Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chronicle (2012)

I love being surprised by movies. I had not heard fantastic things about "Chronicle." I believe the term "teenage wangst" was used more than once when I overheard discussion about it. And if there's one thing I hate, it's wangst. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, allow me to clarify.

Wangst - n - a portmanteau of "whiny" and "angst." Symptoms include complaining constantly about maintaining your 4.0 GPA, your hot girlfriend not leaving you alone, and how nobody "understands you" despite having a large group of friends. Often seen among popular, good looking rich kids in film and television.

This...this crap needs to stop. If there's one thing I can't stand it's this. And it wouldn't be so bad if real life was anything like it. I mean, I was a kid. I went to high school. I don't remember anything that exciting or epic. In fact it pretty much sucked, along with college. Where were my $500,000 house parties and friends with convertibles and really tough decisions to make about which of the 10,000 super-model ladies attending the school I wanted to take to the most important event of your life, THE PROM?

Hah! Trick question! It's always the nerdy one who cleans up real nice who you go with!

 Seriously, Daphine would have just played with your heart and stomped on it...

Getting back to "Chronicle," while it does possess a handful of those issues (mostly the INSANELY elaborate and expensive house party WTF), the amount of wangst is kept at a moderately acceptable level. Not only that, but by about halfway through the film, for the most part the film has deserted it completely in favor of a riveting and engaging film that I was, admittedly, enthralled by.

The first half of the film consists of mostly high school douchbagery, sure enough, with characters talking in that very obnoxious way that screenwriters think that young people talk. Once the 3 leads get their powers, it becomes even more irritating because it basically turns into "Jackass" with super powers as the main characters, Andrew, Matt and Steve go around and basically terrorize Seattle with their new found telekinesis. And at first I was really get annoyed with the movie, although I did acknowledge that if a bunch of high school kids got super powers, this is probably exactly what they would be doing.

But then, something unexpected and wonderful happened: consequences. Andrew and the others screw up. A lot. And, although they do get off clean because nobody can prove anything, bad things happen as a result of them screwing around, and they realize that they should be more careful with their new found powers.

This effectively put an abrupt halt to the douchbagery from before, which was a relief, but it also begins the character development of the second half of the film, where Andrew and the others begin having very different ideas about what their powers mean, and how they should be used. Matt and Steve, who have always been popular, are of the opinion that their powers should be used for good. Andrew, on the other hand, who has always been an outcast and has had a much more difficult time than the others, feels that these powers make him better than human. Looking at nature, he decides he is an "apex predator," and should rightfully crush anyone who causes him trouble, which would be most everybody. Dane DeHaan, who plays Andrew, does a great job portraying a character who you both sympathize with, and despise by the end.

 "A lion does not feel guilty when it kills a gazelle."

And that's what a good superhero story needs: a good villain. And oftentimes the most interesting villains are ones that, had things happened a bit differently, could have been allies with the heroes. True evil, although it has its place in fiction, is kind of boring because it really never started anywhere. It just IS. But Andrew is not "evil," although he's doing bad things. From what you see of his life beforehand, his progression from Matt and Steve's friend to nemesis feels totally natural, and had things gone down in a different fashion than they did, I think "Chronicle" could have made a very good origin story for a new, unique series with an interesting and tragic superhero/supervillain dynamic.

From a technical standpoint, there were a few annoyances, particularly having to do with the camera. While the movie is not shot entirely in a documentary style, there are significant sections of the movie that are. A good portion are from Andrew's camera that he got to document his life, and that he carries around everywhere. It's a tad more believable than other movies like "Quarantine" or "Cloverfield" in that there are fewer instances where any sane person would have dropped the camera ages ago, but those moments still happen occasionally.

The way they get around that is that they inter-cut the handheld footage with other things like security cameras, but there is also a good amount of traditional style footage as well. This is reserved for the moments when it would either be impossible to catch all of the scene with one non-omniscient camera, or those moments when there are no cameras around.

In fact, some of the most impressive moments of the film come from those moments of security camera footage, because depending on the camera, there is (fittingly) no sound. There are a couple moments, particularly one in a hospital room, when the mute video works almost like a "reverse stinger," meaning those really loud orchestra hits that play in horror movies when something scary happens. Yeah, those annoying things. Only in this movie, it's silence instead of a loud bang. It's fascinating to me the greater impact that silence can have over that when something big happens. It lends a gravity and almost dignity to the moment that shrieking violins can't match.

So overall I was not bothered at all by the changes in perspective. Some may find that irritating that it switches, but consider the alternative where the entire climax of the scene would have been a big, scrambled mess. And that would have been a shame, because the climax of "Chronicle" is fantastic. It plays out much like a video game not unlike "inFamous" or perhaps a good "Matrix" sequel. I'm not joking when I say that I was wide-eyed and slack jawed for the entire ending fight.

If there was one thing that bugged me from a technical standpoint far more than the camera did, it would have to be the flying scenes. The rig that they had for making the actors float worked well when they were moving and flipping around and whatnot, but whenever they had to just kind of float there, it looked terrible. The actor's center of gravity seemed to be located somewhere around the back of their necks with how slouched over they looked while just "standing" there.

Looking like a cat picked up by the scruff of your neck diminishes the majesty of flight.

Lastly, the issue of "where did their powers come from?" may be really off-putting to some. To sum it up briefly, you don't know. That's about it. They find the source of the power, and when they go to see it again, it has been buried again, beyond their reach. There are no answers given to us beyond "it was this that did it to them." And of course, you never even know what "it" is.

Did this bother me? Meh. Not really. I took it as something that was mysterious, and that's all you needed to know. "Chronicle" stayed consistent enough with the powers the characters had so as not to raise any significant questions about "why this and not that," so I really didn't need to know. I think being given an answer would have raised far more questions than answers in this case, anyways.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Chronicle" surprised me with how much I enjoyed it, particularly since I had heard fairly negative things about it. While I can't call it a superhero movie, it fits nicely in that genre. One is reminded of "Unbreakable," and it seems to me that "Chronicle" is a much more entertaining and fulfilling version of not necessarily that story, but of the notion of "realistic superhero." Recommended.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Battleship (2012)

What is it about the early 90's lately? It must be all us old farts who grew up during that time making movies about what they remember as kids. You've got your "Transformers" movies, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" is getting an extraterrestrial facelift (Michael Bay, please just stop doing things), the second "GI Joe" movie is coming out this summer, there are rumors of third installments for both "Ghostbusters" and "Bill & Ted." There was even the thinly veiled "Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots" movie "Real Steel." I'm waiting for them to try and make Slap Bracelets and Super Soakers into a film. But my big question is: As long we're making movies out of boardgames now, why hasn't there been a "Hungry Hungry Hippos" movie?

