Friday, October 9, 2015

Saw Movie Review – You Know This One

Runtime: 103 minutes
Release Date: October 29, 2004
Rating: R
Director: James Wan

You already know the plot of Saw, but if you're like me and haven't seen it in a few years, let's go way back to the very beginning of one of the top grossing horror movie franchises in history.

Dr. Lawrence Gordon and a photographer named Adam wake up locked in a dirty and disgusting bathroom. Adam is chained by the ankle to a bathtub, while Lawrence is chained all the way across the room. When they first wake up, they find the body of a man with his head blown open laying in the center of the room. Though Adam does have two large saws, neither one is sharp enough or big enough to cut through his chains.

Through flashbacks, we learn all about a killer known as the Jigsaw Killer. Instead of shooting or stabbing people, he kidnaps them and places them in traps he designs himself. They need to do something serious in order to escape. He believes he is testing them and making them better. Both men have tape recorders that reveal messages for each one, letting them know that they are in a Jigsaw trap and that they have a limited time to escape. As the movie progresses, the two men learn the connections they had to the killer and find that they cannot trust the other...

Let me tell you the story about the first time I saw this movie. Everyone in real life and online kept talking about The Grudge, which I hadn't yet seen. I went to the movies, saw it, and had some time leftover with the next showing of Saw about to start. Went in, watched the movie, and didn't talk for a good 10 minutes after. Everything about Saw was so amazing that I couldn't believe more people weren't talking about it!

A lot of people talking about the Saw franchise in terms of the newer films without remembering how great the original was. The very first trap we see, which is the reverse bear trap Amanda wears on her head, sets the tone for everything that came later. We know that there's no way she could ever get out of that, which is what makes it so shocking when she actually does. We also get to meet Detective Kerry, who has one of the most gruesome death scenes later.

Part of what made Saw so great wasn't just the twist ending. By the way, I don't care what people say, NO ONE would have ever guessed that the dead man on the floor would get up and walk out later. It was the atmosphere of the film that made it so amazing. It showed that you didn't need a lot of fancy sets or effects to make a great movie. Leigh Whannell Cary Elwes literally carried that movie on their backs. They made us want to root for them and for them to escape, which is what made the ending so heartbreaking.

If you haven't seen Saw in awhile or still have memories of the later films in your head, it's time to head over to Netflix or pop in a copy of the first film.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Top 5 Best, Worst, and Most Disturbing Moments from American Horror Story: Hotel

American Horror Story: Hotel, aka the fourth season of the show, dropped last night. We got to meet the detective on the hunt for a serial killer, the two foreign girls who checked in and never checked out, and of course, the bad acting of Lady Gaga. Having watched the season premier, I think I can finally list the top five best, worst, and most shocking/disturbing moments from the episode.

There's something in the bed!

Two Swedish girls arrive at the hotel and quickly find out that it looks nothing like they expected. After learning from the less than happy Kathy Bates that there are no refunds, they decide to go ahead and stick it out. Cut to one of the girls seeing something weird with the bed and the other ripping off the sheets to reveal a set of jagged stitches across the middle of the mattress. Since the Swedes have more balls than us, one of the gals attacks the stitches with a knife, which just makes the situation worse as one of the creepiest and most disturbing men of all time literally crawls right out of the mattress.

The longest sex and murder scene ever.

Matt Bomer and Lady Gaga are a couple who are either vampires or serial killers or some type of vampire/serial killer hybrid. They get all gussied up and head out for a night at the outdoor movies, where Matt promptly begins making eyes at another woman and Gaga makes eyes at the woman's boyfriend. Cut to the four of them coming back to the hotel for what could pass for an orgy. After what seems like forever, Gaga finally slices open the man's throat with the sharp metal nail at the end of one finger. The whole scene just left me wishing it would end and that we could just get to the good stuff. I really think it went on a little too long.

Don't do drugs kids.

Later on, we finally get some back story on some of the characters we already met. Hypodermic Sally spends much of the episode roaming around the hotel and doing very little, other than get in the way of Kathy Bates' Iris, the front desk manager. Towards the end of the episode, we find out that she was a junkie who brought Donovan (aka Bomer) back to the hotel, gave him drugs, and pretty much laughed when he died. Iris showed up to save her son from the evil woman and already found him dead. As Hypodermic Sally goes wandering through the hotel, she pauses to look out the window, giving Iris just enough time to shove her out the window. It was a completely unexpected moment made even better by the look on her face as she landed on the ground below.

