Movie Review – Here Comes the Devil (2012)

Here Comes the Devil
Directed by Adrian Garcia Bogliano
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Original Release Date: 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: March 18, 2014

Here-Comes-the-Devil-Bluray

While the horror genre is strong and thriving in today’s world of film, many movies that it produces tend to be stylized or over-the-top. This is not to say that they are not enjoyable, but it seems difficult to find a truly terrifying film, one that chills you right to the core. If this has been your experience lately, then worry no more. HERE COMES THE DEVIL, an upcoming title from Magnet Releasing, will rekindle your love affair with terror. And if the film’s straight-up horror doesn’t scare you, the psychological undercurrents certainly will. This is definitely a movie that every single horror fan will want to check out.

If you are not familiar with HERE COMES THE DEVIL, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnet Releasing:

HERE COMES THE DEVIL combines modern indie filmmaking and storytelling with a hint of ‘70s-styled psychological horror that may not just be psychological. Francisco Barreiro and Laura Caro play parents Felix and Sol whose preteen son and daughter inexplicably reappear after being lost overnight on a desolate, cave-riddled mountainside after a casual hike became every parent’s nightmare. The good luck and good fortune of their return soon changes, as the children’s behavior suggests ominous and unspeakable events the night the children were lost that continue even now. As a loving couple – and loving parents – try to care for and protect their children, the ancient and half-whispered legends around the caves and the mountain and those who have gone there before become too strange to believe…and too dangerous, no matter how insane, to ignore.

Films about demonic possession and, well, the devil himself never get old for me. I enjoy seeing the unique takes that Hollywood writers can come up with in regard to these topics. Of course, there are true duds out there that simply rehash old ideas…but every once in while, a diamond in the rough appears. Thus is the case with this film.

HERE COMES THE DEVIL is an original and thought-provoking horror piece. It starts off with a bang and then continues to come after you at a relentless pace. It is shot well, and the cinematography is a key piece to achieving its unnerving feel.

The special effects are good as well. There’s not a ton of gore, but what we do get to see looks very nice onscreen. Likewise, the acting is top notch. I have never heard of any of the cast, but they do a stellar job in their roles.

The story in HERE COMES THE DEVIL is what wins me over the most. I am not going to go into major detail here, so as not to ruin it for you, but I particularly like the ending the best. It is something I did not see coming, and it leaves you with an intensely eerie feeling.

HERE COMES THE DEVIL is a major win for me, and I highly recommend it. Horror fans, this is a must-see. And if you’re not into horror, give this one a look anyway; it will scare you silly! The film hits store shelves next Tuesday, so make a note.

MSB

Movie Review – The Last Days on Mars (2014)

The Last Days on Mars
Directed by Ruairi Robinson
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Release Date: March 4, 2014

last-days-on-mars-blu

Say what you will about horror movies set in space, but I absolutely love them. The desolate setting, not to mention the fact that space is lethal itself, makes the perfect backdrop for which to showcase a terrifying situation. THE LAST DAYS ON MARS is a new addition to this canon from Magnet Releasing, and while not perfect, it is a heck of a film and very entertaining.

If you are not familiar with THE LAST DAYS ON MARS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnet Releasing:

On the eve that the crew of the very first manned expedition to Mars is about to return to Earth, it makes an astounding discovery – fossilized evidence of life on Mars. Oscar® nominated and visionary filmmaker Ruairí Robinson, along with an extraordinary special effects team including the people behind District 9, X-Men: First Class and Avatar, introduce us to a terrifying new landscape, where the scientific discovery of life might be the death of us all.

Mars is such a perfect setting for a horror film. It is plain and dreary, but it is also mysterious. Combine these attributes with the fact that it already has a history of horror in the psyche of humankind (i.e. remember The War of the Worlds?), and you’ve got the perfect recipe for true terror. All that is missing is a good story.

THE LAST DAYS ON MARS looks great onscreen, and I would daresay it should have been filmed in 3D. There are many scenes that could have been enhanced by adding the 3D aspect, but the visuals are still stunning nonetheless. The production team does an amazing job of creating a realistic space exploration environment, and this realism heightens the sense of suspense when the story kicks in.

