Movie Review – I Spit on Your Grave 2 (2013)

I Spit on Your Grave 2
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: September 24, 2013

I Spit

When I first heard director Steven R. Monroe was making a sequel to his 2010 hit remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, I have to confess that I was skeptical. The concept of a rape-revenge movie is not new in today’s movie world, so I wasn’t sure what he planned to accomplish. But after I watched it, I was blown away. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2 is an amazing and brutal sequel, but it could very well be a stand-alone film. Either way, it’s definitely worth your consideration.

If you are not familiar with I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment:

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2 stars beautiful newcomer Jemma Dallender (Community, “Hollyoaks”) as Katie, a beautiful girl on her own in NY, who is trying to make it in the cutthroat world of modeling. When Katie innocently accepts an offer to have new photos taken for her portfolio, the experience quickly turns into an unthinkable nightmare – Severely beaten, battered, bruised, and broken, she will have to tap into the darkest places of the human psyche to not only survive her ordeal, but to ultimately find the strength to exact her brutal revenge.  The film co-stars Joe Absolom (Extreme Ops, Long Time Dead) and Alexander Aleksiev (the upcoming Jack Ryan).  The film was directed by Steven R. Monroe, the director of the critically acclaimed 2010 film and written by Neil Elman (I Spit On Your Grave) and Thomas Fenton (Saw IV).

I wish my blog hadn’t crashed last year, because I would have loved to direct you to my review of the first film (the remake, not the actual original). I had the pleasure of meeting the cast and director at Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas a couple of years ago, which made watching the first film much easier. If you’ve never watched a revenge flick like this, they can be brutally realistic and therefore difficult to see.

Just like it’s predecessor, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2 is shot very well and looks great onscreen. But what really makes this film is the acting. The performance given by lead actress Jemma Dallender is nothing short of perfection. According to her IMDB page, this is only the third professional acting job she has ever had, but WOW…she does an amazing job with her role. She is not only beautiful, but she is very talented as well. I cannot wait to see what she does in the future.

A secondary aspect that makes this movie so great is that it is unflinchingly realistic. This film took the brutality and savagery of the first film and multiplied it exponentially. There were a couple of scenes where I almost had to pause the film for a break. One particular scene towards the end of the movie, when Katie is extracting her revenge on one of the men, was so excruciatingly realistic that I had to literally walk out of the room for a moment and collect myself. The film is simply that good (and horrific).

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2 is an amazing film, and if you can stomach it, I highly recommend it. But be warned: there are very graphic scenes in this film, both from a gore standpoint and an adult-situation standpoint. If you have a low tolerance for realism in film, I would steer clear. Otherwise, put this on your To Watch list immediately. The film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – V/H/S/2 (2013)

V/H/S/2
Directed by (multiple directors)
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Release Date: September 24, 2013

vhs2-blu-ray-cover-57

If you like original horror that has a vicious streak, then you’re going to love V/H/S/2! I wasn’t sure what to expect before I watched this film; a couple of friends had seen it and told me it was really good. But they never got into specifics, saying it was something you had to see to appreciate. And man, I’m glad I did! V/H/S/2 is a hell of a film, and I’m glad I gave it a shot!

If you are not familiar with V/H/S/2, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnet Releasing:

From the innovative minds that brought you last year’s V/H/S comes V/H/S/2, an all-new anthology of dread, madness, and gore. Searching for a missing student, two private investigators break into his abandoned house and find a collection of mysterious VHS tapes. In viewing the horrific contents of each cassette, they realize there may be terrifying motives behind the student’s disappearance.

You can’t think of this as a traditional horror film. This is actually something new. It is a compilation of short films, all shot from a first-person perspective, that all blend in with the main storyline. But the shorts are not related. In fact, it is the diversity of the shorts that make this film so enthralling.

As I mentioned, each short film in V/H/S/2 is shot from the first-person perspective, so in a sense these are found-footage styled pieces. But they are so much more as well. Each film has its own style and voice, which allows you to switch gears when each film ends; this is not a negative, but in fact a good thing. The different tones set a unique mood for each film…and as a result, the audience is taken on a roller-coaster ride of terror and fun.

For example, one of the segments is called “A Ride in the Park”. In this piece, a mountain-biker mounts a GoPro camera on his helmet and sets off for a ride on a trail. But things quickly go downhill when he stumbles across a group of shambling zombies. I will not disclose the rest of the short, but it is excellent and one of my favorites.

