GILA! (2012) is a TV Movie that is a remake of 1959’s THE GIANT GILA MONSTER. The story takes place in what appears to be the 1950’s, the primary indicators being the classic cars and style of dress all the characters are in. The lead actor’s sister in the film has Polio and many of the characters are straight out of the Happy Days cast. As in THE GIANT GILA MONSTER, GILA! takes place in a small rural town who is plagued by a humongous Gila Monster which has (more…)
I.D.S. RISING is the third and final installment in the INCEST DEATH SQUAD trilogy. I have, indeed, watched the other two IDS films and can say that as a fan of good independent horror films, the final film of the series may be an acquired taste, as the previous two films were for me. I admire director Cory J. Udler’s passion and heart that obviously went into the films, but in the end, I felt that the final installment was (more…)
I was at Cinema Wasteland this year, having returned after a 4 or 5 year hiatus of not affording to travel so far for a convention even though its only around a 7 hours drive away. While there indie filmmaker and head of Jabb Films Jason Hoover told his buddy, who was sitting at the table pushing the POST MORTEM, AMERICA 2021 film, to give me a copy to review for the site. A little bit reluctantly, I feel, I gave in to pressure and threw a copy my way. After being told by Jason that he rarely gives out free copies of films to anyone (I don’t recall if he was the director, producer, etc of the film) but I was getting one. The copy I received was (more…)
PTSD is, obvious to me but maybe not to everyone else, the acronym for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a very real severe anxiety disorder resulting from a traumatic life event. Most people that hear about this disorder generally associate it with war veterans who have had a difficult time adjusting their integration back into society. I personally know a few ex-soldiers who experienced extremely stressful and traumatic experiences while serving in the Gulf War and have never been the same since. It happens to more people than (more…)
SHU-IZMZ always loves to hear from friends in the Chicago horror community that are working on film projects, ones that are independent and contain a slew of locals starring in and working on the production. Jason Coffman, a friend of mine for a number of years now whom I met from attending various movie festivals and movie-related conventions, has always introduced me to a number of cinematic gems over the years, most recently (more…)
As a writer and fan of film (horror and cult movies in particular), I decided to get involved in making some trailers and work on some short horror films. As much fun as it is watching horror and other genre films, I want to experience working on them and seeing how much hard work and dedication goes in to them. I feel creating a horror film and trailer will give me some experience (more…)
THE COLLECTIVE is a collection of short films in the horror genre that all center around one predetermined theme created by JABB PICTURES, a small and independent horror production company. The short films are 10 minutes in duration, all center around its theme, ‘The Meat Eater’, and each filmmaker got to decide what (more…)
SHU-IZMZ RADIO had a chance to visit independent film director and Chicago-native RYAN OLIVER on the near-west side of Chicago to visit him at the Rot Shop to talk about his latest short film, AIR CONDITIONS, and a bit about his involvement on the upcoming Indie horror film CHICAGO ROT.
Download the interview below (more…)
This film just tossed onto my radar today by a friend and filmmaker from Chicago. I had no idea this film was out there and judging by the trailer, it looks to be pretty badass! Shot on location in Chicago, I am all the more stoked to see this film upon its completion. Here are a couple of screenshots from the trailer, followed by the trailer itself.
There looks to be some blood and gore in the film. I also noticed a shot filmed outside the Debonaire Social Club on Milwaukee in Wicker Park (if I am not mistaken). I love watching films shot in Chicago.
Here is the trailer for CHICAGO ROT, directed by Dorian Weinzimmer and written by Brant McCrea and Dorian Weinzimmer. CHICAGO ROT is a Dakini Production in association with Painted Face. It stars Brant McCrea, Shira Barber, Dave Cartwright, David James Figeroa, and Jo Jo Baby.
Chicago filmmaker Ryan Oliver is not new to the filmmaking industry, having worked in the Chicago ‘Off-Loop’ theater scene as an actor and director for 10 years, then moved to Los Angeles and worked as a screenwriter and F/X specialist, before moving back to Chicago in 2007. Around this time was when I met Oliver, having gone along with a friend and filmmaker to the set of a film Oliver was directing that, to this date, still has not seen the light of day on DVD or any other kind of format for viewing. I got to do some stunt driving in that project, my only credit for that particular “skill” to this date.
After Oliver returned back to the beloved city of Chicago, starting up his own production company Deathblow Productions (notably recognized by the double-mirrored elephants as the graphic logo), and completed his first short film, AIR CONDITIONS which he directed, wrote, and produced.
Just last month, Ryan Oliver had his film’s premiere at Terror in the Aisles 13, hosted by Movieside. Having gotten to the event lake because I was outside smoking a fat cigar, I missed the first 15 or 20 minutes (of the short films’ total 34 minutes running time), but the very little that I saw really impressed me. I knew that I had to contact Oliver and inquire about getting a screener of the film to review.
In fact, I was more fortunate than I thought I would be because Oliver had a copy of the film on Blu-ray and let me borrow it so I could watch it in high def at home at my leisure. Having watched the 34 minute short film 6 times already, I feel it is time to write about it and inform SHU-IZMZ readers’ about AIR CONDITIONS.
AIR CONDITIONS stars John Fenner Mays, an air conditioner maintenance man, who goes on a maintenance call to Chicago’s industrial side of town on a routine A/C repair call. Once he gets there, he is met by the building manager, played by Leo Resudek, Jr. (who happens to show a striking resemblance to a Chicago music host personality in the punk and alternative music scene: Jerry Bryant (JBTV)) who takes the service man to the A/C unit on top of the tall building’s roof.
Once there, the repairman steps in some black, sticky ooze absentmindedly, and is stuck. This stuff appears to be stronger than the strongest glue or epoxy and he is not going anywhere. After many futile attempts to get free (he makes his second mistake by touching the dark ooze that was also located on the top of the unit while grabbing it for balance), he has come to the reality that he is totally and completely fucked.
The film is shot beautifully, the credit going to cinematographer Alejandro Garcia, and a seemingly simple and straight-forward plot had me thinking,
“Where the hell is this short going? What direction will it take now?”
I had thought the building manager was going to turn out to be some crazy maniac and come back with some butcher knives and carve the dude up later that night but instead he comes back with a tuba (I believe that is what brass instrument it was) and begins playing loud, blasting, notes that show zero skill or musical talent. Without ruining the whole film, I just have to say that what came next I did not see coming. I will say this though, there is a very cool amount of special effects, both practical and digital, and I was extremely impressed.
The film has an indie feel to it, a twinge of Lovecraftian charm, but possesses top-notch digital effects, pacing, and shot selection. The framed shots were beautiful looking, mostly because the top of the building they shot upon had a very wide and clear view of the city of Chicago and the shots capitalized on it. They used the panoramic shots of the city to its full potential and scope, using time-lapsed photography effectively to speed up the the film from the day shots to the night shots. AIR CONDITIONS is a technical marvel that many independent short film projects rarely possess. Great detail was shown to have been put into every shot, angle, and frame.
The special effects *spoiler* used on the creature in the film (hopefully this is not too much of a spoiler) looks top-notch and homage to the Alien films looks to be an inspiration for the creature’s mouth as a very similar gel-like saliva is seen dripping from the large jaws of the beast, much like the way in which the creatures in ALIEN did right before their outstretched teeth extended all the way to tear apart their prey. The effect in the ALIEN films looks great and it looks great in AIR CONDITIONS as well. Special effects artist Doug Goins gets the credit for this and the visual effects were created by Daniel Cervantes, as there is just not only practical effects used in the film.
