Friday, December 1, 2017

Red Christmas

Well... it's hard to describe the tone or theme of this film. A family at Christmas get together one last time before the Matriarch (played by Dee Wallace) sells the family home and heads off on trip through Europe. Their gathering is interrupted by the arrival of a "mysterious" stranger who offers a reminder on a terrible deed done some twenty years previous.

Okay, it's hard to not spoil the film when it pretty much lays it on so thick in the beginning. An aborted fetus is saved from a clinic and returns to his mother after twenty years. Initially he hopes to rediscover the family he's lost, but he quickly goes on a roaring rampage of revenge. He roars and he rampages and the kills are brilliantly bloody- but the ultimate payoff seems a bit short.

And that's why the film ultimately feels a bit mixed on the delivery. The kills feel like a final punchline to a satirical expression with a pro-life message. But the melodrama plays so serious that it's hard to tell if the film is meant to be humorous or deadly serious. Ultimately, the film is as offensive to pro-life advocates as it would be to pro-choice and I think it ultimately works in a truly fucked up way.

Monday, November 27, 2017

3 REVIEWS!!!! Coco, Man who Invented Christmas, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Shortly after a recent string of flops, author Charles Dickens is inspired to write a new Christmas story to celebrate an often overlooked Holiday. With only six weeks to write, illustrate, and publish the work it seems an impossible and herculean task that our hero tackles through personal debt, a battle with the demons of his past, and observations of the world around him.

That’s the story in a nutshell, but this piece goes much further into exploring the manic energy of a creative force and the inner fires that propel him. Dicken’s work is a phenomenon throughout the world, the characters brought to life with a sense of deep exploration into the dual nature of man and the dual natures of Charles himself. We see how his creative mania affects the people around him, how he is affected by a history of familial debt, and that much of his kindness and charity covers a secret darkness he’s long held back in the form of Scrooge.

Scrooge is brought to life in a way that we rarely see- the character stripped raw and bare and taking shape in the mind of Dickens. Christopher Plummer brings life to this sardonic, cold, and often cruel image of a man who walks ill-formed through the night and only takes pleasure from Dicken’s suffering- it’s Scrooge who plays spirit to the window of Dickens soul in this examination of the creative process.

8 out of 10 and a strong recommend.


The latest from Disney/PIXAR is a fun family film. Celebrating Mexico’s Day of the Dead, Coco is the story of a young boy’s journey to the underworld in order to find and receive a family blessing that will allow him to return to the land of the living. Aided by a stray dog he’d begun feeding, Miguel has a passion for music and a family that despises the art itself. Torn between the direction of his heart’s passion and devotion to a family he loves; Miguel’s journey forces him to weigh his responsibilities.

The story is fairly paint by numbers, with a series of cliché tropes and a few interesting characters. Often endearing and genuinely tender, the film doesn’t seem pressed to reinvent the wheel with unfamiliar twists or tricks. All of these things prove unnecessary once we see the beautiful palate of colors and art on display. Fluroescent greens, blues, yellows, and orange take a sharp contrast with the darkness of the Underworld. Sometimes simple is often better when you have such a lush tapestry to work with. Robert Lopez’s signature musical sound comes through in most of the songs and are beautifully sung by the cast.

7.5 out of 10, highly recommend.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The latest film from Martin McDonagh is a darkly look at grief, resentment, incompetence, and regret. Frances McDormand is Mildred Hayes, a grief-stricken mother frustrated with the lack of progress on her daughter’s murder investigation. More starkly haunted by the sheer viciousness of the crime, Hayes is inspired to rent three billboards outside her small town near the location of her daughter’s murder. The billboards bear a message for the local police, singling out popular small town Sheriff, Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). The two engage in a civil battle of wills, exacerbated by Willoughby’s incompetent debuty Dixon (Sam Rockwell).

This is definitely a mouthful of movie and story-telling. Dialogue driven, there is just as much to swallow between the lines as there are the lines themselves. McDormand is simply excellent as the cold, shattered, and ultimately broken woman who must cope with her grief, her regret, and her frustrations. Harrelson, who could have easily been painted as an unsympathetic “good ol’ boy” villain is endearing, frustrated, and torn apart by his inability to catch the murderer. The two forces play off each other well, neither one willing to give an inch and neither one driven by any real animosity between them. There’s genuine affection between the two characters, who were very likely friends before the daughters’ murder.

But if you are looking for an absolutely amazing performance with a truly complicated character, look no further than Sam Rockwell’s Dixon. He is every bit the “Good ol’ Boy” villain- an incompetent officer driven by shame, guilt, and a devotion to his boss that borders on the psychopathic. This is a violent “mama’s boy” who shouldn’t be one hundred feet near a badge and everyone in this town knows it. Everyone but Sheriff Willoughby, who sees only the best in Dixon and the true heart of the man.

The real star of the film is MgDonagh’s script, itself. A brilliantly written piece with so much wound up in the words and those ever important bits of silence, a certain meaning expressed behind words that mean something entirely different, and the implications that don’t always spell things out for the audience. Some will walk away feeling the film ended in one way, others will walk away finding something else entirely, and none of it is “wrong” when all is said and done. Three Billboards is often about our perceptions and the fact that, sometimes, the villain isn’t always so obvious.

10 out of 10. MUST SEE!!!  

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Christmas Carol

Out from the depths of a dark set, a figure emerges and presents our story- traditional black suit, crisp red tie, and his eyes meeting various members of the audience to drive home his points. His words are the prose of a classic author, his tale and presentation is familiar, and he is very much along with his listeners for the ride. Sam Messenger is confident, engaging, and earnest in his portrayal as the narrator in Paper Wing Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol: In Prose with Puppetry” and he perfectly sets the mood for the show as it opens.

