Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Back to the Grindhouse...Zombeavers, Wolfcop, and a top Thirteen Horror Movies in the mind of Mad Mark.

Back to the Grindhouse!


I can’t figure out whether this movie tried too hard or just didn’t give a damn. It really rode the rails between those two ideals- on the one hand, it hit many of the familiar marks you’d see in a grindhouse film with a bad cop, supernatural situation, some blood and guts violence, and a terrific Werewolf transformation scene. On the other hand, almost nothing happens for the first fifteen minutes of the film and the character development is piss-poor at best. The villains make no sense- not just the Swiss cheese scheme, every detail about what they have done compared to what they want to do makes no sense and seems a twist for the sake of having a twist. Wolfcop fails in almost every way that storytelling should be done- the characters lack any depth, the hero isn’t very sympathetic, and every side character’s twist makes so little sense that you’re just left shaking your head in confusion. The movie succeeds in special effects, action sequences, and pure bizarreness.

There’s a character revelation that makes no sense at all within the context of that character’s confessed motivations. What this one character does completely flies in the face of logic with regards to the rest of the film. The other characters who seem to be in league with this character act in a manner that is entirely inconsistent with his supposed role and so the revelation isn’t so much a twist as a head scratching moment of absolutely confusion.

I wish I could recommend avoiding Wolfcop, but the film really does come into it’s own when it literally grows a set and brings about the first transformation. Everything kicks into gear and the blood and violence are more than just satisfactory, they are some of the best practical effects I’ve seen in a film of this sort. The writing also tends to pick up when it doesn’t try to be clever or create a new twist- when it’s at it’s more straightforward, the script works. Also, the acting is halfway decent with the lead character having a certain degree of charisma that leads his drunken wastrel of a deputy to actually be a likeable guy.

2.5. Rent it or stream it, but I wouldn’t recommend purchasing it.


Three college Sorority Sisters head up to a cabin for a weekend of fun and frivolity in the wake of a messy break-up for the token blonde. The token Nerd and the token Bitch try to cheer up their Sister with a relaxing swim in the nearby lake when they’re suddenly attacked- by the Frat Boys they thought they abandoned and a full weekend college bash of sex and booze begins. Nekkid teens bop around, beer is guzzled, secrets come to light, and the neighbors aren’t too happy with all the goings-on.

Then the Zombie Beavers attack.

Blood, guts, carnage, and a script that is as tongue in cheek as it can be with plenty of gratuitous beaver shots. While the lighting may not be too good on occasion, the film moves at a quick enough pace to never leave the audience bored and there are plenty of quick one-liners to throw on top of a those gory gags. The film is fairly predictable and goes where most fans of the genre might expect it to, though not necessarily the way they might predict. This is kind of another attempt to create a cult classic and it’s fair to say they may find a larger audience than Wolfcop, but the results are fairly similar here with a reliance on that Grindhouse Cult Cinema audience.

3 out of 5, Strong Rental.

Time to put a little bit of a list here, since I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts as of yet where they all list their top ten. Well, here I’m listing thirteen because it just feels like something I should do… and admittedly, some are on this list purely because of a corresponding number when they might’ve actually been tied with earlier entries. So, without further adieu-

My top thirteen list of Horror Movies!!!!