Metal dildos are way bad.

Gabriel checks into the hotel for a little drug action of his own, only to see something truly gruesome when he shoots himself up. A figure comes out of the shadows wearing little more than a large metal dildo attached to a pair of underwear. That figure proceeds to attack, knock him to the bed, flip him over, and have his way with him, much to the shock and wanting to scream of my boyfriend and myself.

I'm so far not a big fan of Lady Gaga and that was before I learned that she plays one of my favorite horror icons of all time. I know she'll get tons of recognition for the role and that people probably already love her, but she doesn't do it for me...yet. I do, however, look forward to learning more about John Lowe and what happened to his son as well as what will happen with his serial killer, though I hope it doesn't turn into too much going on like with the second season. And I want to give a shout out to Denis O'Hare. Just when I thought I couldn't like him anymore, he turns up here as Liz Taylor with perfect accessories and a bored look on his face. How can you not love him?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Scream Queens Episode 2 – Hell Week

Instead of doing a bigger recap like I did for the last episode, which you can easily find online, I think I'll just hit some of the main points this time.

Everyone but Grace, who is still out with Pete, gets buried up to their necks in the lawn of the sorority house. Red Devil comes out of nowhere on a lawn mower and immediately strikes down Deaf Taylor Swift, who as she's deaf, doesn't even know what's coming to the very end.

Niecy Nash as Denise Hemphill steals the show. While she can't carry a gun as a security guard, she can carry a phone and contact the police who will bring guns. When the girls go after the killer, she's the only one smart enough to call them dumb and then run for the door. Sadly, she doesn't find her dead friend in her security guard, but in a hilarious twist, she shoves the woman out of the car while driving off into the sunset.

Jamie Lee Curtis remembers when deans had more power. As she walks through the crowded crime scene, she sees kids taking pictures and posting them online and students trying to make the tragedy all about them. She also smokes pot and sleeps with Chad, which is something I could totally see her doing in real life.

Grace constantly denies there is anything going on between her and Pete, even after they kiss. Instead of getting her some like any red blooded college girl today would, she remains dedicated to the idea of finding the killer, which I highly doubt will happen anytime soon.

Pete tries a little too hard to get something going. When he strips in front of her and then stands in front of the door before lounging in bed half-naked, I had to cringe.

Jamie Lee hits on Wes who demands she get him a job on campus so he can look after his poor mother less daughter. He spends a little too much time hanging out in front of the sorority house too. Gigi eventually steals his heart after chatting with him and discovering they both have a love of 90s hair band power ballads.

Grace finds the bathtub the sorority sister drowned in just chilling in the basement. Chanel finds her and says they keep all their dirty little secrets down there and tells her the story. Grace decides that Pete must somehow be the baby. Despite having no proof, she also assumes he's the killer.

Pete steals information from the dean's office. Red Devil bops him over the head and leaves him tied up outside with a note to mind his own business. Eh, pretty lame for a killer.

Boone, Chad's best friend, wants to climb into bed with him because he's scared. Chad isn't too down with the idea since the last time it happened, Boone touched his penis. Seeing Nick Jonas climb into bed and spoon with another man while holding onto a stuffed frog might be the highlight of the episode. He also wants to join the sorority. The other girls hate the idea, but Chanel thinks it might work. I'm not sure any sorority would agree to having a male sister.

Boone gets attacked by Red Devil in his room. The brothers, who are supposedly massive homophobes, find his dead body and scream like little girls. Red Devil goes to the morgue, opens up the drawer, and stares down at his dead body. Boone suddenly sits up, peels off the fake slash across his throat, and says it took long enough. This is the worst morgue and medical examiner in history.

Best line of the night? Shandelle, why you got a knife in your throat?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Scream Queens Episode One – Pilot

The very first episode of Scream Queens opens at the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority house back in 1995 at Wallace University. In the middle of a major party, the girls find themselves sent upstairs to the bathroom, where they find that a pledge just gave birth to a baby. They can't be bothered dealing with her because their jam, TLC's Waterfalls, suddenly starts playing. They come back to find that she died, leaving them with the problem of what to do with the baby and what to do with the dead body.

Cut to the present day. We meet Chanel, the president of the sorority, and her lackeys, Chanel #2, Chanel #3, and Chanel #5. While there was a Chanel #4, she's no longer around. We also get to meet Grace, the daughter of a legacy, and her extremely hot dad Wes, played by Oliver Hudson. Grace convinces her new roommate Zayday to pledge with her.

Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) calls Chanel into her office and threatens to expel the sorority from campus because of the numerous complaints she received and because she just plain doesn't like them. Gigi, a former sister perpetually stuck in the 1980s, then arrives, announces she is the lawyer for the sorority, and that the dean doesn't have the authority to kick them out.

Grace arrives at the first pledge party and finds the girls are absolutely nothing like her mom. The dean shows up and tells them that if they want to remain on campus, they must agree to accept any girl who pledges. All the other girls take off running when they find out it won't be the prettiest, richest, and most popular girls any more. That leaves them with Grace, Zayday, Neckbrace, Jennifer, Sam, and Deaf Taylor Swift.

Grace also meets Pete, a guy working in the coffee shop. Chanel flips out on him for making her pumpkin spice latte wrong and then reveals that he “stalked” her the previous year and sent her tons of text messages, but that doesn't stop Grace from getting a little crush on him. We also get to meet Mrs. Bean, the housekeeper for the sorority house. Chanel decides that to scare off the new pledges, she'll pretend to drown Mrs. Bean in the fryer that night.

Before the next party, the other girls find a shrine dedicated to pictures of Chanel with her eyes cut out. She confronts Mrs. Bean in front of the other girls and shoves her head in the fryer. Turns out it was actually turned on, and Mrs. Bean's face literally melts off in front of them. While Grace wants to go to the cops, Chanel gets the other girls on her side with promises of hot boyfriends and a spring break trip on her dad's private plane.

Grace turns to Pete for help, but when they go to look for Mrs. Bean's body, which the girls put in a walk-in freezer, she's gone. Chanel also goes to her own boyfriend Chad, the president of the most popular fraternity, but he only cares that she's no longer popular. The Red Devil, the killer of the show, turns up at the end of the episode to kill Chanel #2.


After the first episode of Scream Queens, I'm on the fence. The humor feels a little forced at times, and I can't help feeling like the writers created the show for people way younger than me. A lot of people got a kick out of Chanel #2 tweeting and sending Facebook messages during her death scene, but even that felt like it was trying too hard.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Doc of the Dead – The Ultimate Zombie Documentary

Runtime: 81 minutes
Release Date: June 14, 2014
Rating: NR
Director: Alexandre O. Phillippe

I occasionally get a bee in my bonnet and wind up watching a slew of documentary films or adding a bunch of those films to my Netflix queue. That ends with me telling my friends all these random facts about serial killers, animals, health insurance, or some other random topic. After watching Doc of the Dead, they can look forward to hearing all about zombies in the coming days!

Doc of the Dead opens with a scene of a zombie outbreak with Bruce Campbell and Simon Pegg doing voiceover work. It then jumps right into a detailed discussion of zombie movies and the zombie phenomenon. While the description makes it seem like this is a documentary about the history of the zombie movie, it doesn't really play out like that. It's more a documentary about how zombies became so popular over the years.

A good portion of the documentary focuses on Night of the Living Dead with George Romero himself talking about making the film. It then glosses over some of the films that came later before hitting on Shaun of the Dead. Romero even comments that it's his favorite zombie movie that he didn't make himself. We also get to hear about how it might be the second best zombie movie of all time and how it spoke to an entire generation of people in the same way that Clerks did.

Look, I love Shaun of the Dead, so much so that when my roommate revealed he never saw it last year, I made a noise that sounded like a dying cat. When I couldn't find my copy, I marches his ass to the used DVD store, bought a copy, and made him watch it that same night. As much as I love it, I don't know if it really spoke to a whole generation of people. Maybe it's because I don't live in Britain, but I thought it was just a sound movie that did a great job of mixing horror and comedy.

Since this film is all about zombies, we also have to hear a lot about The Walking Dead. While I did like that they brought in the artists from the comic book, it seemed like it jumped too fast from the comic book to the show and everything that came later. If it weren't for the artists, the show wouldn't exist, and I wanted to see more about the comic. Then again, I missed the entire last season of the show and am not the biggest fan of Fear the Walking Dead, so I may not be the best judge for that segment.

Other documentary films dedicated to the horror genre usually focus solely on horror movies, but this one actually looked at other elements, which I liked. We get to hear about the world famous zombie walk in Denver and how it grew from less than 50 people in its first year to more than 15,000 people today. Then we hear from the author of The Zombie Survival Guide and what prompted him to write the book. We even hear from the people making survival spaces for people concerned with real life zombie outbreaks.

