! However, I do expect at least a micron of originality in production, and if you’re a filmmaker and you use the exact same set over and over and over, it’s disheartening to people like me… we’re suffering enough!

Movie Review: 1313: Billy the Kid (2012)

October 4, 2012

1313 Week is a week dedicated to reviewing David DeCoteau’s homoerotic franchise. Partly an experiment to see if I can survive an entire week of the films, I hope you enjoy this week.

Sepia tone: Oft used image filter that people think improves photos, for whatever reason, as in reality it usually ruins the photos (Examples). The filter has never been applied to a movie for the entire duration — until now. Enter 1313: Billy the Kid.

Written by Moses Rutegar and directed by David DeCoteau, Billy the Kid is the head-scratcher of the 1313 franchise. For one there are only around five scenes with topless men (so, kudos). Second, it’s a Western-Horror, which is an interesting change of course from the others. And third the entire film is put through a Sepia filter, which is an utter disaster of international proportions (more on this later).

As the story goes, Billy the Kid (Brandon Thornton) is wounded and on the run from the law after escaping prison. Eventually Billy stumbles into a near-ghost town called Hell’s Heart, where Athena Lottie (Chelsea Rae Bernier) mends him to health. Once four days pass and Billy is healthy, strong, and badass as ever, Deputy Whitecastle (Jason Zahodnik) becomes suspicious of Billy, shenanigans happen, and Hell’s Heart lives up to its name.

Getting it out of the way: The Sepia filter being applied for the entire 75 minute duration is the single worst editing decision that I’ve ever seen. The reason I’m guessing that the filmmakers applied the Sepia filter is because it’s a cheap way to make an image look antiquated. Obviously if you’re making a Western, you might want an antiquated feel, but it has to be genuine. It can’t be something that a pre-teen with an iPod touch and iMovie can do.

The acting is horrible, and honestly a lot of that has to do with the casting. Billy the Kid is the sixth movie from the 1313 franchise that I’ve seen, and as DeCoteau recycles his cast I’ve seen a lot of these actors. The thing that I can say with confidence is that of DeCoteau’s regulars, the cast might have been correctly selected but their roles were not. If the actors were given roles that suited them, this honestly might be a vaguely entertaining movie.

(That said, the fact that these actors aren’t good to begin with doesn’t help.)

Interestingly enough, there isn’t verbal dialogue until roughly ten minutes into the movie; coincidentally those were my ten favorite minutes! It’s just the score which isn’t bad, and Billy the Kid wandering around in a Sepia toned desert. If the entire dialogue was stripped and Billy the Kid was just the characters going through the motions to music, it’d be 10x better. The dialogue problem might have to do with the actors speaking the dialogue, but it’s really kind of bad.

I hate talking about clothes, but I get the sense that DeCoteau wanted his actors to be topless as in the rest of the 1313 franchise. I think that he understands that the desert in Western-times isn’t a mansion in Southern California, but I say what I am because he has his actors here wear vests with no clothing underneath. It’s a compromise, we don’t see nipples, but we do get a bit of the chest, six pack, and muscular arms. That’s a compromise I can accept.

So should you watch this movie? No you should not. If for any reason, just to protest the use of the Sepia filter. But otherwise it has problems up and down with the acting/casting and dialogue, and even with the vest compromise the actors do go topless occasionally. As of this writing 1313: Billy the Kid is on Netflix USA, but again you’ll want to skip it. Unless you’re a masochist, at which point I can’t help you.

Movie Review: 1313: Wicked Stepbrother (2011)

October 3, 2012

1313 Week is a week dedicated to reviewing David DeCoteau’s homoerotic franchise. Partly an experiment to see if I can survive an entire week of the films, I hope you enjoy this week.

Remember: DOI.
Don’t overthink it.

