Posts Tagged ‘Movie’

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.

Movie Review: 1313: Frankenqueen (2012)

September 11, 2012

Ah the 1313 franchise, the underwear ads of full length cinema. I caught 1313: Cougar Cult earlier this year which I found mildly amusing, largely because I hadn’t seen anything like it before. It’s a low budget Horror film set in a mansion where three cougar women pursue three topless college-aged pool boys whom they hired, and the movie lasts 70 minutes. The idea to mix underwear ads and Horror films alone is so ridiculous that it deserves praise.

Funnily enough, 1313: Frankenqueen doesn’t stray far from Cougar Cult‘s formula. Infact it almost seems like the producers of the franchise got together and said:

Okay, we need to remake this with twice as many guys, we need them to be twice as athletic, and we need them to not have shirts on — not even for one second.

I could be wrong, but I doubt it. Frankenqueen even appears to take place in the same mansion as Cougar Cult. Frankenqueen is a tiny bit different, however, so I don’t get off too easy.

As the story goes, five very athletic college-aged guys are hired for “research” by Victoria (Helene Udy), a plastic surgeon and cougar-widow of a highly respected scientist. The rules are simple: Live in her mansion for a weekend, swim in her pool, eat her food, and take a series of physical tests. Oh, and clothing above the waist is expressly forbidden. On Monday the five test subjects will be paid and it all sounds too good to be true — because it is!

Frankenqueen is co-written by David DeCoteau and Charlie Meadows, with DeCoteau also directing. Honestly, everything about this film is horrible from conception to execution, but I don’t think it even matters! The target audience is obviously middle aged women who dig topless people half their age. I’d venture to guess that this and the other 1313 movies are meant to be a fantasy; a group of young, topless athletic men working for a middle aged woman in her mansion for a weekend.

These movies fill a very specific niche and it’s hard to fault them for that. And even for me, I had a very fun time taking notes, and the discussions my watching Frankenqueen led to on Twitter were fun. Even this review is kinda fun to write… For example, the following sentence:

Oh, and clothing above the waist is expressly forbidden.

I don’t get to write stuff like that every day. Fair is fair though, and Frankenqueen has a host of problems.

The most glaring problem to me is how the iPad is used. Yes, indeed, a white WiFi-only iPad was in the film enough to be a cast member, however the display is off the entire time it’s on screen — even when Victoria is taking notes on it. Maybe DeCoteau understands that Apple geeks probably don’t even know that Frankenqueen exists, but I can name many good note taking iPad apps — free and paid — without thinking too hard. Having Victoria take notes on an iPad in standby mode is the epitome of lazy, which isn’t acceptable on any merit.

Further, iPhones also had roles, and I didn’t notice their screens turn on in use either, although it isn’t as blatant as the standby iPad.

Going down my list, the next most irritating thing is how drawn out every single scene is. Some scenes lasted upwards of five minutes, and were literally nothing except Victoria running a tiny blacklight over a guy’s hypnotized body in bed. Again, this movie is fan service, and five minutes of an attractive guy’s black-underwear covered crotch is the entire point. I get that. However I’m not a middle aged woman, and a little effort to make something good doesn’t often hurt.

Honestly, Frankenqueen is probably best viewed as a test for guys to determine if they’re gay or not. If you think that you’re straight but want to make sure, I’d watch this movie. I can’t speak from experience, but what amounts to basically a 72 minute underwear ad will surely surface any hidden feelings for the same sex. And if you’re a middle aged woman who dreams about this stuff, you’ll get a kick out of it.

For all interested parties, 1313: Frankenqueen is currently on Netflix with many other films from the 1313 franchise.

I haven’t ever done this before, but all of the notes I took while watching this movie can be found after the break.

Warning: There are spoilers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Movie Review: Playback (2012)

September 7, 2012

Obligatory FYI: If you hate bad movies, I know that you won’t like Playback, and you probably already know that you won’t like Playback. So I’m going to save you three minutes and assure you that you aren’t interested. I don’t mind if you stick around though, it just might be redundant. To everyone else, this review might contain useful information!

