Spiders – Not Enough Arachnid Action

A meteor shower blasts through a Russian space satellite inhabited by (you guessed it) spiders, leaving the remnants to fall on New York City. After a New York Transit employee is killed checking on the subway line the satellite hit, doctors discover eggs in the mans stomach and the entire neighborhood is evacuated and quarantined. separated couple Jason and Rachel are swept up into the middle of the whole mess as they try to rescue their daughter from their guarded, quarantined apartment.

This is not what I want from a monster spider movie. You know what I do want from a monster spider movie? Monster fucking spiders! Big as Godzilla, havoc inducing, blood thirsty spiders. I don’t want the divorcing couple, or their children in peril. Neither do I want the army and their damn quarantines. I’m sick to death of the quarantines! I don’t care if it’s a zombie plague, a crazy plague, a rage plague or a gang of mutant Russian space spiders – stop with the quarantines! I understand fully that these plot devices are there to set a dramatic and/or suspenseful tone and move the story along and blah blah, make with the fucking spiders already! I truly believe that Spiders should have been set up like the giant bug movie version of The Raid. Give us ten minutes of necessary introductory pleasantries, and eighty minutes of pure monster spider carnage, eight feet on the accelerator at all times. Alas, what we get is an hour of the aforementioned snoozy time family dramatics and the army being the army before we get any real arachnid mayhem. By this point it was a little late in the day for me to get into it. This is disheartening, although unsurprising, seeing as this is directed by Tibor Takacs, director of eighties kiddie monster classic The Gate. The last thirty minutes does have some good spider action, most of which involves the army blasting the shit out of the spiders that are trying to eat them, and the spiders do look surprisingly good. Unfortunately we only get a short amount of time with the queen spider before the climax of the film, and the worst last-minute of a movie I’ve seen in a while. If pure monster spider goodness is what you’re after, keep looking, Spiders falls short.

Spiders rates 1 Screaming Jamie

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The Style and Violence Of Hard Romanticker

The city of Shimonoseki in Gu Su-yeon’s Hard Romanticker is filled with yakuza, cops and  juvenile delinquents. Bleached-blonde loner Gu is about to cross paths with all of them. Gu is a cigarette smoking, attitude copping thug whose everyday routine consists of random acts of violence that would make any Droog stand down. Based on Su-yeon’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, Hard Romanticker starts with our anti-hero Gu tossing a naked girl aside as he makes a quick escape from a window to avoid a gang of attackers. Jumping from rooftop to rooftop as Kaoru Wada’s score kicks into a jazz frenzy, Gu narrowly escapes the bloodthirsty gang. We are then treated to the first of many brutal acts of violence as Masaru and Tatsu, two of Gu’s acquaintances,  mistakenly murder the grandmother of a local gangster. As the blame is placed on Gu he finds himself wanted by not only the cops, but every criminal in the city.

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After a run-in with a detective, Gu tries to find Masaru to find out what really happened and why his name is involved. Along the way he makes even more enemies by giving a gangster’s little brother a beating in an alleyway. This is the first of many scenes that rely on natural lighting, allowing the shadows to partially mask the on-screen violence, making it no less potent. Gu also starts a strange sort-of romance with a young girl named Mieko. After leaving town for a bit to work at a yakuza-run club in a nearby city, Gu finds out that Mieko isn’t what he thought she was and the results are brutal to say the least. All the while the manhunt for Gu is building and when he finally shows his face in town again, it all comes to a head. We’re introduced to a variety of characters and subplots along the way, all of which involve Gu gaining more enemies and getting into more confrontations, each more violent than the last.