Frank (Kayde McMullen) and Kelly (Jarrid Balis)

That’s sound advice coming from two otherwise bland characters. Fortunately it’s almost impossible to overthink 1313: Wicked Stepbrother unless the intent is to rationalize it, which I don’t intend to do. Spoiler: This movie is horrible.

Written by Moses Rutegar and directed by David DeCoteau, Wicked Stepbrother doesn’t have the greatest of plots. Jarrod (Jordan Nichols), the son of a deceased millionaire, has just turned 18 and earned the right to his late father’s estate. Unfortunately for his stepmother and stepbrother, Minerva (Michelle Bauer) and Sebastian (Jake Madden) respectively, Jarrod doesn’t like them and has no intention of letting them keep any of his inheritance. Drama ensues, and what should be a happy birthday for Jarrod and his party guests turns into a bloodbath.

And I just made Wicked Stepbrother sound immeasurably better than it actually is. Sorry.

This movie starts out with a guy wearing his shirt, which had me excited at the idea that it might not be 75 minutes of skin. Of course less than a minute later my hopes and dreams were shattered, and then the movie proceeded to kill my expectations over and over again. You know the phrase “just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do”? That certainly applies here. Every single time that I thought “Wicked Stepbrother can’t get any worse”, it outright proved me wrong, without fail, no prisoners taken. This movie (if you want to call it a movie) sucks.

My disbelief is even established in my notes. The following is what I jotted down in a roughly two minute span:

Oh comeoncomeoncomeon.

This can’t get any worse.

I lied. It just got way worse.

CANNOT UNSEE

This movie is closer to pornography than any of the other 1313 films that I’ve seen. There’s one point in Wicked Stepbrother where Jarrod and his stepmother start making out, and her son joins in turning the movie into a twisted incest threesome. It would be one thing if this was full-on porn and there was intercourse, because it would then at least appeal to people with freaky incest fetishes. As is, it’s more of a “WHY GOD WHY” type thing. It’s disaster on top of disaster, as the non-freaky stuff is somehow less exciting than the incest!

Honestly, if you’re entertained by random, topless men wandering around a mansion shouting “Hello?” until their unclimactic demise (which is what most of Wicked Stepbrother is), I have a bridge to sell you.

Actor Slash Model has a teleportation problem, Wicked Stepbrother has a dimension problem. Almost every time one of Jarrod’s party guests arrive at his mansion, they’re greeted with silence as the place is empty. But in scenes prior and following Jarrod and his step family are clearly in the mansion, so where do they go? The only logical explanation is that the main characters and party guests are on two different planes, until somebody has to die. That actually isn’t a bad idea, the problem is that Wicked Stepbrother isn’t supposed to be multi-dimensional.

(Speaking of Actor Slash Model, it shares sets, props, and even some actors with this movie. While cutting costs is great, it’s very noticeable.)

It isn’t all bad, though. What I did like about Wicked Stepbrother is its score, which I can definitely write to. It’s not exciting, it doesn’t even fit the movie at all, but I found myself not dreading it. Infact, this movie would be immeasurably better if it was the score and nothing else. Only then would I not be missing my 75 minutes. I wish I could say more good things, but I really can’t. There isn’t any valid reason to recommend Wicked Stepbrother to anyone in the world, but it’s on Netflix USA as of this writing for any curious masochistic parties. Really, though, skip this one.

Really.

Movie Review: 1313: Actor Slash Model (2011)

October 2, 2012

1313 Week is a week dedicated to reviewing David DeCoteau’s homoerotic franchise. Partly an experiment to see if I can survive an entire week of the films, I hope you enjoy this week.

Being jealous of others who steal the jobs which you’ve earned the right to is something that we’ve all experienced. Fortunately most of us have the common sense to not kill the undeserved, and for that we should give ourselves a pat on the back. Unfortunately there are people who don’t have the good sense that we do, and they’re the ones whom movie studios consult for ideas. And that brings us to 1313: Actor Slash Model

Written by Barbara Kymlicka and directed by David DeCoteau, Actor Slash Model follows Jerry (Chase Bennett), an aspiring actor who can’t land a gig. The problem is that Jerry looks like an average guy, and loses every role he auditions for to models. Eventually enough becomes enough and push comes to shove. Jerry snaps and wields his knife at a TV producer’s (Michelle Bauer) party, where a body count of body builders builds up fast.

