Saturday, 31 October 2009

Halloween 'Haul' Of Horrors

The Dark Lurking

‘‘Shut up moron. You don’t have the IQ to throw consecutive punches’’

There’s something evil lurking in the dark, it’s locked in deep within an underground complex, and it is multiplying !. The bad news is that many scientists, lab technicians and general labourers are trapped in with this malevolence. The very bad news is that the small team of mercenaries sent in by the military to rescue them don’t stand a chance !.
A deep level complex is the experimental facility for a substance as old as mankind. Human guinea pigs are tested with a serum drawn from this biologically based anomaly. The highest potency results in a messy transformation, mutating the human host into a monstrosity with a compunction to kill. A flesh tearing fiend with an unyielding assault mode far beyond that of normal human exertion.

The mercenaries slip in through the air conditioning vents, arriving at a time of mass hysteria and a feeding furore. The mutations are gestated from their hosts and tearing apart those uninfected. The gears of war brought by the elite professionals are heavy and plentiful, but still barely adequate to suppress the onslaught. Concentrated fire makes pea soup out of the miscreant creatures but general body shots, even removing limbs with bloody aplomb, does not stop these mindless monstrosities.
Creature effect make up is great here. Plague victims with puss oozing boils leaking from scarified features, like microwave tans. With talon clawed hands and a deep rasping rapture that only a mother monster could love. Good old fashioned men in well made monster suits rather than sloppy CGI rendered beasties abound, and that here is definitely a good thing. Mutant mayhem that pays off in naturally rendered movement and creature kill effects that hit the fan like a raspberry red slush puppy. It truly is great fun to witness old school creativity, and this sure is a crowd pleasing sloberknocker, rubber blubber, blood venting ‘B’ movie beauty.
It’s close quarter Aliens (1986) type sets and a dimly lit foreboding atmosphere that keeps the audience on jump alert. Things get even tighter as the mercenaries retrieve a handful of survivors and head back on into the ventilation shafts, this time with pursuing company and a fright factor around every turn.

One of the rescued party is a surviving experimental patient named Lena. She is suffering from blackouts from the serum programme, and is feared like a leper by the others rescued. They suspect that she may turn into one of the creatures at any moment, but her level of experimental treatment far exceeded the doses that turned the others. She is perhaps what the scientists were looking for and may be of great importance to the financiers behind the classified project.

As the mercenaries fight their way up through the complex, stopping off for munitions up take along route naturally, they and those in their protective custody are picked off until only a handful remain. Beyond the surface of the complex, beyond the hemisphere and in orbit of the Earth awaits an orbital nuclear tactical strike weapon of destruction. Its countdown is triggered by a maniacal doctor still working within the facilities lab. He believes he has finally uncovered what it is they have been looking for, and now all evidence of their transgressions to acquire the object of their endeavours must be wiped from the face of the planet. The problem for him is that the remaining mercenaries and rescued cohorts still have something to say about that, along with the mass marauding monsters now on top of them with no where else to turn. Throw into the mix the dawning of Lena’s true genetic nature and the count down itself just may not come in time !.

Evil as timeless as creation is on the verge of resurrection, and its monstrous hordes are abundant within its lair. Prepare for a closure like Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh eaters (1979) meets Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination (1980) by way of Bruno Mattei’s Shocking Dark (1990). All the elements of an Italian gore fest, with lashings of glorious gore and ladles of Action to cheer at. Classic Eighties styled Euro sci fi Action goodness, served up on an Australian barbecue of sticky back ribs and charcoal grilled giblets. Swig along with an ice cold brew or two and The Dark Lurking goes down a treat.