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We’re not talking choreographed Hollywood-style violence either. Every fight and attack in this film feels real. It’s not precise or stylized, it’s messy and ugly. There is a scene involving a stabbing that midway through, the person wielding the knife loses their grip due to the amount of blood on the handle. The blade also gets stuck in the body, forcing them to actually work to get it out. This is no quick in-and-out slasher flick stabbing here. It is this harsh realism, coupled with Su-yeon’s ability to weave multiple subplots together without losing scope, that make Hard Romanticker a truly exciting watch. Shota Matsuda as Gu delivers a performance that is as cool as anyone from James Dean to Gosling’s Driver and as balls-out crazy as McDowell’s beloved Droog Alex. Nobody has dragged a lead pipe through the street with this much cool. From the opening rooftop chase to the knockout, drag-out insanity of the finale, Hard Romanticker doesn’t stop until everyone is beaten and bloodied. This is a must watch for any fan of not only yakuza or violent youth films, but of challenging cinema in general. Highly recommended.

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Hard Romanticker scores 4.5 out of 5 Screaming Jamies

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Hard Romanticker hits streets tomorrow, January 22nd from Artsploitation Films, but lucky for you, dear reader, we have a copy of the DVD to give away to one of you. All you have to do is email basementscreamsblog@gmail.com with your name and mailing address. Just put Hard Romanticker in the subject line. That’s it. One winner will be chosen on Friday the 26th. Due to postage costs this contest is only open to readers in the US and Canada.

Lapland Odyssey: What One Man Will Do For Love (and Cable TV)

Finnish director Dome Karukoski’s Lapland Odyssey is an on the road comedy that is equally sweet and bleak.  The film opens with a narration about a single pine tree that stands in the midst of nothing in the town of Lapland and its history of being the place where generations of men have come to commit suicide. This tale sets the tone as we are introduced to Janne, an unemployed twenty-something, whose wife, Inari, has given him fifty dollars to buy a digibox so they can watch television. Of course Janne sleeps in, meets up with his two best friends and goes to the bar instead. Arriving home late and without the digibox, Inari gives him the ultimatum of digibox by morning or she leaves. The premise is nothing new – a down on his luck guy on a quest to prove his love. Every man has been there at one point in time or another, this particular instance just happens to involve a digital cable box and an overnight quest through the harsh Finnish winter.

Janne and his friends Tapio and Kapu of course run into every roadblock imaginable, from the usual trappings of police interference, would-be saboteur ex-boyfriends and car troubles, to the quite unusual Russians on the side of the road, a not-quite dead reindeer and a girl who happens to be the model from the video game Tapio obsesses over at the bar. All of these things heighten the comedic level of the film, as well as raise the stakes in the trio’s seemingly endless trek. Lapland Odyssey starts off about a man on a mission, but turns into much more, namely a touching look at how far close friends will go just to help out one of their own. Tapio and Kapu could easily tell Janne to get fucked and abandon him way before the shit really starts to hit the fan, but they plow forward and endure all the night has to throw at them, side by side. In doing so both find their own individual reasons to be on this insane, frozen journey, besides getting Janne out of the doghouse.

Karukoski does an amazing job using the Finnish winter scenery to his advantage, the weather itself becoming another antagonist standing in the guys’ way. There’s some great wide open shots, one in particular of blizzard-like winds attacking the three as they are in the middle of nowhere after their vehicle breaks down. The white snow and miserable conditions add an atmosphere and style that most comedies, no matter how “black” they may be, are generally lacking.  I think the film’s style will help it find a wider audience, beyond that of the casual comedy fan, as I’m sure many of those fans will be intimidated by watching a subtitled comedy. I personally stayed away from foreign comedies for a long time, fearing the translation would lessen the impact of the comedy. Clearly I was wrong, and Lapland Odyssey, among others, has happily cemented that. In fact, this would make a great double bill with another recent Scandinavian comedy, Klown.

Lapland Odyssey is the second release from the Artsploitation Films label, and will be released on DVD January 8th. The disc includes a booklet with an introduction by director Dome Karkoski, as well as an essay and interview with Karukoski by Travis Crawford. Bonus features include the director’s short film Burungo and trailers for other Artsploitation releases. Oh, and for all you spine-number loving collector types, Artsploitation cases have ’em so make room on your shelves. All of these things added onto a truly enjoyable and unpredictable film make this a no-brainer for fans of adventurous comedies and unique films both.

