Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Visual Schedule

Here's the selection of films we will be reviewing over the next several months.

First Row: SeedPeople, The Ladies Club, The Sender, Chained Heat, Sky Pirates, Death Machine, Night of the Scarecrow, Mutant.

Second Row: Prisoners of the Lost Universe, Angel, McGinsey's Island, Red Heat, Avenging Force, Unmasked Part 25, RawHead Rex.

Third Row: The Dirt Bike Kid, Fast Food, Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks, SpellCaster, Vice Academy 2, The Brain.

First Row: Making Contact, The New Adventures of Pipi Longstocking, Night of the Demon, Ticks, Brain Damage, Silent Night Deadly Night Special (1-5).

Second Row: Damned River, The Kiss, Black Evil, Mortuary, Godzilla vs. Biollante, Carnosaur Special (1-3), The Deadly Spawn/Metamorphosis, Maniac Cop Special (1-3).

Third Row: Creepers, Bad Channels, Demon Wind, The Offspring, The Legend of Blood Castle, Head of the Family, Lifeforce, Murder in Space, China Girl, The Lightening Incident.

Fourth Row: The Manitour, Mirror Mirror, Rest in Pieces, Up From the Depths, Junior, Comin' At Ya!, The Boneyard, America, The Rejuvinator.

First Row: Terror on Tour.

Second Row: Cast a Deadly Spell, Balloon Farm.

Third Row: Uninvited, Evil Spirits, Survival Quest.

Fourth Row: Spookies, The Kindred, Blood Beach, Never Too Young to Die

Comment below with what titles you'd like to see us review on the show.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fatal Games (1984)

When looking back through the history of film there was no time for Horror like that of the 1980's. With the video boom in full swing producers were able to turn out cheap imitations of more popular titles. When 'Friday the 13th' hit in 1980 the era of the Slasher was paved, and the home video market never was the same. At around the time that the novelty was wearing thin (the first time) there were more Slashers in your rental store than in your local theater. The market was over-saturated, and the ROI for these films became less and less.

This is where a film like 'Fatal Games' comes in; riding the Slasher coattails. Released by Media films in 1984 it's a film that many nowadays won't know, but to those who saw the wonderfully drawn cover in a video store may have been duped into renting.

'Fatal Games' starts off with a montage of hopeful Olympians training in their respective sports. It's topped off by the wonderfully cheesy song which states "winning isn't everything; it's the only thing". What struck me as odd with 'Fatal Games' is that there isn't an opening murder to give you the tone of the film, and instead it feels like you're watching some after school special. We're then thrust into the world of seven athletes who are competing in the national...something or other. As these seven Olympic hopefuls train to better themselves for the big game there is an unseen force, yielding a javelin, taking the youths out one by one.

Honestly, the above plot summary might seem a little light on description, but believe me that this was one forgettable Slasher. What films like 'Silent Night, Deadly Night', 'Friday the 13th', and 'My Bloody Valentine' have in common are elaborate death sequences that keep you watching. 'Fatal Games' on the other hand has none of that. Some Slasher films use their shortcomings by upping the gore quotient, but again 'Fatal Games' fails to deliver. Every victim, with the exception of the killer, die by the aforementioned javelin. The first kill was a laugh out loud moment as I just didn't see it coming. I mean seriously? A javelin? It's too absurd to be scary, and it just becomes comical. After the fourth kill it started to get a little excruciating, and then we're just stuck with this image for 84 minutes of overacting.

There is only one actor (a term I use loosely) that uses any range in their deliveries, and that is Sally Kirkland, who was nominated for an Oscar in 1988 for 'Anna'. I really didn't find her to be "Oscar Caliber" in 'Fatal Games', but then again, there is nothing award worthy here. The characters are all flat, and their deaths just don't mean anything when you don't give a shit about them. Each actor seems to come from an authentic sports background, so I guess that adds some legitimacy? Maybe not, but other than the actual school location there aren't really too many positives about 'Fatal Games'.