At the film’s premiere last month, Ryan introduced the film and stated that it was three years in the making and the amount of work and detail put into post-production is very evident. A great deal of care looked to be put into the film itself, as hues and tones of the lighting and colors look to be flawless, a real beauty when viewed. Not only does the film look gorgeous, especially its use of long, wide shots and angles maximizing the scope of the clear, blue skies (Oliver filmed on a perfect, sunny, clear day) but the slow-burn speed of the film has an added depth to it due to an effective soundtrack and some flawless sound production courtesy of Gregor Mortis.
I guess my only complaint would be that the short horror film was that, a SHORT horror film, and not a feature length horror film. Mr. Oliver has a fine team of professionals assembled for the movie and this film buff hopes to see more work along these lines of quality and caliber in the future. I look forward to more films coming from Ryan Oliver and Deathblow Productions.
I recently had a director by the name of Jennifer Campbell reach out to SHU-IZMZ and ask if I would be interested in reviewing her short horror film, HIKE, which she also produced and wrote. Campbell is (more…)
So folks, Synapse Films is releasing FRANKENHOOKER out on Blu-ray disc November 8th of this year. I really enjoyed this film and own the dvd version of the film. James Lorinz is great in it, but I am anxious to view the special features on the brd (blu-ray disc) and to see the movie in high-def! The more movies out on Blu-ray, the better. Be on the lookout for a review of FRANKENHOOKER in the not-to0-distant future. Here are the specs for new edition of the film:
SRP: 24.95 UPC#: 654930313497
Run Time: 85 Minutes English language Color
Widescreen Anamorphic 1.78:1 DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround
Production year: 1990
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Stars: James Lorinz, Patty Mullen, Louise Lasser, Jennifer Delora
From Frank Henenlotter, the creator of the BASKET CASE trilogy and BRAIN DAMAGE, comes FRANKENHOOKER, a gory horror-comedy twist on the Frankenstein legend. When Jeffrey Franken’s fiancee is chopped to pieces by the blades of a remote-controlled lawnmower, he uses his dubious medical knowledge to try to bring her back to life. He reassembles his beloved Elizabeth using the body parts of New York City’s finest prostitutes, and resurrects her during a heavy lightning storm. Unfortunately for Jeffrey, his dear Elizabeth’s brain is scrambled and she runs amok on 42nd Street, turning tricks and bringing high-voltage death to her customers! Synapse Films is proud to present the uncut version of FRANKENHOOKER in an all-new 2K high-definition transfer created from original vault materials and digitally re-mastered 5.1 surround sound!
Bonus Features: Audio Commentary with Director Frank Henenlotter and Make-Up Effects Designer Gabe Bartalos, “A Salad That Was Once Named Elizabeth” – Patty Mullen Featurette, “A Stitch in Time: The Make-Up Effects of FRANKENHOOKER” – Featurette, “Turning Tricks: Jennifer Delora Remembers FRANKENHOOKER“- Featurette, Jennifer Delora’s FRANKENHOOKER PHOTO SCRAPBOOK, Theatrical Trailer
Everyone in the Midwest, and probably everyone in the United States (if not the whole world) has heard of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. It was a tragic story that was reported in the media where I lived (in Illinois) regularly once he was apprehended because of the states’ close proximity to Wisconsin, where most of the murders were occurring. I remember as a teenager being horrified, yet disturbingly fascinated by each and every article I read on this very sick and disturbed individual.THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER (1993) paints a very vivid and true-to-facts type of film on this notorious serial killer, including his victims, methods of dispatching victims, and digs into the psyche and mindset of an adult Dahmer.
What I found so interesting about the 1993 bi0-pic on Dahmer is the fact that this was the first movie to come out on Dahmer (the first of many more to come), and this film was made while Dahmer was still alive before Dahmer was killed by an inmate in prison by a barbell pole. This is probably the reason the film was so controversial, on top of the fact that the film was made about a serial killer and sex offender who murdered 17 men and boys. When the movie came out, it was already steeped in controversy and so much controversy that it got the filmmakers, director David R. Bowen (whom also composed the music in the film) and actor/writer Carl Crew (BLOOD DINER) a spot as guests on his show-along with the victims of Jeffrey Dahmer. The film outraged many people. especially the family’s victims (and understandably so) but what angered many of the families even more was the fact that the family members of the victims did not get earn any money for the exploitation of their loved ones’ tragic deaths being portrayed.
Even though there is a disclaimer stating that the stories and victims’ of Dahmer’s portrayed in the film had details changed to protect the victims, from what I know about each case in reading newspaper articles and doing research on Dahmer and the murders, they were pretty accurate with the actual events.
The film, although shot on the cheap, really comes off as a very grim and accurate portrayal of Dahmer and his methods of luring, murdering, and eating his unlucky victims. The movie shows viewers a bit of Dahmer’s mindset, the thoughts going inside his head and how he went about choosing his victims and the lies he told them to convince them to come home with him or go to various locations for what most thought was going to be just sexual encounter or a way to make some quick cash in a photo shoot. The film was the first come out and tell the story of Dahmer, as in the coming months and years there have been at least a dozen films made concerning his awful story.
I think that as far as the acting went, Carl Crew really did a wonderful job in his portrayal of Dahmer and was the only actor that stood out and carried the whole film. I remember Crew for starring in the horror-comedy BLOOD DINER (1987), another film that I really liked and used to have on VHS (currently looking to buy myself another copy of the gem!), and his performance really added to the authenticity of THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER. Intervision picked up this film and gave it a dvd release, as well as a very informative director’s commentary, along with actor/writer Carl Crew, and I really enjoyed this movie much more than I thought I would. The film looked to have a very low-budget and I just did not expect to enjoy the movie quite as much as I did.
I think films on serial killers always interest me more than most other films, factual or fictionalized, on the subject matter of horror and real-life events. The films’ voice-over narration conducted by Crew, as well as the film’s lack of a decent budget as all the interior shots were filmed in a soundstage in Burbank (before the Japanese investors pulled out leaving the crew with only 30% of the movie filmed) and the crew had to use friends and family to get the film finished. If having investors pull out a third of the way was not enough of a reason to be discouraged into quitting the film, the Rodney King Riots occurred in L.A. during this filming period and the lighting company and dollie company had their buildings and equipment torched to the ground by rioters.
As for the blood and gore of the movie, there really was not a whole lot of it, but I felt that the lack of it did not hurt the film any. There were some violent scenes, such as a victim getting hit in the head with a weight from a weight bench set, or the scene where Dahmer is drilling a hole in a victim’s head and pouring some chemicals in it resulting with the victim having a seizure of sorts, angering Dahmer and leading to the victim being instantly killed. The fact that these scenes are based off of real-life events is pretty disturbing, whether the effects are very well done or not. I believe the film was just trying to show viewers the means in which Dahmer murdered his victims, but not necessarily go into any sort of graphic detail. There was one scene in which a decapitated head was shown sitting in Dahmer’s refrigerator and I thought it was a well done prosthetic and really looked realistic.