Review Paul Cooke
The Dark Lurking (2008)
Director Gregory Connors
With Aash Aaron, Philippe Deseck,
Ozzie Devrish, Anthony Edwards,
Dirk Fouler & Bret Kennedy

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Halloween 'Haul' Of Horror


‘‘We shall make the humans fear us’’
If you have a stake in vampire movies, and wish that Transformers was a Michael Bay at the moon werewolf flick that still starred Megan Fox, then Wolvesbayne may well be the ‘B’ movie blitz to kick back with. Okay so Megan Fox might be asking too much but more than a few tasty babes bare their teeth, and Witchblade’s very own Yancy Butler gets to rip out a throat or two.
Beginning with a pretty cool opening montage of the vampire legend, as chronicled by the Van Helsing lineage, and foretelling of the warring blood suckers. The vampire high council capture Lilith, the most powerful and feared vampire of them all. Evil personified and a threat not only to humans but vampire kind alike. She stands trial and is banished. Her powerful essence drawn from her, and contained within amulets that are then scattered around the lands in safe keeping from her loyal followers. For centuries they lay dormant.
Modern day America awakens to the smells and sounds of another day, barely exhaled from the hours of darkness preceding it. Russel Bayne hit’s the street early to try and hustle his way into sealing the deal on the last property purchase he needs to make, so as to raise an entire area to the ground in order for his companies latest property development to accrue millions of dollars in profit. An egotistical man with nothing but arrogant contempt for all who he perceives are beneath him. Alex Layton is a shrewd and savvy young woman however, and she has no intention of selling her ownership of the occult shop left to her by her deceased mother. There’s a strength of character about Alex that has him scurrying away in frustration, but as he leaves she warns him that he is in danger. A psychic ability or something more foreboding ?, Russel takes it as a threat.

Journeying back to his penthouse that evening along a darkened road he comes across a stranded female, her vehicle broken down. Moments later the pretty young woman is being savaged by a human like beast. Bayne jumps to her aid only to be thrown to the ground and violently bitten by the snarling man beast. He wakes up in hospital bearing the bite marks of the monsters attack, but the wound is already healing and he is anxious to get back to his hectic business.
Come the full moon Russel Bayne is convulsing in the rays of the planets orb, and in a pretty neat old school Universal Studios cut away and then back effect, transforms into a fully fledged werewolf !. He didn’t anticipate this bad moon rising, and is even more alarmed when he awakens next morning to be greet by the visceral sight of a ravaged pig adorning his lush carpeted home floor. The slaughtered pig has its entrails splayed out of its stomach, clearly in no state to squeal on its killer.
Confused, yet also intrigued by his now enhanced sense of perception, hearing, and physical fitness Bayne seeks an explanation to his condition, and believes that Alex is a psycho witch who has placed a curse on him. He confronts her back at the shop but is taken aback by her own ability to deal with his heightened anger and physical presence. The two have far more in common than he could ever have imagined. Alex too is a werewolf !. Far from your traditional fangs and fur however, as she has honed her abilities and is able to control her transformations. Alex again warns him of his predicament, but it is not until he comes face to face with the real threat of the underground forces of evil that he comes to heads her words.

Enter Mark Dacascos as the consummate carnivore Count Von Griem, a vampire antagonist who is actively seeking to resurrect Lilith from her enforced centuries of slumber.
Werewolves are an enemy to the blood suckers and are targeted for termination rather than blood letting as humans are in sustenance. Bayne is soon attacked by the left wing leeches of Von Griem, only to be saved by the entrance stealing Jacob Van Helsing, ably supported by his team of Slayers, and an on board Alex prepped for transformation. Time for some down and dirty fight Action where the fists fly and the fur bristles. Vampires are dispensed of with stylish evisceration ala Blade (1998). It’s a successful stake out, following which Russel Bayne is gotten up to speed and Van Helsing signs him up. The alternative being that as a rogue werewolf he is part of the problem, and one that the Slayers will deal with !. He accepts the conditional invitation, as Alex had before but with a heads up from her that he is still to watch his back as the Slayers are merciless themselves !.

