In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Sunday, February 18, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Index

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. A lot of them are Maple screeners I was being sent for a while and some were seen at press screenings I got hooked up with by a few different people – thanks again Schwartz for getting me into Sunshine, that Danny Boyle Q&A was ace!

Acts Of Death
Cujo (DVD)
Dark Wolf
Day Watch
Dead & Breakfast
Haunted Boat
Rhinoceros Eyes
Stir Of Echoes 2: The Homecoming

Saturday, February 17, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Acts Of Death

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This Acts Of Death review was originally written in August 2007.

When one of the students at a drama class initiation ends up dead, the guilty parties frantically dispose of the body and then pretend nothing happened. Unfortunately for them, someone knows their dirty little secret and is picking off those involved one-by-one.

Acts of Death (aka The Final Curtain) is one of those movies that have an hour’s worth of material stretched out to ninety minutes or, in this case one-oh-three. The setup did not need to take as long as it did and there must have been at least twenty minutes of people wandering around the campus hallways. There are huge logic leaps and the movie isn’t helped by its ridiculous conclusion that plays out like a rejected Scream 4 screenplay. The movie isn’t all bad though. Director Jeff Burton knows what he’s doing visually, the score by John Roome is good and there are some decent gore set pieces, it just takes forever to get to them. Even the cast, for the most part, is better than you would expect and Reggie Bannister (of Phantasm fame) appears as the crusty campus security guard. At first I thought good ol’ Reg was hamming it up, but then character actors Glenn Shadix and Raimi cohort Billy Vincent came onto the scene. I swear I thought I saw bits of scenery in between their teeth. I pledge that the next time my boss asks me something, I will give him a cold stare and remark “It’s been -- (painfully long pause) -- taken care of.”

The DVD is a bare bones affair with no extras except for the requisite trailers of other Maple releases. Acts Of Death has a few nuggets of goodness, but is ultimately a letdown because of poor pacing and a lame conclusion.

Friday, February 16, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Brutal

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review of Brutal was originally written in July 2007.

When someone starts cutting out the hearts of women in a small town community, a deputy takes it upon herself to conduct her own investigation. Little does she know that she may have in turn, made herself the killer’s next target.

Looking at this box cover, I immediately thought ‘Oh crap, what am I in for now?’ You can imagine my surprise, when I was stunned to discover that, you know, Brutal isn’t half bad. It has an eighties slasher feel to it, with a pinch of comedy that even had me chuckling a few times. Brutal is, dare I say it, actually clever in some parts. The cast is good, as well. Jeffrey Combs is great (but then, isn’t he always?) as the town sheriff and looks excited just to be out of his lab coat. Angel fans will recognize Sarah Thompson as the naïve deputy and Michael Berryman plays a supporting role where he’s not only a good guy, but also kind of a hero! Now, I may be talking this film up because I had zero expectations, but I must say that while I was watching this so-called slasher, a strange thing happened. I found myself as interested in everything else as I was in the gore set pieces. Also odd was that the setups were more satisfying than the payoff itself. The DVD cover, which I might add looks like it’s for a completely different movie altogether, hails Brutal as “Hostel meets Silence Of The Lambs”, but that's not accurate at all. If anything, in story and structure Brutal reminds more of 1989’s The January Man, but gorier, of course.

For a direct-to-DVD release, Brutal has a quite a lot of extras. There is a lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette and a still gallery. There is also a commentary with director Ethan Wiley. It’s pretty in-depth and considering he is by himself, he holds his own. He talks at length about how wildfires threatened the shoot on several occasions and that Brutal is a prequel to his 2006 movie Blackwater Valley Exorcism, in which some of the same characters appear.

Thursday, February 15, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Bug

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for Bug was originally written in September 2007.

Agnes White (Ashley Judd) has her lonely and boring existence torn asunder when she strikes up a romance with a shy stranger. She is reluctant to believe his theories about government conspiracies and the bugs he sees everywhere… until she starts to see them herself.

