2/21/2017

Five Favorite Films from the Year I Was Born: 1976

Fellow readers and fans, I would like to announce that I am now writing for Monkeys Fighting Robots, my first article is up. It is about my five favorite movies from the year I was born in 1976. You can read it here: http://www.monkeysfightingrobots.com/five-favorite-films-year-born-1976/

2/17/2017

GHOSTHOUSE (Review)

Title: Ghosthouse
Director:  Umberto Lenzi (as Humphrey Humbert) 
Writer: Cinthia McGavin 
Cast: Lara Wendel, Greg Rhodes, Mary Sellers, Ron Houck, Martin Jay, Kate Silver, Donald O'Brien
Year: 1988
Min: 95

A creepy and weird little girl has an even creepier toy clown doll, which her dad stole from a corpse for her. When said dad finds out that she has just mutilated a cat, he decides to lock her in the basement. Soon after both he and his wife get sliced and diced. 20 years later, Greg Rhodes (Greg Scott) picks up some screaming on his radio. Using his computer he figures out where it came from. Accompanied by his pretty girlfriend, Martha (Lara Wendell), they head to the source, which is, of course, the house from the prologue! Along the way they meet an annoying hitchhiker with a tendency to play pranks, cause you, that's what stupid and annoying characters did in 80s splatter flicks. They also encounter a group of young friends who decided to check out the house, cause they honestly have nothing better to do with their free time. When the crazy groundskeeper tries to kill one of them with the meat cleaver, the authorities think it's just the dude being a whack-o. However, it's the house who is soon racking more and more of a body count.
Let's call a spade a spade here, and just say that Ghosthouse is an Italian rip-off of Poltergeist with a bit of Amityville for good measure. It was released in Italy as La Casa 3 (The House, if translated to English). In doing this it came come off as a sequel to the Evil Dead films, released there as La Casa 1 & 2. Directed by scholckmeister Umberto (Cannibal Ferox, Rats: Nights of Terror), this flick is by most definitions a pretty bad movie. But, I'll be damned if isn't a fuck of a great time!
The plot, such as it is, is fairly incoherent, dumb, and derivative. You won't find any new ideas here, right down to blood coming out of a faucet. Nor will you find any good acting. In fact, in that department it's downright terrible. Throw in some hilariously bad dialogue and will find much to laugh at, unintentionally of course! There is an annoying as fuck song that is played throughout the movie and is described as a nursery rhyme by one of the characters in the movie. Though, I have no idea what universe that would be the case, other than the universe this silly movie exists in., that is
Oddly enough there are moments of genuine creepiness, that hint at a better movie. But, they are offset by the bits of bad cinema. One thing that is consistently good are the splatter FX. The gore includes blades through the throat, hangings, fan blades to the neck, axe to the head, acid meltdown, corporal bisection, and more. The graphic violence is pushed further than the movies it bites off of, in true Italian fashion. It all gets wrapped up one a cool and decidedly fun ending that will leave you smiling and maybe laughing. I did both!
Ghosthouse is rather silly, unoriginal, and doesn't always make a whole lot of sense. The acting is pretty awful as is the unintentionally hilarious dialogue. But, instead of hurting the movie it just adds to the fun. Fast [aced and gory as fuck, the movie is a great treat for undiscriminating gorehounds. It was released on Blu-ray by Scream Factory a few years ago in a double billing with the not as good, but still OK Witchery (which stars Linda Blair and David Hasselhoff and is known in Italy as La Casa 4!). It is also streaming on Shudder, currently.
2.5 out of 4

2/14/2017

TRUTH OR DARE (2013) (Review) (Women In Horror Month 2017)

Title: Truth or Dare
Director: Jessica Cameron
Writers: Jessica Cameron, Jonathon Scott Higgins
Cast: Jessica Cameron, Ryan Kisser, Heather Dorff, Shelby Stehlin, Devanny Pinn
Year: 2014
Min: 84