The film really shows quite a bit the sexual nature of Dahmer, the intense foreplay that led up to the victims’ demise, as well as having some really hilarious dialogue that in listening to the director’s commentary and hearing writer/actor Crew stating that the dialogue (most of it) had to be pieced together from the source materials at hand which happened to be mostly from police reports. THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER is a film that, after having watched it once with my girlfriend and again while writing the review, find myself liking it more and more with each viewing. The film really has a lot of personality and character to it, and I was surprised at how much the film angled into getting into the psyche of Dahmer and his twisted mind. The other films that I saw about Dahmer were not that in-depth, did not follow the facts nearly as closely, and were more dramatized more than anything. I give the filmmakers great credit into sticking to the facts and really telling a story worth telling. I saw DAHMER (2002) with Jeremy Renner and the film had a much larger budget and failed to paint such a vivid picture as Bowen and Crew crafted in their film. It just goes to show you that a larger budget with bigger named actors from Hollywood does not always equate to a better motion picture.
The film has inspired me to dig back into the details of the murders and pick up some books on the murders and further my research on the subject matter. Sometimes when I see a film about a subject matter that really interests me and I have a decent understanding of the materials and the movie sucks, I get really pissed off at the filmmakers for ruining a subject I enjoy learning about. If anything, the makers of THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER will inspire others to research about Jeffrey Dahmer and even more importantly, remind folks to be leery and very careful when meeting very charismatic individuals that one does not know very well or are meeting for the first time. It amazed me how trusting so many boys and young men were when meeting Dahmer for the first time. I also felt that the movie also portrayed the police in a realistic manner, especially in scenes that showed how the cops disregarded protocol and the rules of procedure which led to Dahmer to continue going out and killing more unsuspecting men.
I really have to recommend picking up the INTERVISION release of THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER on dvd. To date, this movie has been my favorite release from the fairly new distributor. I am looking forward to what undiscovered film gems that company digs up and puts out on dvd. I am glad that THE SECRET LIFE made it to dvd almost 18 years later and with a commentary track with director David R. Bowen and actor/writer Carl Crew. This film ranks as one of my top serial killer films and one of the best that I have ever seen, regardless of the film’s low-budget.
Over here at SHU-IZMZ, I have been getting a load of films from distributors, some good and some bad, but I try to review each and every one, usually in a timely manner…well, lets face it- I can’t review every film in a timely manner, but I do want to make readers of SHU-IZMZ aware of all the different types of movies and styles that are floating around the world of films. I have decided to do a new feature or style of writing for the website, and that is what INDIE COMEDY ROUND-UP will be. Sometimes, the films won’t even always be indie flicks, but generally more often than not they will be. Those of you that know me probably figured out that comedies are not my favorite, or even close to my favorite genre of films. I do like to laugh, but I just generally laugh at things that many other people do not find the least bit funny. Oh well, that is part of the whole SHU-IZMZ thing. I would much rather watch a comedy along the lines of Dan O’Bannon’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD than I would watch the latest from National Lampoon. For the record, I only watch the National Lampoon movies for the gratuitous T&A. If there is no nudity or sleaze within one of their releases, I generally will regard the film as an epic flop. I just don’t find the humor in those films any good unless it is crude and supplemented with some crude visuals.
So here goes the first installment of INDIE COMEDY ROUND-UP. Sadly, this generally will be films that I only marginally enjoyed, but as always, readers know that comedies are not my thing and one should know that just because I did not enjoy the film does not mean that others who are fans of comedy will not like it. I have outed myself to you, the readers, and the rest of the world as to my biases on the genre of comedy. Also, keep in mind, that I do enjoy other, more mainstream comedies, such as most films with Will Ferrell in them or the goofy and usually sophomoric films that Adam Sandler is in. Go figure.
Today I have chosen two indie flicks from the distributors at Severin Films and Synapse Films: DEVOLVED, the feature debut of screenwriter, documentary filmmaker and ESPN columnist John Cregan and the film THE SWEET LIFE, the directorial debut of Rocco Simonelli, whose past work has been as a writer for the series THE SUBSTITUTE, as well as a handful of other films.
Let’s start with Cregan’s DEVOLVED, described as a teen-themed sex comedy and a throwback comedy, which centers around a group of suburban high-school seniors from San Diego on a whale-watching expedition off the Baja coast of Mexico. They become shipwrecked on a deserted island and it turns into the “nerds” vs. the “jocks”. Elements of LORD OF THE FLIES are reminiscent, as well as the crudeness of the new National Lampoon films and the cheesiness that most teen comedies comprise of. The film is inoculated with tedious and annoying characters, humor, and a plot that has been done on some level but only better. Films in which a group of kids are shipwrecked with little to absolutely zero parental control has been explored before, such as in the very shocking and well-done LORD OF THE FLIES, as I mentioned earlier, but this film is pure comedy, or tries to be, and is filled with the stereotypical characters that everyone has seen in countless other “stranded on an island” scenarios. I kept thinking of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, minus the campiness and cheese factor that a television show from the ’60s with Bob Denver (whom is likeable in it) can have and thrive upon. DEVOLVED was not, per say, a bad film. It was just a film that I really had no interest in throughout and it did not help matters that there was little to no nudity and sleaze within the film when it boasted a fairly attractive cast and was littered with sexual innuendo throughout.
I found much of the humor childish, bland, run-of-the-mill but the the film did have some funny moments such as one opening scene in which a newscaster is conducting a live newscast and a couple of attractive girls run on camera in the background donning bikinis and flash everyone (one of those girls being the brunette Cameron Adams who can also be seen in the voyeur porn clips known for on Backroom Casting Couch that is available in small clips on youporn.com) while shaking their chi-chis. Wait, I guess that was meant to be more titillating than humorous. In hindsight, I was really hoping that there would be more of the shaking of breasts in the film because when the annoying voice-over narration started, I then new that this film was going to be a rough viewing. The character titles popping up on the screen identifying who was who and what their “titles” were, such as their majors and high school clique associations, was even more annoying and an easy way to instantly let viewers know who they were without actually writing their character into the story. Really, this film just looked like a bad made-for-television after-school special that would air on one of the major local networks-minus the nudity, of course.
The film stars Lindsey Shaw (10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU), Robert Adamson (LINCOLN HEIGHTS), and Gary Entin (SECONDS APART) as the leaders of the students who for most, if not all of the movie, are arguing over who should be in control and what everyone’s duties are on the deserted island. I think this movie could have worked better if just had all the girls going GIRLS GONE WILD and the guys trying to nail them while delivering ridiculously crude lines of dialogue instead of the film comprising hardly any nudity and trying to form some social opinion on the different social classes that comprise of high school. Honestly, I was reminded of the film CAN’T HARDLY WAIT because that was also a film that introduced characters in it by on-screen titles and descriptions of who they were and what they were known for. The aforementioned movie was also more humorous, incorporated better actors and actresses, and had Jennifer Love Hewitt strutting around wearing a skin-tight white top that glorified her incredible bust and figure (at least in that movie because I have seen the infamous beach photos that circulated around the net and graced the cover of tabloid trash journalism) that I have viewed time and time again for that hope that the film gives with the theme that the nerdy “good guy” can win the heart of the “popular hot girl”. Yeah, one can hope, right?
