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THE ABC’S OF DEATH

THE ABC’S OF DEATH-United States/New Zealand-2012

the-abcs-of-death-poster

Directed by Nacho Vigalondo (“A is for Apocalypse”), Adrián García Bogliano (“B is for Bigfoot“), Ernesto Diaz Espinoza (“C is for Cycle”), Marcel Sarmiento (“D is for Dogfight”), Angela Bettis (“E is for Exterminate”), Noboro Iguchi (“F is for Fart”), Andrew Traucki (“G is for Gravity”), Thomas Cappelen Malling (“H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion”), Jorge Michael Grau (“I is for Ingrown”), Yidai Yamaguchi (“J is for Jidai-geki“), Anders Morgenthaler (“K is for Klutz”), Timo Tjahjanto (“L is for Libido”), Ti West (“M is for Miscarriage”), Banjong Pisanthanakun (“N is for Nuptials”), Bruno Forzani and Hélène Cattet (“O is for Orgasm”), Simon Rumley (“P is for Pressure”), Adam Wingard (“Q is for Quack”), Srdjan Spasojevic (“R is for Removed”), Jake West (“S is for Speed”), Lee Hardcastle (“T is for Toilet”), Ben Wheatley (“U is for Unearthed”), Kaare Andrews (“V is for Vagitus”), Jon Schnepp (“W is for WTF?”), Xavier Gens (“X is for XXL”), Jason Eisener (“Y is for Youngbuck”), Yoshihiro Nishimura (“Z is for Zetsumetsu”)

Written by Adrian Garcia Bogliano (“B is for Bigfoot”), Noboru Iguchi (“F is for Fart”), Yudai Yamaguchi (“J is for Jidai-geki”), Lee Hardcastle (“T is for Toilet”), Kaare Andrews (“V is for Vagitus”), Jon Schnepp (“W is for WTF?”), Yoshihiro Nishimura (“Z is for Zetsumetsu”), Simon Barrett, Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani, Simon Rumley, Srdjan Spasojevic, Nacho Vigalondo, Dimitrije Vojnov, Ti West

Does anyone remember The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey? It was an Alphabet book in which Gorey would begin with a child’s name (A is for Alice), said child’s demise (who fell down the stairs) in a way that rhymes with the demise of the next child (B is for Basil assaulted by bears). Get the picture? If you do then you get the premise, so to speak, of The ABC’s of Death; an anthology film with 26 segments directed by 26 directors and written by 15 writers. For me, anthology films have always been a bit of a pain in the ass to review. Do I review the film as a whole; or by each individual story? How much wordage do I allot to each story? A film such as Twilight Zone the Movie with its 4 stories is reason for me to climb walls and mumble; 26 stories should be just enough to make me gouge out my eyes and become a chronic masturbator. In order to avoid that I figure what I will do is dedicate a small portion of wordage to each segment and give the film as a whole the blood drop rating that has been my method ever since I began writing reviews. Does any of that make sense? For all that is good and fair in this world I certainly hope so.

“A is for Apocalypse”

A man is lying in bed when a woman, presumably his wife, enters the room and brutally stabs him with a butcher knife, throws hot cooking grease in his face and bludgeons him with a cast iron skillet while he gazes at her not with a look of ‘why are you doing this?'; but instead his look inquires more as to ‘what the hell are you doing?’ She tells him that she has been poisoning him for a year and it wasn’t supposed to end like this. Outside we hear the sounds of tires squealing, cars crashing and it all fades to red. Yawn.

“B is for Bigfoot”

I’m sure a lot of guys have had this problem at one point or another; you’re trying to score with your girl only to be headed off at the pass by her kid. So, what do you do? You put the kid to bed and tell her to go to sleep or else a monster is going to get her. Which monster? Maybe it’s the Abominable Snowman, or maybe it’s Bigfoot. It may even be the Snowman from Mexico. After all, it’s all make-believe; you just want the little brat to go to bed, right? This one is even worse than “A is for Apocalypse”.

