Friday, 6 May 2011

The Devil's Tomb

Have you ever come to the end of watching a movie and realised that if someone were to ask you what it were about you probably wouldn't be able to give them a coherent explanation?  This is usually due to either some rather complex plotting or a complete absence of what should be the plot, instead being replaced with some other pointless garbage.  The second explanation is actually a great way to introduce our my next selection, The Devil's Tomb.
From the box art/one sheet this film looks like it could be rather promising; Gooding Jr, Winstone, Perlman and Rollins have all proved their acting metal in my opinion so what could go wrong?  Answer, lots...  A scary amount of lots!

The plot involves an elite team of soldiers going into a underground bunker which leads to an archaeological dig site, they are attempting to rescue a scientist who's daughter (a CIA agent) has recruited their team and is accompanying them on the search.  Now it gets complicated, apparently the dig site is the location of a temple which holds the frozen body of Nephilim; an angel who has been thrown from heaven by God for being a naughty boy... girl... thing.  The scientists are in fact some form of organisation which agree to absorb the spirit of Nephilim to stop it escaping and causing a literal hell on earth, ultimately leading to their death.

As a viewer I would expect a lot of back story and explanation about the crazy apocalyptic alien (yes, it does look like the type of alien even the X-Files would reject for being too obvious) angel, but instead it is all crammed into a few pieces of dialogue, mostly from Rollins who also spends a lot of time with his mouth taped shut which is probably not a coincidence.

Instead the majority of this film is spent on the on the actions of this apparently elite unit, if these guys are elite we should probably give up all hope now; lets just head off to the air raid shelters and stick our heads between our knees because they sure as hell aren't going to leading the charge for salvation.  From their inability to clear a room correctly to their constant need to wander off on their own these guys are easy pickings from the very moment they shut the bunker hatch.

This is problem with The Devil's Tomb, instead of watching the film it turns even the die hard pacifist of a viewer into a shouting critic of the teams military manoeuvres.  Also the film makers have tried to cram so many extra plot points into the last 20 minutes I was left wondering what the hell was going on, there is a completely pointless flashback storyline featured throughout about Gooding Jrs former Captain which was simply building up to explain 10 seconds of the current timeline story!

I could go on about the terribly thought out plot but I'd be here for a long time; lets just say the soldiers are stupid, the religious horror side of things an after thought, and it just all looks cheap right down to the card board sets...  You know it's bad when the actors are running up and down the same set corridor but supposed to be in different locations.
There is definitely a strong cast involved in this film but only Gooding Jr gets any real screen time out of the big names, Perlman appears on monitors for the majority of the film which about sums up his performance which is video called in to the extent that you're bored for him.  Rollins appearance is welcomed comic relief, along side Fobbs (playing the rookie Click); these guys make the film bearable but only just.  A basic script with no suspense means the majority of the lines are predictable and delivered at a plodding pace, with a bit of eye candy for the guys in some random lesbian encounter and the appearance of a naked centrefold model forced in for good measure.

Of course as with any film touted at horror there are obviously going to bloody scenes, these are relatively few and far between although there is a lot of black coloured vomiting and a lovely scene of pus leaking sore licking... that isn't a typo so don't get excited.  The effects are very low budget, lots of bright, bright red blood and brain bits but nothing original or of note, sometimes imaginative character endings can save a film but in this case it's all very run of the mill.  

All in all there is little to redeem this straight to DVD title, even fans of the actors will probably not enjoy this offering and it will be assigned to the "wish I hadn't done that" list for most of its head liners.  I wouldn't bother watching this again and recommend that if you haven't seen it then save your eyes the torture.

The Devil's Tomb

Monday, 2 May 2011


Sorry it has been awhile, life got in the way and I had to put my movie watching in limbo for a few weeks! I'm back now and ready to go...  So on with the blog and today I will be looking at Husk.
Husk starts like any other generic horror film, a group of friends are travelling across what appears to be middle America on some form of group bonding exercise.  An unfortunate accident involving their SUV and a group of crows scoring an epic fail at a game of chicken leaves our characters stranded at the road side surrounded by corn fields, what shall we do now with no mobile coverage and only a lonely looking farmhouse for company?  I know lets split up in typical cast culling style and investigate!