Friday the 13th Pt. IV: I love the series, but if I were asked to pick the very best one than this is the movie that tops the list with regards to all the storytelling elements. It has Jason, it tells his origin, it features the best death scenes, and it has the strongest cast. F/X master Tom Savini puts in some decent work here in putting Jason to rest for good… uh, at least until the sixth film revived him.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: This one is based on the original film which left me scarred as a child when a friend of mine told me a ghost story during one sleep over when he basically told me the story that opens the film- Tina being stalked in her dream. When I saw the movie a few weeks later, it still scarred me. This movie definitely has a place in my dark deep pit of horror.
Let the Right One In: This is a fairly recent film and smashes into my top favorites because it’s one of the most effective Vampire films I’ve ever seen. It terrifies me and makes me sad. I will not say that one should avoid the English remake, because that’s also a solid viewing- but the original Swedish film goes some places where the other film doesn’t and is that much more effective for it.
Jaws: This movie made audiences afraid to go near the water for generations. For me, it’s probably one of my earliest horror films and features a number of elements that I find brilliant. Quint’s monologue on the boat, the slap from the distraught mother, and those immortal one liners. There’s no way this film doesn’t make my top list.
Bride of Frankenstein: It’s a sequel, but in many ways it addresses many of the issues from the novel that the first film avoided. And those themes are what reaches out to me in this particular feature, over it’s original entry.
Pet Sematary: This movie scared the shit out of me. Seriously- the idea of wanting your loved ones back only to have them come back “changed” is a seriously screwed up trigger for me. That child—look, I don’t find this film enjoyable on any level but it horrifies and terrifies me and this is my list of top horror films, not my favorite movies. So there you go.
The Thing: John Carpenter’s film is a remake of a sci-fi classic, but it does everything a remake should do and it tells a different story altogether. This is one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever had watching a movie and, to be honest, some of the imagery still haunts me to this day.
Dawn of the Dead: George Romero continues the social commentary he began with “Night” and drives it straight at the American Consumer culture with this bit of horrific terror. This is a film that deserves to be studied- don’t just watch this film, study it and take note of the little things that maybe you might miss on a first viewing. Especially notice how the Mall Survivors behave after a few weeks of doing nothing but hanging out in the mall and spoiling themselves with material goods. Brilliant film.
Halloween: The second Carpenter film on list, and no surprise except maybe that some people might want to rate it a little higher. This movie builds tension masterfully, uses a wonderful score to its full advantage, and pretty much cements the Faceless Killer into the consciousness of cinephiles everywhere.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Bugnuts. This movie is pure insanity-if you haven’t seen this movie yet, do yourself a favor and watch it now. If you have only seen the remake, forget that and go rent the original right now. I’ll wait.
The Shining: Stephen King hates this adaptation of his novel- for good reason. His novel is a very personal exploration of his alcoholism, his relationship with his family, and several other small bits of himself scattered throughout the book. The movie, however, is about a haunted hotel during the dead of winter and the caretaker who is driven insane by the atmosphere around him. I’ll tell you a secret- It scared me as a kid. It sometimes scares me to this day- though the characters I identify with have changed as I’ve gotten older.
Night of the living Dead: This, for me, is a masterpiece. It’s hopeless, it’s tragic, and it’s one of the most impactful films ever made. The ending leaves people open mouthed- I’ve watched people cry and excuse themselves after watching this film. I love that.
Evil Dead: I’m not sure how old I was- I remember being very young and visiting my aunt when she put this movie on the VHS for everyone, and I remember bits and pieces of this film, and I remember being scared out of my mind for years to come. I realize many people think the film is hokey, but it is downright horrific when you think about some of the visuals- some of the pacing- the camera tricks. Never mind the comedic sequels that came later, I remember watching Linda sit crosslegged and sing that little ditty to the lead and I remember those blank white eyes. Those eyes. The blood, the gore, the horror- this movie terrified me at 7 and thrills me now at nearly 40. It’s my favorite horror film of all time.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mad Max and the shivering Swamp Knickers.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Holy shit-balls and shivering swamp knickers jammed to full throttle!

Are you familiar with the original Mad Max film? It's this Australian outback, post-apocalypse, roving gangs of psychotic punks in strange fetish-clothing winds up killing the family of a former cop who has no problem getting a little down and dirty. It’s a crazy movie- it spawned two previous sequels (Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome), all three films featured Mel Gibson as the star, and they were all insane trips through the same wasteland.  But it’s been decades since Max rode through the desert and actor Tom Hardy is replacing Gibson for the latest venture down the Fury Road. If you’re not familiar with those previous films, this latest entry doesn’t actually demand much in the way of knowledge so don’t worry. If you are familiar, this movie doesn’t require you to remember all that much about Max.

Max is a wasteland drifter- he runs afoul of a desert gang, gets strung up on the hood of a car, and winds up involved in the escape of Imperator Furiosa when she tries to high tail it across the desert with the gangs in tow. And once we get the set up, the chase never really lets up. It’s desperation, action, violence, and high petrol from start to finish with a few strong character arcs along the way to add a semblance of weight to the stakes. But never forget this is a Mad Max movie and not everything needs to make an awful lot of sense. 

Case in point?