Bug is a tight little character piece and its roots as a stage play are immediately apparent. Judd gives a flawless performance as the lonely barmaid that becomes the victim of extreme paranoia. Michael Shannon, who plays the mysterious male lead Peter (who also played the character in the off-Broadway production and was cast for the movie after much reluctance from the studio) is so totally invested in the character, it seems as natural as reality itself. As the insanity between these two escalates, so do their performances. Director William Friedman does an impeccable job of letting the material tell the story and keeps his presence to a minimum throughout. Bug is a perfect example of a film that does so much with so little. It has four characters - including Harry Connick Jr. in another stellar supporting role - all played beautifully and dialogue, rather than action, drives the film. It is a fine curiosity that paints a frightening picture of the infectious traits of fear and paranoia.

The DVD comes with two featurettes and a commentary with director Bill Friedkin. The first featurette is a fairly standard making of called Bug: An Introduction. It features interviews with the cast and crew and focuses mainly on the challenges of adapting Bug from the stage and working in a confined space. The second featurette is really what is worth watching. It is a lengthy sit down interview with William Friedkin. The interviewer asks him questions that run the gamut of his career and delves into his love of opera, how he picks his projects and what he really gets out of filmmaking. An important point Friedkin makes (one I’ve been saying for years) is how the pacing of films has changed over the years due to the shortening attention spans of not only audiences, but also filmmakers. After watching this doc, I was quite looking forward to the commentary, but it was not what I was expecting at all. Friedkin doesn’t really go into detail about the production, but rather gives us a running narration. It’s totally unnecessary and not what I watch a commentary for, so that was disappointing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Captivity

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for Captivity was originally written in July 2007.

A model (Elisha Cuthbert) is kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured by an unknown captor. When she discovers a man in the cell next to her, they plot to escape.

After the billboard advertising scandal, the bad word-of-mouth and the studio pushing it back twice – which should be enough to tell you they had no idea what to do with this thing – Captivity was finally released on Friday the 13th. Even after all the negative things I’d heard about it, I figured it couldn’t possibly be as bad as they say… could it? The answer is no. It’s much, much worse. Have you ever seen a movie that is SO awful, that it actually swears you off movies for a short period of time, so your mind and body have time to recoup? Well, after this movie I spent the next few days catching up on my reading. Captivity is predictable, repulsive and just plain empty. The people behind this movie would have you believe this is not ‘torture porn’, but a psychological thriller. If this is the case, where are the thrills? The death of this subgenre has been in motion since Hostel Part II’s dismal returns, but now I think it has been cemented. Captivity is so wretched, that calling it a Saw-rip off is an insult to that franchise, which I don’t even hold in that high a regard to be honest with you. Elisha Cuthbert was really the only draw for me. Like Vacancy (with Kate Beckinsale) before it, there was some emotional attachment involved, but that being said, Captivity makes Vacancy look like the best film ever made. I don’t know what sequence of events led to you being cast in this dreck, but Elisha… you need to fire your agent. This material was so far beneath you, it hurts me to think about it. Captivity is just a mess and everybody involved should be ashamed of themselves. I could go on, but I think I’ve gotten my point across.

Tuesday, February 13, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Cujo

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for the Cujo: 25th Anniversary DVD was originally written in September 2007.

Cujo is the film adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel about a rabid St. Bernard run amok in a small Maine town.

It had probably been at least ten years since I’d seen Cujo and am pleased to say that it still holds up beautifully. Unlike some previous films of King’s, Cujo utilizes the subplots of the book well and they don’t feel abbreviated or glazed over. The three leads give great performances, especially then five-year old Danny Pintauro. He gives a beyond-his-age portrayal that rivals that of Miko Hughes in Pet Semetary. What I am old enough to fully appreciate now is the brilliance of the dog effects. I had to look into how they performed some of these stunts because they all looked so real. I figured there MUST be some sort of puppetry or animatronics somewhere, but I couldn’t pick them out. It turns out they used a mix of ten dogs (provided by renowned animal trainer Carl Miller), a man in a dog suit and a mechanical dog’s head. I think when it comes down to it, what makes Cujo such a great movie is the reality of it. When it comes to King stories, we have to suspend our disbelief to get behind possessed cars, kinesis (tele and pyro) or haunted hotels, but being attacked by a rabid dog could happen to any of us, at any time. Cujo is an eighties horror film well worth revisiting and one of the best King adaptations out there.

