Sunday, March 17, 2019

William Castle's Straight Jacket (1964) Retro Movie Review

The film that has a horror tree like no other! Branching together multiple generations of horror greatness. Tying together much of the horror genre for the twentieth century. And to goes to prove a family who goes crazy together will stay together.....

A very young Lee Majors appears uncredited in this movie. His first credited film role was in arguably one of the greatest westerns of all time Will Penny (1967) from there the movie side of the business went downhill fast! Even though he was an up and coming actor, choosing to be in two movie horrors (not in a good way), 'The Norseman' (1978), don't watch under any circumstance, and 'Killer Fish' (1979), a very bad knock off of the already flooded 'killer fish movies'. But these highlights the difference between movies and TV. Make a bad TV pilot, it dies with little notice when the series doesn't get picked up. Make a bad movie it lives on into infinity and beyond, unless your Jerry Lewis 'The Day the Clown Cried' (1972). Nowadays he is best known for playing a parody of himself like in 'Ash vs Evil Dead' (2016-2018).

In the twilight of her career, Joan Crawford found new life in The Psycho Biddy movies. One of the biggest names in the '30s by the time this movie was made she was more known for feuding with anyone who crossed her path and being a diva on set. Unfortunately, the reason this movie isn't better can directly be traced back to her. Crawford still had incredible pull, having the script rewritten and numerous actors replaced. Just cause you can act doesn't mean you can write or understand a script (looking at you Donald Sutherland). Known to most people from the unflattering tell-all book 'Mommy Dearest'.

Unfortunately William Castle, by finding creative ways to promote his movies, became to be viewed as a B-movie film-making schmuck. Castle was the ultimate movie making hustler. Not only directing, producing, and starring but also pulling off outrageous stunts to promote his movies. Before the XD experiences, we have now in movie theaters, there was William Castle! His movies were much better than their budget should have allowed. Finding actors that deserved better scripts. And finding scripts that deserved better budgets. He had a hand in bringing to life some of the best horror movies in the fifties and sixties. He also tried to get studios to green light 3d years before the first, studios said there was no market for cheap gimmicks like that. Unfortunately, after the success of 'Rosemary's Baby' (1969) (purchased the rights but couldn't find a studio who would let him direct it) his health declined and he only worked on a couple more B-movies before his death.

George Kennedy plays the cruel opportunistic farm hand to perfection. A fixture in movies for over fifty years. He never got the leading man roles, but the more interesting supporting characters. Including a horror fan favorites 'The Terror Within' (1989), 'Creep Show 2' (1987) and 'Brain Dead; (1990). At the time of this movie, he was still a relatively unknown TV actor. Playing tough guys with limited lines.

The main reason why this movie has faded into obscurity is it doesn't compete in any category. It's not the best Psycho Biddy movie, both Whatever happened to Baby Jane? (1962) and Hush.... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) were better. It's not the best Castle movie, not even for that year 'The Night Walker' is better. Castle both directed and produced better movies, 'House on Haunted Hill' (1959) and 'Rosemary's Baby' (1968). It's not Robert Bloch's (an H.P. Lovecraft protege) masterpiece, he wrote Psycho (1960). But it's still a fun movie to watch. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Axiom (2018) Movie Review

A gritty mashup of Pans Labyrinth (2006) and Evil Dead (1981) with a much darker end. A trip into a weird universe that brings out the certifiable mental patient in people. Siblings McKenzie and Martin with a group of friends follow a trail of bread crumbs left by their missing sister into a backwater hell hole. Where the group splinters into madness.

Director and writer, Nicholas Woods creates a universe that's interesting and has more stories to tell. Most of the major characters are fully formed. Even some of the secondary people leave you wanting to know what their story is. Two of the local boys go off to "play" in one of the other gates, leaving me really wanting to see their little adventure. The gate the sister is in, is visited all too briefly. But reveals images that beg to be expanded on, a story that needs telling.