I mean, I can see it happening. Make it one of those killer crocodile flicks like "Rogue" or "Primevil" or maybe even "The Ghost & The Darkness." Hell, you could probably get Val Kilmer to headline it. He isn't doing anything. I don't recall ever seeing a killer hippo horror movie. They can make "Night of The Lepus" but they can't make a hippo a killer? Hippos are scary man. I read a story about how one accidentally ate a circus midget one time. The rest of the movie kind of writes itself after that.

So "Battleship." It is slightly difficult to know where to begin with this one, because on one hand, there is plenty...PLENTY that I could complain about. It would not be hard. Let's get one thing out of the way here, this is not Akira Kurasawa caliber film making. But on the other hand, I ask you, what should one reasonably expect to see when going to see a movie based on the board game "Battleship?"

D'oh! Okay, bad example.

The answer is, based on the trailers, a ridiculous amount of action with some high levels of cheese and possible camp. And you know what? That's exactly what I got. Although I could tear this movie apart bit by bit and stone by stone until all that is left is a hole in the ground, I really can't say that I feel that "Battleship" deserves it. There's just not enough terrible in the movie to make me mad enough to do it.

I had a good time.

What I found fascinating about "Battleship" was that it was basically what would happen if Michael Bay had the slightest shred of talent. Make no mistake, this could easily have been a Michael Bay movie. Hell, it practically screams it. The alien ships even kind of look like something the Transformers would ride around in. But it is free from all of the things that make Michael Bay movies so unbearably wretched. Here's a short list:

1) The comedy is kept separate from the action.
2) You can see what's going on with the action.
3) There are no brutally offensive and racist stereotypes.
4) None of the characters are annoying, shrieking jackasses.
5) It was 2 hours long (as opposed to 2 hours 45 minutes)
6) It doesn't contain over an hour of padding (see #5)
7) The camera doesn't do that annoying, dizzying "spinning around the characters thing" every 2 minutes.
8) No helicopters in slow-motion at sunrise.


I swear, if the people who made "Battleship" had made "Transformers," we might have gotten a trilogy of half-way decent films instead of the 8+ hours of putrid festering septic discharge that we received. Basically what I'm saying is that "Battleship," while silly and easily comparable to movies like "Transformers," conducts itself with far more dignity than the Michael Bay abominations.

But how did they turn a board game into a movie? Well, by alien invasion, of course. In this time of "Transformers" movies, I guess it's not enough to have big ships blasting each other to pieces with giants guns anymore. We've got to have ships that also fly and shoot stuff that isn't realistic weaponry. And I suppose since "GI Joe" and "The Avengers" already did a lot of that stuff, the makers of "Battleship" felt they should just do the alien invasion plot. You know, since that's original and whatnot.

The aliens came because we made the stupid mistake of trying to communicate with them with huge radar dishes. Naturally, they get the message and promptly say "Nice. Let's invade." So the aliens come ready to blow everything up, but for some bizarre reason, they only send a few ships. This isn't a full-out "Independence Day" level invasion here, this is more like a scouting party. After their communication ship gets destroyed during the landing, the aliens set course for the only other place on the planet they can call home: the dishes that sent the signal. And those happen to be in Hawaii. And fortunately for us, that's also where the navy is.

 Don't MAKE Rihanna act more like Michelle Rodriguez at you...

 At this point you'd think that the navy would start kicking some butt, however this is where the film takes a slightly annoying turn. The aliens throw up a defensive shield that walls them off from anything getting through it, and the navy happens to be on the other side of it. So Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna are our last hope, as the only ships inside the barrier are 3 destroyers.

What sucks about that is that while it does harken back to the game, with a small fleet and limited room, Liam Neeson is on the other side! That means that he is given essentially nothing to do for the entire film except scowl at the thought of Taylor Kitsch banging his daughter. That's a shame to waste such a great actor like that. Although truthfully I was expecting him to die in the first wave of attacks like 20 minutes into the film, so I guess it's nice that he lived.

And while I would hate to see him get blown up, I was imagining in my head Liam standing on the deck of his aircraft carrier...looking out at a the mushrooming explosion of one of his ships going up, binoculars slowly being lowered from his face as he sets his chiseled jaw, clenches his teeth a bit, and growls in his always-kind-of-there Irish accent, "You alien bastards. You sank my battleship."

That would have seriously made "Battleship" the best movie of the year. Automatically.

After the shields go up, from that point on it's really all about the action. Every once in a while it cuts back to the slightly annoying subplot of Taylor Kitsch's girlfriend, played by the not very charismatic Brooklyn Decker and an amputee solider working to stop the aliens on the mainland. It's not that it isn't good, it's just that it's predictable and honestly pretty boring after we just saw a destroyer LITERALLY get cut in half. Driving a Jeep into a power station can't really compete with that.

And in the end, like I said earlier, "Battleship" does its action very well and keeps every encounter with the aliens rather fresh and exciting. No fight is exactly like another. Probably the most different (and memorable) scene is the one we were all secretly hoping they would manage to fit in: the scene were they fire at coordinates. Oh yeah. They go there.

This is also the scene were the actor who steals the movie, Japanese legend Tadanobu Asano, really steps up to show that he is by far the most useful and interesting character in the film. Seriously. This guy blows everyone else on his side of the barrier away. He also has the funniest line in the film.

So do I wish there were more ships involved in "Battleship?" Yes. Do I wish they had used Liam more? Of course. Did the alien invasion make much sense? No. Was that fact offset by the fact one of them got shot in the face with a cannon? Oh hell yeah. So am I disappointed? Nope.

Although I always knew the aliens were keeping them hidden in the "J"s...

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Battleship" is a pretty fun time. Yeah it's loud and dumb and stupid and silly and all kinds of ridiculous and the plot makes little sense and everything else, but it's worth it to see how big, dumb and silly can be handled WELL, because I think we've forgotten what that's like. Recommended.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Darkest Hour (2011)

Sometimes there is so much stupid packed into a movie that it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what happened to make it so bad. In much the same way that a construction worker stares thoughtfully at the collapsed building in front of him, one tries to spot mistakes and missteps along the way. Where did it all take a turn for the worst? Was it the plans? Was it the site? Was is the laborers? Was it the fact that he chose to make the support beams out of expired Kit Kat bars? Where did it all go wrong?