And speaking of realism, the special effects are phenomenal. I had no problems believing the crew was really on Mars. The high technology the crew uses looks sophisticated yet believable. There’s a nice dose of gore as well, and it looks spectacular onscreen.

The cast does a great job, with lead man Liev Schreiber heading up a great cast. Elias Koteas portrays the team’s commanding officer, and Olivia Williams gives a convincing performance as the crew’s bitchy but devoted science officer. The cast meshes well and the onscreen chemistry is very evident.

My complaints about THE LAST DAYS ON MARS are minor but important. I think the film should have been a full two hours in length; there are several concepts that could have been fleshed out more and thus made the movie more enjoyable. Also, I would have liked more discussion and/or speculation as to what the alien organism actually was. We get a little bit in the film, but I felt like it was not touched enough.

Still, with my complaints aside, THE LAST DAYS ON MARS is a great film, and horror fans should enjoy it. From what I understand, this is director Ruairi Robinson’s first major-length motion picture, and he shows a major talent for building suspense and storytelling. I can’t wait to see what he does next. Until then, give this one a look. The film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – End of the World (2013)

End of the World
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Films
Release Date: March 11, 2014

end of the world

Director Steven R. Monroe is quickly becoming one of my favorite moviemakers. I have reviewed a couple of his films on Shattered Ravings (click here to read my review of 12 DISASTERS or here to read my review of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2), however I didn’t realize until recently just how many films he had made for specifically for the SyFy Channel (I believe 10 is the number, if I’m counting correctly). Many SyFy films are guilty pleasures for me, movies that I like to watch but am not sure I would admit to doing so. Thankfully, Monroe’s films are good enough to where I don’t have to go into hiding. END OF THE WORLD is his newest addition, and it’s a humor-filled blast of fun.

If you are not familiar with END OF THE WORLD, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay Films:

When electro-magnetic blasts begin to bombard Earth, only two men may be fully prepared for the coming apocalypse: A video store owner (Greg Grunberg of “Heroes”) and his film nerd pal (Neil Grayston of “Eureka”). But as anarchy, humongous dust storms and mom-incinerating meteors devastate the planet, can a pair of disaster-movie fanboys, their hero – an institutionalized science fiction writer (Academy Award® nominee Brad Dourif of THE LORD OF THE RINGS) – and a nuclear warhead be our last hope to save the world? Caroline Cave (“The L Word”) and Mark Hildreth (“V”) co-star in the new Syfy Original classic that SciFiVision.com calls “the ultimate disaster movie to end all disaster movies!”

This film is not going to be a movie for everyone. It is a tongue-in-cheek science-fiction disaster movie, and the lack of seriousness might throw some viewers off. I personally loved it and found myself laughing throughout. Even my wife enjoyed it, and she doesn’t usually lean towards movies like this.

END OF THE WORLD is shot well and looks good for a TV movie. Because of its smaller budget, it’s not quite as epic as the title makes it sound…but it’s still a lot of fun nonetheless. The story is strong, and the premise is actually feasible (for the most part), making for good drama in between the humor.

The special effects are pretty good, even though most of them are computer generated. I personally prefer practical effects, but I completely understand how CG can be cheaper (and quicker) to produce these days. There are some nice somewhat gory effects, however, in the bodies that are left after they are hit with the electro-magnetic blasts. The charred remains look great and gruesome!

As I mentioned above, END OF THE WORLD is very tongue-in-cheek, and you have to suspend A LOT of reality to enjoy it. I say this because of a few over-the-top aspects, such as a video store owner who can rewire a nuclear warhead or two bumbling movie fans that infiltrate a missile silo. If you can look past things like that and enjoy this movie for what it is, you’ll love it.

END OF THE WORLD is obviously a big win for me, and fans of disaster movies should enjoy it. I can’t wait to see what Monroe does next. This film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – Enemies Closer (2014)

Enemies Closer
Directed by Peter Hyams
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: March 11, 2014

EnemiesCloser

Director Peter Hyams is responsible for some of my most guilty pleasures when it comes to movies. I’ve enjoyed many of his films over the years, including OUTLAND with Sean Connery, 2010, TIMECOP, THE RELIC, and A SOUND OF THUNDER. So when I heard he was teaming up with Jean-Claude Van Damme again for this film, I couldn’t wait to see it. And sure enough, Hyams once again does not disappoint. ENEMIES CLOSER is a fast-paced thriller that is full of dark humor and intense action.