The DVD sports a worthwhile commentary with director Lewis Teague. He covers many aspects of the film, including the many types of fear, his collaboration with Dutch filmmaker Jan de Bont and how his earlier creature feature Alligator prepared him for this project. There is also a three-part documentary called Dog Days. It is mostly Teague reiterating all the stuff he spoke about in the commentary, but there is some really cool stuff about the dogs. Also, there is some interesting talk about how Charles Bernstein scored the film and how much of an influence Jaws was – thematically and musically – on the movie.

Monday, February 12, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Dark Wolf

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for Dark Wolf was originally written sometime in 2003.

Dark Wolf is a testament to how bad CGI can destroy a movie. I watched Cube 2: Hypercube right before this and thought some of the CGI in that was a little shoddy, but compared to Dark Wolf, Cube 2 looks like The Matrix. Seriously, the transformation scenes look worse than the stuff on early episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The only reason I really picked this one up at the video store was because of Samaire Armstrong. She caught my eye in a ninth season X-Files episode, so I remembered the name. She has a Rachel Leigh Cook-like quality to her. Kane Hodder also makes an appearance as the human form of the Dark Wolf. It’s been so long since I’ve seen Hodder, I almost didn’t recognize him. There was just enough T&A and gratuitous gore to keep me from reaching for the eject button, but this movie isn’t fit for man or beast.

Even though there are several special features on this DVD, I had to pack it in halfway through the making-of featurette. The enthusiasm of the crew made it sound like they had reinvented the wheel. Did you SEE the finished product?? Loyal readers, you’d be better served by watching American Werewolf In London or Ginger Snaps again rather than wasting your time on this.

Sunday, February 11, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Day Watch

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for Day Watch was originally written in June 2007.

In the second part of the trilogy, Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) tries to get back his son Yegor (Dima Martynov), who now resides with the Dark Others. To add to Anton’s problems, Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitsky) continues his plans to break the truce between light and dark, by framing Anton for murder.

“That made so little sense to me”, said the guy sitting next to me when the lights came up. I could see where he was coming from. Without the foundation of the previous film Night Watch, it must be maddening to try and keep everything straight. A five-minute recap for the previous two-hour film at the start of Day Watch just isn’t going to cut it with the casual viewer. Since Night Watch didn’t even get so much as a look by domestic distributors, most people are unfortunately going to be in this position. It’s a really weird move by Fox Searchlight that still leaves me scratching my head. All right, now that is out of the way, let’s assume that you are up to speed on what is going on. Is Day Watch any good? I think it is safe to say that if you liked Night Watch, you’ll like Day Watch. If you are already onboard with Bekmambetov’s eclectic style and gimmicky effects, this should be an engaging ride for you. There are more than a few points where Day Watch seems to be coming off the rails, but I find the story just so damn interesting, that it somehow keeps me in it. Whoever designed the subtitles managed to up the quirkiness of the series by making them interactive. The subtitles actually react to the stuff happening onscreen, such as being slashed by swords and jostled by loud noises. Yes, it’s another gimmick, but it truly showcases the creativity at the heart of this trilogy. The story is dense and the characters number in the dozens, most of whom were in the previous installment. There is less action in this one though, so some may come away disappointed. Amid all the craziness, that includes tango dancing, gravity defying vehicles and runaway Ferris wheels, there is a good mythology built up here. I will definitely check out the upcoming third and final part, Dusk Watch. For anyone else, I can’t stress enough that you check out Night Watch first and then decide whether you’d like to continue further into Bekmambetov’s chaotic world.

Saturday, February 10, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Dead & Breakfast

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for Dead & Breakfast was originally written in March 2006.