Say that last sentence ten times fast.

I’m going to say something very controversial: I got a kick out of this movie. Actor Slash Model isn’t anything good by any measure, but it’s a revolution in the 1313 franchise for two reasons: Shirts and shorts. Yes, the male characters sometimes wear clothes, which should surprise you if you know anything about this franchise. I’ve been so conditioned to not expect anything more than underwear when watching these movies that its distracting.

Otherwise, the cast did well and couldn’t have been cast better. Actor Slash Model is next to nothing but a jealous maniac snob stabbing models who he feels stole his acting career. Chase Bennett plays a good jealous maniac snob, and the models are played by men who look like models. “Acting” isn’t really a requirement, and because of that, this is one of the most genuinely performed movies ever!

The dialogue is believable, and Jerry’s actions and motives are believable too. Again, we have the good sense to not go mental and murderous when frustrated, but not everybody does. I’m sure we’ve all at least grumbled something unpleasant when we didn’t get a call back for a job that we were excited for. Despite its flaws which I’m about to detail, this movie is maybe more realistic than Hercules Unbound!

Most of the problems in Actor Slash Model are cosmetic. As an example, despite the many knife stabbings, there is never a drip of blood on screen or stains on the knife. This isn’t a budget issue, I have filmmaking friends that can put together a gore show for cheap. Normally the rule is that a movie doesn’t need to be gory to be good, but that isn’t true here, where I get the impression that someone is allergic to corn syrup.

Another really irritating thing is how Jerry seems to teleport. This movie takes place in a mansion, and there are times I swear that Jerry is on the first and second floor at the same time. Honestly this was cut together very poorly. On top of that, throughout the entire movie there’s a voiceover of Jerry’s rants against models which we’ve already seen him make. Boo to the editing room.

But the biggest, worst, most unforgivable problem is that some generic HTC smartphone gets a cameo with no iPhones in sight. That’s sacrilege!

Being perfectly clear, Actor Slash Model isn’t good. When there are thousands upon thousands of movies you can waste your time on, it’s hard to justify this one. On the other hand, if you’re ever dared into watching a movie from the 1313 franchise, this is the one you should pick; Unless you happen to like the prospect of watching hot guys in their underwear for 70 minutes. In that case, this is the one to skip.

Actor Slash Model is available on Netflix USA as of this writing, so take this information as you will.

Movie Review: 1313: Hercules Unbound! (2012)

October 1, 2012

1313 Week is a week dedicated to reviewing David DeCoteau’s homoerotic franchise. Partly an experiment to see if I can survive an entire week of the films, and partly because I’m fascinated by the fact that these movies are made, I hope that you enjoy this week.

@MGLeet Please don’t kill yourself this week. #1313craziness

@nategarvison

In the words of Hercules: This is the beginning, let me tell you.

All knowledge I have of Hercules comes from the Disney movie, so I’m not sure I’m allowed to question 1313: Hercules Unbound!‘s historical accuracy. However I’m guessing that jet stream hot tubs didn’t exist in Ancient Greece.

So what is there to say about Hercules Unbound!?

Directed by David DeCoteau and written by Charlie Meadows, Hercules Unbound! follows Hercules (Geoff Ward) and his friends as they exercise in a near-naked fashion. Athena (Chelsea Rae Bernier) makes a very cute few appearances, while Zeus (Louis Ferrigno Jr.) and Hera (Laurene Landon) turn up as clouds. A genuine plot about love, revenge, and shenanigans wants to exist — but in the end this is a movie about Ancient Greek men and their thong rags.