If DEVOLVED even came close achieving the pace and feel of CAN’T HARDLY WAIT, along with some epic party scenes I think I may have enjoyed the film much more. DEVOLVED had all the elements of a seminal teen-romper full of comedy, but it just fell flat to me. I was not feeling it, though. I think my main reason for not enjoying this film was the fact that so many of the characters were introduced at lightening speed, were extremely shallow in their depth to each character, and that I just did not give a flying whoop over what the hell happened to any of them. I already had figured that this moronic comedy would go on until the big nerd got the popular girl, the parents eventually found their kids, no one would be killed or murdered, and everyone in the end would end up safe. There were no surprises in this film except why the hell did Chris Kattan (NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY) agree to be in this flop as Coach Papillion. Granted, Kattan was out of commission most of the film from dehydration and nearly drowning, but he really offered nothing to this film.
I recommend avoiding this film unless one needs to see every film Kattan has ever been in, or just needs a refresher coarse on what makes a movie funny by watching one that is abysmally non-humorous.
After that review, let’s move on to a movie, THE SWEET LIFE (2003), that puts a bit more thought and care into the plot of the film and offers viewers some insight into the world of dating and falling in love. Granted, this very subject in films is not something I generally choose to throw into my dvd player or blu-ray player, but it was a screener I requested because James Lorinz and Joan Jett are both in the film. If one can’t exactly place the name James Lorinz than maybe they may remember a few of the movies he starred in that to this day I still enjoy immensely, partly due to his character and comedic value within the films. In STREET TRASH (1987), directed by Jim Muro and written by Roy Frumkes (who is also involved with this film’s screenplay), Lorinz played an ultra-sarcastic jerk who is a doorman at a fancy Italian restaurant that is owned by an Italian mobster in a film that centers around bums in a local junkyard who come across a toxic brand of booze sold at a liquor store that turns its drinkers into a puddle of goo. Lorinz then went on to star in Hennenlotter’s FRANKENHOOKER three years later and was given the lead role, starring in a film that was full of nudity, crudeness, and many lines delivered by Lorinz filled with his biting humor for sarcasm delivered with deadpan deliveries.
THE SWEET LIFE is a very low-budget indie comedy filmed in New York that follows one brother, New York magazine columnist Michael (Lorinz), as he watches with envy as his confident and much more shallow brother Frankie (Robert Mobley) gets all the women and all the friends one could want in life. Frankie just so happens to be banging a slutty and wild-looking bartender at a dive bar that Frankie frequents regularly. Here is where Michael is set up on a blind date with Sherry, played by none other than the legendary Joan Jett. The date is a disaster and ends up with Michael returning Sherry back to her apartment drunk out of her mind and in no shape to have sex with Michael, even though she wants to. Michael does the right thing, putting her to bed and then ends up meeting her roommate and girlfriend to Frankie, Lila (Barbara Sicuranza).
Michael (Lorinz) and Lila (Sicuranza) end up going out and talking long into the night until sunrise and the two end up developing a connection and falling for each other. The rest of the film revolves around Michael and Lila’s relationship, Frankie and Lila’s relationship, and the brotherly love between Michael and Frankie. I guess one can say that the whole film is just about a bunch of relationships, falling in and out of love, and making hard decisions about where one wants their life to go and in what direction to take it.
The film asks the viewers some tough questions about life and explores the often complicated decisions one may have to make in regards to love, friendship, careers, school, and marriage. The film has just as much comedy in it as it has heartfelt sentiment. I enjoyed it much more than the aforementioned film I am reviewing, even though the cheap digital camera used for filming definitely takes away from the film’s quality. I enjoyed the film regardless of this small quality issue.
Of the two films, I would much rather be watching a bad zombie film or outrageously horrible slasher film than anything along the lines of traditional comedies or romantic comedies, but of the two, THE SWEET LIFE is the winner here and the least agonizing of the two films to be watching. Neither film is awful by any means, but of the two DEVOLVED tells a story I care nothing about and THE SWEET LIFE tells a story I care marginally about making it the winner of the two.
For those of you who are semi-avid fans of adult films, or even just peruse youporn.com, youjizz.com, or one of the other many sites on the internet that offers clips of free porn varying in length and quality-you probably have heard of or have unknowingly watched a clip of Alexis Texas and that bubbly, beautiful ass that generally would not be on the rear of a blonde Caucasian girl hailing from-you guessed it-Texas. Alexis Texas, porn star found from the makers of the adult film series Shane’s World while working at a bar in October of 2006, first got her start in Shane’s World’s College Amateur Tour in Texas. From there she went on to work in some Bang Bros. productions, then on to L.A. to work in the adult film industry full-time.
Alexis Texas (real name Thea Alexis Samper) will not be the first porn-star whom has thrown on some clothes (more attire than is usually required) and given a shot at acting in a low-budget, or even big-budget horror film. I don’t mind porn stars taking a stab at acting in horror films, as long as they do what they are known for and good at- removing some clothing at some point during the movie because let’s be honest-Most of them cannot act worth a lick! If the scene in the film does not involve a strip tease of some sort or a steamy sex scene- viewers may be in for a very bumpy ride while dialogue is painstakingly delivered. Luckily, viewers of Bloodlust Zombies will get some Alexis Texas nudity, some sexy removal of clothing, and plenty of sexual innuendo all tossed in the mix with vulgar humor and zombies munching human flesh. Horror flicks paired with porn stars seems to be a trend that Breaking Glass Pictures and its sister horror label Vicious Circle Films has started to fall into. Granted, as far as I know, it is only their 2nd film to star an adult film sensation (Tori Black in Half Moon was their 1st, I believe), but throwing an adult star in the cast of a low-budget horror flick will only enhance its nudity factor, if even that.
Our story’s plot revolves around a military weapons manufacturer that has created a chemical that, when injected into animals such as the facility’s lab cat, the creature is turned into an aggressive, homicidal, carnivorous, zombie-like, killing machine. While the head honcho at the facility is banging what seemed to be just the secretary, accidentally broadcasting the hump-o-thon over the phone’s intercom service, the scientists accidentally knock over the vials of infected blood, breaking some of them all over the floor of the secured bio-hazard workspace.
Thinking the lab is secured, the scientists get infected by the cat and from here on out-it’s your standard low-budget, direct-to-video. lackluster zombie flick. Yeah, another zombie flick. To be honest with everyone, I am totally fu**ing sick of zombies. I think that they have been commercialized beyond belief and have already saturated the horror market. The last zombie film that really moved me and had me thinking I was watching a movie first and a zombie film second was Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, which many will argue is not even a traditional zombie flick. I really don’t see what else one can do to spice up the genre, besides doing what director/writer Dan Lantz did and throw a porn star into the mix. Well, having Alexis Texas in the film may have just generated some buzz with those familiar with the adult film industry or peak the interest of those hoping to glimpse some steamy sex scenes or gratuitous nudity, but for a seasoned veteran of the horror genre Bloodlust Zombies was more of the same done with a halfheartedly.
I was hoping there would be a bit of eye-candy to take away from the run-of-the-mill plot and less than acceptable CGI and low-budget special effects, which there was, but aside from that the only thing going for this movie was a bit of sexually-laced humor from one of the film’s more obnoxious characters, Darren (Adam Danoff), who as one of the employees at the company was thrown in the film as one of the many characters to provide comic-relief. The film definitely had more moments of humor, whether intended or not, than it did horror, scares, or gore.
