Tag Archives: gore

David Grieco’s Evilenko

Serial killer biopics and character studies have been all the rage since their inception in the early 90’s, but rarely do they get as earnest or serious as David Grieco’s Evilenko, an intense look at Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo (renamed Evilenko here), a heinous child murderer that took advantage of loopholes in the post war soviet region and preyed on youngsters for years. Malcolm McDowell is harrowing in the role and gives the character human depth and dimensions beyond just lurking, killing, evading capture and awaiting trial. I saw a documentary once on his career and apparently he turned this role down several times, which is interesting because he’s absolutely dynamic and almost unrecognizable as the guy, quite the piece of work. Martin Csokas plays the inspector on his case with his usual well spoken gravitas, hunting the man down but taking so many years to nab him that the body count went well above fifty victims. The crimes are shown with a disassociation and removed coldness, blunt but never exploitive. There’s two other film versions of this true story, an HBO original film called Citizen X that takes the police procedural route and Child 44, a recent one with Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman that was a melodramatic, unfocused mess. This one is an intimate look into the killer’s psyche, a definite cut above most serial murderer films and anchored tightly by McDowell’s committed performance. Disturbing stuff.

-Nate Hill

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Ronny Yu’s Freddy Vs. Jason

Freddy Vs. Jason was kind of an inevitable thing as the two horror franchises paralleled and then gradually veered towards each other, it was just a matter of getting it right. Did they? Well.. yes and no. It’s better than Alien Vs. Predator, in case you were wondering, but in terms of doing a satisfactory collision and Mortal Kombat session between these two horror boogeyman, they could have done a bit better. Their first mistake is over plotting it; so much time is spent explaining how they both end up in Freddy’s hometown of Springwood that it seems redundant, who cares about specifics, any telling of it is going to seem silly anyways in a crossover like this, we just want to see the two of them kick the shit out of each other. Then there’s the painfully overdeveloped plot involving two ex Springwood teens (Jason Ritter and Brendan Fletcher) who escape the nuthouse and race home to try and warn everyone. By the time the two of them actually start physically scrapping, so much nonsense has come before that it’s almost too little too late. I say almost because the fight scenes are pretty spectacularly warped, from vicious hand to hand or glove to machete to Freddy launching giant oxygen canisters at Jason like torpedos. Choreography and effects are put to good use in these scenes, even if the filmmakers show a bizarre sympathy towards Jason that seems to come out of left field and paint Freddy as somehow more of a bad guy. There’s all kinds of stuff going on here from a cornfield rave that Jason interrupts in typical bloody fashion, a stoner character that’s a shameless ripoff of Jason Mewes’ Jay, flashbacks to Crystal Lake of yesteryear that get in the way and what have you. That’s the thing, there’d be space for all this random stuff in a film featuring only Freddy or only Jason, but in this collective dust-up there’s only really room for these two cooks in the kitchen. Still, we get plenty of deranged fight scenes between the two, Freddy utilizing his freaky dream powers and Jason swinging around that blade and any other large blunt object he can find. Who wins? Wait and see, but I’ll say it does have my favourite Freddy line of any Nightmare film: “How sweet.. dark meat!” He growls, approaching Kelly Rowland with razor glove at the ready. Fun stuff, if a bit too hectic.

