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 na├»ve 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:
 CURSE OF THE DEVIL

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

DAY 8: VICTOR CROWLEY

NO SPOILERS!!!

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

Day 5: THE WOLF MAN

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

DAY 6 : HATCHET 3

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.

DAY 7:  SLEEPWALKERS

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)

DAY 3

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.