Probably often rented in the mid to late '80s, but has been forever out-of-print since the early '90s. 'Fatal Games' can be found in parts on YouTube, and I've included the first part down below. This is a film for those Slasher enthusiasts who need to see every film. There are only so many times you can see the same kill over and over again. Unoriginal kills lead way to paying attention to the actions of the characters, and that just makes 'Fatal Games' another painful excuse in home video treachery.

Rating: 1 out of 5 Trash Bags


Amazon Page

Enjoy the full movie! If you can stomach it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cold Sweat (2010)

For every fantastic foreign film that gets released only a handful make it to the United States. It's unfortunate that these films can't be seen by worldwide audiences, but every now and then a film finds a distributor State side to release it. Sometimes it's a small theater run to a few independent theaters, but, more often than not, those films are released direct to disc without any marketing. Alas, these are the trials and tribulations of being a cult film fan.

Growing up during the infancy of the internet I found new (and foreign) horror films by word of mouth, or by flipping through the latest issue of Fangoria at the local comic shop. In 2012 film fans now have the convenience of the internet, and there are plenty of sites that offer all sorts of coverage on cult films all over the world. The website Twitch introduced me to this fabulous Argentinian film, 'Sudor Frio', or in English, 'Cold Sweat'. I'm not too familiar with the film work of Argentina, let alone what their genre films would be like. 'Cold Sweat' was a combination of so many styles it let itself to be more of a comedy than a horror movie.

The film starts out with a bunch of news footage from the '70s about a radical anti-communist group rioting, and torturing people to gather information. Stealing 25 cases of dynamite from the government the radicals were never heard from again.

Flash forward to present day to a woman by the name of Ali searching for the address of a boy she met on the internet. Accompanied with her friend Roman they together search for Roman's ex-girlfriend, who mysteriously vanished a few days earlier. While waiting outside in the vehicle Roman receives an email from his ex stating that she left the country. Apparently, Ali is some type of computer wiz, and triangulates the sender's IP address this the same location as the boy Ali was to meet. Ali tells Roman that she will go inside to search for his ex, but to wait in the car as back-up.

What Ali doesn't know is that her conversations with the boy online were that of the leaders of the radical group! Now in their 70s the scare tactics used to extract answers have resorted to dousing their captives in nitroglycerin, and sulfuric acid. Ali and Roman will have a challenging night ahead of them if they plan to escape these two geezers alive.

'Sudor Frio' is set apart from a lot of other recent horror releases are the antagonists, one of which is relinquished to using a walker. It immediately takes the film to a very comedic level as most of us would just try to push him over.  While 'Cold Sweat' does offer a wide array of bloody shots the film isn't all about the gore. It's not really a movie that is all that balanced either, which is what I feel is one of the downsides of the film.

The film has a few too many tones, and it's really hard to find that balance between over-the-top and mean-spirited. There are times when the comedy comes through too much, and we're not really in fear for the characters. Other times, the odds are raised increasingly high only to be dropped again. It sets an odd pace for 'Cold Sweat' which makes the plot come to a crawl at points.

Almost all other aspects of 'Cold Sweat' are pretty solid from the acting to the direction. The film is primarily set in one location, and director Adrián García Bogliano utilizes the tight spaces for solid tension throughout the film. The soundtrack was also a highlight as it transitioned nicely between the life on the street, and the terror in the apartment.

All in all 'Sudor Frio'  is decently crafted horror film, but needed to focus on one particular tone to better the overall presentation.  'Cold Sweat' is currently streaming on Netflix, and is also available on DVD from Dark Sky Films.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Trash Bags

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Trash Pile Top 10: Horror Posters

We as Horror fans are often drawn to films by their artwork. The physical representation of the media more often than not is better than the film. If the movie art was just a steaming pile of shit, and it had the title 'The Abomination' you probably you wouldn't rent it. However, as you can read in my review, a lot of the times the cover will lure you in.

