Category: Horror & Sci-Fi


A bad movie that never really stood a chance is one thing. I mean, when you see a bad movie starring someone like Katherine Heigl or directed by Brett Ratner, you just sort of shrug and say, “yeah, well, what else was that gonna be, really?” On the other hand, Dark Shadows, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s new reimagining of the cult supernatural soap opera, is the most disappointing kind of bad movie, one that constantly teeters right on the edge of being something truly worthwhile, only to keep shooting itself in the foot at nearly every turn. It’s got a decent concept, with seemingly the right director and definitely a very game cast, but something just seems off almost the entire way through. If you could take the word “frustrating” and distill it into film form, it would be this movie.

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Horror needed The Cabin in the Woods.

I don’t necessarily mean it needed another self-reflective, meta, deconstructive look at the genre and its various cliches. One of those every few years is just fine, thank you. But what it did need was a slap-in-the-face reminder of just how good, original and powerful the genre can be, particularly at the theatrical level. Sure, there have been decent enough horror films over the last few years, but when was the last game-changer? The last film with this sort of word of mouth? The last “knocks you right out of your seat, you can’t believe how great it is” masterpiece? I know some will point to Paranormal Activity, but that was just a more popular and better-received version of a sub-genre already going at the time, and all it really did was unleash a wave of predictable sequels and wannabes. The Cabin in the Woods is something else entirely. This is Next Level film-making.

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In all the speculation about why Disney’s John Carter failed at the box-office (poor marketing, limited mainstream appeal, lack of big stars), one potential explanation has remained curiously unmentioned – perhaps most folks just thought the story had already been told well enough in The Asylum’s 2009 adaptation, Princess of Mars.

Ha, I’m just fucking with you. Nobody thinks that.

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John Carter, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic series of sci-novels, arrives encumbered by 100 years of anticipation and unavoidable (though perhaps unfair and unnecessary) talk about its gigantic budget, piss-poor marketing and lack of mainstream appeal. I can’t remember any film in recent memory that has been more under a microscope than this one, and I certainly have my own opinions about how Disney has handled the film and its chances of actually launching a franchise as a result. But that’s a discussion for another day. For now, the question is simply how does John Carter fare as a movie, and I’m happy to report that, despite some undeniable flaws, the film works amazingly well more often than not, and rightfully earns its spot in the pantheon of enjoyable sci-fi adventures.

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In 2007’s Ghost Rider, daredevil turned supernatural hero Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) says “I’m the only one who can walk in both worlds.” I still have absolutely no idea what he meant by that, but I’m gonna steal the line anyway, and say that this new sorta-sequel-but-also-sorta-reboot Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance does indeed walk in two worlds – the world of “good-bad movies” and the world of “bad-bad movies.” The important question is how much time it spends in each.

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When we last left vampire Death Dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and her lover, vampire/lycan hybrid Michael (Scott Speedman), at the end of Underworld: Evolution (we can ignore the fairly unnecessary prequel film, Rise of the Lycans), they had successfully defeated both the sole remaining vampire elder Marcus, the first vampire, and his brother William, the first werewolf. What’s more, Selene had acquired new, somewhat undefined powers – we could assume enhanced strength and agility, and we knew for sure she could now walk in daylight. With the leaders of both the vampires and lycans dead, and what remained of the clans thrown into chaos because of their actions, Selene and Michael stood at a crucial turning point in the centuries-long war between the two sides.

Yeah, well, forget about all that.

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Amer, a Belgian/French co-production written and directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, has been sold as a love letter to the Italian “giallo ” films of the ’70s, and so as a huge fan of that genre I had really been looking forward to seeing this one. But be forewarned – although the giallo influence is obvious, it is more in terms of style and atmosphere than it is actual structure. Anyone hoping for a giallo-esque murder mystery will be very disappointed. Heck, anyone expecting a plot will be disappointed. Since most giallo films are remembered more for their style than for their often overly-convoluted plots, it wasn’t necessarily a bad idea for Amer‘s filmmakers to concentrate their tribute on the visuals, music and mood. But there’s a point where “tribute” goes a little too far and crosses into over-the-top parody. Amer crosses that point…and then keeps driving for like ten more miles.

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The Scream series started back when I was in high school, and was obviously a pretty big deal for me given my love of horror (then again, Scream seemed to be a big deal for everyone, as it was that rare horror series that actually managed to suck in a lot of non-horror fans as well). And so watching a new Scream movie, now eleven years(!) since the last one sort of feels like visiting an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time. Of course, visiting an old friend can go a lot of ways – sometimes you have a blast and remember what it is you liked so much about hanging out with the friend, other times you realize that in the intervening years one or both of you has changed, and you don’t really have too much in common anymore. Scream 4 is kind of a mixture of the two.

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You know how sometimes you see a movie with a great concept so obvious that you can’t believe no one thought of it before (and feel like kicking yourself for not being the one that did)? Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil is that kind of movie.

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Bloodrayne: The Third Reich is an Uwe Boll movie.

Some might suggest I could just end the review right there, but I don’t know…I guess this is the part where I admit I don’t really have anything against Boll. It’s not that I think he’s a great filmmaker or anything (I’m not crazy), but at the same time I DO take umbrage with the commonly accepted belief that he is THE worst director out there. As someone who has watched A LOT of intolerable films during a weekly “Shitty Movie Night” with friends, I can definitely say that Boll is far from cinema’s worst offender. Heck, the very fact that he can competently frame a shot and stage somewhat – SOMEWHAT – decent action scenes absolves him of that title. And occasionally – usually during his more “serious” films like Tunnel Rats or Darfur – you can even catch glimpses of some real, genuine talent peeking out.  Hey, I said glimpses.

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