Written and directed by Michael A. Nickles, Playback follows five friends in high school completing a school project. The assignment is to do research on a significant event in the town’s history and present the research to the class. Being a Horror fan and an aspiring filmmaker, Julian (Johnny Pacar) determines that the obvious thing is to make a Horror short based on a family murder which devastated the town roughly 15 years earlier, and is largely covered up. Unfortunately Julian and his friends have to learn the hard way that some secrets are better left untouched.

I have to give props to Playback because of a few little things that go a long way. This film is so obviously inspired by The Ring even in the beginning that I was disappointed in it. But at a party scene about 21 minutes into the movie, Julian asks three of his friends:

Top Horror film of all time? Go!

Nate (Jonathan Keltz) replied with The Ring, DeeDee (Jennifer Missoni) said Scream, and Julian’s girlfriend Riley (Ambyr Childers) claimed, of all things, Freaky Friday (Turning into your mother is terrifying and creepy).

Those happen to be the three films that Playback obviously got the most inspiration from, and credit was naturally written right into the film said from the mouths of the characters. That leads me to want to give this movie a little bit of respect, because I’ve never seen sources cited in that way before. It’s obvious that Nickles intently tried to not pass his movie off as all his own idea, where other filmmakers often commit outright theft.

Another thing that goes a long way is that the main characters are likeable and their friendship believable. Anyone who says otherwise was obviously in a bad mood prior to watching Playback. The five friends are a bit sweet with each other, and some of the banter is fantastic. As an example, as Julian is editing their movie, he asks Nate what he thinks. This is the dialogue that followed:

Nate: It’s all kind of shaky and shitty.

Julian: Shaky? It’s a handheld, It’s supposed to be shaky. It gives it a sense of energy.

Nate: Is that what you filmmakers call it? Well, just so you know, the rest of us call that “headache”.

Maybe it’s just me but I love that stuff. And with that particular example I agree with everything that Nate says! Shaky cam is definitely something I would call “headache”.

I dig the characters and their relationship together, I enjoy little things like crediting the movies that inspired this one in character dialogue, and on top of that the gore isn’t half bad. And for what Playback is, the acting, writing, and directing are all fine. People heavily knocking this movie need to get off of their high horse and have a beer.

Speaking about the stuff that isn’t half bad, what is half bad with Playback? The worst thing that I noticed is that it took me probably 20 minutes to begin learning the characters’ names. It really shouldn’t have taken me that long to care, infact I can’t recall a time it took me that long to remember names. Your mileage may vary depending on how photographic your memory is, but that’s a standout problem. Probably the other biggest problem is the lack of originality, sure. And finally, the ending is a bit third-rate.

I watch a whole lot of terrible movies and I watch very few good ones. So as an aficionado of bad films, I can assure you that Playback is on the higher tier of the bad stuff. There’s way worse films out there to see. Playback is currently available on Netflix and if you dig bad Horror as I do, you’ll want to catch this one.

Edit: Also, forgot to mention, Daryl Mitchell has a cameo. Some of you will appreciate that.

Movie Review: The Final (2010)

September 6, 2012

High school is delightful, isn’t it? You all just read that and chuckled, “hah, yeah, riiiight. Try selling me an aluminum brick while you’re at it.” Obviously some kids at some high school in some Horror movie called The Final feel the same way. This movie might be a little bit harder to sell than a brick, however.

Written by Jason Kabolati and directed by Joey Stewart, The Final is about a group of “outcasts” in high school who are bullied often and relentlessly, and their thirst for revenge against the bullies. Conveniently the kids are Horror film nerds and are theoretical experts at torturing people… Gotta dig the stereotype.

Before I continue, one of the problems I have there is that you don’t need to be a Horror geek to know that one can cut off fingers with pliers. Here’s an actual quote from the movie, from the character Ravi (Vincent Silochan):

Alll the years of watching horror films… What could be better than to put it alllll to use?

Perhaps that’s what bugs me more than anything else. I mean, I didn’t go to high school, but I certainly have been called my share of names for being a Horror fan. Freak, weird, degenerate, simply because I dig the genre. I think that it’s dangerous to portray the Horror kids as the kids who snap and then drug, torture, and kill their bullies. There is also one or two scenes where the kids invoke God only to make them seem crazier.