THERE IS A M’F’IN’ GUITAR PLAYER HANGING FROM THE FRONT OF A TRUCK COVERED IN AMPLIFIERS!!!! Are we clear on that? A man with a guitar hangs from the front of a truck and chunks out a couple of deep riffs while the gangs ride through the desert- and if you’re worried that maybe a single guitar player couldn’t possibly be enough then set your worries at ease; There’s also a bunch of taiko drummers set in the back of the same truck. Because- yeah, it’s the post apocalypse. Why not?!

A word of advice though- Max isn’t really the star of this movie. He’s there, he’s sort of a hero, but he really does take a back seat to Furiosa. This is her story, through and through. This is her redemption, this is her tale, and this is her struggle. Charlize Theron chews up the scenery with her performance and absolutely nails it. This isn’t to say it’s not a Mad Max film- because it is. But much like the Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome, the journey isn’t really about Max- it’s about the people he’s helping. This movie is just a little more centered than the previous entries.

If you're worried, though... don't be. Let me be honest- Tom Hardy is a damnably handsome man. I'd say he's even better looking than Mel Gibson. Dear lord- look, I'm comfortable enough in my sexuality to look at those full lips and deeply soulful eyes and think, "Yep." 

The question has been asked... can we ever just get "Beyond Thunderdome"? This is the answer..  and yes, I was waiting to use that fucking pun and jam it in if I had to use a twenty pound sledgehammer to do it. FUCK YEAH!!! BLATANT PUN!!!! DIG IT!!!! 

5 out of 5.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Digging up the Marrow: Adam Greens latest film.

Digging Up The Marrow

I hate found footage movies. The moment a film presents itself as “found footage”, the inevitable problems with filming come up and blast you in the face. Shaky came! Poor lighting! Lack of focus! And all of this has to fit into a narrative that tells a story- Blair Witch Project is still the best example of this technique, but I don’t really enjoy that movie all that much. It makes me dizzy, the acting is often wooden, and the “story” is a little scattered. So I’ve never seen a “found footage” movie that I’ve entirely enjoyed. And every “trick” in a film like that has been done to death. We’ve even had a number of sequels made of the movies using the same technique to the point where the technique has been downright abandoned. ([.REC]?)

Adam Green is one of my favorite directors, though. And if he’s involved with a project I will undoubtedly give it a whirl and see where it takes me. And “Digging Up The Marrow” definitely took me places, one of them being a place deep beneath the earth where real monsters exist and live and hide from the rest of the world. The basic premise of the film is that this is a documentary and Adam Green plays himself and follows a “monster hunter” on his journey to expose the “Marrow” within which a society of monsters live. It’s not a new concept- the monsters are inspired by artist Alex Pardee and the whole project feels a little tertiary with all the other projects that Green has been working on since creating Ariesscope Pictures back in the late 90’s. The Society of Monsters is something we’ve seen a bunch of times before- Monsters Inc, Nightbreed, Etc. etc., so why not a “Found footage” approach to telling that kind of a story? It’d work about as well as a bunch of other recent entries where they watch ghosts, explore the entrance to hell, or follow Bigfoot. And Adam Green knows this- in fact, he’s so aware of it that we see his film crew and friends arguing with him about it. He even argues that the movie itself is NOT a found footage film”.

The film is fully aware of the pitfalls in the “found footage” documentary approach and it delivers all of those pitfalls in a way that draws the audience in and becomes a better story for it. Shitty lighting? Check. Night Vision looks like green blobby excrement on a budget? Big check right there, sure. Unreliable narration? You bet your sweet ass. This movie takes the genre and twists it in on itself- perhaps a little too self aware at times, the film absolutely knows what kind of audience it’s likely to get and plays right to them. Featuring cameos from Mick Garris, Kane Hodder, and an odd assortment of genre favorites, Adam Green delivers a decent little project that explores some interesting ground.

The creature designs are amazing… we see sketches of some monsters that will never appear, all the work of artist Alex Pardee and the film is largely based on his art show “Digging up the Marrow” (the film sees a strong collaborative effort between Green and the original artist). No effect is wasted and we absolutely get to see the creepy-crawlies of the Marrow in all their splendid glory. One of them, in particular, kind of haunted me for a long while after the film was over and left me all giggles with excitement and shibbery awesomeness.