Regardless of the films quality their art was what studios used  to sell the film. If 'Blood Beach' didn't have the fantastic poster to accompany it perhaps it wouldn't be as fondly remembered by those of the video rental era.

To compile a list of the 10 best posters is a tall order. Throughout the decades of filmmaking   there have been thousands of fantastic posters, especially in genre films. From 50's  Creature Features to 80's Slashers, I'll do my best  to cover my favorites from everything.

10. Q - The Winged Serpent (1982) Director: Larry Cohen

As a film 'Q' isn't one of my favorite Larry Cohen features (that goes to 'The Stuff'), but the poster featured above is a phenomenal example of how to sell a movie.

9. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) Director: Jee-woon Kim

This is an example of when a poster truly captures a film. It is both haunting, and beautiful. Exactly what 'A Tale of Two Sisters' turns out to be in an exemplary tale of family horror.

8. Frogs (1972) Director: George McCowan

It's a movie poster that features a frog with a human hand sticking out of its mouth. Why would you not want to watch that movie?

7. House (1986) Director: Steve Miner

The simplicity in the poster for 'House' is that the basic image of a severed hand ringing a doorbell is so well drawn. Seeing the individual nerves, and the shading on the bone is phenomenal. 

6. I Spit on Your Grave (1978) Director: Meir Zarchi

As with most exploitation films, 'I Spit on Your Grave'  has a very eye-grabbing poster. With text exploding off the page to grab the viewer you're left with the brutal imagery of a woman yielding a knife who has obviously been through some shit. 

5. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) Director: Jack Arnold

While more people tend to think of 'Frankenstein' or 'Dracula' as the more famous Universal Monsters, there's something about the Gillman. The poster is amazingly drawn, giving movement to Julia Adams' hair, and the oncoming rescue attempt by our films heroes. 

4.  Happy Birthday to Me (1981) Director: J. Lee Thompson

One of the best Slasher posters of all time. Captures the silliness of the film while the text makes you want to see how "bizarre" these murders really will be.

3.  Jaws (1975) Director: Steven Spielberg

One of the most iconic posters of all time. The speed of the shark approaching the swimmer already adds fear just looking at the poster. A great representation of the film.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) Director: Tobe Hooper

You have to applaud Tobe Hooper and his crew for this hysterical duplication of the iconic 'Breakfast Club' pose. 

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) Director: Chuck Russell

Not only is 'Dream Warriors' my favorite installment in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, it also happens to be my favorite poster of all time. From the colors to the setting to the imagery, I honestly don't think you can get much better than this. 

There are hundreds of other great posters out there, and these are only a select few. As always thanks for reading, and please check out The Trash Pile TV show airing on blogTV every Tuesday at 10:00pm

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

'Piranha 3DD' opens this Friday, but where?

When Alexandra Aja's 'Piranha' remake opened in 2010 it was a beautiful thing to behold as a fan of genre films. It was over-the-top, violent, funny and had a solid cast. The film cost roughly $24,000,000 and grossed $25 million domestic with an additional $58 million international. With a pretty solid return on investment, and 73% of critics enjoying the film it was inevitable that a sequel would push forward.

Aja bowed out of directing the sequel, and the chief parties behind the fantastic 'Feast' series were brought on board to bring the prehistoric fish to new ground; a water park. As the film was gearing up production a slew of names were added to the cast list including Gary Busey, David Hasselhoff, David Koechner, and the lovely Katrina Bowden. Returning cast members from the original included Ving Rhames, Paul Scheer and Christopher Lloyd. All of this lead to a lot of excitement from the fans as we were lead to believe that Dimension Films wanted to really up the ante.