“C is for Cycle”

Your wife hears a noise and sends you to investigate. You do, finding nothing. You come back to bed only to find another man sleeping next to your wife. That man is you; your wife hears a noise and sends you to investigate. It’s slightly confusing, but still better than the first two segments. The actor portraying the husband does a passable Anton Chigurh impression.

“D is for Dog”

This is a definite commentary on the brutality of UFC and MMA fighting. If men are in cages like dogs then have them fight like dogs and fight dogs. Nice little twist at the end. Not sure about the kid in the diaper.

“E is for Exterminate”

Looks like Angela Bettis has been taking lessons from Lucky McKee (Sick Girl). She’s learned well; I broke out the bug spray by the time this one was over. I also loved how she managed to incorporate an old urban legend into the mix.

“F is for Fart”

My wife says that I’m weird. She has not seen weird until she has seen “F is for Fart.” There really are people out there who have a flatulence fetish. Don’t ask me how I know this; I know a lot of things.

“G is for Gravity”

Was there a point to this one? I thought I was watching a Laird Hamilton bio-pic for a bit there. This one was dumb. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

“H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion”

Nazis and furries; who’d-a thunk it? This one was definitely the funniest so far. My wife was asking me about the ‘furry’ lifestyle the other day. I told her it was a slang term for people who attend an excessive amount of dog and cat shows.

“I is for Ingrown”

This one might have been more interesting if we had known, as the late Paul Harvey was fond of saying, ‘the rest of the story.’ It’s only disturbing like this. By the way, for the rest of story watch the credits for this segment at the end of the movie.

“J is for Jidai-geki”

According to the all-seeing know-it-alls at Wikipedia, Jidaigeki is a genre of Japanese film, TV and theater; they are period dramas usually set in the Edo period of Japanese history from 1603-1868. A samurai movie, if you will. This is a brief, twisted tribute to that genre and it’s not bad.

“K is for Klutz”

You ever have that one turd that will just not flush no matter what you do? I think this segment may be about that particular problem. It may be about something even heavier. I recommend taking lots of illegal substances while watching.

“L is for Libido”

WTF? This one is just wrong on every conceivable level. It is neither horror nor entertaining. I hated it.

“M is for Miscarriage”

I knew this was a Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) segment as soon as I saw the grainy 1980’s VHS quality film technique. The title is exactly what it means. West’s was one of two directors whose segments I was most interested in seeing. The other was Angela Bettis. I think Bettis has the edge here.

“N is for Nuptials”

The most hilarious segment so far as well as a cautionary tale; if you have a bird that can talk then be very careful what you let it hear. I know this from experience with a Quaker parrot I owned that picked up the F-word from my (sometimes) potty mouth.

“O is for Orgasm”

I read somewhere that an orgasm is like experiencing a little bit of death. At least that’s how I remember it. I had no idea it was also like blowing bubbles out of your mouth, burning Barbie dolls with cigarettes and being tied down with leather. Have I been missing something?

“P is for Pressure”

A good mother will do anything she can to make her child happy. The key word in that sentence is ‘anything’. This one takes a hard left at the end.

“Q is for Quack”

“How do we make our ABC’s of Death segment stand out?” asks director Adam Wingard (V/H/S, A Horrible Way to Die) to writer Simon Barrett. Easy, break down the 4th wall, feature a mix of gunplay and social commentary and throw in a really cute duck for good measure. Quack, quack.

“R is for Removed”

I think this one is homage to Russian cinema. I may be wrong; and if I am I am sure people will let me know. I have no opinion of it one way or the other.

“S is for Speed”

A druggie segment that pays homage to Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Robert Rodriguez and “An Appointment in Samarra.” I loved this one as much as I hated “L is for Libido”.

“T is for Toilet”

This one is funny despite the fact that I despise Claymation. It’s not as funny as “N is for Nuptials”; but it’s still funny.

“U is for Unearthed”

I was beginning to wonder when we would see a traditional monster tale. Thank you, Ben Wheatley (Kill ListA Field in England) for this nifty little vampire tale.

“V is for Vagitus”

Vagitus is a newborn child’s first cry. On rare occasions it’s happened even before the child leaves the womb. Here I thought this one was going to be a “Don’t fuck with Canada” propaganda segment and instead I learned something new.

