Sunday, October 2, 2011

Horror Movie Review: The Human Centipede

The Human Centipede

Starring: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, and Akihiro Kitamura

Directed by: Tom Six

Written by: Tom Six

Production Company: Six Entertainment

Release Date: August 30, 2009

Awards: Best Horror Jury Prize at the 2009 Austin Fantastic Fest, Best Picture Festival Trophy at the 2009 Screamfest, and Dieter Laser won Best Actor Jury Prize at the 2009 Austin Fantastic Fest

Two girls on a trip through Europe get lost on the way to a secluded club and wind up in the hands of the deranged Dr. Heiter. Dr. Heiter, an esteemed surgeon known for his work on separating Siamese twins, has developed the twisted dream of not separating life, but joining it, creating a Siamese triplet, a human centipede.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to rent The Human Centipede. I like horror movies that endeavor to scare us, not gross us out like so much of the torture porn that has started since the debut of Saw. (Although, lumping Saw in with some of the later torture porn like Hostel is a disservice to Saw.) But I decided the concept was interesting enough for there to be a redeeming element. I was wrong.

After being joined together by the gastric system, one girl's mouth connected to the anus of the guy in front, the girl in back being connected similarly, Dr. Heiter one night complains to his creation that he should have removed their vocals cords because the incessant sobbing of the girls in particular prevented him from sleeping. After the surgery, that's what the film became. Heiter training his human centipede to walk, and the three victims sobbing. Heiter feeding the head of his centipede, the girls sobbing. Heiter getting excited when the head could no longer keep himself from shitting into the middle's mouth, and everyone sobbing.

And we horror lovers have to accept that the victims do, to some degree, stupid things, but both escape attempts were ripe with idiocies beyond what I would call acceptable amounts of idiocy. Returning to save your friend ensures that not only will you not save your friend, but you won't save yourself either. The other moronic move in the second escape I'll just leave for anyone who wants to check this crapper out, pun intended. But then the girls were idiotic beyond the pale to begin with. They get a flat tire and start walking down the road to find help. Net thing we know they are stumbling through the woods...Why did they leave the road?

Dieter Laser does a great job as the demented Dr. Heiter, so we can thank Laser for one redeeming element, but the very limited scope of the script, the apparent lack of social commentary, the pointlessness of everything associated with the film, wastes Laser's entertainment value.

Related Trailers

The Human Centipede II - Tom Six and Ashlynn Yennie return in The Human Centipede II. Inspired by the fictional Dr. Heiter, disturbed loner Martin dreams of creating a 12-person centipede and sets out to realize his sick fantasy.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Horror Movie Review: The Graves

The Graves

Starring: Clare Grant, Jillian Murray, Bill Moseley, and Tony Todd

Directed by: Brian Pulido

Written by: Brian Pulido

Production Companies: Mischief Maker Studios and Ronalds Brothers Films

Release Date: October 31, 2009

The Graves sisters are off for one last hurrah together before older sister Megan leave for work in the big city leaving younger sister Abby on her own. But when they find themselves in Skull City and decide to visit the haunted mine, it might be their last hurrah ever.

It's a classic and proven set-up which only needs good follow through and interesting antagonists to get a movie reasonably entertaining enough to pass the time, but whether or not The Graves is reasonably entertaining can be debated.

The downside of The Graves, unfortunately, is what most people comment on. The plot's got some pretty big holes in it. The mine is busy enough that The Graves sisters are at least the third visiting group of victims that day, but when the sisters and the survivor from another group make it back out to the road, it's not help they find. In fact, that many people going missing...unless this is the first day of their vacationer slaughters, officials would be poking around, if not entirely suspicious.

The Graves sisters handle being the target of the insane killers better than is to be expected. Abby (played by Jillian Murray) at least approaches authentic fear, but Megan (played by Clare Grant) never seems affected by people trying to kill her. Reading comic books your whole life does not prepare you for being a potential murder victim.

But there is some fun here, and you could come up with a fun drinking game with this movie. Every time Clare Grant tries to get her hair out of her face, take a shot. Be careful, scene you'll be taking three fast shots at least. And Clare Grant, despite not being scared, is one of the fun aspects of the film. She is very attractive and we all want her in a role where she's wearing leather the entire time.

Tony Todd is also here as a crazed priest for Skull City's crazy cult. I've seen criticisms of Todd's performance here, but if you've seen video of small town religious Shakers and Snake Handlers and the like, the preaching and shaking of Tony Todd in the role really works. Every time Tony shakes when preaching the word, take a shot.

Bill Moseley is entertaining as Caleb "Cookie" Atwood, though there's little explanation for his wearing of the pig nose. Every time Bill snorts like a pig, take a shot.

