Saturday, April 23, 2011

Next MHFS Screening: 'Long Weekend' & 'Body Melt'

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Morning, cretins!

A neat little treat this month for all you local genre fans: The Melbourne Horror Film Society will be screening an Aussie fright DOUBLE FEATURE, consisting of the original superbly chilling Long Weekend followed by the undeniably awesome bio-horror cheese-fest Body Melt! In addition to the aforementioned features there will also be an exclusive showing of The Last Mile - a great little short film by local emerging talent Shannon George. Oh yes, it'll be a night of BBQ and blood sauce aplenty, provided you can handle it.

So come on down to 1000 £ Bend (361 Little Lonsdale St, Melb) this Wednesday at 7:30pm and join me and all the other maniacs in a healthy dose of home grown gore.

Hope to see you there!

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Short Review: 'Mirrors 2' (2010)

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In 2008, French “splat pack” filmmaker import Alexandre Aja directed the Kiefer Sutherland horror vehicle Mirrors, a supernatural tale of a murderous spirit that was loosely inspired by the Korean film Into the Mirror. Despite some jaw-dropping (literally) gore sequences the film was almost laughably bad, largely due to copious glaring inconsistencies within the screenplay and a ridiculously over-the-top performance by Sutherland, who seemed to be channelling his character Jack Bauer from 24 on more than a number of occasions.

Three years later arrives this straight-to-video sequel by director Victor Garcia, the man responsible for the god awful Return to House on Haunted Hill and the upcoming Hellraiser: Revelations. Like the original, the film is still backed by Twentieth Century Fox, however after viewing it becomes quite clear no one behind the making of Mirrors 2 really gave much of a damn about the movie they were making.

After his girlfriend dies in a car crash, Max (Nick Stahl) is understandably depressed and seeks the counseling of a professional psychiatrist. His father (William Katt) offers him a job at the Mayflower department store as a security guard and Max accepts, albeit hesitantly. Soon Max begins seeing glimpses of a young female apparition trying to communicate with him from beyond the store’s mirrors. When people connected to the company’s operations start winding up dead, Max finds himself teaming up with local waitress Elizabeth (Emmanuelle Vaugier) in a search to find her missing sister and solve the mystery of the Mayflower mirrors once and for all.

It’s safe to say that right from the get go Mirrors 2 doesn’t take any risks with regard to its plotting, acting, twists, turns or anything that could potentially set it apart from your average horror cash-in. In fact, the film is so formulaic in structure that one could even run the mistake of confusing it for a midday movie with gore. Despite a fleeting reference to its murders, screenwriter Matt Venne’s script makes no connection to the original film whatsoever - at least regard to story or mythology – which in a way is perhaps a wise decision, as Aja’s film continuously broke its own internal logic to the point where it practically self-imploded from stupidity. Funnily enough, even though the sequel’s clear and uncomplicated approach to the material make it an easier movie to understand than its predecessor the result is more yawn educing than it has any right to be. A case of in-name-only recognition? Truthfully, I wouldn’t be surprised.

With regard to the Mirrors 2 cast, Stahl’s languid performance feels more like a reflection (no pun intended) of the
inherent banality of the movie than an honest embodiment of his character’s inner turmoil. William Katt slums it all the way through also, as does Vaugier in an utterly insipid portrayal of ‘grief’ that is likely to do her career no favors. Even the victims in the film phone in their pain like it were a rehearsal so it’s difficult to highlight anything positive about a film that takes the expression ‘by the numbers’ as a phrase of pride.

One could argue that going into Mirrors 2 viewers are automatically setting themselves up for disappointment, and perhaps that’s true. However, one thing any filmmaker should at least attempt to do when making a follow up to a moderately successful horror film is to inject it with a healthy dose of enthusiasm, or at the very least conjure up some creative kills for the gorehound demographic. Sadly, neither of these things are attempted here, making this one mirror that should have stayed broken.

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Dir: Victor Garcia
Writer: Matt Venne
Cast: Nick Stahl, William Katt, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Evan Jones
Country: USA
Run Time: 90mins
Rating: MA15+

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sydney Film Festival 2011: 'Freak Me Out'!

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Evening, cretins!

As many of you may know, this year marks the Sydney Film Festival's 57th year in operation. A cinematic smorgasbord for all ages and tastes, this superb festival continues to offer up some of the finest examples in film expression from around the world and remains one of the largest and longest running in existence to this day. Also, if it's fright fare you're after, the SFF has got you covered.

Case in point: the 'Freak Me Out' line up. This year's genre selection features some of the most bizarre and eclectic titles seen in the festival's history, not to mention some of the most diverse.

The titles announced so far are as follows:

Mutant Girls Squad (2010)
Director: Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tak Sakaguchi
Starring: Yumi Sugimoto, Yuko Takayama, Suzuka Morita
Country: Japan

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You’ve never seen a coming-of-age story like this before. On her sixteenth birthday, mousey schoolgirl Rin discovers she’s part of a mutant clan at war with humans. Suddenly sprouting a Freddy Krueger-like hand and an attitude to match, Rin slips into a spangly silver jumpsuit and joins a fighting force of foxy mutant femmes in a blood-drenched battle for nothing less than the survival of her species. Non-stop comic book carnage doesn’t get much better than this.