Note to Marketing. If you are going to compare yourself to the bloodiest of gore flicks like Peter Jackson’s Braindead, you better damn well deliver. It’s a shame really. Ever Since Sam Raimi practically invented the splatstick genre with Evil Dead 2, the Americans have been rapidly falling behind their overseas brethren. Dead & Breakfast starts out fine with an interesting credit sequence and a serviceable cast that includes Gina Phillips, Ever Carradine and the ubiquitous Jeremy Sisto. The gags and one-liners start early, hitting and missing at a frenetic pace and a wasted cameo by David Carradine doesn’t help matters. The rockabilly segue device that is amusing at first becomes as awkward and out of place towards the end as it was in There’s Something About Mary. Michael Mosher does a nice job with the splatter, but even the Grand Guignol chainsaw finale is nothing to write home about. To his credit though, for every bit that is nabbed from the movies that inspired him, director Matt Leutwyler comes up with some fresh ideas himself. The Kuman Thong box with its soul trapping and possession abilities opens up whole new avenues for a sub-genre that rarely sees innovation. So basically you have a movie that is fun in parts, silly in others and ultimately doesn’t quite live up to the major hype it manufactured for itself. Though Dead & Breakfast has grown on me with subsequent viewings, I still say that Jake West’s Evil Aliens and the much maligned Undead by the Spierig Brothers are better offerings.

Friday, February 9, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Hatchet

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for Hatchet was originally written in July 2007.

When passengers on a New Orleans tour boat get marooned in a swamp, they soon learn that the local urban legend of Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) is, in fact, real. It is not long before the hulking maniac starts picking them off, one by one.

Hatchet is a gory and fun little flick. Director Adam Green doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel; he just gives us an entertaining slasher with an old school feel. The highlight of Hatchet is the gore work, provided by old hand John Carl Buechler. He gets really creative and messy with it, carrying on what he and Kane started when they worked on Friday the 13th Part 7. For a gorehound like myself, it’s a joy to watch. I recommend you get out to the theatre to see this if you can because it is definitely a movie best seen with a crowd of like-minded individuals. The one-liners come fast and furious and I found myself laughing quite a lot; one especially had me chuckling for days afterwards. In addition to the aforementioned Hodder, there are some other great cameos by genre veterans Robert Englund and Tony Todd. Also, if you’ve ever wondered what Mercedes McNab (Harmony of Buffy & Angel fame) looks like with her shirt off, wonder no more and rejoice! There were several other familiar faces in the cast who were the kind of I-know-I’ve-seen-you-before people for which Imdb was invented. I’ve been hearing comparisons between Hatchet and Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon. I wouldn’t say Hatchet is anywhere near the calibre of Scott Glosserman’s surprise hit last year, but it’s definitely a good time. Green has a clear love of the genre and has said he has no interest in the current remake/sequel trend of Hollywood horror, so I’m really looking forward to seeing where he goes from here.

Thursday, February 8, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Haunted Boat

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for Haunted Boat was originally written in July 2007.

When a young man inherits a boat from his late father, he and five friends go out for a weekend trip on the ocean. When tragedy strikes, their worst fears start to manifest themselves in physical form.

Right off, the first act of Haunted Boat is atrocious. My DVD player actually rebelled against it and froze up. I should have quit while I was ahead. To give you an idea of what I was dealing with, let me give you a sample of one of the romantic interludes. A man and a woman are standing at the head of the boat. There is a long pause as they stare out over the water. Then the guy looks over at the girl and says, “Yep, it just doesn’t get any better than this.” Are you kidding me?? When the characters started playing Strip Spin the Bottle, I thought things might be looking up, but it wasn’t meant to be. This is when Haunted Boat starts going in all these crazy directions for no other reason than to fill time. Seriously, with all the musical montages and useless asides, this movie could have been half as long. The best is when they decide to search the boat and it takes five minutes of screen time even though the vessel is no bigger than my living room. Then, they decide to tell each other scary stories. The sad thing is, these bits are better than the actual movie. I have to give a special shout out to Mathew Fox (NOT Jack from Lost, though I’m sure you figured that) for his stirring performance as Simon. His appearance signals Haunted Boat really going off the rails. With his wide eyed, yet deadpan delivery no matter what the line, was I really supposed to watch this scene with a straight face? I’m fully aware of what Simon was supposed to represent, but oh my Lord! From there, the third act is just a downward spiral into incoherence. This movie is totally banal and I’m not blaming the low production value either. It just wasn’t engaging. If I was afraid of floating heads and sharks that look like CG carp, then maybe you might have gotten something out of me. I’m sorry, but anyway you look at it, Haunted Boat is just a fuckin’ wreck.

