Review: Halloween – The Curse of Michael Myers

Halloween 6.jpgHalloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

Hey, have you ever wondered what happened to Tommy Doyle?  The boy that Laurie Strode was babysitting in the first Halloween movie?  No?  Well, here he is…

Tommy Doyle grew up to be Paul Rudd.  He also developed a strange, Hannibal Lecter-like speech pattern.  He has been obsessively studying Michael Myers, apparently unsatisfied with the first film’s assertion that he was simply a man with no ‘soul.’  To that end, he concocts a baseless theory about an ancient Druid curse in which a child is chosen to make a blood sacrifice of his kin so that the others of the village avoid…something bad.

And it turns out he’s right.

Although there’s a bit of a jump; this sixth installment in the franchise completes a story started in Halloween 4.  Essentially, it’s the ‘Jamie Trilogy,’ wherein the orphaned daughter of the original film’s heroine becomes the new target for The Shape (that’s what he’s been called in the credits since the first movie, by the way).  Throughout the last three films, there have been hints of the Druid cult story; the ‘thorn’ rune has shown up as tattoos and scrawled on walls, and we’ve seen the ‘men in black’ lurking around.  Jamie appears in this film, briefly, and with an unexplained pregnancy.

I have a blanket objection to horror movies that feel the need to explain their monster; especially when that explanation softens them; like, ‘Michael can’t help it, he’s cursed!’  The strength of the original Halloween was that there was nothing special about Michael.  He was a seemingly normal kid from a normal family; it’s the idea that it could have been anyone that made it so effective.

Anyway, the cult and conspiracy storyline really detracts from the horror.  Michael Myers is no longer a faceless killer, but a sci-fi/fantasy creature, under the control of people in stupid costumes who use magic.  I like stories like that in general, but this one in particular is trite, and it doesn’t suit the character of Michael at all.

Donald Pleasence, in his final Halloween appearance, delivers his best-ever performance as Dr. Loomis, Myers’ grossly out matched but ever determined hunter.  He’s older and wiser.  He’s not as panicky and scream-prone as he used to be, and as a result, he actually seems like a match for Michael Myers.  Still not as strong, of course, but maybe able to outsmart him.

Halloween (6): The Curse of Michael Myers is weighed down by a silly mythology that not only gets in the way of the horror, but also severely dampens it.  The kills take a backseat to awkward plot points, so while there are some decently gory scenes, they lack the buildup to make them memorable.

Review: I Was A Teenage Ninja

I was a teenage ninja.jpgI Was A Teenage Ninja

The tragic history of Christianity’s early attempts to gain a foothold in Japan set the stage for this story of a young woman who unknowingly becomes the pawn of the cruel Shogunate who killed her father, and has now been sent to assassinate her mother.

The original title of this film is ‘Christian Kunoichi Aome’s Story.’  Kunoichi means ‘female ninja.’  It’s 1549.  Years ago, a Christian missionary, Xavier, arrived in Japan and started preaching the gospel.  He amasses a few followers, most notably a middle-aged Japanese woman named Kiara with whom he has a daughter.

About this time, the Shogunate (the warlord ruler of Japan) begins to crack down on the new religion, sending his samurai to slaughter them in their mountain enclaves.  Xavier is killed and his wife escapes; but his daughter Aome is spared by one of the Shogunate’s men.  She is taken in and raised by the man, and trained in the art of ninjitsu.

Aome knows nothing of her parents, except for the crucifix necklace they left behind.  As such, she follows the Christian faith, while carrying out assassinations for the Shogunate.

At this point, the story gets odd.  Aome’s mother is obsessed with freeing Xavier and the other Christians from Hell.  Why are Christian martyrs in Hell?  I don’t know.  Anyways, Kiara turns to the black arts to accomplish this goal.  With the help of her hermaphrodite assistant, Shizu, she abducts pretty, young women to serve as blood sacrifices.  Unfortunately, their latest victim is Aome’s best friend, a blind girl.

I Was A Teenage Ninja is part of a Japanese film series called, ‘Voluptuous Ninja.’  The stars are all drawn from Japan’s adult film industry.  This one stars Saki Ninomiya, who does a competent job.

Remember in Back to the Future Part 3, where Doc gives Marty that stupid, colorful cowboy costume because he saw ones like it in the movies?  The costumes in this film reminded me of that scene.  Like someone’s understanding of Shogunate times came from campy movies; either that, or they went to the costume shop and bought the first ‘sexy ninja’ outfit the came across.  The special effects are bad, predictably, but I’ll give them credit for at least trying.