Set pictures were released back last spring, but it was a little too quiet on the waterfront. By the time the original November 2011 release date came around the film was pushed back to a June 1st, 2012 date. This makes sense as it is a movie that would sell best in the summer. The first footage premiered last fall during Spike TV's Scream Awards, and from then on we were given numerous photos with a glimpse inside the carnage. Slowly, Dimension has released many behind-the-scenes videos to hype up their release of the film. With a few days away from the National release, I looked to see where this gem of a movie could be viewed near me. Searching both Fandango and Moviefone I found that the closest theater was 156 miles away in New York. I then checked to see how many theaters total 'Piranha 3DD' would hit this Friday, and was shocked and saddened to see only 75 theaters across the country will be screening this genre piece.

This news really isn't all that shocking as the Weinstein's had released plans for a dual VOD (video-on-demand) and theatrical release. This allows for many people who would not necessarily pay to see 'Piranha' in theaters, but would shell out $6.99 at home. It's a smart business decision, but sadly eliminates a core group of fans. There are few event films that cult film aficionados can look forward to each year, and many fan sites were listing 'Piranha 3DD' as one of their most anticipated films of the summer season.

I'm sure that most fans of the original were getting psyched up to see more fish mayhem on the big screen, but it looks like only select territories will get that privilege this Friday June 1st. I'm still going to see 'Piranha 3DD' although I really wanted to experience the event on the big screen. Being filmed in 3D was going to really add to the charm of the film, and the cast looks to be having a blast in the behind the scenes footage. The real shame here is giving films of this type a chance to perform on a national level. The first 'Piranha' did surprisingly well for a little creature feature, and the sequel looked like a blast. I do encourage all fans to seek out the film, but please try to see it in a theater. The more money films of this type get at places like Regal or AMC Theaters will show movie studios that B-movies have a place in the theater right next to the award winners and blockbusters.

Please, think of the children.

Piranha 3DD Official Facebook Page

Piranha 3DD Official Webpage

Monday, April 2, 2012

Trash Pile Love Notes: Cannibal Holocaust

There are some films that people choose to never see. Whether it's because of the violence, content or creative teams behind the films, many audiences avoid certain movies like the plague. Recently, we've seen this with films like the expanding 'Human Centipede' franchise, and the controversial 'A Serbian Film.' We hear these rumors of films so foul that they not only disgust you, but really make you hate yourself after. Sounds like exploitation to me.

When I was 13, I used to visit comic conventions around the Boston area. Back in the early 2000's, it was really the only place to find unreleased workprints and other hard to find movies. Soon I began going to conventions to find new movies, as opposed to rounding out my comic collection. Every type of movie was at a young gorehound's disposal for the "low" price of $10 for a bootlegged VHS. I was ecstatic at finding a new film that I had not seen before, but one film changed the way I would look at movies forever: Ruggero Deodato's 'Cannibal Holocaust'.

Sitting in my friend's basement, way too cracked out on caffeine and pot, we watched about 4 of the 8 films we picked up that weekend. It was the first time I saw the bat-shit crazy 'Meet the Feebles', the X-Rated 'Robocop', and, if memory serves correctly, the version of 'Little Shop of Horrors' with the alternate EVERYONE DIES ending. I enjoy all of these films for different reasons, but I had never seen anything like 'Cannibal Holocaust'. Nothing really prepares you for the carnage of a group of filmmakers destroying, raping and killing natives to beef up their documentary. It's baffling that a film with so few likable characters resonates so heavily, but it's in the way the film is constructed that makes it so memorable.

The very first piece to cover on 'Cannibal Holocaust' is how amazing the cinematography of Sergio D'Offinzi is. His work captures a beauty that the plot of the film cannot. The amazonian landscape is shot in a way that feels like a nature documentary, but when matched with the gut-wrenching visuals involving the cast, compliments it rather nicely. There are very few moments that feel like the found footage of the lost documentary crew is fake. Everything looks so genuine that I can understand why Deodato was sequestered to court on the allegations that he killed his cast. If you've convinced the Italian government that you've committed atrocities towards humans, then you must have made an impactful film.