Such is the case with "The Darkest Hour." This film is one of those rare ones when it is difficult to comprehend how the thing even got a green light to begin with. It's just such an amazing mess that it is difficult to know where to start, but in the interest of keeping this brief, because believe me, I could rant about this for a long time, I shall simply state that there are few things worse than a bad movie being bad mostly because it has no original ideas or elements whatsoever.

It's so derivative of other films that it really has no identity of its own. The Aliens are invisible (not at all like "Predator"). They are invading because they want our resources (not at all like "Cowboys and Aliens"). Not only that, but we ourselves become resources (not at all like "War of The Worlds"). They also see us because our body signatures, which can be masked by ordinary means (not at all like "Tremors 2" or again, "Predator").

I'm also pretty sure they're ripping off "Ghostbusters," too. Those jerks.

The cast of characters is also so stock that it borders on offensive. Of course, this is on top of Emile Hirsch and the rest of them being annoying and obnoxious. And I hate to say they were all bad, because Olivia Thirlby is actually a decent actress, but she's just wasted talent here. It's sad to see her forced to do this crap. However, you can play a pretty fun drinking game with the characters. Every time a character does EXACTLY what they are supposed to do based on their cliched character idiom, take a shot. Example:

This guy.

From the moment he is introduced, we see that he is a douche (and his name is Skylar. Ugh). He is a rich dude who screws over the main characters in the beginning of the film. Let's hit play and do "THE DARKEST HOUR DRINKING GAME!" Just go ahead and call out the most cliched ways for this character to act, and when you're right, drink!

"When stuff goes down he's going to end up being a total coward."

15 minutes later - TAKE A SHOT.

"That cowardice is going to cause someone to die."

30 seconds later - TAKE A SHOT.

"Well, now they're going to end up being stuck with him."

5 minutes later - TAKE A SHOT.

"He going to complain and talk about how they're all going to die at every possible opportunity, isn't he?"

Every 2 minutes and/or every time he says "DON'T YOU GET IT?!" - TAKE A SHOT.

"He's going to find a gun at some point and do something really stupid."


"Against all odds and reason, the main characters are going to try and save his dumb ass."


"And as a direct consequence of his stupidity, one of the more useful characters is going to die, right?"

Oh? No shot? Ok. I was getting a little sick anyways, I'm glad there's at least one stupid cliche they didn't -

AW CRAP. They transferred that cliche over to the only character more useless than him! TAKE A SHOT.

I don't feel so good...

So yeah, "The Darkest Hour" is one big walking cliche. That's about the only significant thing about it. And while being derivative doesn't automatically make a movie bad, it needs to doing something worthwhile with it. But it's not just that the film is unoriginal, it's that it is so uninterested in doing anything that's NOT cliched that it comes off as excruciatingly boring.

And there is one last really big problem with "The Darkest Hour" that observant viewers of the trailer might have been able to spot fairly quickly: The aliens are invisible.

Well ok, that isn't entirely accurate. The have a cloaking device or some stupid thing going on. Also adding to their arsenal is their vision. I mentioned before that the film steals from both "Predator" and "Tremors 2," and it's not too far off. The aliens can see what I guess is supposed to be the electrical impulses firing through your body. However, like the movies they steal from, there is a catch. And in this movie the catch is that they can't see through glass. And yes, it plays out just as stupid as it sounds. And no, the characters never really do anything with that knowledge. And yes, the movie does forget its own rules with that ALL THE TIME.

I suppose that the whole point of making the bad guys invisible was to make it scary, because you never knew where they were (even though you kind of did). But there were too many instances when the menace of the bad guys was pretty well and truly diminished. For instance, I'm pretty sure they can't hear. Like at all. They have to be stone deaf. Either that, or they are incredibly stupid and not worthy of our fear.

One scene, in particular, fully encapsulated how dumb this movie was for me. The particular scene I am referencing has to do with two of the main characters trapped behind a car while one of the aliens comes over to check them out. Emile Hirsch, making no effort to keep his location a secret, starts screaming to the others to run. I'm thinking to myself "Good job, Chuckles, now there's no possible way they won't find and kill your annoying ass."

Nope. It moves towards them menacingly, true enough, but they slide underneath the car as it goes over the roof. And for some reason this shields them from the aliens sight...even though there is no glass covering them. Keep in mind, we are given absolutely zero other materials which are proven to block their sight. It just changes sometimes. So, despite seeing Emile Hirsch just seconds prior, the alien has a convenient flare-up of Alzheimers and just keeps on trucking, even though Emile was just yelling his head off on top of everything else. And it didn't even go after the other characters that were in plain sight beforehand.

So that leaves us with two possibilities: either the aliens are titanically stupid and not worth getting scared over, or they are deaf on top of being randomly blind.

I'm starting to think The Goonies could handle this situation, guys.

But really? Invisible bad guys? We're actually going there? How cheap are these people who made this thing? Is this "The Happening" all of a sudden? Actually, come to think of it, I WISH I was watching "The Happening" right now. That movie is a comedic masterpiece right up there with "The Room" and "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus." Any one of those movies has more going for it than "The Darkest Hour."

I mean, in "The Happening" we get to see the classic scene where Mark Wahlberg tries negotiating with a plastic plant. "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus" has a shark eating a 747. And "The Room" needs no explaining. It's "The Room." It's quite possibly the most awesomely bad movie ever made. How can anyone forget football in tuxedos or the riveting saga of the Chris-R/Denny drug scandal or whatever that thing living in Lisa's neck was? Those scenes stick with you, man. "The Darkest Hour" has nothing in it that you will remember 2 days after seeing it. And I would watch epically bad over bland and forgettable ANY DAY.

This man is more entertaining than you are, Emile Hirsch.

THE BOTTOM LINE - Terrible and derivative to the point of being insulting. Not even "so bad it's entertaining." It's just teen wanna-be thriller schlock. Skip it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Haywire (2012)

Whenever you look at the poster of a movie and see something to the effect of "Starring Professional Athlete _____," it is seldom reason to have high expectations. A person crossing over from sports to acting is a risky venture that at best can seem gimmicky, and at worst can wind up being painful to watch. It's just hard to get excited about an athlete being in a movie.

Now, to be fair, this doesn't always end poorly. Vinnie Jones played European football. Schwarzenegger was a bodybuilder. UFC fighter "Rampage" Jackson made an awesome Mr. T. You've also got professional wrestlers like The Rock, Steve Austin and even Jessie Ventura who went on to be pretty decent actors. Plus, who could forget Andre The Giant in "The Princess Bride?" And of course there's NFL great Jim Brown of "The Dirty Dozen" fame. This isn't always a guaranteed tragedy...