If you are not familiar with ENEMIES CLOSER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

After a major shipment of drugs goes missing on the US-Canadian border, forest ranger and former Navy SEAL Henry is plunged into survival mode when the drug cartel forces him to help retrieve the downed package. Trapped in the wilderness with no communication to the outside world, Henry finds himself face to face with Clay, a man with a personal vendetta against Henry who has returned for retribution. Now, the two mortal enemies must make a choice: put aside their past and work together, or die alone at the hands of the drug runners, a ruthless gang who will stop at nothing to retrieve their lost cargo.

As an 80’s teen, I am so glad to see Van Damme back onscreen. Granted, he’s older, but it’s still fun seeing him in action, much like seeing Stallone and Schwarzenegger. These action icons may age, but they can still kick ass!

ENEMIES CLOSER is shot well and looks great onscreen. There are not many special effects, but we do get some nice gore when homemade traps kill a couple of unsuspecting bandits. The sets look superb, and I am particularly impressed with how the production team made their Louisiana filming location look like the U.S./Canadian border.

The acting is pretty good, about what you would expect from an action flick. Tom Everett Scott actually does a good job with this serious role (I expect tongue-in-cheek performances from him for the most part, but he does not go that route here), as does Orlando Jones. Jones surprised me, for I’ve only seen him do comedy…seeing him in such a dark persona is a nice change of pace. But Van Damme steals the show as the poofy-haired, psychotic leader of the drug bandits. I’ve never seen him in a role like this, but he pulls it off with ease. With a bit of pitch humor and a nice dose of crazy, Van Damme gives us a perfect villain.

Now…for as much as I liked this film, ENEMIES CLOSER does have a couple of issues. These aren’t flaws with the film itself, but more like things that annoyed me from a personal standpoint. For example, I am still confused as to why Tom Everett Scott was cast as an ex-Navy SEAL, not to mention why his character is such a wuss in the fight scenes. I mean, a SEAL should be able to take down an assailant who has no military training fairly easily, I would think…right? My other complaint is how some parts of the fight scenes were shot with shadows, so as to disguise Van Damme’s stunt double. I know, I know…he IS older, like I mentioned…but this aspect made me feel old.

Still, don’t take my griping as a reason not to see this film. I recommend giving this one a shot, especially if you’re a child of 80s culture like me. In addition to taking a trip down memory lane, you might just gain new respect for an aging action veteran and his continuing career. ENEMIES CLOSER is available today in a variety of formats.

MSB

Book Review – Splatterlands: Reawakening the Splatterpunk Revolution

Splatterlands: Reawakening the Splatterpunk Revolution
Edited by Anthony Rivera & Sharon Lawson
Release Date: October 21, 2013
Publisher: Grey Matter Press

splatterlands

In case you’re new to this sub-genre of horror, ‘splatterpunk’ is defined by Dictionary.com as “a form of fiction featuring extremely graphic violence”. Obviously, films and books from this style are not for the faint of heart. But if you can endure it, there are some excellent stories out there that fit this genre. SPLATTERLANDS is a fantastic return to this long-lost art form. Full of gruesome and gut-wrenching stories, this book will haunt you long after you’ve turned the last page.

If you are not familiar with SPLATTERLANDS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Grey Matter Press:

SPLATTERLANDS reawakens and reimagines the hyperintensive writing style and controversial themes indicative of the original Splatterpunk movement. Containing the work of some of the freshest voices of our modern time, it is an anthology of deeply intelligent short stories whose extreme themes and graphic depictions of violence and terror are intended to have a lasting effect for years to come.

Splatterlands is a disturbing collection that is not for the weak of heart. It pushes the boundaries of horror while taking several giant leaps beyond senseless violence and simple gore for the sake of gore. Splatterlands is a collection of personal, subversive and intelligent horror that refuses to sugarcoat reality.

Exploring themes that include serial murder, personal betrayal and revenge, religious fanaticism, physical and mental abuse, the fragility of the human mind, societal corruption, corporate greed, sexual assault and more, Splatterlands reaches into your soul with an icy, steel claw and twists. You will never look at the world the same way again.