As the friends attempt to extract themselves from their predicament it becomes clear that all is not normal with the farm, abandoned vehicles and a run down excuse for a farmhouse indicate there must be some kind of psycho murderer on the loose...  Because what happens when people live in secluded places like these?  They turn into Leatherface.  Well in Husk this isn't strictly true as it turns out our band of happy stereotypes are being hunted by scarecrows, in a twisted Children Of The Corn fashion our straw based cultists want to kill the flesh people and make them join the collective.

Now this could have been an interesting premise had the makers of this film actually done something with it, instead what starts out as something different and potentially unique turns into another paint by numbers killing of the friends the viewer is just left with the task of working out in what order they are going to die.  There is a back story as to why the scarecrows aren't particularly happy hanging around all day but there's nothing original to see there.  The use of one of the characters as having the ability to "see" the back story unfold in visions is well done, but given his brain dead friends think he's going a bit loony it's never fully utilised to move the film along.

The problem with the plot is the feel of it being unfinished, some actions of the characters are illogical; for example it is explained that whilst one of the recently killed people is upstairs getting their freak on with a hammer, some nails and their fingers the spirit cannot occupy the scarecrows in the field... At this point would you not as a rational human being say "screw this so-and-so is dead lets make a run for it!"
The Scarecrow was fed up of waiting for Christopher Nolan to start filming the third instalment of Batman
The acting is of an average standard, they aren't terrible it just never gets above made for TV standard.  With a poor script, the writer appears to have written the majority of it on the back of a beer mat whilst discussing the plot with his mates down the pub, the actors have little to work with.  Unfortunately they are put into neat little characters moulds of jock, geek, bad boy and girl (yes, due to her short on screen time we simple only discern her gender as her defining character feature).  Jock is blonde and macho, geek wears thick rimmed glasses and is weedy, and bad boy wears black biker jacket with too much gel in his hair...  It's really that to the point.

For a small budget the film is well made, it would easily stand up to many big release films in the style and direction.  The scarecrows look good when seen in close up and cornfields are just scary full stop in my opinion.  Due to the budget the limited amount of gore is actually good due to a lack of reliance on CGI, particularly in one cringe worthy moment when the undead are becoming part of the sack cloth gang.

I wouldn't disregard the production company, After Dark Films, on the basis of Husk though, the trailers accompanying the feature had a couple of their other films which could redeem them for this average, run of the mill output.

In conclusion I wouldn't bother with Husk, you've seen it all before and done better; this is like someone came up with the idea of trying to combine Signs with Jeepers Creepers and realised it was probably a bad idea half way through.  For a simple plot summary (which'll be quicker than getting the DVD out of the box); stranded friends split up, scarecrows go boo, all but one die, large potential for even worse sequel ending...  I apologise if I've ruined it for you but this is definitely one to avoid.


Wednesday, 30 March 2011


In early 2007 a double bill Grindhouse feature was released comprising of Planet Terror and Death Proof, between the two films was a number of fake trailers in keeping with the grindhouse theme.  From these trailers there was a stand out gem; the Danny Trejo led Machete and so in 2010 it was released as a feature film in its own right.  There are no prizes for guessing which movie I am going to be debating over today.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez Machete is the name of our lead character, a former Mexican cop and now illegal immigrant who is on the well worn path of revenge against a drug lord for the murder of his wife and daughter.  Along the way he gets involved in a complicated political scam after being offered a large sum of money to shoot a local State Senator, this opens a whole entangled can of worms including a secret organization known as the Network who help Mexicans get over the border, an all too enthusiastic Immigration Officer and a crazy mum and daughter porno team.

The thing you have to keep in mind when watching Machete is that it plays on the old exploitation films, this means it's filled with mindless gore, nudity and over the top violence.  The plot is tightly directed for all it's complex points although filled with simple scripting to the point of some cheese-tastic one liners, there's also some comedy provided by the refusal of Machete to operate a mobile phone akin to watching your grandparents trying to send a text message.

