4 Shots From 4 Films: Guillermo del Toro Edition


Happy Birthday to the Master of Dark Fantasy.

Guillermo del Toro ranks high in my eyes as one of the best filmmakers working today. His films have ranged from an inventive take on the vampire genre, the mutant monster film, an evocative ghost story and right up to a dark fable. Guillermo del Toro has worked on both smaller, personal projects and the big, blockbuster action. He’s comfortable in living in both worlds.

No matter which side he happens to land at any particular time he always brings his own brand of visual style and storytelling to each and every film that tells the world that they’re watching a Guillermo del Toro production.

4 Shot From 4 Films

Cronos (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

Cronos (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

Mimic (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

Mimic (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

The Devil's Backbone (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

The Devil’s Backbone (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

Pan's Labyrinth (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

Pan’s Labyrinth (dir. by Guillermo del Toro)

Halloween Havoc!: Peter Lorre in MAD LOVE (MGM 1935)


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I mentioned in my review of Body Parts that it was a variation of THE HANDS OF ORLAC, a 1920 novel by French author Maurice Renard. The book was first adapted to film in a 1920 silent starring Conrad Veidt. The story has been retold many times, in many different ways, but none have surpassed the 1935 adaptation MAD LOVE. This film really doesn’t get its due as one of the top horrors of the 1930s. Director Karl Freund (THE MUMMY) uses his background in German expressionism and, together with cinematographer Gregg Toland, gives us a Grand Guignol thriller that’s hard to resist.

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Peter Lorre makes his American film debut as Dr. Gogol, a brilliant surgeon obsessed with beautiful actress Yvonne Orlac. Yvonne is married to concert pianist Stephen Orlac, and rebuffs the strange looking doctor. Returning to Paris via train, Orlac sees the convicted knife-throwing murderer Rollo board, heading for the…

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Netflix Halloween 2015 : “The Stranger”


Trash Film Guru

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The label “Eli Roth Presents” is becoming positively ubiquitous on the purportedly “indie” horror scene lately — to the point, one could convincingly argue, that it probably doesn’t even really mean anything anymore. And yet, writer/director Guillermo Amoedo (who hails from Uruguay but makes his movies in Chile) seems to have at least something of a bona fide working relationship with Roth insofar as he penned the screenplay for The Green Inferno, so maybe ol’ Eli isn’t just helping himself to an air-quote credit as executive producer on the film we’re here to talk about today, 2014’s The Stranger (no relation to Albert Camus’ existentialist classic) — or maybe he is. I dunno. And I guess I don’t really care all that much, either, because it’s not like he would have all that much to do with the finished product here even if he did help cobble together financing…

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Horror Trailer: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


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It looks like they’ve actually gone ahead and made the damn thing. I remember writing about news of the Seth Grahame-Smith horror mash-up novel being green-lit for the big-screen all the way back in 2010. Yet, nothing much ever came of it. Directors were hired and the cast was set, but each passing year something would derail the project and things would go back to square one.

Now, over five years since that initial announcement back in 2011 we finally have proof that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has actually completed filming and will soon be up on the big-screen this February 16, 2016.

Horror on TV: Twilight Zone 3.17 “One More Pallbearer”


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In this episode of The Twilight Zone, bitter millionaire Paul (Joseph Wiseman, who also played the title character in Dr. No around the same time that this episode as shot) offers three people safety from a nuclear war on one condition. They must apologize to him for insults that are both real and imagined.

This episode originally aired on January 12th, 1962.

The Daily Horror Grindhouse: Murder Mansion (dir by Francisco Lara Polop)


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1972’s Murder Mansion (which is also known as Maniac Mansion) is an enjoyable Italian/Spanish co-production.  It’s been included in a few dozen Mill Creek box sets and it’s usually advertised as being a zombie film.  While I don’t want to give too much away about the film’s twisty plot, I do feel obligated to let our readers know that it is most definitely NOT a zombie film.  Instead, it’s an old-fashioned gothic giallo.

Murder Mansion opens with various people separately traveling across the countryside.  A few minutes is devoted to allowing us to get to know them and we quickly discover that they are all familiar giallo types.  There’s the cold businessman, the lecherous man with the beard and the driving gloves, and, of course, the free-spirited young lovers who have just met.  There’s also the emotionally unstable, Elsa (Analia Gade).

When a huge fog rolls in, Elsa is the first of the travelers to find herself stranded outside of a foreboding mansion.  She thinks she sees two shadowy figures in the fog — a woman and a hulking man dressed like a chauffeur — pursuing her.  As she runs through the fog, she runs into the young lovers, who are also similarly stranded.  They decide to seek refuge inside the mansion and … guess what?  It turns out that all the other travelers have decided to seek refuge there as well!