A group that posts videos on the internet known as the ''Truth or Dare-Devils'' are incredibly famous due to their wild and extreme take on truth or dare. They are on a talk show, where one of their fans, Derik (Ryan Kisser) is angry that they have ignored his e-mails. He is also pissed that much of what they do is fake and planned out. Soon after, he invades the new place where they are going to shoot their next online video. He holds them hostage and is determined to take their show to new and very real levels of extreme violence and bloodletting.
Truth or Dare is the 2013 directorial debut of indie scream queen Jessica Cameron, who also co-wrote the script, along with Jonathon Scott Higgins, and stars in it. It is an unflinching and harrowing movie that makes us all know that Cameron will be a force to be reckoned with in the horror world. It is one of the most exciting and savage directorial debuts, in a very, very long time, as well as the finest bit of extreme cinema since Martyrs.
The story is simple and, for the most part, the action takes place in only one room. This works to keep the budget low, as well, as add a very claustrophobic feel to it. Cameron keeps everything tight and concise. The controlled environment remains intense throughout the film's duration. It doesn't take very long for the movie to start going and, once it does, it never really takes a break from the soul crushing grisliness of it all.
I usually love to tell you guys all of the splatter and gore content in a movie. However, this movie best works when you have no clue what is coming. All I will say is the violence is extremely graphic and does not hold back. Much of what transpires in the movie is boundary pushing. It will test your limits and will shock even the most jaded of gorehounds. Here Cameron's directing is at its most visceral presenting and shooting the violence in a most intense and gut-wrenching manner, making every bit of gore feel and look real.
In lesser hands, this may have come out as only a mindless case of goregraphy. However the movie touches on hot and controversial topics with bold abandon. The movie never plays it safe, nor is it afraid to make us question the morality of our lead characters. Never going for the politically correct or easy escape the movie is a shocker in the most true and pure sense. It also manages to serves as a social commentary on society's obsession with internet fame, and what some will do for it. As well, as a commentary on obsessive and psychotic fandom in general. Most of the time the editing is seamless, but at times it uses jump-cuts. This helps to give the movie a sometimes frantic feel and adds even more tension to what is happening on-screen.

All of this is further elevated by some excellent acting. The trio of drop-dead gorgeous women in this film, Cameron, Heather Dorff, and Devanny Pinn, all indie horror stars in their own right, are all excellent and are far more than just pretty faces. Like their equally talented male counterparts, they managed to give complex performances that run the gamut of emotions. Kudos, in particular, to Ryan Kiser, who as the antagonist, Derik, who is genuinely frightening and profoundly disturbing throughout.
Truth or Dare is an unflinching and truly harrowing movie. It's one of the most audacious and exciting directorial debuts in a very long time and sets up Cameron as a directorial force to be reckoned with. Gruesome and a true experience in hardcore splatter, in ranks among the best of extreme horror titles. It combines social commentary and a script that isn't afraid of going anywhere and couples it with excellent acting.

After a long and award-winning run on the festival circuit, it has finally hit DVD courtesy of Invincible Films. Directed by one its stars and starring two more indie horror ladies, this comes just in time for Feb, Women In Horror Month. Hence now, is the perfect to time to see the next movie that you will not stop talking. If you have the fucking guts to see, that is!
4 out of 4

2/12/2017

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (Review)

Title: John Wick: Chapter 2
Director:  Chad Stahelski
Writer: Derek Kolstad
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Ricardo Scamario, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, Claudia Genrini
 Year: 2017
Min: 122

Picking up shortly after the first, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finally gets his car back, after an exhilarating (NOTE: this word will come up a lot in this review, and fittingly so) opening, and is seemingly ready to get back to retirement, with his very cute, named, male pit-bull. But, lo and behold, the crime boss Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), who helped him retire, in the first place, comes to collect the dept owed to him. Wick refuses and D'Antonio blows up his house. Wick and his cute doggy survive, but he soon realizes that he has no choice but to comply with this dickweed.

He goes to meet with Santino and finds out that the hit is on Santino's own sister, as he wants to take seat her place in the criminal bosses syndicate. Unfortunately, Wick finds that shit is never easy, as after he completes the task he finds himself being hunted by many, including Santino's own men, lead by the mute Ares (Ruby Rose) and Cassian (Common), the bodyguard of the woman he just offed, among many more.
The first film is unquestionably one of the very best pure action movies (IE no genre crosses with sci-fi or other genres) of the last couple of years. This sequel, fittingly enough, is one of the greatest action movie sequels, ever. In fact, John Wick Chapter 2 is one of the exhilarating and adrenaline charged movies, that you'll ever get to experience at the movies.
The action scenes will get your blood pumping and make you feel worked up and ready to kick some ass of your own. Returning director Chad Stahelski does once again a phenomenal job. He truly knows how to shoot an action scene. No annoying, headache inducing fast cuts and or shakey cam where you don't see shit. Instead, we get to witness all of the excellently choreographed fights, chases, and shootouts. And, as such the violence comes hard and bloody, unlike the countless of dickless PG-13 action movies that suffocate the movies these days. Stabbings, slicings, bloody gunshots, blade to the balls, impaling with a shotgun only to get blasted with it, and, of course, a ton of gory and sometimes wall splattering head-shots abound much to my and those I was watching this with in the movies joy.
Not only is all of this exciting to look at but tit is also quite beautiful. As a matter of fact, this is one of the best looking action movies, ever shot. Awashed in a blue tinge and with a great use of darkness to contrast, it's a visually breathtaking experience. The climatic action scene in a hall of mirrors had me enthralled at its breathtaking beauty. There is also a fun sense of humor that is both funny and welcome. It plays really well and keeps the movie from being all blood and bodies. But, it never hurts it, by making it too jokey or silly, as it serves to purely enhancement the material.