I was a big fan of splatterpunk back in the day, and I guess I still am (although my tastes lean more towards traditional horror than anything). I liked it so much that my parents considered sending me to a psychiatrist. I guess a person has to be a little ‘off’ to enjoy something like this; but putting the subject matter aside, the authors in this collection are talented and are definitely worth watching for in the future.

The stories in SPLATTERLANDS are written well and most have intriguing plotlines. I will confess there a couple of stories that I didn’t care for, but 10 winners out of 12 is still pretty good.

One of my favorite stories is the first one, “Heirloom” by Michael Laimo. In this tale, a young woman uses a rifle that has been handed down in her family as a sick toy for fantasies. Unfortunately, the fantasies she acts out have dire consequences for those involved. This story is written very well and captivated me from the start.

My least favorite story in this collection is “Empty” by A. A. Garrison. In this one, Cunt and Shit are two entities that raise children to sell into slavery; Shit runs out of fuel and Cunt has to travel into the city to beg the prophet for more. The author literally inserts himself into the story, which completely took me out of my immersion into the tale. As such, I finished this one with disappointment instead of satisfaction.

Still, SPLATTERLANDS, is a heck of a collection and one you should check out, BUT ONLY IF YOU ARE NOT EASILY OFFENDED. These stories are full of things many people would find reprehensible and even blasphemous. If you can look past that, however, you’re in for the ride of your life.

MSB

Movie Review – In Fear (2013)

In Fear
Directed by Jeremy Lovering
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Films
Release Date: March 11, 2014

In-Fear-Blu-Ray-Art

I have to confess that prior to receiving IN FEAR in the mail, I had not heard of the film. This should not be surprising, I suppose, as I have been overly busy the past couple of months with the weather, the move, and everything else. But I’m very thankful the fine folks at Anchor Bay sent it to me. This is one heck of a thrill ride, and every horror fan should check this one out!

If you are not familiar with IN FEAR, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay Films:

Young couple Tom (Iain De Caestecker of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Lucy (Alice Englert of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES) are driving to a festival in the remote Irish countryside. When they leave the main highway to look for their hotel, they quickly lose their way along the back-roads. Lost and tormented as night falls, Tom and Lucy’s primal anxieties of the dark and the unknown start to take hold. When the couple discovers they are not alone, they realize that their worst fears lay in the road ahead. Allen Leech (Downton Abbey) co-stars in this shattering debut feature by writer/director Jeremy Lovering.

If you’ve been driving for a while, I’m sure you’ve found yourself in the middle of nowhere at least once. In a rural area like where I live, there are plenty of places to get turned around. As such, the feeling of being lost in a remote location can be very unsettling. This film takes that sensation to an extreme!

IN FEAR is shot very well and looks excellent onscreen. I have to tip my hat to the cinematographer, David Katznelson; he is obviously talented, and this film is a true testament to that talent. In fact, the whole production team should be commended. The film looks great and feels like a high-budget production.

Likewise, the cast does a great job as well. Iain De Caestcker and Alice Englert play off of each other like they’ve been friends for years. And supporting cast member Allen Leech is creepy and devilish, the perfect antagonist for a piece like this. All three give stellar performances and help to make this film a perfect ten.

There are plenty of thrills and chills here as well. IN FEAR doesn’t just prey on your senses…it feeds off of your fears, too. And in doing so, it takes you on a roller coaster ride of horror. You won’t be the same after watching this film, I guarantee you that.

IN FEAR is a heck of a win for me, and I recommend giving it a look. Even if you’re not a horror fan per se, it’s a slick and effective thriller that will keep you guessing. The film hits store shelves next week, so be sure and make a note to check it out!

MSB

Movie Review – Bloodlust (1961)

Bloodlust
Directed by Ralph Brooke
Courtesy of Film Chest Media Group
Original Release Date: 1961
DVD Release Date: March 4, 2014

Bloodlust box2

One of my favorite stories growing up was “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell. In this tale, a man falls overboard from a ship and washes up on a mysterious island. The island’s sole occupant is a mad General who hunts people for sport. The pure nastiness of such a concept is what drew me to the story, and I still consider this tale high on my favorites list today. BLOODLUST is a movie from the early 60s that draws on this story, and although it’s not perfect, it is still entertaining nonetheless.