Lapland Odyssey scores 4 out of 5 Screaming Jamies

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Dredd Is The Law

When I was first made aware of Dredd being made it was during a drunken conversation about the Robocop remake, at a bar after seeing Cabin In The Woods. I was quick to dismiss the possibility of a new film doing justice to the character. Not long after I caught the trailer and upon discovering it was to be in 3D (surprise, surprise) I was even more put off. Honestly the trailer didn’t do much for me and I have issues with 3D and the studio system’s recent abuse of the format. Later still, when I read the plot synopsis and its extraordinary resemblance to The Raid (one of my absolute favorite films of the year) I was convinced I did not need to see this film… probably ever.

So when a friend called last week to see Dredd 3D on opening night I had serious reservations… at first. I try not to be critical of films before seeing them, as hard as that is sometimes, and it was with this mindset I decided to give the trailer another look. It definitely got me thinking about how much I dig Judge Dredd and how exciting the possibility of a good interpretation of the character on film could be. So with a new-found excitement I headed to the theatre on Friday and I have to say, I was not disappointed.

In Dredd 3D we spend the day in Mega City One, an enclosed city that stretches from what used to be Boston to Washington D.C., blocked off from the irradiated remains of its surroundings. Here in Mega City One, crime is rampant and the streets are policed by the Judges, who have the authority to arrest, sentence and, if deemed necessary, execute criminals at their discretion. This particular day we follow the ultimate bad ass Judge, Dredd, and his partner for the day, Anderson, who Dredd is assigned  to train and  assess her abilities to become a full Judge. Dredd is clearly not thrilled with this assignment, but Anderson turns out to have skills that will benefit them both throughout the film.

The two end up on a homicide call that leads them to the 200 story hideout and center of operations for local hooker turned drug lord Ma-Ma. Ma-Ma has been keeping the city high as a kite with a new drug called slo-mo that makes the user feel time at a fraction of its actual speed. It’s up to the Judges to work their way through Ma-Ma’s crew and bring her down.

The scar-faced Ma-Ma is a ruthless bitch who has no problem getting half the city hooked on slo-mo and disposing of  anybody else  who gets in the way. She also possesses an almost Asia Argento quality, in the way that even though she’s all beaten up and scarred ugly she’s still kind of hot…  maybe that’s just me… She is definitely the strongest character in the film and is a worthy opponent to Dredd. Her gang on the other hand is another story. I didn’t feel like she had any real back up at all. Okay, I didn’t want to do this, but I have to make the comparison. In The Raid, Tama was a bad motherfucker, but not half as bad as his crew, especially his right-hand man Mad Dog. Ma-Ma, although a much better character than Tama, has no stand-out members of her gang. They all just seem very disposable.

Weak evil henchmen aside, Dredd 3D does offer a lot to enjoy. The 3D, surprisingly, being one. I normally don’t go for 3D, but the use of it in this to show the effects of the slo-mo was really well done, and it doesn’t over-stay its welcome like in so many other films. These scenes include one of Ma-Ma, high on slo-mo in the bathtub, clearly not heading N.W.A.’s advice of “don’t get high on your own supply”. As she splashes the water with her hand we’re treated to a slow motion effect that brings to mind seeing trails when on LSD. All around the visual effects were well done and coupled with the amped up violence, kept the less-than-original story moving along quite nicely. Karl Urban’s portrayal of Judge Dredd, all scowl and helmet, was a welcome return to the comic book roots of the character, which was my main concern going in. Olivia Thirlby as Anderson does a fine job standing side by side with Dredd and laying waste to Ma-Ma’s crew. I found that even though the story is nothing we haven’t seen before, the performances of the leads and the outstanding visuals make Dredd 3D a more than worthy trip to the theatre.