Especially when you consider the incredible stew that former Oakland Raiders can get going.

...but then you've also got Michael Jorden, Hulk Hogan, John Cena, Dennis Rodman and Shaq. I don't care how many awesome action stars the sports world produces, there is no forgetting or forgiving the double whammy of "Steel" and "Kazaam." Say what you will about the rest of the bad actors the sports world has produced, at least Rowdy Roddy Piper could deliver awesomely bad one-liners. But with Shaq, you've got a guy whose film career killed the comic book movie genre for a decade. That puts a damper on the whole shebang. It's like saying The Galactic Empire was pretty decent apart from that whole Alderaan thing.

And do we even need to bring up "Shaq-Fu?"

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah. "Haywire."

Gina Carano is the athlete throwing her hand in the acting ring in this endeavor. The MMA fighter had only been in one film before, the Michael Jai White feature "Blood and Bone," although she was in "Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3" (true story). So for "Haywire," her first headlining role, they did what was either a brilliant or very stupid thing and surrounded her with a cast of some of the most amazing actors around. This my ballsy.

Think about it. You've got an untested athlete as your main role. Do you really want to put them on the screen next to Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton and Antonio freaking Banderas? Good gravy. If anyone is going to make a newbie look bad, it's these guys. At this point why don't they just throw in Liam Neeson, Morgen Freeman and James Earl Jones to make the bar even higher? Even co-star Channing Tatum, like him or hate him (I think he's pretty decent, actually) has a higher pedigree than Gina Carano. This is a pretty risky venture.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Gina actually managed to step up to the plate and hold her own next to the big dogs. I'm not saying that she's on the same acting level as Michael Fassbender, because it's not even close (although few are on his level), but it amazed me that she was as convincing as she was. She must have been getting some really good advice from her veteran co-stars, because the last thing she came across as was novice. She was confident and had a strong screen presence, which meant that "Haywire" was free to be what I was hoping it would be: a lot of fun.

"Best. Death. Ever."

"Haywire" is a spy movie in the same way that the "Bourne" series is. It's played on a more realistic level, so there's no super-gadgets, and the plot is always, without fail going to involve the hero getting double-crossed by their superiors. It's just the rule. If James Bond were played more "realistically" then they would need a new M each time because Bond would always have to end up killing them at the end of every movie because M would always sell Bond out. Because that wouldn't get old fast. It's actually more shocking if the spy actually has colleges that don't try to kill them.

Spy movie gripes aside, I found "Haywire" to be a very well made and entertaining film. Like I implied earlier, the plot is nothing you haven't seen before, since spy movies have such a rigid formula to their "twists and turns" that they are always laughably predictable, but it handles the story very well. Of course, the big reason most people would want to see it is to see an MMA fighter beating the snot out of A-list Hollywood actors. And that's another thing "Haywire" manages to do quite well.

The action scenes are really quite shocking with how convincing they are. They aren't as brutal as the "Bourne" series, despite those films having a PG-13 and this one having an R rating, but the hits all have a great impact to them. Every punch to the face or foot to the kneecap feels like it hurts. It looks so legit that I found myself wondering more than once if Gina Carano, who obviously did her own stunts, wasn't actually getting punched in the face. It would make sense considering her background, but still. Dang, that looked real.


Adding to the realism of the fight scenes was the fact that there really wasn't much, if any music going on during them. Any time Gina was fighting hand to hand, the only soundtrack was the hits and crashes of the actors destroying whatever room they happened to be in at the time. At first it wasn't noticeable, but eventually you do notice its absence, kind of like a void just sitting in the room with you. It doesn't detract or distract in any way, but it does add a uniqueness to the fight scenes which help them stand out from the slew of other movies that are very similar to it.

If I was going to complain about anything it would be two things. The first is that I was never fully on board with the way the exposition was handled. Basically, the first two acts of the film are a flashback of the last few days that Gina is relating to a dude whom she basically just kidnapped, I guess for the purposes of "If I don't make it back you have to tell someone what happened." Every once in a while we cut back to them in the car as the dude asks her "So then what happened?" As a plot device it works okay, but I never really saw the point of the dude she kidnaps. The movie really could have just been told chronologically.

The second thing that bugged me: the deer. That's all I'll say, but trust me when I say that your reaction will be "Well, that was random."

This thing is about to screw with you. Seriously.

THE BOTTOM LINE - I actually really liked "Haywire." I was drawn in by the cast, which contains some of my favorite actors ever, but I was pleasantly surprised with how well it all came together, something more than I was expecting considering the fact that the headlining star is an MMA fighter new to acting. It's a lot of fun. Recommended for a good solid action flick.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Death and Cremation (2010)

Have you noticed a trend lately? Yeah, I've been on a bit of a horror film kick. Not the stabby-slashy-torture kind of horror movie, since that's not my particular bag. I generally prefer the kind of horror movie that's a bit more psychological than gratuitous. Generally. I am not above seeing the occasional victim popping like a overripe tomato in a can opener...just not all the time.

I saw "Death and Cremation" on the new release wall, and was ready to pass it by when I noticed that it starred Brad Dourif, and that is always enough to get me interested. Aside from being one of those guys who nobody else recognizes by name, which makes me feel superior whenever the person I'm talking to says "who?", Brad Dourif is an amazing actor whom I am always incredibly entertained by. And it's not like he hasn't been in big stuff. Dude was only the voice of Chucky in the "Child's Play" series, Doc Cochran in the acclaimed HBO series "Deadwood" and Grima Wormtongue in "Lord of The Rings," among other trite offerings. No big deal, right?

What I like about Brad is that he is without a doubt, among the creepiest, scariest, most intimidating actors I can think of. When I imagine a textbook "scary" character, it's generally one of three people: Christopher Walken, Ian McShane, or Brad Dourif. But Chris and Ian are more funny or badass, respectively. What's awesome about Brad is that he seems to do it without really even having to try. I mean, I'm sure the dude's a nice guy, but it's almost like they just found some crazy person on a street corner trying to eat a pigeon and stuck him in front of a camera. He's naturalistic as hell. And I can see him eating a pigeon.

Just look at him. That's a pigeon eater, my friends.

"Death and Cremation" was not much of a slasher film, although it does center around a serial killer. And it also wasn't much of a "horror" movie in the terms that genre usually implies. By that I mean that there were no scares at all. And I'm not saying that there were no scares because they fell flat, I'm saying there really were no scares at all. You won't jump at anything in this movie, because there are literally no jumps. In that way, if you are going in expecting or hoping that it will trying to frighten you with loud bangs or have blood and guts by the truckload, you shall probably walk away from "Death and Cremation" thinking it was boring and maybe even pretentious at times.

