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

Monday, October 9, 2017

October Belongs to Horror #2: The Moonlight Sonata (Kuutamosonaatti)

The Moonlight Sonata (Kuutamosonaatti)
Filminor, Finland, 1988.
Horror was for a long time a rare genre in Finland. In the 1980s tough film censorship comparable to British Video Nasty laws made sure that seeing many classics of genre films was only possible via smuggled bootleg video tapes. The Finnish horror films were countable on one hand's fingers. In 1988 director Olli Soinio made a cult hillbilly horror film in the vein of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" being a rare example of Finnish horror of that era.

Disturbed Family Kyyrölä lives on the countryside. Puritanic Mother (Soli Labbart) and her son Arvo (Kari Sorvali) keep Arvo's animal-like brother Sulo (Mikko Kivinen) locked in the basement. During the full moon the boys get insane. One night Sulo escapes and joins a gang of wolves.
Soli Labbart
Kari Sorvali
Mikko Kivinen
Fashion model Anni Stark (Tiina Björkman) has run into some kind of scandal and gets enough of publicity. Manager Carli (Ville-Veikko Salminen) thinks that maybe vacation on the countryside would be cool her nerves. Motel manager (Risto Salmi) is hesitant to take visitors. But he arranges a desolate skiing cabin for Anni and her dog Ebba. In no time perverted Arvo starts to stalk her even stealing her panties.
Tiina Björkman
Ville-Veikko Salminen
Kim Gunell
Annis's little brother Johannes (Kim Gunell) comes to see Anni. For Arvo tractor is like a chainsaw for Leatherface, so the maniac chases them in the forest. The local people look only barely more normal than the folks from "Deliverance" and they do nothing to help. Getting away alive from the degenerate village is harder than it seems. 
Tractor from hell
Local hunks
There is no question that the film will mean more to the Finnish audience (it was never meant for international publication). For me it has always been a proof that we can do genre savvy horror in Finland too. Arvo's demented one-liners have become cult favourite's. "Let's do mittens out of the cat" says Arvo when he looks at Anni's dog.

Stylish wintery cinematography and Antti Hytti's creepy soundtrack create an unnerving mood. The dialogue is scarce and for the most part it is monologue of Arvo. Likewise the bodycount is very low for a horror film. Even so the Kyyrölä Brothers are enjoyably demented horror villains. One weird nostalgic event is the cameo of Toivo Tuomainen as a shopkeeper. Toivo was known from electronic store 'Musta Pörssi' commercials as bustling salesman Topi, but here even he looks creepy.
Toivo Tuomainen
Tiina Björkman in the main role is pretty, but mostly her acting here consists of looking worried and running away. Still in the second half she learns to fight back. Too bad her movie career was short, she had roles only in six movies, and she pursued a different career. Other actors Ville-Veikko Salminen, Mikko Kivinen, Kari Sorvali, Risto Salmi and Soli Labbart have all had a long career in Finnish movies, theater and TV-series. For some reason the movie is known in Germany as "Muttertag 2 - Die Söhne sind zurück" (with no connection whatsoever to Troma's "Mother's Day."). There is also a sequel that goes more to the direction of horror comedy.

Rating: Very good

Starring: Tiina Björkman, Kim Gunell, Ville-Veikko Salminen, Kari Sorvali, Mikko Kivinen, Soli Labbart, Risto Salmi, Toivo Tuomainen, Esa Anttila, Masaaki Hashimoto, Juuso Ruohomäki, Arthur Fuhrmann, Kai Honkanen, Matti Kuortti, Rolf Labbart, Jouko Lumme
Director: Olli Soinio

Sunday, October 8, 2017

October Belongs to Horror #1: Dead Before Dawn (2012)

Dead Before Dawn (2012) a.k.a Dead Before Dawn 3D
WANGO Films, Canada, 2012.
Dead Before Dawn
Halloween is near, so it is time to watch horror films. Finnish blogger ...noir challenged bloggers to watch eight horror films during October, so October Belongs to Horror (Lokakuu kuuluu kauhulle).

My first choice is a Canadian indie horror comedy. 

Casper Galloway (Devon Bostick, known for "Diary of a Wimpy Kid") is a clumsy college kid. He goes to help his Grandpa Horus (Christopher Lloyd) to take care of occult shop. His friends come shopping and an ancient demon is freed. Bit like "Ghostbusters" they have to select the form of pestilence, so they conjure up wacky rules involving idea of suicidal people turning into half demon half zombie monsters who infect the cursed by giving hickeys.
Devon Bostick
Casper Galloway
Christopher Lloyd
So everyone they look into eyes start killing themselves and turning into zemons. Along with Casper there are Casper's secret love interest Charlotte (Martha MacIsaac, known for "Superbad"), charmingly ditzy cheerleader  Lucy (Brittany Allen, who will appear in the next "Saw" movie "Jigsaw"), Caspers friends Dazzle (Brandon Jay McLaren) and Becky (director April Mullen), mug entrepreuner Seth (Tim Doiron who wrote the script) and Charlotte's meanie boyfriend jock Patrick (Kyle Schmid). There is a way to break the curse but the time limit is tight. If the curse is not broken before next morning they will all die. The night will be long and bloody.
Martha MacIsaac and Brittany Allen
Charlotte and Lucy
Brandon Jay McLaren, Tim Doiron and April Mullen
Dazzle, Seth and Becky
Max Topplin and Marty Adams
Hillbilly zemons (Max Topplin and Marty Adams)

