Saturday, October 25, 2014

Film Review: Martyrs (2008)

Martyrs (Review)
France/2008
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (eOne Films)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...one of them most unsettling and disturbing films I've ever watched."

Imprisoned and physically tormented as a child, Lucie (Mylene Jampanoi) seeks vengeance from the people responsible.

Martyrs follows the troubled Lucie and her lifelong friend Anna (Morjana Alaoui) after Lucie executes a seemingly normal family. Lucie is convinced this family is responsible for the heinous torture she endured as a child, and Anna reluctantly agrees to help her closest friend. Unfortunately, the revenge doesn't offer Lucie's inner-demons any satisfaction. Eventually, Anna learns more about Lucie's past and is forced to follow the same path. The ending is shocking – it feels somewhat like a cop-out, but it was very interesting.

Martyrs isn't a traditional horror film. It's not even a traditional torture film. Martyrs is more of a horror-drama hybrid, like The Exorcist. Consequently, the horror is much more effective. In fact, this is one of them most unsettling and disturbing films I've ever watched. It's one of the few films that I actually have difficulties watching due to the disturbing themes and graphic violence – both of which are amplified by the drama elements and acting. It's not something that simply aims to gross you out. Instead, this film gave me the chills; it induced that huge lump in my throat.

The story is more complicated and detailed than my synopsis, but it's a film that's better when you know less. The plot is ultimately very effective. It's confined to one area, but it's multilayered. The pacing is great, too, the film flows very naturally and stays on its feet. Other than the graphic violence, the film uses disturbing visuals and jolting jump-scares to frighten. Like I said, it's all very effective. There aren't many jump-scares, if that's what you're looking for, but most of them work very well.

The acting is all-around strong from the entire cast. Mylene Jampanoi is very good. Morjana Alaoui is fantastic as the lead – great expressions. The film is shot very well, despite its graphic violence and unsettling themes. The music is also very effective in inducing several emotions – it can be horrifying one scene, then somber during another. The special effects and makeup are fantastic; these really helped created the disturbing visuals. Writer and director Pascal Laugier, who also directed House of Voices, delivers a vicious horror film and a resonating drama. It's a fantastic blend that creates an incredibly effective and unforgettable horror-drama experience.

Overall, Martyrs is a vicious film. It's definitely not a film for everyone. In fact, despite my high praise and high score, I can't recommend this film to just anyone. It's too graphic in presentation and too polarizing in theme. But, if you're an open-minded film-goer and can tolerate extreme violence, this film might be worth a viewing. It won't be entertaining per se, but it will certainly be effective. So effective, you may never forget it.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Graphic violence and blood, including torture, and some nudity.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Film Review: Ju-on: Black Ghost (2009)

Ju-on: Black Ghost (Review)
Japan/2009
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Well Go USA)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...blends several types of horror to create a consistent and versatile horror experience."

After she faints at school, a young girl, Fukie discovers she has cyst in her body, which is actually her unborn twin.

Much like the rest of this film series, Ju-on: Black Ghost is told in non-chronological order. Consequently, it will take some effort from the audience to fully understand the film; it is engaging storytelling, but it can also be unnecessarily convoluted. Also like the rest of this film series, Ju-on: Black Ghost follows a large set of characters as they experience this grudge. The grudged sibling in Ju-on: Black Ghost torments Fukie and her family, as well as anyone who crosses its path, including a young nurse named Yuko and her neighbor. The story is creepy and creative, and it leads to a great ending.

Ju-on: Black Ghost is the most distinct film in the series. It still centers around a grudge, but it feels more like a possession film this time around, with the Ju-on signature horror. And, I like that about the film – I like it a lot. It helps the film differentiate itself while still serving as an excellent complimentary piece to White Ghost, or any other film in the series. The possession elements aren't cliché, either, it serves more as a vessel to deliver some fresh horror to the series.

And, Ju-on: Black Ghost is scary film. It blends several types of horror to create a consistent and versatile horror experience. The ghostly visuals are nightmarish – the piercing eyes in the darkness are chilling. In fact, there seem to be plenty of eye visuals in this film – I like them, a lot of creepy stares. The eerie croaking sound has a strong and disturbing presence, too. There are quite a few jump-scares here, as well, but not nearly as many as its predecessors. I don't necessarily mind, considering it does introduce some possession-like horror, but it is worth noting.