This then is a pretty darned enjoyable Sci Fi channel production that excels in its over the top deliriousness, drawing clear yet reverential influence from those old school Universal Studios horror franchises, and serving up a modern spin all its own to freshen things up nicely. Mark Dacascos as a super Vampire, with lightening quick abilities and the manoeuvres of a stealth bat, hams it up wondrously. It’s kinda insane, but smile inducing nonetheless, to see a dude of the un-dead prance about like P-Diddy, whilst popping a kung fu cap into the carcass’s moving without a pulse. Dacascos is still in great shape and even gets to sword fight here as he strives to ward off his opposing vampire brethren, and empire destroying human Slayers, in order to revive his Queen Lilith.
All involved seem to be having a blast with this well delivered production. Rhett Giles just about steals the show as he owns the role of Jacob Van Helsing. His comfortable stance in the shoes of Dracula’s descendent nemesis is perhaps due to him playing the character before. Giles’ Jacob Van Helsing also appeared in the earlier vampire outing Dracula’s Curse (2006) from the same writer Leigh Scott. Rhett also donned the Van Helsing mantle back in 2005 in Way Of The Vampire. By now Rhett Giles must be a real pain in the neck for vampire kind !.
For a lower budgeted movie Wolvesbayne makes the most of what it is afforded. The under use of silly CGI is noticeable, and the preference on good old fashioned creativity of the tangible kind is most welcome. Neat touches such as purpose made stiletto heals as stakes and quick fire dialogue all add to the enjoy ability. This then is a big Fun old school horror updating that works terrifically well for the late night TV slots and DVD rentals alike. Get your teeth into it soon before the Van Helsing of video dispatches it beyond.

Review Paul Cooke / Source: NTSC Region 1 DVD

Wolvesbayne (2009)
Director Griff Furst
With Jeremy London, Christy Carlson Romano,
Mark Dacascos, Yancy Butler,
Rhett Giles & Stephanie Honore

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Halloween 'Haul' Of Horror

Timo Rose & Andreas Schnaas
Creators Of Chaos Combine

The likelihood of an iconic horror Big Screen face off between Jason / Freddy & Ash, from The Evil Dead, is sadly only something the fans can enjoy in comic book format. Perhaps the most likely and anticipated coming together is of two of Germany's two horror goremeisters, Andreas Schnaas and Timo Rose. Anticipate no more, it is happening right now !.

Andreas Schnaas' gore gannet Karl The Butcher returns to square off against Timo Rose's bloody big blade wielding outhouse Axe. Yes indeed two behemoths of 'B' movie bloodletting are coming together to vent their spurious spleens upon each other, in a post apocalyptic future where even Mad Max would cower in the corner. Does it get any bigger than this for low budget brilliance !?.

This will be the second collaboration between Rose and Schnaas in a very short period of time. Look out too for Unrated: The Movie, which also appears to have an appearance by Andreas as Karl The Butcher. Will this have a cameoing scene setting for the colossal clash with Axe to follow ?. The possibilities are mouth watering for tongue in cheek gore loving expectant fans everywhere.

Now when can we expect an Uncut / English friendly DVD release of Andreas Schnaas' Knights Templar horror homage Don't Wake The Dead ?. Long overdue a proper release for the global horror hungry Schnaas following.

Expect both Unrated: The Movie and Karl The Butcher Vs Axe in 2010. Here's hoping they become readily available in Unrated format sooner rather than later. Thanks to both Andy and Timo for letting loose their most outrageous creations upon a movie plain that could see two careers finally take off together in a very big way. Don the masks and prepare the axe for bloody battle !.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Halloween 'Haul' Of Horror

Juk-Eum-Yi Soop
Dark Forest
aka Woods Of Death
(2006/South Korea)

Sown from the seed of Sam Raimi, and nurtured by The Happening of M. Night Shyamalan, Korean cinema lets loose the Evil forces of nature upon those that dare trespass upon the Dark Forest.

Five young adults venture off for a camping trip, leaving the city behind them and getting back to nature. The lead female is overcoming the recent death of her sister, who just so happened to pass on the family heritage of psychic foresight. The ability to have a glimpse into recent events happened, or very soon to be, by having physical contact with a person or associative item. Freakier than a Carrie (1976) curtain call, and when death lurks just around the corner perhaps ignorance is bliss !.

When their preferred passage is blocked the pre twenties teens take a detour, ignoring the sign posted advice to turn back to the main road. They arrive at the parameter of a cordoned off forest, its boundary fenced and a sturdy steel gate padlocking it off from the outside world. Another vehicle is parked adjacent to the fence, its occupants no where to be seen. Taking their predecessors non appearance as an indication that they are beyond the fence having fun, as an invitation to do the same, the fun seeking five ignore the no trespass warning and cross on over into the woodlands.
All those familiar with The Evil Dead (1981) will know what to expect from here on in, and its kinda like a kid in a Korean candy store unearthing a late night treat that no one outside of its home production is privy to. Sure its shot on digital video and not film, but that just adds to the thrill factor of unearthing this well conceived little homage. It has enough in its engine to drive home the goodies all its own as well. This isn’t just a brazen rerun of the Raimi cult classic, but a modern slant with some fresh jumpy juice added to the mix.

