Tuesday, August 30, 2011

20/20 VCR Horror: How VCRs Destroyed America's Youth!

This is a 20/20 piece that aired in 1987 (or at least I believe it's from 1987) that shed much needed light on the 'VCR Horrors' that shattered the lives of children across America, turning them into sadistic serial murderers and rapists. Please, be warned, what you are about to see is filled with more vicious hyperbole than one should ever endure in one sitting.

"Graphic orgies of blood and violence!"

"It's always a female victim, and it's generally in a sexual context"

Dear god, if it wasn't for this informative news report, we all would've been screwed by this point. Imagine if 20/20 hadn't run this story, warning parents about little Suzy and Tommy attending these "gross out parties," the world would be littered with rabid males foaming at the mouth, while the female population would have drastically dropped due to a rash of rape and murder. Certainly a far cry from that cute and cuddly Frankenstein film from 1931 or that shower scene in 1960's Psycho.

It's interesting watching something like this news report, or any one of the many slanderous stories that came from the era covering similar subject matters concerning horror films and their impact on society (Siskel & Ebert or Morton Downey Jr. taking on Slasher films, for example). It brings back the frustrations of a time when censorship ran as rampant as masked serial killers, the MPAA was destroying art in the name of the lord, horror magazines were pulled from shelves to cool off some angry childless adult, and the only ones left to suffer were the fans, who wanted nothing more than to enjoy the genre we love best.

On the other hand, though, when I see a piece like this, it also reminds me of how fucking awesome the '80s were for horror fans. Never was the genre more popular than during the VHS boom, and the censorship and being all pissed off about it is something I look back on quite fondly, to be honest. The controversy surrounding a handful of horror films stirred up incredible interest in those movies for many of us, and the unattainability of certain tapes only made them more desirable. The censorship of the era gave fans something to be passionate about and, in some capacity, may have formed my youthful rebellious ways, which is something I can say is and will always be, a part of my nature.

So fuck you, 20/20. We're still here and so aren't the movies we love, and - outside of that one time behind a Cumberland Farms after buying a chilly dog and a pack of menthols - I have never attempted to rape or murder anyone.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stake Land: Putting Teeth Back Into the Vampire Genre

stake land poster

"It's JUST like Zombieland but it's not funny, and instead of zombies it's vampires that are causing everyone so much grief!"


I don't know how many fucking times I read that description whenever reading a review for Jim Mickle's latest film, Stake Land. The two films (Zombieland and Stake Land) have NEVER had ANYTHING to do with one another, and I believe that should have been obvious (especially to horror fans) right from the film's first teaser trailer that was released before Zombieland had even come out. Sure, there are some similarities with the post apocalyptic setting, something that was never done in any other film outside of Zombieland. The Last Man on Earth, Omega Man, Phantasm II, The Road Warrior, 28 Days/Weeks Later, Night of the Comet, Carriers, etc. None of those films were set in a time when the world was riddled with either zombies, vampires, infected, crazy people or even some concoction of the four. Is the name Stake Land is a bad choice? Well, it's not a great movie title by any stretch, but the film was initially conceived around the same time as Zombieland, so the comparisons are simply ridiculous if you ask me, especially when every Tom, Dick and Harry felt the need to make the exact same comparison when reviewing the film. 

Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. Shit has been bothering me for months. Let me reign things back in here and get back on track now that I've probably offended someone I like...

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Directed and co-written by Jim Mickle - who made a nice little splash with his solid, original take on the zombie film with 2006's Mulberry StreetStake Land is set sometime after the world had become infected by a deadly virus. But this isn't your typical airborne type of contagion; instead, the deadly plague comes in the form of vampires. Without any back-story to how it all started, the vampires have quite easily taken over the planet, leaving few survivors behind and their victims to come back as their allies.  

Now, these vampires aren't the type of chiseled abs adorned hotties that make out with chicks and style their hair (You know, like me). Nope, these are vicious, man-eating vampires filled with aggression and a certain level of survival smarts and tactics. The idea of a plague by vampirism is a smart choice, as most of us are already aware of how vampires work and how they can turn people into fellow vampires. Therefore, there is no need to explain how the disease has spread; it's a part of the monsters mythos. Though, there are some things that separate the film from the by the book characteristics of vampires, one of them being that they seem to either have evolved or there are at least a few differing breeds of them with some being more powerful than others.  