He doesn't want guns and glory, Machete wants to hack and slash his way through the enemies with a variety of impressive machetes...  In fact at one point I'm convinced one of them was bordering on sword territory it was that long.  Of course a weapon of this choosing provides a large amount of head decapitating fun and an interesting use of intestines for abseiling. 

This is surprisingly Trejos first lead role, given that he has a habit of popping in quite a few blood splattered films over the years; for example From Dusk Till Dawn, Halloween, The Devil's Rejects and Predators.  This is his role and he owns it with gusto, from the moment he appears on screen it is obvious Rodriguez wrote the character for him (from doing a bit of research it seems it has been a long time in the making).  Whether it's his ridiculously weather worn face or enough body art to make him a walking advert for LA Ink, Trejo embodies everything this character represents.
Lohan's parole officer will be nun to happy with her new habit... 
Machete is completed with an impressive cast; De Niro, who is the person you'd probably least expect appearing in this sort of film, is the State Senate who is about as politically incorrect as they come eventually resorting to a final act of desperation in the form of dressing as Mexican and running around the battle field appropriately like a jumping bean.

Jessica Alba is intentionally over the top, it's all very big and dramatic with her character although she does have a brilliant fight scene resulting in the best use of a metal stiletto heel I've seen in a long time.  Yep she is naked in the shower much to many a mans delight and she wears very tight trousers with ridiculously high heels.  Her other female co-star, Michelle Rodriguez, plays her usual hard ass bitch but it fits with the style of the film and enables her character to make a stylish return, also in tight clothing, towards the final act.

Others worthy of a mention are Lindsay Lohan, blond hair and boobs ahoy!  She annoys the crap out of me but she's passable in this and even has a little dig at herself in a conversation with her on screen father, although seeing her in a nuns outfit may have scarred me for life.  Steven Seagal also appears as the drug lord, I have watched a lot of his straight to DVD films and thankfully I don't feel the need to scratch my eyes out from his performance in this!  You know it's Seagal, he comes pre-packaged with a young oriental girl at his side, wearing some strange kind of robes and has his samurai sword at the ready.

Lets be honest, you're probably not going to watch a film like Machete if you aren't interested in cheesy gore infused violence with plenty of boob (boob counter went into overdrive!)  People who do watch Machete won't be disappointed, it lives up to the expectations set by the trailer and surpasses the Grindhouse double it was originally wedged between.  Must be watched with others of a similar mindset, not those who offend easily, and then it'll be the perfect film night in.


Thursday, 24 March 2011


In my humble opinion Independence Day is probably the best alien invasion film of recent years, it's only topped by the original War Of The Worlds (not the "hi, I'm Tom Cruise and I was put in this film simply to make money" remake).  As a dedicated X-Phile I like watching stuff which has a little green man theme, but in our next film the invaders are neither little or green; Skyline is my next review.
Skyline opens with the usual brief preamble before the world starts falling apart, Jarrod and his girlfriend Elaine have taken a trip to LA to celebrate the birthday of Jarrods friend Terry, who is now the big man in special effects living in his penthouse apartment with his typical LA blonde bimbo girlfriend, Candice.

The following morning the group are woken by what feels like an earthquake only to see that outside people are being sucked into the sky by shafts of blue light.  Random extra one in the apartment has his fate sealed when he decides to have a good stare out over the balcony, chaos ensues and our two leading men decide the best thing to do in this situation is go onto the roof, where it's nice and exposed, and take some pictures.

When people are caught in the light they begin to physically change, both Jarrod and Elaine are exposed but make miracle recoveries although we later on discover that for some reason it has cause Jarrod to become action man.  This is means that a lot of the time our characters are hiding behind kitchen counters praying that the timer on the electric blinds doesn't decide to open them again.

The thing with Skyline is the characters are relatively believable, none of them are experts in anything really and they bumble about trying to solve their predicament in ways which although may be stupid are probably not that far from a real reaction.  For example, the end of the world is extremely fucking nigh (kudos if you know the reference) but Candice still has time to be pissed at Terry for a bit of extra curricular bathroom activity with his assistant the night before.  They might all be about to die but Terry will be getting his ear chewed first, priorities after all.