I hate going after this further, but another thing which I noticed is that the character Kurtis (Jascha Washington), the all around cool guy who is friends with everybody — also the only black main character — is singled out by the Horror kids as “not one of them” (“them” referencing the school bullies). Sure, I get it, Kurtis is a nice popular kid. I just find the wording curious considering he’s the single black main character.

But maybe I’m just nitpicking and any subtle hints of stereotypes and discrimination are purely coincidental.

So as I was saying.

As the story goes, a group of about ten high school students are relentlessly bullied by their peers, and they take the “drastic times require drastic measures” approach to solving problems. The plan is to host a costume party where only the bullies are invited, and torture them until they wish they were dead. That’s about the extent of the plan, not gonna lie.

Marc Donato and Lindsay Seidel play the lead bullied kids-turned-torturers Dane and Emily, respectfully. I won’t lay any fault on the actors at all, or even their characters. I genuinely bought them as bullied kids in high school, everything from how they moved, to how they spoke, to their overkill reactions. Donato and Seidel did their jobs well, and I guess we can credit Kabolati for thinking like a child when writing the movie.

Speaking of that writing, aside from the stereotyping which we’re chalking up as “coincidental”, it isn’t all that horrible. The concept is very third rate, definitely, but playing Devil’s advocate, if — if a group of kids in high school wanted to torture their bullies, they would go all out, and be over-dramatic, and disguise themselves in freaky Halloween costumes. The pure unprofessionalism of the kids works well. They aren’t cold blooded super smart calculated killers, and that’s how The Final can work.

So again, kudos to Kabolati, for being able to write from a child’s perspective.

We get back to the fact though that the basic idea of kids seeking revenge against bullies isn’t anything special. It’s just very poorly conceived, and the added unnecessary ignorance of Horror fans — like me and probably like some of you — expressed in The Final isn’t cool. I’d skip this one if I were you. It’s on Netflix as of this writing though, in case you’re a masochist and don’t like taking my advice.

Dare I end with the obvious and obligatory pun?

Yes, I dare.

The Final doesn’t make the grade.

BY THE WAY: Sorry I didn’t get an entry up yesterday. I wasn’t feeling well, and I had already put time into writing an article called It’s Okay to Suck for Unity Bond, the other blog I write for. And on top of that my fingers were still vaguely exhausted from my 3k word article here on Monday and Tuesday’s review of Clue, AND the satire blog + article I created for some friends. That’s all this week… Give me credit, I have been busy. I’ll try to not miss a day for a while, though.

Movie Review: Snake Island (2002)

August 31, 2012

So far this week we’ve seen an abominable snowman, mystery monsters, and grizzly bears. None have done a lot to impress or inspire confidence for creature features, so today it’s time for nature to take its course. As shown time and time again in movies, it’s killer snakes that are at the top of the food chain. Fortunately there are a lot of killer snakes in Snake Island.

Unfortunately these killer snakes would rather dance than be menacing.

Written and directed (and starring) Wayne Crawford, Snake Island follows a group of tourists and tour guides stranded on a snake-infested island in Africa, aptly called “Snake Island”. Unbeknownst to the strandees, poisonous snakes are, in fact, poisonous. The group has to fight for survival against CGI and rubber snakes, all while being slightly drunk from partying for whatever reason. Sure, that sounds cool — oh wait, no it doesn’t, and this movie is as cool as it sounds.

Snake Island has a litany of problems, and the only genuinely good thing about this movie is that idiots die. Not every idiot, mind you, but enough bite the dust to the point where the slew of idiots is forgivable. As a whole, though, a few morons turning purple doesn’t excuse this film.

The writing is mostly absurd and it’s really hard to believe in. To begin with, these tour guides having jobs isn’t realistic at all. The Jungle Cruise tour guides at Disney World know better than to brush off a dead colleague on a deserted island by partying! It’s just something that wouldn’t happen, and on top of that the progression is horrible. There are big enough time gaps between a whole lot of scenes to the point where it’s useless to try to follow the story.

The characters aren’t written well either — again, idiots of the earth, the lot of ’em. It’s also obvious that Wayne Crawford wrote Snake Island, largely because the character he wrote for himself is the most likeable by far. He plays the voice of reason, who happens to be the only guy that gets laid, and who happens to be pretty awesome with a rifle.