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Stake Land follows a man simply known as Mister (co-writer, Nick Damici) and a teenager named Martin (Connor Paolo) who Mister befriends after saving his life from a vampire attack that left Martin's entire family dead.  Mister – who hates being referred to as Mr. Mister – is what you could call a badass motherfucker who is skilled in the ways of vampire slaying. He and Martin are traveling to Canada (which has been dubbed New Eden) which is supposedly a refuge free of vampires and filled with at least a small sense of normalcy.  

Not at all the most original of ideas in anyway. Regardless, I will always attest to the fact that originality is not an issue if a film can bring something to the idea. There is a reason why classic stories are classic stories. In the hands of the right filmmaker, a classic story can always be told well. That would most certainly be the case with Stake Land

Despite the lack of background - which is actually appreciated by myself - Stake Land is a cinematically poignant and deep film that resonates in its situation. Despite the vampiric elements, the circumstances feel real as do the characters. I found myself drawn to the people of Stake Land, as they are somewhat relatable as is the way in which they are dealing with their plight. The characters are who they are and they aren't filled with overly dramatic traits that would mean to alienate the audience or even themselves. I specifically enjoyed the subtle father son relationship between Mister and Martin that is vastly more enduring and somber than any single moment found in the highly overrated and often compared to, The Road. The emotional impact is better conveyed because it's not being forced upon the viewer; it happens naturally. 

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Stake Land is filled with very strong performances by all those involved, but the stand out in the film is certainly Nick Damici, who also stared in and co-wrote Mickle's Mulberry Street. What I love about Damici is the fact that he is a real person, a man's man, someone that you would find littering tough guy cinema of the '70s. He's a rarity in these cinematic times, and to see someone like him in a film such as Stake Land is simply awesome. I also must give credit to his character of Mister. He is a true tough guy, but he breaks the mold and never acts so tough that his exterior cannot be broken. Without hesitation, he is compassionate, sympathetic to others and is not at all selfish despite the fact that it could result in his own undoing. He isn't simply trying to selfishly survive, he is trying to fight back the evil that surrounds him.

Mickle has constructed a film that is technically nice to look at on what is supposedly a teeny-tiny budget ($625,000 from what I have read). Stake Land isn't some slick, blue hued vampire film that is overly stylized and hyperkinetic, nor is it a sepia toned apocalypse movie littered with slo-mo shots. It's a straightforward and nicely crafted piece of cinema, filled with wide landscape shots that convey the rural, vast and almost completely devoid of life world that Stake Land is set in. Between the character of Mister and the way in which Stake Land is filmed, it has almost has a Western sensibility to it.   

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In what is yet another case of the 'unoriginals', the whole 'people are so much worse than the monsters' commentary is in full effect here in Stake Land. It does work for the most part, but it is a tad over done and also feeds into a portion of the film that might be a point where it loses its footing a little. However, where the film does falter is minute and not nearly enough to affect my thoughts on the film as a whole. Which to me is a near perfectly made and very subdued modern horror/vampire film. There was a time when I was young and vampire films and the creatures themselves were some of my favorite things about horror. Therefore, I am incredibly ecstatic to have a film such as Stake Land come out. Stake Land shows us that the vampire can still be used in a way that is interesting, and proves yet again that the genre is alive and well. We just have to look outside the cinema to find it. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Salute Your Shorts: Scrutinize


There is a twist involved with Scrutinize that I would dare not ruin for you beforehand, so check out the short before you read my thoughts. Go ahead…I can wait.

Written by Melanie Leanne Miller and directed by Elisabeth and Brenda Fies, Scrutinize, I think, pretty much speaks for itself. I suppose you could call it a moral tale of sorts, focusing on a young girl who would inadvertently be passing judgment on a duo of scummy creeper looking dudes and their seemingly skanky and highly intoxicated female companion. It's an uncomfortable feeling for the girl (played by the film's writer, Melanie Leanne Miller) as she sits in judgment, feeling as if she too is being judged by the trio. Naturally, things only get more uncomfortable for the young, pristine white lady when the dreaded black man enters her train (now if that's not a double entendre…). And when I say dreaded, I clearly don't mean his hair.   