Bloodlust Zombies was about as good as a film generally gets that has a porn star with top billing, a no-name cast besides Alexis Texas and her impressive porn career (as well as cast in Fred Olen Ray’s Bikini Frankenstein), and a next to nothing budget. The film was far less painful to watch than I had previously thought it to be. Thankfully, the movie moved along at a pretty quick pace, only dragged on a few times and that was mostly because the dialogue delivered was going on a bit too long for anyone to take seriously or find much humor in. The cliche sexual references were ever present and there were scarce moments of genuine acting and only a small amount of scenes of gore that are barely worth mentioning.
One aspect of the movie that I could not get past was the recipe for fake blood that was used. I could not take it seriously. The color was lighter than most films’ scenes with blood and almost had a brightness to it. I really thought the crew was using some kind of paint, as it almost had a pinkish-tinge to it. The film was not only light on the gore, but when victims were bit and flesh was ripped off it looked as though the crew was trying to conserve the latex used for flesh being torn off. The horribly colored blood was also used sparingly during scenes in which the zombies tore flesh off from the victims’ necks.
Two things can somewhat save these type of low-budget, no-name horror flicks-wanton gore and nudity. I have never looked for high-caliber acting or an intriguing plot with these types of films-so work with what ya got. On some levels, director Dan Lantz did. He had a porn star and he gave her some scenes of nudity and portrayed her as sexually charged-up, but then digresses by having a fellow co-worker who showed an evident dislike for her go on a righteous speech on how Andrea (Texas) is a bright, young woman and should not be chasing after a man because he is older, rich and powerful-but instead fall for a man that loves her for her intellect and independence, as well as her beauty. Ok, Oprah Winfrey, enough with the feminism and lets get back to point of the film- to be entertained by some blood and guts. Oh wait, I forgot that there really was not any of those aspects within the film really worth mentioning.
All in all, I really thought the film was going to be a far worse viewing than it was. It had high levels of cheesiness, that at times, were entertaining. The special effects were done with especially low-grade CGI and the organic effects were just a notch better than the digital ones (although I did kind of dig the finale with Texas which looked to be completely digital) and I did not hate this film. On some shameful level, I kind of had a soft spot in my rotting gut for it. I can’t really recommend the film, nor would I ever entertain the thought to purchase the movie (unless, of course, I was a completest for Alexis Texas flicks) but I can say it was a bad, low-budget film that was not agonizingly and painstakingly difficult to watch. Let’s not get this film confused with other films that are so bad they are good. Bloodlust Zombies does not fall into that category. I may have come to the point that I have seen so many bad, low-budget films that watching an Andy Sidaris action/spy film is becoming confused with watching a solid James Bond film. I am now going to go pop in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead so that I can remember what a great zombie film with minimal financial resources truly can turn out like.
Geno McGahee’s horror/slasher film Family Secret is a low budget, independently produced-movie with a lot of heart, handful of no-name actors and actresses, and sub-par special effects and make-up…yet I still enjoyed watching this film because a few of the lead characters really gave decent performances and there were some well-delivered lines of dialogue that had me rolling in laughter…for the most part.
The story begins with Geno McGee (Forris Day, Jr.), a successful journalist and lead reporter for the local newspaper, getting news from the family that his grandmother has kicked the bucket. Upon hearing of this tragic turn of events, we find out his grandmother was not liked by Geno, as well as the rest of the family, of which Geno has not talked to or seen in over 10 years. Geno has really been out of touch with them and really does not care for anyone related to him. Geno, being a successful writer in the family with a hot wife, Danielle (Leean Aubuchon), and a good career is quite a contrast to everyone else in the family whom all seem to have financial issues, awful marriages, spousal abuse. It all reminds me of the type of folks that belong on the Jerry Springer Show.
The film starts out giving the audience a little taste of each family member and the dynamics of their family and home-life, as pathetic and worthless as that may seem. We get a sense of what a bitch his grandmother is when Geno (played excellently by lead actor Forris Day, Jr.) relays a story to his wife after waking up from a bad dream in which his late grandmother (referred to as Nana by Geno) comes to him in nightmarish fashion. When his wife, Danielle asks him about his grandmother Geno tells of her about a time when Nana snapped his dog Skipper’s neck in half when he was a little boy. Nana was one wicked bitch, beating young Geno and torturing him throughout his childhood. Immediately following this disturbing tale from his past, Geno decides it’s a good time to try to bang his wife. His wife voices my exact thought- who gets horny right after reminiscing about one’s evil grandmother? Yuck! The scene ends with Geno yelling, “Fuck me, Nana! Fuck me, Nana!” Classic.
As our story progresses, we come across more family members, such as the overweight Uncle Gary Vershon, played by newcomer Alex Pierpaoli (who totally reminded me of director and actor Kevin Smith). I guess Pierpaoli reminded me of Smith primarily because he possesses a beard, is overweight, and both of them are pretty damn funny. Uncle Gary Vershon is a foul-mouthed, insensitive, bigoted, lazy asshole. I believe most families have at least ONE Uncle Gary amongst them. I think Pierpaoli played the part of Uncle Gary perfectly and was one of the most memorable aspects to the whole film-that and Forris Day, Jr.’s performance. Both actors were splendid throughout the film and really made the movie very enjoyable to watch.
Although this film is a horror-whodunit-slasher-mystery type of film, I felt that the gore and special effects throughout the film were pretty boring and borderline awful. The gore and blood was not very well done and could have benefited from a bucket of blood thrown here and there, especially when meat cleavers and large knives are being used to murder unsuspecting victims by the “Granny Killer”. I think I would have enjoyed the film much more as a fan or horror and slasher films if there had been a bit more emphasis and focus on the effects created for each murder. Even with these aspects of the film that I felt were lacking, the cohesiveness of the story and plot is what holds this film all together and makes it interesting to watch and the performances given by a few key players in the movie add to the enjoyment of the film. Granted, some of the acting in the film is only a notch above awful, but the positive aspects to the film outshine most of the negative aspects.
I think I could sit watching Uncle Gary’s negatively vile character treating everyone around him like crap all day long. The guy is such a sleazy, rude, obnoxious asshole that does not give two-shits about his wife, his daughter, or anything around him unless it satisfies his own needs and wants.
As the film goes on, Geno is assigned to cover these murders that are being committed by someone or something that highly resembles the family’s late grandmother. Shortly after the funeral the murders start up and Geno’s family is being picked off one by one. Ignoring the fact that the newspaper assigning a family member related to all the murders just may be some sort of conflict of interest, Geno is determined to get down to the bottom of things and find out who is killing of his family- is it the grandmother, back from the dead, or is it someone just dressing up as an old lady who just goes around slaughtering one particular family’s members?
Director Geno McGahee, who also wrote the film, did a fine job of weaving a story that is both entertaining and interesting to watch. Although I have a slight gripe with the shoddy gore effects, the rest of the film was entertaining. There were enough well-done performances given throughout the film to keep one interested throughout.