I particularly like how all the short films are secondary to the main plot-line. However, if I were forced to find a fault with V/H/S/2, it would have to be that not much is explained in regard to the primary story. It is tense and suspenseful, but I didn’t know much about what was going on throughout it. Perhaps this because I have yet to watch the first V/H/S…if so, I will have to remedy that very soon.

V/H/S/2 is a definite win for me, however, and I highly recommend giving it a look. There is some truly terrifying stuff in this film, so be ready. But I can definitely see myself watching this one through a couple more times, just to see what I missed the first time around. Give this one a look, if you can.

MSB

Book Review – Gallery 1988’s Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art 2 (2013)

Gallery 1988’s Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art 2
Release Date: October 15, 2013
Publisher: Titan Books

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I guess it’s pretty obvious that I’m a lover of all things related to movies…and not just horror flicks, either. I am a fan of a wide variety of genres, including science-fiction, fantasy, historical dramas, and even documentaries. So, when it comes to pop culture and movies, I’m a sucker for well-known titles. Gallery 1988’s Crazy 4 Cult: CULT MOVIE ART 2 is therefore a must-own for fans of cinema like me. Chocked full of amazing artwork and nifty references to some of pop culture’s biggest names, this book will be a welcome addition to any cinephile’s collection.

If you are not familiar with CULT MOVIE ART 2, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Titan Books:

Gallery 1988’s annual Crazy 4 Cult art show has quickly become a phenomenon, with huge crowds and high profile buyers like Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon snapping up work by the cream of the underground/urban scene. Following 2011’s critically acclaimed first volume, here’s the eagerly awaited second selection of surprising, beautiful and just plain cool cult movie-inspired artwork. Be prepared to see your favorite cult movies as you’ve never seem them before! This second volume of Cult Movie Art collects the best of the last two years of the show, with pieces inspired by Escape From New York, Shaun of the Dead, Ghostbusters, The Princess Bride, The Big Lebowski and many more.

This book made me smile on more than one occasion. There are some really awesome pictures in this collection, and there are many that I would love to have hanging on my wall. But from what I understand, the originals that are hanging in Gallery 1988 as of now are very expensive. So for now, I will just have to be happy with seeing them in these volumes.

Cult3

Now, don’t misunderstand me: the artwork in CULT MOVIE ART 2 does not consist of actual movie posters, like you would see hanging outside of a movie theater. These pics are so much more. Some of them are key images of iconic figures in cinema, while others depict certain scenes from classic titles. Still others, like the image shown below, are simply homages to films that helped us grow up.

Cult2

CULT MOVIE ART 2 is a huge win for me, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the first volume. As you can see in these sample pics, there’s a lot of heart that goes into each project; the artists are obviously big fans of their subject matter. As a result, this collection is not just a nod to pop culture icons and titles, it is a labor of love. Volumes 1 and 2 are available now.

MSB

Guest Post from Author Freya Robertson

The fine folks at Angry Robot Books were kind enough to let me join in on author Freya Robertson‘s blog tour. She is doing a tour for her new book, HEARTWOOD, which is due out next week.

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I have received a review copy of the book, but I am not done reading it yet and therefore cannot review it. BUT I will tell you this: it is gooooooood so far! I can’t wait to post the review.

In the meantime, here is a post submitted by Freya herself. Because many of my topics deal with horror, I asked her to discuss how horror can integrate with fantasy and then offer up some suggestions for potential reads. She went above and beyond with this post, and even mentioned a couple of tidbits I didn’t know about. Enjoy!!

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A discussion of horror in fantasy.
by Freya Robertson

The word “Grimdark” has risen in popularity this year when it comes to discussing fantasy sub-genres. For example, see here for Joe Abercrombie’s article on the value of grit, and here for Damien Walters’ discussion of epic fantasy and writers like Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence and Brent Weeks.

Grimdark seems to define books that are “gritty”, meaning they tend towards being cynical, hard, and realistic in the sense that they approach the genre through a study of life at the time without any sign of romanticism or beautification of the period. They challenge the traditional view that good will always defeat evil, and often contain anti-heroes. I’ve also seen other articles recently on reality in fantasy, for example see here for Helen Lowe’s discussion on when characters you love die. The argument appears to be that traditional epic fantasy doesn’t represent reality because in reality people get injured, fall sick and die. George R.R. Martin is highly criticized for his high body count, and yet it’s probably more reflective of the “real” world than a story in which the hero makes it to the finale without a scar. As writers, we’re encouraged to create characters that readers can associate with, that readers can grow to love, and it seems kind of weird to then be told we should be killing them off and denying them their heroic ending. But the rise of grimdark fantasy suggests that’s what (some) readers are looking for.