It has to be addressed that for an alien invasion movie it had a relatively limited budget, there are no big names here and most of the money went on special effects.  The effects are good, definitely a step up from the type of films you'll see on the Sy-Fy channel, and the alien ships are nicely detailed if not a little Transformer-ish in their movement and appearance when walking through the city.  There are a couple of occasions where the characters are so obviously super imposed onto the background that they may as well be standing in front of a picture, but this is only a small problem and doesn't distract too much.
At this point the problem seemed too big even for Jack Bauer to handle.
Overall the acting is of a fair standard, Balfour and Faison are playing their usual characters just placed into a more stressful environment with Faison being taken out of the game early which was surprising as I would say he was the best known of all the cast.  The two women are largely stereotyped, bimbo looks confused by everything and screams a lot (Sweet Valley High girl is getting on a bit) and Elaine seems to be stuck in permanent nagging mode, if I've had been stuck in a room with her I would not be responsible for my actions!

David Zayas (the always cheerful Batista in Dexter) pops up as the buildings concierge, Oliver.  Oliver appears to be the only person capable of intelligent thought, although it has to be said that he should really check if his lighter works before turning on the gas as it could all have gone horribly wrong.  Nobody is bad, and with an average script with little in the way of wit or dry humour the actors try their best.

Skyline is worth a watch, if only to see an invasion movie which does not have a happy ending; there is no hero, Jeff Goldblum won't be along to plant his virus at the last minute, and the British won't be sitting around drinking tea waiting for the Americans to tell them what to do.  The end sequence in the alien craft is interesting and leaves open the possibility of a predictable sequel, maybe find out what the aliens want with all those brains.

I have one issue with this film; how on earth does one look at a nuclear explosion through a telescope and not end up blind and then nobody seems to suffer any consequences from the fall out given that it wasn't that far away from them.  Just a little shake of the building, see people nuclear weapons are perfectly safe when used against aliens!


Monday, 21 March 2011

And Soon The Darkness

"Alone.  Stranded.  No One To Trust" shouts the box description of the next film, there's blurry tension ridden pictures, girls in bikinis, and Karl Urban looking angry...  In fact he seems to be pulling the same face he does in the Lord Of The Rings whenever someone mentions going into battle.  So today we'll have a look at And Soon The Darkness.
This is one of those films where the characters seem to lack simple common sense, two American girls are on a bike tour in Argentina but have decided to abandon the organised trip and go a wandering...  Alarm bells ringing yet?  They should be!

It's a simple plot, the girls find a hotel to stay in and decided to spend their final night in a local bar annoying the locals with skimpy outfits and an overeagerness for crappy pop on the jukebox.  Ellie, who apparently is a man eating nympho, decides to get it on with one of the regulars but is promptly blocked by friend Stephanie, when her chosen date doesn't like being turned down Michael (Urban) steps in being all manly and shirt roughing.

The following day Ellies behaviour causes a predictable fight between her and Stephanie which leads to their separation, when Steph returns Ellie is missing and the remainder of the film is a paint by numbers race to find her.

Here is the issue, there is nothing new in this film, tourists being kidnapped to be sold on to as sex slaves in some backwater town has been done numerous times before.  This film can't even really be described as a thriller, a promising opening sequence featuring the torture of one young woman is about as graphic as you're going to get.  The entire plot is focussed on Steph trying to find her friend, there is no mystery to this as it's so obvious from the start what is going on that there is noting to hold your attention; you know how this is going to end within the first 15 minutes.  It's one giant cupcake sized cliché with an extra sprinkling of unbelievable plot points.

It's one redeeming feature is the gorgeous scenery, there are lots of wide shots of the landscape whilst the girls explore making for some beautiful travelling scenes.  But like Barbie it's all beauty and no substance.  I'm sure some viewers will enjoy the view of the lead actresses strutting around in their bikinis, accompanied by some rather overly intrusive ass shots but this seems like a final act of desperation by the makers to get people watching.

The script isn't poor, it's average at best, the character of Steph comes across as a complete kill joy during the first half of the film and when she is trying to find Ellie she seems to lack the required urgency a situation like this would obviously garner.  In fact all the characters feel one dimensional, Ellie is the trouble maker, Steph is the prude and Michael is the brave man.
Urban still wasn't sure if he'd perfected the Bryan McFadden look enough for his Westlife Tribute Act.
I ended up watching this film as Karl Urban was in it, I quite enjoy his performances and find him a more understated actor.  As with the two actresses Heard and Yustman, Urban cannot fill out his role due to the constraints of the writing, they all have back stories which are touched upon in such a blink and you'll miss it type way that you really don't care about them as characters.

