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Friday, November 26, 2010

Monsters (2010) - Horror Monster

Monsters (2010) - " Six years ago... NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. A space probe was launched to collect samples but broke up during reentry over Mexico. Soon after new life forms began to appear and half the country was quarantined as an infected zone. Today The Mexican and US Military still struggle to contain the creatures."
So starts the 2010 low budget drama, road movie, science fiction, love story Monsters. In the story a photo journalist Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is coerced by his editor to collect the paper owner's daughter Samantha (Whitney Able) and get her away from the danger of the infected zone. Her hotel has been attacked and Andrew asks about looking for her. The monsters, large air squid seem to be spreading and the military seems to be losing ground to them. They are not coordinated but more seem like giants migratory animals. They move about and interact but are so large often will kill people in their passing. When the two people do find each other the plan is to take the train to the coast where Samantha can board a boat back to the United States. Andrew is hoping that in their travels he may still get that good photo of the creatures he has not been able to get. We see on signs that northern Mexico is all infected zone. Northern Mexico as an infected zone with the US trying to keep the creatures out, and they caused it through their own actions. This all seem so familiar somehow?

So Samantha and Andrew board the slow train to the coast with the sounds of battle nearby to indicate they are near the southern border of the zone. Time is running out with the zone moving further to the south so they have just 48 hours to get there before that port is no longer useful. They start the trip and get to know each other while the train chugs alone. When it is turned back by the military they are still 100 kilometers from the coast and so decide to disembark and make their way on foot. We get them bonding until they get to the port. Their the timing is bad and the officials corrupt making an exit impossible. Then on top of it after spending a very cool night at the Day of the Dead celebrations, Samantha is resisting his advances since she has as fiancee waiting in the states. He after being turned down finds a local to wet his willy and ends up getting their passports and money stolen. Options are gone now the two decide to hire men with their remaining cash to take them across the infected zone on foot. Like many an illegal immigrant they are going to traverse northern Mexico and slip into the United States.
The journey is really well done from the boat up river, we have close encounters with the giant beasts, see their destruction and share the Americans fears as they are lead through this dangerous land by armed gunmen. We get to see the way the creature procreate and learn some of their spawning patterns.
When the main crisis hits the group it puts our couple in a desperate place where they must rely on each other to get through to the border. It is a struggle but when the large border wall is reached the area is abandoned. The battle it appears has moved north into Texas.
This is a very cool movie, with just enough special effects to please. It is not an action packed thrill ride like District 9. It is a story of two people on a trip that changes them profoundly and allows them to find each other. Writer, director Gareth Edwards works wonders shooting non actors in their homes and businesses, in parks and on streets and works those interactions into his science fiction tale. The actors working with minimal script give honest and clear performances. Whitney and Scoot dating at the time the shoot started are now married and in interviews talked about the continuous shooting while traveling with Edwards through Mexico and Costa Rica capturing the footage. How many times innocuous answers to questions about the government or a recent storms were edited into the movie to fit the alien battle scenario. They talk about the incredible effort put in by Edwards to get all the visuals for this film, including some shooting in Galveston TX after a hurricane wiped out most of the community.
This film is a success that shows that good movie making does not take hundreds of people and millions of dollars. It take a story, skill and lots of heart. This film has that.
Rating (7.2) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system I would say Go see it if you can.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Catching up a bit...

Oh the life of a blogging fool. I have been out of the writing loop for a bit here, is it too many TV shows? Is it laziness? Oh I don't know, but this catch all entry is too get me back up to speed and back on track.

On the first Wednesday of each month the great horror website All Things Horror puts on a horror movie night in the screening room of the Somerville Theater. This month I attended and got to see some very good horror shorts and a feature.
Fallow (2009) - Dave Alexander wrote and directed this tale of a farming community that has a unique way of getting good crops. We see something is not right in the first scene with the nicely done effect of a stillborn calf. The history lesson of the erea brings us up to speed with the story of the community and how they learned to appease the land with sacrifices. Cut to present time and a pregnant woman is sharing a meal with a farm family. Things are going along and we learn she is a surrogate for the son of the family's baby. Only we learn that she is not going to give up the child to them. Their sacrifice baby is going to suddenly be gone so the family drugs the woman. She wakes in a field surrounded by farmer men. I won't give away the twist because this is a nice watch and you should go see it. It is a well put together short with wonderful music by the Creaking Tree String Quartet.
The next Short was a fast paced and interestingly filmed zombie piece called the The Laundromat, at least I think. What was nice about this is it takes the approach of only show what you need to to get the story across. We see the couple struggling to get to the location the woman (Mandy Magnan) and an injured man. The woman of the tries to deal with the guys wounds and finds a really creative way to stop the bleeding. The rest of the show is zombies closing in and the guy turning and how the woman tries to escape the situation. Quick and well done by Dave Jacombs Jr..
Beating Hearts (2010) - A wonderfully dark short by Matthew Garrett about a relationship that should never be and the horrific turn it takes. Disturbing in content and very well executed, starting at the first scene where the girl (Gianna Bruzzese) watches her mother sleep, alllthe way to the resolution this one has you cringing.
The feature of the night is another Matt Garrett film called Morris County which is a somewhat dark episodic three stories capturing the darkness behind a normal middle class community. Dealing with murder, rape, closeted gays and societal expectations and the neglected forgotten elderly, their is a real profound sadness for the truly messed up lives. A worthy movie but it could have used a bit more connection through the stories to tie it all together. There was a nice Q&A with Matt Garrett.

