Movie Review – Moebius (2014)

Moebius
Directed by Ki-duk Kim
Courtesy of RAM Releasing
Release Date: October 28, 2014

moebius

If you’ve ever looked at your family and thought, “Wow…we are the definition of ‘dysfunctional’, you are certainly not alone. Many of us have done that very thing, and some think about it often. But if that thought has ever crossed your mind, don’t worry: your family is probably the epitome of sane compared to the people in MOEBIUS. This Korean thriller is an inventive yet disturbing look at one family’s struggle to maintain sanity amidst a self-inflicted turmoil.

If you are not familiar with MOEBIUS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of RAM Releasing:

A husband. A wife. Their son. The atmosphere at home is ice cold – the husband distracted by an affair with a young woman, the wife sick of her husband’s debauchery, and the teenage son indifferent to them both. Overwhelmed with hatred, the wife attempts to remove from the husband the organ driving his desires; thwarted, she instead takes out the violent act on the son and then disappears into the night. At the hospital, the husband is distraught with guilt, severing his own manhood in solidarity and setting out to recover his son’s happiness, sacrificed to his parents’ conflict. Disfigured in such a radical way, the son slowly deviates from normal life, even falling for the husband’s young mistress as the husband discovers strange and severe ways to help his son find pleasure again. With both husband and son damaged and living in grief, the wife returns as the family heads towards destruction even more horrific than before.

This is one of those movies that is similar to a car accident; it is tragic and horrific, but for some reason you cannot look away. That is a huge part of what makes the film so much fun to watch. I squirmed several times throughout, but I loved every minute of it.

MOEBIUS is shot very well and looks great onscreen. The production value appears high, and the cast and crew do an excellent job of putting this film together. I particularly like how director Ki-duk Kim is able to accomplish so much without using dialogue. There are no lines in the film, and yet it is full of powerful emotion, mostly due in part to a talented cast. I am not familiar with any of the actors or actresses in this film, however they all do a phenomenal job with their roles. I daresay this movie would be horrible if it did not have such a talented group in front of the camera.

The special effects in the film are good, with a couple of cringeworthy scenes (those involving the castration) that will make even the heartiest of gore-hounds sweat. Granted, there’s not much gore, but this is a case of less-is-more. I love how the film is able to have this effect, as it hits home on a primal level.

The story in MOEBIUS is the big winner here, though. The downward spiral that is set into motion after the mom’s horrific act is almost gratifying in a sense; the family is so apathetic towards each other that you want something to happen that might bring them together. But unfortunately, the events have tragic consequences that make you feel sad for them in the end.

MOEBIUS is messed up on several levels, but it is a huge win for me. I recommend it, however be warned if you decide to give it a shot: the film deals with some heavy subject matters, even if some of it is darkly comedic. It is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Book Review – The Silence by Tim Lebbon

The Silence
by Tim Lebbon
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: April 14, 2015

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When I read the press release for THE SILENCE, my first thought was “Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” The premise of the book is unique, but it’s actually a plausible one as well. We have no clue as to how many enclosed ecosystems exist on Earth, and this book is a horrific look into what might be if we opened one. Author Tim Lebbon weaves a masterful tale of turmoil and tribulation for one family as they fight to survive an unthinkable scenario. If you have never read one of Lebbon’s novels before, THE SILENCE is the perfect book on which to cut your teeth.

If you are not familiar with THE SILENCE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Titan Books:

In the darkness of a underground cave system, blind creatures hunt by sound. Then there is light, there are voices, and they feed… Swarming from their prison, the creatures thrive and destroy. To scream, even to whisper, is to summon death. As the hordes lay waste to Europe, a girl watches to see if they will cross the sea. Deaf for many years, she knows how to live in silence; now, it is her family’s only chance of survival. To leave their home, to shun others, to find a remote haven where they can sit out the plague. But will it ever end? And what kind of world will be left?

We, as a society, take our ability to communicate instantly for granted. But what if we could no longer email, text, or even talk verbally for that matter? This is the underlying inference in Lebbon’s book, and it prompts many questions. Perhaps relying on instantaneous communication might be a reason for mankind’s downfall after all.

THE SILENCE is written very well and flows at a nice clip. Lebbon writes with a fluid style, which grants the reader complete immersion into the story. His realistic descriptions of modern family life are spot on, and they make the horrific events even more terrible when things hit the fan.