Free tip to any filmmakers out there: If you’re starring in a film which you’re also writing and directing, you’ll come off as extremely self-serving if you give the only likeable role (out of ten) to yourself.

Speaking of unbelievable, we can’t forget about the acting! Even William Katt — the actor from House (1986) who is kinda cool — has to spew his lines out in every scene. His movements are robotic and Katt really doesn’t come across as the Horror novel writer type, which he is supposed to be in Snake Island. Every other actor is either not very good or just was given terrible material to work with. I can’t say which.

And on the final tier of unbelievable, we have the resident army of snakes. The snakes rotate between being real, CGI, and rubber. On top of not looking great, they also dance to music with naked women all the while having a thing for a guy’s penis. To my way of thinking, there’s a reason for bisexual snakes not being a recurring theme in movies.

I hate to beat on this, but I think that the most disappointing thing about Snake Island is that Wayne Crawford wrote only one likeable role and gave it to himself. It just seems a little bit egotistical to me and while this film certainly has a slew of problems, I can accept bad movies — I do every day! But it’s hard to accept any film which, in my view, is just a self-serving act by the filmmaker.

Do yourself a favor and skip this one (For the masochists, it’s on Netflix as of this writing).

Edit 09/04: Changed the description of one of the creature features mentioned in the first paragraph to eliminate a spoiler.

Movie Review: Grizzly Park (2008)

August 30, 2012

You like a fascist or somethin’?

the pedophile prep asks the racist stoner.

Somethin’ like that.

the racist stoner acknowledges.

That is indeed dialogue between two characters in Grizzly Park, a mess of a movie which loses itself in the woods shortly after that scene. In short, the best thing one can say about this movie is that it’s better than Grizzly Rage, the abomination which preceded it by a year. Okay, that’s not the best thing one can say, but it’s close enough!

Written and directed by Tom Skull, Grizzly Park is the story of eight delinquents performing community service in “Grizzly Park” and the forest ranger (Glenn Morshower) overseeing them. Throw in a serial murderer/rapist, a skunk, and a killer bear or two, and you have this movie. It’s not ill-conceived at all — there has to at least be one person who finds eight kids picking up trash on a forest trail exciting.

Joking aside, honestly, half of this movie is dedicated to the kids picking up trash and Morshower’s character talking about picking up trash.

Watching Grizzly Park should count as community service itself!

There are some things which save Grizzly Park, however. As bad as it is, the ineptitude of two characters add a sort of innocence to the film which makes it easy to laugh at. The first is the aforementioned racist stoner, “Scab” (Randy Wayne). The character is so lost, he’s almost likeable despite his “White Power” and swastika tattoos. Eventually he develops a crush on a Latino girl in the group (Zulay Henao), and the other guys have to remind him that he’s racist. It was delightful to watch.

The other inept character which made Grizzly Park bearable is a pea-brained girl, Bebe (Emily Foxler), who thinks that skunks are “forest cats”. There’s just something so cute about cluelessness that can make even the most boring films entertaining. Unfortunately, while the other six kids are idiots of the earth, they’re more irritating punks than anything.

The final pro of Grizzly Park is the gore. Most of the deaths were a lot of fun, and this film has earned its R rating. The kills coupled with the inept duo almost make up for how outright boring this movie and its 95 minute runtime is. Unfortunately it’s just not enough.

None of the characters are interesting enough to warrant watching them talk amongst themselves while picking up trash. As I already alluded to, these characters are more irritating than anything — the worst is that it’s by design! These are supposed to be kids skipping out on prison by doing community service. They’re unlikeable at conception. So it would be one thing if they were picked off one-by-one from start to finish, but half of Grizzly Park is character buildup, for reasons unknown.

Grizzly Park also has plot lines that go next to nowhere. There’s an arguably interesting plot line about a serial murderer/rapist who’s on the run and masks himself as a police officer he killed… but it was put on the back burner in favor of kids picking up trash. Other characters which are played up in the beginning either disappear or die suddenly, again, to direct attention to the kids picking up trash.