As endearing as the day it was first published, director Christopher Scott Sullenger’s adaptation of Charles Dickens original story is incredibly satisfying as a seasonal piece. The air is appropriately cold and bleak, but the white chalky set painting against black back drop offers a sense of nostalgic warmth in its simplicity. The costuming is appropriate to the time period, and the few set pieces that make their way to the stage are sparse and uncluttered, leaving plenty of room for the powerful performances of the ensemble group of actors. And the Puppetry design- inspired in parts with Henson-esque design and some similarity to the work of Hayao Miyazaki, is beautiful to witness.

The story is as traditional as it gets with the incomparable Jay Devine taking the lead as curmudgeon tight wad, Ebenezer Scrooge. Devine is cruel, cold, and heartless from the start with a brief sneer of disdain aimed toward the audience, the ensemble, and finally settling in to his drudgery and quiet dismissal of faithful employee Bob Cratchit (A friendly and amenable Larry Oblander) and earnest nephew Fred (Erik James Morton). Scrooge is visited by his deceased friend, Jacob Marley; in a loud, tortured, and painful performance from local horror host Shane Dallmann. What follows are three visits from three ghosts, two in puppet form and one in the form of Dallmann in a duel role as the celebratory Ghost of Christmas Present.

A large ensemble cast fill a number of other roles, from various Londoners, party-goers, and a live fiddle player who bring celebratory Holiday cheer to remind Scrooge of the young man he once was. The scenes build to the climactic arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Future- a harrowing image of full body puppetry and multiple puppeteers who bring the image to life on stage.

Ultimately, I can offer a lot of personal praise regarding the show- but the real highlight was watching my twelve year old son, a bit of a curmudgeon in his own right and at a salty enough age. His eyes glittered as the story progressed, he was pulled in, and he snuggled his old pop a little closer as the show came to a close. That made everything for me.

A terrific Holiday show, recommended for the whole family.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Justice League

2017 is going to go down as one of the best years ever for the cinema. Just flat out, from beginning to end this year has been filled with incredible flicks with deep meaning and amazing blockbusters that broke records and set new bars. So it's going to be a pretty hill to climb when I'm looking at Justice League and I'm seeing something that would absolutely shine in any other year.

Before we get to the meat and gristle, let's talk about the presentation; Zack Snyder previously brought us Man of Steel and Batman V Superman, both of which were somewhat dour and colorless looks at the DC comic heroes. There huge action set pieces, amazing effects, but the whole thing felt like a bit of a drag for me as a viewer. Suicide Squad saw the DC universe expand with a couple of villains, but ultimately felt rudderless. It wasn't until this past year where Wonder Woman hit the mark that DC felt like it was on the right track. Justice League continues to ride that wave, introducing us to new heroes in the form of Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash.

The character interaction in this film brings more humor to the table, with the Flash's refreshing enthusiasm acting as a fulcrum with which to bring light to what had been a world of darkness. Cyborg could have easily become a dark and brooding caricature, but was brought to earnest life and carried the heart of the team. Aquaman was bombastic, Wonder Woman was engaging, and Ben Affleck once again donned the cape and cowl to deliver one of the best Batman performances in ages.
But nothing prepared me for the performance delivered by Henry Cavil as Superman. Because, yes, he is back and yes he plays an important part to the formation of the League... but more than that, and the reason I'm not putting a spoiler warning about this, is that Cavil delivers the Superman of my childhood to the silver screen. He's the earnest boy scout, the hope, the willingness to be good and be human and be HUMANE. It was something I wanted from Man of Steel but didn't feel I got. This movie brings it.

But, unfortunately, the film does suffer some missteps. Mainly, the films antagonist is a cartoon... a computer generated cartoon that didn't look or feel real in any way. Steppenwolf's threat is poorly realized, his motivation a mystery, and his story is thin at best. The film felt at it's best when the team wasn't even engaged with him.

But, all in all, a recommend. 8 out of 10

Thursday, November 2, 2017

31 Days of Horror Challenge completed! 2017!!!!

I finally completed the full 31 Days of Halloween horror challenge! I’ve tried to tackle this task every year and every year there always a few days that slip away from me… sometimes even an entire week. But I set myself down to the task… far harder to achieve than I originally thought, as I wasn’t always in the mood for a horror film. Even a horror comedy. But I persevered…. So now, without further ado:

  1. Gerald’s Game

  1. Graveyard Shift

  1. Cult of chucky

  1. Silver Bullet

  1. The Wolf Man

  1. Hatchet 3

  1. Sleepwalkers

  1. Victor Crowley

  1. Don’t Kill It

  1. Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare

  1. Curse of the Devil

  1. The Evil Dead

  1. Friday the 13th 4: The final Chapter

  1. The people under the stairs

  1. My Bloody Valentine

  1. The Babysitter

  1. A Nightmare on Elm Street

  1. Equinox

  1. 13 Demons

  1. Phantasm

  1. Young Frankenstein

  1. Residue

  1. Prince of Darkness

  1. Night of the Living Dead

  1. The Thing

  1. The Rocky Horror Picture Show

  1. In The Mouth of Madness

  1. The Prowler

  1. Zombie 2 (AKA Zombi, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombie)

  1. Creature from the black Lagoon

  1. The Monster Squad

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

She Kills Monsters 2017 Watsonville Highschool

She Kills Monsters

Monsters, demons, “Dungeons & Dragons”, and tragedy smash together in this irreverent comedy recently produced by Watsonville High School. Qui Nguyen’s “She Kills Monsters” is one of my favorite play reads from 2013 and I’ve seen it performed locally to hilarious results in 2015. But, while I’d been aware that Nguyen had adapted a script for a “teen” production, I was curious to see how several of the story elements would change. Agnes the Ass-hatted is now a teenage girl whose boyfriend is on the football team, her best friend works in the gap, but she is still trying to cope with the loss of her younger sister. And that loss stings in the opening moments of the play and lead her to seek solace in her sister’s homespun gaming module, a game that Agnes will need Chuck Biggs (hilariously presented by Bowen Hayes) to run.