The characters in THE SILENCE are damaged and believable, everyday people that could be our neighbors, friends, or family members. Ally, who is deaf; her dad Huw, who spends more time at work than home; his wife Kelly, who loves Huw but has fallen out of love with him…the list goes on. These people and the plight they endure are a primary reason the book is so tense.

But the story itself is the main winner. What a horrifying situation to be in the middle of! The concept of verbal communication is an innate characteristic that every human being shares. But if something comes along that makes speaking a deadly option, what then? This fear hangs over everything through the book.

The creatures in THE SILENCE are primal and terrifying, the perfect antagonists for this kind of concept. And while nothing similar to them exists in nature to our knowledge, there is a very real possibility that we will one day run across an unexpected cryptid that could be just as deadly.

THE SILENCE is a major win for me, and I highly recommend it. The writing is strong, the characters are well-written, and the premise itself is enough to cause many sleepless nights. The book is not due out for another month, but make a note on your calendar to pick it up when it releases. This is one novel you cannot afford to miss.

MSB

Movie Review – Blood Car (2007)

Blood Car
Directed by Alex Orr
Courtesy of Kino Lorber
Original Release Date: 2007
DVD Release Date: March 3, 2015

blood car

Quirky horror comedies never get old for me, particularly those with unique premises. If a film can make me laugh and squirm while still entertaining me, then it’s a big win. Such is the case with BLOOD CAR, a 2007 title that poses question, “To what lengths will we (as a society go) to drive when gas becomes too expensive?” Part terrifying and part hysterical, this film will make you reevaluate the way you think about your car and its fuel economy.

If you are not familiar with BLOOD CAR, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Kino Lorber:

In the all-too-foreseeable future, gas prices approach $40 a gallon, causing some Americans to abandon their vehicles and others to seek alternate sources of fuel. When a mild-mannered schoolteacher (Mike Brune) invents an experimental engine that thrives on blood, he attracts the attention of two women who vie for his affection: Denise (Katie Rowlett), the proprietress of a butcher stand, and Lorraine (Anna Chlumsky) who runs a rival veggie stand in a grim urban landscape. But Archie’s need for speed soon surpasses his body’s ability to regenerate fluids, so he takes desperate measures to satisfy the Blood Car’s thirst. Veering between wicked social satire and outbursts of hardcore gore, BLOOD CAR lives up to its reputation as an “audacious utterly bonkers and downright sick claret-drenched black comedy” Time Out London.

I love how this film provides a dark social commentary in addition to its gory premise. I read several subtle undertones in the plot line, including teenage rebellion, our education system, societal perceptions of lifestyle choices, in addition to others. When a movie can make you think this much and still provide a lot of fun, you know you have a winner on your hands.

BLOOD CAR is a lower-budget film, but it is shot well and looks good overall. The production crew does a great job of utilizing their budget, and the result is an aesthetically-pleasing film with great sound.

The acting in BLOOD CAR is top notch, with Mike Brune, Anna Chlumsky, and Katie Rowlett portraying the three main characters. Brune does a great job as the oblivious, love-sick teacher, while Chlumsky and Rowlett shine as his two “love interests.” I am not familiar with Brune or Rowlett, however I’ve enjoyed Chlumsky as an actress since I saw her way back in the day, in MY GIRL.

The special effects in the film are minimal but good as well. There’s not a lot of carnage, but we do get a dose of nice gore here and there. Of particular note is when a government agent gets shoved into the trunk of the car (which is where the Blood Car “mulches” its victims for their blood), and a spectacular crimson fountain erupts when the car is started. Additionally, there are a couple of gore-soaked shots of the device itself inside the trunk that look great.

BLOOD CAR is a major win for me, and I recommend it to anyone looking for some gory, quirky fun. The disc contains a few Special Features that include the theatrical trailer for BLOOD CAR, as well was two short films from the same production company: THE ADVENTURE and THE $100 SHORT SHORT. BLOOD CAR is available now in a variety of formats, so give it a look.

MSB

Book Review – Beyond the Nightlight

Beyond the Nightlight
by Various Authors
Publisher: A Murder of Storytellers
Release Date: December 8, 2014

beyondNightlightFront

Although I’m a huge fan of zombies, I have to confess: monsters in general are my true love when it comes to fiction and films. Monsters represent all that is unknown, and they spark a deeply rooted primal fear within us. For that reason, they scare the hell of me. And I love them for it. So when I got the chance to review BEYOND THE NIGHTLIGHT, an anthology of horrific tales of bedtime, I was ecstatic. I sat down last week and started reading. To my surprise, I tore through the book and finished it in one sitting. It is that good. Every story in this anthology is a winner, a terrifying gem in a nightmarish goldmine. If you don’t peek over the covers in fear at night after reading this book, you must be related to one of the monstrosities mentioned within its pages.