They do a good job with the budget they have (seriously Deadpool 2 spent more on one AC/DC song than they did on all the guns in the first movie and probably the second too! and Ryan wannabe super hero with his CGI abs Reynolds, took three times to finally get one right, makes one bad rom-com after another and than gets to be Deadpool! Someone should sew his mouth shut, shave his head, make him wear a green fat suit and star in the remake of Deliverance playing Ned Beatty's role.), I've seen many Friday the 13th movies that looked and felt much cheaper than The Axiom.

This film has good cast aided by well-defined characters. It's amazing how enjoyable it is to watch beautiful women. Cinematographer spends an extraordinary amount of time focusing on Hattie Smith's butt (we might have a creeper). Which wears the best looking pair of Daisy Dukes since Dukes of Hazard. Every scene Nicole Dambro is in, she steals.  

The way this movie ends, can disappoint depending on how you like movies to end. First time I watched Barracuda (1978) it blew my little mind, a film could end like that. The big difference in these two movies is I would want to watch The Axiom again, and not just because the batteries in the remote are dead, when it happens to come on Svengoolie for the tenth time. 

Watch The Axiom on YouTube

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Rust Creek (2019) Movie Review

Sawyer (played by Hermione Cornfield) is an A-type personality, who has a dream job lined up, ready to conquer the brutal grind of the nine to five world of corporate America. Unfortunately, she is stuck in hillbilly hell between being chased by some pig farmers who think old sow Sally has a sexy little wiggle, a sheriff looking to retire early, and a meth cook cranking out batch after batch of poison while contemplating a good way to end it all.

One thing the film briefly touched on was 'what would one do to survive they would normally recoil in horror from?' We all know the morally challenging question of 'would you steal bread for your starving children?' The film skirted past all too quickly the moral questions the main character gets faced with. Missing out on adding some meat on to the story-line and critical character development. The one that gets used often in horror is will someone who's a pacifist fight to save themselves and their friends. Exploring human nature and what individuals will do to preserve their own lives is what makes the Saw (2004-2017), which is the second highest grossing horror franchise behind only Aliens (1979-2012), movies so interesting.

The small details do matter in being able to draw viewers into a movie. The lead character has a huge gash on her leg. There is no serious attempt to apply pressure and dress the wound till a day later. Also not addressed is how cold it is. There is no effort made to go back for clothes or keep warm. Even though with the loss of blood and being exposed to the elements all night any mere mortal would have gotten hypothermia and not been able to get up the next morning. You don't have to be Bear Grylls to realize treating gushing leg wound is a priority as is staying warm in freezing temperatures.

YouTube Rust Creek Trailer

Director Jen McGowan lets the viewer in on all the forces working against Sawyer. Leaving the viewer in on all the twists and dangers awaiting her. Most movies we already guessed who the bad guys are, when they will jump out, which side character will get it, and the heroine will get away. By showing the twists one isn't watching the movie calling out each scene before it happens. You just enjoy watching the movie.

 Official Website

Sunday, December 2, 2018

An Hour To Kill (2018) Movie Review

Don't know what the hell I just watched, but I liked it. Director/writer Aaron K. Carter must be mentally ill or using some good shit, or maybe he sees dead people, who knows. The movie keeps taking psychotic left turns to the outfield of insanity. Saying this is a horror film, doesn't cut it. It's more like the comedic Gremlins (1984) than psychological insanity of Evil Dead (1981) with a couple dashes of 'I Spit on Your Grave' (1978). I laughed my ass off and was thoroughly entertained. Even though I'm still thoroughly confused to that I watched. Reminds me of early Peter Jackson's work like Dead Alive (1992) and Bad Taste (1987).