Hercules Unbound! is effectively gay porn without intercourse. There are scenes where the male characters — whom are 95% naked — wrestle, giggling the entire time. The battles are supposed to be epic and the characters are supposed to hate each other, but the actors are seemingly overjoyed by hugging it out, foreplay style.

If we were to ignore the fact that this movie is 70 minutes of muscular guys and their sexual tension, Hercules Unbound! becomes a movie which takes place during a training session with Hercules and other warriors. Campaneous (Brendan Lamb), feeling overshadowed by Hercules asks Hera to help kill him. This movie is supposed to work as build up to Hercules’ and Campaneous’ epic battle to the death.

I appreciate that DeCoteau and Meadows try to work a genuine story into Hercules Unbound!, which would be interesting if not overshadowed by the near-gay pornness of it all. Otherwise there’s no reason to beat around the bush, so to speak: Hercules Unbound! has a deficit of positive qualities to any reasonable straight male.

Being a straight male myself, I was wishing for this movie to turn into Athena Unbound!, but I digress, as obviously this movie isn’t for me. I’m guessing it’s not for many of you either. But ignoring sexual preference for a minute, Hercules Unbound! is rife with problems and surprisingly they aren’t ignorable.

This movie features some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen. Every horribly written line is gagged out of every actor’s mouth, and it’s cringe-worthy — actually, not every actor. As previously mentioned, Louis Ferrigno Jr. and Laurene Landon voice over God-clouds. While I’m sure that those two had as much trouble reciting their lines, it isn’t verifiable.

The score for Hercules Unbound! is okay until minute five. Epic battle music is played from start to finish, even when there are no epic battles on screen. I swear to every Greek deity, this movie came close to making me deaf. Every bit of audio, be it dialogue or musical score, is horrible. I don’t want to check to see if my ears are bleeding.

And don’t get me started with the jet stream hot tubs which Hercules and co. relaxed in. I’m no expert on Ancient Greece, but I would bet every cent to my name that that invention came to pass in recent centuries. I get that historical accuracy wouldn’t prop this movie up much, but honestly, the hot tub oversight is just dumb.

In other words, Hercules Unbound! is disaster on top of disaster!

So do I need to say it? I guess, if hot, almost naked guys wrestling each other is your thing, Hercules Unbound! can be found on Netflix USA as of this writing. If you aren’t into that stuff, avoid at all costs.

Edit 10/2/2012: Moved around a paragraph that I felt was wrongly placed

Movie Review: The Dead Undead (2010)

September 27, 2012

There is no shortage of zombie or vampire movies in the world, for better or for worse. I don’t have actual data, but I’d wager that zombie and vampire flicks churn out faster than sequels and remakes. The cycle is kind of ridiculous. The Dead Undead happens to feature zombie vampires. Depending on who you are, you might view that combination as original, or you disagree with math and a double negative results in a super negative. Take your pick.

Getting right into this, The Dead Undead has such a poor narrative that it’s tough to write a coherent synopsis for it… Fortunately it never hurts to try. Five friends stumble into an abandoned motel looking for a place to sleep, but are instead greeted by a horde of vampire-zombie hybrids! Fortunately a group of people wielding swords, guns, and explosives turn up to save the evening; although there might be more to them than meets the eye. Written by Edward Conna and co-directed by Matthew R. Anderson and Conna, I’m about to give this movie way too much credit.

The biggest thing that The Dead Undead has going for it is its vaguely recognizable cast of young looking 30 year olds, stuntmen, and Luke Goss. Next to every character in the beginning is irritating, but as time progresses and the cavalry turns up to hack and slash and blow up zombie vampires — to hard rock riffs no less — the irritation recedes. The zombie vampire hunters are genuinely likeable and they’re written well, which I honestly didn’t expect. So it’s unfortunate that the story which they’re written into is basically horrible.