“W is for WTF?”

A comment on a phrase we use with alarming regularity nearly every day. The only way to comment on such a phrase is to feature a segment that makes us say exactly that: “What the f*ck?”

“X is for XXL”

There’s a song by Lou Reed called “Harry’s Circumcision”. It’s about a man who mutilates his face because he fears that he is turning into the image of his parents. Director Xavier Gens (Frontier(s)The Divide) directs this segment on the basis of the term ‘image is everything.’ It’s a bloody good one.

“Y is for Youngbuck”

There’s not one word of dialogue in this Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun) tale about a deer-slaying pedophile. There’s no need for dialogue; it’s disturbing enough without it.

“Z is for Zetsumetsu”

Leave it to the Japanese to make a commentary on war using food porn, Nazi blonde bitches with giant penises, and a vegetable-shooting vagina. Holy crap.

The ABC’s of Death is an uneven mess of a film with a few gems thrown in to the mix. I can’t recommend it to anyone and still keep a good conscience. See it at your own risk.

TRIVIA

The child featured on the movie poster is the son of director Kaare Andrews. He is also featured in Andrews’ segment in the film.

The characters name ‘Frau Scheisse’ means literally translated ‘Mrs. Shit” in German.

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THE INNKEEPERS (FOR HEAD IN A VICE)

The-Innkeepers-2011-Movie-Poster-e1319897867881

First of all, it feels really fucking weird to be writing a new post. To paraphrase Lennon and McCartney, I’ve been away so long I hardly know what I’m doing anymore. But one thing I have always tried to do is to keep my word to people, especially my friends. I didn’t do that with Ryan, my friend and fellow blogger at Rhino’s Horror and I feel bad about that. I’m not going to repeat the same mistake with Tyson Carter and Head in a Vice. Tyson asked me if I would be part of a series that he’s doing where he has two groups discussing one film. One group will defend their reasons for liking the film; while the other group will do their best to cut the film down with their intense vitriol.

The film I’ve been picked to defend, along with Mike from MikesFilmTalk, is Ti West‘s haunted hotel cum ghost story The Innkeepers. I’ve already reviewed the film once before, so I’m not going to re-hash what the film is about. What Tyson wants, and what I will try to give you, is my reasons for liking the movie. For that I will do my best.

I liked The Innkeepers for one solid reason; the film knows when to build up it’s suspense and when to dial it down a notch or two. Instead of giving us jump scare after jump scare after jump scare, director West gives us a film that is slow paced and deliberate and is all the better for it. One of the main complaints I’ve heard about the Paranormal Activity series is that that nothing happens for the first 80 minutes or so and then everything happens for the last ten minutes. I didn’t get that impression with The Innkeepers. I felt like there was a lot happening throughout the movie; it just happened at it’s own pace; leading us down a dark path, sometimes making us jump and sometimes holding back until the moment was just right.

For better or for worse, that’s why I loved The Innkeepers. It’s been a while and I’m a little rusty; so I hope you will be kind to me.

Thank you.

V/H/S

vhs

Hannah Fierman as Lily

Hannah Fierman as Lily

Directed by Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence

Written by Simon Barrett, David Bruckner, Nicholas Tecosky, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

V/H/S opens with a group of friends videotaping their exploits; whether it’s smashing windows in buildings, spray painting graffiti or grabbing random girls and pulling up their shirts to show their breasts; it’s all on film. We find out later that they get paid for their shenanigans and their ‘employer’ has a new, perhaps more simple job for them; to break into a house and steal one video tape in particular. Well, that seems easy enough, right? When they’re in the house, they find the owner dead in his chair in a room with several TV’s and lots of video tapes. The guys begin to watch, and that’s where the anthology genre melds with the found footage genre.

