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Lifeforce (1985)

October 27, 2017 — Leave a comment

A missing European space probe mission arrives back on earth with most of the crew dead and three naked comatose humanoids in the ship’s cargo. Whilst under quarantine, the humanoids turn out to be overly sexual, energy vampires. One of which escapes, sucking the lifeforce out of every Tom, Dick and Harry, with an SAS colonel and the sole survivor of the probe in hot pursuit.

As high concepts go in sci-fi/horror, this is up there with some of the best. Vampires, spaceships, nudity, zombies, a cameo by Patrick Stewart; there’s a hell of a lot going on in this party bag of a movie from Director Tobe Hooper (Texas Chain Saw Massacre). However, spread across 115 minutes, this feels like a case of throwing everything at the screen and seeing what sticks.

At its best, Lifeforce has some great set pieces coupled with some showy special effects. However, at its worst, which is most of the time, it’s an undercooked slice of genre filmmaking, suggesting Hooper’s heart wasn’t totally in this. This is evidenced by wooden acting, a Mancini score that doesn’t fit the film tonally and a storyline that flails around before finishing itself off with a whimper.

This review originally appeared in FilmInk.

 

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In 1959’s Killer Shrews, James Best (Dukes of Hazzard) headed up a group of folks trapped on island off the coast of Texas, surrounded by ravenous oversized shrews. Over 50 years later and Best returns to the island with a reality TV crew, only to discover the shrews are still there and hungry as ever.

The original Killer Shrews is a much-derided film, known mostly for special effects that consisted of overly friendly dogs draped in fur coat. The sequel sees the shrews realised in a mixture of CGI and animatronics, but don’t expect blockbuster production values here.

Seeing as it’s clear everyone is playing this for laughs, it should be easy to overlook the low production values, but the forced humour elicits groans throughout. The performances by those who weren’t in Dukes of Hazzard, are as stilted as the CGU animation of the shrews. Bruce Davison (X-Men 1 & 2) looks positively bored as the villainous Jerry Farrell who leads he shrews on their blood-soaked assault.

Neither funny or scary, The Return of the Killer Shrews biggest scare is the threat in the end credits of an oncoming third film.

Stitches (2012)

October 26, 2017 — Leave a comment

When Richard ‘Stitches’ Grindle (Ross Noble) is killed entertaining a bunch of brats at a birthday party, he’s resurrected by a cult of demon worshipping clowns to exact his revenge on those same youths ten years later.

If you sighed at any point during that sentence this is not a film for you.

Stitches is a throw back to the 80s when the local Cineplex and VHS machines were Freddy and Jason’s stomping grounds, followed by a bunch of clones and rip offs eager for a bit of that slasher coinage. Obviously, we mean this in a good way. Throwing caution to the wind, Director Conor McMahon works well with a low budget, providing some pitch black comedic deaths, whilst Noble bounces around gleefully talking only in one liners that would Krueger blush.

There are some plot holes and leaps of logic that don’t exactly work and there’s a sense that the middle act was mixed up a little, but these are minor quibbles in a film that will exploit anybody’s coulrophobia (look it up).

No One Lives (2012)

October 25, 2017 — Leave a comment

Produced by WWE Studios, No One Lives is a grubby and violent movie with the sense of the theatrics you would expect from the home of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Hulk Hogan.

Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Midnight Meat Train), Luke Evans (Fast and Furious 6) plays one half of a seemingly affluent vacationing couple who are kidnapped by a pack of rowdy, vicious rednecks lead by Lee Tergesen’s Hoag. However, not everything is as it seems. Throwing a missing heiress (Adelaide Clemens) into the mix, what starts off as a hostage drama, quickly escalates into a blood soaked home invasion flick.

An early twist in the proceedings, which is royally ruined by the trailers, will quickly negotiate whether you’re going to see this one through to the end. And yet, whilst it’s a thoroughly ludicrous premise, there’s something about the film’s twisted grin throughout which prevents it from not being engaging.

As subtle as a sledgehammer to the little toe, No One Lives is an extremely visceral film that flounders when it tries to be anything but the dark oily slab of horror it should be taken as.

This review originally appeared in FilmInk.