There is nothing new about no cell phone reception in the area and one of the parties twisting her ankle to slow the progress of the group, but it’s the linear story that takes its straightforward premise from start to satisfying end that keeps it well worth watching. More than a healthy smattering of blood spurts and arterial sprays as the kills come help of course. Human possession by the unseen evil of the forest can only of course be dealt with by dismemberment and a good old fashioned shovel to the throat region, deftly applying weight behind a downward thrust foot, heads things off nicely !. With a quirkiness that hit’s the right note subtly rendered early on, listen out for a news item on the radio as the protagonists journey to their destination, that hit’s a fun fan with an ironic splatter post script, these Woods Of Death could well branch out into a mainstream remake.

It’s a basic plot and the premise is pre-emptive, yet the sauce on the movie meat is tasty enough, and the ending has a surprise bite to it to satisfy the horror hungry brigade.

Review Paul Cooke / Source: Region 3 NTSC DVD

Dark Forest (2006)
Director Kim Jeong Min
With So Yi Hyun, Lee Jong Hyuk

Monday, 19 October 2009

Autumn Seasoned Zombies


‘‘We have no future. Our past is meaningless’’

It’s Autumn, the leaves are falling to the ground, but so too are the people !. An epidemic hits mankind without warning. A viral postman delivering its packages of death, stamping an indelible mark upon those susceptible. Its visible toll, blood coughed up from a congested thorax invaded by its invisible parasitic host. Unseen, uninvited, and unilaterally devastating in its deliverance of death.
The streets are littered with dead bodies, shops and homes are open coffins for the deceased. Those uninfected huddle together in groups, like homeless people seeking shelter from the elements. Solace is taken in the suffering of others bereft of the comforts taken away from them in a weapon less war. There is no electricity, no commonplace everyday commodities, only a confused state of union.
Dexter Fletcher stars as Michael, a school teacher who watched in sheer horror as his classroom students convulsed before him, with him helpless to save them. He is now one of the few rational individuals amongst the growing mass of paranoia, tangibly festering throughout his fellow survivors. The inner compunction of man to self destruct is all too evident, and Michael knows he has to get out of town with anyone he can trust and rely upon who is willing to go with him.
A couple of days after the living drop dead they rise up again, awakened yet unaware, walking but without purpose. They stagger around, oblivious to their surroundings. Dead to the world, like junkies tripping in a world only they can comprehend. Initially they pose no threat to the living. The greatest posed threat now is that of the reanimated carriers harbouring disease and decay. Their rotting flesh decomposing into the atmosphere, swept along by the wind in the air that is inhaled by all those still breathing !.

As arguments rear, and an hierarchy is not far from establishing itself amongst the unorganised people, Michael and four others separate off from the group and drive off in search of a safer haven. The small band soon becomes a group of three, leaving Michael with Emma and Carl to fend for themselves away from the conflicting group back in town. They come upon an isolated farm house and decide it is a good place to hold up in. A place to take stock of events and formulate a plan of survival. A residence that has a generator for power, and the amenities to enable them to self sustain beyond the regular tinned supplies. Winter is coming, and the cold hard reality of what has happened to the world hits them. The dead outnumber the living and just like themselves they are now showing signs of survival instincts. Their instincts seem to be returning, and the shambling stumbling steps are becoming progressively more purposeful. The three companions soon recognise that it is not just the impending elements of the cold that they need to keep out, but the chilling realisation that these risen corpses are now the living dead !.
Faithfully following the David Moody book Autumn may well be the most realistic interpretation of what a Zombie would be like in its inceptive form. A reanimated husk of a being no longer self aware of its existence. No more than a bumbling exterior shell without a soul. An interesting premise, yet ultimately unrewarding for the traditionalist Zombie loving film fan raised on Romero, and feasting on Fulci intestinal film fortitude !. The theme here then with Autumn is most definitely off kilter as far as the gore and chunk blowing goes. It is, however, an intelligent piece of story telling in this highly over saturated genre. What lets it down more, for any self professing Zombie gore follower, is the real lack of obvious budget and its repetitive sequences that play out with unforgiving annoyance. To view a set up twice from perhaps different angle is one thing but to show the same driving scene layout on four occasions is really aggravating to patrons laying down their hard earned cash to be entertained.

