Monday, May 30, 2011

Horror Movie Review: Transylmania


Starring: Oren Skoog, Jennifer Lyons, Musetta Vander, James DeBello, and David Steinberg

Directed by: David and Scott Hillenbrand

Written by: Worm Miller and Patrick Casey

Production Companies: Film Rock and Hill & Brand Entertainment

Release Date: November 5, 2008

Early on in horror film cinema the bizarre closeness of horror and humor was used. Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and the Three Stooges all yucked it up with the monsters of the 30s at one point or another, and a good Horromedy is a great thing. And that great potential is there in the Hillenbrand brothers' Transylmania.

Rusty (Oren Skoog) has convinced a number of his friends to join him for a semester at Castle Razvan in Romania. His real interest is in hooking up with online girlfriend Draguta (Irena A. Hoffman). Everyone else is out for fun. Little do they realize that Razvan has a vampire problem and young college girls have been going missing.

Rusty turns out to be a dead ringer for head vampire Count Radu, Lynne's body becomes possessed by the soul of Radu's former lover, Lia (Natalie Garza) is abducted by Dean Floca (David Steinberg) and becomes a disembodied head so that Floca can complete the body he was building for his daughter, the aforementioned Draguta.

The identity confusion of Rusty and Radu was fairly entertaining, although not taken quite as far as it could have gone. They experience some interesting parallel trip ups in the confusion such as Rado going to a vampire ball held by the college kids being handed a glass of "blood" which he disgustedly spits out saying, "This is not blood." Rusty, thinking he's being taken to another vampire orgy is handed a glass of blood which he disgustedly spits out because, well, it's blood. But the identity confusion only treads the surface. An interesting scene, although admittedly a bit overdone in identity confusion comedies, involved Radu thinking he was seeing his reflection until he remembered he can't see his reflection. It would have been interesting to bring in Rusty's girlfriend, Draguta, who it turns out has a hunched back. Draguta's hunched back was used for obvious comic purposes involving Rusty trying to avoid her and his friends ribbing him, but no real creativity was used.

Lynne (Jennifer Lyons) being taken over by Radu's lover's soul could have taken on some funny twists but they just stuck with Lynne regaining control with the closure of the music box which housed the evil sorceress's soul at awkward times. The evil lover's soul also turning up in other people as others open the music box could have been amusing especially if done well.

Dean Floca as a diminutive Frankenstein was pretty entertaining partially because of David Steinberg's great comedic sense, but it seems more of a throw away plot forced awkwardly into a vampire movie than anything, and the comedic possibilities of Lia as a disembodied head were largely overlooked.

But many things just seemed to get started and then discarded prematurely. An apparent homage to the great Young Frankenstein had horses fart every time Castle Razvan is mentioned. However, after the first third of the movie the joke is gone. Professor Theodora van Sloan (Musetta Vander), vampire hunter, and her self-defense class involving the use of stakes and attackers bursting out of a coma could have been used better, but seemed to be an idea quickly discarded. And Cliff (James DeBello) and his attempts to hook up with van Sloan by pretending to be a vampire hunter not only could have been further explored, but also could have included spoofs of college students/teacher romances. Another joke that just kind of skips along the surface has Rusty take a handful of pills thinking they were Viagra to find out they were a mixture of various pills and not a Viagra in the mix. Rusty just begins acting in a generic high/drunk fashion rather than having him cycle through the effects of the different pills.

In the end Transylmania suffers from too many characters and the jokes aren't explored past the point of predictability. Like Rusty, Transylmania is flaccid and in need of some Viagra, but instead staggers around under the influence of too many characters and disparate, predictable jokes.

Related Trailers

Wasting Away - Oren Skoog also appears in Wasting Away, aka Aaah! Zombies!! Wasting Away focuses sympathetically on a group of zombies just beginning to grasp the implications of their horrific new existence. Writer-director Matthew Kohnen's comedic nightmare combines wit and absurdity in its novel approach to the zombie genre, revealing the suffering of a neglected monster minority.

Killer Pad - Jennifer Lyons also appears in Killer Pad. Three buddies think they've found party paradise when they land a great deal on a Hollywood Hills mansion. They've been warned that the home has a gruesome history, but really, they insist, what's the worst that could happen? Well, for one, the residence they hoped would be a babe magnet turns out to be an evil magnet -- an actual portal to hell. Nightmare on Elm Street star Robert Englund directs this horror comedy.

Cabin Fever - James DeBello also stars in Cabin Fever. Five college friends head off to the woods for a weekend of drinking, partying and fooling around. But as they sit at their campfire the first night, a blood-soaked hermit with a flesh-eating virus approaches them. They shoo him away, but the hapless kids start to catch the bug, and paranoia and hostility run rampant. Meanwhile, the locals slowly learn that they've got the bug, too. Eli Roth (Hostel) directs.

Demon Island - The Hillenbrand brothers wrote and directed Demon Island, aka Pinata: Survival Island. It's a weekend to dismember when a group of college co-eds show up for a wild island adventure and their annual treasure hunt turns into a massive bloodfest. An ancient clay piƱata crammed with the evil spirits of a forgotten village wreaks bloody revenge on the hapless undergrads. Only something this evil could tear (literally!) such good friends apart.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Horror Movie Review: Saw VI

Saw VI

Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Peter Outerbridge, and Tanedra Howard

Directed by: Kevin Greutert

Written by: Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton

Production Companies: Twisted Pictures, A Bigger Boat, and Saw VI Productions

After the first two Saw films, the franchise has been declining in value with each new installment and after my disappointment with Saw V, I wasn't sure I was going to give this one a shot. But in the end I had to, just for the sake of getting the entire story...and yes that means eventually I'll check out Saw: The Final Chapter.