Wednesday, February 7, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Joshua

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for Joshua was originally written in July 2007.

Life seems to be going well for the Cairns. Brad (Sam Rockwell) and Abby (Vera Farmiga) are well off, have a gifted son Joshua and a new baby daughter. When things start to go wrong, the parents start to suspect that their nine-year-old is not as perfect as he appears.

Joshua seems like fairly standard fare, but cleverly doesn’t show you all its cards up front. It’s a slow one (in fact, during the first act I thought this movie might just be ninety-minutes of piano playing and babies crying), but doesn’t bore. Rockwell and Farmiga are solid and the anchors of the piece, especially the latter because there are parts in the film where I wasn’t sure who was more unstable – the boy or his mother. As for newcomer Jacob Kogan as the title character, I can’t really pass judgment because I’ve never really been a good judge of child actors. Unless we’re talking extremes like the stinkage of Jake Lloyd or polar opposite Dakota Fanning, I tend to just see them as part of the scenery or a device to move the story forward. All I can say is that Kogan accomplishes that. Something I was aware of though, was the fine score orchestrated by Nico Muhly. It had a very old school feel that reminded me of the stuff that Kubrick used to employ. Joshua does tend to skirt the comical – whether intentionally or not – in the third act, but manages to hold it together. Apart from being a PSA for birth control, Joshua is a subtle thriller that may find some success on DVD.

Tuesday, February 6, 2001

The Lost Reviews: May

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for May was originally written in August 2003.

I finally got around to checking out Lucky McKee’s May this week and was glad to see that all the hype I had been hearing over the last few months was not unwarranted. The strength of this piece is largely due to Angela Bettis’ performance as the terminally lonesome title character. Her wonderfully deep portrayal is quite compelling and though the last act turns a corner into the realm of tongue-in-cheek, it doesn’t make her character any less tragic. Bettis is complimented by a strong supporting cast including Jeremy Sisto, James Duval and Anna Faris. I must say it was great to see Faris outside of the Scary Movie franchise and as a racy lesbian no less! The film balances these well fleshed out (pardon the pun) characters with some excellent imagery. May is filled with Dario Argento references to the point you’re almost saying “okay, Lucky, we get it, you're a fan.” I can’t fault him too much, though. If I were making a movie, I’d probably do the same thing in the spirit of that anecdotal Craven/Raimi sub-reference melee of the eighties. I thought the cracking of the glass case containing Susie, May’s doll and only friend was a clever use of symbolism and really liked how the narrative would set up characters that were off-kilter (Sisto’s character Adam has an affinity for violent cinema and Duval’s Blank is a rebellious punk) and attracted to May’s awkward innocence, yet once her ‘weird’ behaviour is revealed, they quickly shy away. I often wonder how I would react in a similar situation. I surround myself with all things grotesque, but if I were confronted with someone truly abnormal, would I be intrigued or run for the hills? May is yet another Lionsgate release (I love these guys) that is well worth checking out.

The surround sound of the DVD is fully utilized. The cracking glass and soft whisperings of Susie can be heard all around you. The DVD’s lack of special features is disappointing, but there are two commentary tracks. The first - and superior - one involves McKee and Bettis, as well as D.P. Steve Yedlin and editor Chris Sivertson. In addition to Argento, McKee mentions some more of his many influences, including Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Polanski’s Repulsion and of course, Frankenstein. It’s also interesting to hear about the great deal of sequences that came together during reshoots and the editing process. They spend a lot of time talking about production designer Leslie Keel and composer Jaye Barnes-Luckett who appear on the second commentary track that is thus rendered somewhat moot.

Monday, February 5, 2001

The Lost Reviews: P2

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for P2 was originally written in November 2007.

Angela Bridges (Rachel Nichols), after having worked late, accidentally gets locked in an underground parking garage on Christmas Eve. To make matters worse, she soon finds herself being stalked by a maniacal security guard (Wes Bentley).