I give Dredd 3D 3.5 out of 5 Screaming Jamies

A Day Of Violence, 91 Minutes Of Bollocks

A Day Of Violence, the 2010 effort from UK director Darren Ward, is a stale Brit gangster flick filled with stereotypical Brit gangsters played by actors that seemingly were cast out of a community theatre version of a Guy Ritchie film.

“Oi! you cunts, let’s make a fucking movie and shout a lot!”

Sorry, had to get that out of my system. The film opens with our lead Mitchell (Nick Rendell) having awful ugly sex with his lady friend to a guitar based score that’s straight out of a skinamax flick. The man looks like a (slightly) less retarded version of George ‘The Animal’ Steele and this scene is painful to watch. After this we fast forward two years to Mitchell, dead and naked in a body bag in the morgue. Fans of naked, portly British men rejoice! There is a holding shot of the body, testicles laid out in the cool morgue breeze for what seems like an eternity. This is where Mitchell’s narration takes us back to the day that led him to be in such a state, and where we meet Hopper. Hopper (Giovanni Lombardo Radice, who you will recognize from a lot of eighties Italian films like The Church, City of the Living Dead, etc. Clearly he needed the paycheck…) is a low rent drug dealer who owes money to Mitchell’s boss. When Mitchell goes to collect from Hopper, we find him relaxing in his shit hole apartment smoking a bong. This, by the way, is the most unrealistic portrayal of bong smoking I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t even pretend to make it look like he’s inhaling, but I digress… This is where the highlight of the film happens, and the absolute abuse of bad Brit gangster dialogue really amps up. The highlight of the film takes place when…. I’M ABOUT TO START SPOILING THIS SHIT RIGHT HERE…. Mitchell slits Hopper’s throat after stealing a bean bag full of money. Much more money, I might add, then he came to collect.

‘It’s in the bean bag… The FUCKING BEAN BAG!!!” Classically awful…

The throat slitting effect is well done, but unfortunately takes place within the first ten or eleven minutes of the film, so there’s not a whole lot to look forward to from this point. So, Mitchell has a bean bag filled with money, tells his boss to fuck off, and goes to work with his old pal Smitty for crime boss Boswell. Boswell is played by Victor D. Thorn, whose IMDB page reads this little bit o’ trivia: “Whilst serving in the Parachute Regiment (British) in the early seventies he was involved in a parachuting accident with a colleague which meant both of them coming down on one parachute. Fortunately both walked away uninjured.” So since he survived we get to suffer through the most irritating portrayal of a British crime boss EVER. Lucky us. Boswell is every bit the example of awful characters puked up into a screenplay and shit out onto screen. He does the whole “Oi! I’m British so have to shout EVERY FUCKING LINE OF DIALOGUE’ thing and you just hate him from the moment he steps on-screen.

So Mitchell is brought on to work for Boswell, but unbeknownst to him at the time he’s actually replacing his boy Smitty who has been skimming money from Boswell. Boswell sicks his thugs on him and we’re treated to Smitty being hung upside down, beaten and ultimately having his penis cut off. (I told you I was gonna spoil this shit…) The cock cutting effect is decent (that sounds awful) and I’m sure if you’re a guy you’ll wince for a brief second but the best part of the whole scenario is when they throw Smitty’s bloody, cockless self into the back of a truck and one of the thugs picks up his severed penis and tosses it in with him. “Don’t forget his cock!”… wow…

So this is where we find out that the money Hopper had hidden in the bean bag belonged to Boswell (shocking, I know) and who is sent to retrieve it? Mitchell of course. You know where this goes, so I’ll spare you the details. Mitchell is found out to have taken the money by way of a ridiculous action taken by Hopper before he is killed (cell phone camera… really…) and the hunt is now on. Now we already know that Mitchell is eventually killed, seeing as how they showed him in all his pasty naked glory in the morgue  at the start of the film. What happens on the way to that point is just stale, poorly acted and directed, beat to death (no pun intended) nonsense. There is a shoot out in a bar towards the end of the film that is laugh out loud funny, but it’s too little too late. There’s no saving the film at that point. We’ve seen it before, done better, and it’s just not enough to warrant sitting through.