Clutching her purse, she fears the worst as this (un) intimidating black man sits right next to her, all up in her grill. Her situation seems to go from bad to worse in her unfairly judgmental mind, as she internally projects her feelings of discomfort right out into the open, only to find her preconceived notions appearing to be coming true. Of course, the kicker that comes at the end is quite good, playing to the old adage that you can never judge a book by its cover in a way that is surprising and somewhat relieving as far as where the story goes.  

Scrutinize is well put together, and I enjoy how the silly, pop hip-hop dance song is bumping underneath the ominous score. It's a good way to keep you grounded in the situation while it still being tense. The subway setting is a nice change of pace from the usual short films I have watched. But what I think I dig the most about Scrutinize is the idea itself and how it's executed. It grabs your attention and keeps you wondering where it might go, only to have a genuinely smart and very fun reveal in the end. 

You can check out the Fies sisters You Tube channel for more shorts released under what they have dubbed Fies Sister Thrillers. Apparently, they release a new short every Thursday, and after finding myself having a good deal of joy with Scrutinize, I will certainly be keeping my eye on their other shorts as they come.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hunt to Kill: Vengeance is a Dish Best Served Cold. Stone Cold.

hunt to kill

I think it's common knowledge that when taking a look at a film such as Hunt to Kill, staring "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, you have a real good idea of what you're getting into beforehand. Occasionally, the straight-to-DVD video pendulum swings in a direction that can be either better or worse than expected, but more often than not, the film is exactly what you'd expect of it. Which is totally fine, mind you. It's nice to have that low-level action comfort food to fall back on when you just want to sit back and watch something moderately fun and entertaining, while not feeling like you have to be completely dedicated to what's on screen.

Now, I don't really follow wrestling all that much, or at least I haven't in many many years, but I think WWE wrestlers are nothing short of a perfect fit for action films as most come equipped with much of what it takes to be B-level-to-A-list action stars. That thought culminated with becoming completely enamored with Steve Austin while watching the WWE reality completion show, Tough Enough, I knew I had to watch Hunt to Kill the second I saw it was available on Netflix instant.

Directed by Keoni Waxman, Hunt to Kill stars Austin as Jim Rhodes, a U.S. border patrol agent living with his asshole of a daughter, Kim (Marie Avgeropoulos), in the secluded mountains of Canada. I mean, "Montana." Things are going just dandy for Jim and Kim, that is, until Jim gets a phone call from the sheriff, informing  him that he has to pick up Kim from the police station because she was caught shoplifting! Now, outside of Marb reds and fishing worms, what exactly is there to steal in the mountains of Montana? Leaves? Bear skin rugs? Mounted trophies?

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Hunt to Kill, Sponsored by Under Armor

While all of this shoplifting nonsense is going down, a group of criminals pull off a major heist, only to have their own boss pull a fast one on them, taking off with all of the earnings. And guess where he heads to? That's right, the mountains of Montana. The gang, in a desperate search to find the stolen money they stole first, head to the police station where they plan to force the sheriff into helping them navigate the dangerous woods so they can find their boss and, in turn, their money. And let's just say, they aren't going to be friendly about it.

The mathematics here are simple…

Jim, making his way to pick up Kim at the jail + Criminals going to said jail to force the sheriff into helping them find their money - A now dead sheriff and a hostage situation involving Kim = Jim begrudgingly helping the gang navigate the woods, while keeping his daughter safe and eventually killing the fuck out of everyone.

As I said, simple.

Hunt to Kill is, as I had expected, an okay little action film. Action wise, it's a tad slow for much of the first hour, but it's never completely boring, and Austin, who is far from the ring, is certainly good enough to carry the film on his massive shoulders, despite a few awkward acting moments. And not that I expected it, but there is nothing all that original about the film, and when I say all that, I mean not at all. It's riddled with clichéd characters and moments that are found in 9,251 other cheap action movies, though, I tend to love that about all cheap action movies. Being able to predict certain moments is a part of their charm. You know the minute you see Gary Daniels in the role as one of the bad guys that there will be a brawl of massive proportions between both him and Austin. It's only a matter of much anticipated time.