I walked into P2 knowing very little about it except that Alexandre Aja and Greg Levasseur, the pair behind High Tension - a film I’ve always had a soft spot for – were involved. In fact, the director is Franck Khalfoun, who you may remember as Tension’s ill-fated gas station attendant, Jimmy. P2 is a simple, taut and bloody thriller that was much better than I was expecting. At its core, it’s still a fairly standard thriller, but it also has a sprinkling of black comedy that the two leads play completely straight. This makes for a weird mix and the only reason I think it works is that Nichols and Bentley are fully invested. There are several cool little bits – a lot of which are glimpsed in the trailer unfortunately – that make it a fun ride. P2 is also surprisingly gory. I suppose I should have expected that considering the source, but its handful of set pieces will certainly keep the gorehounds contented. P2 is a solid renter. It is nothing spectacular, but definitely better than some of the stuff I’ve seen in wide release in recent months *cough Captivity cough*.

Sunday, February 4, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Rhinoceros Eyes

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for Rhinoceros Eyes was originally written in September 2003.

The main strength of Rhinoceros Eyes is that it is perfectly cast. Michael Pitt - who up until this point I always thought of as a poor man’s DiCaprio - really comes into his own as the protagonist Chep, mixing good comic timing with the sincere awkwardness of an introvert. Paige Turco is as lovely as ever as Fran, the object of Chep’s affection. The comic relief side story provided by Bundy (Matt Servitto), Hamish (James Allodi) and Sweets (Victor Ertmanis) is amusing and succeeds in breaking up the strangeness that marks the rest of the film. The most fascinating character is the sprawling prop house itself. The countless relics that stock the shelves come to life with the use of stop motion animation, growing larger and more human each time they appear to Chep. These exchanges are very reminiscent of the giant bunny sequences in Donnie Darko. The inclusion of the Toronto movie house The Royal in the film is also a stroke of genius as the ultimate festival moviegoer in-joke. Another great thing about the film is that you never really know where it’s going to take you. There were several occasions where I thought to myself, ‘where did they come up with that?’ The influence of David Cronenberg (who is actually Eyes director Aaron Woodley's uncle) cannot be missed here, particularly Naked Lunch and eXistenZ. The decision to use both digital film and 35mm is an interesting one. Although this is largely a dimly lit film, the colours of the prop house still come through beautifully. To my knowledge, Eyes is also the first film to combine stop motion animation with the digital format. Rhinoceros Eyes is an imaginative effort that is never pinned down to a single genre.

Saturday, February 3, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Skinwalkers

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for Skinwalkers was originally written in July 2007.

A twelve-year-old boy may be the key to ending a werewolf curse that two clans have lived with for generations. One group wants the curse to end and the other, who consider their supernatural powers a gift, wants it to continue.

Skinwalkers is a bad movie, but in a way that is actually entertaining in some parts. The film has some interesting ideas, they just weren't executed well. The clichéd dialogue is what really bogs the movie down I think. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem for me, but wedging these pseudo dramatic scenes in between ridiculous over-the-top shootouts – one of which, in a small town main street, had the audience howling (pardon the pun) – just doesn’t fly. That shootout scene though was actually a highlight. The villains are walking down the street loading their guns (which had to be cocked for effect at every opportunity) for what seemed like a minute of screen time and when the shootout begins, everybody in the town suddenly has an arsenal of firearms at their disposal. The shopkeeper, the mailman, the nanny, EVERYONE! It is hilariously absurd and exactly the kind of thing Hot Fuzz spoofed earlier this year. On the subject of guns, this movie again brings up one of the fundamental problems I had with the first Underworld film. There is tons of potential for some awesome hand-to-hand combat in Skinwalkers, but what do they do? All the characters spend most of the movie shooting at each other. It just seems like such a waste. Though I wasn’t crazy about the creature design itself - but at least they were WEREWOLVES, hello Blood & Chocolate are you paying attention? - the makeup effects were really well done, especially on head villain Caleb (Jason Behr). Even when legend Stan Winston works on a stinker - Darkness Falls is another example – you can always count on the quality of the monsters. There was ample opportunity for gore in Skinwalkers, but it looks like the decision for a PG-13 release was made early on. This is disappointing because taking the carnage out of a werewolf movie is rarely a good thing. Despite its many flaws, Skinwalkers managed to corral an impressive amount of familiar faces. In the first act, it seemed that every time a new character came onscreen, I was like ‘Oh, that’s so and so from wherever’. I’ve seen a lot worse, but Skinwalkers really doesn’t do anything for the werewolf genre or horror in general for that matter.

