Saturday, October 21, 2017

October Belongs to Horror #5: Dead Rising: Watchtower

Dead Rising: Watchtower
Legendary Digital Media, Contradiction Films, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Dead Rising Productions, USA, Canada, 2015.
Based on Capcom's video game series.

Reporter Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe) is making a scoop about zombie epidemic with photographer Jordan (Keegan Connor Tracy). The infected must use Zombrex-medicine once a day to avoid being turned into zombies. But the drug stops working and soon the street are full of hungry monsters. 
Jesse Metcalfe
Chase Carter
Keegan Connor Tracy
The army starts firebombing the city after time limit is reached. The survivor celebrity of the previous outbreak Frank West (Rob Riggle) comments the happenings in his bluntly realistic style so that the interviewer rolls her eyes. As a comical relief, Frank is a bit like Bruce Campbell's Ash. Jordan's side mission is to seek allies outside the quarantine area to help Chase get out. The goverment officials General Lyons (Dennis Haysbert) and Norton (Gary Jones) have their orders, but can either of them be trusted?
Rob Riggle
Frank West
Dennis Haysbert and Gary Jones
General Lyons and Norton
Chase joins forces with Crystal (Meghan Ory) who has her own supply of Zombrex that works. There is a sinister conspiracy behind the recent outbreak. A bit of tragedy is brought by Maggie (Virginia Madsen) who is searching for her lost daughter. It will not end well...
Meghan Ory
Virginia Madsen
Maggie and the other heroes assess the situation
The story goes on with familiar structure of video games. There are occasional boss fights and improvised weapons such as power tools attached to mallets, chainsaws and shovel-swords. The highlights include fights against Bonzo the Zombie Clown (C. Ernst Harth) and psychotic biker gang leader Logan (Aleks Paunovic).
Aleks Paunovic
C. Ernst Harth
Bonzo the Zombie Clown
These are useful for cutting down zombies
As a video game movie this is faithful to the world of the original games, satisfying the video game fans. There is not much new added to the genre but otherwise the story is passable. Over the top zombie mayhem is good although sometimes also quite tasteless even for considering the zombie topic. The action has some well designed scenes such as long one-shot scene where Chase escapes zombies climbing over cars and a school bus. Also the combo weapons are wacky and inventive. Entertaining stuff although the almost two-hour duration could have been condensed. The cast has familiar faces from TV shows, pretty co-stars and Jesse Metcalfe fits the role of hotshot reporter hero. The movie ends in a way that sequel is inevitable.

Rating: Good

Starring: Jesse Metcalfe, Meghan Ory, Virginia Madsen, Keegan Connor Tracy, Aleks Paunovic, Dennis Haysbert, Gary Jones, Carrie Genzel, Rob Riggle, Reese Alexander, Harley Morenstein, Julia Benson, Peter Benson, Darren Dolynski, Patrick Sabongui, Travis MacDonald, Michael Bean, Sachin Sahel, Khaira Ledeyo, James Yi, Colton Quan, Manny Jacinto, David Lyle, Gaston Morrison, Todd Thomson, C. Ernst Harth, Taya Clyne, Nickolas Baric, Ed Brando, Paul Lazenby, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Mark Wilmot 
Director: Zach Lipovsky

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

October Belongs to Horror #4: Lake Bodom (Bodom)

Lake Bodom (Bodom)
Don Films, Münchhausen Productions, Finland, Estonia, 2016.
In 1960s four camping youths were attacked and stabbed at Lake Bodom with only one survivor. The culprit was never found. A half century later four teens decide to travel to the lake to solve the mystery. Ida-Maria (Nelly Hirst-Gee) has strictly religious parents and she has a personal trauma. Tough girl Nora (Mimosa Willamo) is her best friend. Elias (Mikael Gabriel) is the cool chick-magnet guy, and Atte (Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä) is the geek.
Mimosa Willamo
Nelly Hirst-Gee
Mikael Gabriel and Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä
Elias and Atte
Atte has a theory about the murder and he has gone into details to re-enact the crime scene. Elias has something other in mind than playing detective. The night comes and scary things move in the woods. When real murders begin, can someone get out alive? 
Murderer murders
There are rare teen slashers made in Finland and even less are watchable (*cough* "Nightmare" and "Nightmare 2"). As a genre film "Bodom" fulfills the expectations well, and couple of twists have been written to the story to make it less straightforward.  For seasoned horror veterans the twists are not too surprising, but are there to make things more interesting for casual horror audiences. There is also a thrilling scene of vehicular horror. Atmospheric cinematography and murky ambient sound track help to create the sinister mood. Rapper Mikael Gabriel plays mainly himself, Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä's Atte stays a bit enigmatic and the girls make the strongest roles. And no wonder Mimosa Willamo got awards for her role. The film gained some success in international film festivals. Hopefully this encourages other Finnish film makers to experiment with genre films.