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Argh, but we were boys in The Expendables, weren't we?!

More often than not, in the final act of most any direct-to-DVD action film, there is this breaking point where the main protagonist/hero is given his shot to take control of the situation using his, or her, own brand of kick-ass justice. This is the heart of any action film such as Hunt to Kill, and thankfully, this is exactly where Hunt to Kill shows up best. Now, this isn't top notch action awesomeness that we're talking about here, but the last 25-minutes of Hunt to Kill is sprinkled with a handful of solid moments that are worthy of a few giggling cheers of joy.

On a technical level, the movie is competently shot for the most part, and the action is displayed well enough, specifically the fight scene between Austin and Daniels which contains a number of edits but still remains coherent and easy to follow. On the other hand, there's some post work that leaves much to be desired with these awkward fade-ins and fade-outs as well as a few fuzzy, slow-motion sepia tone flashbacks that are plugged in at certain moments throughout the film that give it a very cheap feel. In many ways, Hunt to Kill feels like the action equivalent of a Lifetime movie. Like, if Lifetime were to create their own action channel, Hunt to Kill would be one of their premier films. And I would watch the shit out of it every time I strolled by it on cable.    

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Oh, and this sly guy shows up for the first four minutes

I have one more thing that I have to yap about before wrapping up this review, and that would be, by far, my favorite moment in Hunt to Kill; my make or break, if you will. However, this is a major *SPOILER!!* for the film's ending. Not that spoilers in a film like this really matter, but I shall warn you regardless.

In the very last scene, after Jim thinks he's beaten the main/lame-o bad guy, Banks (who is played horribly by Gil Bellows, for the record), and reunites with his daughter, Banks suddenly shows up, still alive, and begins taunting Jim, claiming that he can never be killed. It's at this moment that Jim gets on a fucking FOUR-WHEELER!, revs the engine and sneers out this incredible line: "When I hunt…I HUNT TO KILL!," and pops a wheelie as he drives right into Banks, straight running down his ass!

It is fucking awesome. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wax Nostalgic

yankee candle halloween 2011

After a short yet grueling day of work had finally come to a long awaited end

My mind was tired, body beat but no rest as Bolo was still to be fed

I gave him food, gave him blood, gave him my own internal wine

He then arose and flexed his pecs as he felt the rejuvenating strength returning to his vine

I quickly moved my behind inside where I would simply coast and sail

Directly to the couch where a nap would be most certain and without much fail

I made one quick stop as I passed by my sun kissed front door

To check inside the mail box when my jaw dropped and nearly hit the floor

As I began to feel an internal warmth fill deep down inside my core

I slightly screeched as from within my reach came a prize that only one such as I could truly adore

As unexpected as it was this could not have had better timing

With the summer heat that's nearly broken me, for fall's start I have truly been dying

It's a reminder that the greatest time of year will soon be here, so there is no need for me to fret

And my excitement for fall and Halloween is incredible, this much you can surely bet

Now the day is done, my mind content, and I can claim it truly complete

As I plop down on my couch and open up to enjoy this wonderful festive treat

I ignored my TV as there was nothing that could compete on each and every channel

When the greatest thing to me at this very moment is the 2011 Halloween edition of Yankee Candle

matt so sexy and shit

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Great Moments in CGI: The Regenerated Man

Truth be told, this creature is only a labiaplasty and a new hairdo away from being kinda cute, don't cha think? Hey, where're you going?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous BOLO!

As I mentioned in my "Halloween is on the way, and I have a wicked boner because of it" post from the first of the month, I referred to a secret Halloween related something or other that I've been working on. Knowing that you have eyes and you can probably already see the photos down below, you more than likely have a good idea about what I've been up to, but elaborate on the details I shall.