The cast do their best with what they have, with the exception of Cesar Vianco who plays Calvo the towns local law enforcement.  Vianco is unintentional comic relief due to his rather camp Spanish accent and crazy hair, you know from the moment he turns up that he's in on it he may as well be wearing a sign around his neck declaring "Alert!  Bad Guy Plot Twist!"

This film is one to be avoided, even if you're a fan of the cast there is little to make it interesting.  If you're looking for films with similar themes try Taken for a plot around tourists being kidnapped or A Perfect Getaway for a vacation based thriller, both are good choices.

If nothing else you'll take away from the film that you should never go on holiday with someone who'll sleep with anyone in sight because they attract kidnappers, be suspicious of any place where the locals are constantly passing silent messages to one another through dirty looks and don't ever trust a police man whos office implies he never solves any crimes...  Seriously how many missing persons posters did he have to display for Steph to twig something may be a bit wrong!

And Soon the Darkness

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Saw: The Final Chapter

Back in 2004 a small horror film was released, it quickly garnered a cult following due to its inventive plot and new take on a by now tired genre.  The film revolved around two men held in a bathroom, with only an apparently dead body for company...  The tag line read "Let The Games Begin!"  I doubt back then the makers would realise the craze they had set upon the movie going public, Halloween 2010 was the date for the release of the seventh and final (possibly?!) instalment of the franchise.  The film for today is Saw: The Final Chapter.
The first Saw was a complicated film, full of twists and second guessing.  There was purpose to Jigsaws rather strange take on the Crystal Maze, he wanted to teach his victims a lesson; they could save their lives if they were willing to sacrifice parts of themselves in the process, he wanted them to be reborn and be grateful for what they had.  A technique, which although a bit severe, would make the Jeremy Kyle show a lot more interesting.

The Final Chapter was supposed to tie up all those story strands which have been dropping all over place for the last six films.  Hoffman, a man who has a number of super powers including rapidly healing skin tissue, ninja like stealth and a keen fancy for stabbing people in the neck; is now on a wanted man.  Jigsaws wife has finally decided that she actually did know her late hubby was a bit of a caring serial killer and she's ready to shop everyone, for full immunity of course.

Whilst Hoffman and Tuck are playing chase the main story running though is that of Bobby Dagen, a "survivor" of a trap who has ridden the publicity train to wealth and a trophy wife.  He courts the media with TV spots and an appearance at a Jigsaw Survivor group, of course it soon becomes clear Bobby is being a little generous with the truth.  So what happens to him?  Well dim wife gets taken prisoner and Bobby has to face the Jigsaw gauntlet, various traps encasing those who work for him and are in on the secret that he has never been tested.  Lets be honest we've seen it all before and Bobby is a bit bad at the game, in that he saves a grand total of zero!

There are also numerous other random characters popping up, including a rather forced flashback as to how the Internal Affairs guy currently holding Tuck knows Hoffman.  This is the problem with how complicated Saw has become, there aren't just stand alone characters any more everyone has to have some sort of connection to the extend that you have to wonder if there's a little inbreeding going on.
"Flash Gordon, Quarterback, New York Jets"... Wait... Wrong Gordon.
Of course we eventually see the return of the one footed man, Dr. Gordon is back and he is not a happy chappy.  Anyone who has gotten into a debate with an overenthusiastic Saw fan will know this is the big question, what the hell happened to him after Saw last time we saw him he was snaking out of the bathroom minus a foot and taking on an appearance that wouldn't see him out of place on the set of Twilight.

Actually the acting in this final instalment is the weakest so far, the IA agent Gibson is so bad it's funny I have no idea where they got him from (he's been in Final Destination) but the boy needs to invest in some decent acting classes.  Hoffman is his usual gruff self, scowling moodily whilst trying to maintain how cool he is, given that most of his interactions are with Jill Tuck it basically becomes a face off between his angry brow line and her evil pout of smugness.