There are so many zombie horror-comedies that it is refreshing that someone tries to have some new ideas and create eccentric characters even if they are basically stereotypes (a loser, two jocks, two cheerleaders, pothead and a tough girl). Although some of the jokes are more lame than funny, there are many moments of genuine hilarity. There was a funny way to show flashbacks and one of the character was obsessed with hotdogs. Christopher Lloyd is always good and in one scene he uttered his famous quote: "Great Scott!" As far as the action went, it was semi-gory, not showing the bloodiest kills but still there was more gore than would be expected from the Finnish age rating 12. Has the The Finnish Board of Film Classification been sloppy? Otherwise the tone was not too serious, even with some basically tragic events. But so it is usually with these zombie comedies, and this makes a fun Halloween viewing if you like dumb humour.
Brittany Allen
Lucy's weapon of choice
Tim Doiron and Kent Churly
Seth's new friend (Kent Churly) comes to visit
This was the first Canadian 3D film. I do not believe that I missed anything by watching the 2D version. Couple of CGI-explosions looked awful, otherwise the effects were okay for the budget. As the actors had a lot of experience of films and TV-shows, the acting was good (although comically ver the top) and the actors were clearly having fun.

Rating: Good

Starring: Devon Bostick, Martha MacIsaac, Christopher Lloyd, Brandon Jay McLaren, Brittany Allen, Kyle Schmid, Tim Doiron, April Mullen, Kevin McDonald, Ellen Dubin, Rossif Sutherland, Dru Viergever, Benjamin Ayres, Max Topplin, Marty Adams, Jacob Ewaniuk, Boyd Banks, Melissa Jane Shaw, Michael Xavier, Meg Walter, Melanie Mullen, Mickey Moon, Tammy Young, Kent Churly, Kevin Jennings, Jack Benard, Byron Abalos, Chris Baker, Adam Buller, Luke Higginson, John Benard, Darryl Doiron, Nicholas Spencer Murray, Daniel M. Veldman
Director: April Mullen

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Movie Review: Avengers Grimm

Avengers Grimm
The Asylum, USA, 2015. 
Naughty wizard Rumpelstiltskin (Casper Van Dien) has raised a rebellion to destroy a magic kingdom. The King has been murdered so vengeance runs cold. Queen Snow White (Lauren Parkinson) escapes through Magic Mirror to real world taking Rumpelstiltskin with him. 
Casper Van Dien
Lauren Parkinson
Snow White
Cinderella (Milynn Sarley), Sleeping Beauty (Marah Fairclough) and Rapunzel (Rileah Vanderbilt) follow and also lone wolf Red Riding Hood (Elizabeth Peterson) who is hunting the evil Wolf (Kimo Leopoldo). In the human world Rumpelstiltskin has already corrupted the police force. Wolf murders some tough guys in a bar and frames Red Riding hood. Gang boss Iron John (Lou Ferrigno) is not happy for losing his men. He becomes a pawn in the game of good vs evil when Rumpelstiltskin turns him into Iron Man. Can the Princesses stop Rumpelstiltskin before he corrupts the world?
Kimo Leopoldo
Marah Fairclough, Milynn Sarley and Rileah Vanderbilt
Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Rapunzel
Elizabeth Peterson
Red Riding Hood
The Princesses are tough fighters and have special powers. Snow White can freeze things. Sleeping Beauty can make people sleep. Rapunzel has a flailing hair. Cinderella can cast transforming spells. Red Riding Hood has a bow with Rambo's arsenal of different arrows. Too bad their personalities are not very different from each other to make them more interesting. Now Snow White and Red Riding Hood are the most vengeful, and Cinderella the most empathetic, the rest being somewhere between. Casper van Dien has his guarenteed style, so Casper fans rejoice. Surprisingly Lou Ferrigno's character is the most interesting.
Lou Ferrigno
Iron John
As far the special effects go, Asylum is evolving to having TV-level effects and some of the action scenes are pretty good so you don't have to dig out your eyes out with a spoon. Clearly there has been more ambitious touch here. "Once Upon a Time" and "Avengers" combined would make an interesting film in the hands of right folks, too bad that the story here is so generic. So it is not good or original enough to be a good film, but not bad enough to make it funny, leaving it into average territory of low budget direct to video films. Close but no cigar.

Rating: Average

Starring: Casper Van Dien, Lauren Parkinson, Lou Ferrigno, Milynn Sarley, Marah Fairclough, Rileah Vanderbilt, Elizabeth Peterson, Kimo Leopoldo, Andrew E. Tilles, Justine Herron, Henry Foster Brown, Jonathan Medina, Jonathan Nation, Daniel Nemes, Andrew Pinon, Pete Capella, Cale Schultz, Adam Night, Kevin Yarbrough, DuJuan Korei, Bryan Dietzman, Beach Eastwood, Brian Gilleece, Brandon Greenawalt, Justy Hutchins, Paul Kearschner, Ryan Mckenney, Corey Weber, Chris Yong, Nickolas Nielsen
Director: Jeremy M. Inman

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