What you need to do is go into it like you're watching a drama or something. "Death and Cremation" is a horror film the same way "Donnie Darko" is. It may have creepy imagery in it and a dark tone, but you would never call it scary. Or perhaps a better comparison would be "American Psycho," not in terms of plot or subject matter, but in terms of how it treats the "scary" stuff.

The thing about movies like "American Psycho" and "Death and Cremation" is that the deaths, while a huge part of the movie, really weren't the point of it. It was the lead in to the deaths. In horror movies like "Friday the 13th," the deaths were the only reason the movie was there. It existed to kill teenagers. The payoff was the gore, and the lead in was just to get you on edge for the gore. And you know what? "Friday the 13th" did that quite well, as one would expect from a movie that helped create an entire genre. That's how it rolls.

With "Death and Cremation," yeah, the murders are a huge factor, and the lead in is at the end to get you on edge for the gore, but since the film follows the murderers instead of the victims, we get a different perspective and flavor to the film. Since we are in their heads, the film becomes more of a question as to why they are doing the things they do instead of just waiting for them to do it again.

Since we are in their viewpoint, we start sympathizing with the killers instinctively. Someone who would normally be an antagonist is now a protagonist. Whether or not we are aware of it, looking at a villain from the viewpoint usually reserved for a more heroic figure can be quite unnerving. That's why I find horror movies like this and "American Psycho" to be more interesting to watch than straight up slasher flicks.

Am I making any sense whatsoever?

That being said, my thoughts on "Death and Cremation" were somewhat mixed. First, the things I liked about it. I thought Brad Dourif was as always amazing. He gives this performance that just screams that this character has about a thousand things that he wants to scream at the top of his lungs at any moment, but he keeps them locked up. The intensity boiling underneath him is almost agonizing to watch, because you have no idea what he wants to do or is capable of doing to someone at any given moment. He reminds me a bit of Jack Nicholson in "The Shining" in that regard. Talk about a string ready to snap any time. 

The other actors also do fine jobs, including Jeremy Sumpter of the "Friday Night Lights" series and the outstanding Bill Paxton feature "Frailty." Jeremy does a good job of playing a punk kid who is bullied one time too many, but it's pretty obvious he has some issues that needed working out beforehand. I'm not defending the kids who picked on him and beat the crap out of him constantly, but from Jeremy's performance, this kid was probably not too stable to begin with.

 Pro-tip: Don't beat up the kid who seems most likely to snap and cave your head in with a bowling ball.

The other big notable thing about "Death and Cremation"  was the one absolutely brutal scene when Brad kills one of his victims. There were two death scenes involving women that were very messed up, but one involving an alley just took the cake. Now, it's not that it's overly graphic, because it's not. In terms of gore, it's maybe a 4 out of 10. But in the way it's shot, the way it's executed, and the thought...the horrifying thought of what just happened to that girl's head and's nauseating. It sickened me more than I think I've been affected by a movie in recent memory. The only other scenes in movies that I can remember disturbing me on such a base level was the "Lust" sin in "Se7en," the "Singin' In The Rain" bit from "A Clockwork Orange," and the scene were the shark eats Quint in "Jaws."

With scenes like that, I couldn't help continuing to think about them. And it was the thought that made it worse. I just sat back, hand to my mouth saying "Dude...dude, what the f-...oh man. That's messed up. Dude..." That's all I could bring myself to say. The other deaths were honestly pretty weak, especially compared to that. And trust me, you'll know it when you get there.

You may have read that and thought that is a reason you would never watch this film. I would actually say that scene is a point in its favor. That means the movie is doing its job.

This brings us to the problems with "Death and Cremation." Among the few gripes I had was the fact that honestly, you never really got to know Brad Dourif's character enough to get a handle on why he was doing what he was doing. Really, the only explanation given is that he had a messed up childhood and his dad beat him. I mean, that's all well and good, but is that really all you can give me for the reason that he goes out and kills anyone he deems a bully? Life tends to be more complicated than that. All we get is one little fragmented dream sequence flashback that lasts maybe 30 seconds, and that's the entire backstory for this character? Lame.

The second problem I had is that the scenes when the bullies are beating up Jeremy Sumpter range from effective to laughably staged. An extended one-take shot scene of Jeremy getting the snot kicked out of him in the bathroom is mostly made up of the bullies just faffing about and not really doing anything substantial or even very threatening to him (oh no! pouring beer on me!), yet he's squirming on the floor like they're spraying pepper spray up his nose. And then they give him a rather convincing looking punch in the face that I'm not even 100% sure wasn't real, and all I could think was "See? THAT looked good. What's up with the rest of this crap?"

And the ending? Well, that's kind of up in the air. I won't spoil it for you on the off chance you want to see it, but suffice to say it has its problems. Yet at the same time, it works when you think about it. It's not like murder is easy, you know.

 It most certainly is, my friend!

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Death and Cremation" is worth a look if you like Brad Dourif. Absolutely. If you don't know who that is, shame on you, but this could be a decent introduction. Definitely for a niche audience who like their horror a bit more on the thematic side rather than splatter-packed, but the later could enjoy it for a horror-tinged drama. And hey! It has a Baldwin in it! (It's the one who did a lot of drugs) Recommended.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

7 Below (2012)

I can't believe they did the "SeSevenen" thing.
Sometimes I don't care about quality. Sometimes I don't want to worry about production values. Sometimes I don't want to bother wondering whether or not a reputable studio made the film. Sometimes I just want to see Val Kilmer. But it's not always my choice to make. Sometimes, I just have to give in to my more sympathetic side.

You know the feeling? Sometimes you're just walking down the new release wall and BOOM there he is: looking out at you from the box like some slack-jawed, somewhat vacant-eyed drifter who you can tell was probably good looking back in the day but has now fattened up and exceeded the recommended storage capacity of his face. He just stares out at me with those sad blue eyes, as if some siren song were emanating from those once bright windows of the soul, singing "Please, Patrick. Take me home. Watch my movie. I know it's not always been the best of times, but please...for the history between us...give me another shot." And me, being the big softy for Val that I am, concede and give the guy another chance. "D'aww...okay, Val. Ya big lug."

This seldom works out in my favor.

You see, in the off chance that you were unaware, Val Kilmer hasn't been on a hot streak lately. In this case "lately" references nearly the last 20 years. As far as big box office goes, the last big Val Kilmer headlining movie was "Batman Forever." Since then he's appeared in lots of other movies, to be sure, but none of them have really been big. It's unfortunate because I honestly think that Val has been doing some of his best work since then, but not too many people see him. Val Kilmer really isn't a big name anymore. And that's a shame.