The plot is incoherent for the first half of the movie, which relies heavily on gunfire and explosions to retain the viewers’ attention. Unfortunately the screenplay is so poorly written that the action serves only as a vague distraction. The best thing that I can say, I think, is that The Dead Undead isn’t drawn out at all. The movie starts, we receive a very brief introduction to the five kids, and boom, zombie vampires and gunfire. Wastes no time, gives no effs.

Above I mentioned that much of the cast, particularly the zombie vampire hunters, is made up of vaguely familiar stuntmen. If you’re a geek, you might recognize Spice Williams, Luke LaFontaine, and the writer-directors of The Dead Undead themselves, Edward Conna and Matthew R. Anderson. I always love seeing people who typically work as stuntmen land roles where they can be in the spotlight. It seems so well-deserved as the work they do can be dangerous, but the delicate flower actors always take the credit in the public eye. Being stuntman themselves, maybe the decision to hire other stuntmen for the zombie vampire hunting roles was deliberate. In that case, kudos.

Again, I think that they all did very well as far as acting goes. Their characters are believable, likeable, somewhat relatable, played well, and topped off with Luke Goss as their hardcore leader. It’s really a shame that they are placed in such a terrible, incoherent story. By the way, if you’re wondering, I’d like to express why it’s incoherent, but I can’t without issuing spoilers. You’ll have to take my word for it.

By the end of The Dead Undead I can definitely say that it wasn’t a waste of my time. After the incoherency ends halfway through the movie, it becomes an explicitly fun hack and slash affair, which I dig. However there are a lot of better bad movies to spend your time on; I really want to genuinely like this, but I can’t say that I do. If you’re interested for whatever reason, as of this writing The Dead Undead is available for viewing on Netflix USA.

By the way, I’d like to say thanks to Bernardo Villela one more time for stepping in to write an article for this blog when I was sick two days ago. Unfortunately my illness carried on into yesterday and I didn’t seek a guest writer, and for that I’m sorry. To make it up to you I will be publishing a second article today.

Thanks all.

Movie Review: Stripperland (2011)

September 20, 2012

The onslaught of bad movies continues! Although I admit, I brought this one on myself; my line of thinking was: Strippers, zombies, blood, awesome! Zombieland is one of only five movies* which I’ve outright purchased (i.e. not rented) from iTunes. Despite the sexism, I find Doghouse hilarious — and yes, I did get a kick out of Zombie Strippers. So I’d be foolish to assume that Stripperland wouldn’t be a whole lot of B-movie fun, right?

Right?

Guys?

There’s no reason to not be blunt here. Stripperland has no reason to exist. Written by Brad McCray, Tyler Benjamin, Shawn Justice, and Sean Skelding (whom also directed), Stripperland follows four survivors of the zombie apocalypse and their journey to the Oregon coast. The interesting thing about this zombie apocalypse is that the virus which caused it only affects women — and instead of turning into standard-issue zombies, the infected women become flesh eating strippers!

The uninteresting thing about Stripperland, however, is that you’ve already seen this movie scene-by-scene if you’ve watched Zombieland and Doghouse. This just might be the most unoriginal movie since The Hangover Part II or even the remake of The Omen. Between you and I, that isn’t an easy feat.

Honestly, Stripperland is wholesale theft. The aforementioned cast of four survivors is made up of Idaho (Ben Sheppard), Frisco (Jamison Challeen), Virginia (Maren McGuire), and West (Ileana Herrin), and they match the Zombieland characters down to the cowboy’s pastry love and the geek having a rule book. The theft from Doghouse is the whole idea of only women being infected by the virus, and even some character lines. I almost feel that the studio behind Stripperland should face a copyright lawsuit.

Okay, this is fucked up! You group all strippers together, and then you group all women together. You’re treating both groups like objects. And since strippers are women too, you’re double-objecting them!