I, of course, can only talk about my own novels and my own view on the grimdark sub-genre. I don’t think I write grimdark fantasy because I’m not a grimdark kind of person. Does Heartwood have gritty elements? Sure. Characters are tortured. Several die. The medieval world was a harsh place with its high infant mortality rate, its lack of understanding about bacteria and infection, and its reliance on face-to-face combat. You had to be tough to survive in that world and I hope I reflect that a little in my fantasy work.

But equally, the people living at that time would not have been constantly thinking about how tough their lives were. They would not have been comparing their daily lives to ours—they would have had no comprehension of what they were missing, as we have no concept of what the world is going to be like in five hundred years’ time. They would have filled their lives with colour and song and food and other basic pleasures, and on the most part would not have considered themselves hard done by.

I like my fantasy to have some darkness to it, to challenge the definitions of good and evil. Very few people are entirely one or the other, and it’s good to show a hero’s weaknesses and a bad guy’s good points—it makes them a more rounded person. But equally, I suppose my general opinion is that I read fantasy and play fantasy games to escape from the harsh reality of the real world. When I play D&D, I don’t want my character to die in every adventure; I want him or her to be challenged, but I want to play the hero, to save the day. And it’s the same in my fiction. I like my characters to be taken to dark places, to have their resolve tested, sometimes to get injured, and to lose those close to them. I like to take them to the pits of despair because it makes them stronger as a person. And then I like to open the windows and let the sun eliminate the darkness.

As a side point, talking about D&D, we introduce the element of horror into our RPG games by having our characters test for fear when they encounter a new frightening event or creature. The Warhammer RP game handled this very well, where characters could become withdrawn if they encountered too many horrific things, and where it affected their ability to interact with others. Introducing horror into a story isn’t just about creating scary creatures and scenes. It’s about exploring how your characters deal with fear, and what effect horrific events would have on them. And that is certainly an aspect I like to explore in my fiction.

Heartwood is an adventure story. It’s a traditional epic fantasy in that it has a quasi-medieval European setting, high stakes involving saving the world, and a large cast of characters that have to band together to save the Arbor from destruction. But it’s different too—it challenges gender roles and the leader of Heartwood’s army is a woman. There are no elves, dwarves or orcs and the Darkwater Lords rise from the ocean to try and defeat the element of earth. It’s epic in scale—over five hundred pages, the longest book Angry Robot have published. It’s heroic and classic and hopefully the ending will knock your socks off. But is grimdark? Probably not. Still, don’t let that put you off giving it a try!

Freya

Movie Review – Dead Before Dawn (2013)

Dead Before Dawn
Directed by April Mullen
Courtesy of Vivendi Entertainment
Release Date: October 1, 2013

Dead-Before-Dawn

If you love horror-comedy like me, then you’re always on the lookout for the next SHAUN OF THE DEAD or TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL. There’s just something about combining hilarity with brutality and gore that brings a smile to my face…and not just because it’s funny. Obviously, I’m a huge fan of horror, but I also love to laugh. So when the fine folks at Vivendi announced the release of DEAD BEFORE DAWN, I knew it was a flick that I wanted to check out. And thankfully, it’s just as funny as I hoped it would be.

If you are not familiar with DEAD BEFORE DAWN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Vivendi Entertainment:

A horde of Zombie Demons, or ZEMONS, are unleashed on the world after college kids unwittingly create an evil curse. This curse causes everyone that they make eye contact with to kill themselves and turn into ZEMONS! Now, they only have 24 hours to reverse the curse. Armed with a slew of homemade weapons, avoiding eye contact, dodging hickies and seducing Zemons, will our heroes be able to reverse the curse? The fate of the entire world rests on their shoulders, or all of humanity will be Dead Before Dawn!

Before I continue, I do have to admit: this film is not as funny as SHAUN OF THE DEAD or TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL. But those are two iconic pieces of cinema that are hard to beat. DEAD BEFORE DAWN is a great film, though, and is filled with lots of laughs and great gore. If you’re looking for entertainment, then look no further.

DEAD BEFORE DAWN is shot well and looks good from a production standpoint. I wish I could have seen it in 3D, as I understand it’s pretty spectacular. But the 2D version is just as fun, I’m sure.

The acting is pretty good, with Devon Bostick heading up a great cast. I am particularly impressed to note that director April Mullen also starred alongside Bostick as one of the lead female roles. Mullen is beautiful and talented, a multi-faceted actress and director that I hope to see more of in the future.

