Night of Something Strange (7/10)

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Cornelius is a janitor at a morgue. One night, while working alone, he comes upon a relatively fresh and fairly attractive female corpse, which he then comes in. As he’s going to town on Jane Doe, we see from her toe tag that she died of radiation exposure combined with an STD. When he gets home, he promptly turns into a zombie and rapes his wife (or girlfriend, or mother, it’s not entirely clear). And, he eats her pussy (not euphemistically, but quite enthusiastically). This is all in the first 7 minutes, so we’re clearly off to a great start!

So, next we are introduced to some obnoxious high school seniors on their way to a beach somewhere. On the way, they stop at a creepy gas station where the zombie had recently chowed down on a used tampon and puked all over the toilet, and obnoxious bimbo #1 catches zombie from the toilet seat and spews chunks all over the place while the zombie watches, masturbating, from the woods. Yes, that is what I just wrote.

Soon, the obnoxious teens arrive at a creepy pedo hotel on the way to the beach, where we are treated to scenes of zombie carnage, unfortunate sexual acts, long emo conversations, and sometimes all three at once. And then things get weird. Like, talking vagina weird.

This movie is chock full of puking, pissing, and periods. And more than the usual amount of masturbating, for a zombie movie. Plus rape, cousin-fucking, accidental homosexual necrophilia, and a guy named Dirk. Really, it’s got it all, and a little more. It’s also pretty funny. And gross. And insanely deranged. So, of course I’m going to recommend it. Did you expect otherwise? You really don’t know me at all, and that makes me sad.

Best line: “How could I think your balls were two clits?”

 

Secrets of a Psychopath (6/10)

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Henry has a very unnatural relationship with his sister Catherine. Well, Catherine is played by Kari Wuhrer, so maybe it’s not really all that unnatural. I mean, you’ve seen Kari, right? Very fine. Anywho, Henry’s real dilemma is that he can only get it up for his sister. While she’s quite happy with this arrangement, Henry is greatly disturbed by it.

When Henry is not busy reading psychology books looking for a fix, he brings home girls he meets on computer dating sites, fantasizes about a wedding night with them, and then murders them in the hopes that he’ll finally figure out what “fucked him up” in his past that led to his current “condition.” Yeah, it didn’t really make all that much sense to me either, but hey, he is crazy, after all. Nor is his sister exactly a stable genius.

His latest bride-in-captivity is the beautiful Georgette, whose hot roommate he has already killed. While Henry is trying to get Georgette to help him get it up, Catherine is trying to get Henry to kill her. As it turns out, Georgette might just be the one that unlocks the puzzle of Henry’s floppy wiener.

This movie has a lot of What the Fuck moments, but none of them quite prepare us for the What the Fuckage of the last ten minutes or so. That was some I Can’t Even level of What the Fuck. Seriously.

I really can’t tell if this movie is good or bad, but it is certainly unique. In some ways, it feels like a throwback to 70s psychodrama or giallo, but it’s also just batshit crazy; though maybe that’s redundant. So, since I’m grasping at straws here, and it does have a couple foxy chicks slightly nude in it, I’m going to go ahead and recommend this to anyone looking for something that’s as intriguing as it is absurd.

Frazier Park Recut (9/10)

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NOTE: This review originally appeared on Red River Horror.

Friends and amateur filmmakers Tyler (Tyler Schnabel) and Sam (Sam Hanover) are working to put together their first feature before Sam moves across the country to be with his beautiful girlfriend Jen (Monica Marin-Diaz). The movie starts with behind-the-scenes footage of their pre-production, where they meet and cast Tom Morris (David Lee Hess) for the role of a creepy Groundskeeper. The trio head from Los Angeles to Frazier Park, California, where they have rented a cabin in the woods via Airbnb.

The found-footage horror movie they are shooting follows two brothers (played by Tyler and Sam) who are going to clean out their late mother’s cabin, where they unexpectedly encounter the Groundskeeper. The brothers soon discover a dark secret about the Groundskeeper that leaves them fighting for their lives.

Outside of the movie-within-a-movie, tensions are rising between Tyler and Sam. Tyler feels that Sam’s head is out of the game from his frequent video chats with Jen, while Sam is alarmed by Tyler’s constant tinkering with the script. To bring a spark back to the production, Tom becomes much more assertive in the filmmaking process and begins to document his own efforts to add conflict and drama to what he feels is a failing, cliched, and inferior project. As the friends’ movie runs ever more off the tracks, how far will they go to make the day’s scenes?

Frazier Park Recut is a refreshing addition to the ever longer-in-the-tooth found footage genre. The choice to wrap a found-footage horror film around a found-footage horror film is a great one, and the skillful blending of the behind-the-scenes footage with scenes from the “actual” film leads to both humorous and creepy moments. The dialogue in the behind-the-scenes footage, largely improvised by the actors, seems natural, while the dialogue in the movie-within-a-movie is a bit hackneyed and delivered a bit woodenly — this is not a criticism, it is an intentional feature of the storytelling. In fact, one of the funniest moments of the film comes when one of the actors delivers an intentionally awful one-liner in a key scene in the movie-within-a-movie. All in all, this is a great first feature by some very talented filmmakers. Highly recommended.

