Archive for Film Review

[Film Review/Haus of Horror] Prince of Darkness (1987)

Posted in Film Review, Haus of Horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2014 by Casey Hutton
Photo Courtesy of John Carpenter.

Photo Courtesy of John Carpenter.

I’ve always been a fan of John Carpenter. I grew up watching his films during the 1980’s and 1990’s, in particular, films such as The ThingBig Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York. All were favorites of my father and were frequently played in our household. Some titles, however, were ones I adored through the years but seemed to have slipped through the cracks, going relatively unnoticed amongst my circle and when I get a chance to throw them into my player, I tend to geek out. One such film, his 1987 release, Prince of Darkness, is a film that fits into this particular category and one, after having a hankering to watch, have done so and now want to share.

Prince of Darkness is the second title in what Carpenter likes to call his ‘Apocalypse Trilogy,’ which begins with The Thing and ends with In the Mouth of Madness. Obviously, growing up and being only six years of age at the time of this release, this wasn’t something I even pondered. However, now, it makes sense. Although not related in topic or content, all three deal with the end-of-times scenarios, whether by aliens or ultimate evil. According to the director himself, this screenplay was one that came to him while looking into atomic theory and theoretical physics. That tidbit is something to keep in mind while watching the film, as it might help explain why the approach taken wasn’t, and isn’t, one normally done.

The movie revolves around a priest who invites college professor Howard Birack, along with his chosen few of both academics and students, to investigate a curiosity in the basement of an old church located in Los Angeles. The thing in questioned stemmed from the death of another in the priesthood, and as chance would have it, possessions of the deceased are found by the mentioned priest (named Father Carlton). What he acquired was both the deceased journal and key. His own early investigations resulted in discovering not only the object, but also the fact the the deceased belonged to a long, near forgotten Christian sect called the Brotherhood of Sleep.

As the research team sets up, they begin to get mysterious readings. Combined with a text found within the old church, it is soon discovered by some within the group, Birack included, that the thing downstairs is actually corporeal embodiment of the Anti-Christ. Throw in some spewing liquid of possession, team member shenanigans and some mild bloodshed…well…you get the idea. Needless to say, as the more information is revealed to both the team and the viewers of the film, more and more fall prey to what lies inside the object. Homeless begin to gather and do creepy things outside. Team members go after one another to bring them into the fold, while those still untouched try to last through the weekend. What Carpenter does here that is different during this era of hack-and-slash horrors is offer plenty of tension. There isn’t much blood or gore. It’s all build up and release, as once the team reaches the church there is very little change of scenery.

One thing of note I found interest was the shared, reoccurring dream several of the team has. It is some form of tachyon transmission from the future. What is unique is, what you can gather as the dream happens again and again is that it is sent from the year one-nine-nine-nine…or 1999. A rather interesting choice given all the hubbub that actually occurred globally during this time.

As the film draws to a close, the evil is thwarted…or is it? In typical what-if fashion, Carpenter leaves the ending open to interpretation by letting the imagination run wild with what could possibly happen next as the credits roll.

This film has plenty of geek-tastics moments to those that are fans of Carpenters work, especially during this era. We see two fan favorites from Big Trouble in Little China return (Victor Wong and Dennis Dun), as well as other actors tied to his filmography, including Donald Pleasance. It’s also something of note that Alice Cooper makes an appearance in the film. Apparently, his manager was one of the executive producers and wanted the artist to write a song for the film. Carpenter cast him as one of the homeless that had fallen under the Darkness’ spell. During one scene, those familiar with the rockers performances during the era will notice the implement he uses to impale one of the researchers is actually the same from his stage act.

All in all, this is one of those under appreciated films that could possibly have slipped under your radar. If you want a suspense thriller that has that Carpenter feel, give this one a chance. Although nowhere near as after-theater popular as some of his films, it does have a small cult following. Plus, who would have thought a little theoretical science and atomic theory could bring about the end of the world?

[Film Review] Evil Dead (2013)

Posted in Film Review with tags , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2013 by Casey Hutton
Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures.

Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures.

So…I went into the theater to see the new ‘remake’ of Evil Dead. A movie directed by Fede Alvarez (who also had a part in writing the screenplay) and starring the likes of Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, amongst others.

The official blurp reads: “Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. The evil presence possesses them until only one is left to fight for survival.”

I’m not going to lie. I walked into that theater more than just a little biased. Like so many others (Texas Chainsaw MassacreHalloween, etc.) I was actually expecting to be disappointed.

Although this Evil Dead was NOT Evil Dead, it was still a great horror movie. So if you haven’t seen it yet…then do not expect another rendition of Sam Raimi’s genius. Although still some cheese (which I will discuss later in the post) it is predominantly a kick-in-the-gut horror flick. Just the right amount of oomph combined with blood and gore. Could it have been a little more frightening? Yes. But to be honest, going into a movie named after one many of us (including myself) have watched a hundred times, it’s no easy task to top it.

The team behind the movie’s production did their best to create something new, yet still pay some homage to its predecessors. Small tidbits like the rusted out car behind the cabin, the swing, the vine-rape scene and others. It’s all there. My problem with this tactic is simple. It became a little old after a while. There was not one, but two hand/arm removing scenes, for instance. One with an electric carving knife (which I thought was genius…Easter ham anyone?) and the other via vehicle. But again, it looses it’s panache after the first few references and then moves on into actually hindering the movie from becoming something more.

There are also scenes that top that of films past. The tongue-forking scene was skin crawling. As was the bathroom face assault.