The acting is mostly good. I particularly love the death-stares some of the cast deliver, like Hana Matsumoto and Yuno Nakazono. It is a little melodramatic, though, especially some of the screaming. Otherwise, this is also a low-budget horror film. It does well in using practical camerawork, sound, and visuals to create its horror – I'm impressed. The special effects are good; some seem out of place, but I didn't mind, I was more frightened than bothered. Writer and director Mari Asato, who also helms Ring of Curse, does very well in crafting some terrifying moments and differentiating herself from the rest of the series – without alienating any fans; the film does suffer from some confusing storytelling and plot points, but Mari Asato's direction is as refreshing as ever – she's one of my favorite modern Japanese horror directors, and I look forward to seeing more from her.

Overall, Ju-on: Black Ghost is a very good Japanese horror film. It's a little different from the other films in the series, but it still manages to scare and entertain. I think Ju-on: White Ghost had more of an impact and was a bit more frightening, but Black Ghost is an excellent complimentary piece; in other words, watch them both. Strongly recommended for fans of horror and Ju-on.

Last year during our 31 Days of Halloween special, I reviewed Ju-on and Ju-on 2, now I give you Ju-on: White Ghost and Black Ghost. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed watching and writing.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Film Review: Ju-on: White Ghost (2009)

Ju-on: White Ghost (Review)
Japan/2009
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Well Go USA)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...the best film in the series since the original..."

The grudge of a murdered family is experienced by anyone who crosses it, including family friend Akane Kashiwagi (Akina Minami) and a delivery boy (Hiroki Suzuki)...

Ju-on: White Ghost requires some effort to fully digest. The story, which is really fairly simple, is a bit complicated due to the non-chronological storytelling. On one hand, well, it's complicated. On the other hand, it keeps you engaged. The story itself follows a set of characters as they experience the haunting of a family massacre caused by Atsushi, who becomes possessed after he moves into a new home with his family. It's grizzly and it enters some taboo territory, but it's all-around creepy. The ending is good, too.

Ju-on: White Ghost is an excellent entry into the Ju-on series of films. The story is reminiscent of the original films, which also utilize non-chronological storytelling. However, this film is a bit more violent and a bit more disturbing due to some themes, such as sexual abuse. White Ghost excels most in its use of a variety of horror methods. This film utilizes everything I love about horror – everything!

It builds up some nail-biting suspense and tension. It uses creepy, spine-tingling visuals. (I don't care what anyone says, the grandma with the basketball is chilling!) It also features some spooky audio; in this case, it's not as memorable as the meowing and croaking of the original, but good, nonetheless. And, if you're a fan of jump-scares, Ju-on: White Ghost has a barrage of jolters. I was even more impressed when I considered the micro-budget of the film – it utilizes great practical skills to scare.

The acting is all-around good. It can be melodramatic here and there, but it wasn't bad – not bad, at all. However, it is difficult to gauge the cast's range due to the short screen time of each actor. The film is otherwise a low-budget horror film. It makes do with what it has, though. There's some decent cinematography and some decent camerawork, too. The makeup effects are decent; I personally enjoyed it immensely, but I can see it looks a bit amateurish. Director Ryuta Miyake masterfully crafts some horrifying moments, even more so impressively when you consider the budget limitations; the storytelling could use some work, but it is otherwise a frightening and exciting horror film thanks to Miyake's direction.

Overall, Ju-on: White Ghost is a great Japanese horror film. It blends a great variety of horror to create a consistently scary and entertaining film. The storytelling requires some effort from the audience, but the story itself is chilling and disturbing. Ju-on: White Ghost is the best film in the series since the original – strongly recommended.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, including some gore and implied sexual abuse.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Film Review: House of Voices (aka Saint Ange) (2004)

House of Voices (aka Saint Ange) (Review)
France/2004
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...I found this film to move way too slow on more than one occasion."

In 1958, Anna (Virginie Ledoyen), a cleaning woman, is sent to the closing Saint Ange orphanage to clean, but finds it may be home to a sinister secret...

House of Voices is a conflicting film. On one hand, the story is very simple and even uneventful. On the other hand, the story features some great visuals and symbolism, and is mostly open to interpretation. In a sense, House of Voices is a simple yet complex horror film. The story simply follows Anna, her coworker, and the last remaining orphan as they work. Anna begins to hear and witness the unexplainable, such as whispers and moving objects. Then, she begins to unravel the mystery within the orphanage. The climax is interesting, and so is the ending; however, the ending was overly ambiguous -- I'm not certain I fully understood.

