måndag 22 april 2013

Manborg (2011)

Holy fuck, I haven't been this entertained by movie in years! Manborg is a real curio, a loving tribute to the 80:s that throws in everything and the kitchen sink in a glorious display of lo-fi special effects and tongue in cheek storytelling in such a way that it is over before you realize you are having the best time in your life.

The gates of hell have opened and mankind are at war with the hordes of demons pouring out, and losing it. A young soldier watches his brother get killed by the evil Lord Draculon before he himself is mowed down by the demonic soldiers. A number of years later he wakes up into a dystopian, demon-controlled society where humanity lives in the blasted cityruins of what used to be Earth. He has now been transformed into the half human - half man:  MANBORG. Together with a small group of cliched characters straight out of 80s actionmovies he has to battle the evil Lord Draculon and his cohorts in order to redeem his humanity and avenge his brother. I hope I did a good job sounding like the text on the back of an old Empire vhs because this is what Manborg feels like.

With a quick glance at Manborg you might dismiss it as cheap and silly but while it actually is both, it doesn't mean that it is boring or worse. On the contrary, the movie (shot entirely on green screen) is full of cool things that are meant to look like that. The special effects are cheap and simple, but designed that way with an production design that I haven't seen elsewhere other than in C64 games or maybe Captain Power and the soldiers of the future if you remember that old tv-show (I haven't seen Captain power since it was released so I dont remember much but it popped up in my mind pretty quick as I started to watch Manborg). There is so much cool stuff here, like the crude but awesome stopmotion demons that pop up everywhere and the lovingly overacting actors (for instance, the asian guy Nr 1 Man who always walks around without any clothes on his upper body and is hilariously dubbed). Everything moves as such breakneck pace that the miniscule 60 minutes feel like 20. And that is my only real complaint, the movie is way too short although they stretch it out to 70 by adding an hilarious trailer after the credits of a fake movie called Bio-Cop, a movie about a police office transformed into a slimy mass after getting doused with radioactive waste and his hijinx after remaining in the police force (he just screams Kill me all the time). Fun stuff indeed.

Yes, I admit, I loved Manborg. It was perfectly tailored to my own tastes in popular culture and is a must see. Astron 6 have perfected the art of loving the 80s and now I want more. Manborg 2? Please? PLEASE?!

måndag 8 april 2013

Demonwarp (1988)

Demonwarp really had some potential. It starts with a meteor landing on earth with a preacher discovering it as he is trecking in those classic Californian hills. From then we move forward in time and watch as George Kennedy (who is prominetly featured on the cover but in the movie for about 10 minutes) is playing Trivial pursuit with his daughter in a cabin in the woods. All is well until something hairy attacks them and runs off with the daughter. As the plot moves forward in its intricate machinations we are now introduced to a group of overage teens traveling to the very same woods for a weekend of partying and debauchery, not knowing that the "leader" of the group is actually going there to find out what happened to his uncle who disappeared in the area. To pad the movie to a decent length the movie also gives us a couple of other random characters that never really interact with the rest, such as a hiker and two women who are only in the movie to show their breasts and get messily killed. So far so good, but now everything falls apart. Big time. And boy does it fall apart in one of the more bad ways I have ever encountered.

The first half of the movie isn't exactly good but it is at least somewhat entertaining. We get lots of nudity, bad acting and some nice gore, not a bad thing. But then the movie decides to throw in just about anything it can think of and turns plain stupid. SPOILERS GALORE from now on. You see, it is a Bigfoot doing all of this killing and it's just not any plain Bigfoot, it is an aliencontrolled bigfoot. The meteor that we saw in the beginning of the movie contained an alien who has for the last hundred years been sitting in a cave, turning travelers into bigfoots and/or zombies so that he can build a ship or something to be able to leave the planet. We eventually end up in the alien lair (about as high tech as anything made in the 50s) where the lead character confront the alien and his zombies who are all wearing cheap halloween masks, like they ran out of money for the final confrontation. It is straight out of the cheapest 50s scifi and such a big disappointment after the somewhat fun first half, you just can't take a second of it seriously. END OF SPOILER.