Most of his films nowadays are straight to video affairs that usually don't even have him in most of the movie. Usually he plays a supporting role and gets killed off about half an hour into the film. Of course, this doesn't stop them from slapping his face all over the cover like he's the main character. A safe rule of thumb is to assume that if it looks like the role you are currently watching him in took more than a weekend to film, his character is probably about to die.

"Listen, got me till 5 on Sunday. I gotta get back to my other job at Footlocker."

This is a shame, because if it isn't clear already, I love Val Kilmer. Despite his current popularity placing him slightly below Nicolas Cage but a little above Steven Seagal, I think he is horribly underrated and underused in Hollywood, and he deserves better than straight to video schlock that gives him 20 minutes of screen time.

Which finally brings us about to "7 Below."

This is a tough one to talk about. It's not that it's overly good or bad, it's just kind of dull. These are always the hardest movies to talk about. The movies that really don't leave an impression on you one way or the other just have this nasty habit of slipping out of your mind so quickly that by the time you sit down and write about them, it's already mostly gone.

"7 Below" is a fairly standard setup in terms of the "spooky house" genre. About 100 years ago, a family was murdered in this creepy house by the youngest son. Now in the present day, a group of travelers are stranded by a storm and are forced to spend the night there. Before too long, people start turning up dead, and it starts to become a "whodonit."

Ving Rhames plays the dude who lives in the house, and it doesn't take too long to deduce that there will probably be something nefarious about him, mostly because besides him living by himself in a really spooky house, he's trying really hard to be helpful. And in case you wanted to know how to spot a bad guy before the reveal just look for the person being the most helpful. That's your man.

 Pictured above: Prime suspect.

In case you were wondering whether or not that was a spoiler, not really. The real reveal as to who the killer is, while I won't say was overly clever, was slightly unexpected. At least, it was only expected after they reveal it and you say to yourself, "Well, duh, I guess. Should have seen that one coming." Perhaps someone else watching would spot it earlier. Of course, by that point of the film there were only 3 people left so it almost could have been a coin toss.

I will say that the camera work, set design, and in certain cases the acting was actually not that bad. The house looks effectively spooky without looking too obvious, and the lighting does make it pretty moody. In the hands of a scarier script it could have been quite effective. And had it been scary at all, that would have been nice too. But any kind of hope for scares that I may have had for the film were dashed pretty hard when the movie tried the awful, terrible, UNBELIEVABLY overused and un-scary mirror gag not once, but twice.

Twice? Are you kidding me? It's too much if you try it once! That's the horror movie equivalent of playing "Smoke on The Water" or "Stairway to Heaven" on your guitar in public. It's something that you just don't do!

This has worked ONE time in the history of movies...and you're looking at it.

The cast isn't the worst ensemble I've ever seen in one of these outings. Val Kilmer and Ving Rhames are unsurprisingly the best actors in it, and Val in particular does a rather convincing job as a sleazeball. Ving is okay, but his role is kind of cheesy and one-note. I think he plays a better badass than a quiet, subdued kind of creepy guy. This would have been a role better suited for Michael Clarke Duncan. Oh and there's a dude who talks like Schwarzenegger. It's pretty sweet.

There are some weaker links, however. Bonnie Somerville, whom you've seen in nothing unless you watched "NYPD Blue" or "The Ugly Truth" is pretty weak sauce as Val's wife. At least, she's not very good after he dies (spoiler alert). Leading up to his death they have a decent "we can't stand each other" chemistry, particularly a great scene at a gas station where he screws her out of coffee after hitting on the cashier. But as far as her grieving goes, it lasts for only one scene.

I mean, know you weren't overly fond of him, but he was still your husband, and you cared enough to freak out when he died, but 5 minutes later you're sitting on the couch like nothing happened, only mildly remarking that you want to leave like you're only slightly annoyed because you're having to spend the night in a place without fresh sheets. Is your grieving period literally that short? I don't blame her so much as the script, but you almost feel like they filmed the scenes out of order and changed Val's death to WAY earlier than what was in the script.

When "7 Below" gets to the ending, all the pieces fall into place and the mystery is solved, I couldn't help but feel like I had missed something. It's not that the story in the end didn't make sense, because it did...kind of...but overall it gave off the impression that a couple pages had been torn out of the script which would have explained just a few things more. And that's a problem with a horror film. Unless that movie is meant to be provocative and asks some pretty big, not easily answered questions of the viewer, the nature of the terror should be reasonably easy to comprehend, otherwise we aren't left with anything to relate to and be scared of.

"7 Below" did not ask any big questions. It's not trying to convey a message or be artsy or even trying to disturb us with the thought of the nameless terrors of the unknown. It's just a haunted house movie. Just tell us about the evil lurking in the basement and get on with it, otherwise I don't know what if anything I'm supposed to be afraid of. You can't just show me a spooky house and say "BOO! It's scary! WoooOOOOoooOOOoo!!!" That doesn't work on me, and it can be hard to have a positive view looking back on a haunted house movie which left me with more questions about the house than it gave me answers.

 Unless it's this.

THE BOTTOM LINE - While I wouldn't call "7 Below" amateur in its tradecraft, its biggest problem is that it's just a story that in the end wasn't really worth telling, and the end, while almost hitting on some interesting ideas, never really pulls through. Recommended if you need your Val Kilmer fix, since he's pretty sweet in it, but otherwise skip it.

...And I still have NO IDEA what "7 Below" is supposed to mean.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Avengers (2012)

I intensely dislike Joss Whedon. I would love to punch him in the face. Him and that smug style of writing he has. I can't explain it, but there it is. I've never been able to put my finger on what it is about his writing that just irritates me to no end, but I'd say there are two big factors: smugness and the fans.

The first factor is pretty self-explanatory: Whedon's writing is full of itself. Nearly every line from every character in one of his shows is some quirky, wink-at-the-camera, oh-I'm-so-clever, snarky joke that I just never see the humor in. And the second factor, the fans, love it.

Oh you Joss Whedon fans. I really am not too fond of you, either. Not on a personal level, no you're fine people generally speaking, but you just can't wrap your heads around the fact that I don't like Joss Whedon can you? That fries you to your core, doesn't it? It just gets under your skin and festers like a wound. Your eyes go wide, your jaw drops and you shout "WHAT?!" at me when I responded (after you asked) that I didn't like "Firefly." Then you tell me I have no taste in sci-fi. Every time. You lot are nothing if not consistent, I'll give you that.