Also I have watched a movie that will not get a review at this time. Predators (2010) was very enjoyable for what it was.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nightmare Castle (1965) - Horror Ghost

Nightmare Castle (1965) - Amanti d'oltretomba is an Italian made ghost revenge story with the wonderful Barbara Steele in the lead as both Muriel Arrowsmith and later her sister Jenny. In this film Muriel who is married to Dr. Steven Arrowsmith (Paul Muller) but is having an affair with the stable guy David (Rik Battaglia). When Steven discovers them things go horribly wrong. There is this great scene where Stephen is pretending to go on a business trip and leaves the house. Muriel has a unique way of letting David no the coast is clear, she plays a particular song on the piano. This song becomes a theme in the film, the music by Ennio Morricone is excellent. A prolific and I can say famous movie composer Morricone is known for other features such as, "A Fistful of Dollars", " The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", "L 'anticristo", "Exorcist II: The Heretic", "The Mission", and "The Untouchables". Here the music is just so well done and ties a "not the best film" together smoothly.

So Muriel and David go to the green house for a bit of hanky panky until confronted by Steven who circled back to the house. Steven knocks them out and when they wake they are chained to a wall. The sadistic husband tortures them some talking about how they will pay for a long time for the disloyalty. We learn she is the one in the family with money and she tells him she changed her will so her sister is her heir instead of him. Steven not to be persuaded attempts to bargain with her but she will never agree. There is nothing left to do but torture the two to death. Did I mention he is a sadistic bastard. He sure is with his acid drips and electric beds. So Muriel is dead and you will be thinking boy he just screwed himself. Strangely although later it makes sense he takes the hearts of the two and puts them away in his lab for safe keeping.

He set up catching them with the help of the old maid Solange (Helga Line) and his plan with her was to give her youth again and fuck her I think. Or was it to fuck her and give her youth again. He is a scientist after all and that is what they do. Anyway they together have a plan to use the sister, drive her insane or get her to give up her fortune to them. The sister has been under the care of a doctor and so they think these things are possible. Steven goes to fetch her from the asylum.

Muriel is cremated and become potting soil for a plant, I am not sure what happened to David. When Steven and Jenny arrive it is again Barbara Steele this time as a blond. Solange is still the maid but much younger and more attractive. To her surprise, Steven has found a way to get what he wants. He married Jenny before returning. Since we do not really know how much time has passed or how the authorities let it be that Muriel is dead, we just have to accept that this is all okay. It is just how it is.
Steven now has the plan to make his new wife insane by slowly loosening her mind with some sort of drug he is going to drop in her drinks. When she is committed he will have control of her money and the now young Solange to screw every night, seems like a plan.

Then the movie leaves us thinking, Jenny has some strange experiences and we are left to decide what is going on. Are the drugs she is being given making her hallucinate? Is there a ghost in the house trying to warn her of something? or Is Steven setting up some stuff to drive her to crazy a bit faster.We can eliminate the last thing soon enough when Jenny finds Muriel's Music, she starts to play and suddenly she is playing as if she knows it by heart. On top of that she is drinking alcohol, the same kind her sister liked. She seems to be possessed. Solange and Steven in the other room get suspicious when the playing stops and go looking for her. Her scream brings them to the cellars where she faints in front of them. So their plan is working and since they did not see her in the possessed state they believe the drugs are doing the job. She can't remember anything from the incident and Steven reassures her there are no spirits in the house.
He invites her doctor to the house to hopefully get her committed as soon as possible. Dr Dereck Joyce (Lawrence Clift) works with her trying to get her to remember things only Muriel would know. She remembers in the greenhouse the scene of Muriel and David in the beginning of the film.
When Jenny again hears the beating heart before an episode she won't remember. Good thing too because she so comes on to Derek. Meanwhile we learn that the work Steven is doing in his lab has to do with keeping Solange young by transfusing her with his former wife's blood. But it is not working as long as it did before and the maid wants Jenny's blood for the procedure. Not wanting to give too much more of the film away from here it really does turn into a ghost story. The Spirits of the dead and the tell-tale hearts kept in the lab do their best to foil the plans of the evil doers. There are some really decent special effects for such an old film and the outcome was satisfying enough.
Rating (5.8) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz rating system I say Rent it!