But while it’s good, it just falls a little short of “Great” and I’m still not a fan of the sub-sub-genre that’s become more and more popular as of late. While it’s amusing to hear the producers, editor, and camera operator complain about the lack of light or the shitty conditions and quality of “found footage”, it does nothing to really IMPROVE those conditions. Adam Green as himself comes across as a bit naïve and childish at times and it makes him a compelling protagonist. But it also may be a bit of an error in blurring that line between fantasy and fiction. It does make it hard to take him seriously at times. He portrayal of Adam Green the character is straight out of Holliston, of course- but that just makes the line all the more odd because he’s obviously playing a caricature in the series.

3.5 out of 5. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Nunsense at Paper Wing Theatre


This is not my first time. I’ve seen Nunsense- one of the actresses performing was the Beauty School Drop-out herself from the movie Grease and one of the Golden Girls played another nun. It was funny and perhaps a little more risqué than I was expecting in my channel surf to glory but there it was on cable television.

So we fast forward a few years and Paper Wing Theatre announces their 2015 schedule and it includes “Nunsense” on the bill and a little weird guy inside my head was actually kind of giddy at the prospect. I really liked it when I saw it a few years on A&E so this was kind of a highlight for the upcoming theatrical year. Kate Faber, who directed last years “Wondrettes”, would be tackling this show and I’m literally jumping in my chair with a little bit of excitement- quickly and stoically shoving it back behind me, because the Gorehound I’m known to be would never in a million years be the sort of person who gets a kick out of warm and fuzzy shows like this. Actually, I got more than a few sideways glances when I would tell people I was really looking forward to it- that I really love this show- and so on so forth. Like a certain little cog just wasn’t clicking with what they know about me- let me settle that issue right now: I am really freakin’ weird and it doesn’t just mean I like horror movies, sci-fi, comics, D&D, or Professional Wrestling.


I also like Nuns, puns, and off-kilter humor told through song.

Kate Faber pulls double duty here as the shows director and one of the five principle performers, Sister Hubert. Faber is one of the strongest vocal performers and an expressive comedic actress in her own right, but her direction really takes center stage here as she manages to corral five very different characters into a pun-heavy, zany, wackadoodle comedy with great timing, zany antics, and hilarious wordplay.

The premise is fairly simple; the surviving nuns of a New Jersey convent are putting on a talent show to raise the money to bury some of their less fortunate Sisters after a recent accident involving an accidental mass poisoning. It’s not the first tragic event to occur at the Convent, which we are quick to learn in one of the opening numbers instructing us on the history of the church. A lesson followed up by an audience participation quiz run by the Convent’s own Sister Amnesia (Alyca Tanner), a nun plagued with a mental disorder that causes her to be quite forgetful. I know there’s a name for that condition, but I can’t remember. Tanner also pulls double duty as the vocal director for music, but she left me in near tears with her characters timing and delivery. She’s so funny that it’s hard to reconcile that she’s also directing the strong vocals from a cast of ladies that never fail to deliver.

Each of the Nuns have a separate story about their lives, the decisions that led them to the Convent, and what their lives mean now that they’ve chosen this life for themselves. The show is mostly light-hearted fun with a little gallows humor (dead nuns in a freezer), but it never disrespects the Faith of the people who choose life of service for the purpose of a cheap laugh. Whether it’s the Brooklyn-born Nun with a little street smarts and a snarky attitude problem (Katie Day), the ballerina who hopes to express her faith through interpretive dance (Mindy Whitfield), or the former tight-rope walking Mother Superior (Linda Felice) whose life’s work came after a traumatic event- each of these Sisters has a reason for being where they are in their lives.  All are hilarious and all shine in various moments of the play. I nearly had a few asthma attacks along the way.

Nunsense is all that and a bag of chips… okay, no one gave me a bag of chips and I could’ve quite frankly enjoyed a bag. But I digress. I like this show. I think a lot of people will enjoy this show and it’s something that you can take your kids to.

4 out of 5.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Age of Ultron and Horns.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

And the 2015 Summer Blockbuster season has officially begun with the big Marvel superhero mash-up and the big booms and the flashy-dashy-bang-bang-boom-a-bang WOOOO WOOOO(!!!) of the latest Avengers film from director Joss Whedon. It’s got thrills and chills and spills- let’s just face it, the movie is everything that you want out of a big  blockbuster action epic. They throw everything into this one folks- it’s got monsters, it’s got a global threat, an exciting villain, romance, drama, secrets, and an introduction to the teams newest members. It’s got everything!!!