 "You DARE defy The Great Forehead?! Destroy him, my minions! FLY!!!"

I've actually been threatened with physical violence over "Firefly" before on two separate occasions, so don't tell me you people can't get a bit intense. "Star Trek" fans don't do that when I say I liked "Voyager." They just roll their eyes and say "Next Gen" was better. That's called "civility," people. I'm sorry your show only lasted a season. Trust me, FOX screwed me out of MY favorite show, "Arrested Development" too. I feel your pain. WE ARE KIN.

So before going into "The Avengers," let me clear the air and address some things right now. Here are the issues which I'm sure I'm going to get called on, and let me answer them here and now.

1) "You're going into it with a bad attitude!"
I wasn't too excited about "The Avengers," no, but I wasn't dreading it. I was more neutral. But I've never liked Joss Whedon's works before, so you can't blame me for being apprehensive.

2) "It's just a movie, dude! Turn off your brain and have fun!"
I like to have fun with my brain ON, thank you very much. I don't consider mindless acceptance a positive quality to have. That trait is why Michael Bay still has a career. It's kind of evil.

3) "Why do you have to nitpick everything and ruin everyone's fun?"
Because unlike most of you, I'm a critic. It's what I do. I've been doing it for years. I was published in a newspaper. It was my job. What do you think my reviews would have been like had I just typed IT WAS AWESOME 100 times? It doesn't mean I'm necessarily out to ruin stuff, I'm analyzing it. And don't ask me what I thought if you don't want the truth.

4) "But in the COMIC they explain-"
Didn't read. Don't care. Irrelevant.

5) "Well I thought it was awesome."
Cool! I thought it was mediocre!

Ok? Now on the part where I make a lot of people mad at me. Beforehand, let me just say, I'm sorry and please don't firebomb my house.

Before I get into the character aspects of the film that I found annoying, I'd first like to bring up some plot related stuff that really irked me. First up is that there seemed to be some real inconsistency in powers. Most of this come from The Hulk. Now, at about the halfway point of the film, Thor has a fight with The Hulk, and while he doesn't exactly beat him up, it was a pretty close fight before it got cut short. However, later in the film, Thor has his little showdown with Loki and can't touch him. And then here comes Hulk, beating the ever-loving cream-filled stuffing out of Loki.

How does that work? We also have to assume Thor was probably going easy on Hulk at least a bit, since he probably didn't want to really hurt him, if that was even possible. But there's no way he was going easy on Loki. So if Thor could hold his own against Hulk while holding back, and Hulk could just sneeze on Loki to pulverize him, Loki verses Thor at full tilt shouldn't even have been close. Instead, Loki pretty much wins that fight. So exactly how powerful is he, then? Make up your mind, movie.

"Hulk level up between scenes!"

And another thing with The Hulk! Why does Hulk all of a sudden not go into an insane rage the second time he Hulks out? He was trying to kill Scarlett Johansson earlier, and now he's fighting alongside them and taking orders? What changed? Did I miss a line? All of a sudden he's totally cool, capable of taking orders, and totally knows who is on his side and who isn't? You just can't do that without explaining it! It seemed that Whedon realized that he wrote himself into a corner with Hulk, but said "screw it" and had him fighting with The Avengers at the end just because.

OH! Another thing!!! How in the hell did the mystical MacGuffin wind up on the roof of Tony Stark's building without him knowing? The dude is hardwired into everything on the freaking planet with his tech, yet his AI butler dropped the ball on his home security?! And you can't tell me they hacked his AI butler, because he's functioning perfectly throughout the entire affair.

Alright, alright I'm done with the plot holes. Besides, apart from the MacGuffin on the roof, none of those were really deal breakers for me. They were more like little annoyances. No, for me the real Listerine in the punchbowl were the characters themselves, and how they acted. Particularly the guy who was once one of the most awesome superheroes around, but has now become one of the most insufferable: Tony Stark.

"Hi, my name is Robert, but you can call me Chuckles the Clown."

Tony Stark is hands down the least interesting character in this film. He's a walking punchline. And no, that doesn't automatically make him awesome. That makes him a punchline. There's a difference. I seem to recall Tony being slightly less obnoxious with the amount of jokes and "Lookit me, I'm not taking this too seriously" lines in the other "Ironman" films. I mean, they were there, sure, but they seemed a bit more spaced out. In "The Avengers" it's like EVERY SINGLE LINE with this guy. If Tony Stark is on the screen, there can't be 12 seconds going by without a witty, snide comment with the appropriate amount of pause afterwords so the audience can laugh. Irritation and distraction are not powerful enough adjectives to describe the effect that had on me. And of course, he's probably the Avenger with the most screen time.

The far more interesting characters for me were Captain America and Thor. I found Captain America interesting because he was the man representing loyalty and faith in the system, something he fought and basically died for, but he gets thrown in a position of having to question that very loyalty and coming to terms with what the "right" thing to do really is, even if it means disobeying orders. It's an interesting bit of character development which lasts for about 5 minutes before an action scene starts, and when it's done he's made his decision. That's fine, but personally I would have liked to have seen it addressed maybe one more time, because it was a good angle for the character.

Now Thor I liked because of the connection he had with the villain. Loki being Thor's brother added a connection that the other characters couldn't hope to match. For that reason, the scenes between Thor and Loki are quite good and have far more impact on a dramatic level than when any of the other Avengers are fighting him. For everyone else it's just the Big Bad of the movie, but for Thor it's personal.

Loki also possess the power to turn into Michael Sheen.

Thor is also the only character that was given the exact proper amount of funny lines. That total ended up being maybe three. He's basically the complete antithesis of Tony Stark in that regard, since Tony had maybe three lines that were serious, and for that reason Thor was the only character that I actually found funny. When he said something humorous, it was unexpected, and to be perfectly honest, Chris Hemsworth had a FAR superior sense of comedic timing. The one joke I laughed at was Thor meekly mentioning that Loki is adopted when it's brought up that his brother killed a lot of people. That was pretty funny.

But YOU need to shut up, dude, before you wear out the love I have for you...

Speaking of shutting up, the absolute biggest problem I had with this flick was the unbelievable amount of talking going on. GOOD. GRAVY. I thought we were over this. Did I miss something? What have we been doing the last half decade? What were all those other movies about? You know, the FIVE Marvel films that were the lead-in to "The Avengers?"

I thought the point of those was so that we didn't need an hour and a half of talking in "The Avengers" movie. I thought in this movie, since we already knew everyone, they would simply form a team because of an evil that threatens the world, and a lot of stuff blows up and awesome superhero action awaits without having to bother with drama and petty bickering.