The laughs come quick and heartily in DEAD BEFORE DAWN as well. One of my favorite scenes that made me literally laugh out loud is when the fans and players at the football game all start to kill themselves. The cheerleaders are kicking themselves in the face, while the football players impale themselves on the line markers. It is hilarious!

Although DEAD BEFORE DAWN might not be as funny as the prior two films I mentioned, it is still a great flick and one that deserves your attention. It’s chocked full of goofy laughs and grisly gore, so you can’t ask for much more in a horror-comedy. I recommend giving this one a shot. It is available now in a variety of formats, but I suggest watching it on Blu-ray. In addition to the great picture and sound, you get a nice bunch of Special Features, including a Behind the Scenes featurette, a Making Of documentary, and a Blooper Reel.

MSB

Movie Review – Zombie Hunter (2013)

Zombie Hunter
Directed by K. King
Courtesy of Well Go USA
Release Date: October 8, 2013

Zombie-Hunter-Blu-ray

If a movie boasts Danny Trejo on its cover, chances are I’ll give it a look. I’ve been a fan of the guy for a long time, going way back to 1995 when I first saw him in Robert Rodriguez’s DESPERADO. Since then, he’s been in some of my favorite movies. His latest release, ZOMBIE HUNTER, is not an excellent film, but it is entertaining and definitely worth watching.

If you are not familiar with ZOMBIE HUNTER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Well Go USA:

When a street drug turns junkies into an army of mutant flesh-eaters, no hope is left – but one man remains. Hunter’s got nothing left but a beat-up Camero, a trunk full of guns and booze, and a vendetta.  He crashes into a small group of survivors, led by an ax-wielding priest named Jesus (Danny Trejo). They’re searching for the promised land – but does it even exist? They better pray for a miracle, because the zombies are hot on their heels. And the psychotic clown with a chainsaw? You don’t even wanna know.

This movie is a lot of fun, but you can’t go into it expecting a completely serious film. If you do, you will be disappointed. Instead, just take this one for what it is: a tongue-in-cheek zombie flick with loads of gore and cheesy dialogue.

ZOMBIE HUNTER is done well and looks good onscreen, although it does have some flaws here and there. I noticed a couple of continuity errors (for example, in one scene the main character is holding a knife; the shot cuts away and he does not have it in his hand anymore), but nothing that shoots down the credibility of the film as a whole. Just about every film has something wrong with it, so please do not take this as a reason not to watch.

The plot is interesting and moves at a nice pace, and the characters are a motley bunch that will make you smile. But there are two glaring issues with the film that kept bugging me. First is the gore. There’s plenty of it, and that’s a good thing…but almost all of it is computer generated. This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, but you can definitely tell the difference between CG and practical effects…and practical looks so much better and believable.

The second issue I have with ZOMBIE HUNTER is that **spoiler alert** the hulking mutant creatures are never explained or even speculated about. They look like something straight from RESIDENT EVIL, which is forgivable, but they were added into the film as almost an afterthought. A bit of explanation or even a theory or two by the characters would have been nice.

Still, ZOMBIE HUNTER is a fun jaunt into zombie territory and definitely worth a look. It’s always good to see Danny Trejo onscreen, even if his role is more of a cameo than anything. This film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Win THE CONJURING on Blu-ray!


Courtesy of Warner Bros, you can win your own Blu-ray copy of this horrifying movie event! My buddy Hayes and I went and saw this in the theater, and we both agree that it is a top-notch horror flick that will keep you glued to your seat. If you are not familiar with this film, here is a plot synopsis courtesy of Warner Bros:

Based on a true story, the movie tells the horrifying account of how famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were summoned to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse which they recently bought. In fighting this powerful demonic being, the Warrens find themselves in the middle of the most terrifying case of their lives!

Entering the giveaway is easy; it starts today at noon, so just follow the instructions at the bottom of this post. And in the meantime, check out the 5 Things to Know Before Watching The Conjuring. Good luck!

The Conjuring 5 Things to know… INTERACTIVE GIFS!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

** Contest only open to legal residents of the continental U.S. (no overseas entries, please)!!

Movie Review – Hidden in the Woods (2013)

Hidden in the Woods
Directed by Patricio Valladares
Courtesy of Artsploitation Films
Release Date: September 17, 2013

hidden-in-the-woods

Part horror, part thriller, and part family drama, HIDDEN IN THE WOODS is one of those multi-genre hybrids that breaks molds and knocks down cultural barriers. But to do so, it assails its viewers with a large does of brutality and gore. This is certainly not a bad thing for a movie of this caliber, but what makes this more shocking than most horror flicks is that this is based on a bizarre but true story. This film is relentless in its intensity and violence, but if you can make it through, you’re in for a real treat.