As Agnes (stoically played by Alexandra Rocha) attempts to connect with the memory of sister, the module reveals startling truths that reveal a sister that Agnes didn’t really know. It reveals painful moments, glorious moments, and depth to the socially awkward Tilly that Agnes had never seen before. Tilly’s energy (Ezra Soto) is endearing and her joys and pains play out with steady professionalism. The play utilizes the “game” as a mechanic to tell the story with plenty of stage combat, references to geek culture, and tackles issues of loss, teen angst, bullying, gender roles, sexuality, and the nature of peoples’ relationships with one another.

The young cast is enthusiastic and tackles the material that many casts would find challenging. Everyone takes advantage of their moment on stage to present their characters and revel in the script and story that they are telling. There are some marked differences between the adult and teen versions of the script, as much of the profanity is lost and a few of the “adult” issues are replaced with more teen-centric subjects. But many of the controversial subjects remain intact. And that’s a good thing, because this is a truly wonderful play.

7.5 out of 5.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Nuclear Heat from The Rocky Horror Show 2017

His lips quirk, equal parts disdain and hunger. Eyes burn with a challenging fury, “Here there be monsters!” they warn. Douglas Duffy Johnson slithers like a serpent in the garden of Eden, opens his maw, and swallows The Rocky Horror Show with a punk rock energy that demands to be seen. He leads the new cast for Paper Wing Theatre’s Halloween show with an infectious energy that breathes new life into the fall tradition and the rest of the cast rises to join him.

Richard O’Brien’s irreverent rock opera has become a steady tradition in the Monterey Bay, and Paper Wing Theatre has long played home to the raucous entertainment. I’ve seen the show more times than I can literally count, both in the audience and as a performer on the stage. I’ve written about the show a few times, each time after the first believing that I wouldn’t have anything left to write.  But this year promised a new beginning as the role of Frank N Furter would be newly cast and the double billing of separate casts promised a refreshing take on the material. But it was going to take a nuclear level performance to inspire me to write anything beyond “great show” on my facebook.

Johnson is joined on the stage by the playfully adoring Leia Dilley as Columbia, the scheming rat-like Justin Azevedo as Riff Raff, and the dangerously psychotic Kelly Machado as Magenta. All bring their amazing vocals to the numbers and follow Johnson in the new direction and play to his dangerous allure. Whether worn by his shenanigans or adoring in their idolatry, they never forget that Frank is the center of their world. The creation of Rocky (Xun Zhang) isn’t just the culmination of the Doctor’s efforts, he is the catalyst that sends their world spiraling out of control.

And his world begins to melt with the arrival of the boyishly innocent Brad and naïve Janet, both skillfully brought to life by newcomers Jay Jones and Anjoli Johnson.  From their vocals to their portrayals, they become innocent victims to the doctors mad schemes. The incredible finale of “Superheroes” bleeds on stage.

When a nuclear reactor approaches critical mass, you feel it in the air…. Radiating heat, energy, and something is going to give. The first act builds with several introductions leading to the arrival of Frank, the audience explodes.   Then the monster is born and we feel the burning aftermath of that explosion bake us into our seats. And then the world crumbles and the Doctor’s sins return in the form of Randy Spires’ rendition of Eddie, the Rockstar rebel whose parts were harnessed to create the monster. And there’s an angry chill that washes over the audience as Spires vocals deliver a vengeful nuclear winter that rains on the good doctor’s parade.

The new world, a desolate wasteland aftermath of the Doctor’s dreams come true settles in as our heroes fall to temptations and danger. But there’s one more surprise in store for the Doctor, one more sin to haunt him, one more message from beyond the grave as Frank’s nemesis, Dr. Everett Scott, arrives in the form of Steven Howard. And he delivers his message with passionate vocals that bring the original Meatloaf’s performance of Dr. Scott to life and rekindles the burning fires of that nuclear energy with a beautiful rendition of “Eddies Teddy”.

And so the new cast of The Rocky Horror Shows melts with radiation levels and the nuclear blast wipes detritus from the face of mother earth. The battle hardened mean machine devours all in its wake.

10 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

7 MORE DAYS OF HORROR!!!! (31 Days Horror Challenge.

Day 11:

A Waldermar Denisky story, somewhere in the series of the cursed werewolf made famous by Spanish Horror Legend; Paul Naschy. This film follows the doomed Lord as he unknowingly becomes a werewolf by night and slaughters the innocent people of his village. The killings are blamed on an escaped axe wuelding maniac.

A fairly well done gem of 70s horror, Curse delivers gothic trashiness complete with satanic rituals, bloody murder, and a solid performance from Naschy. The film is dated, however an the pacing may be a little difficult for modern audiences.

DAY 12:
The Evil Dead

Day 13:
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

DAY 14
The People Under the Stairs

DAY 15
My Bloody Valentine (1981)

DAY 16:
The Babysitter

Directed by McG? Seriously? That's his name? Okay. Fine.

Anyway, The Babysitter is a pretty fun ride. A twelve year old boy decides to stay up late and see what his babysitter gets up to after he goes to sleep. The results aren't what he expects, and shenanigans result where the young boy is forced to fight for survival against a satanic cult. What sets this film apart from others is the character dynamic between the sitter and our male lead. There's genuine affection between the two characters and we're sort of caught hoping that things turn out. But things can't ALL turn out well... right?

6 out of 10.

DAY 17:
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Day 17 was pretty special for my 31 days of horror. A Nightmare On Elm Street isn't the greatest film, but it has a special place in my heart and it ran at one of our local theaters for a night. The Theater just happened to get some new recliner seats so it was pretty heavenly... not really a review of the film, but rather I enjoyed experience.

Sleeping over a friends’ house, we started to tell each other some scary stories. He suddenly hits me with this story about a man who creeps through a girl’s dream and ultimately kills her- scares the living hell out of me. His story was basically the first few minutes of Nightmare on Elm Street, as I would come to learn a few months later when my mother’s friend rented the movie for us one night. And I see the very story that kept me up late at night come to life… I forgave the plagiarism and my friend and I excitedly watched a few more movies his parents had in their collection when they weren’t home.