It Knows (9/10)

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NOTE: This review originally appeared on Red River Horror.

“It Knows” opens with a scene of family terror. Young Claire and her mother are hiding out from Claire’s father Monroe, who is a monstrous figure in her life. When he eventually finds them, his rage is unleashed and only Claire survives. Years later, Claire is happily married to an understanding and caring man, and they have two beautiful children. But Claire finds herself trapped in her house by a mysterious force, and her family is nowhere to be found.

Claire is shattered, a woman unmoored from reality by her brutal childhood. The puzzle-piece structure of “It Knows” reflects Claire’s fragmented existence; she opens a door to the outside and finds herself back in her house, unable to escape; she turns a corner and finds a masked specter confronting her with her deeply buried pain; and finally, she is led further down the spiral of depression and mania by her younger self, until she is finally unable to avoid facing the truth of her past and must take action to protect herself and her family from the growing evil that surrounds her.

“It Knows” is a very dark psychological horror that goes places many will find very disturbing. And yet, it is also a frenetically paced survival horror with shocks and scares aplenty. These two horror sub-genres are blended seamlessly by co-writer/directors Mark Maness and Rob Winfrey, and are given life by the strong performances of Carmen Patterson as the desperate adult Claire, Dan Michael as the sinister and brutal Monroe, and, most of all, the outstanding performance of Lauren Lasseigne as the terrorized 9-year-old Claire. It is her scenes in particular that can be tough to watch, but those that do will find themselves challenged by a harrowing narrative that pulls no punches in exploring its deeply emotional territory.

The Devil’s Candy (8/10)

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NOTE: This review originally appeared on Red River Horror.

Ray Smilie (Pruitt Taylor Vince) is a middle-aged, tracksuit-wearing man living in an old farm-house in Texas with his parents. Tormented by a sinister voice in his head, he tries to drown it out by strumming power chords at high volume on his electric guitar. When his mom makes him stop, he responds by hitting her with the guitar, causing her to fall down the stairs.

Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry) is an aspiring, perspiring artist and metal-head reduced to painting a butterfly mural for a bank to make ends meet. He, along with his demure wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and metal-head daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco), are in the market for a new home. Ray Smilie’s is now up for sale at a bargain price, following the tragic death of his parents. Hellman buys the house, and moves in with his family.

Smilie, now living in a hotel, continues to be haunted by the diabolical voice in his head, but…after a noise complaint, can no longer drown it out without drawing the attention of the local sheriff.

Soon, Hellman is hearing a voice as well, but for him, it becomes the impetus that drives him to create works of art with a quality far beyond anything he has achieved before. After he turns his butterfly painting into a hellscape of tortured children, he earns the praise of a prestigious gallery owner, and the promise of riches and success. With fame and fortune must come sacrifice…

Meanwhile, the voice drives Smilie to acts of destruction, not creation, as he is drawn back to his lost home, forcing Hellman to act to keep his dark muse from becoming the downfall of those he loves most.

While The Devil’s Candy initially appears to follow the standard young-couple-moves-into-a-haunted-house formula, it quickly turns into a much more interesting tale of temptation, deviance, and redemption.

The movie’s emotional core is the relationship between Jesse and his daughter Zooey; neither quite fits the mold that the world wants to cast them with. Their dedication to each other, and love of hard rock, is demonstrated effectively by Ethan Embry and Kiara Glasco’s strong performances.

Mr. Vince, as Ray Smilie, is his usual creepy self. Ms. Appleby provides a quiet but strong performance as the somewhat more straight-laced member of the Hellman clan. Also portrayed well by writer/director Sean Byrne is Texas itself, with Jesse’s painting and the pounding rock soundtrack showing the grungy, sweaty side of the state. That’s in contrast with Zooey’s Polo-preppie classmates at her new suburban school. Featuring a unique style and a fresh take on an old genre trope, The Devil’s Candy is an easy recommend.

Tall Men (7/10)

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Terrence Mackleby is an earnest but not-so-bright man who may have killed his girlfriend when he was a boy. He is now a grown-up who works at a warehouse with Lucy the wallflower, Edith the conspiracy theorist, and Lee, who plays cribbage and is creeped out by the conspiracy theorist after making the mistake of sleeping with her. Terrence has just declared bankruptcy due to his overwhelming credit card debt. After going on a date with Lucy the wallflower, he receives an offer for a special credit card with a 4% interest rate, which he gets and uses to buy a new car. Soon after, he starts seeing shadowy tall men following him, and he is fired from his job by his boss, who is sporting some new bruises on his face. To add to his desperate situation, he learns that the terms of his new credit card are not what they seem, and he starts to see and hear some really strange things.

While this is a little slow, and certainly over-long at 2 hours and 13 minutes, it’s still an entertaining slice of whimsical dark humor. The atmosphere is stylish, the acting is good, and the concept is original. Worth a watch for those that enjoy a more cerebral, psychological horror film.