Aside from the often uneventful plot, House of Voices also suffers from some inconsistent pacing. I love slow-burn horror films, I think they're my absolute favorites in the genre. In this case, House of Voices occasionally moves too slow. It starts building up the suspense, keeps building to add the burn... then keeps building, and building, and building. House of Voices simply has too much buildup, which causes some of the suspense to dwindle. Consequently, it also keeps the film on the border of suspenseful and boring, and may cause the audience to disengage and doze off.

It's not all bad, though. I liked the simplicity of the story. I love a classic ghost story, and this film develops a decent atmosphere for the occasion. I also like the complexities of the film. The visuals of the film give you something to think about -- they give you the opportunity to participate in the mystery. At the same time, some of the visual terror is enough to give you goosebumps. The surreal climax is especially noteworthy. I won't lose any sleep at night, but the horror in this film is a saving grace for an otherwise uneventful and often dull story.

The acting is good. Virginie Ledoyen is a decent leading lady; the role isn't really demanding, though. The supporting cast is also decent. The cinematography is fantastic; the film looks amazing, featuring superb photography and camerawork. The music is also very effective in setting the ominous mood and developing the creepy atmosphere. The Netflix Instant version is available in English, but it is not a dub; apparently, this film was shot in French and English, but I might have false information. Writer and director Pascal Laugier is decent; Laugier is great in photography, visuals, and atmosphere, but lacks the proper suspense -- with too much buildup, the film never hits the fuse.

Overall, House of Voices, also known as Saint Ange, is a decent horror film. The story is interesting, but it has a very inconsistent pace, which in turn hurts the suspense and buildup. It can be frightening one minute, then dull the next. Even as a fanboy of slow-burn horror films, I found this film to move way too slow on more than one occasion. If you're a very patient moviegoer and a fan of ghost stories, this is worth renting or streaming.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some blood, and some full nudity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Film Review: The Booth (2005)

The Booth (Review)
Japan/2005
Format Viewed For Review: DVD (Tartan Asia Extreme)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...one of the most overlooked and underappreciated Japanese horror films..."

Arrogant radio DJ Shingo (Ryuta Sato) temporarily broadcasts his call-in show from Studio 6, a booth with a haunting past...

The Booth is a very straightforward and simple story. The story follows Shingo as he regularly hosts his call-in show. However, it becomes irregular when the call begin to spark some of his memories and as a mysterious voice cuts in to call him a liar. Is it the haunting of the booth? Is he being sabotaged by his co-workers? Or has his own past remerged to haunting him? The story pieces together very well up to an interesting, although somewhat contrived, climax. The story does lose some momentum towards the end, but the ending itself was decent.

I found the simplicity of The Booth to be very attractive. Even as the film jumps from flashback to the present, and vice versa, the storytelling never lost me. It's very clear and concise -- some plot points are strange, but I was never actually confused. The storytelling also kept me engaged and interested. The horror was the main treat, but the mystery was actually mysterious -- I didn't know where it was headed, despite the simplicity.

As for horror, this isn't a "jump-out-and-scare-you" horror film. It does have a handful of loud noise jump-scares, but The Booth is more of a slow-burn. It builds up nail-biting suspense and tension, it has some subtle and spooky visuals, and it's engulfed in an ominous and eerie atmosphere. And, I absolutely loved the latter; the focus on a terrifying and immersive atmosphere allows the audience to genuinely feel like they're in the haunted booth with Shingo. If you like suspenseful films, this is for you.

The acting is great from the entire cast. Ryuta Sato does very well in the role; one second he's the charismatic DJ, the next he is the arrogant person that plays the charismatic DJ. I liked the film's photography and style; I especially loved the introduction. The music also helps create the creepy-vibe of the film; it is sort of a standard horror soundtrack, but it definitely works well with the film. The English subtitles on the DVD are great, I didn't notice any significant flaws. Director Yoshihiro Nakamura expertly crafts a suspenseful and atmospheric horror film; however, it does lose some momentum towards the end and some plot points are strange, to say the least.

Overall, The Booth is a great horror film. It's not an in-your-face horror film, and I genuinely enjoy that. As a big fan of slow-burn and atmospheric horror, this was a surprising treat. The Booth is one of the most overlooked and underappreciated Japanese horror films I've ever seen -- it stands next to classics like Ringu and Ju-on: The Grudge.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some blood and violence.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Film Review: [Rec] 3: Genesis (2012)

[Rec 3]: Genesis (Review)
Spain/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (eOne Films)
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...a very fun and entertaining zombie film by its own standards."