So, Demonwarp (nice title since there are no demons in it) is just a bad, silly movie; cheesy to the extreme. There is quite a lot of bad acting, naked breasts and cheesy gore to keep you interested throughout but in the end you just get frustrated by the climax that is so mindnumbingly awful that you want to put a bullet in your brain. If you just have to see every cheesefilled, latex-ridled horrormovie of the 80s then so be it, I suppose there are more boring movies than this. But I sure as hell won't be watching this again. Unless there is a proper dvd and a lot of beer.

söndag 7 april 2013

The Whisperer in darkness (2011)

2005 faux silent movie Call of Cthulhu stands as one of the best adaptations of H. P. Lovecraft, if not actually the best. It worked around the pitfalls of presenting material that really cant be "shown" as if it was made during the heyday of silent cinema and did an exceptionally good job of it with surrealistic miniatures and a strong set design. Now comes the next production from the very same filmmakers and this time we move forward in time with an adaptation of the short story The Whispererer in darkness as a 1930-1940ish horrormovie. My expectations were sky high.

The original short story deals with strange and alien creatures haunting a farmer in the forests of Vermont and the revelation of their purpose as the main character travels to the remote house to meet the besieged man. However, the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society has decided to expand upon the story and actually managed to lessen the horror content. The original story itself is about half of the movie now, going in an entirely different and more "action-oriented" direction after the events of the story has played out. I suppose I could bitch about this, but it is actually quite in tone with the filmmakers intent of it being a 40s movie with some dashing and running around, ending in a rather good and authentically cheap looking actionsequence. In fact, the movie really does an excellent job in the look and feel of that very era. The actors are wildly uneven, either risibly stern or overacting like their lives depend on it and I'm pretty damn sure that it is all on purpose. It doesnt really matter, it works perfectly. Sure, there are a few instances of the cinematography being a bit too obviously digital but these never distract from the overall feeling. The only thing that does not work is the special effects of some of the creatures that look more like they came straight out of a Starship troopers sequel shot for Syfy but they are redeemed by a couple of truly wonderful and inspired flying beasties towards the end of the movie that bring a smile on my face just when thinking about them. I'd like a miniature of one of them on my shelf.

Yes, I was not disappointed with The Whisperer in darkness. The storyextensions doesnt really feel that much Lovecraft but within the context of the movie they are excellent and invokes a cool atmosphere of fun, spunky black & white horror. If you liked Call of Cthulhu you should check this out.

fredag 5 april 2013

Evidence (2011)

Recognise this setup?

A group of youths go out into the woods to shoot a documentary. They moan and whine and even more so when strange things start to happen such as weird sounds in the night, dark animal shapes that are just glimpsed. Some of them want to leave but others dont and it all leads to nastiness.

This was a description of just about every single Found footage movie that has poured out on dvd at the constant rate of camera prices going down. Most of these are frankly crap, made by people who have no real understanding of how such a movie works. We get a few gold nuggets such as REC and Cloverfield, but these are few and far between. Evidence starts out EXACTLY like you expect it to, strange animal cries are heard and the youths behave as intelligently as a sack of mouldy potatoes. There are a few chills that keep you going but it all feels so clichéd. Then it all goes completely insane.

I would like to tell you more about the plot but I wont, the less you know the more you will enjoy it but when you look back you realize that there were a few hints all along. Evidence goes from Found footage by the numbers to an exciting riproaring horrormovie that takes no prisoners, full of dark and maybe not totally original but still cool concepts. It asks more questions than it answers (some cool extra footage during the credits goes even further with that) but I go with the old "the mind is better at filling in the blanks than standard story exposition" trick and the movie just gets better with that. The only complaints I have is that the actors arent given much to work with in the first half, making you wish that they all would die a horrible death but as soon as the running starts you are too caught up in the events that it doesnt really matter anymore. And speaking of running, a constantly shaking camera with the usual fake errors to conceal editing does get a bit grating after a while. It does not kill the movie but I would sure as hell not want to watch this in a movie theatre.

