Review Round Up! July 29th, 2020

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Curse of Valburga! Murder House Flip! Castle Freak! The Black Cat! Scare Package! Junior! What’s the Worst That Could Happen?! Dazed and Confused! WestWorld Season 1! Wrong Turn!

We may be in the midst of 100 Days of Horror but that doesn’t mean I can’t put up other reviews!

Curse of Valburga; 2020; Horror; Written and directed by Tomaz Gorkic. 82m.

Another from the Portland Film Festival. While there may be detractors on the manner of the production feeling rather amateur in look and acting along with an awesome set up that doesn’t quite pay off, I found a lot to love in this Slovenian slasher. Our basic set up: a trio of men set up a kinda scam – they are to give naive foreign tourists access to an empty ancient mansion. I say “kinda” because the mansion (in film at least) does have a bloody history – although the guys add to it to try to make it scarier, and bullshit guides or not – exploring an old mansion is freakin’ awesome. Too bad for the men and the tourists as they didn’t visit the location first, and thus didn’t find a set of cannibal killers who squat at the mansion.Bloodshed ensues. There is a comedic glee to the slaughter and the events around it, and how people react as many think the deaths are part of the fun. The film is in festival run, but if it comes your way (and can easily as many festivals are online currently) check it out if sleazy sardonic slashers are your thing.

Murder House Flip; 2020; Reality. Quibi

Another 12 part series on Quibi. This one is a reality show of reworking 4 homes that had murders take place within. On the plus side, half of them are reported to be haunted by the owners. I don’t really watch flip shows, but was drawn in due to the short length (Quibi and all) and true crime. Interesting to see how an infamous location has continued past the big event. In that way, cool. As for the flipping aspect, couldn’t say how it compares to other ones but it’s nice to see how big a change can be done and change the feel of a place.

Castle Freak; 1995; Horror; Written by Dennis Paoli from the Lovecraft story “The Outsider” ;Directed by Stuart Gordon; Shudder; 90m.

The recently passed Stuart Gordon returns to Lovecraft (kinda, based on a very short story) in a serious, bloody, and disturbing film. Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton also return as a couple on their last legs, with a blind daughter, after he inherits an Italian castle. Too bad it has a disfigured and abused man in the basement. As noted above for Valburga, I love the look of old castles and mansions, so it’s great to explore through this one. The make up for the titular character is absolutely fantastic and the highlight of the show. The different for Gordon serious tone does make the movie drag a little as it starts to ramp up – not to mention the skeezyness of a teenage blind girl in her underwear during the climax- but Combs and Crampton, as always, make it work.  

The Black Cat; 1934; Horror; Written by Peter Ruric, Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer; 65 Min; Owned Disc.

Look, another European castle with murder basements! I’m a roll. Three of the four reviews on this update! Now if Murder House Flip wants to come to any of these locations, we have a deal! Anywhoo, The Black Cat has little to do with the Poe story but is the first of eight collaborations of Karloff and Legosi! Both are in top form as old enemies facing one another for the first time since Karloff locked Legosi up and stole anyway with his wife after the Great War. … I think… the backstory is a bit jumbled, as is the actual plot and plans of the pair. The joy is in watching these two do what they do best, along with the befuddlement of an American couple on their honeymoon (the man of which, David Manners played Jonathan Harker against Legosi’s Dracula and one of the guy’s in Karloff’s Mummy… can’t get away!) who get pushed and prodded as pawns between them. There is also a Satanic cult going on too, but they don’t really add anything to the picture. Add in awesome production value and sets, an eerie lighting and look, and those awesome floating women in caskets (makes sense in movie) and you got a weird, highly entertaining picture – as long as you don’t ask for a definitive timeline of the past.

Scare Package; 2020; Horror Anthology; A whole lot of writers and directors; 1h47m. Shudder.

This anthology horror film was supposed to be feature film at this year’s Bone Bat. Sadly, due to the virus, it didn’t happen that way. Instead, just watched at home with Shudder (I didn’t watch the Joe Bob presentation, just on its own). Shame, would have been amazing to see that with a couple hundred horror-comedy fans. On the whole, I really dug the film. Every wonderfully cliche piled on every wonderful cliche! The continual shifts of the story being told was a blast and hell yes all the blood, goo, gore, explosions, and murders you can want. And the vast majority practical! I love the goo people in the 2nd short! I believe that one is the best short. As it is in every anthology, some come out better than others but none were bad. The only one that didn’t land for me was Girls Night Out of her Mind. Big love to The Night He Wouldn’t Die IV – similar in idea – trying to kill the unkillable killer – to another short making the festival rounds Overkill. The final short is also the backhalf the film; after watching 10 minute long bits, 40 minute on the back half is an odd feel to the pacing as one expats to wrap up but keeps going and going and it hews far too close to Cabin in the Woods to really work. Cut that by like 15 minutes, and we’d have a better paced film. 1h50 is lengthy. Take that time and give the existing shorts better endings, now that I think of it – some kinda just stop…. But despite my issues there, I had a bloody good time. This is made for deconstructionist horror fans; honestly most horror fans are. We know and love our tropes and and are VERY aware of them. 