Two hit-men, well one hit-man and one hit-boy, have an hour to kill before their next 'job'. They waste some time by swapping stories. Not really do they see eye to eye on anything or alike in anyway. Frankie is more of the kind of man-child that relaxes by dropping some Molly, put his hair up in a man-bun and crank up some death metal type. While Gio is more of a bourbon and smooth jazz connoisseur.
Each story goes further down the rabbit hole of bad taste. Frankie is played over the top by Frankie Pozos. One of the reasons this movie works is everyone is 'in on it'. No one is trying to show off their classically trained Shakespearean acting skills. Its a low budget horror movie with a silly streak. The Daily Show (1996-) was so much better with Jon Stewart because he was 'in' on the joke, the new guy doesn't realize his show runs on Comedy Central. Arron Guerrero (Gio) plays the straight man, balancing out the cast. Too often directors, writers, and actors forget horror movies need humor. It's one of the reasons why Rob Zombies Halloween (2007) is better than the original. Humor is Yin to horrors Yang. Highs and lows, peaks and valleys, pull 'em in with humor and shock 'em with terror, it takes viewers for a ride.

Nothing in the movie looks low budget. The cinematography is crisp and seamless. Standing up well next to the millions of dollars pieces of garbage Hollywood spews out weekly. Locations are used instead of cheap looking staged sets. One of the problems with Tobe Hooper's 'Eaten Alive' (1976) (budget $520,000) was it was shot on sound stages. Compare that to Clint Eastwood's 'Play Misty' (1971) (budget $725,000) that was filmed on location, you can see the difference. Not known as a horror star (was in 'Revenge of the Creature' and 'Tarantula' (both 1955)) but 'Play Misty' and 'The Beguiled' (1971) are both twisted movies. An Hour to Kill has the look and feel of a movie ten times its minuscule budget of six hundred thousand dollars.

The moral of the story is to get true revenge on a man (for a mid-evil act) is to make his granddaughter dance in a country bar full of rednecks. Or maybe the older man's stories aren't always bullshit. 

Watch 'An Hour to Kill' on Amazon Prime

Monday, November 26, 2018

Boar (2017) Movie Review

This enjoyable little splat of an Ozploitation movie is a great way to kill a Sunday afternoon. A family goes for a picnic in a picturesque location next to a babbling little stream. Not deterred by reports of people missing, and a killer pig on the lose. They quickly find out they should have spent family time at the pub bonding over pints, or better yet shots.

One thing that drives me crazy is how well made this movie is, without doing anything to try and push it into cult status or round it out to a better movie. It's a spec script with a good director. It's a basic 'people go into the woods to camp, there is a monster in those woods, and the people end up fighting for survival' film. Chris Sun is a talented director, it just seems all he is trying to do with this movie is getting on base, not hit a home run.

The cast, like most Aussie films, is full of colorful characters. You will recognize most of them from other famous films made down-under. Almost expect Paul Hogan and John Meillon(Crocodile Dundee) to stroll into the bar. Well, not John he's dead. And well not Paul, doesn't he owe a bunch of taxes to the Australia government? The cast adds a lot of warmth to the movie.

Nathan Jones stands out, at 6'11" and four hundred pounds of muscle, he's hard to miss. When he looks at someone, the viewer feels 'bad shit' gonna happen! Reading up on him, this guy is legit scary, on Australia's most wanted list when he was eighteen. Spent time in Maximum Security prisons. When he goes head to head with the monster, PETA is concerned for the well being of the pig. Definitely a towering presence on the screen.

There are a couple of things that bring this film down. The ending is a little too happy for a horror movie. They also missed out in developing the relationship more between Bernie and the bartender. The monster is shown for way too long in full daylight, a major sin in horror movies. And the ladies aren't given much to do, except look pretty.

A good B-movie to eat some popcorn too. Don't take it too seriously and it's a good time. And it's safe enough to watch with dear old mom upstairs (for all you basement dwellers that still live at home).