I have some issues with the third act of the film in that the movie starts to fall apart a little bit. It loses focus and it doesn't really have a solid ending, it sort of fizzles out with a sputter rather than a bang. But that's just my opinion.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

31 DAYS OF HORROR!!! DAY 10 Yokai Monsters Spook Warfare

DAY 10: Yokai Monsters Spook Warfare

An odd film out of Japan featuring monsters of Folklore attempting to do battle with an invading demon Yokai named Daimon. The Samurai, Shinhachiro, tries to save the daughter of the possessed magistrate from her father's depredations.He is helped, somewhat without realizing, by a number of Yokai creatures from ancient times.

As the tenth film in my 31 Days of Horror Challenge, the film borders on being more of a kids movie but the violent bloody deaths make up for it. However, many of the children are bordering on HR Puffnstuff effects. This may be a sign of the time it was made, however... but the make-up is still endearing.

6.5 out of 10 and a definite recommend for Japanese genre film enthusiasts. 

31 Days of Horror Challenge: DAY 9: "Don't Kill It!"

31 Days of Horror: DAY 9

Wow... I went into this movie with no real expectations and came out with my mind blown. A terrifically gory little piece of cinema, Dolph Lundgren is a tired demon hunter looking for a missing spirit he and his father had exorcised once upon a time in a flashback. The demon is a mass murdering thing that leaps from one body to the next one that had killed it. The deaths are spectacularly gory and the film definitely has a darkly comic feel to it. Lundgren also shows how underrated he is as a leading man, carrying much of the film on his back.

Totally worth the watch and is currently, as of this writing, streaming on Netflix.

7.5 out of 10.

Monday, October 9, 2017



Victor Crowley is a splatterfest of a good time. Featuring the return of Adam Greens' misshapen ghostly beast, VC delivers the grue and viciousness of the previous installments of the series. He also manages to capture laugh out loud moments of comedy without sacrificing the brutality and scares. My wife literally threw her popcorn all over her neighbor at one point while my son fist pumped with me during the extremely graphic kills. Surprises abound and Green continues to express his love for the genre stars who make their bones in horror.

I attended the Victor Crowley Road Show in Monterey, California. It was definitely the right audience to watch the film with... we cheered, we laughed, we were in our glory, and the audience was incredibly receptive.

I've decided to not spoil anything regarding this film so forgive me if my review is lax on the details and maybe you were expecting more. But, as a fan of the film maker and the film series in general I am happy to comply with the wishes of the film's creator by not spoiling details for the fans of the series in general.

31 Days of Horror: Day 5, 6, and 7. The Wolf Man, Hatchet 3, and Sleepwalkers


The Lon Chaney Jr. classic is a bit of a staple during the Halloween season and has been reviewed previously on my blog. Coinciding with October's cycle of the full moon, it was the perfect choice for Day 5 in the challenge. With that said, it continues to stand up as a true classic and delivers on the emotional pain and genuine scares.

8 out of 10


The final installment of Adam Green original trilogy includes some funny moments but ultimately lacks a bit if the charm in the original 2 films. Most jarring is the change in lead character Mary Beth (Danielle Harris) who goes from heroine to bitch. From someone eager to end the curse to someone who just doesn't seem to give a damn... And the result is a bit anticlimactic. Still an enjoyable ride overall,and a few surprised along the way. Derek Mears as the lead SWAT officer leads to a memorable scene between veteran Jason performers, and Kane Hodder is as vicious as ever.


Middling film based on a script by Stephen King. It's kind of a fun story about Cat People (Bastets) moving to a small town and attempting to survive by sucking the life essence from teen girls. There are plenty of cameos but this is pretty much the tail end of Stephen King's first "hey day" as a name in mainstream Hollywood films.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 4 "Silver Bullet"

31 Days of Horror: DAY 4

Based on Stephen King's "Cycle of the Werewolf" ( a collaboration project with artist Bernie Wrightson), Silver Bullet features the young Corey Haim at the height of acting prowess, playing Marty Cosgrove. The story follows a wheel-chair bound young man and his older sister(Megan Follows) as they uncover the mystery behind the deaths of local townsfolk.

Gary Busey delivers a touching performance as their wild uncle, who has a special bond with Marty. He engineers a special wheelchair for the boy and eventually helps them to uncover the secret behind the Werewolf.

Top notch talent and story all around. 

7.5 out of 10

31 Days of Horror: Cult of Chucky (on Netflix)


Cult Of Chucky:

On the tail end of events from the previous film, Chucky is precisely where we last found him… reunited with his terrorized victim from decades earlier, a now fully adult “Andy” (Alex Vincent) and not in the position he would most like. He’s a disembodied head that Andy enjoys tormenting on a regular basis. The living doll taunts the mentally unhinged boy and things are as they should be… until we join Chucky’s most recent victim or torment, the wheelchair bound Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif, daughter of “Chucky” voice Brad). She’s rotting away in an insane asylum having been framed for the doll’s murderous rampage. Things take a shocking turn when multiple “Good Guy” dolls arrive on the hospital wing, any one of which could house the spirit of Fiona’s tormenter.

This franchise long ago threw any semblance of reality out of the window, but seems intent on maintaining a strange sense of continuity as the stories become more solidly linked through much more than the simple presence of a Chucky Doll. And, insofar as the series seemed more intent on embracing it’s comedic elements, the story also takes a far more sinister turn as many previous victories are twisted to become much harsher defeats. Andy didn’t get to live “happily ever after” as we seem him facing rejection in the very first scene, characters from the previous films face ignoble ends, and Chucky’s torment of his victims reaches a fever pitch.

A word to the wise- I caught Cult of Chucky on Netflix the very same day it was released on Blu-ray and it should be noted that my version was not unrated. From all reports, it’s missing a key end-stinger that most audiences felt was far more satisfying than the end of the film I saw. I have to admit the film I saw had a great opening act, slowed down to a crawl (despite numerous violent deaths) in the middle, and then really picked up steam to a fairly flat climax at the end. It left me wanting more and I’m curious what that end stinger might be.