Well, it turns out that the mansion is looked after by a housekeeper named Martha (Ida Galli, a.k.a. Evelin Stewart).  Martha explains that the former owner of the mansion was killed years ago in an automobile accident, along with her chauffeur.  (Hmmm….)  Martha also goes on to explain that the village around the mansion is deserted because the villagers became convinced that the woman and her chauffeur were vampires.  Martha then invites everyone to spend the night.

As everyone prepares to turn in for the night, they can’t help but notice a few strange things.  First off, why is every bedroom decorated with a disturbing painting?  And why does the painting of the former, now deceased, owner of the house look so much like Martha?

As you probably already guessed, a mysterious figure soon starts to prowl around the house, killing the travelers one-by-one.  Meanwhile, Elsa continues to have her nervous breakdown and soon starts to have flashbacks to some unspeakable acts that were committed by her father…

Murder Mansion is an enjoyable little giallo, one that is full of creepy atmosphere, twisty plot developments, and memorably strange characters.  It’s actually a lot of fun to watch as our heroes creep around the mansion and try to put together all of the clues.  (It made me want to go out and solve mysteries!)  As far as blood, gore, and nudity are concerned, Murder Mansion is actually remarkably tame by the standards of Italian (and, for that matter, Spanish) thrillers, which makes it an appropriate introduction to the genre for people who may not have previously seen a lot of giallo films.

(Trust me.  I tried to introduce my aunt to giallo by showing her Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood and she made me stop the movie after the double impalement.  If I had been smart, I would have started with Murder Mansion and then worked my way up.)

All in all, Murder Mansion is a lot of fun and great Halloween treat!

October Music Series: Agalloch – Dead Winter Days


Throughout the 2000s, Agalloch unleashed a series of albums that have influenced countless bands across the metal spectrum. Not only did Ashes Against the Grain (2006) play an enormous role in ushering in the era of post-black metal, but Pale Folklore (1999) pioneered the folk metal aesthetic for a nation whose traditional genres stood leagues apart from the metal scene. (It would be another decade before Austin Lunn nailed a metal interpritation of bluegrass.) Most American folk metal bands carry Agalloch’s stamp of influence with them, and why not? Pale Folklore perfectly captures a sense of melancholy mystery that reflects a land whose native sons were slaughtered, leaving their secrets only a faint whisper in the air.

Horror Film Review: The Inhabitants (dir by the Rasmussen Brothers)


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The new horror film, The Inhabitants, opens with a series of black-and-white clips of the various guests at the March Carriage Bed and Breakfast.  The clips appear to have been recorded by a hidden camera and what’s disturbing is that none of these guests — as they undress, sleep, brush their teeth, make love, and do everything else that you might do while staying at a hotel for the night — are aware that they are being recorded and that they are being watched.

I have to admit that one reason why this opening got to me is that I’ve spent the night in places like the March Carriage Bed and Breakfast.  In fact, I love staying in and exploring hotels whenever I’m traveling or on vacation.  I think that anyone who has ever stayed at a hotel is aware of that feeling that you sometimes get, in the middle of the night, that someone might be watching you.  I mean, think about it.  You’re in a town where nobody knows you.  You’re in a bed that’s not your own.  You have no idea who slept in that bed before you and you don’t know who will sleep in that bed after you.  You don’t know who is sleeping in the room next to you.  And you don’t know what might or might not be happening in the rest of the hotel.  At that moment, you are probably more vulnerable then you’ll ever be.   Would it surprise me to learn that I had secretly been filmed while staying at a hotel?  Actually, it would surprise me if I hadn’t.

But, the thing is, we force ourselves not to think about those possibilities.  Because, honestly, what else can we do?  Sleep in our car?  Sleep on the street?  Camp in the wilderness where we’ll be even more vulnerable?  So, we tell ourselves that there’s nothing to worry about and we force ourselves to believe it and we hope that nothing will happen that will force us to realize how wrong we are.

I think that’s why haunted house films are so effective.  We all know what it’s like to find ourselves in a new or strange place and we’ve all had that experience of wondering whether that sudden feeling of fear is legitimate or if it’s just a case of our imagination going wild.  We watch a haunted house film knowing and fearing that moment when the characters (and, by extension, us) are going to be forced to realize that their fear was legitimate.

From the start, with that hidden camera footage of people at their most vulnerable, The Inhabitants is a haunted house film that works.  When we first meet married couple Dan (Michael Reed) and Jessica (Elise Courture), we like them immediately.  They’re young, attractive, and obviously in love.  From the minute that we learn that they’re going to buy the March Carriage Bed and Breakfast, we find ourselves wanting to yell, “Don’t do it!” because we know that we are watching a haunted house film and these things never end well.