With that comes the conversation of animal violence, which is very real. I do not endorse animal cruelty in the slightest, although I'm going to throw my cat out the window if she's scratches my VHS again. The animals that were sacrificed to the movie gods were also consumed afterwords by the cast and local tribes people. No animal, except maybe the spider (which I'm fine with. I hate those things) was put to waste. I'm sure if you're trekking through the jungle, some barbecued turtle would sound mighty tempting. Condemn it all you want, but it's there for a purpose. If the animal cruelty is something that you don't think you can stomach? Fine. Either don't watch the movie, or look away at those parts. Remember 'It's just a movie'.

The score is another phenomenal piece of what makes 'Cannibal Holocaust' such an amazing film. Riz Ortolani composes such a hauntingly uplifting score that it battles against the gruesome images that Deodato orchestrates. The main theme is one that really stays with you after your initial viewing, with its cheery synth and acoustic guitar. It's one of the scores that when you first see the film might seem out of place, but it really heightens the horror of the action.

Another thing that really makes 'Cannibal Holocaust' stand above most other exploitation films is the message that the film is trying to press. It may seem heavy handed that the real monsters are the ones behind the camera, but it has become more true since the film was originally released. The documentary crew who ventures in the Amazon had always beefed up their previous efforts by faking the events that were happening, or paying armies to execute civilians. Deodato used this as an allegory for the way news outlets world wide would sell violence if it meant ratings. The message rings truer today with the advent of reality television. Violence of all types equals more money for sponsors and TV stations. How long until 'The Running Man' becomes an actual show?

After a recent screening at The Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline Massachusetts, I was brought back to when a I first saw 'Cannibal Holocaust' almost 15 years ago. Seeing it in 35mm was like seeing it for the first time, and I was also able to bring some new viewers along for the ride. They had heard of the film, but for whatever reasons had decided to not see it. Afterwords they both remarked at how much they really liked the movie. There is a preconception with exploitation and grindhouse films that there is some inherit camp value to the productions, and most of the time that's right. 'Cannibal Holocaust' is not a campy film, nor is it one that is for mainstream audiences. Every found footage film owes a little piece of their creation to this groundbreaking film, and while no academy will ever declare 'Cannibal Holocaust' a Best Picture candidate, the impact of this little exploitation film will be forever imbedded in cinema history.

**No animals were harmed in the writing of this article.**

Cannibal Holocaust from Amazon

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Innkeepers (2011)

When going to the theater nowadays your options for Horror movies is limited. Most of the releases are sequels, or a variation of 'Paranormal Activity'. The sad fact is that the major studios look at Horror films as a blight on their yearly schedule. We get to the January dumping ground when the films get released, they expect them not to return a profit, and then there's October. Thankfully, there are independent studios to give us fantastic original films all year long.

Haunted house films have really gone to shit since Jan de Bont's 'The Haunting' in 1999. For the most part the film is atrocious, but it really fails in the "scares" department. The reason it fails is that the film shows too much. The best haunted house movies are the ones where some of the terrifying images are not even on screen. It's knowing that something could happen at any moment, and the atmosphere of the environment brings the scares forward. All 'The Haunting' had was a bunch of bullshit CGI ghosts, and Owen Wilson getting decapitated.

'The Innkeepers' is a film that I have been keeping an eye on for a little over a year as Ti West is becoming one of my favorite directors since I saw 'The House of the Devil' back in 2009. The term "slow-burn" has been thrown around in regards to how West handles his films, but it's not that. It's that he takes time establishing a character, and allowing for the film to unfold to the horror that is about to happen. Most Horror films tend to unleash a "scare" every 10 minutes because they believe the audience will loose their attention. Ti West seems to have a little more faith in the fans of his films.

The Yankee Peddler
is coming up on it's last weekend open, and the staff is getting ready to close down the business. Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) have been working at the inn for a few years, and have heard tale of Madeline O’Malley, a woman who killed herself in the hotel and is the supposed resident spirit. Claire is fascinated with the legend of the woman, and on this last weekend the Yankee is open, she and Luke look for proof that Madeline is cause of the haunting that has plagued the hotel for years.