Virginia

Are there arguably entertaining moments? Sure. That quote above is probably one of the better ones. Daniel Baldwin and Linnea Quigley are given cameos — which are great — but their five minutes can’t save this movie by any measure, and their appearance screams of them being low on cash. Otherwise Stripperland is an unfunny, unoriginal, and shockingly misogynistic movie.

I honestly feel horrible for the women who participated in this movie. The basic idea is that women are only good for sex and that the world would be better if they were all strippers. It’s so absurd that I want to believe this movie is satirical, but I didn’t get that sense at all. If satire was indeed the filmmakers’ intents, they are horrible filmmakers. They are indeed horrible filmmakers, however I’d wager that they also aren’t very bright people and that they believe in their message. I hope I’m wrong though, because people like that are toxic to progress and the less there are, the better.

So, is Stripperland worth your time? Do you even have to ask? NO! Zombieland and Doghouse (although also somewhat sexist, which also happens to be on Netflix USA as of this writing [hint hint]) are much funnier, much gorier, much more original, and much more worth your time.

While Stripperland is available on Netflix USA as of this writing, your watching it is highly not advisable. Take my word for it. Heck, even Zombie Strippers, as genuinely bad as it is, is a whole lot of fun, so of you want to see zombies pole dance, you should pick that one up.

*The other four iTunes movie purchases (again, different from rentals) are 10 Things I Hate About You, Jennifer’s Body, Heartless, and Pieces of April.

Movie Review: Mom (1991)

September 18, 2012

If your mother turned into a hobo-eating ghoul, how far would you go to protect her? I’ll freely admit that it’s not a question I’ve ever asked myself until tonight. I love my mom, she’s great, but I think that my opinion of her might dwindle were she to become a “flesh eater” (Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry). So is the movie Mom good for more than provoking a family assessment?

Written and directed by Patrick Rand, Mom is the story of the unconditional love between a man and his mother. Emily (Jeanne Bates) is a sweet old lady who only wants the best for everybody. She’s even nice enough to rent a room in her house to a complete stranger (Brion James) — even after he bites Emily and turns her into a werewolf-like monster! Clay (Mark Thomas Miller), Emily’s son and well known TV news reporter has to come to terms with his mother’s new lifestyle, or else…

In my Skew review I noted that movie cover art can lie. That indeed holds true with Mom, only in the reverse way — going off of the movie artwork it looked very boring and I was ready for a dull affair. Fortunately, as wacky as it is, I bought a lot of this movie. I can’t say exactly what I’d do if I witnessed my mom devouring a live hobo, but the fear, anger, and confusion Clay experienced towards his mom seems very believable. After all he had just told her a few days prior that she was soon to become a grandmother.

I’m not condoning murder and cannibalism, but I think that if you love someone for somewhere around 40 years, it’s hard to terminate those feelings.

Above I noted that Emily is turned into something werewolf-like. It’s really hard to classify her because indeed she isn’t a monster all the time, the green eyes, snout, and sharp teeth are something which spontaneously appear and disappear. However, the transformation can happen anytime — day or night — and her face is the only thing that transforms. In a sense she is almost vampire-like in that eating anything except flesh makes her sick, has heightened senses all the time, and is provoked by blood.

The funny thing is that Rand knows that the monster in his monster movie is unidentifiable — early on it’s addressed as making no difference. Little anecdotes like that add credibility to movies, I think, as it shows self-awareness by the filmmaker. That said, even aside from its mystery monster, Mom is a whole lot of fun. It’s wacky, it’s dark, and it’s even a little bit creepy, and its characters are likeable — even the monster mom!

And again, it’s little things that matter. In the first ten minutes I bore witness to a very creepy opening, knew the name of every major character, believed every relationship, and liked them all as people. When chaos started ensuing I felt sympathy for the characters and was sad because I liked them that much. Infact I still feel sad thinking about it!