If you are not familiar with BLOODLUST, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Film Chest Media:

In this thrilling drama, a group of young adults on a boat excursion become the prey of a sadistic hunter when the two couples come across an uncharted tropical island, which they soon find is inhabited by a wealthy recluse and his staff. While their host is initially hospitable, the four investigate and find themselves in the clutches of Dr. Albert Balleau (Wilton Graff, Lili, Lust for Life), whose hobby is hunting both animals and humans. He quickly reveals his true purpose … to hunt down and kill each of his visitors, as he has done with everyone unlucky enough to set foot on his island.

I have to be careful when I review movies from years past, especially those shot in the black-and-white era. Given the technologies of today, I have to make sure I don’t bias my comments and compare the film to what can be done in film in our generation. As such, I’ve tried to make this review as leveled as possible.

BLOODLUST is shot well and looks good onscreen. The digital remastering of the picture is astounding. There’s barely a grainy image anywhere (if at all), and the picture is sharp and clear. Likewise, the sound is great as well. Much effort has been put into the remastering efforts here, and the results are evident onscreen.

The acting is so-so for me, even for this time period. I have to admit that Wilton Graff does a good job as the antagonist, although some of his dialogue seems forced in places. But overall, this is nothing that can’t be overlooked.

The plot follows Connell’s story to an extent, although many liberties are taken. For example, there are four main characters in the film, while the story only contains one. Also, the villain in the film is a doctor, whereas he is a General in the story. But these are simply observations and do not detract from the film overall.

BLOODLUST won’t be for everyone, but it’s a perfect film for fans of yesteryear. I enjoyed it and recommend it, if you don’t mind a bit of awkward acting and a black-and-white picture. This is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – Children of Sorrow (2014)

Children of Sorrow
Directed by Jourdan McClure
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: March 4, 2014

children-of-sorrow-dvd

For me, true horror is reading a book or watching a film that could actually happen in the realm of plausibility…or is based on events that have happened. There’s no fiction more shocking than reality, for sure. When I read the plot synopsis for CHILDREN OF SORROW, a chill ran down my spine; it is something that you might read in today’s news headlines, so I knew I had to see it. And WOW…I’m glad I watched it. It is a brutal and realistic depiction of the cult mentality and just how dangerous they can be.

If you are not familiar with CHILDREN OF SORROW, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

Simon Leach is a very sick man. Thriving on despair, pain, and panic, he unites a group of broken and desperate teens and showers them with the love and affection they’re so desperate for. But Simon has a much darker plan for his followers. “Belongingness” can be a terrifying subject. When a young woman embeds herself in the cult looking for answers to her sister’s disappearance, she discovers their dark secret and an even darker secret within herself.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this one. I have been fascinated by cults for a long time, so I hoped this film wasn’t going to be too far-fetched to enjoy. I am happy to report the production team does an excellent job, and the result is a gripping and taut horror flick that you’ve got to see.

CHILDREN OF SORROW is shot well, although it is filmed entirely on hand-held cameras and a couple of security feeds. This works perfectly, though, and fits the story like a glove. The cameras have a couple of different perspectives: one from Father Simon, one from his assistant, one from Ellen (the girl looking for answers about her sister), and then the security cameras. This might sound distracting or confusing, but it’s not. The different angles are woven together skillfully, like an intricate design on fabric.

The acting is excellent as well. I never once found myself in a state of disbelief in regard to any of the characters. Bill Oberst, Jr. gives the performance of his career as Father Simon. He gracefully transitions from sick, sadistic manipulator to caring overseer in the blink of an eye. Likewise, his ‘children’ do a great job in their roles as well.

There’s also some very nice gore in CHILDREN OF SORROW. I am particularly impressed with the first death scene, where a young man poisons himself. I’m not sure why, but this performance leapt out at me, as did the special effects. They are simple but very effective.

If I were forced to find a flaw with this film, I would have to say there are a couple of camera shots that are almost too shaky to tell what’s happening. This only happens twice, I believe, so it’s nothing that really detracts from the film, but I do feel it’s worth mentioning.

CHILDREN OF SORROW is an epic win for me, and I suggest every horror fan check it out ASAP. It is unnerving and unrelenting, a nightmarish trip into events that could really happen. Give this one a look for sure.

MSB