I listened to the director’s commentary, which I highly recommend viewers to listen to, and there may have been a few performances given that I really had to disagree with the filmmakers’ views upon, such as the lines delivered by young actor Jacob Moon who plays this smart-ass kid, Larry, who happens to be hanging out at the bowling alley one night while members of Geno’s family also happen to be bowling there. There is a particular scene in which Larry is looking for two of his friends at the local bowling alley, finding them slayed by the “Granny Killer”, and reacts to their bloodied corpses by saying, “Angela, Angela, Angela…” in one of the most pathetic lines of dialogue ever given. Fortunately, these instances are far and few between. Just a few minutes prior, Moon was believably portraying a smart-ass little punk delivering some genuinely funny lines of dialogue.
Some of the lines of dialogue delivered were just too damn funny not to laugh at, even though this film is not to be categorized as a comedy. I think the mystery, comedy, and horror in the film is pretty well balanced and this is what makes the film work. If the crew had some more money to work with, I believe the blood and gore would have been more plentiful and this movie may have shined even brighter. Family Secret is a prime example and should be a lesson learned to many independent filmmakers- if one does not have loads of money to throw into a film’s production, write a solid story with great characters and dialogue performed by a handful of solid actors and actresses. Even if half the cast is lousy at acting and it looks like they are just robotic in reciting dialogue with no emotion whatsoever, a few strong leads can overshadow the amateur performances-which was the case here. I believe that to be the case here.
Upon listening to the commentary given by director Geno McGahee, actor and co-producer Alex Pierpaoli, and director of photography John Golden, I found out that Pierpaoli has not acted before, yet he gave one of the best performances throughout the film, and was definitely the funniest character to watch in any scene. He played the part perfectly and was really added some character and lowbrow charm to the whole production. My favorite scenes with Pierpaoli were when he is drunk in an Italian restaurant and bar, harassing a gay couple telling them he better not get too close to them or else he may catch A.I.D.S., as well as his scene in the bowling alley where he rips on one of the employees for being bald (his head was shaved). Uncle Gary pulls no punches- that is what I love about his character.
One of the funnier things commented on during the commentary was when director McGahee touches upon the fact that so many movies made in Hollywood nowadays, like Michael Bay mega-blockbusters and the Final Destination flicks, have a cast that looks right out of a modeling magazine- all the dudes are perfectly chiseled and have six-pack abs, while the women have tight asses and perky breasts. McGahee goes on to say that with the cast of Family Secret, this is not the case at all. Granted, there are some lookers in the film such as actress Leeann Aubuchon or Elizabeth Madera, but overall these actors and actresses are people one would run into on any given day at any given place. As director McGahee points out, when he goes walking out in public, “For every beautiful person I saw, there were fifty porkers!” (Well spoken, McGahee!).
The dvd, distributed by Tempe Video and released by X Posse/Webhead Entertainment Productions, can be ordered HERE. There also is a Facebook page for the film. I found it interesting that not only has Geno McGahee directed and made Family Secret, as well as Evil Awakening (2001), Rise of the Scarecrows (2003), and the upcoming Scary Tales (2012), he also reviews films from all genres and budgets, over at Scared Stiff Reviews. I am pretty sure that having watched tons of films from all genres has helped him learn what works and what does not work when making a film, as evidenced by Family Secret.
As the story gets closer and closer to coming to a conclusion and some answers are slowly answered as Geno McGee begins to uncover the truth behind the murders, the film becomes more and more enjoyable. At times, I thought I had a handle on who was murdering everyone, but as the film draws to its conclusion, the “family secret” is finally revealed and I don’t think ANYONE is prepared for what happens as all the questions anyone may have are finally answered.
Family Secret, as well as other indie horror flicks, are coming up with far more interesting and creative subject-matter than many of the movies coming out of Hollywood that have been recycled, regurgitated, and become redundant in countless sequels and thoughtless remakes. Geno McGahee has created a film that pays homage and tribute to many of the horror and slasher films that he talks about cherishing watching while growing up and Family Secret is a very admirable effort that was well executed and delivers the goods. I highly recommend checking this indie gem out!
Fangoria FrightFest and Lightning Media brought fans eight terrifying films back in the summer of 2010, all of which SHU-IZMZ got the screeners for, and due to a ton of other screeners being mailed off to us, we are just getting around to finishing off writing the reviews for films. A long-time reader and supporter of Fangoria, most notably in the past when I feel the magazine was at its strongest in writing and quality, I have since changed my opinion somewhat when I see horror films sporting the Fangoria banner. To say the least, I was just a bit apprehensive when I received eight dvds for review with Fangoria blanketed across the envelope. After reading a few of my reviews from the FrightFest line-up, one can say that I have changed my opinion drastically as to films that are associated with Fangoria. There was a pretty decent selection of films (although a few really did suck ass!) and I excited to writing about Pig Hunt, a wonderfully unique film directed by James Issac (Jason X, Skinwalkers, The Horror Show) and written by Robert Mailer Anderson and Zack Anderson. The film stars Travis Aaron Wade (War of the Worlds (’05)) as John Hickman, whose late Uncle owned a shack out in the middle of the boonies, locale to many rednecks. Hickman decides to take his girlfriend, Brooks (Tina Huang) up with his three buddies, Ben (Howard Johnson Jr.), Quincy (Trevor Bullock), and Wayne (Rajiv Shah) on a hunting expedition. What Hickman neglects to tell his buddies is that his Uncle’s shack is located in the deep backwoods of the forest where there are not only wild boars running around, but an infamous wild boar-one bigger, fiercer, and meaner than any boar ever.
Once I read the synopsis for this film, I immediately thought of the Aussie Ozploitation film from the ’80s, Razorback, directed by Russel Mulcahy. I loved that film, as I tend to enjoy over-the-top violent and gory “animals-on-the-rampage” horror flicks, and I was hoping I would enjoy Pig Hunt just as much. Let’s just say that out of ALL the Fangoria FrightFest films, Pig Hunt was my favorite by quite a large margin.
The film excelled on pleasing its audience on so many levels, but one aspect of the film that really impressed me was the unique soundtrack that was created by ex-Primus/Sausage frontman and bassist Les Claypool. He wrote the whole soundtrack to the film, full of heavy, funky bass twangs that are most notably Claypool’s own, fitting in perfectly with the hillbilly, redneck region that the film takes place in. Not only does Claypool provide the awesome soundtrack, but he also plays one of the characters in the film, Preacher, who is the head of a family who has lived in these deep woods probably forever. The members of the family don’t look like they bathe regularly nor get out to the city much, if at all.
As far as the acting went in the film, some of the performances and characters could have been a bit more polished (Howard Johnson Jr.) or less ridiculous in nature (Byronn Bain), but overall I was satisfied with the natural performances. They added some realism to the film and kept things serious when they needed to be (like when characters were injured or killed off) and reacted in the correct manner when the reality that a huge, flesh-eating wild boar that rivaled in size to a giant elephant was hunting them down and not vice-versa. Travis Aaron-Wade did a tremendous job as the lead actor and actually replaced the originally cast lead actor in the film playing the role of John Hickman just two days before filming! Talk about some major performance pressure. I think Wade handled it nicely.
The film was nicely edited, creating tension and curiosity throughout the film with only showing bits and pieces of this monstrous relative to Porky Pig, partly due to the incredible chops and licks that Les Claypool creates throughout the film with his incredible bass playing. Claypool may be most recognized for (besides Primus and Sausage) for creating the intro music for Robot Chicken, as well as working on Barnyard and Zack and Miri Make a Porno. One thing that had me worried with this film was because I was immediately drawn in by Claypool’s funky yet technical bass-playing was that the rest of the movie was going to be a colossal disappointment. Boy was I wrong!