James Spader uses his voice to bring Ultron to life- to be honest, never been one of my favorite Marvel villains. Always felt a little ambivalent whenever he showed up as a villain because he always just sort of seemed way “too” powerful- multiple copies, able to go from one device to another, able to counter every super power known- he’s on my list of “Villains I don’t care to see in a film”- but Spader, despite not visually appearing in the movie, manages to make him one of the more interesting cinematic villains with real honest character flaws I don’t’ remember reading about in the comics.

If this is Stark’s swan song, he goes out on a much better note than we saw in Iron Man 3. The primary focus of the films play on interpersonal relationships continually returns to Stark and Rogers, Iron Man and Captain America. Where they both want to be, where they both want to go, how they both want to get there, and so on, so forth. Captain America is the team leader, a role Stark is eager to avoid and which Rogers seems best suited for- but as the lone wolf, Iron Man continues to act outside the mandates of the “Team” and there are consequences to those actions… the creation of Ultron most immediately becoming a concern and at other times where the consequences can be just as beneficial as Ultron is destructive. Truth be told (and I may be over thinking this), their relationship is a fantastic allegory regarding the nature of a political division we see running rampant in this country, the division between acting only with the advice and consent of the larger whole and the willingness to take risks for personal achievement. I’m not trying to spoil anything, but the creation of Ultron does NOT answer that question or settle any sort of debate on the matter.

Okay, so how much of everything actually matters? Let me be honest- I loved this movie, but not nearly as much as I enjoyed the first film. And I loved so much of this film, but the problem with throwing everything into a movie is that you don’t always really NEED everything. The villain was interesting, the social dynamics between most of the characters really drive the plot, and the introduction of the new team members pushed the envelope- but then the film sort of jumped the rail a bit by shoehorning a romance and playing with obvious tropes for a few emotional stingers. The film would work without some of these sub-plots and these are moments that literally stretch the overly long run-time to a barely tolerable level for my nine-year old son.

No child of mine should ever turn to me after a huge superhero bang-up and say “That was really long.” And, more importantly, I shouldn’t agree with him. But there we have it- EVERYTHING just sort of gets in the way of what is essentially a really good story otherwise.

4 out of 5.


I missed this one in the theaters. Actually, I missed a lot of movies in the theater during the past 2014 to the point where I didn’t even bother writing a top ten list of films that I saw in the theater. This would have probably made that list, however. But not for the reasons you might expect- and to be honest, this film was nothing like what I would have expected it to be. Even after reading the synopsis and understanding that the film was probably going to be a little strange, it was not what I expected it to be. To be clear, I expected a horror film with a few comedic elements and what would ultimately be a big monster out for vengeance. This was not what I received- this was not what was promised, but I felt certain that the film would head in this direction when I read the synopsis.

(Daniel Radcliffe) is the town pariah after everyone believes he’s gotten away with the murder of his High School sweetheart. Only he’s entirely innocent but has no way to prove it- he’s guilty in the eyes of nearly everyone he knows and there’s still a murderer out there. He wishes he could find the murderer, of course. And he wakes up one morning to discover he’s sprouting horns from his head. And everyone he comes into contact with are unable to see them or remember their contact with him afterward, during which they reveal their deepest darkest secrets. Can he use his new powers to find the murderer?

The movie is based on a story by Joe Hill, son of the famed horror novelist Stephen King. It’s directed by “Haute Tension” director, Alexander Aja. It has amazing special effects, a gory climax, and is brilliantly acted by the films leads. And it is not at all what you would expect…

This film isn’t a horror film. It’s no more a horror film than Pan’s Labyrinth and seems to fall much more securely in that category- a sort of “Dark Fantasy” realm that touches on a few horror tropes but manages to avoid the category altogether. This is a love story- there is a lot of symbolism alluding to religion, faith, the place of God in one’s life, the purpose of the devil, the purpose of sin, and so on so forth through the range. This is a movie with a lot of questions and few answers and it’s beautifully shot and acted. If you’re reading this and you love those genre films that defy easy classification, do yourself a favor and throw this one on your nearest device and give it a spin. You won’t be sorry.

4 out of 5.