Bride of Frankenstein (1935) - Horror Monster

Bride of Frankenstein (1935) - Procrastination... for over a week I have been putting off writing about anything on this blog even though I have seen several things. After a while the backlog gets big enough that it seems like a chore to get started. But start I must and here is the movie review that has been waiting the longest for publishing. Originally conceived as a black comedy James Whale who directed the first Frankenstein, took a written, rework and rewritten script and created a mess of a movie. The film begins with a strange scene where Frankenstein book author Mary Shelley explains to Lord Byron and her husband that the story of Frankenstein in the book is not the end of the tale. She launches into the next piece and we pick it up in the film.
The story starts moments after the end of Frankenstein, with the village people up at the burning windmill at the top of the mountain. It has burned to the ground and the villagers are collecting the apparently dead body of Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive). There are a hilarious character in the crowd we learn later is Henry's housekeeper Minnie (Una O'Conner). When everyone is gone only Maria's dad (Maria is the little girl drown by the monster in the first movie) and his wife still grieving over the loss of their daughter. He wants to see the body of the monster to know that it is dead. He falls into the smoldering remains of the windmill landing in a flooded cellar. How so much water got into the cellar of a windmill on the top of a mountain was never explained. The Monster is there having survived the fire, come and chokes and drowns him. How cruel to go out just like his daughter, then the monster climbs out of the hole. Again we see some of the comedy aspects of the film with the wife not looking putting out her hand to pull the monster up thinking it is her husband. He responds with not a thank you grunt but throws her to her death down the hole. Minnie who is still milling about (milling he he he) gets to make a great scared face before running off to tell the village the monster is alive.
Henry is found to be alive when Elizabeth (Valarie Hobson) runs to see him and he is nursed back to health. She works in the movie as sort of a religious counterbalance to the men who are intrigued by the idea of creating life. Being a woman she can already create life so they must seen a bit silly to her. The bulk of the story now starts in earnest with the arrival of Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) who has also been working to create life and wants Henry and he to get together and make something special. Pretorius has created miniature people that he keeps in jars, a King, queen, bishop, devil , ballerina and a mermaid. It is funny and incredibly strange to see this seen. Sure he can grow miniatures but he can't create a large size. His hope is Henry and he can create a body and he can grow a brain to create a new creature. A woman creature. Henry for the time being wants nothing to do with it.
There is a bunch of getting the first monster to Pretorius scenes where the we see him wander the forest and be repelled by his own image, is too frightening to people, and eventually gets captured. There is this great crucifix imagery that got by the censors of the day when the captured monster is being loaded on the cart. Why is he captured who knows because when they chain him in a cell he simply breaks the chain and now with superhuman strength bust the door out and runs out of the village terrifying the townsfolk. I think they were going to show the monster would never be understood by normal folk. Then while wandering it meets the blind violin playing old guy. That guy heavy on his religious kick takes in the monster and teaches him to talk in a limited manner. Things seem to have changed in the monsters favor. He has a friend who is not afraid of him because he can't see him. He is fed and loves to listen to music.
Unfortunately a couple hunters come across the cabin and start a commotion over the monster. The house ends up on fire and Frankenstein Monster is on the run again. Chased into a cemetery by the town folk he hides and then meets Dr. Pretorius, who is there stealing female bodies. They bond and come up with a plan to rope Henry into building a female monster. They kidnap Elizabeth forcing Henry to join them, which he does with gusto. We have the creating the monster scene only with new and exciting looking machines. The storm come up and they are successful. The Monster comes to see the new bride. He says "Friend" and she screams. There is no way she is going to like the monster and he realizes this. In the quickest ending in movie history, Henry and Elizabeth clear out while the monster pulls on lever that destroys the entire lab castle killing himself, the Bride and Dr. Pretorius. Where ending and why would anyone have such a switch?
Rating (4.0) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz system I would still say rent it, we should all have a knowledge of the classics.