Koldo (Diego Martin) and Clara (Leticia Dolera) celebrate their wedding with their very large and extensive family. All is well until an uncle takes a bite out of his wife...

Rec 3: Genesis begins with the series' signature found-footage style. The introduction features some nice and subtle buildup and character introductions as Adrian, Koldo's cousin, records the event. It also works well in connecting this film with the first two in the series. Eventually, Hell breaks loose in a great sequence, and the found-footage is dropped and replaced with traditional shooting. The rest of the story follows Koldo and Clara, who are separated in the chaos, as they try to reunite. It's fairly simple, but enjoyable. The ending is great – I enjoyed it, definitely something most people won't be accustomed to, though.

Rec 3: Genesis is the most polarizing film in this series – and understandably so. First and foremost, the bulk of this film is traditionally shot – it's no longer found-footage. Some people might like this, some people might hate it. I loved the found-footage in the first two films, and I'm only slightly disappointed that it was replaced in this installment. Even more polarizing, though, is the drastic change in mood. The first film is a terrifying horror film; the second film is an exciting horror-action movie; this film is a blend of horror, comedy, and romance. And, in this case, I didn't find any of it particularly frightening – the only reason this is considered a horror film is because of the blood and gore, and zombies.

However, I did think Rec 3: Genesis was exciting, funny, and occasionally clever. First, the action and gore reminded me of video games like Dead Rising – a lot melee weapons, like a sword or a mace – or, my personal favorite, a chainsaw. I like this, it's a fun and exciting change for the series. Aside from some exciting zombie action, the film also has some chilling moments. Next, the film features some very lively and humorous characters. For example, Spongebob oops, I mean John Sponge, the completely original character who doesn't infringe on any copyright. *wink wink* The black humor works very well with the rest of the film, and it is occasionally self-aware. (I loved the jab at found-footage.)

The acting is good. It's a little melodramatic at times, but it works well with the overall mood of the film. Leading man and lady Diego Martin and Leticia Dolera are great, though. The film is shot very well, both in found-footage and traditional styles; I especially enjoy the cinematography and the setting, I loved seeing the setting change over time. The music fits well with the film; it creates some tension and it creates some cheesy but humorous moments. The makeup is great, too, some of the gore is superb. This film is helmed by Paco Plaza alone, removing Jaume Balaguero for this entry. Plaza does well in creating a fun mood, but there is a notable lack of actual horror and suspense – I definitely had fun, but it has a some shortcomings.

Overall, Rec 3: Genesis is a very good film. I know many fans will be disappointed by the many differences and departures this film features, but I enjoyed it. It's definitely different from the first two films, and it's nowhere near as scary or suspeneful, but it's a very fun and entertaining zombie film by its own standards. I would honestly be lying if I said I didn't have fun. So, if you're open-minded about films, especially films you know are polarizing beforehand, I think you'll enjoy this one.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, some partial nudity.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Film Review: [Rec] 2 (2009)

[Rec] 2 (Review)
Spain/2009
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (eOne Films)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...a fantastic action-horror movie."

Immediately after the events of the first film, a Special Operations team with helmet-mounted cameras enter the quarantined apartment with a doctor from the Ministry of Health...

So, obviously you should watch the first film before watching – this is not a standalone sequel. The story follows a very distinguishable 3-act plot. It begins with the team and the doctor entering the building to investigate and complete their mission – which is to extract a vial of blood from the source of the infection. The second act follows a the father of a tenant, a firefighter, and a group of teenagers who sneak into the building – each with their own intentions. Finally, the ending pieces together the mystery with some interesting revelations and characters. I like the final act and the ending of the film – it's definitely different, but I like the originality.

In fact, the entire film is original. I love the blend of possession and zombie, and the found-footage perspective works very well with the setting. In this case, the ending goes beyond the possession and zombie genres, and treads into some experimental territory – and I like it. I also like how this sequel implements a new set of characters. Okay, there is one flaw in these characters – or, more like three. The only thing I didn't like about this film are the annoying teenagers – I mean, they're not only blatantly arrogant, but I think they're borderlines stupid.