And really, it’s the likability of Dan and Jessica that make this film effective.  We relate to them and we don’t want to see anything bad happen to them.  The frequent complaint about characters in horror movies is that they’re always doing something stupid but neither Dan nor Jessica does anything that the viewer wouldn’t do in a similar situation.  They’re just trying to move into their home and get the unpacking done.  But, of course, what they don’t realize is that, way back in the 17th century, the March Carriage Bed and Breakfast was occupied by a witch.  And, as quickly becomes apparent, Dan and Jessica are not alone in the house.

So, I’m not going to spoil the movie in this review by giving you too many plot details.  The Inhabitants is an atmospheric throw-back to the haunted house films of the past.  The fog-covered landscape, the haunted inn, and a creepy cellar all served to remind me of Lucio Fulci’s classic Beyond trilogy while the film’s dream-like atmosphere and its haunted heroine reminded me of the classic, Let’s Scare Jessica To Death.  The Inhabitants, distinguished by the empathetic performances of Michael Reed and Elise Couture, is a worthy addition to the genre.

The Inhabitants will be released on VOD on October 13th!

Horror Film Review: I Married A Vampire (1987, dir. Jay Raskin)


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What the hell did I watch here?

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Okay, I think I know what happened here. Jay Raskin took Ousmane Sembene’s Mandabi (1968), Jacques Rivette’s Celine And Julie Go Boating (1974), threw in some revenge, and topped it off with the appearance of a vampire near the end of the movie. Seriously, I think this guy was fresh out of film school when he made this. It even directly references Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932) at the end when they go to see it in a theater.

I guess I need to try and explain this stupid thing so I can go back to recovering from hernia surgery.

The movie begins with Viola (Rachel Golden) telling her parents named Morris (David Dunton) and Doris (Kathryn Karnes) that she is married to a vampire. Now we cut back to when she first came to the city in order to tell us how she ended up with a vampire.

One of her first encounters is with a guy who tells her he wants to put her “on Fire Avenue”. That’s a new pickup line for me, but maybe people did talk like that back in 1983 when this movie was actually shot. Now she needs to find a place to live.

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Turns out this lady lives in the same building.

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Now she tries to find a job, but all the positions she calls about are filled. That’s when she runs into a member of MBC. That stands for Mohammad Buddha Christ. She attends one of the meetings.

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Now she is brainwashed and when Mr. Fire Avenue asks her again, she trusts that an amulet she was given will protect her. Go figure, it doesn’t, and she gets raped. Luckily, this kind rapist has a job for her cleaning floors.

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Wondering where the vampire is? Well, 50 minutes into this 90 minute movie is when we meet our vampire Robespiere (Brendan Hickey). Of course, he isn’t like any other vampire we know from other movies such as he leaves a reflection in a mirror.

Now we get the exciting cleaning 1983 computers and playing the arcade game Gravitar scenes. Then this happens.

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Isn’t this almost the same way that Celine and Julie met in Celine And Julie Go Boating? Been too long since I watched it. Anyways, I don’t think this has anything to do with anything.

The rest of the movie is just Viola and the vampire going back to the people that wronged her and seeking revenge on them. I didn’t even mention the lawyer named Leachman. At least the rapist gets his comeuppance.

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Then we cut back to Viola and her parents meet the vampire. THE END.

The idea of her being fleeced by everyone she meets reminded me of Mandabi. All the cinematography made me think of Celine And Julie Go Boating. I don’t know why there had to be any revenge and nor do I know what the hell a vampire was doing in this movie.

I know this is the kind of movie that some people will latch onto and love, but I’m not one of them. It really just felt like someone who threw together elements from movies they watched in college in an attempt to both deliver some social commentary while encouraging people to watch art films. And no, I’m not pulling that last bit out of my ass. The movie actually has several parts that put down slasher movies, but then when things are right again, they go see Dreyer’s Vampyr. One of the dumbest things I’ve watched all year.

Oh, and this damn poster is so misleading.

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She looks nowhere near as hot as that. And does that look like a vampire to you? It looks like the guy from the cover of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on the NES.

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I haven’t seen a poster that misleading since the one for After Sex (1997) AKA Post Coitum.

Steer clear of this one.

6 Reviews To Help Lisa Get Caught Up: Ant-Man, Cinderella, Jurassic World, Magic Mike XXL, The Man From UNCLE, Terminator: Genisys


So, it’s that time of year!  2015 is nearly over and soon, it will be time for me to make out my best-of and worst-of lists.  That means that now is the time that I look over all the films that I have watched up to this point, I realize how many of those films I have yet to review ,and I think, “Oh my God, how did I get this far behind?”

So, here are 6 capsule reviews, designed to help me get caught up!