Don't watch it expecting too much. I haven't even hit all the holes in the plot, but it's not a total stinker. Just go in with bottle and shot glass well in hand.

Related Trailers

Forget Me Not - Jillian Murray also appears in Forget Me Not. A party-filled graduation weekend turns into a nightmare for popular class president Sandy Channing (Carly Schroeder) when her friends begin to vanish one by one. Soon Sandy discovers they have awakened the vengeful spirit of a girl they mistreated years ago. Now she must work to resolve the dark mysteries of her past before she and all her friends become unwilling victims in this bloody horror flick.

Army of Darkness - Bill Moseley appeared as a Deadite Captain in Army of Darkness. Bound in human flesh and inked in blood, the ancient Necronomicon, or "Book of the Dead," transports department store clerk Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his 1973 Oldsmobile into England's Dark Ages. There, he faces legions of undead beasts in a battle for his life.

Night of the Living Dead - Tony Todd also appeared in the 1990 remake Night of the Living Dead. Makeup maestro Tom Savini's shot-for-shot revamp of George A. Romero's watershed black-and-white original brings to lurid color the mortality tale of a band of small-town folks corralled in a farmhouse surrounded by an army of walking dead. Survival is the common goal, but with method and mores in dispute, pistol-packing refugee Barbara (Patricia Tallman) develops her own notions about how to make it through the night.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Horror Movie Review: The Black Cat

The Black Cat

Starring: Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, David Manners, and Julie Bishop

Directed by: Edgar G. Ulmer

Written by: Edgar G. Ulmer, Peter Ruric, and Tom Kilpatrick

Production Company: Universal Pictures

Release Date: May 3, 1934

Horror movies have changed a lot in the almost 80 years since Universal Pictures released The Black Cat. It's almost difficult to see the horror in the old Karloff and Lugosi films. Horror was more cerebral. The viewer had to consider what was going on, often off screen, and be relieved that the camera man cut away. Compared to a Rob Zombie horror film, they are Gothic dramas. But they are great fun to watch.

The Black Cat, billed as an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's tale, has nothing to do with its source material other than a black cat. Newlyweds Peter and Joan Alison (David Manners and Julie Bishop) are honeymooning in Hungary and encounter Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Lugosi) on a trip to visit an old friend. When the bus carrying both the Alisons and Werdegast has an accident, they trek to a nearby mansion to care for the injured Joan. The mansion turns out to be the home of Hjalmer Poelzig (Karloff), Werdegast's old friend.

It's not long before creepy things begin to occur, originally disregarded as unusual but harmless locals, and the Alisons soon find the benevolent doctor and host may not be as harmless as originally thought. Poelzig betrayed Werdegast telling his wife and daughter that Werdegast had died and married them. No, that's not poor grammar...Poelzig married Werdegast's wife. Then when she died, he married Werdegast's daughter.

So where's the titular cat? Werdegast has Ailurophobia, an extreme fear of cats. Poelzig uses this fear against Werdegast by setting a black cat loose. An interesting, but ignored, plot device in the film includes Werdegast killing the cat only for it to return. Did the cat return from the dead, or did Poelzig have a stock of black cats to use in the event that Werdegast returned?

Writers Ulmer and Ruric weren't afraid to mine some dark topics for this first pairing of monster movie greats Lugosi and Karloff. Poelzig shows a bit of necrophilia in the preservation of his many dead ex-wives. A character gets his skinned flayed and Ulmer even lets us watch...the shadows of the attack...but that's heavy stuff for 1934. All that's missing is a satanic mass...oh...wait, nope, we have that too.

These days people tend to criticize Lugosi's acting, which I don't understand...but here, in a more heroic role, he does an impressive job. I would say he outshines Karloff in this first pairing.

The Black Cat has a number of elements similar to modern horror, making it ahead of its time...the only difference is that nowadays when we are shown everything, in 1934 we were only given glimpses and shadows. Neither way is better than the other, but it is a difference many modern viewers are unable to cope with. But if you can, check out The Black Cat.

Related Trailers

The Bride of Frankenstein - Boris Karloff followed his role as Poelzig with a return to the famous monster make-up in The Bride of Frankenstein. After vowing to step away from his dark experiments, Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is blackmailed into creating another fiend (Elsa Lanchester) -- this time, in female form -- who will serve as a ghoulish bride for his infamous monster (Boris Karloff). Ernest Thesiger co-stars as Frankenstein's deranged mentor, Dr. Septimus Pretorius, who forces the doctor's hand by kidnapping his wife (Valerie Hobson).