Friday, February 2, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Stir Of Echoes 2

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for Stir Of Echoes 2: The Homecoming was originally written in November 2007.

After being injured in the line of duty, National Guardsman Ted Cogan (Rob Lowe) returns home and begins seeing visions of the people whose deaths he felt responsible. Are they hallucinations, or are the dead trying to send him a message? For the sake of his family and own sanity, he struggles to find out what the ghosts want. But, at what cost?

I’m going to say right up front that I did like Stir Of Echoes 2: The Homecoming, even though it’s a fairly by-the-numbers thriller with standard jump scares that we’ve seen a hundred times before. Without even knowing that it was made for TV, I could tell that it was. That’s not necessarily a knock; it’s just that sometimes you can tell, you know? However, following a formula isn’t such a bad thing if it’s executed well. The first scene does a good job of setting up the scenario and unfolds in a timely fashion from there. Watching The Homecoming, I found myself thinking that it definitely had an Asian horror vibe, even though it was pretty much just emulating the style and structure of its predecessor. Isn’t that curious, considering that the original came out before the Asian horror craze hit. It’s not as flashy or well written as the Kevin Bacon incarnation, but Rob Lowe’s more dialled down portrayal of the protagonist seems to make this one a little more 'realistic'. In addition to the themes of revenge and redemption, there is also a sprig of racism, which keeps the movie feeling very modern. The Homecoming is one of those movies that are good for those couch bound Sunday afternoons. Not something you would seek out, but if it were to come on TV, the end credits would roll and you’d think to yourself, 'you know? That wasn’t half bad.'

The DVD has a few extras, including a featurette, deleted scenes and a commentary track. The featurette is mainly the two leads (Lowe and actress Marnie McPhail) and director Ernie Barbarash talking about what they were trying to accomplish with this second installment. The commentary with Barbarash and editor Mitch Lackie is pretty dry, focusing mainly on the editing process, shooting in Toronto and their love of the first film.

Thursday, February 1, 2001

The Lost Reviews: Sunshine

The Lost Reviews are a group of articles I wrote for the site DVDWolf that, for whatever reason, were never posted. This review for Sunshine was originally written in July 2007.

Fifty years in the future, our sun is dying. When the first spaceship sent to re-ignite the sun disappears, a second is launched. These eight astronauts are the last hope for humanity.

Sunshine is a terrific example of straight up science fiction. Director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland sidestep the pitfalls of humour and romance – which lesser filmmakers would use as a crutch – and just give us the goods. The look of the film is spectacular, channelling other classic films that obviously inspired it, like 2001 and Alien. The dull, metallic hues inside the ship are in complete contrast to the bright colours of the imposing sun. The visual effects in space are as good as anything I’ve ever seen and made the approaching star seem like its own character. I never once felt like I wasn’t out on that spaceship with them. Sunshine also sports a fine ensemble cast including Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans and Michelle Yeoh. The absence of a big name serves the script well because every character is on equal ground, with no lines of gender or race. The film is, as Boyle puts it, “just eight astronauts strapped to the back of a bomb”. The one thing I especially appreciated about Sunshine was the trailer only revealed the setup. The whole second half of the movie is a complete surprise and the story unfolds for you without any preconceived notions. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t spoon-fed the entire story in a trailer – maybe M. Night’s last one, but Sunshine didn’t turn out to be shit. There are several sci-fi films that Sunshine is reminiscent of, but it also never seems like it’s not its own entity. There were some weird editing choices towards the end that made the climax a little hard to follow, but overall Boyle should be very proud of his first foray into science fiction.