If you are not familiar with BEYOND THE NIGHTLIGHT, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of A Murder of Storytellers:

Fears fade as years pass. They are never as salient or real as they were when you were a child. Unless they are. Though these terrors stem from children, the stories are not for them. From the dark to boogeymen to real life horrors, there is no innocence here. Featuring stories from Adrian Ludens, Alex Schvartsman, Adan Ramie, James Michael Shoberg, Jill Corddry, Robin Kirk, Kurt Newton, Stanley Webb, Shannon Iwanski, Kristin J Cooper, Eric Blair, Amanda Davis, Michael Schutz-Ryan, Lonnie Bricker, Stephanie Madan, Jack Burgos, John Biggs, Kerry B. Black, M.J. Pack, Shenoa Carroll-Bradd, Ian Shoebridge, Mary Pletsch, Lisa Finch, and Douglas Ford covering everything from the monsters under the bed, to the skeletons in the closet, and all of the little fears and insecurities that drive people to become monsters.

I am very impressed with the talent in this book. I only recognize a couple of names (I had the distinct pleasure of reviewing one of Adian Ludens’ own anthologies a while back; you can read that review here), but every author is skilled and worth reading. I would daresay the literary world will be hearing many of their names as well in the future.

Every story in BEYOND THE NIGHTLIGHT is written well and flows nicely. Each topic skillfully compliments the subject of the anthology, and there is no dead weight in terms of content. I can say with all honesty I enjoyed every story in this book.

One of my favorite stories is “Bad Mother” by Kristin J. Cooper. In this tale, a woman heads to her son’s room to put him to bed, but instead finds him holding back an attack from a monster in his wardrobe. The young hero helps her escape, but the two discover more horrors awaiting them. This is probably my favorite piece in the whole book. It is crazy intense and horrifying (especially the ending!).

Another favorite is “Sam” by Shenoa Carroll-Bradd. This simple story tells of one mother’s “love” for her children. I am awed at how this story can be so short, but it conveys SO MUCH with so little. This is a true testament to the immense talent of the author.

BEYOND THE NIGHTLIGHT is a huge win for me, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes to be scared before bedtime. Be warned, however: you will definitely lose some sleep after reading these tales. The book is available now in a variety of formats, so pick it up now.

MSB

Movie Review – Island of the Living Dead (2006)

Island of the Living Dead
Directed by Bruno Mattei (as Vincent Dawn)
Courtesy of Intervision & CAV Distribution
Original Release Date: 2006
Release Date: February 24, 2015

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If you’ve never watched a Bruno Mattei film, you are really missing out. Renowned for over-the-top gore and horrible voice dub-overs, Mattei is a staple of Italian horror. But unfortunately, many people find his films too campy to enjoy. I am on the other side of the fence; I LOVE HIS FILMS. Sure, they’re schlocky and full of cheese…but that is what makes them so much fun! Almost all of his titles are in my So-Bad-They’re-Good category, but that is an honor, not an insult. ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD is one of his final films, as he died shortly after shooting it and ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING back-to-back, but it is a capstone to a historic legacy of horror films. Chocked full of the things that make his work great, this film is a must-have for zombie fans.

If you are not familiar with ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Intervision:

Italian horror maestro Bruno Mattei director of such infamous gut-munchers as MONDO CANNIBAL, HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD and IN THE LAND OF THE CANNIBALS made his triumphant return to the zombie genre with his penultimate gorefest: When a boneheaded group of treasure hunters are shipwrecked near a deserted island, they’ll instead discover an undead nightmare of flesh chomping, skull blasting, absurd plotting, perplexing flamenco, and old-school levels of graphic zombie carnage. Yvette Yzon (ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING), Gaetano Russo (CAGED WOMEN) and Jim Gaines (THE ONE-ARMED EXECUTIONER) star in this beloved Mattei jaw-dropper from the screenwriter of Fulci’s A CAT IN THE BRAIN, now presented uncut and uncensored for the first time ever in America!

I never have discovered why Mattei chose to release most of his films under pen names. Vincent Dawn, Pierre Le Blanc, Gilbert Roussel…these are just a few of the pseudonyms he used. As you can see, the names are as diverse as his filmography. I have to confess I know little about the man himself, therefore this might warrant some investigation on my part.

ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD is a typical Mattei flick. It is low-budget fun, shot decently but at the same time looking kinda cheesy. Again, this is not a negative, but a simple factual statement.

The acting is, as expected, not very good, and much of the dialogue is delivered in an overly-dramatic fashion. Every time a character spoke, I was reminded of how comedians poke fun at William Shatner with their Captain Kirk impersonations; you can’t help but grin when you hear them. The same can be said here. Although the dialogue attempts to provide information and move the story along, it’s almost so terrible to the point of distraction.

True to form, ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD contains plenty of Mattei’s trademark gore and zombie effects. I love how he makes the dead look, well, dead. I’m sick of seeing zombie makeup that makes a person look white and lifeless; that’s not what a rotting body should look like. Much like Fulci, Mattei uses decomposing zombies in his films, and the result is spectacular. Even so, there are some cheesy effects in the film as well. For example, a man who is supposed to be a skeleton is wearing a black outfit with a skeleton printed on it. The result is laughable but still a lot of fun.

ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD is a major win for me, and fans of schlocky, gory flicks should love it. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good zombie-throwback film. They just don’t get much better than this. ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – Innocence (2015)

Innocence
Directed by Hilary Brougher
Courtesy of Cinedigm
Release Date: March 3, 2015

innocence

I owe my daughter a lot of thanks for introducing me to the world of YA fiction. I never thought of YA as being intense or riveting enough to hold my interest, but wow…after reading THE HUNGER GAMES series and a few other other titles, I am thoroughly impressed. This is the reason I jumped on the movie adaptation of INNOCENCE, a film based on a book of the same name by author Jane Mendelsohn. INNOCENCE is a gothic coming-of-age tale with a supernatural twist, and while the movie is not perfect, it is still thrilling and entertaining. Fans of YA films will want to give this one a look.

If you are not familiar with INNOCENCE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Cinedigm:

Haunted by the death and dreams of her beloved mother in a Montauk surfing accident, 16-year-old Beckett and her father, novelist Miles Warner, move to Manhattan and attempt to piece together their shattered life. Now enrolled at the exclusive Hamilton preparatory school, her psychosis and hallucinations intensify with the dubious suicides of current and past students, as does her first love for Tobey Crawford. The discovery that her new school may be run by a coven of beautiful and seductive women who perpetuate their youth by drinking the blood of virgins becomes the ultimate challenge of Beckett and Tobey’s young lives.

If this film version of INNOCENCE follows the book pretty closely, I could see it as the jumping-off point for a series. The movie provides a lot of material that could be pieced together to make a trilogy, as I can see several plot lines that could evolve from the way the film ends. I won’t give any spoilers away, but let’s just say I was very satisfied with its conclusion.

INNOCENCE is shot well and has a fairly high production value. I particularly like the location chosen for the school. I don’t know where this place is (the Blu-ray is void of any Special Features, unfortunately), but I would love to visit it. The building appears very gothic in nature and the landscape on which it sits is very foreboding.

The acting is solid, with actress Sophie Curtis portraying the lead character. I’d swear I’ve seen her in something previous, however I don’t recall watching any of her prior films that are listed on her IMDB page. Still, she does a great job with this role, giving her ‘odd-girl-out’ character real life. Likewise, her co-stars Graham Phillips and Kelly Reilly do a fine job with their portrayals as well.

There’s not many special effects in INNOCENCE, but those we see are well done. I particularly like the funky eye-thing the ladies of the coven do before they drink the virgin’s blood. It’s not necessarily a ground-breaking effect, but it looks impressive nonetheless.

But although INNOCENCE is a fun film to watch, it does have some flaws. First and foremost is the running time. 90 minutes is not nearly enough time to tell this story. This should have been two hours at least. This extra time would allow more fleshing out of the secondary characters, many of whom cast no shadow of menace because we simply don’t know them. A longer film would have helped develop them and the storyline.

Also, some aspects of the story are reasons for concern. For instance, Beckett makes some interesting deductions that many normal people probably would not. I likened this to Sherlock Holmes Syndrome, where a character is almost superhuman compared to everyone else. This struck me as a negative, because it made the realism of the film drop a bit.

Still, INNOCENCE is a fun YA movie that is worth checking out. It makes a statement in a way, by telling Hollywood you don’t have to have a $180 million budget to make an entertaining adaptation of a book. This film will hit shelves tomorrow if you want to give it a look.

MSB