Where Autumn picks up plus points is in its attention to make up, which for Zombie effects is well done and not skimped upon even for the back ground players. The air of global doom and gloom is a realistic one as the every day resources we all take for granted are here laid to waste. The protagonists are truly outnumbered, and have to contend with more than just a physical threat.
The performance of Dexter Fletcher is head and shoulders above anyone else in the cast. He gives a professional and consummate recital that adds a believable quality to proceedings. His characterisation of Michael is the best reason to invest your time in the film.
If you are looking for visceral entertainment then Autumn is not the Zombie fest that you are doubtlessly used to. It is a sombre interpretation of a world rendered impotent by a long overdue assault by nature against its rapacious inhabitants, man !. In an ironic twist of events it is its very same inhabitants that rise up once more, like puppets of nature, to reap from its remaining living counterparts that which has been ravaged for so long, with unrepentant extreme prejudice.
For those seeking something different from the plethora of Zombie films, Autumn is a journal for the minor league inquisitive, and those with a want to expand upon their incursions into bold film making. Rewarding enough for those seeking a story to screen nigh on prose perfect visual narrative, but all too benign a prospect for the masses who drool over the mighty entrails strewn across the screen gone before.

David Carradine makes for a creditable eccentric cameo in the movie, locking himself away from the outside world where the Zombies roam, only to paradoxically seal himself in with his mom, as he affectionately refers to her, who is past her live by date and doing a turn on The Exorcist (1973) Regan's character that will turn a few heads for sure !. As a tribute to one of his final on screen performances David Carradine, even in such a low budget performance, shows the star quality that kept him in the movies as a top star for such a very welcome duration.
Conclusively, just as the Zombies in the movie are referred to as Walkers, this is a plodding production that although creditable in its intelligent narrative is too heavy handed to garner any great box office. This Autumn sadly Falls short.

Footnote: Big dues to Mr. Steve Genier, of Cinema Nocturna, for his boundless enthusiasm and contribution to the production of Autumn. Steve is amongst the end credits as Videographer Behind The Scenes. Congratulations Steve for fulfilling one of lifes dream assignments.

Review Paul Cooke

Autumn (2009)
Director Steven Rumbelow
With Dexter Fletcher, Dickon Tolson, Lana Kamenov,
Anton Brajek & David Carradine

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Uwe Boll 'Nams It Up

Tunnel Rats

(2008 / Canada / Germany)

‘‘I wouldn’t worry about your mom killing you tomorrow !’’

War is Hell, and Uwe Boll rides through its purgatory gates astride a steed snorting Napalm. Beelzebub bearing down upon his incarnation of the battleground of Vietnam, neatly dress-aged in South Africa to recreate the landscape of an uncompromising environment, where mankind had to experience one of humanities darkest days !.

Even the staunchest of Boll bashers cannot berate the accomplished final product on display here. No sensationalised propaganda, nor egotistical appropriation of pay cheques to the detriment of delivering what both film financiers and film goers anticipate. This then is dedicated film making. Budget Boll is at his best making the most of what is available without just serving up ladles of alleged fantastical Nazi gold to glaze a turd. One that many a fee festering cohort use him for in furthering themselves in the ways of private health plans, and Californian neighbours who pimp their rides off the hard sweated blood savings of regular folk just looking for honest entertainment !.

Stand tall, and stand proud Uwe, as with 1968: Tunnel Rats you have delivered a dark day of reckoning with shining aplomb. Much in the same way he re-stoked the Eighties embers of horror with the startling grim horror that is Seed (2007) here he has applied the grittiness of the War Action movie from the same period style that the Italians did so well. Perhaps then that as in recent years with the likes of Fabrizio De Angelis and Antonio Margheriti being re-appreciated for their work twenty years on, the time of Uwe Boll will find a place in the fan base of movie lovers in the future, free to view such films on merit rather than by blind prejudice !?.