Amateur Night, the first video, is about a group of friends (not the same group) out for a night on the town. One of the friends, and this is a good alternative to holding a bulky video camera, is wearing a pair of eyeglasses with a built in camera and microphone. The intent of the guys is to find a girl and then videotape having sex with her. They find two girls and take them back to a motel. One girl passes out and they leave her alone. Yeah, okay, that part I buy hook line and sinker, not. The other girl, well, let’s just say the other girl is very special. This episode is directed by David Bruckner (The Signal) and is a good start for the film in that while it is hardly believable it is never boring. Hannah Fierman is creepy as hell as Lily, the girl with ‘something extra’.

“Second Honeymoon” is about Sam and Stephanie and their titular adventures in an old west town. They videotape their fun and Stephanie gets her fortune read. She will be re-united with a loved one, says Pappy, the mechanical prospector cum prognosticator. At their hotel that night there’s a knock on their door from a girl asking for a ride for the next day. The girl goes away, the door to their room is locked, the camera is turned off and Sam and Stephanie settle down to sleep. The camera turns on and pans to Sam sleeping. It pans to Stephanie sleeping. Wait…what? We see only a glimpse of the third party in the mirror before he (maybe she) have fun with Sam’s toothbrush and the toilet water. Sam and Stephanie continue their fun the next day and then we repeat with the two of them going to sleep and the unknown third party turning on the camera yet again. Only this time there’s a twist and Stephanie re-unites with that loved one that ole Pappy told her all about. “Second Honeymoon” is directed by Ti West (The Innkeepers) and is unfortunately not a good example of his work. He’s done way better than this and I believe he will continue to do better than this. Let’s move on.

Tuesday the 17th is a home video version of the ‘slasher in the woods that’s killing all your friends and yet no matter how hard you try to kill him you just can’t seem to do it’ entry in the horror genre. Spider, Joey and Samantha accompany their new friend Wendy into the woods to smoke pot and do whatever it is pot smoking teens do in the woods together. Wendy tells them that her friends were murdered here and they laugh it off. Then they start dying at the hands of a killer that the tracking device on the camera just can’t seem to clear up. Is it live, or is Memorex? Directed by Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), “Tuesday the 17th” is more an example of ‘let’s have fun with the video camera’ than it is a serious attempt at filmmaking. That’s not a bad thing, mind you; it makes it even more fun, in fact.

Emily talks with her boyfriend and doctor-t0-be James via web cam. She tells him all about the strange mark on her arm and then the ghost of a child runs into her room and back out again in “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” segment of V/H/S. There is more than meets the eye in this segment directed by Joe Swanberg; but to tell anymore would take us into spoiler country and I hate traveling there. Let’s just say this is a good example of why I think web cam chat is creepy.

A pirate, a marine, a nanny cam and the Unabomber go to a haunted house. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Actually, it’s “10/31/98″ and buddies Chad, Matt, Tyler and Paul go to what they think is a Halloween party, only to find the place deserted. But when they see ghostly figures and hands coming out of the walls they begin to realize that they may not be so alone after all. This final segment, directed by Radio Silence, is easily the best segment of the film and is a clear example of the fun that the filmmakers had with V/H/S. The film as a whole brings nothing new to the table; but by the end you really just don’t care.

TRIVIA

Folks, there is nothing to see here. Please move on in an orderly fashion. Thank you.

“Amateur Night”-45px-Blood_Drop45px-Blood_Drop½

“Second Honeymoon”-45px-Blood_Drop45px-Blood_Drop

“Tuesday the 17th”-45px-Blood_Drop45px-Blood_Drop45px-Blood_Drop

“The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger”-45px-Blood_Drop45px-Blood_Drop½

“10/31/98″-45px-Blood_Drop45px-Blood_Drop45px-Blood_Drop½

Overall rating: 45px-Blood_Drop45px-Blood_Drop45px-Blood_Drop

SCREAM QUEEN OF THE MONTH-NOVEMBER 2012-SARA PAXTON

SCREAM QUEEN OF THE MONTH-NOVEMBER 2012-SARA PAXTON

SCREAM QUEEN OF THE MONTH-NOVEMBER 2012-SARA PAXTON

So, why Sara Paxton; why not any other young blonde actress to fill the spot for October Scream Queen of the Month? To tell you the truth I really don’t know; other than she impressed the hell out of me with her frantic, yet subdued performance in Ti West‘s slow burn of a ghost story, The Innkeepers. Or maybe it was the fact that she looked really cute in a bikini in the Sharkstravaganza* SHARK NIGHT 3-D. Then there’s also her role as Mari in the remake of Wes Craven‘s 1970’s shocker THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. Whether it’s one of those movies, all three or any of the many credits our young Scream Queen has listed on the IMDb, including roles in LIAR LIAR, C.S.I.: Miami and SUPERHERO MOVIE, Miss Paxton had kept quite busy. So, that is why Written in Blood welcomes her as the October 2012 Scream Queen of the Month!!