6.5 out of 10 and a light recommendation.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

31 Days of Horror, Day 2 (Graveyard Shift)

Graveyard Shift (Day 2)

Based on the short story my Stephen King, Graveyard Shift is a 1990 horror film. Directed by Ralph Singleton, and starring Stephen Macht and David Andrews. Macht plays the unscrupulous foreman of a run-down textile mill, Andrews a drifter recently hired to run the basement cotton-picker. The season is a humid summer, so hot and stifling that the mill can only be run during the Graveyard shift. As Memorial Day approaches, several of the non-union employees are offered a double pay opportunity to help clean out the sub-basements of the rat-infested mill. 

Not the best or most grounded story, Graveyard Shift has a distinctive B-Movie ascetic and seems to depend far more on developing a mood and feeling than anything else. this is a dirty, grimy, disgusting little film that drips with sweat. You can practically smell the rot and mildew that has to run through the building- the rats and their grimy bodies almost seem to crawl out of the screen and pass over your bare toes in the wee hours of the night. It’s blatantly nasty and Macht’s over the top performance is the perfect cherry on top of this ridiculous creature feature.

6.5 out of 10.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Gerald's Game on Netflix

Fucking nailed it!

Gerald's Game is now streaming on Netflix. The latest in the current trend in Stephen King revivals, this taut thriller gets itself a first time adaptation from genre director Michael Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) and is a riveting suspense ride. The story begins when a married couple, Jessie (Carla Cugino) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood), try to add a little spark to their marriage when they visit their house on the like. Gerald, in an attempt to kink things up, brings in a pair of handcuffs- but Jesse isn't all that into it. The resulting argument ends with a sudden heart attack on poor Gerald and Jesse is trapped with both hands cuffed to the bed. Hilarity ensues. No, not really... a desperate Jesse is forced to survive the weekend in hopes of someone's arrival, but events quickly spiral out of control as she loses her grip on her sanity.

Carla Cugino plays the lead, and delivers a performance with multiple levels. At times helpless, desperate, and afraid we are forced to watch her find an inner strength and debate herself at turns with the apparitions of her mind. Memories are revealed and deep pain is dragged out so that our heroine can find the inner strength to overcome her demons. 
There are some changes from the book but only in that it streamlined the narrative a bit more cleanly for film. All of the truly gory bits remain intact. Highly recommended for fans of tense slow burns, though the tension never really lets up throughout the grueling ordeal.  
8.5 out of 10 and a huge recommend. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hookman @ Western Stage 2X4

Hookman: At the Western Stage 2X4 BASH

Lauren Yee’s “The Hookman” begins with UCONN student named Lexi (A magnetic Niki Moon) on a Winter Break cut tragically short with the accidental death of her best friend. She is haunted by the image of the dreaded “hookman” of Urban Legend and finds herself in an existential crisis as the madman seems to be stalking her and her college friends. The darkly comic script is often vicious in cutting dialogue. Our main character is not the sympathetic “final girl” most often portrayed in these stories as she is incredibly self-obsessed, arrogant, and dismissive of others. It’s really only her fear of the Hookman himself that humanizes her throughout the existential crisis of the play.

The play features some warning with regards to the adult content; stark and uneasy conversations regarding rape and social politics, drug use, alcoholism, and  sexuality. We explore the deeper changes of an individual when they leave their home and embark on a new life in a distant college, the changes that take place when she returns home, and that early rejection of who one “used to be” as if it were trade up of who they “want to be”. There are some gore effects, but the play seems hesitant to play on the horror aspects of these moments and quickly hides any real effects and barely embraces the blood the story seems to be relying on.

Performances are extremely good with the stand out manic energy of Chelsea Palmer (as Chloe) driving some hilarious moments of conversational confusion. Micaela David delivers a natural performance as Jess that slowly builds throughout the course of the play, delivering a stunning duo performance with Moon on a specific monologue/duologue(?) that I won’t spoil here. It is bloody marvelous, however. And the Hookman himself is an imposing presence, prancing with psychotic glee as he stalks the cast.

4 out of 5.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Void

The Void

Sometimes the niche is incredibly small. A sliver of an audience or a grain, but the niche still exists and it still wants to be served. There are only so many jump scares a film can have before you go numb, only so many CGI effects before you stop feeling the impact, and sometimes the brain is starved for something “different” and also a little familiar. The Void is a perfect thirst quencher for the classic horror of the 80’s, with practical effects and intense atmosphere in place of far too loud bells and whistles of today’s modern horror.

A small town Sheriff picks up an injured man on the side of the road and delivers him to a nearby hospital with a skeleton crew staff, including the Sheriff’s wife as one of two nurses. And the ball quickly starts to roll- one of the staff transforms into “something” and starts to attack. The hospital is surrounded by mysterious hooded figures. A strange horn calls the cult out. Secrets are brought to light and a mysterious pair of hunters arrive with bad intentions for the Sheriff’s new prisoner. The remaining survivors must find a way to band together in order to survive.

Make no mistake, this isn’t a film that’s really breaking new ground. It has elements of familiar films delivered in a loving tribute to those elements of horror and remains its own thing in the process. The familiar siege narrative as the cultists surround the building, the body transformation and gore reminiscent of John Carpenter, the eerie setting and pacing of a Fulci masterpiece, and the film never resorts to a series of cheap scares as it wraps you in a slimy film of Lovecraftian madness. Reality warps and twists and perceptions are played with before the film builds toa  satisfying climax.

9 out of 10 and a definite must see for horror fans.

Monday, February 27, 2017


“Get Out!”