In late August of last year, my wife was given a homegrown gourd by one of her work friends who knew of my obsession with all things Halloween and Fall. I wish I had a picture of it to share with you guys, but unfortunately, I don't. Either way, the gourd was very pumpkin like in shape and color, which I loved, and on my fireplace mantle it sat. And sat. And sat, all the way until sometime in April. Now, my knowledge of gourds is minimal at best, but I was flabbergasted by how long the thing stayed before showing even the slightest signs of rot. To me, that was a sign that this gourd was something special.         

In any event, the same friend that had given my friend with benefits the gourd had told her that we could simply toss a gourd in our yard somewhere, and chances are it would grow into magic. Well, being the Fall fiend that I am, I did just that back in April, and there it sat, in perfect shape, for almost two months. I would check on it occasionally to see it still there, straight chillin', fully intact. Then suddenly, from out of nowhere, it was gone! Vanished into thin air, except there was something left behind. A little teeny tiny plant that was clearly not a weed. Within a few weeks the little plant became what I thought was a big plant, which is what you can see here in this first picture that I took on June 28th.


You can see smaller gourd plants all around it!

How fucking cute, right?! Anyway, I have done no more than water it almost everyday, and every time my wife or I looked at the thing, we would be shocked at the rate in which it's growing. In fact, it went from what I thought was a big plant into something that is almost uncontainable, as seen in the next picture, which was taken on August 1st.



Remember, this was a gourd that lasted for an inordinate amount of time (I think) on my mantle, so this rapid rate of growth only points to the fact that the gourd was indeed a mutant. Not only that, but the mutant gourd shall produce other mutant gourds, making me Charles Fucking Xavier. You can't see them in this picture, but there are numerous yellow/orange flowers all over as well as a ton of twisting tendrils ready to produce some serious gourd action (or play The Ruins with my skin). And then there are the stems that are so long and thick, John Holmes would be jealous.

In any event, with a creation such as this, there has to be a name. While names such as Eddy Gourdo, Commissioner Gourdon and Gourdon Ramsay floated through my head, I quickly realized there is only one name that can capture the intense mass and burliness of such a plant, and that name is BOLO! Aptly named after Asian martial arts actor, and buffest mofo around, Bolo Yeung.      


He already kind of looks like a pumpkin, no?

So there you have it, an introduction to Bolo. If things go as planned and Bolo continues to dominate my backyard, I will continue to give you all updates with photos showing his progress. I have high hopes this all will result in a post where I can share with you whatever greatness comes from this freak of nature.

On a related note, Johnny over at Freddy in Space has (beaten me to!) been sharing in the maturation of his very own home grown pumpkin patch, which he has fittingly dubbed "The Evil Pumpkin Patch," as some of the dirt from the set of The Evil Dead was used to plant it. Head over there and check out his progress if you are fiending for more decorative Halloween madness. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Totally Tubular Trailers


Directed by Tim Fehlbaum, Hell is a German post-apocalyptic film set in a time when that pesky ozone layer finally decided to find a better job, leaving the world to be pounded by intense heat on a constant basis. Now, I won't hold it against this film that Roland Emmerich (director of movies so terrible that even Uwe Boll can't help but feel cheated by his success) is the film's producer, as that means very little as far as direction goes, I hope. But I will say that the film certainly suffers from a strong case of the unoriginals.

Hell follows a group of survivors who are traveling in a sun protected car (?) as they make their way to a promised land where water is said to be abundant. Naturally, the survivors will find themselves facing off against a group of undesirables that probably want to eat their skin. They also pick up a helpful mechanic, but they aren't really sure if they can fully trust him or not. So, yeah, that's about as standard as it gets, folks. That is a post-apocalypse 101 from top to bottom. Regardless of an Emmerich presence and the been there done that plot, I think the film looks pretty fantastic. Take a look at the non-English trailer below to see if you feel otherwise.  