Visit the official website.

Troll Hunter (2010)
Director: Andre Ovredal
Starring: Otto Jespersen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Morck
Country: Norway

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The legendary Scandinavian monster is the star of this scary and funny conspiracy chiller. Presented as surviving footage shot by a student documentary crew, Andre Øvredal’s nail-biter goes deep into the woods with Norway’s secretive Troll Security Service and weaves a complex and surprisingly touching story around the endangered creatures. The Blair Witch Project may have done it first, but The Troll Hunter does it best.

Visit the official website.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010)
Directors: Eli Craig, Morgan Jurgenson
Starring: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden
Country: Canada

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In this rib-tickling reversal of spam-in-a-cabin horror movie conventions, Tucker and best buddy Dale are kind-hearted, innocent hillbillies. But try telling that to the college kids camping near their shack in the Appalachians. Convinced they’ve stumbled into The Hills Have Eyes territory, the hysterical visitors decide to eliminate their perceived enemies, with hilariously gruesome results.

Visit the official website.

This year's SFF kicks off on June 8th and concludes on June 19th. The full program will be announced by May 11th - with more freak out films to be added!

For booking details, ticket prices and more information go to sff.org.au.

Short Review: 'Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet' (2009)

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Urban legends have offered our modern society more than just sleepless nights. They have provided us with a sense of context for the world in which we live; a way to understand and come to terms with our most basic of fears so that one can distinguish between what is pure fantasy and what is reality. And while that may sound like a rather pretentious statement consider for a moment one of the main purposes of a horror story is to relieve one’s inherent anxieties about the faceless evils of the world at large. Fictitious they may be, urban legends are far more than simply popular entertainment for the kids.

Then again, Hollywood has always had a knack for exploiting the printed page for its own macabre purposes. Drawing loosely upon a series of real life slayings that occurred in Long Island, New York in 1978, director Frank Sabatella takes the horrors of the real world and transposes them with the over-the-top theatrics of an 80s slasher film and a supernatural-esque tale of revenge to create Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet. But is this an urban legend fright flick worth reading over a campfire in the woods at midnight? I wish I could say yes, however this yawner is more suited to a fluorescent-lit lounge room heated by a gas radiator.

After killing her parents in a fit of unexplainable rage, disturbed teenager Mary ‘Hatchet’ is committed to an insane asylum for immediate treatment. When she is raped by an orderly and her baby taken away by the authorities, the volatile young woman sets off on another rampage, killing everyone in sight before being gunned down by police on her way out of the building. Years later a group of ill fated teens haul up at the same asylum to celebrate ‘blood night’ - the town’s annual recognition of the horrific events – for a non-stop indulgence of booze and babes. But is the murderous Mary really dead? And what’s more, how would she approve of the festivities being held in her honor?

Many horror movies have tried their hand at incorporating renowned urban legends into their storylines (eg, Urban Legend, The Hitcher, Timber Falls, etc) and some have proven more successful than others. Unfortunately, screenwriter Elke Blasi’s initially promising script (from an idea by Sabatella) is quickly marred via a by-the-numbers slasher structure that only loosely integrates the effective back story established in its opening, resulting in a missed opportunity that could have made the film a minor hit. Sabatella’s direction, while visually athletic and slick in all the right places, is often a little too juvenile for its own good and pushes what could have been a straight-ahead horror tale into a far more comedic realm, thus eliminating any suspense created prior to the kills kicking in. Slasher films in on of themselves are fine but Blood Night’s decision to resort to the trappings of the sub-genre’s well worn formula in order to tell its story somewhat undermines an otherwise appealing premise.

With regard to casting, Blood Night also hits a strangely underwhelming wall, despite featuring two sizeable genre vets in the form of Bill Mosely as a cemetery caretaker and Danielle Harris is a surprise partygoer. Neither actor is especially convincing in their performance, nor do they ever appear particularly concerned or terrified by any of the events unfolding throughout the film. A troubled production perhaps? Who knows. I hate to use the term ‘phone in’ but it’s hard to think of any other words that could fit the bill in this instance.

With an initially well thought out prior-evil setting up its feet, only to have them swiftly severed by a subsequently feeble approach, Blood Night is a prime example of a gnarly concept emasculated by short-sighted screenwriting. In the end, if you’re looking for a mildly entertaining albeit ultimately ridiculous slasher flick that piles on the T&A and torn torsos and doesn’t care if the identity of its killer is one of the most ludicrous in the genre’s history, then this monotonous monster is for you.

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Dir: Frank Sabatella
Writer:
Elke Blasi
Cast:
Bill Mosely, Danielle Harris, Nate Dushku, Samantha Facchi

Country:
USA
Run Time:
83mins
Rating:
R18+