Honestly, I dig this movie, but I do recognize it isn’t perfect. There is an instance a little bit in where Clay stalks his mom and her house guest through dark alleys, which doesn’t work because it’s something that he wouldn’t have done. It’s a lingering problem because it sets up most of the movie — it’s the dinner which Clay witnesses that changes the relationship between him and his mom. If Clay had assumed that she was just going to the grocery store and not followed her into a dark alley, it would be a completely different movie. Hmm.

As of this writing Mom is on Netflix USA, and I’d recommend checking it out if you get the chance. It’s fun, a bit of a thought-provoker, and only 95 minutes of your time.

Movie Review: Skew (2011)

September 13, 2012

The movie cover art for Skew lists six different film festival achievements, alongside a series of great, endorsing quotes. So I thought, okay, I’m in the mood to write a good review tonight for a genuinely good Horror film, and Skew looks like it can be that film. Unfortunately my hopes and dreams were shot down without mercy and I feel lied to by the movie cover art. I’m guessing that those quotes were published on Opposite Day or were cherry picked. Or maybe I just noticed different things.

Skew follows three friends on a road trip to a wedding, and one of them, Simon (Rob Scattergood) decides to film the entire trip on a handicam. It seems innocent enough until every person Simon captures on his camera — except his friends Rich (Richard Olak) and Eva (Amber Lewis) — dies in a gruesome accident. Tensions flare, friendships are tested, and never before has the “found footage” style of filmmaking been more appropriate while not working at all.

Written and directed by Sevé Schelenz, Skew was very mismanaged. Very early on (think 2 minutes in) it’s evident that this film is very sloppily cut and pieced together. The very first scene appears to be made up of multiple takes, as Rich teleports across the set. I really wish we could chalk those up as time jumps which you can often find in found footage films, but that isn’t the case here — Rich’s sentences don’t jump in time. That scene is in real time, so there shouldn’t have been any jumps.

Further, the dreaded question “why are you filming?” was spoken less than five minutes into Skew, and it returns roughly every five minutes after. That’s the killer of a lot of found footage films — it makes me also ask “yeah, why are you filming?” Being fair, in this film it’s used to create tension between the characters, as Simon’s filming his friends’ every move is creepy and inappropriate and it ticks them off. But with this, it only serves to make Simon — the main character — extremely unlikable and irritating.

Speaking of Simon being irritating, his friends are saints for putting up with him. Make no mistake, Rich is the driver, and were I him, Simon would be hitch hiking to the wedding after five minutes on the road. Honestly, that dislikability makes this film painful to watch. In a cast of effectively three, the lead who’s perspective we have to experience for 80 minutes needs to be likable. That’s non-negotiable in my mind.

The worst of it all though, is a major plothole which derails the entire film. The mediocre dialogue aside, this writing is so sloppy that I’m appalled. There isn’t much I can say without entering spoiler territory, but as we the viewers are allegedly watching taped footage, there are moments where the characters themselves rewind and rewatch the tapes. The problem is the rewinding wouldn’t realistically be recorded. Further, upon a replay, the content which we’ve already seen wouldn’t change for that replay.

Clarity in a sentence: Skew accidentally rotates between us viewers watching the found footage, to watching footage as it’s being taken — as in before it becomes lost.

There are two potential arguments around this which I can think of, as Skew leaves a lot of stuff open to interpretation. The first would be that we’re not actually watching found footage, and that we ourselves are the character Simon in the moment. For that to be the case, the ending would have to change along with a few scenes where Simon isn’t carrying the camera. The other potential-but-failing argument could be that we are the camera, however for that to work the relationship between Simon and the camera would have to change.

I don’t care who you are, or if your film had next to no budget, you can’t get away with this stuff. Skew is rife with flaws, a very irritating lead, poor dialogue, and a plothole which makes it impossible to realistically exist even in fiction.

So what did I like about this movie? :-)

The idea behind Skew is really cool, and it could have been a really good found footage film. If Schelenz had decided to simplify it into just a road trip where the people that were caught on Simon’s camera die, while retaining some of the twists currently present and have it be straightforward found footage — no rewinds and playbacks, just the footage on the camera — Skew might have rocked. I appreciate that, but you can’t get around the fact that the execution is horrible.