I Can See You (9/10)

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Doug, Richards, and Kimble are three scruffy young men trying to start a new ad agency in NYC. Doug’s girlfriend, Sonia, has scored them a gig with her employer, big-time cleaning product manufacturer Clara Clean, whose products may or may not be involved in ecological damage and de-forestation. Suffering from a lack of clarity in both their artistic vision and their stock photos, the three men decide that camping in the woods to get back to nature is just the ticket, so they head out of town, Sonia in tow, to the countryside where Richards grew up. Once there, Richards attempts to take some photos of nature’s grandeur, but the photos are marred by mysterious wisps of smoke, which seem to be invisible to the naked eye. That night, some old friends of Richards are invited to the camp for a barbecue, and he hooks up with his old flame, Summer Day. The next day, Doug and Summer disappear after a swim, which leads Richards to fear the worst. When Doug shows up that night without Summer and with a bad case of the crazies, things really go bonkers.

So, this movie is about as good as mini-micro-budget filmmaking can get, which, turns out, is pretty goddamn good. This thing starts out weird, and gets to be positively batshit crazy by the end. Nevertheless, it is consistently compelling, and features some genuinely creepy and jarring visuals and editing. The acting is better than one might expect at this price-point (including a great performance from indie guru and producer Larry Fessenden in a small but pivotal role), and the lack of production value really only adds to the lo-fi nuthouse vibe. The whole thing is reminiscent of something you might find in the “weird part of YouTube”, but holds up surprisingly well as a feature-length film. I really don’t want to say anything more about it, so just go watch it.

Antibirth (10/10)

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Lou (Natasha Lyonne) and Sadie (Chloe Sevigny) are super-skanky junkies who like to party with pimp/drug dealer Gabriel. After a night of drug-fueled partying, Lou begins to show symptoms of pregnancy, even though she is sure she hasn’t had sex in months, which nobody believes because she is a total ho. Over the next few days, during which she continues drinking heroic amounts of alcohol and sucking on a huge bong, her symptoms become increasingly, and disgustingly, bizarre. She is befriended by Lorna (Meg Tilly!), who talks about aliens and weird abuse at the hands of the government. As they investigate Lou’s condition, they learn of a shadowy rich benefactor to Gabriel, who is getting girls from him in exchange for a strange new drug, which may have been given to Lou at their last party. What happened to Lou at this party? And why is Sadie spending so much time with Gabriel? Does she know more than she is letting on?

This, right here, is the shit. This is a motherfucking horror movie right here. Natasha Lyonne gives a fantastic performance as the tragicomic Lou, whose drug-laden body horror seems as much an extension of her terrible life choices as it does the result of some mysterious conspiracy. This movie is filled with bizarre characters and happenings, but they flow naturally from circumstances, never seeming like weirdness for weirdness’s sake. She views her increasingly desperate situation as just one more shitty thing that’s happened to her in her already shitty life. Even Lorna, her protector and advocate, is a freakin’ loon. It’s all just another day in the life in the seventh circle of hell that is thug life in Michigan. This is one of the most fucked up movies I’ve seen in a long time, and it is glorious.

Devil’s Tower (8/10)

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A couple go up to the roof of a council high-rise to make out. Mid-snog, they suddenly start attacking each other for no apparent reason, and they both end up dead. The next day a new tenant, cutie-pie Sarah, arrives. Of course the building is shitty and full of squatters, because socialism. Sarah finds out from some friendly neighbors that she’s moving into the “murder flat”, and that the building is, of course, haunted. Soon, tenants start showing up on the antique TVs that are scattered throughout the building and start behaving very strangely and the whole building turns into a big zombie death- and fuck-fest. And then things get weird.

As you may have guessed from the word choices, this is British. That’s not terribly relevant, but I thought I’d mention it. Anywho, this starts out fairly serious, and then transitions to an almost slapstick comedy as it progresses and things go silly buggers (that’s a Britishism; I know this because I’m very cosmopolitan). This was a peculiar hybrid of family drama, ghost story, world-gone-mad, zombies, and it was quite a bit of fun. Also, there was a fair number of boobies, so that’s a point in its favor. Overall, quite worth a watch, and another good entry in the UK horror catalog. In fact, it was so good, I accidentally watched it twice.

RWD (8/10)

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Two doofuses (doofi?) with a YouTube ghost-hunting show go to investigate a family’s haunted house out in the woods, but they got the date wrong and the family is out of town. So, instead, they wander around the woods and find an old silo with a creepy underground complex below it. They investigate the complex and decide to make their latest episode about it instead of the haunted house. While wandering, weird things begin to happen, they catch glimpses of people that look surprisingly familiar, and then some sort of weird sparkly stuff comes out of a laptop monitor and sends them… back…

This was an interesting take on the usual found footage ghost-hunter shows that are ubiquitous right now, mixing in some mind-bending sci-fi concepts that I shouldn’t talk about too much for fear of spoiling the fun. The actors are also rather amusing in their doofusness (doofosity?), and the tonal shift late in the movie from deadly silliness to deadly seriousness is handled quite well. Definitely worth a watch.