-Nate Hill

The Purge: Election Year

I love the Purge films, and I find the evolution of the franchise fascinating. Trust an Ethan Hawke home invasion horror show to spawn some inspired, stylish and whacked out sequels. As good as Hawke and the horror was, it’s the concept of the Purge itself that led to ignition on the rest of series. Where Anarchy broke free from the conceptual restraints of the first and burst into all out war as we got to see full scale just what a purge looks like, Election Year builds ideas upon the carnage and gets political, though no less visceral and terrifying. There’s just something so unnerving about the premise of it, the absolute extremes in human behaviour it brings out, accented by a wry, satirical edge that seems so disturbing to me and what makes these films unique from scores of other horror fare. Here we see the New Founding Fathers, originally responsible for inauguration of the purge, challenged by a fierce new independent senator (Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell), who has survived a particularly nasty purge night years before and wants to abolish the night forever. The evil, bitter chairman of the Fathers (Raymond J. Barry, turning the creepy Machiavellian scumbag dial up well past eleven) slightly augments the newest purge night in hopes of eliminating her from the running. Frank Grillo returns as eternally badass Sarge, now on her private security detail, and they both are forced to run through the night from rabid purgers (who have now gone international, apparently) Barry’s lethal Neo Nazi special ops assassination squad and even a bunch of crips. Help comes from a salty old deli owner (Mykelti Williamson) who wont go down with out a fight and a badass anti purger (Betty Gabriel) with a triage van. It’s loud, mean, brutal stuff that, as Anarchy did, takes lurid advantage of the premise and shows some jarringly depraved human behaviour from folks in all classes and makes a strong point towards the purge being a pretty shitty idea to begin with, especially when ulterior motives of those in power become clear. Writer director James Demonaco always attracts interesting actors to these films and has carved out quite the little legacy here. This year saw another one, a prequel called The First Purge which I’m excited to see, and Amazon just announced their own small screen version, so bring it on.

-Nate Hill

Glenn Standring’s Perfect Creature

As far as vampire movies go, Perfect Creature is a virtually unknown entry, but the cool 1960’s setting and premise make it a gem buried deep beneath the radar. In an alternate future New Zealand called ‘Nuovo Zelandia’, vampires have advanced to become the next step in evolution and currently live side by side with humans in a hard won peace. Turmoil brews when a nasty rogue vampire (Leo Gregory) discovers an influenza and breaks the truce by preying on humans. This forces the powers that be to dispatch vampire operative Silus (Dougray Scott) and human police captain Lilly (Saffron Burrows) who must team up and stop the renegade bloodsucker before all out war and epidemic spread across the nation. The vampire genre has essentially been sculpted into a giant multiverse full of countless settings, timelines and concepts, and while this flick is nowhere near front and centre (while crap like the Underworld sequels get tossed heaps of money for marketing and distribution), it’s a quietly badass little piece with a well thought out concept and sly twist ending. Scott and Burrows are constantly undervalued talents whose looks and gravity always go a long way, and both of them are great here. The style is dark yet richly coloured, baroque sets with detailed chrome weaponry and lush costume design, it’s too bad there isn’t a decent BluRay, or even one at all. A solid gore fest with a brain in its head and artistic ambition to boot.

-Nate Hill

Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead

Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead is the kind of giddy visual treat you get when you give a special effects wizard like him the director’s chair as well as animatronics duties. A kind of bizarre, atmospheric backwoods fable infused with slasher sensibilities, it’s gory, grisly with a hellish supernatural vibe and an eleven foot tall monster that makes a real impression. Before all that though, there’s a surprisingly touching setup that’s sees small town farmer Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen rocks it as usual) living the quiet life in rural USA with his dog and young son (Matthew Hurley), until a roster of big city punks show up and inadvertently cause the kid’s death via an idiotic dirt-bike stunt. Devastated and heartbroken, Ed turns to a local witch (Florence Schauffler, terrifying) who skulks around the bayou in hopes of retribution. He isn’t quite careful enough what he wishes for though, for the cackling old bitch unleashes aforementioned Pumpkinhead, a nigh unstoppable demon who hunts down the teenagers one by one and starts to tear them limb from limb. Ed, not being an evil man but blinded by rage and heartbreak, sees his fatal mistake, suits up with shotgun, flamethrower and true grit and aims to do a little hunting of his own, perhaps to put an end to Pumpkinhead’s teenage mutilation derby. The monster here is actually a really scary creation from Winston and his team, all gnarly clawed fingers, gaunt skin over a skeletal gargoyle frame and leering fangs, like a Xenomorph after six rounds of chemo as it butchers these hapless kids. Henriksen is awesome in a rare lead role and really kicks ass both physically and in terms of showing the smouldering emotion in Ed’s broken soul. The forests are filled up with eerie lighting and scores of smoke machines for the unmistakable 80’s atmosphere, while Winston & Co. ensure that not only are the special effects top tier, but setting feels authentic too, having its own personality. A horror classic. I won’t weigh in on the sequels as I’ve never really gone for the plunge, but from what I’ve read they seem like garbage for the most part.