Pig Hunt continues as one would think: City boys and gal in the woods get hunted by wild boar, picked off one by one in gorily fashion, then run into the locals and get into a scrap with them making the enemies both human AND animal. Well, that does happen but there is one component to this film that I did not see coming into play at all: demented hippies. Pig Hunt ups the ante of violence, gore, and creativity by throwing into the mix a marijuana farming community of hippies who will stop at nothing to preserve their crops, as well as their secret weapon. That is all I am going to divulge as to key elements of the film’s plot so that I don’t ruin it for anyone that wants to see Pig Hunt, which should be EVERYONE!
The film not only is filled with violence, gore, a bit of suspense- but there is also some decent nudity. The film really fills in all the gaps and corners to making Pig Hunt a horror film that could be categorized in both the horror genre, as well as the exploitation genre. I feel that Porky Pig and Babe would be highly offended at how his older and much more aggressive and violent cousin is portrayed in this film- another film to be categorized in the ever-growing sub-genre of Pigsploitation. Well, there really is not a genre of such a name (that I know of), but there really should be one as more killer pig movies are made. That goes for all the genre films involving animals killing humans and other animals.
Interestingly enough, director James Issac cites David Cronenberg as his idol and mentor, but I did not feel or acknowledge there being any subtle psychological underlying themes besides Man vs. Pig. Director Issac said that Cronenberg “let me into his world” and that Cronenberg said Issac could “ask him (Cronenberg) any questions I (Issac) wanted to. He (Cronenberg) really allowed me to pick his brain.”
Well, fortunately for fans of horror films with more simpler and apparent themes, Pig Hunt did not turn into some sort of psychological film with extremely bizarre scenes like Naked Lunch and was a fun and simple film about a wild boar ripping apart anyone or anything that gets in its way. I like my animals-on-the-rampage flicks to be nice and simple.
The acting in Pig Hunt was rounded out nicely with decent performances by the two hillbilly brothers Jake (Jason Foster) and Ricky (Nick Tagas), who back in the day were quasi-buddies with Hickman. Viewers are led to believe that all three at one time or another used to hunt together. We learn more about Hickman and his past throughout the film as new events unfold. There is even a small cameo in the film by musician Charlie Musselwhite, playing the general store proprietor Charlie in the film, who had a gig in San Diego at midnight and ended up driving throughout the night just to get back to the shoot in the morning for his scene. The dialogue he was to read was given to him in the very last second.
Interestingly enough, the filmmakers originally wanted to have genuine wolf dogs used in the film during scenes in which the cast was hunting the massive boar, but due to budgetary constraints, the cost for the dogs and their handlers was too much for Pig Hunt’s budget. There is a dog in the film that is used to track down the boar and also used effectively as a device to add suspense to the film when it senses the carnivore nearby.
I really enjoyed Pig Hunt and found it to be the strongest entry bearing the Fangoria FrightFest banner. I was not the only one for the film was the winner of the “Bronze Audience Award” at the Fantasia Film Festival and the “Gold Remi Award” at the Worldfest International Film Festival. The acting, although not the strongest or most natural at times, definitely had a quirky charm and character to it. The characters were unique. The plot was not as simple as one would imagine and packs a few surprises at the end of it, keeping viewers on their toes. Although the film was not the bloodiest or goriest, there was enough in it to get the job done and satisfy both horror fans and animal-rampage fans equally.
Ninjas Vs. Vampires, directed by Justin Timpane (Ninjas Vs. Zombies), looks to be a film with lots of action, probably some humor, and maybe some blood and gore. Also of note, Gary Ugarek (the latter of which I have had on my radio show for his zombie flicks Deadlands and its sequel) was involved in directing one scene in the film (even though IMDB, as of this writing, has him listed as a co-director. I was contacted by Timpane to let me know of this error in the IMDB listing so thanks to him the facts are straight. Timpane (if IMDB is correct) is listed as guest director on Ugarek’s upcoming Deadlands III film. Hopefully, Ninjas Vs. Vampires does not disappoint!
The world of low-budget cinema can always use more ninjas and vampires schlocky, chop-sockey flicks, right? After watching the trailer for Ninjas Vs. Vampires, I can only hope that there is a fair amount of gore, nudity, and tongue-in-cheek humor and that the filmmakers do not take themselves to seriously with this, especially in the choreography of the fight scenes which I am betting will not be on par with Ip Man or any Jet Li or Jackie Chan flicks. These type of films can be outrageously entertaining or dreadfully boring. I will let ya know which direction this indie flick goes in, but until then- ENJOY THE TRAILER!
DVD Release: May 2011
Ninjas battle vampires for the fate of the world in this all new Action-Horror-Comedy from the creators of 2010’s cult smash, Ninjas vs. Zombies! Moments after down-on-his-luck Aaron is rejected by the girl of his dreams, they both are attacked by blood-sucking vampires. Driven to save her, Aaron tracks down the …mysterious ninjas, who wage a nightly war against the forces of darkness. Now, as the vampire overlord Seth plots to destroy mankind, Aaron has only one choice – join the ninjas, save the world, and get the girl… or die trying.
Sexy, funny, shocking, and bloody, Ninjas vs. Vampires delivers an action-packed comedic adventure unlike any other!
SOURCE: Breaking Glass Pictures
Sci-Fi Spectacular 5
3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, IL
March 19, 2011
March 19, 2011 Noon – 3am, Chicago, IL.
(The Blob (remake ’88), Nightmare on Elm St. 3, The Mask, Eraser and producer of Dreamscape)
(Critters 2, Sleepwalkers, The Stand, creator of Showtime’s Masters of Horror series)
Film Line Up:
Not of this Earth (’57 Corman Classic!)
Plus Greg Nicotero’s Award Winning
Short Film “United Monsters Talent
Agency” and Del Harvey’s “Blood Kin”
Pre-sale tickets are $22 (available online or
at the Music Box Theatre Box Office).
Or $25 at the door day of show.
Pre-sale tickets on sale now:
Films, times and guests subject to change.
No refunds, no returns.
Breaking Glass Pictures has announced the April 5 DVD release of director Mark Claywell’s documentary “American Jihadist.” The Slamdance “Best Doc” winner follows American-born Muslim militant Isa Abdullah Ali and his life story. The documentary has played at over a dozen film festivals and won Best Documentary at last year’s Slamdance. Isa Abdullah Ali is an American soldier, a family man, and a Jihadist. Calling one all three of those things seems to me to be a colossal contradiction and I am sure that will be one thing looked at and probably discussed during the course of the film. Ever since 9/11, I have been personally interested in learning more about those individuals whose faith and religion is hell-bent on destroying my place of birth, the beloved United States. Well, at times there are injustices and key elements that even I may disagree or find to be wrong, but having some democracy in one’s nation is a wonderful thing.
I am very interested to get a hold of this film and see what it’s all about. Aside from gory horror films, I am a total geek for a well-made documentary. At times, I almost prefer to watch documentaries over horror films. The sole reason is that I love to learn about new ideas, values, customs, and regions. Documentaries serve as a breeding ground for knowledge and are excellent learning tools for those that do not like reading books. They make learning that much more fun and video footage always can tell so much more in a far quicker span of time than reading a few pages of a book can. I love reading too, but sometimes I want a quick stimulating story told in about two or three hours than I want to read a thick, lengthy book that may take well over a day or two to read if read straight through. That is my personal mantra on why documentaries rule!