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Let's Not Meet (2018) Movie Review

Very ambitious attempt from a small studio, Shady Dawn Pictures, and Director Ryan Callaway. 'Let's Not Meet' starts off as a typical young people go camping and end up fighting for survival film. Turns with a few twists into something with depth and a story to tell. Aya is a loner pizza delivery girl (how come the fat guy who delivers my pizza doesn't look like this!) that gets thrown in with the girls that bullied her in high school to fight the creepy thing in the woods. Early money says they're all dead by dawn!

Several things have this movie punching above its weight class. First is the cinematography provided by Marcel Brown. Most low budget films (and some big ones) fall into making the screen too dark for night time shots. Visuals are crisp and well lit here. Watch 'Everly' (2014) for an example of a horribly shot movie. Second is CFX Composite Effects providing a badass monster. Most low budget movies should do everything possible to not really show the monster. Third, there is a number of wonderful scenes. One that stands out the most is Aya Skyping her niece. These scenes show we will see many more movies from Callaway. Peter Jackson started out with 'Bad Taste' (1987) and James Cameron started out with 'Piranha 2' (1981). Callaway started out with Let's Not Meet!

One thing that drags the story down is 'mansplaining' everything, like George Lucas needing to dive deeper into Midi-Chlorians. No one cares George! By trying to put everything on a silver platter for the viewer not only does it slow the film down to a crawl multiple times but makes the holes even bigger. When it sticks to being a creepy thing in the woods, it's great. But through trying to explain the creepiness, it just kills the pace, not to mention weakens the reveal. It's a visual medium, show the viewer the story. If I wanted words I'd read a book!

YouTube Let's Not Meet Trailer

Another is by having too many characters, most seem cardboard, just like their deaths. Anytime someone shows a little emotion or starts having fun, they provide a huge spark for the movie. The overly somber tone leaves one praying for a girl to freak out, run off naked through the woods to her over-the-top bloody death. Good actors like Donald Sutherland, Anthony Hopkins, or Mel Gibson can read the telephone book and be interesting. Most actors in low budget movies aren't quite on this level. Breanna Engle gives a great performance with the somber tone working well for her character Aya. Along with Carmine Giordano who plays man-child Nate, gives the movie most of its spark. Mr. Callaway needed to find ways to make give the other characters personalities. It's a great seventy-minute movie, unfortunately, it's longer than that.....

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Who's Watching Oliver? (2017) Movie Review

A wonderfully demented look at a mother and son's special relationship. Oliver has 99 problems and Mama is the cause of all of them! Even though Oliver is halfway around the world from Mama, she holds an ironclad grip over his mental stability. When Mama is horny, no one is safe!

It would be easy to lump this film in with Psycho (1960). Try and make a connection as an updated version for this generation. But that would be a disservice to everyone involved in making this movie. Director Richie Moore does nothing to copy or emulate Alfred Hitchcock's work. The story bares no resemblance, except for a mentally unstable man who loves his mother. The film isn't suspenseful or trying to make audience members jump out of their seats. Who's Watching Oliver is just telling the story of a horrific tale. The horror are the events unfolding on the screen.

YouTube Who's Watching Oliver (2017) Trailer

Mr. Moore doesn't leave one boring second on the screen. The story unfolds quickly. The plot set up and character development are smoothly rolled out. Russell Geoffrey Banks as Oliver is uneasy to watch. But that is the point, an awkward, loner, who has obvious mental development issues, makes most people uncomfortable. Mr. Banks plays the character very well, not too much (Never go full retard!), and is unrecognizable in this role. Sara Malakul Lane plays the damaged Sophia, the girl who disparately needs to seek anyone to save her from the life she's trapped in.

This film deserves better ratings, IMDB 5.6/10. Beware of gratuitous nudity and sexual content. It goes to some sexually deprived places. They did use many buckets of blood without ever wandering into grindhouse territory. I would not recommend watching this with your kids or going upstairs to watch it with your mom. Shut the curtains tight, make sure the door is locked, and put on the headphones. Guaranteed to make you feel funny, kinda like climbing the rope in gym class.......