Rogert Ebert referred to 2010’s I Spit on your Grave as ‘a despicable remake of a despicable 1978 film.’ So, you have to wonder what he’d make of this; a sequel to the remake which also feels like another remake of the original. Jemma Dellender plays Katie, a wide-eyed innocent trying to make her mark in the catty world of modelling. Unable to afford a decent portfolio, Katie accepts an offer from three Bulgarian brothers to do photos on the cheap. Instead of glossy 8 by 4s, Katie is kidnapped by the brothers, smuggled to Europe and subjected to horrendous acts upon her person.

Unsurprisingly to many, Katie escapes and begins a campaign of violent revenge across Bulgaria, which takes up less time in the movie than the abuse our heroine is subjected to. The makers of I Spit on your Grave 2 seemingly believe that the ends justify the means: as long as we show X we can get way with Y. Instead, what transgresses over 90 minutes is vicious, nasty, soul crushing story telling that suggests the tide of torture porn, started by the likes of Hostel, has yet to ebb away.

This review appeared previously in FilmInk.

June (2015)

October 23, 2017 — Leave a comment

Children aren’t born inherently evil except for in the movies. Take for example Mervyn LeRoy’s The Bad Seed or Stephen King’s Children of the Corn, where parents and other adults rue the day at the hands of fledgling ne’er do wells. In June, the latest film from L. Gustavo Cooper (The Devil Incarnate), the titular child is adopted by a loving couple and unwittingly sets about terrorising them. Unwittingly because unbeknown to June, as a baby, she was part of a sacrifice gone wrong, and now a demon sits inside her waiting to unleash the apocalypse.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Starship Trooper’s Casper Van Dien, as the adoptive daddy whose wife (Victoria Pratt) appears to be deliberately ignoring June’s graphic crayon drawings and the homicidal supernatural events happening around them. But then mummy has her own secrets and as a shady adoption agency move in around the family, June appears to be struggling with her powers.

Cherry picking form the likes of Poltergeist, Carrie and The Last Exorcism, June won’t feel particularly fresh to harden horror fiends, but it’ll entertain, in some small measure, those who like their scares to be nowhere near 11. As genre film-making goes, it’s as safe as Fort Knox.

Where praise should be directed to is young Kennedy Brice as June. Being the lynch pin of events, and appearing in nearly every scene is tough going for anyone and Brice is reminiscent of a certain Linda Blair as she flips from cute as a button to hellspawn in the flick of a switch. Going by the rushed and open ending, there’s potential here for another chapter in June’s life, but it’s going to have to iron out its kinks if it’s to become anything more than an afternoon’s distraction.

This review originally appeared in FilmInk.

The Cobbler (2014)

October 23, 2017 — Leave a comment

The adage of truly understanding someone by walking a mile in their shoes becomes the literal backbone of this comedy drama from Thomas McCarthy, and starring Adam Sandler. Sandler has never really made good on the promise he showed in Punch Drunk Love, seemingly content with his lot in life. McCarthy on the other hand has credits that include The Station Agent, The Visitor and Up. With him taking Sandler under his wing, and Dustin Hoffman co-starring, there’s the expectation of something magical. Sadly, that’s not to be the case.

Sandler plays Max, a grumpy, lonely cobbler whose only friends in life appear to be his sickly mother and his barber neighbour, Jimmy (Steve Buscemi). Max wishes away his days, looking forward to the moment when the promise of urban renewal will buy him out of his humdrum existence. When he comes across his long absent father’s stitching machine, Max uncovers a magic ability to take on the form of anybody whilst wearing their shoes.

Once this discovery has been made, The Cobbler doesn’t really know what to do with Max’s new found powers. The problem lies with the tone of the film that battles itself to be either a knock about comedy or a social drama laced with magic realism. Max is either scoping out babes in the shower or protecting old people from being evicted. Due to this constant shifting, the narrative drags out until Max’s reason for being is revealed in a twist ending that promises sequels.

Even if the casual racism and sexism of the film is dismissed, The Cobbler struggles with a hero that’s hard to feel compassion for when his journey’s end appears to happen off screen. As such, there will be those who find The Cobbler, considering the pedigree of the director, surprisingly unsatisfactory.