-Nate Hill

Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead

As far as horror remakes go, you can do a lot, lot worse than Fede Alvarez’s 2013 version of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. If this version and Raimi’s are to be viewed as different sides of the Evil Dead aesthetic, this would be the sober version, and Raimi’s the wasted one. The original trilogy of films were most decidedly horror, but they were raucous, silly, playful as all hell and had the kind of cheerfully sloppy, Schlock in the Box vibe of a horror comedy. Alvarez’s version sobers right up and has almost no instances of humour, save for a few quick moments. What it doesn’t lose an iota of, however, is the gut churning bodily harm inflicted on humans and deadites, this is one film that takes its violence seriously and thinks up some really interesting ways to fuck people up using hardware tools, kitchen appliances and that good ol’ rip snortin chainsaw. As long as you’re cool with that fact that the comedy elements have been ditched and the proceedings here, although no less grisly, are pretty stone-faced and grim. The troupe of ill fated folks who end up at the now iconic cabin in the woods are played by Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas. Once the Necronomicon is read from, all manner of nastiness descends on them from the surrounding woods and evil starts to possess them and.. you know the drill. Although some unwelcome CGI is used when Levy’s Mia finds herself alone in the woods and molested by a tree, once we get back to the interior of the cabin the special effects have an intimate, visceral and realistic impact. Scenes involving a SawsAll and an exacto knife are memorable for their ability to make you squirm and hide your eyes, which is when you know your scenes are effective. Atmosphere is also key, and although we don’t get the tactile, grainy VHS vision of the forest and hidden army of smoke machines to create the setting, the cabin/forest here are still eerily realized, especially when they head to the basement where the intense prologue of the film happened, which further sets up the mood. It’s not in the vein of Raimi or even close to as good as his original classics, but they’ve put on a super creepy, spectacularly gory (that chainsaw massacre in the blood rain is an impressive showpiece) show that should please casual fans and franchise die-hards alike. Watch for a VIP cameo after the credits too.

-Nate

Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback

Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback is a dusty old monster flick set in the doldrums of Australia, and features a gigantic murderous wild boar that terrorizes local townsfolk and carries off infants into the night. It’s silly, it drags on in places and has two of *the most* irritating human antagonists, but there’s some really neat practical effects, an atmospheric dream sequence that is like a brilliant little short film within the whole, and some creaky production design that gives it personality. It’s just the human element that suffers a bit in these type of films, and very much so here. I’ve often wondered how cool it would be if they did a creature feature where the humans are almost entirely without dialogue or forced, unnecessary idiosyncratic scenes that don’t succeed in getting us invested, but rather annoyed with them. The writing is never great in stuff like this, so why have much, or even any at all? Just my two cents. The best to be found here is some gorgeous outback cinematography, moody interludes of dust-bucket scenery and a really great original score that kicks up the synths in aforementioned dream sequence. I’ve heard that they spent 250 grand on the animatronic boar beastie, which we only get to see in full in the last part of the third act, which is of course the tradition here, but they could have benefitted from more schlock and tusk action way earlier on to stir the pot and make it more interesting. On the plus side, I also heard that Steven Spielberg gave Mulcahy a phone call after seeing the film and asked how he managed to achieve the FX in the dream sequence, which is praise enough, as it’s a wickedly tactile little nightmare. While not in the sterling tier of monster films or horror flicks for me, it has its charms in places, and it’s yawn moments in others.

-Nate Hill