The acting is solid from all of the cast. Ian McShane, Common, and Laurence Fishburne give awesome and fun supporting roles. While, Riccardo Scamarcio is the type of villain that you will be dying to see get his just desserts. Unlike the waste of her time in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Ruby Rose is given a lot more to do and is quite good and fun as the deadly and loyal henchwoman.
But, let us not kid ourselves, this is Keanu Reeves' movie all the way. He is a legitimate badass, one that is cool under pressure and is easy to cheer for. He is so charismatic as Wick, that it almost feels effortless on his part. This really is my favorite role that he has ever played. And, with this second entry, it is shaping up to be the best franchise he has ever been involved in (sorry Matrix and Bill and Ted fans).
I still prefer the first film, as it feels a teensy bit fresher and has a bit more heart. However, John Wick: Chapter 2 is an extremely fitting follow-up, one that comes pretty damn close to be on par with its predecessor. I do not know if we will get a better pure action movie this year, I seriously doubt it. I also don't think if that any 2017 sequels, of any genre, will be this great. A pure charge of adrenaline that will leave you feeling pumped up to the maximum human amount, John Wick: Chapter 2 is the first great movie of 2017. See it and see it now!

4 out of 4

2/10/2017

Lacey Sturm/ Palisades/ Stitched Up Heart/ Letters From the Fire at Webster Hall, NYC 2/6/17

On Feb. 2, 2017, the beautiful and awesome Lacey Sturm had a show at Webster Hall in NYC. The former Flyleaf signer has been doing a headlining tour, and I was on hand, as press, to cover this neck of the tour. I been a fan of hers since her Flyleaf days, but never saw her live before. Coupled with some solid opening acts, I was very excited to be at this show.
Before the concert started I got to talk and meet Stitched Up Heart (one of the opening acts) drummer Decker and Madame Mayhem, the signer of her own band, baring her namesake. The lovely Mayhem was hanging with SUH at this concert. Her band is fucking awesome and you guys definitely need to be checking them out. To boot, Decker and Mayhem are both really cool and nice in person.
The first band that came on was Letters From The Fire. This was my first time hearing them, but holy shit, do they ever kick ass! They play great hard rock music. Their beautiful and charismatic lead signer Alexa Kabazie and the band, as a whole, have a great stage presence. As such, they are one of the best opening acts that I have seen in very long time and were playing in support of their album Worth the Pain, which is currently out.

Their set list was as follows:

Perfect Life
Last December
Worth The Pain
At War
Control
Give In To Me

 
 
 After their set was done, I got to meet Alexa. She was so nice in person! 
The next band up was Stitched Up Heart. This is now my third time seeing them, and as always they tear up onstage. Energetic and fired up, they own wherever it is that they are playing. Their set opened up with the ass kicking ''Finally Free''. From there they played various songs from their current album and full length debut, Never Alone, including ''Monster'' and their current video ''Catch Me When I Fall'', which has become my favorite song of theirs. The beautiful Mixi is just such an awesome front-woman, and she is backed up by an equally energetic band. They never fail to get me all pumped up!

 
 
 
 
 
As with the last two times, I saw them I met Mixi. She is definitely beautiful inside and out, as she is always so sweet to everyone who goes up to meet her. Humble, friendly, and down-to-earth, she is always all smiles, hugs, and selfies. She loves selfies with her fans and is the queen of doing just that!
Next up was Palisades, who played their brand of screamo/ electrocore. They showed a lot of energy and a different sound from the other bands on the tour. Their new, self-titled album just came out last month.
 
 
Finally, it was time for Lacey Sturm and her band to come onstage. From the very get-go the performance was filled with unbridled energy. The band was playing in support of her solo debut album, Life Screams. Personally speaking, I loved this album and thought it was one of last year's best debut albums.
Their set opened up with the album opener, Impossible. From there they played all of my favorite songs from album including such hard rocking tracks as ''Solider'', ''Rot'', and ''I''m not Laughing (which happen to be my three favorite tracks from the album), and the powerful and heartfelt "You're Not Alone".
One of the coolest track that they are playing is "Heavy Prey" the awesome song that she sang on the Underworld: Awakening soundtrack. They also played two cover songs, including their amazing take on The Police's classic track ''Roxanne'', which is available as a live extra track on their above mentioned album. On top of that, they also performed a couple of Flyleaf classics like the truly awesome ''Cassie'' and ''Chasm''. They closed off the set with Flyleaf medley of "I'm So Sick/ Fully Alive/ Call You Out/ Forever".

Between the songs, she would talk to the audience. She introduced the touring band members, including her husband, guitarist Joshua Sturm (first pic, below). She also would talk about the meanings of her songs, talking about life, love, and, of course, God. She speaks passionately, and you can see that it all comes from her good heart. Then she would get back to rocking hard. It's amazing all the energy that comes out from the tiny, little frame has. She is seriously one of the most energetic front-women to see live.
The end result was a great show. Lacey put on one heck of a show and was backed up by some great supporting acts. Be sure to catch this tour, if you haven't done so yet, and it passes your neck of the woods.