Well, I can't go so far as to say Saw VI completely redeemed the franchise, but it at least got a little closer to being a satisfying viewing experience.

We start off, as always, with a death game where two bankers who loan money to people knowing they couldn't afford the interest and payments are forced to slice off pounds of fat. The goal is to carve more off than the other. The one with the most poundage of flesh lives, the other dies. A nice reminder to all that the Jigsaw killings are still continuing.

Then we proceed with the story. Jigsaw is still dead. Amanda, Jigsaw's first disciple, is still dead, but both return in flashbacks. Detective Mark Hoffman is continuing Jigsaw's work, but as far as a murderous legacy goes, he's pretty dim. He seems just to be following Jigsaw's instructions and not showing any creative flare in regards to who he is going to kill, or test, and how. Jigsaw's focus through Hoffman is insurance man William Easton. Easton refused to grant insurance coverage to Jigsaw's attempt at a cure for his cancer. Easton, a vice-president for his insurance company, had devised a formula to determine if a potential insuree was worth the risk and he stuck to that formula despite individuals attempts to explain why they aren't as risky as the formula suggests and that their lives are worth the risk. Easton epitomizes the American corporate tendency for banks and insurance companies to reduce a person's life down to cold numbers which makes it easier when making decisions which will affect someone's life. And at the beginning of Easton's trials, we are ready for him to hurt.

However, some of the trials don't seem to fulfill...Easton is certainly put to test and tortured, but always involving the people with whom he works. The problem is that we're not given a good reason why their lives should be at risk making it appear that Jigsaw has started killing innocent acquaintances of his primary target in the course of his trials. I don't remember innocents' lives being on the line any other time. And by the end, we want Easton to survive. He's learned his lesson and can go back and be a more humane insurance veep.

Hoffman, as Jigsaw, is a dunderhead and we want him to get killed because he's not very good at it. His ham fisted attempts to get the police to believe Strahm was the newest Jigsaw killer and hide the mounting evidence that Hoffman is the killer shows his lack of understanding of his own field, especially considering in Saw III where he is billed as Forensic Hoffman. He doesn't understand police work it seems, and doesn't understand the Jigsaw contraptions as seen when he tampers with one of the machines and is reprimanded and told that adjusting one things means other things need to be adjusted as well. Makes me wonder if Easton shouldn't have tried to just directly save his coworkers rather than playing the game. After all, maybe Hoffman screwed something up.

The trials for Easton were pretty interesting though, and that's the sell for a Saw film. But the appeal of the Tobin Bell Jigsaw, while still experienced in flashback, is gone for the annoyance of Hoffsaw. If only he had been killed in III rather than Amanda.

Related Trailers

Boogeyman 2 - Tobin Bell also stars in Boogeyman 2. In an effort to overcome a debilitating phobia of the boogeyman, Laura (Danielle Savre) checks herself into a mental institution, where she seeks treatment under the watchful eye of Dr. Mitchell Allen (Tobin Bell). But, try as she might to escape the haunting memory of her parents' bloody murder at the hands of the boogeyman himself, Laura remains a prisoner of her own mind. Her greatest fears come true when the titular demon comes calling.

Hyenas - Costas Mandylor also stars in Hyenas. Meshach Taylor ("Designing Women") stars in this unimaginably horrific flick about a pack of human-hyena hybrids who, using their animal instincts and shape-shifting capabilities, prey on innocent victims and eat them alive. Some have dismissed the existence of "werehyenas" as an urban legend. But a small band of fearless hunters knows they're out there, and they're determined to slaughter every last one.

Chain Letter - Betsy Russell also stars in Chain Letter. When a group of tech-savvy high school pals receives an electronic chain letter that demands they each forward the message or face consequences, they laugh it off as an online prank and delete the posts. But when the deranged sender of the message starts hunting them down one by one, they find themselves in a fight for their lives. This tense horror film from director Deon Taylor stars Nikki Reed and Keith David.

George A. Romero's Land of the Dead - Peter Outerbridge also stars in George A. Romero's Land of the Dead. Zombie king George A. Romero returns with a fourth gruesome tale of the walking dead -- and this time, they've taken over the planet. Humans have lost the battle against the flesh eaters, and are barricaded in a walled city ruled by ruthless despots. When the zombies develop advanced military tactics, it's up to a group of mercenaries to save the living. Dennis Hopper, Simon Baker, John Leguizamo and Asia Argento star.

Saw: The Final Chapter - Tanedra Howard returns in Saw: The Final Chapter. Insane, intense cruelty is the calling card of the Jigsaw killer (Tobin Bell), whose twisted spirit and terrifying human traps -- recalled in flashbacks following his death in Saw III -- inspire another installment of the hugely successful gore franchise. Led by fellow survivor Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery), Jigsaw's past victims band together to support each other. Cary Elwes reprises his role as Dr. Lawrence Gordon.

Feast - Marcus Dunston and Patrick Melton both also wrote Feast. When patrons at a local watering hole (including Balthazar Getty, Judah Friedlander and Eileen Ryan) are attacked by a swarm of flying gargoyle-like beasts, they're forced to work together to fight for survival in this gory horror-comedy, the product of the third season of the "Project Greenlight" series. Together they board up the windows -- the phone, however, is shot, and there is little hope as the carnage continues to mount.