Rating: Good

Starring: Nelly Hirst-Gee, Mimosa Willamo, Mikael Gabriel, Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä, Pirjo Moilanen, Ilkka Heiskanen, Sami Eerola, Otso Ahosola, Ville Saksela, Iiris Kankkunen, Tommi Korpela, Jarkko Niemi
Director: Taneli Mustonen

Saturday, October 14, 2017

October Belongs to Horror #3: Army of Zombies (Kuutamosonaatti II: Kadunlakaisijat)

Army of Zombies (Kuutamosonaatti II: Kadunlakaisijat)
Filminor, Finland, 1991.
...And in Germany this is known as "Muttertag 3."

The first film "Kuutamosonaatti" was darkly fun agrarian horror cult film. Sadly the sequel loses the horror momentum and the result is a confusing mess.

Most of the Kyyrölä family died in the first film. Mother froze to death and Arvo burned to crisp. Only animal-like giant Sulo (Mikko Kivinen) remained. Sulo takes the remains of his family to a sauna, because if a good sauna won't help then nothing will. And so Mother (Soli Labbart) and pervy brother Arvo (Kari Sorvali) revive. Arvo is more slack-jawed than before (his jawbone falls several times), but that will heal over time. They can also revive Father Kyyrölä (Erkki Pajala) who drowned into swamp when he was smuggling moonshine. 
Mikko Kivinen
Kari Sorvali
It is time for Arvo to go find a job in Helsinki. Nosy social workers come to the farm so the Kyyrölä's sink them into swamp. There is some recession era satire when Arvo tries several jobs. In Helsinki Arvo gets a job entertaining Russian tourists. A better job opens up as driver of street sweeping machine (therefore justifying the Finnish name of the movie: "Street Sweepers." Finally he starts living by selling moonshine. Beautiful singer Kata Kärkkäinen (former Playboy-model and nowadays writer, artist and media-persona) catches Arvo's eye this time, but compared to the first film the threat is mild. 
Arvo's bachelor pad
Kata Kärkkäinen
Mother Kyyrölä gets worried that Arvo is living a sinful life in the city. So Mother and Sulo have to find Arvo and put him under control As a funny detail everyone in Helsinki seems to originate from Kyyrölä-village (satirizing the movement of country people to the cities). On the way to find Arvo, the Kyyrölä's meet yuppies, inept cops and social workers who all look like Finnish actor Matti Pellonpää. So far so good. Even as the horror aspect was lost, there could have been some funny contrast to the first film when the hellbillies moved into big city.
Matti Tuominen
Matti Tuominen as the leader of Red Guard zombies
Matti Pellonpää as social worker
But the focus shifts and it is difficult to say what the makers had in mind. Father Kyyrölä revives a squad of Red Guard soldiers who were executed during the Civil War. With their leader Edward Allan Kilpinen (Matti Tuominen) the zombie communists travel to Helsinki to continue the revolution. Bumbling around, they meet various people including the Minister of Culture (Miitta Sorvali, who is Kari Sorvali's comedian wife).
Minister of Culture (Miitta Sorvali)
And so on. Kyyrölä brothers sell hazardous moonshine, and cause a ruckus in Miss Helsinki contest (hosted by era's popular game show host Jorma Pulkkinen), chase Kata in amusement park Linnanmäki and escape cops. But the film is basically plotless and the story goes nowhere. Arvo still has some funny one-liners but everything is watered down. It is still recommended to watch once to see the further adventures of the Kyyröläs. However the experience is quite painful.
Jorma Pulkkinen
Finnish Ramopunk band 'Ne Luumäet' made a song inspired by the film with the chorus: "'You shouldn't stare too much at the street sweeper. He comes and kills. And when he kills, then you die.'

Rating: Bad

Starring: Soli Labbart, Kari Sorvali, Mikko Kivinen, Erkki Pajala, Keijo Komppa, Matti Tuominen, Ilkka Koivula, Esa Anttila, Seppo Juusonen, Jussi Tuominen, Katariina Souri, Mikko Nousiainen, Vesa Vierikko, Leena Rapola, Veli Tuomas-Kettunen, Olavi Tervahartiala, Veikko Tiitinen, Jouko Klemettilä, Matti Pellonpää, Juha Häkkänen, Toivo Tuomainen, Martti Kuisma, Anne Nielsen, Aulis Hämäläinen, Pentti Louko, Tauno Karvonen, Miitta Sorvali, Ulla Tapaninen, Jari Järvimaa, Jorma Pulkkinen, Sari Havas, Risto Aaltonen, Harri Hyttinen, Lina Ignatova, Pirjo Kotimäki, Sonja Lindén, Marjo Louhe, Pia Nolvi, Anne Pakkanen, Albena Petrova, Ranja Rannikko, Anne Styrman, Satu Tuuliluoto, Minna Aaltonen
Director: Olli Soinio

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