The following is the documentary’s synopsis courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures:
American soldier. Family man. Jihadist. Isa Abdullah Ali is a person of many identities and contradictions, but in the beginning, he was a bullied young boy growing up in America’s capital. At fifteen he joined the American army, and as a young man he converted to Islam and fought alongside the Amal militia and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Though the details of his past are murky, Isa claims to have killed more than 150 people in the fight to defend his faith.
Through Isa’s own words and those of family members, psychologists and political experts, this award-winning documentary attempts to decode the social and personal influences that can lead an individual down a path to radicalism. American Jihadist reaches beyond easy labels to grasp the nuances behind one man’s decision to fight — and kill — for his religion.
The DVD will also include behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Check out the trailer here:
Source: Breaking Glass Pictures
Jaume Balaguero, the director and writer of Fragile, is most widely known for [REC] and its sequel, [REC]2. Having not seen the sequel to [REC], I can only say that the original was one of the more difficult movies to watch due to the frenetic camera angles and shaky camera views. I had to watch the movie in multiple installments of about fifteen to twenty minutes apiece waiting about the same amount of time for my nausea to pass so that I could continue on with the film. The fact that I finished watching the horror film, fighting through my nausea along the way shows how much I was intrigued by Balaguero’s film and how interesting the movie was, keeping me to come back for more visual grenades blowing up in my brain and causing my head to be filled with dizziness, physically sweating like one had pounded a few fifths of Jack Daniels in a span of an hour. The film was that intriguing and I had to find out the movie’s ending.
Balaguero comes back to formula with Fragile, a compelling and atmospheric tale surrounding strange incidents that are occurring at a childrens hospital that is on its way to being closed down and abandoned. The children are located on one floor, with the floor above closed off and off-limits. The floor is not even listed in the elevator and there is no button to press to get to it. Amy Nicholls (Calista Flockhart of Ally McBeal fame) is the brand new night nurse at the hospital and is charge of the night shift, readying the children to leave and be moved to a new facility. The orphans of the hospital are pretty anxious about leaving but that may be due to other things going on that none of them are to anxious to talk about with any of the staff at the hospital. One child in particular, Maggie (Yasmin Murphy), is a little bit more outspoken than the rest and lets Nicholls (Flockhart) in on her little secret- she knows there is something else at the hospital and its a lady with leg metal on her legs and she comes around sometimes, usually not in a good mood. The rest of the staff have heard this tale before and think its just a child letting her imagination run away from her, but as Nicholls begins to see some pretty far-fetched things occur herself, she comes to believe and trust in the young girl’s stories and begins to get to the bottom of things and find out what is really going on with this hospital, the children’s fears, and this mysterious lady with mechanical legs that sounds like some sort of ghost or entity living at the hospital.
The film builds up its suspense with a very unique story with plenty of twists and turns, many coming at unexpected points in the film. The film is rated PG-13, but there are so many scenes that titillate one’s fear twitch in the gut of the stomach, that I had a hard time believing the rating. A few moments in the film had this viewer reminiscing about key scenes in The Exorcist and other films of possession and spectral occurrences that relied on one’s brain to fill in the blanks and create self-induced fright. By no means is Fragile on the same level of terror that The Exorcist had most at, but it has many elements akin to it. Also, the acting in the film, kids and adults alike, was extremely solid and did not detract one’s attention from the well-crafted story within the film nor diminish the scares delicately placed throughout.
For this horror freak, I can always appreciate a well-done chiller whose story compels my attention and interest rather than over the top visual effects that generally end up looking awful and absurdly “cheesy”. The whole experience is thus ruined for me because I fail to excuse the fact that the effects suck and everything that the actors and actresses are responding to is phony. I just fail to accept that their performances are for more than anything other than a generic special effect, but when a movie creates a solid visual effect, I forget that I am watching a movie and instead fall into the framework of the film itself, completely losing myself and experiencing that nightmare with them too! It is a wonderful experience to have the shit scared out of you, nervously laughing at how totally freaked out one is from a well-done film.
Fragile created within itself characters that had depth, heart, and soul-so much that when the time came for tragedy to specific characters, the viewer is affected and affected even more so once serious harm is thrown into the equation. The visual effects in the film added to the enjoyment of the story and I felt that there were just the right amount to see the film through instead of a massive onslaught that resembles an artist trying to max out his or her creativity in crammed in to one feature. At times, I think Guillermo del Toro falls in to that category (Hellboy II: The Golden Army), but his films are so damn enjoyable, I forgive him.
The cast, in addition to Calista Flockhart as the new nurse, consists of Richard Roxburgh, playing Robert Marcus, a doctor who believes Nicholls is suffering from some sort of stress once she begins voicing concerns over the strange occurrences that are rising in frequency as the days go on. Roxburgh gives a fine performance and was a familiar face. One may recognize him from his portrayal as Count Vladislaus Dracula in Van Helsing, Hugh Stamp in MI:2, or M in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. Of special to interest to this reviewer was Elena Anaya, the ultra-gorgeous Spanish beauty from Sex & Lucia, Talk to Her, In the Land of Women, and also Van Helsing. Let me tell you, Anaya’s portrayal as one of Dracula’s uber-sexy brides had fire alarms going off in my pants-she is so damn sexy and failed to disappoint in Fragile, even though her role was fairly minor as a supporting cast member portraying Nurse Perez in the film. It was fun to see her all dressed-up in a nurse’s outfit though and got my nurse fetish gears pumped in to overdrive, at the very least.
A few other familiar faces rounded out the cast of Fragile, including Gemma Jones of Sense & Sensibility and Bridget Jones Diary, Colin McFarlane of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Michael Pennington of Return of the Jedi, and Daniel Ortiz of Bride of Re-Animator. Many of these faces and films were very familiar to me and it was fun in a film geek sort of way to point out who was what character in what film…at least for me it was. Given that the film was only rated PG-13 (even though I felt it could have been R-Rated for some fairly graphic and intense scenes involving some bones breaking and deaths) we do not get to see Elena Anaya in anything sexier than a nurse’s outfit and unfortunately no Benny Hill-esque old man pervert scenes involving an elderly patient lifting up a skirt here or peeking down at a caregiver’s cleavage as she brings an extra pillow and changes the bedsheets.
The story of Fragile was written by Balaguero and Jordi Galcean, superbly executed and carried the film through all the way to its finish. I was surprisingly satisfied with this movie, having no scenes of blood and gore, nudity, and almost zero foul language-yet I really loved this film. I guess when a movie delivers with a solid story, fine acting, and loads of atmosphere-the rest of the titillation can take a backseat for another movie on another day. Again, carrying the Fangoria FrightFest banner over it and out on Lightening Video, Fragile ranks among one of the finer Spanish films to deal with things of a spectral nature to have come out, even though it is also a British production. Either way, a solid film that I really enjoyed. Check Fragile out if one is in the mood for a solid spooky suspense-filled horror film that is super light on sex, nudity, gore, and vulgarity but heavy on atmosphere, acting, plot, and twists.