“This is a whole nother level!” Jordan Peele's former partner, Keegan-Michael Key, had a character on Mad TV who would meet other celebrities and talk about how what they were doing was a “whole nudda’ level!” with increasing volume, pitch, and intensity. It was a funny bit. And now it seems Jordan Peele has taken things to a “Ho Nuh Le’el!!!” himself. After appearances in a number of films and his own successful Comedy Central show with partner Key, Jordan Peele took the horror world by storm when he announced the arrival of “Get Out” this past fall. And, good lord, does he hit that next level!

Photographer “Chris” (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams) are heading out to visit her parents for an annual weekend gathering. Naturally, Chris is concerned with possible racial tension between he and her family when he reminds her that he is, in fact, black. She is, in fact, white. He is afraid the affluent family may not be entirely comfortable with the racial differences of the couple. But there’s nothing to fear here, she assures him. And the family seems all too interested in setting the young man’s mind at ease. Dad would have gladly voted Obama for a third term and everyone wants Chris to know that they are very cool with him being black. Their friends, nearly all white and affluent, are also perfectly fine with his being black.  Many are uncomfortably admiring his blackness, not only as an exotic state but one of utmost importance. Everyone seems very glad that Chris is black and they constantly ask about his experiences as a black man in America.

It's a stark look at race relations in the modern era. These people aren’t looking to lynch Chris or use the dreaded “N” word… what they are is far scarier and far more accurate a portrayal of racism in the modern era. And horror does what it supposed to do as it peels back the layers to reveal a darkness within that we are often too frightened to look at ourselves. This is horror at it’s absolute best! It’s a whole nother level. It’s a brilliant exploration with some complex performances, especially from Kaluuya and Williams, who carry the film on their respective shoulders. From the horror and dread, Peele knows how to turn that screw and then release the valve at the right moments with uncomfortable levity and downright hilarious dialogue from Chris’ best friend, played by Lil Rel howery.

9.5 in this PERFECT exploration of racial tension through the horror lens. If you love horror, see this movie. If race relations concern you, see this movie. If you love brilliant direction and fine performances, SEE THIS MOVIE!!! Look, just see this movie… it is the best thing I’ve seen so far from 2017 and it’s going to take a whole lot to rattle this ones standing.

*Streaming Review: Netflix

I am Not a Serial Killer

Based on the first in a series of books by author Dan Wells, this film stars Max Records as protagonist teen, John Wayne Cleaver. He’s a young man who lives and works with his mother and aunt in their mortuary business. He’s got trouble at school, doesn’t have too many friends, and he’s a sociopath well on his way to being a serial killer. But John doesn’t want that and so he follows a strict set of rules in order to maintain a sense of “normalcy”, which includes maintaining friendships, social interaction (including a terrific performance from Christopher Lloyd as Johns neighbor, a sickly man devoted to his wife while living out his final days), regular meetings with his therapist, avoiding patterns of stalking, and complimenting peope he has a desire to kill. And all seems balanced, such as it is, until his small town is beset by a series of strange and grisly murders.  

John is intrigued that there may be someone just like him in his too-small village and goes about trying to solve the case and piece together the clues, which upsets his pattern of rules and sends him on a spiral that could cost him the fragile humanity he struggles to maintain. The twists and turns are constant and the film constantly reminds us that Johns hold on humanity is fragile at best.

9 out of 10 and a definite “must see” for genre fans.

*EDIT: I incorrectly identified Jordan Peele's partner, Keegan-Michael Key due to misreading a photograph on IMDB. The review has been corrected.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

JW2, C4W, and IATPTTLITH.... (Three movie reviews, identified by acronyms)

John Wick: Chapter 2

Keanu Reeves returns as the dark killer-for-hire, John Wick in this sequel to the surprise hit from a few years back. Picking up after the events of the first film, Reeves finishes his tornado of vengeance and declares a peace when he finds his missing car. Upon returning home, an old acquaintance arrives and requests a service from Wick. Having once performed a favor for Wick, John owes this man a blood debt and is pressed into service as an initial refusal brings disaster to our title character. 

Reeves in intense in this film and the action is brutal. But the world-building atmosphere of John Wick 2 is the main selling point with some terrific supporting performances from Ian McShane, Common, and Ruby Rose. The World of John Wick is one of intrigue, espionage, and a far reaching criminal empire with tendrils that reach throughout the world. I was kind of thrilled to see an appearance from Italian action star, Franco Nero... but most audiences will be most thrilled with the appearance of Lawrence Fishburne is a surprising turn. 

Having never seen the first film in the series, I was going in a little cold and a little hesitant. Nothing about the first film’s advertising gave me a reason to believe there may be something in it for me… but JW2 is everything I love from an action film! The shots are well choreographed, stunts framed well, and a total lack of shaky cam made for one of the best action movies I’ve seen in a while. The frenetic pacing was dependent on the actors and the story rather than the film techniques or cheap tricks to hide the fantastic stunt work on display.

8.5 out of 10. 

“A Cure For Wellness”

Gore Verbinsky returns to the horror genre with this mind-bending tale. The film centers around a treatment center in Sweden where the rich and ailing travel for long term treatments. Dane Dehaan stars as Lockhart, a young executive sent to retrieve the company’s CEO from the center. Once there, he finds that the patients seem entirely satisfied to remain and convincing the CEO to leave may be a difficult proposition. Things become further complicated when a car crash forces Lockhart to remain in the center where he experiences the Center’s treatment plan as prescribed by the mysterious Dr. Volmer.

Of course we know nothing is quite what it seems. Lockhart meets a number of patients at the center who raise the young executives suspicion. An elderly woman obsessed with mysteries, a successful pair of venture capitalists who seem far too happy to remain far from their business, the suspicious townspeople, and a young girl who seems to be a “special case” for Dr.Volmer. When the treatment begins to result in strange delusions, Lockhart races to piece together the mystery of the Center.

Well, “races” is a subjective term here… Verbinsky is entirely too indulgent with his direction for the film and the story seems to stretch far beyond it’s capacity. At nearly two and a half hours, the film could easily shed around thirty minutes or more and maintain a much smoother narrative structure. As it is, the films momentum often sputters to a stop just when things are getting good. Dehaan is a fantastic actor, but he is often saddled with too many scenes that establish a lack of sympathy we should have for him.