The nest trailer for the evening comes in the form Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's Intruders. Intruders appears to tell the story of a father and his two children who are plagued by visions of a monster, or at least that's what I take from the trailer as actual details for the film are somewhat scarce. What I do know is Intruders stars one Mr. Clive Owen, a man that I will always champion due to my incredible love for Children of Men. In addition, Intruders looks like it could be somewhat creepy despite appearing to be yet another film that is not all too original. Either way, director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo has a great track record in his short career, and I have faith that he can deliver another solid horror film following his fantastic sequel, 28 Weeks Later.


the last circus

The preview for Álex de la Iglesia's The Last Circus is one that simply has to be seen to be believed. I don't think that I can even come close to crafting a tight and precise synopsis, as this thing is simply all over the place in a way that is difficult to take in all at once. This trailer is pure madness, and I'm really not sure what to make of it outside of the fact that I know that I cannot wait to see the film. Get ready for lots of very scary looking clowns with lots of real badass weapons.



After the Quintanilla family are found murdered in their country vacation home, the only evidence as to what may have happened are found in video footage that has been conveniently compiled into a film for us to watch. You know, in case we can help crack the case. Directed by Fernando Barreda Luna, Atrocious is yet another entry into the handheld horror genre, and being a Spanish made film, yet another of this ever growing genre coming from a foreign territory. 

Now, at what point does the handheld genre jump the shark and become incredibly tiresome for everyone (well, for me at least)? Despite my kneejerk reaction of enough is enough whenever I see that another found footage film is on the way, I quickly remember that I love this genre and have rarely been let down by the bigger films that have come from it. Still, I get that feeling that the good outweighing the not so good cannot last forever, but until that time comes, I'll be looking forward to most of what the genre has to offer, and that includes Atrocious.



Following a  plot that seems moderately similar to that of the Academy award-winning film, The Fighter, Chris Sivertson's Brawler follows a pair of brothers who both partake in illegal, New Orleans riverboat fights. The two have many issues to deal with between their underground fights, personal vices, the mob boss they work for, and, most importantly, themselves. Despite the film's surficial lack of originality (which isn't the biggest deal in a film such as this), I'm always down for a movie where people get their asses kicked, especially when it's wrapped around with some good brotherly drama. The trailer shows a lot of promise, and if the fights are nicely photographed and fittingly brutal and the acting good, then Brawler could certainly be a contender.

That's it. As always, thanks for making CNAMB a part of your day, and I hope you found a few trailers here that have given you that loving feeling that you had previously thought you'd lost.

Monday, August 1, 2011

90 Days and Counting…


It's that time of year again, kiddies, the time of year where suddenly the mind is taken over, becoming solely focused on one thing and one thing only: Halloween! As the calendar would lead you to believe, it is indeed the 1st of August, and despite the fact that Halloween has already been on the mind the last few weeks, now is the time where everything officially begins to come together. Soon enough shopping centers and other such places of consumption (as well as CNAMB) will become adorned with spooky sounds, creepy crawlers and all sorts of maddening awesomeness, and I cannot wait to take it all in! 

So far there have only been a few stray sightings of the good ol' black and orange, starting a few weeks back when I went into a Hobby Lobby to find that it already had a fully decked out Fall decoration section, which consisted of at least two stacked isles of what I referred to on Twitter as: "Halloween pre-cum." Unfortunately, I haven't had a sighting since, but that all changed yesterday when my martial arts instructor and I walked into a Kirkland's - which, for the record, always brings the Halloween pain every year – when I was confronted by this:


Full-frontal Halloween goodness all up in ma face! This was totally unexpected, but from the moment that it stopped me in my tracks, causing a smile to slowly creep up on my grill, I knew that it is indeed on like Donkey Kong. 

So my anticipation is at an all time high, and of course, one of the most exciting things for me is the fact that August 1st means that start the third annual Halloween extravaganza known as CHUCKTOBER!!! is only TWO months away! I don't want to get into Chucktober too much just yet, but I certainly will be preparing for what promises to be the best Chucktober ever. Word is born.

And last but not least, I do have a very special Halloween related something or other that I've been working on for the past month and will be sharing with you in the next day or so. It's nothing too crazy, but it is very cool and too much to get into within this post, so wait it will have to. Until then, enjoy some Halloween Hip-Hop via my homeboys, NEtotal. If this doesn't get you pumped up for Halloween, then nothing will!

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