I give A Day Of Violence 1 out of 5 Screaming Jamies for the throat slitting and not much else.

Raining Bullets – The Raid: Redemption

I’m not sure what all I can say about The Raid: Redemption that hasn’t already been said over the past week since it’s release on disc. But the three words that repeatedly came out of my mouth while watching The Raid were holy fucking shit! With his third film, director Gareth Evans has built a monument to action insanity as tall and dangerous as the building it is set in. The film opens with Rama (Iko Uwais) saying his morning prayers and heading straight into a workout that would send me straight back to bed for a nap. This is our first glimpse of the style of  hand to hand combat we’re in store for, as he lays a beating on a heavy bag, alternating fists and elbows with rapid fire speed. He quickly says goodbye to his pregnant wife and has an even quicker exchange with his father, only saying “I’ll bring him back”.

The next scene finds Rama and nineteen other  heavily armed cops in riot gear in the back of a truck on the way to raid the hideout of the biggest drug lord in the city, Tama (Ray Sahetapy). The building is a thirty floor complex that house not only Tama and his drug lab, but a large selection of the city’s criminal element. All safe from the law as, until now, the building was a no go zone. The squad breaks into the building within the first ten minutes of the film and from there on in all hell breaks loose. Our introduction to Tama and his main henchmen, Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) and Andi (Doni Alamsyah), is indicative of the absolute brutality to come. Five men are bound, gagged and lined up on their knees. Tama begins to shoot each one point-blank in the back of the head. When he runs out of bullets he rests the gun on the final man’s shoulder, gets a hammer from a desk drawer and slams it into the man’s skull. From this point forward the violence escalates to horror film levels.

The residents take to the halls like an angry pack of wolves to protect the building from the police threat, armed with knives, machetes, a fuck ton of guns and more fists, feet and elbows then you can count. It is full on chaos that rarely slows down for things like character development, dialogue or plot. Those things would only  get in the way of the driving force behind The Raid, which is pure tension that leads to a sheer barrage of ass kicking. At one point Rama is assaulted in the hallway by a seemingly endless amount of thugs. For every one he disposes of two more are right there to take his place. It’s an amazing display of both cinematic brutality and actor Iko Uwais’ incredible martial arts skills.  He is truly amazing and his skills are equaled only by  Tama’s head thug, Mad Dog. The fight scenes between the two are some of the most brutal and incredible fight scenes put to film. They fill the screen using every bit of space in a ultraviolent dance of sorts. It needs to be seen to be truly appreciated.

There hasn’t been an action film like this in years, if ever. It rivals anything out of Hong Kong and definitely beats bloody all of the eighties action  dinosaurs trying to revitalize their dead careers. This is the real deal. I honestly can not recommend this film more.

The Raid scores a perfect 5/5 Screaming Jamies

Aside

Zombie A-Hole is the sophomore effort from writer/director Dustin Mills. You might know Dustin from his 2009 debut The Puppet Monster Massacre. Despite it’s (rather ridiculous) title, Zombie A-Hole isn’t a zombie film in the way most people think of zombie films. There’s no Romero style walking dead here. What we do have is a demonically possessed “zombie” who hunts and kills identical twin girls and a revenge seeking cowboy type who’s hellbent on stopping him.

After the murder of one sister and the disfigurement of another, Frank Fulci (played by first timer Josh Eal) sets out to exact revenge on the titular zombie a-hole who is to blame. His quest takes him across two states, led by some sort of demon hunting tool in the form of a foot tall corpse in a box (think zombie monkey), and aided by a  hitchhiker who, as it turns out, has a connection to our demon zombie. The film is a mash-up of influences, from the Evil Dead inspired demonic zombie to the body count and boobs quotient that is more aligned with the slasher flicks of the eighties. There’s even a nod (blatant ripoff, but completely forgivable) to revenge classic Thriller: A Cruel Picture. To top it off our demon zombie is clad in a 1920s gangster style pinstriped suit. Not sure exactly why, but i can roll with it.Seeing as how he is killing off sets of twins there’s an extra high body count, and while some of the kills are somewhat lackluster, there are a couple that are downright great.