The rest of the supporting cast takes the usual cues, look terrified and scream a lot...  Then die...  That's about it really.  Even that guy from Linkin Park manages to out act almost everyone, the only exception being Gordon who being played by a seasoned actor was obviously restricted in his role in case he showed everyone else up.

Saw films are known for their traps, each new film trying to outdo the last; this offering lacked in originality though, there wasn't anything that stood out unlike say the Rack Trap in Saw 3 or the end group trap in Saw 5.  Yes there was the usual volcano of blood going off but it wasn't interesting any more.

It's a shame that Saw has gone out on a whimper rather than a bang, given that Saw 6 managed to pick up the franchise again after some poor showings in Saw 4 and Saw 5, The Final Chapter undid all the good work.  Tobin Bells Jigsaw had all but disappeared, an occasional flashback was all we got when he was the star of the show, yes Jigsaw is dead but he could have been used more.  Hopefully this is the end, although the rumours are starting again...  This is a series that needs to be put to bed, and then in 20 years time my daughter can tell me about how she's going to see a remake of Saw.

You know what this film needed, a bit of humour...  The final bathroom scene you hear the squeak of Billys tricycle, he appears from the shadows, but it's not the puppet it's Brian Blessed dressed as Billy and the final line of the film echos around the empty corridor...  "Gordon's Alive!"

Game Over...

Saw: The Final Chapter (Formerly Saw 3D)

Monday, 28 February 2011


Last night Colin Firth was finally acknowledged by the Academy and given a shiny gold statue, this ties us neatly to the winner of the Best Actress Oscar in 2006; another rather posh Brit by the name of Helen Mirren, honoured for her role in The Queen as... well, the Queen.  I doubt she knew four years later she'd be wielding a machine gun and making rouge operations look classy.  Today I'll be looking at RED.
RED stands for Retired: Extremely Dangerous, a group of former CIA agents are being targeted for elimination due to some rather sensitive information threatening the Vice Presidents bid for the ultimate leg up on the career ladder.  They've all moved on with their lives but this threat sees them team up one final time along side a rather cheerful former Russian secret agent.

They are all getting on a bit now, living ordinary lives or in one case an underground bunker to avoid those pesky helicopters.  The CIA want rid of them, especially ring leader Frank and so assign a rather enthusiastic and by the book agent, William Cooper.  As is the way with these films nothing is what it seems, initially the former agents seem to be suffering from some sort of collective alzheimers over why they are being targeted, but it soon becomes all too clear and their decisive action is going to cause a lot of paper work for the CIA.

Along the way we are introduced to Franks potential love interest, a pensions clerk, Sarah, who has been dealing with Frank over the phone for some time; this sub plot is set off with an slightly weird stalker moment which lands poor Sarah in the forced vacation from hell.

This is a comedy action film, and both are abundant making a fast paced and witty running time.  It is also a top notch group of actors, Willis is as good as he was in the first Die Hard combining an unflappable exterior with a touching lonely side, Freeman is a tad underused with only a hint of his characters rather perverted behaviour which could have been used for some more comedy gold.  Mirren pulls off flower-arranging action gran with as much grace and gravitas as her former Queen role, this is one granny you will not mess with other wise you'll be on the wrong end of a sniper rifle.

Of course the show stealing performance belongs to Malkovich as the crazy and paranoid Boggs, he carries a grenade launcher round in a pig shaped bag (causing an hysterical cry of "open the pig!") and laments that while most people get paper cuts he mostly gets shot.
Malkovich always likes to bring a bit of danger to a game of hide and seek.
RED pulls together all the elements that make an action film good, the pace never dwindles with pointless exposition, there are bullets and explosions galore and who doesn't enjoy a bit of grenade rounders.  It's tightly written, although based on a book it has pulled away from the dark and relatively humourless source material making an enjoyable and worthwhile romp.

You have to see this film, and hope that rumours of a sequence are fulfilled.  Grab your mates, beer and popcorn; cram onto the sofa and bask in the fact it's still possible to make an original, attention holding action movie.  There is only one thing left to say and that's break open the pig!!

Red (Special Edition)