Boy was I wrong. Almost the entire first two acts of the film are devoted to the Avengers bickering and in-fighting with each other as they can't seem to come to the simple conclusion that they really need to work together otherwise they're all dead. Oh wow. That's fun. That's what I paid $10 to see: superheroes having a penis measuring contest. For that reason I found the first 2/3rd's of the movie to honestly be pretty darn boring, with the exception of an occasional brief action scene snapping me out of drifting off.

But shock of all shocks, once the third act comes along, "The Avengers" out of nowhere gets pretty freaking good. I'm not going to lie, the last act is outstanding. And although the action does have an annoying habit of flipping back and forth between "phenomenal" and "way-too-close-what-the-hell-am-I-looking-at-stop-shaking-the-camera," the ratio of amazing to confusing is severely skewed in the positive direction. The last 40 minutes or so of "The Avengers" is probably some of the best, most consistently exciting action I can recall from...well nearly any movie, really.

And that fact makes it just that much more frustrating for me when I realized that had this movie been about half an hour shorter, started at the third act, and just played out Loki's plan to a more severe outcome, "The Avengers" would have ROCKED. The alien invasion that is the third act should have happened by the half hour mark. Not the hour and forty minute mark. This should have been a movie entirely made up of The Avengers fighting back the alien horde. Not Tony Stark and Steve Rogers puffing their chests out at each other and setting a time and place to fight after school.

Most of the movie is The Avengers fighting each other rather than the bad guys.

I know people are going to come down hard on me for having these views, but I'm sorry. For the most part I found "The Avengers" to be boring, obnoxious and WAY too full of itself. And I blame every single bit of that on Joss Whedon, because that is the exact same reaction I've had to pretty much everything he's ever done.

And for those of you fanboys and fangirls ready to tear my head off over what you would probably call my "blasphemy," ask yourself a question, think about it seriously, and be honest:

"Did you really enjoy "The Avengers" on a objective level, or did you enjoy it simply because it's there?"

THE BOTTOM LINE - "The Avengers" is not a bad movie. It's just not that great if you ask me. It's kind of boring, it takes way too long getting started, the plot never really solidifies, and most of the movie is superheroes being snarky jerks to each other. When it finally does pick up at the end, it's fantastic, which is the best redeeming quality for the film. Fanboys will worship it because that's what they do. For someone with their blinders off, I can say it's just "OK" at best. Recommended for a rental, or perhaps theaters after all the annoying diehards are done seeing it 15 times.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Inkubus (2011)

It's time once again to go scraping some B-movie barrels over here, and dive headfirst into a little film staring one of the most lauded of horror movie icons: Robert Englund.

I'm not going to lie, I didn't really have high hopes for this one. Robert Englund is awesome and all, but it's a lot to ask for one actor to hold up a film all by themselves. The other actors highlighted on the back of the box, William Forsythe and Joey Fatone, were listed as being in such gems as "Gotti" and "Weekend at Bernie's." Classy. When those are the two best movies you can list off on the supporting actor's collective resume, perhaps one would be wise in adjusting one's preconceptions of what they are in for. Even if it does star Robert Englund.

In the end, yes, "Inkubus" is exactly what you might expect - low budget horror of SyFy Channel fare. Well, maybe a very small notch above SyFy Channel. As stock and overall unimpressive and somewhat dull as "Inkubus" admittedly is, however, for some reason my final impression of the film fell not into the "screaming in pain" range, but instead wound up being somewhere around a "C minus." It was just south of average. And to be honest, for a movie that would be lumped in with movies like "Frankenfish" or anything staring Michael Madsen, it's actually shockingly "un-bad." And although I was worried he couldn't do it, a lot of the un-badness comes from Robert Englund giving a clinic on how to be a master creep.

Seriously, how can you look at him and not smile? He's having such a great time...
I think what got me most was the concept more than the execution. The idea of "Inkubus" is that we are told a story by a guy in a mental institution (SIT DOWN, I know it's cliche. Just roll with it.) about the night that a lot of very very bad things happened in a police station. There had been a murder that night, and the suspect, covered in the victim's blood, swears they didn't touch the victim, and that it was a shadowy figure that appeared and then disappeared into thin air. Obviously, the police think he's full of it.

In walks Robert Englund with the victim's severed head saying "Here you go." He's immediately arrested, but it soon becomes clear that he's not exactly human, and is ludicrously dangerous. He tells them his name is Inkubus, as opposed to "Incubus," since he feels the "k" helps distinguish him from all the rest of the Incubi. His reason for being there becomes more clear by the end, even though it does get a little hazy by that point, but what it all boils down to is that he's just here to play a sick, twisted game with everyone before he kills them all.

"Thank you! Now for my next trick I need a volunteer."

It's not exactly "The Shining," I know, but where the story held my attention was the way that they portrayed why Inkubus was a threat, and what he did to the people he was tormenting. The way he does this is that he makes people see what he wants them to see, instead of what is really in front of them. So, for instance, a scene where Cop 1 and Cop 2 start beating the crap out of Inkubus turns into Inkubus and Cop 1 beating the crap out of Cop 2, once Inkubus quickly switches places with Cop 2, but makes Cop 1 see Cop 2 as Inkubus. It's pretty well done, actually, and really made Robert Englund just come off as a complete bastard, which is always awesome to watch.

That's the main reason this was a fun watch. I absolutely adore Robert Englund, and he is just having an absolute blast playing Inkubus. Sometimes you can just tell when an actor is enjoying themselves, and it really does become infectious. He sneers and snarks his way through this film as he guts people and rips out their spines, all while having a mischievous grin the whole time. It's the closest I've seen him come to recapturing the spirit of Freddy Krueger. In fact, while none of his lines were "I'm your boyfriend, now" caliber, there were a couple that got me jazzed up, and I had to rewind a few times to watch them again and say "That's awesome."

The whole experience can be summed up by my favorite Englund comeback of the film:
Forsythe: "Are you f#@king with us?!"
Englund: "YES!!!"

He's just having a good time. With murder.

"Why yes, that was in my pocket. But I'm still glad to see you."

A lot of murder.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Inkubus" isn't for everyone. If you don't appreciate B-horror schlock, you'll probably find it pretty stupid. And while I wouldn't call it a shining gem of B-horror, in fact it is at best mediocre, Robert Englund's fantastic screen presence and shockingly intense and evil performance is enough for fans of the genre and of him to watch it. Recommended for horror buffs.