It should be noted, though, Rec 2 is different than the original in more ways than simply the characters and some of the new ideas it implements. Rec 2 is more of an action-horror movie rather than a traditional horror film. Where I found Rec to be terrifying, I find Rec 2 to be more thrilling. Rec 2 still offers great suspense, gory visuals, and some jolting jump-scares, but it moves at a more ferocious pace and has much more action than the first. A lot of shooting, a lot of wrestling, and a lot of running. It's exciting and thrilling, and it has a scary atmosphere – so, I still count it as a horror film. But, it's different from the first. I don't find it detrimental – in fact, I think both films compliment each other well – but it is worth noting for those expecting more of the same.

The acting, although better than most horror films nowadays, is a bit more overdone this time around. The sense of panic and terror that was so masterful in the original feels louder and more unnatural this time around – especially from the teenage cast. The film looks great, though. I love the setting of this film; the claustrophobic hallways return in full force, but I enjoyed how we revisit this setting – it's a very memorable set. The shaky camera returns, and it's still better than most shaky cams we see in found-footage films nowadays. I also like the first-person perspective we see from the helmet-mounted cameras. Directing pair Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza return with a vicious action-horror movie; it's definitely less frightening than the first, but more exciting and thrilling – pick your poison.

Overall, Rec 2 is a fantastic action-horror movie. Although it's not the better film, it masterfully compliments the original film. If you love exciting and thrilling horror movies like Aliens, I think you'll love this film – well, if you can tolerate found-footage and have seen the first, of course. As a matter of fact, now that I think of it, Rec 2 is sort of the horror equivalent of The Raid. Anyway, this film sits between an 8 and 9 for me, I'll give it the benefit of a 9, though. (again)

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Film Review: [Rec] (2007)

[Rec] (Review)
Spain/2007
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (eOne Films)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...a contemporary horror masterpiece."
 
Television reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman, Pablo, cover the night shift at a local fire station for their series While You're Sleeping. Angela and Pablo tag along to a routine call in an apartment, which quickly spirals into madness...

[Rec] is a fairly simple story. The camera crew arrive with the firemen to find some police officers have already arrived. The call concerns an old woman's bloodcurdling screams from her apartment – most of the residents have already gathered in the main hall. However, the routine call spirals into madness when the old woman viciously bites an officer, and the occupants of the apartment complex find themselves quarantined. Much of the rest of the film follows the survivors as they try to find out why they're quarantined, find an escape route, and survive a mysterious disease. The ending is fantastic – a terrifying ending with a nice pinch of originality for the genre.

As if the film wasn't original enough already. [Rec] is a breath of fresh air for a genre that has become stale – or rather, the found-footage sub-genre of horror that has grown repetitive and boring in recent years. It's much more than a “zombie” found-footage horror movie – both in style and narrative. As simple as the story may sound, it packs plenty of surprises, plenty of character, and most certainly packs in plenty of terror. And, I'm talking pure terror.

Whether it's the claustrophobic settings, the nail-biting suspense, or the jolting jump-scares, [Rec] aims to petrify. And it succeeds tenfold. The suspense is nerve-shredding; in this case, I think the tight corridors and stairwells, as well as the found-footage style, contribute greatly to the suspense – it creates an effective cone vision that block you off from the rest and keeps you on edge. Since the suspense is very effective, this a rare case where the jump-scares are actually frightening. The visual presentation is also scary – there are some chilling visuals, including the overall design and the gore.

The acting is very impressive, especially by horror standards. By any standard, actually, the acting is great. Manuela Velasco is a great leading lady, very charismatic and genuine in emotion. In fact, the entire cast captures the sense of urgency and panic perfectly – I was panicking myself! The film is, of course, a found-footage movie. Therefore, some of the camerawork is shaky. However, I didn't find it as annoying as I usually do – I mean, it was occasionally nauseating, but it also created a sense of realism and, again, panic. Directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza are fantastic in creating pure terror. The suspense is superb, the visuals are chilling, the atmosphere is always ominous (you never feel safe), and even the jump-scares are incredibly effective.

Overall, Rec is a contemporary horror masterpiece. It was one of my favorites when it first released, and it still manages to scare me. There are some minor plot contrivances and now-cliches (I think this film is responsible for the “Record everything” cliché, due to its emphasis), but not nearly enough to hinder an otherwise perfect horror film. So, I would give this film a 9.5/10, but I only use whole numbers in my reviews, so I have to round up to a 10/10. (yeah, yeah, excuses excuses.)

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some partial nudity.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Film Review: Nightmare City (1980)

Nightmare City (Review)
Italy/Spain/1980
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"If you're looking for something to make fun of with your friends..."