*Sharkstravaganza-New Word, I claim it!!

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THE INNKEEPERS

THE INNKEEPERS-United States-2011

Pat Healy as Luke

Written and Directed by Ti West

With a ghost story, it’s all about the pacing. You have to keep the audience at a near breaking point of suspense, or else you will lose them. The tension has to be stretched to that specific point where they want to turn their eyes away from the screen; yet at the same time there is nothing they want more than to see what happens next. The Innkeepers, the latest film from The House of the Devil director Ti West, builds up the suspense and the tension to the point of where you feel that your mind is twisted like rubber. You’re stretched so tightly that just one more thing will send you over the edge.

The Innkeepers is the story of two hotel clerks, Luke and Claire, and their last weekend at the Yankee Pedlar Inn. The inn is going out of business and with only a small handful of guests the two of them decide it would be a perfect time to find out if the inn is haunted. Did a woman named Madeline O’Malley hang herself at the Yankee Pedlar? Is her ghost doomed to remain there? Will Luke and Claire find the answers they’re looking for? What, are you waiting for me to answer the questions? I mean, seriously, I just review the films. If you want an entire plot synopsis then go to Wikipedia. Better yet, watch the movie.

All joking aside, The Innkeepers is a winner. Sara Paxton and Luke Healy are both very good in their titular roles and Kelly McGillis has a reserved and eerie charm as one the hotel’s final living guests. In my opinion, Ti West is a director to watch. The Innkeepers and the House of the Devil are excellent horror films; but I get the feeling there’s greatness right around the corner. He need only take his time. After all, it’s all about the pacing.

NO TRIVIA

THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL

THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL-United States-95 Mins. 2009

Written and Directed by Ti West

Starring

Jocelin Donahue as Samantha

Tom Noonan as Mr. Ulman

Mary Woronov as Mrs. Ulman

Greta Gerwig as Megan

AJ Bowen as Victor Ulman

Dee Wallace as Landlady

When I watched The House of the Devil my “I have seen this before” brand of spidey-sense kicked in. I asked myself  “Where have I seen this kind of cinematography?” “Where have I seen that opening blurb about the film being based on a true story?” “Why does this movie seem so darn familiar?”

Then I realized the answer to all my questions: 1970’s horror movies. Films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror used the ‘based on a true story’ blurb. Almost all the made-for-tv movies like Trilogy of Terror, Scream of the Wolf and Curse of the Black Widow used the 16mm camera effect. Was  I  watching a movie that was a complete rip-off of all those movies that I loved as a young man in the ’70’s? Well…no.

The House of the Devil is not a rip-off but a total homage to all those films. Director Ti West has captured the look and feel of that era so well that you may find yourself checking the DVD or Blu-Ray case to find out exactly what year the film was released.

The film is about a young girl who takes a job as a babysitter at a house owned by a mysterious couple who live out in the country. She soon realizes that it’s  not her skills as a babysitter that they are in need of. She is to be a part of a Satanic ritual that the family is a part of. Now, at this point I am pretty sure that most of my readers already realize that I am not going to tell them any more about what happens. What I will tell you is that if you love those old horror films from the 1970’s then this is a film for you. There is some gore in the film, but it is not overbearing and does not interfere with the retro feel that the film so lovingly achieves. The film relies more on thrills and less on the gross-out.

If you want to see a good horror film that doesn’t forget it’s roots then see The House of the Devil. If you don’t, well then, there’s always all those crappy remakes Hollywood shoves down our throats and up our asses every year.

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