With allusions to Lovecraft and the gothic style of classic Hammer Films, “A Cure For Wellness” can be an enjoyable ride for fans of the genre.

6 out of 10. Moderate recommendation.

“I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House”

A Netflix Original premiere, “I Am…” is a quiet film with a small premise. A young nurse(Lilly, played by Ruth Wilson) is hired to care for an aging writer (Paula Prentiss) suffering from dementia.  As she spends time in the lonely house, she is struck with a sense of something being present at various points in time. We are warned that Lilly is 28 years old and she will not see 29. We are told that a house with death in it can never be bought or sold, only “borrowed” from it’s ghosts. As strange occurrences keep happening, Lily is led toward a deeper mystery when she is mistakenly referred to as “Polly” by her patient.

“I Am” is a haunting film with plenty of atmosphere and a perfect use of sound and lighting effects to tell what is a very simple story. It’s minimalism works for it and it’s classical writing is both familiar and mesmerizing. A slow burn drama that sizzles to a brief and satisfying explosion that echoes into an uncomfortable finale.

7 out of 10 and a recommend.

Monday, February 6, 2017



The third film in a series, Rings continues to the story begun in The Ring- When a person watches the haunted video tape they will receive a phone call stating that they will die in “seven days”. The caller is Samara, a mysterious young girl who was murdered years ago and is currently haunting the video. SPOILER ALERT: The first film establishes that one can rid themselves of the curse by making a copy and passing it on to another before the seven days are up.

The third film picks up a little over a decade later when a college professor comes across the tape and starts the curse into motion on a new scale. Rather than seeing the tape as a “curse,” the professor decides to experiment with the idea of life after death and engages in a mass experiment with the student body. One person watches the tape, another person tails behind them, going on in a pyramid scheme that encourages the students to refer to themselves as “The Sevens”. And the tape eventually finds it’s way to the eyes of Holt, whose girlfriend will do anything to save him. And anything inludes watching the tape….

So here’s what I find interesting: the film continues to push the narrative of the first, but Samara’s presence shouldn’t be the only point in spreading this curse. There should be an endgame and this film finally addresses the possibility of that endpoint when our lead is unable to create a new duplicate. More images have appeared in the video code, images meant for her alone. And those images send her and Holt on another journey of their own…

“Rings” is not a reinvention of the wheel and makes a few stumbling missteps along the way, but it is largely an enjoyable film. There’s been a pretty big backlash from the horror community and reviews, panning the film on a number of faults. I, however, had a nice time watching the film and enjoyed myself immensely. While it won’t crack my top ten of the year, I can definitely see myself purchasing the blu-ray when it’s released.

6.5 out of 10 and a mild recommend. See it in the theaters.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sadako vs. Kayako: Shudder Exclusive

Sadako vs. Kayako

Let’s go back to the year 1998 and the release of “Ringu”, a movie that would revolutionize horror cinema and would bring a new aesthetic to American cinema for years to come. The movie, loosely based on a novel of the same name, tells the story of a cursed videotape containing the essence of an evil young woman named Sadako. On the tail end of Ringu comes another Japanese Horror film, Ju-On: The Grudge. This film tells the story of a vengeful ghost linked to a cursed home. Both films left an indelible mark on horror cinema so it really was only a matter of time until someone saw a cash grab in pitting the two monsters against one another. I guess you could say it was a “grudge” match in the “Ring”! HAHAHA!!!

Shut up, that was funny.

The curses for both characters are modified for this film, reducing the days for Sadako’s appearance to only two days and otherwiside diminishing both Kayako and her son, Toshio, to bit supporting parts as a pair of cursed girls try to pool their resources and force the two ghosts to do battle. The final hope is that the two spirits will destroy one another.

Ultimately, the film doesn’t succeed nearly as much as the iconic images from the source materials. Sadako is somewhat reduced by showing a little too much and her spooking movements are somewhat overly exaggerated and look a little silly. Kayako is just as frightening as usual with her death croak, but the amount of cgi used to create her crawl felt a little overproduced. The movies lighting is a little dark at times, but this isn’t a surprise when you watch enough J-Horror.

With that said, the film isn’t a total waste of time. It’s a fun popcorn b-picture with enough scary moments to keep the heart pumping. Some of the characters, like the casually dismissive psychi and his blind assistant, are amusing in a Japanese Anime-trope way.

4.5 out of 10 and a very low priority rental.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

SPLIT: An amazing performance from James McAvoy


Miss Patricia, Dennis, Barry, and Hedwig; These are just a few of the characters portrayed by James McAvoy in the latest thriller from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. And the actor delivers an incredible performance as a man suffering through DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and revealing a number of different characteristics with each separate character. Officially, DID is considered an unproven condition- more an extension of a defensive mechanism for schizophrenics who have encountered traumatic events in their lives. The film, however, stands on the conceit of the condition as a separate thing with some strong research to back it up- but it’s really McAvoy’s performance that conveys the urgency of what each character represents to the needs of the “host” body. Dennis protects with an urgent need for cleanliness and order, Miss Patricia provides the matronly comfort and devotion to an unspecified “faith” complete with quotations, while Hedwig remains an innocent child far from the responsibility of adulthood. Each other character receives some degree of purpose, but the film primarily centers around those three, and collectively the personalities often refer to themselves as “The Horde”.

And things spiral out of control when “Dennis” commits to an action that finds him kidnapping three teenage girls and keeping them in a cellar. The girls are to be fed to a “Beast” in the manner of a sacred meal. Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), the archetypical loner, engages McAvoy in a dangerous game of cat and mouse when she attempts to persuade Hedwig to help her in escaping. But the clock is ticking because the Beast is on the move. Casey’s character is riddled with a history we get a glimpses of through flashback, where a fateful hunting trip with her father and uncle leads to revelations.