As news reporter Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) prepares for an interview with a scientist, an unmarked military plane lands and unleashes a horde of zombies.

Nightmare City is a relatively simple rehash of every zombie film known to man. Okay, this time around the zombies are treated as superhuman and like to stab their victims' throats or boobies, but everything else is very familiar. The set of character -- none of which have any distinct character -- basically fight for survival. That's it! The ending was unnecessarily stupid, too. I mean, I had a great laugh, but what was the point!

Fortunately, Nightmare City has some B-movie charm. It has the laughable dialogue and plenty of unintentional humor. Like a surgeon who throws his scalpel like a throwing knife, or all of the melodramatic deaths. It's not nearly enough to fully redeem the uneventful and occasionally boring story, but it makes the film a little more enjoyable -- something you can laugh at and have a good time. There are also some great practical gore effects, too, like some sick eye-gouging.

Aside from the boring and uneventful story, the film also feels like it takes itself way to serious. This ends up negatively effecting the B-movie charm and humor. There are scenes where it tries to talk about its themes, like mankind's self-destruction and living like machines or whatnot, but it does it without any subtly. I mean, it actually spells it out for you, like: "this is the theme of the film, thanks for watching." Unlike George A. Romero's iconic Dawn of the Dead, and others, where the theme and commentary are blended seamlessly with the film.

The acting is all-around melodramatic. I think most of the performances were actually kind of funny, to be honest. That's partly due to the actual performance, but also due to the terrible dialogue -- everyone sounds so unnatural. The music is good, but it doesn't fit the film; I'd listen to the music without the film, though. It's shot well, at least, and the camerawork is good. By B-movie standards, the film is funny and somewhat entertaining; by regular standards, director Umberto Lenzi has a big mess of a movie that lacks an eventful story and a strong, distinct vision.

Overall, Nightmare City is a mediocre zombie-horror film. It has some b-movie charm and some great unintentional humor, as well as some decent gore, but not enough to redeem the film's other shortcomings. The story is uneventful and often boring, as well as generic, there isn't any actual horror in the film, and the dialogue is terrible by any standard. If you're looking for something to make fun of with your friends, this is a satisfying time-killer; otherwise, stick to Dawn of the Dead.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, and nudity.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Film Review: Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Night of the Living Dead (Review)
United States/1990
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"If you can get past these characters ... you're in for a horror treat."

Barbara (Patricia Tallman) and her brother are attacked by a zombie at a remote graveyard. Surviving the attack, Barbara stumbles across an old farmhouse...

Night of the Living Dead continues as Ben (Tony Todd) arrives at the farmhouse. The pair clear out the house of any zombies, and soon find another group of survivors in the cellar. The group decide to barricade the house until they can find the keys to the gas pump and escape. But, the clashing personalities and the difficulties of the situation make the goal seem like a dream. A very simple and straightforward story, Night of the Living Dead leads to a good ending -- it was great to a point, but it also has some issues.

There isn't much to discuss when it comes to the plot. It's a barebones zombie survival film. Fortunately, it has plenty of scares, great suspense, and many thrills. The simple story helps the film flow quickly and fluidly -- it's fast-paced and consistent without cutting any corners and without much filler. The biggest issue with the film are the characters. I should say I appreciate the mere fact that this film bothers to have character, but they ultimately become irritating and even confusing.

You have Barbara, who's hysterical at first, magically turns into Rambo minutes later, and finally hurts the ending with her hypocrisy. You have Cooper, the loudmouthed coward who ruins every plan and never stops nagging. And, you have Tom, who makes one of the stupidest choices I think I've ever seen on film. If you can get past these characters, like I did for the most part, you're in for a horror treat.

The acting is good. I like how Patricia Tallman captures hysteria with her anxious smile. Tony Todd delivers a great performance, too. The film is shot very well; it really stands the test of time, especially in high definition. (really, you should watch the HD print of this film.) The makeup is great. Although the introduction has one person with obvious makeup, the rest of the special effects are fantastic -- I love the old-school effects. Director Tom Savini does well in building suspense and horror, and he makes the film flow -- it's always moving.

Overall, Night of the Living Dead is a great zombie film. The concept and story are simple yet engaging, there is great suspense and horror, and it's very entertaining. The characters can be annoying and stupid at times, but they're tolerable for the most part. If you didn't like the original because it wasn't modern enough or you can't stand black-and-white films, this is a simple yet worthy remake.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some nudity. (there are two zombies with their buttocks exposed briefly.)