While Zombie A-Hole is a boobs and blood filled good time it is certainly not without fault. There’s an ill-advised animated flashback scene that can be done without, and at almost two hours, the film could use some editing. Mills hasn’t figured out yet that 98% of directors should not edit their own films. More often than not a director, especially a young director, will keep scenes in or let them drag on unnecessarily. Mills should have ditched the animated sequence and the boring rock soundtrack and used whatever he spent on those to have someone edit the film. There is also the effects which vary in quality from practical throat slittings that work just fine to various CG effects that, for the most part are pretty bad. There’s actually one scene that would have been a succesful jump scare if it wasn’t immediately followed by a CG effect that killed it.

All of this aside, Zombie A-Hole is one of the better low-budget indie flicks I’ve seen in quite a while. Yes, it’s hokey in parts but that is part of the film’s charm. Mills definitely shows talent as both a writer and director and I’d like to see what he could do with a little help from an editor.

Zombie A-Hole scores 2 out of 5 Screaming Jamies

 

Zombie A-Hole: Blood! Boobs! Budgetary Restraints!

South Of Heaven Is Genre Blending Perfection

“When Roy Coop finished his stint in the Navy, he only had two things on his mind: seeing his brother Dale, and writing the great American novel. What he gets, however, is the homecoming from Hell! A pair of violent vaudevillians mistake Roy for brother, looking to collect on a debt that he didn’t know he owed. Eight fingers later, Roy is burnt to a crisp, forged by fire into a new man. Roy is dead. Nobody is born.”

Writer/director J.L. Vara‘s feature-length debut is an insane collision of noir and cartoon like influences. It’s a film that is  impossible to neatly categorise, having its severed fingers dipped equally  into the  revenge, horror, action,  western and the aforementioned noir genres. From the very beginning, with its animated opening title sequence, South Of Heaven  blends these influences up and sprinkles them with a dark humour to top it off. The result is one of the best films I’ve seen all year.  Continue reading

Microcinema – Short Film, Short Review

I’ll be honest with you, when I first saw the poster image above for Microcinema I was already getting ready for disappointment. Luckily I was wrong, and honestly I really should know better than to judge a book by its cover, or a short film by its promo poster, as the case may be. My initial reservations did not immediately go away however. The first couple minutes of this jackass sitting on his cozy chair with his shitty mask and highlighted bangs wasn’t exactly reassuring. But once he got off the chair and into the woods it was all good.

Microcinema is an interesting little six-minute horror short from writer/director Skip Shea. It focuses on a man who has obsessed with snuff films that decides to do a little filmmaking himself.

From the press release –

“Microcinema” is the story of Peter Martell, a highly educated well-to-do young man with a lot of free time on his hands. He spends this time watching snuff films. One day he makes the bold decision to cross the line from observer to participant, aspiring to bring a philosophical element to his own kind of snuff films. Ready to go to work, he tracks his first victim into a haunted New England wood, where the line between participant and observer takes a different turn.

A different turn indeed! The second half certainly makes this short worth watching.   I don’t want to spoil anything for you (I really, really do… but I won’t…) Microcinema is available to watch for a reasonable 99 cents HERE.  So don’t be a stick in the butt and check it out… ooooooohhh…

Microcinema rates 2 and a half out of 5 Screaming Jamies

Corporate Cutthroat Massacre – Like Sleeping Pills, But Less Entertaining

The Office meets American Psycho” – that’s how director Creep Creepersin’s Corporate Cutthroat Massacre is billed. Well, unfortunately the film completely lacks the humor of the former and the wit and creativity of the latter.

Continue reading