Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Frozen (2010) review


Emma Bell (Parker O'Neil), Shawn Ashmore (Joe Lynch), Kevin Zegers (Dan Walker), Kane Hodder (Cody)

Directed by Adam Green

The Short Version: Intense survival picture is incredibly brutal in places and genuinely poignant in others. The makers successfully manage to make nearly an entire movie out of a single set piece, carefully ratcheting up the suspense level and an increasing sense of dread and despair.

Three skiers decide to have one more run after dark just as the slopes are about to be closed. Through mis-communication, the ski lift is shut off leaving the three friends stranded in mid air during a storm. With the temperature rapidly dropping and the knowledge that the resort will be closed for a week, they must decide to brave the elements, or attempt some form of escape.

Harrowing survival horror movie is in the same vein as OPEN WATER (2003) in which a small number of people are cut off from any means of help and must try and survive through a life threatening situation. The premise is simple and has the potential for failure, but director Adam Green keeps the pace tight during the tense moments. There's also some much needed characterization that aids immeasurably during the more disturbing scenes.

You'll also hear some genuinely funny banter between the three friends both before and after they come to be in their terrible predicament. They're just like the rest of us pop culture nerds and we gradually grow to feel for them once they begin to grasp the full measure and hopelessness of their situation. Some of their conversations are on the morbid side which acts as macabre foreshadowing for the tragedy about to take place.

Among the variety of subjects talked about, the horrifying ordeal of the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The choice of either dying from jumping out of the building, or burning to death is bandied about, but becomes reality for the young skiers once they realize help isn't coming. Should they jump, or take a chance that help will come possibly freezing to death in the process. Also, the harsh, freezing temperatures and an impending storm aren't the only deadly odds the stranded vacationers must eventually face.

The same director also churned out the mediocre and nauseatingly overrated, 'slasher in the woods' flick, HATCHET (2006). FROZEN possesses more substance and accomplishes far more using its sole location and limited number of characters than that stalk and kill opus could with its bigger playground and menagerie of ridiculous victims. Still, there will be those who will dislike this movie for any number of reasons as it's not a traditional horror movie. Those who disliked the similar OPEN WATER will likely not find much to sustain their attention here. The movie deserved a wider audience and hopefully it will find one on DVD.

This review is representative of the Anchor Bay DVD.

Pig Hunt (2008) review

PIG HUNT (2008)

Travis Aaron Wade (John Hickman), Tina Huang (Brooks), Howard Johnson Jr. (Ben), Jason Foster (Jake), Rajiv Shah (Wayne), Trevor Bullock (Quincy)

Directed by Jim Isaac

"There's a lot of crazy shit in these woods."

The Short Version: There's a lot of potential here, but the film fails to capitalize on so many of its deranged elements until it's too late. Still, it's the best movie Rob Zombie never made. Occasionally this putrid patchwork is a bit of fun, but this raw, roast pork tenderloin may be a hard sell for mainstream horror meat eaters.

***WARNING! This review contains some nudity***


John and his friends leave San Francisco headed for a rural, out of the way California town to his deceased uncles cabin on a hunting trip. Once they arrive, they find the place in shambles and a slew of inhospitable and bizarre characters as well as 'The Ripper', a 3,000 pound man eating, humongous hog from hell.

From the man who sent Jason Voorhee's to the Final Frontier in JASON X (2000), comes this incredibly quirky, wildly enthusiastic, splatterific throwback to the grand and gritty redneck horror and hixploitation genre. Isaac's film is one of the most bizarre things I've laid my eyes on in years, but it fails more than it succeeds. Occasionally ponderous, the movie never truly kicks into high gear until the last 15, or 20 minutes. The monster porcine never makes its reveal till the end, although you do get a glimpse of its carnage at irregular intervals. 

Equal parts DELIVERANCE (1970), HUNTER'S BLOOD (1987) and RAZORBACK (1984), this undercooked pork chop also echoes TEXAS CHAINSAW (1974). It has some nice stunt work during a big chase sequence and some decent gore during the latter half of the film. But the picture is seriously hindered by a tedious mid section. 

Even with the introduction of a homicidal hippy commune and various peculiar, off the wall redneck characters, the pace drastically compromises the flow of the film. It does start off on the right foot (a redneck store clerk using a naked centerfold sums up the lude humor), but several needlessly padded stretches with the hunters (one bit has them all partaking in a shooting contest with cans) adds nothing.