This is the best found footage flick since REC2 and I admire the filmmakers for having the balls of actually going somewhere with a concept that is getting less interesting by the minute. Very well recommended.

tisdag 2 april 2013

The Black door (2001)

The Black door is a real curiosity, a truly fascinating mockumentary that is strangely split between being carefully staged and oddly amateurish. It starts with a young man, Steven, being brought into a hospital, screaming from the top of his lungs that everything has to be filmed. He is covered in large wounds that look like they were made with giant claws and soon after he is found to have been afflicted with some sort of unknown disease that is causing his internal organs to rapidly decay. From then on we move back in time with a documentary crew as they follow the young man researching the case of Balmaseda, a Mexican businessman who disappeared in the 1930:s, a case that leads him into discovering a satanic cult called The Black door and their actions that still has consequences until present day. An old film is found that shows Balmaseda being willingly sacrificed in a satanic rite and then some, it's best watched without knowing what happens beforehand. They discover that Steven was told by a surviving member of the cult that there are answers in an old house in the suburbs. Naturally, he goes there in the middle of the night, finding it to be the very same house where the sacrifice took place and then something happens.

I am truly flabbergasted by The Black door since it had such potential. For starters, all the old footage and photography of The Black door doing what they do best (sacrificing people to Satan) are so well staged and performed that the rest of the movie suffers a great deal from it. The present day actors go from overacting as if their life depended upon it or not being able to act at all, not even functioning properly as subjects of an fake interview. I can live with that but the filmmakers made on really bad decision that is even worse, and that is the soundtrack. Everything is drenched in melancholic or dramatic music to the point of it almost being risible, as if they didn't trust their material at all. To add even more insult, towards the end of the movie, when we have learned a bit more of what is causing all of this, we even hear a distorted growl of some sort of demon again and again in an attempt to add shock. It is frankly just stupid. I'm hoping that this was the decision of a producer that didn't consider the first version sellable but in the end it turns the movie into what could have been a superior mockumentary into one of the most flawed movies I have seen in years.

Ok, it sounds like telling you not to watch this movie but actually, that is far from the truth. The Black door, majorly flawed as it is, is still a great experience with a good, fascinating plot that slowly builds into a creepy climax with the high points being the black & white footage of the ritual (if the movie had been as good as this long scene, it would have gotten ten out of ten) and the simple, yet effective sequence when Steven explores the house by flashlight. The movie suffers a lot from being so idioticly overdramatic when it really should have been treated more somberly, it would have been a lot more efficient that way. If you like mockumentaries and Found footage movies, I will recommend this, just be prepared that the bad choices of the filmmakers might put you off.

måndag 1 april 2013

Atrocious (2010)

I haven't given up on the Found footage genre yet. Sure, there are maybe a few too many haunted asylum or haunted movies that are way too similar, so many that I really have a hard time remembering which ones I've seen already. But then we get movies like Evidence (which always will be my prime example of a movie that shows that you can do something extraordinary within a pretty tight set of rules) and the movie I am about to review, Fernando Barreda Lunas wonderfully creepy Atrocious.

Atrocious starts with the fairly overused gimmick that the footage we are about to see is the property of a police from a criminal investigation. From then we move back in time to follow the Quintanilla family of five as they travel to their country house, with the two oldest kids roaming around with videocameras in order to make some sort of documentary about a legendary ghostgirl that is supposed to roam around in the area. The overgrown maze nearby is of course a good place to start looking and will soon be the setting for a shitload of übercreepiness. Things start ever so "gently" with the family dog going missing (the audience watch him bark at the gate to the maze for hours) and soon the kids find him dead in a well in the center of the maze. Later that night the youngest child go missing and everyone start looking for him in the dark. Cue retarded running around in the dark using nightvision, splitting up and a lot of very shaky camerawork up until the very tense conclusion.

There is one big hurdle to overcome if you are to enjoy Atrocious to the fullest and that is the main character Christian, the one filming all of this together with his sister July. He is simply an annoying git who just spews a lot of random nonsense. Fortunately the mystery of the whole enterprise is so enthralling that you forget all about it and it sure is one hell of a creepy ride. The long sequence in the maze towards the end of the movie where Christian is trying to find his siblings using only a camera with nightvision is simply unsettling beyond belief and the movie holds its momentum all the way. The explanation for all the events is simple and effective and Atrocious ends up being one of my favorite found footage flicks so far. Actually, simple and effective is a really good way to describe the movie and if you, like me, havent given up on the genre yet, get hold of Atrocious. It doesn't re-invent the genre but it does it's job so much better than a lot of other similar movies.