Junior; 1994; Comedy; Written by Chris Conrad and Kevin Wade; Directed by Ivan Reitman; Hoopla

Junior is an odd film. This isn’t BAD per se, 59 on metacritic. But its awkward and forced, and slow. A low-energy one note comedy. Hey, a large manly man (Schwarzenegger, coasting on his charm) is pregnant! So he acts like the tv/movie version of a pregnant woman! Hahahah. He’s emotional, likes to -gasp- cook! (yes, this is a backwards take on gender roles) These are the jokes we get. Oh this ins’t 10 minutes but 1h50!!! Holy shit. IF everyone just sped up their dialog a little we’d be shorter. Its crazy how just plodding everyone at delivery. Like do we need Danny DeVito wondering where his car is? Emma Thompson is absolutely slumming it, and that hurts.

Whats the Worst That Could happen? 2001; Comedy; Written by Matthew Chapman, from a novel by Donald E. Westlake; Directed by am Weisman. 1h33m; Amazon rental.

With a title like that you beg for a bad movie. And it fits. The film is not an abject failure, Martin Lawrence and Danny Devito (again!) have enough charm to coast on, but the script does them no favors in trying ot setting up the comedy. I often talk about comedies that write the script, and want to fill in the comedy later, and this is one. Neither clever in action or written comedy, film kinda sits there. 

Dazed and Confused; 1993; Comedy; Written and directed by Richard Linklater; Owned disc; 1h42m.

Richard Linklater’s second film continues to be an immensely rewatchable film after countless viewings. Although I have no experience of being a teenager in 1976 in small town Texas, Dazed and Confused has an effortless verisimilitude, and much of it reflects to anyone’s experience in that time. Linklater builds a fantastic script of life-school life  very unlike the standards of the genre, while there are the “Types”, they ebb and flow into one one another, as the lines truly blur in real life.  The best example of how well he can write character (as we’ll see later on in the Before trilogy): Dazed and Confused has two dozen teens coming in and out of the film, but each one is a distinct character, and we learn so much about them with just a line, a glance, and a short interaction. We may see more of certain ones, but even the smaller characters have their moments. Almost every scene has an iconic moment or line as well. And the cast! So many who would soon be stars: Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, and others. With the same casting director as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, it’s not a surprise- man has an eye for growing talent. Like it’s spiritual predecessor American Graffiti, Dazed and confused both captures the zeitgeist of the youth of a certain time, but also reflects to the watcher in any era.

Westworld Season 1; 2016; Sci-Fi Western; HBO Streaming. 10 hrs

Yes, I’m about 3 and a half years behind in joining the world in watching the update to the Michael Critchton robots-go-bad movie. (I’ve seen the first film, but not its film or tv series sequel). Westworld on HBO is far more than the basic premise of the original film.this isn’t merely “wait for the robots to rebel” but a complex set of character studies through the lens of the a Western themed adventure park. The writing is sharp and smart as hell. A situation like this – the workings of a massive area where hosts are programmed to create adventure, love, stories, and life/death to high paying guests in an fully immersive world – leads any audience member to ask many, many questions. I know I did. But I felt as watching it the writers asked those same questions. They might not be asked and answered on screen, but the intense depth of the world is felt.  As said, this is more than waiting for the world to collapse into chaos – we are drawn into the multiple storylines both real and park-based. We care for the hosts and what they are going through and experience. There is a dread in knowing where this eventually will go – and for a long time there is the thought it won’t, and if we dont’ switch to murder-bots, I was fine with it. I loved what I saw before the eventual shift.  There is so much ot explore and discuss, a strong sense of lore and history. Ive heard season 2 gets wonky but we’ll see.

Wrong Turn; 2003; Horror; Written by Alan B. McElroy. Directed by Rob Schmidt. 84m.

Showing my hand here as this will be part of a Seen ‘Em All set later as I plan on watching the 4 of this series (out of 6) I’ve not seen for 100 Days Of Horror. I look forward to those 4 as I have a great fondness for the first two. Wrong Turn is a tight, quick, and mean backwoods slasher. The leads are likable, the kills very well put together (and far as I can tell all practical), and the Inbred Cannibal Hillbillies look great (Stan Winston gets a producer credit; apparently he designed the mountain men as well)

There are some good jump scares to boot. 

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