Doc of the Dead wound up being more interesting than I expected, but it expires from Netflix soon, so watch it fast!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

LA Apocalypse Movie Review – LA Has Nothing to Worry About

Runtime: 80 minutes
Release Date: December 20, 2014
Rating: NR
Director: Michael J. Sarna

Calvin is just your typically 20 something living in Los Angeles and planning to propose to his girlfriend when all hell breaks loose. He had everything all set up to pop the question to Ashley (Gina Holden, Final Destination 3) later that night, but an earthquake stops him in his tracks. At the same time, Ashley is stuck in her office when disaster strikes. She and her coworkers wind up trapped in the basement with nearly dead cell phones.

To make matters worse, the earthquake did enough damage to the local jail/prison that a group of inmates escaped. Some side with the king pen drug dealer, while others just want to get the hell out of town. There's also a group of soldiers called in by the government to help the survivors. I think that was just an excuse to put Christopher Judge in the movie as a lieutenant.

After spending way too much time running around and moaning because he can't get in touch with Ashley, Calvin finally meets Grisham, Judge's character. The two help each other until they wind up separated, which leads to Grishman spending most of the movie trying to save both Ashley and Calvin because he claims he owes them or something.

LA Apocalypse should be right up my alley. As much as I love me some horror flicks, I also love me some disaster movies. This one was just bad. After it ended, my friend looked at me and said something to the effect of how it wasn't as bad as some of the stuff I made him watch, while I stuck to my original opinion that it was just bad.

This is the kind of movie that milks way too much out of specific scenes. Take for instance Ashley and her coworkers. They're trapped in the building, reach for their cell phones, and conveniently find that everyone has an almost dead battery. That's something that should only take 60 seconds at most but turns into a five minute long scene. We then come back to find that instead of turning off their phones to save their batteries, they decided that everyone should try to make one phone call each. Uh, if your phone doesn't work, why would the next phone?

This is really just so Ashley can make one phone call and leave Calvin a message. He, of course, then spends 10 minutes running around town to try and listen to the message before deciding that he must save her at any cost. It might work if the two had any chemistry or the film set up their relationship first, but nope. All we know is that he wanted to propose. We know nothing else about them or even see them interacting until the last minute or so of the movie.

Oh, and did I mention that Calvin later gets saved by a hot woman who conveniently knows a little too much about the city's penal system and all the convicts currently on the loose? Ugh. That's the best word to describe LA Apocalypse: ugh.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Asylum Movie Review – An After Dark Original

Runtime: 93 minutes
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Rating: R
Director: Todor Chapkanov

Asylum made me remember that you shouldn't judge a book or a movie by its cover. While the cover art and the description made it look great, it was far from what I expected.

I'll be honest here and say that I never even bothered to learn the names of characters in the movie because it kept jumping around so much. There are two main stories going on at the same time. The first is a hostage negotiator working in an insane asylum. A group of patients escaped and took over the hospital. The negotiator and his team must try to take back the hospital and keep the inmates in line.

While that might be a movie I would like to see, I wasn't too crazy about the second story. This one involves two men sitting around and watching the footage shot of a new horror movie on a computer. Turns out that the horror movie is actually the first story, as in the asylum story isn't actually happening but is just a movie. As if that weren't enough, we also have to deal with some spirits or some shit taking over the movie. It's just too much.

That's the main problem with Asylum: there is just too much going on. It's like the producers wanted to make two separate movies, realized they didn't have enough content, and decided to just throw a couple of stories together. It jumps back and forth between the stories too much, which makes things a little hard to follow.

Did I mention that there's some type of MST3K thrown in for good measure as well? The two guys watching the footage aren't content with just sitting down and watching the footage. They want to critique everything they see and try to make it into a big joke. All that does is take us out of the movie. Just as things start to get interesting, we cut back to the two of them.

The saddest thing of all is that Stephen Rea has a fairly major role in the movie and gets top billing. You might remember him from movies like Underworld: Awakening, The Crying Game, and V for Vendetta. While he is a talented actor, the director completely wastes his talent here. It led to my roommate going from, “hey that guy looks kind of familiar” to “wait, I know him from Underworld” to “oh god, why is he in this movie?”.

I occasionally see ratings for films later and usually disagree, but this one absolutely deserves the low rating it has on IMDB. While reading what others thought, I noticed that a lot of people thought it was hilarious, but I found it more painful than anything. It's clear that the writers and director wanted to make a funny movie but that didn't happen.

While the horror sections of Asylum weren't too bad, the comedic elements were just way too much.