M. Night Shyamalan has seen his share of success and failure in recent years. After his huge success in “The 6th Sense”, Shyamalan followed up with “Unbreakable” and then signed with Disney for a multi-film deal that brought us “The Village” and “Signs”. Often relying on a sudden twist near the end of the story, Shyamalan’s films are often metaphorical explorations of grief, loss, and purpose. I’m not a huge fan of the director’s work, but I do recognize the ability of the man to craft a good film. This movie seems to be a very personal exploration of his own recent failings and a stripping down of the frills the director is often criticized for. He plays on the audiences expectations.

For the second horror film of the year, Split gives us a pretty good chiller and introduces an engaging antagonist in the several divided personalities of The Horde. Stay past the initial credits for a small stinger at the end which will be sure to thrill many Shyamalan fans.

7.5 out of 10 and a must see for 2017.


I am aware of some controversy surrounding the film and its depiction of mental illness and transgenderism- speaking from a place where I have no personal perspective of life as a transgender, I’m not going to tell people whether they should be offended or not. Instead, I will speak to my opinion and my reading of the film itself: The film does not accurately reflect the life choices or personality traits of those who are transgender nor those who may suffer from DID. This is a speculative work of fiction that utilizes a mental illness to portray the divided personalities that reside within the body of a man who has suffered many traumatic events. It reflects the strength he receives and the twisted means in which he learns to cope with those events in his life. They are representations of IDEALS which the hosts subconscious feels will keep him safe from harm.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bye Bye Man and Monster Truck

Bye Bye Man

So I’ve been looking forward to this movie for the better part of 2016. Originally filmed with a release date in November, the film had gotten a lot of horror hype as being a new vision and introducing a new Iconic character that would haunt our nights. And as the release date came closer, the news was that they were pushing for a hard “R” rating and that the film was going to seriously deliver the goods… and then the date got pushed back. And they announced it was going to get a PG-13 release. And the film was pushed back to January 2017… for those who don’t know, January is kind of a dumping ground for film releases. It’s where studios tend to shove their tax write-offs and films that have little to no expectation for seeing a return. It’s a realm of dread for many horror fans, because that’s when we know that something is going to be “wrong’ with the film.

“Don’t Think it, Don’t Say it.”

Bye Bye Man has all the foundation to create an interesting and effective film with a fairly solid script, decent direction, and great practical effects. But then the film seems to diverge from itself in post-production. Poorly rendered CGI, ill placed audio stings, and butchered editing of scenes obviously intended for a mature audience undermine the efforts of the director to pace and maintain a sense of dread throughout the story. The practical effects make-up of the titular character are incredibly effective but then diffused by the presence of a “dog-like” creature that never truly receives any sort of explanation. Follow all of that up with a bevy of the usual tropes (Séance, house party, little girl at risk, library google search, and a visit with the knowledgeable old lady) and the film becomes much more of a parody than an effective horror film.

5 out of 10 and a very low priority rental.

Monster Truck

Monster Truck is another January release that had been promised an earlier theater run but reshoots and effects work kept pushing it back. But what we do see is far better a film than it has any right to be- it’s a solid PG action film with monsters, much in the vein of Amblin-esque films and lighter sci-fi fare. While I went to the drive-in to enjoy some time with my family, I cannot say that I really paid much attention to the film itself. I had a massive headache, took a nap halfway through the film, and woke up just long enough to see that many of the earlier tropes introduced in the film were turned on their heads a little. So, keep in mind that I only saw about half of the film… the first fifteen minutes and the last half hour or so.

A young man lives in a modern era “oil boom” town with his mother and her live-in boyfriend, the local sheriff of their small town. The nearby drilling station has hit a deep water pocket, releasing three unknown lifeforms and endangering the profit margin of their project. Two of the creatures are captured while the third manages to escape.  The young man and the creature encounter one another, the creature hides in the shell of a truck the man had been working on, and this is how we really get things started.

The film seems straight out of “paint a plot by numbers 101”, yet suddenly veers in a few different directions regarding the characters themselves. Almost as if recognizing the depthless tropes they’re supposed to represent, the characters move beyond the caricature and fill greater depths without the cheap attempts to play on heart strings that many films rely on. But, be it as it may, this is still a children’s film at heart. An exploration of that depth isn’t really necessary and we move along at a fairly quick pace to the climactic rescue of the other creatures.

5.5, low priority rental.

Monday, January 9, 2017

TOP TEN of 2016

2016 has been a very bizarre year on a personal level. Celebrity deaths, political divisiveness, and social tensions have been incredibly thick all around. It has also been a pretty damn fantastic year for film. It started off with a pretty big bang and just never seemed to let up straight on through the Holiday Season.

10. Train to Busan

9. Captain America: Civil War

8.  Doctor Strange

7. VVitch:

6. Don’t Breathe
5. Deadpool:
4. Kubo and the Two Strings:
An amazing and original story featuring some very beautiful stop-motion animation. The use of new 3d printing technology was used to create brand new faces and animation effects. 

3. Rogue One : A Star Wars Tale
The Dirty Dozen of the Star Wars universe… yes please.

2. Green Room:
Patrick Stewart is absolutely the highlight performance in this grim film about a punk band in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s a very layered film, very brutal, and extremely gritty. Stewart is the leader of a Skinhead gang in the Northwest and a very intense role for one of our lost celebrities, Anton Yelchin. Also notable is the performance of frequent Saulnier collaborator Macon Blair as a skinhead whose confusion and regret is a perfect balance to Stewart’s chilling performance.

1.      Moana :
What can I say? I’m not normally the kind of guy who puts an animated Disney film onto his list but Moana maybe the most effective use of the medium I’ve seen since Beauty and the Beast. I haven’t been this emotionally moved by a Disney Animated film in a long time, the voice acting was done very well and music from Lin Manuel Miranda hit all the right spots.

* And here are some honorable mentions: 

Scherzo Diabolico, They're Watching, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Shallows, Light's Out.