Despite the movies ups and downs, there is no mistake in how good it is. When I left the theater I had a little pep in my step, and although my personal experience was cut short (the theater crew were shooing people out before the credits stopped rolling), I managed to dig up the final credits scene to sate my Bruce Campbell infatuation. Although, I feel that the scene originally hinted at (which might make it to the deleted scenes upon its home video release) would have been great, I loved all 5 seconds!

This is a must see, if not at theaters than at least a renter if you don’t prefer to add it to your home video collection. Although no Evil Dead, it’s a great possession-turned slaughter flick and worth every penny.

[Film Review] This Must Be the Place (2011)

Posted in Film Review with tags , , , , , on April 11, 2013 by Casey Hutton
Photo Courtesy of Element Pictures.

Photo Courtesy of Element Pictures.

This Must Be the Place, distributed by Element Pictures, directed by Paolo Sorrentino and starring Sean Penn is…well…interesting and better than I expected. But, to be honest…I didn’t know what to expect. I had watched the trailer several times at work.

Originally debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011, it was released here in the United States in late 2012. The cover of the DVD/BR release is what originally caught my eye. Then, the promo loops hammered it home. However, still unsure, I was not willing to plop down the $14.99 to find out. However, thanks to Netflix (which now provides the title as part of their streaming service), This Must Be the Place will be part of my collection after all.

The blurp at IDBM reads: “Cheyenne, a retired rock star living off his royalties in Dublin, returns to New York City to find the man responsible for a humiliation suffered by his recently deceased father during WWII.”

This, however, doesn’t do the film justice, hence my hesitation at first. Penn does an amazing job here. Deadpan and almost child-like…it’s about a man making amends with a estranged father (post death), the places he sees and the people he meets along the way. The creative team behind the title paint a visual like one I haven’t seen in some time. The casting is simply amazing as everyone involved adds their own flare to the film.

This Must Be the Place is, in my opinion, a breath of fresh air. Many may not like it. I, however, think I can come to watch it several times without growing tired of it.

Two scenes in this movie stand out to me, and all but scream greatness:

1. The scene involving the big-boned child, a single mother and Penn’s character, Cheyenne. The child asks Penn to play This Must Be the Place by Arcade Fire. The exchange of dialogue and the resulting outcome is…well…beautiful.

2. The scene in the gun shop and the discussion involving killing with impunity.

Please, take time out of your day and watch this film. Keep an open mind and chances are, if you were even close to the same mindset I was when the time came to be stunned…you won’t regret it one bit.

[Film Review] Dredd (BR/DVD)

Posted in Film Review with tags , , , , , on January 28, 2013 by Casey Hutton

Judge Dredd (2012)Although not necessarily a ‘new’ release, as it came out January 8th of this year, I figure I’d take a look at one of the more recent films to be released that I legitimately enjoyed.

I have been a fan of the Dredd character since I was a kid. The art. The Comic. There’s even a part of me that loves the Stallone film adaptation from the 1990s.

This adaptation, however, released by Lionsgate is superb. It’s dark. It’s gritty. It’s Dredd. It has a one-liner or two and some of the same sadistic humor that the comic had (and still has), but none of the over-the-top additions its predecessor had.

We follow Dredd along with a new Judge with psy powers as she gets her review on the street. They are summoned to the scene of three bodies having been dropped from a rather high altitude in one of the tower living dwellings. Things take a toll for the worst, and it ends up the tower goes on lockdown and all hell breaks loose. Mayhem ensues.

As far as story goes, it’s straight forward. There no real surprises here, and once the film gets going it’s almost none-stop action. Although I enjoy the cast (Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey to name a few) the talent that went into this wasn’t a must. The dialogue is direct, and with only a handful of exceptions, most of the actors involved either die horribly soon after they come onto the screen or they   wear a helmet.

Some of the filming technique in this is amazing. The ‘Slo-Mo’ scenes are amazing. The light and how it plays off the set and camera is amazing. After watching some of the special features included in the BR/DVD combo pack, they even went so far as designing a new camera system that allowed them to do what they wanted.

Overall, it’s worth the time to see this film. It doesn’t go much of any where as far as location. It’s a solid action flick. And, unfortunately, it got pretty much forgotten at the box office. Hopefully, just as in the Stallone rendition, it gets its time to shine and will be found years on down the line…even if it’s in the ‘El Cheapo’ bin.

Rating: 6/10 Gingered Digits.

Reasoning: Character Development (0.5/2), Climax (1.5/2), Direction (2/2), Plot (1/2), Story (1/2).

[Review] The Raven (BD/DVD)

Posted in Film Review with tags , on October 10, 2012 by Casey Hutton

ImageWhere exactly do I start with this particular movie, dubbed “The Raven?”  I must admit, I was rather excited to see this film, and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the critic) I missed it while it was in theaters.

I invested my hard-earned $23.00 and purchased the Blu-Ray combo pack yesterday when it was released instead. And…although not exactly what I had thought it would be, ended up not being overly disappointed, given it was hammered by critics upon its release.

The premise is sound enough, the infamous Edgar Allen Poe and his works being brought to life by a living, breathing serial killer. All of this is fine and dandy. John Cusack is convincing enough, and as always, performs well. As does his supporting cast mates. What the film does lack, however, is depth. In the beginning, it seems to move almost too fast, taking away from the feel and enjoyment. The ending sums up too quickly and is rather anti-climactic.

Overall, is it worth seeing? If you like the mid-to-late 1800’s and the “Victorian” feel, yes. Just don’t expect a thrilling murder-mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Rating: 6/10 Gingered Digits.