Otherwise, there are a few creepy scenes, and I dig the relationship between the characters Rich and Eva, and I can’t think of many good things to say beyond that. I was in a mood to depart from all of the junk I’ve been watching for something good which I haven’t seen, and then review it. I’m honestly just disappointed and next time I’ll remember that the cover art can be a lie. As of this writing, Skew can be found on Netflix in the USA and I’m guessing other services/retailers if you want to catch it. However I advise against doing that.

Review: Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1986)

September 12, 2012

This blog needs a new motto. If you weren’t aware, my first blog, Picture This! was originally called Picture This! Reviews, and the motto I had for it at that time was:

I watch all the crap so you don’t have to.

But most of the movies I reviewed weren’t that terrible, and so it didn’t really fit. On the other hand, the high majority of the movies I’ve been reviewing for the past month have been pretty horrible. As one of my friends, Nate, asked me in a tweet earlier this afternoon:

@MGLeet How do you find all these horrible movies?

And my friend Tom asked me in a tweet last night about the 1313 franchise:

@MGLeet I don’t even know what they are. How did you discover this franchise?

While I’m not at liberty to publicly disclose my secrets, the fact that I’m asked these questions is indicative of the state of things. Unfortunately Mountaintop Motel Massacre does nothing but add to the growing list of bad movies which populate this blog. In fact, excluding Walther (which is an outlier), this is the low point of my blogging career thus far.

So enough with the elephant in the room.

Written by Jim McCullough Jr. and directed by his father Jim McCullough Sr., Mountaintop Motel Massacre follows seven strangers and their night staying at the Mountaintop Motel. The rooms cost only $7 per night which sounds like a bargain to the guests until they realize the hidden cost — their lives! The Mountaintop Motel is run by Evelyn (Anna Chappell), a strange old lady who has “former mental patient” and “daughter slasher” on her resume, so any gruesome events should surprise no one. Unfortunately the gruesome events really aren’t that gruesome and the definition of “massacre” is stretched very thin.

Prior to today I was unaware that a Horror film could be this excruciatingly boring. Murders are a very exciting thing to depict; the end of a life to the hands of someone can be cheap but inarguably effective, for better and for worse. Somehow, someway, the McCulloughs make the action boring. As the characters get murdered one by one, I felt nothing. I wasn’t angry, sad, or happy. The characters are so unbelievably droll that they have no life force. As they die, nothing changes in the world, and the murderer being an old lady with a garden tool doesn’t help make anything exciting.

The Mountaintop Motel guests include a reverend, an old unemployed carpenter, poor newlyweds, stranded cousins, and a person with a car phone who claims to own a music label. These characters are more boring than I make them sound, which I’m guessing is quite a feat. Mountaintop Motel Massacre was ruined at conception because of these characters alone, and not an iota of effort was spent even trying to make them interesting.

The reverend (Bill Thurman) quips early on that he’s shocked to not be the only one “brave enough” to stay the night which adds to the confusion; if it’s known that the motel owner is an old psychopath, why are there so many guests in a single night? Add the fact that the Mountaintop Motel is almost as isolated as the Bates Motel, and the entire presence of the characters becomes unbelievable.

The characters are dreadfully boring, the killer is dreadfully boring, the kills are dreadfully boring, and everything about Mountaintop Motel Massacre is dreadfully boring. The acting is horrible, the writing is worse, and the direction is lost on an unmarked highway. If I had never seen this movie it would have been too soon. I didn’t get the sense that I wasted fifty years of my life as I had with Walther, but again, that bad movie is in a league of its own.

Mountaintop Motel Massacre is on Netflix as of this writing, and I’m sure it can be found elsewhere. I highly recommend skipping this one, however.

Perhaps I should consider resurrecting my old blog’s old motto.

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