Marvel's Ant-Man

Ant-Man (dir by Peyton Reed)

Ant-Man has already been reviewed twice on this site, once by Leonard Wilson and once by Ryan The Trashfilm Guru.  Leonard liked it.  Ryan did not.  As for me, my reaction was somewhere in between.  I enjoyed Ant-Man, though not as much as I’ve enjoyed some of the previous Marvel films.  Ant-Man was better than the second Thor film but nowhere close to being as good as Captain America: Winter Soldier.

What I did like about Ant-Man were the performances of Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Pena.  I even enjoyed Michael Douglas’s performance, which is saying something when you consider the fact that, as of late, Michael Douglas has really been making my skin crawl.  I also thought that the film did a good job creating Ant-Man’s microscopic world, even if I’m still not totally sold on the character as a dynamic hero.  I do wish that the film had a stronger villain.  Corey Stoll is such a good actor and capable of doing so much and it was hard not to regret that he was stuck playing such a generic bad guy.

Cinderella (dir by Kenneth Branagh)

Oh, how I loved Cinderella!  The film, a live-action retelling of the Cinderella story, was a gorgeous fairy tale and a wonderful reminder that a film doesn’t have to be dark and depressing to be good.  (In many ways, Cinderella serves as an antidote to not only Into The Woodsbut countless Tim Burton films as well.)  Lily James is beautiful in the title role, Richard Madden is wonderfully charming as the prince, and Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter are perfectly cast as the stepmother and the fairy godmother.

Jurassic World (dir by Colin Trevorrow)

Jurassic World was previously reviewed by Ryan the Trashfilm Guru.  I hate to admit it but I was, initially, one of those people who watched Jurassic World and got annoyed because the film was predictable and the script was a bit clunky.  Traditionally (and, if you doubt me, just read my review of Avatar), it bothers me when a film devotes so much time special effects that it can’t seem to be bothered with character development and clever dialogue.

But then I thought about it somewhat and I thought to myself, you know what?  This movie had Chris Pratt and it had some very convincing dinosaurs!  And, especially when it comes to a summer blockbuster, that is sometimes all you need.

(Why I enjoyed Jurassic World while disliking Avatar largely comes down to the difference between Chris Pratt and Sam Worthington.)

Magic Mike XXL (dir by Gregory Jacobs)

Oddly enough, I had the roughly the same reaction to Magic Mike XXL that I had to Jurassic World.  Yes, there are certain things — mostly concerning the film’s script — about which I could nitpick but what’s truly important is that Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, and most of the original cast of Magic Mike is back and they’re stripping again.  Magic Mike XXL is a huge (heh heh) crowd pleaser, a film that delivers exactly what it promises.

Though Steven Soderbergh served as cinematographer for Magic Mike XXL, he did not return to serve as director and perhaps that’s why Magic Mike XXL feels like a far less pretentious film than the first Magic Mike.  Out of the original cast, both Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer both declined to appear in the sequel.  McConaughey is missed, Pettyfer less so.

The Man From UNCLE (dir by Guy Ritchie)

The Man From Uncle is one of the many stylish spy films to be released this year.  Henry Cavill is an American spy, Armie Hammer is a Russian spy, and Hugh Grant is the Englishman who tells them both what to do.  The Man From Uncle was entertaining.  It took place in the 60s, so there was a lot of wonderful retro fashion and the whole movie moved at a nice, breezy pace.  Ultimately — and I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t exactly fair — The Man From UNCLE suffered because it was released in the same year as Kingsman and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.  Man From UNCLE was entertaining but rather generic.  At no point did it reach the lunatic high of Kingsman’s Free Bird sequence.

Terminator: Genisys (dir by Alan Taylor)

You can read Ryan’s review of Terminator: Genisys here.  I have to admit that Terminator: Genisys confused the Hell out of me.  Not being a huge fan of the entire Terminator franchise (though, yes, I do know what Skynet is and I have seen the first two films), I do have to admit that I sometimes felt lost while watching Genisys.

But you know what?  If you just sit back and relax and try not to think about the film too much — if you just accept it as an action film and watch for the stunts and the explosions — Terminator: Genisys is not the disaster that many critics made it out to be.  I mean, let’s just be honest here.  Most critics would die before they gave a good review to any film featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  (Just check out all the negativity that greeted the brilliant zombie film, Maggie.)  After all, Schwarzenegger is an outspoken, confident, cheerfully arrogant Republican and most film critics can only relate to the arrogant part.  (And even then, they don’t ever seem to be very cheerful about it…)  Terminator: Genisys is a well-made and perfectly adequate action film, one that works as long as you don’t spend too much time dwelling on it.  It’s cinematic junk food and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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