The movie focuses on a corps of new recruits joining camp on duty in Vietnam, assigned to flushing out the Vietcong from their maze of lethally trap infested underground tunnels. Under the leadership of Lieutenant Hollowborn, as played by now regular Boll recognisable Michael Paré, these grunts must grow up very quickly and become accustomed to their surroundings in order to just live long enough to see the next days dawn. Hollowborn’s rules are simple, kill all of the Vietcong before they kill you !. Any disagreements within the ranks and he dishes out a lesson in respect, by donning boxing gloves and punching out the lights of any dissenters. From Streets Of Fire (1984) to this jungle heat Michael Paré has re-established himself as a sound character actor, and here as a seasoned army man he puts in a very creditable cameo.

It would have been easy for Director Boll to have simply glorified the American soldiers storm trooping the jungle and wiping out the evil Vietcong, but instead he amps up the interesting factor by portraying both sides of events. Encapsulating the horror of war from two perspectives, ultimately each as nihilistic as the other. The young American soldiers driven on by their call to arms to protect and serve their country against the communist threat, and the Vietcong savagely stood firm with stories of their women raped and slaughtered by the arrogant invaders of their lands.

Incredibly the entirety of the movie pretty much takes place during a twenty four hour period. The new troop of young soldiers arrives to witness the immediate reality of their situation as Lieutenant Hollowborn orders a captured Vietcong hung at height from a tree. Steely eyed and staunch in his vocal order to see the execution through, as the enemy sniper was responsible for killing a multitude of his men, the outcome is violently abrupt and visually unpleasant in its finality. It is but an entrée for the blood and visceral carnage to follow, as served up by German goremeister Olaf Ittenbach. Another of Uwe Boll’s creative regular entourage now, and welcomingly so as Ittenbach knows how to deliver realistic gory effects that sell a scene without wincingly poor CGI used by most in modern film.

Once the American soldiers uncover the Vietcong underground labyrinths, and delve down into them, things get quickly out of control and the body count mounts up like an all night showing of the ‘Friday The Thirteenth’ movies. Down in the dark depths of the claustrophobic tunnels the Vietcong have the advantage, and the traps that are laden throughout are cruel and unforgiving to even the most experienced. Body piercing bamboo spikes, wired explosives, water traps are all on the menu as the American soldiers press on deeper into the maze in order to kill the enemy. Above, below and around every corner is another surprise and even if the traps are sprung a Vietcong aggressor awaits in the dark to attack at close quarter with a bladed knife. Most startling death befalls an unfortunate American soldier, who breaches the tunnel system and briefly gets to see the light of day, popping his head up out of an escape hole only to be met by a speared bamboo shoot that punctures his neck from entry point to exit point, making for a jaw dropping visual that delivers the swiftest tonsillectomy ever !.

As Hollowborn’s men pursue ‘Charlie’ underground the Vietcong counter attack above as they take the American encampment by surprise under cover of darkness. Bullets fly along with bloody squib bodies as casualties soon mount on both sides, but it is the Vietcong that are best prepared for battle. Michael Paré gets his moment to eat bullets and spit blood before meeting his ‘B’ movie brethren beyond this life.

Big ups then for Director Uwe Boll for showing what he truly is capable of as he produces a platter of truly palatable film making. A cast of virtual unknowns amidst a South African setting that flawlessly doubles for the jungle of Vietnam, all delivering workmanlike performances at the behest of a Director who clearly wants to produce a solid piece of Action cinema from an era that delivered many a great film. The outcome is definitely worth your time.

There’s no Hollywood bravado nor happy rainbow coloured ending, just a great cluster bomb conclusion with a bleak resolution that accentuates the futility of war. From start to finish Boll’s anti war exclamation mark kicks like a kangaroo having its nut sack attacked by fire ants !.

Review Paul Cooke / Source PAL Region 2 UK DVD

1968: Tunnel RatsDirector: Uwe Boll
With: Michael Paré, Wilson Bethel, Adrian Collins,
Scott Cooper, Mitch Eakins, Eric Eidem,
Brandon Fobbs, Jane Le, Scott Ly, Rocky Marquette,
Garikayi Mutambirwa & Nate Parker