If you are not familiar with HIDDEN IN THE WOODS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Artsploitation Films:

One of the most controversial horror films ever to emerge from Latin America, Hidden in the Woods is 21st century grindhouse horror cinema at its most shocking. Deep in the Chilean countryside, Ana and Anny live with their deformed brother and are subject to their father’s perverse and sadistic whims. After a dispute with the police leaves a wake of death and mutilation, they flee and find refuge in a remote cabin hidden from society. Meanwhile, a crime lord, convinced they have stolen the massive stash of drugs their father was hiding, sends a violent pack of thugs to find them. Based on a bizarre true story and not for the faint of heart, Hidden in the Woods (currently being remade in the U.S.) features extreme violence, prostitution, sexual assault, buckets of blood and even cannibalism.

Just reading the plot synopsis above does not give you any kind of sense of how simply ruthless the events depicted in this film really are. What these kids go through is a crime against humanity, and director Patricio Valladares does an amazing job of bringing it to the screen. I can’t believe some of the negative reviews I read about this movie; those reviewers must have certainly seen a different film.

HIDDEN IN THE WOODS is shot well and looks very good onscreen. But two primary components made this movie for me: the acting and the special effects (specifically, the gore).

The cast in this film is amazing. Siboney Lo and Carolina Escobar are the two lead actresses and they do a spectacular job of conveying the agonies their characters went through in real life. The audience relates to them very early on, and therefore feels a part of every tragedy inflicted upon them.

Likewise, the gore in HIDDEN IN THE WOODS looks exceptional. And there’s plenty of it, too. When the father goes after the two police officers with a chainsaw, I saw flashbacks to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. And the climactic ending is reminiscent of a Quentin Tarantino film, with a crazy kitchen shootout that would make the man himself proud.

HIDDEN IN THE WOODS is a difficult film to watch in certain places because of its graphic and sensitive subject matter. But it is a hell of a film and one I highly recommend if you can stomach through it. Just be warned: this one will not be for everyone. The film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – Solomon Kane (2009)

Solomon Kane
Directed by Michael J. Bassett
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Original Release Date: 2009
Release Date: July 16, 2013

Solomon Kane

When I realized SOLOMON KANE had been made into a movie, I was instantly intrigued. I’ve read a couple of Kane stories over the years and always enjoyed them; as such, I had always hoped to see him materialize on the big screen. I’m happy to report this movie adaptation is worthy of the title and certainly merits your consideration.

If you are not familiar with SOLOMON KANE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay:

Captain Solomon Kane is a brutally efficient 16th Century killing machine. Armed with his signature pistols, cutlass and rapier, he and his men unleash their bloodlust as they fight for England in war after war on all continents. As the story opens, Kane and his band of pillagers are carving a bloody path through hordes of defenders in an exotic city in northern Africa. But, when Kane decides to attack a mysterious nearby castle to plunder its rumored riches, his mission takes a fateful turn. One by one, Kane’s men are picked off by demonic creatures until he alone is left to face the Devil’s own Reaper — dispatched from the depths of Hell to lay claim to his hopelessly corrupt soul. Though Kane at last manages to escape, he knows that he now must redeem himself by renouncing violence and devoting himself wholly to a life of peace and purity.

When I first thought about SOLOMON KANE in movie form, there were several things that I hoped the production team would consider: the film needed to be dark, it needed to be edgy, and the title role needed to be portrayed by an actor that can do both good-guy and bad-guy personas. Thankfully, all three concerns were addressed. The result is a great film that will take you on a hell of a ride (no pun intended).

SOLOMON KANE is shot well and looks excellent onscreen. The visuals set the tone and mood of the film perfectly, presenting a foreboding and bleak landscape in which to set the drama. Likewise, the cast does a superb job in their roles, with James Purefoy headlining as the titular character. Purefoy does a masterful job of showing both the light and dark sides of Kane’s soul. His performance lends a major amount of credibility to this film.

The special effects look good overall (some of the CG was only so-so), and the fight scenes are action-packed. The story flows nicely and there’s a nice surprise towards the end; a sort of ‘unveiling’, so to speak, that I wasn’t expecting. All in all, this is an entertaining and satisfying film.

I recommend giving SOLOMON KANE a look if you’re wanting some great sword-fighting or just some simple demon-slaying. If you give this movie a chance, I think you’ll like it. It’s available now in a variety of formats.

MSB