A good chunk of the running time is spent walking around in the woods hunting the big pig. There's also a blatant political subtext involving the Iraq war that looms heavy during the first half (beginning with the credits sequence), but disappears later in the picture. It's only when a fight breaks out resulting in the death of one of the deranged hillbillies that things pick up considerably. The rednecks pursue the hunters leading to a nicely done action set piece for an independent feature.

Not long after, we're introduced to a decadent hippy commune out in the middle of nowhere that appears at first to be a man's paradise; there's beautiful and completely naked women bathing in a spring. We soon learn they are the keepers of the rampaging, titanic tenderloin that regularly enjoys human sacrifices provided by the murderous commune. Throughout the movie, the characters find the words, "Death walks on all fours" painted in blood on various markings. So much is made of the big boar, yet he provides little threat to the characters aside from the few that remain at the conclusion.

It also should be noted that the movie contains what is without doubt the weirdest, most annoying soundtrack ever conceived for a film. Still, Jim Isaac's movie has all the ingredients to become a nifty little exploitation classic including a nasty monster covered in mud, blood and snot and some funny and tasteless dialog. But its shortcomings cause it to be crushed under the mighty weight of the rampaging porker.

This review is representative of the Lightning Media DVD.

Suck (2009) review


SUCK 2010

Rob Stefaniuk (Joey), Jessica Pare (Jennifer), Paul Anthony (Tyler), Mike Lobel (Sam), Chris Ratz (Hugo), Dimitri Coats (Queeny), Malcolm McDowall (Eddie Van Helsing), Alice Cooper (Bartender/Devil), Moby (Beef), Henry Rollins (Rockin' Roger), Iggy Pop (Victor), Dave Foley (Jeff), Barbara Mamabolo (Danielle)

Directed by Rob Stefaniuk

The Short Version: A rockin' good  time is found here in this too cool take on the increasingly anemic vampire sub genre. Gorged on fresh blood, it's the ROCKY HORROR for the new millennium and one of the most creatively fun movies I've seen all year.

The rock band 'The Winners' are losers in the world of rock and roll. One fateful night performing in a club changes their lives forever when Jennifer, a member of the band, decides to go home with a curious and creepy admirer named Queeny. Upon her return, Jennifer is noticeably different. When the band hits the road, they leave a slew of corpses behind, but their new Gothically ghoulish gimmick brings them lots of attention including the nyctophobic Eddie Van Helsing.

This wickedly inventive Canadian horror-comedy-rock and roll-road movie-musical is quite a lot of fun, more so than I expected. Director Stefaniuk (who also had a prior career in fledgling bands) also wrote the script and collaborated with the films composer, John Kastner on the many songs featured in the movie. Some of the cast members, for authenticity, learned to play the songs despite not having any experience with musical instruments. 

The best possible comparison I could make with this movie is that it's the millennium version of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975). There's also a heavy rock video vibe that frequently surfaces accompanied by the use of some interesting stop motion effects and also some haunting, demonic painted skies that occasionally feature eyes watching our heroes as they travel from one misadventure to the next. The movie also playfully and subtley explores the many decadent proponents that are the stigmas of being in a band such as the sex and the drugs. 


In one of the more novel touches, footage from McDowall's O LUCKY MAN! (1973) is integrated during a flashback sequence where we get Eddie Van Helsing's backstory involving his encounter with Queeny, who took away his girlfriend, a singer named Danielle. In my eyes, McDowall has erased the memory of Dr. Loomis in Rob Zombie's celluloid shit stain that was the brutally bad HALLOWEEN "reimagining". Here, he's funny as the quirky, one eyed vampire slayer who's afraid of the dark. 

The cast is chock full of music personalities both big and small such as Alice Cooper (whose daughter also has a role in the film), who plays a tall, pale and gruesome overseer who also acts as something of the conscience of the Joey character. There's Iggy Pop, Moby, Henry Rollins, Dimitri Coats and the director himself. All the songs are good and would make a great soundtrack should one ever be produced. There's also a number of sight gags including a great one that mimicks the cover to Bruce Springsteen's iconic album cover to 'Born In the USA'. Dave Foley from the 'Kids In the Hall' has a role here as well.

Possessing several really hilarious bits (the convenience store and Canadian border sequence come to mind) as well as one character who eventually becomes an homage to Renfield from the original novel, SUCK has quite the potential to become a big cult item as noted from the 'Rolling Stone' review. As much as I have grown to despise the gushing arterial flow of vampire movies of late, I must admit that this ingenious little movie is one that doesn't SUCK.

This review is representative of the E1 Entertainment DVD

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