The Return of Chandu - Bela Lugosi followed his role as Werdegast as Chandu in The Return of Chandu. Bela Lugosi plays Frank Chandler, a mysterious man who moonlights as the mystic Chandu, in this 1934 film that's part of a series showcasing the supernatural powers of the good-hearted magician. This time around, Chandu's betrothed, the Egyptian princess Nadji (Maria Alba), is kidnapped by a priestess who believes Nadji holds the key to the resurrection of a cult goddess. Can Chandu get to Nadji in time? Or is he, for once, too late?

The Mummy David Manners had previously workd with Boris Karloff in The Mummy. When British archaeologists uncover the ancient sarcophagus of a mummified Egyptian priest (Boris Karloff), they foolishly ignore its warning not to open the box, and the mummy is brought back to life. Taking the form of a modern Egyptian, he quickly begins his quest to resurrect the soul of his love, which he believes has been reincarnated in a modern woman (Zita Johann).

The Man From Planet X - Edgar Ulmer also directed The Man From Planet X. Planet X is on a collision course with Earth, and Prof. Elliott (Raymond Bond) is monitoring the action from his Scotland observatory. But when a spacecraft from the planet finally lands, the visitor inside falls into the clutches of Mears (William Schallert), an evil scientist. As the alien moves on to terrorize innocent Earthlings and turn them into zombies, reporter John (Robert Clarke) tries to get the real scoop.

Dr. CyclopsDr. Cyclops. After developing a method to shrink people to one-fifth their normal size, mad scientist Dr. Thorkel (Albert Dekker) invites a panel of experts to his jungle lab, where he proceeds to miniaturize his guests. Now, the pint-size group must battle their way to freedom. Thomas Coley, Janice Logan, Charles Halton and Victor Kilian play the hapless quartet of tiny heroes in this sci-fi horror classic.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Horror Movie Review: Husk


Starring: Devon Graye, Wes Chatham, C. J. Thomason, and Tammin Sursok

Directed by: Brett Simmons

Written by: Brett Simmons

Production Company: After Dark Films

Release Date: January 28, 2011

Five friends are off to...somewhere...when crows start slamming into the windshield sending the car careening into a ditch and wooden pole. One of the five quickly goes missing and as the other four come to, two wander through a cornfield toward an old farmhouse figuring their friend went there. Soon, fast moving scarecrows are slashing up the twenty-something year old friends.

The atmosphere of Husk is pretty effective creating a strong sense of isolation, though that could easily be dispelled if our victims stopped and thought about what they were doing.

That's the one disappointing part of the film. Our victims don't seem to think through what they are doing and some of their decisions don't make much sense. I thought there would be a reason for the refusal of two of our victims to leave via the car for which they found keys. Brian said he didn't want to leave his girlfriend Natalie, which is fine. He and other lead Chris clearly don't think the best of each other so when Chris reports he saw her dead and has become one of the scarecrows, Brian refusing to believe him kind of makes sense. But why wouldn't the more bookish Scott leave with Chris? And no attempt was made to explain why Scott is seeing flashes of the past.

But even these don't detract from the mood, the creepy scarecrows, or the cool concept of what is going on. The scarecrows hammering nails into their fingers as claws helps show that there is no salvation for these converted victims. And our victims, clearly being city folk, out of their element in a cornfield, confident to the point of arrogance that all they have to do is find the house and all will be ok, criticizes most of our self-indulgent, flippancy toward our lives. Sometimes the best answer is to just run full speed straight ahead, but how often do we over think it and we veer off into missing opportunities and sometimes even ruin, leaving us as nothing but...Husks.

Related Trailers

Scar - Devon Graye also stars in Scar. Joan Burrows (Angela Bettis) narrowly escapes death by murdering the sick serial killer who held her prisoner in his underground chamber of horrors. Sixteen years later, Joan returns to her hometown to visit her niece (Kirby Bliss Blanton), only to discover that a new batch of teenage victims has surfaced. The crimes carry the killer's signature, but with the man presumed dead, the police begin to wonder whether Joan herself might be involved.

Sutures - C. J. Thomason also appears in Sutures. Jason London stars as a harried detective on the hunt for a madman in this gory horror thriller about a demonic surgeon (Carlos Lauchu) run amok with his scalpel in hand, all in a play to score profits on black-market body parts. But there's a plot twist perhaps no one suspects: At one time, the pitiless predator was someone else's prey. Allison Lange, Kate French, Andrew Prine and B.J. Britt co-star.

Albino Farm - Tammin Sursok also starred in Albino Farm. Decades of religious fanaticism in an Ozark Mountain town have produced an in-bred community of albino misfits who have become the stuff of legend in surrounding areas. Now, four college pals are trapped there when their research trip goes awry. Stuck in a land of pigment-impaired predators, the group struggles for survival in this horror fest.