Ti West's calling card is allowing the film to move at it's own clip. There will be a few moments here or there that may get you, but the movie jumps right back to being a little lighthearted to offset the scares. Then, in the third act, the film pulls a big turn towards terrifying imagery, spine-tingling audio, and bone-chilling cinematography. All of which are clutch in making a good haunted house movie. The score by Jeff Grace elevates the film immensely in terms of atmosphere, and really makes those creepy moments that much creepier.

If there were any issues I had with the film it's that there are a couple of side stories that just seemed to come out of nowhere. They could be red herrings, but there were some plot points that just disappeared. Other than that, there were very few problems I had with the film. The basic question is, 'The Innkeepers' scary?" For some people yes, it will be. The film builds atmosphere, and when it finally unleashes the scares they're for real. Others will hate how long it takes for the movie to get to those scares, and be frustrated. I'd take the ride, and see how it works out.

'The Innkeepers' is currently in limited theatrical release from Dark Sky Productions. It is also available on VOD from your cable provider, or you can rent from the Amazon link below.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 Trash Bags

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Divide (2011)

It's hard sometimes, as a fan of shitty movies, to say that you love shitty movies. When you say you love films like 'Shawshank Redemption' or 'Jaws' most people agree with you. They're well crafted films with great characters, direction, scoring, and almost every other quality most people associate with "good" movies. On the other hand when you tell people you love movies like 'Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry' and 'The Toxic Avenger' people tend to respond "you like that crap?", or "what the hell is that?". It's hard to make recommendations to people when they know you like awful movies.

Xavier Gens' 'The Divide' was a film on a lot of "Best Of 2011" lists, and for those who don't attend film festivals, it was near impossible to see. Thankfully, Anchor Bay Entertainment picked up the rights to this film and put it out for a limited release this last weekend. I caught a midnight screening at The Coolidge in Brookline, MA this past weekend, and I was finally able to see what many critics hailed about.

'The Divide' opens as nuclear missiles fall upon New York City. Residents in a near by apartment complex scurry as the debris from the explosions threatens to bring their building down. Eva (Lauren German) and Sam (Iván González) move down flights of stairs as they pass numerous people screaming for their lives. While a mob gathers at the front entrance another bomb crashes into a near by building, causing the people to disband. A small group of people run towards the basement, where superintendent Mickey (Michael Biehn) has built a bomb shelter. Resisting the group at first, they finally push Mickey out of the way to safety inside. Another group of people come rushing towards the door as Mickey slams it shut, and locks the survivors away from the devastation above.

I could continue on with the story, but anything further than that really takes away the impact of what unfolds. It's not really a Horror movie, nor Science Fiction, or a Thriller but one that works within multiple genres to keep the film moving at a good clip. Many reviewers have cited the film as being bleak, but shit, I mean it's about a nuclear attack. Could there really be many positive outcomes? 'The Divide' is a film that really shines through that bleakness to allow for really captivating performances from the entire cast. This is a film where I found myself glued to the screen at the actions of everyone involved. Seeing their bodies deteriorate from the lack of water and food really gave legitimacy to the story.

There were very few things about 'The Divide' that I didn't like to be honest, but I have the say the score was just ok. What I found particularly annoying about the score was the constant loud droning synth. It was like a 311 song over a David Cronenberg movie; just doesn't combine well. The acting was superb, the cinematography was brilliant, and with the exception of some questionable CGI, the effects were awesome. This is a film that falls out of the norm with what I tend to review on this site, but I cannot endorse 'The Divide' highly enough. It's not a happy film. Nor one that will have an uplifting ending, but it will stick with you. The great performances from Michael Biehn, Lauren German, Milo Ventimiglia and Rosanna Arquette will heighten the tension of those who are forced to survive through horrific conditions.

'The Divide' is currently in limited release from Anchor Bay Entertainment. If you can find it at a local theater I suggest spending your money on a well done original film. Something that we need in this age of remakes, sequels and board game cash-ins.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 Trash Bags.