The acting is sub-par all around, and even Morshower, as good as he is, is very one-note in Grizzly Park. None of the acting is bad, per se, but it’s just bland. That has to do with how the characters are written and this isn’t necessarily a knock to the actors, but the bland-ness doesn’t help make this film any less boring or irritating.

The last movie I reviewed was Area 407, right? This direct-to-video cautionary tale of how deadly community service can be is so much better than that. I don’t recommend you watch this —there are certainly better things to watch than Grizzly Park — but this movie won’t kill you and the gore is kinda cool, and you can currently catch it on Netflix. Just an FYI.

Edit: This song is the best part of the movie

Movie Review: Midnight Son (2011)

August 21, 2012

There are a lot of vampire flicks out there. Most suck and don’t even hold a candle to Dracula from more than 80 years ago. But I digress because good vampire flicks do turn up every now and then, and so now we turn our attention to 2011’s Midnight Son.

Written and directed by Scott Leberecht, Midnight Son follows Jacob (Zak Kilberg), a passive “night shift” security guard in L.A. with a skin disease which compels him to avoid sunlight. Jacob happens to be 24 years old, which is the age a friendly janitor (Tracey Walter) believes the human body is in its last changing stage. Jacob, of course, brushes off the idea that he’s turning into a butterfly, which might end up being a mistake.

There is a glimmer of light in Jacob’s sunless life in the form of a girl, Mary (Maya Parish) whom he met purchasing a Dum Dum. Jacob falls for Mary as she digs his weirdness, which is a little bit rare. Throw in a blood dealer (Jo D. Jonz), a detective (Larry Cedar) who thinks that Jacob is crazy, and a few bloody & burning bodies, and chaos ensues.

Midnight Son almost doesn’t work, largely because the relationship between the two main characters — Jacob and Mary — almost doesn’t work. Hell, their relationship was written to not work — they had a go at sex three times and failed each time! Be it by way of a bleeding nose, green eyes, or general insecurity, these two characters aren’t compatible in bed.

This movie is like the poster child of abstinence — if you try to have sex, something unpleasant might happen as you take your clothes off, so don’t even try.

Apart from the whole failing at sex thing, the relationship between Jacob and Mary seems off. To begin with, watching Midnight Son, I got the feeling that Mary was way too trusting. I totally get that if you’re drunk at a bar (neither of which was Mary), going home with a stranger might seem acceptable. But Jacob is obviously a little bit creepy, and any woman in their right mind would go on a few dates with him before entering the underground basement where he lives. So I don’t think that that resonates, but maybe it’s just me.

Otherwise, though, I think that those two were okay. I can’t knock Kilberg and Parish for their acting together because they did very well with the material given to them. In the end, that’s what saved their relationship.

There are some things which Midnight Son does really well. I mentioned the “blood dealer” a few paragraphs up, and that’s the most interesting thing about the flick. Humans serving and/or feeding vampires isn’t a new idea, infact it’s an idea you can find in most of the really good vampire flicks that I can think of.

Midnight Son puts a twist on it though, which is that humans can make money by selling illegal blood to vampires who don’t want to kill people. Again, Jo D. Jonz plays the dealer, and he does a great job. The role is well written and he runs with it, and there are a few scenes which Jonz makes really intense. In the end his character kind of jumps the shark, but that isn’t his fault. This movie does center around Kilberg and his character Jacob, however, and Jonz isn’t in a position to make the film work by himself. So how does Kilberg do?

I’m pleased to report that Kilberg plays a passive, weird, creepy, emo vampire going through metamorphosis well. I can’t be sure if Jacob was written that way or if Zak Kilberg (love his name, by the way) is a creep in real life, but either way he works for Midnight Son and the rest of the cast does too, even if some sex lives aren’t where they need to be.

I recommend catching this flick if you can. Midnight Son is a neat vampire flick with neat ideas despite some faults. I rented it from iTunes where it’s available in SD and 1080p HD, although I’m sure you can find it in other places if you keep an eye out for it.

Sidenote: The last “movie” I caught was Walther at the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival last Thursday, so my perception of Midnight Son might be a tiny bet skewed since virtually every film in existence ever is Shakespearian comparably.

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