As a soft-core film, it does what it sets out to do, but it has no particular merit beyond that.

 

Review: Plastic Little

51S1PMERANL.jpgPlastic Little

Captain Tita is a pet shop hunter.  She and the crew of the Cha Cha Maru sail the ‘Sea of Clouds,’ on some distant gas giant searching for exotic alien life forms to sell to collectors.

But that’s not the plot of the movie.  Instead it’s about Elysse, the daughter of a scientist who was working on a gravity belt (the device that allows people to live on the gas giant).  The scientist tried to sabotage his own work when he found out it would be used for military purposes and died while helping Elysse escape.

Luckily, Elysse ran into Tita in a market, thus bringing the pet shop hunters a new mission.

Plasitic Little is a 50 minute one-shot OAV, that pretty much gets right down to business, which in this case is the business of showing topless ladies and explosions.  The story is simple, but not bad.  There’s a bit of a mystery, an escalation of threat, a mix of fast and slow scenes, and some nice action set pieces.  Given that it’s a very short film, the plot is pretty respectable.

Characters, likewise, are one-dimensional, but effective for their purpose.  Tita is competent leader when necessary, but prone to over-sleeping and self-conscious over her small bust size.  She became captain when the previous captain, her father, disappeared. There’s some sense that the crew, inherited from her father, stay on out of a sense of loyalty, or perhaps a need to protector her in place of their deceased friend.

Tita’s missing father, and the adoption of his work gives her a connection to Elysse, who is in a similar situation.

The OAV was created by Satoshi Urushihara, a manga artist who is famous for the way be draws women, which is kind of shiny and perfect.  Also, he puts far more effort into drawing nipples than anyone else in the industry.

Review: This Boy Can Fight Aliens

This Boy Can Fight Aliens.jpgThis Boy Can Fight Aliens

This boy can fight aliens, in thirty minutes or less.

This Boy Can Fight Aliens is a 30-or-so minute short film produced by CoMix Wave, which hit gold in recent years by distributing the solo-works of animator Makoto Shinkai (Voices of a Distant Star).  This, too, was the product (mostly) of one person, a woman named Soubi Yamamoto.

Because of its length, there’s not too much I can say about the movie without giving away the whole plot.  Basically, aliens have come to Earth, and each day they send down one organism to fight a particular boy, Kakashi.  Kakashi has lost his memory and was taken in by two government agents, the feminine Arikawa, and the older male supervisor he lives with for some reason, Shiro.

Now knowing what his life is like, and if he has anything worth fighting for, Kakashi begins to question his motivation in fighting the aliens.  That’s a suitable enough premise for a short film, but it doesn’t resonate too well because the alien fights aren’t shown to be particularly difficult for the boy.  If he were truly suffering, then the question of going on would be just; as it is, he just comes off a little selfish and lazy.  The three characters are well-defined but aren’t developed much; again, this is largely a function of run time.  The resolution is a bit of a deus ex machina, although it does ties everything together more-or-less satisfactorily.

The animation is very limited.  There’s a lot of panning over still images and endlessly repeated short cycles (like grass blowing back and forth).  The coloring is done in a ridiculously-flashy way, with glowing (and sometimes moving) patterns, which serve somewhat to hide the faults in the basic movement.  Stylistically, it looks a lot like His and Her Circumstances, with its lanky characters, mix of styles, and mountains of text.

This Boy Can Fight Aliens is nice for what it is; just keep your expectations in check, there’s only so much you can do in 30 minutes.  The Blu Ray from Sentai Filmworks looks good.  Video is unaltered (with Japanese titles and credits).  Extras include three, even shorter films from the same director.

Review: Conan The Adventurer

Conan the Adventurer.jpgConan The Adventurer

Conan is a work of modern mythology.  The character, created by Robert E. Howard, was created in the early ’30s, and follows a barbarian as he travels with his friends and kills monsters.  It takes place in a made up era called the Hyborian Age, which is after the fall of Atlantis, but before the rise of ancient world as we know it.  It mixes recognizable ancient history with magic and monsters, not unlike Greek Mythology.

Conan The Adventurer is a Saturday morning take on the story.  It’s somewhat sanitized, but the setting and sense of wonder shine through.  Conan is a very civilized ‘barbarian’ in this series.  He’s helpful, he protects animals, he doesn’t kill anyone.  And yet, it still comes across that he’s a warrior, relying more on brute strength than strategy or training.  He’s a little out of place compared to the rest of the Hyborian civilizations, who have developed large cities and pants.

The plot of the series is that a ‘serpent-man’ wizard, Wrath-Amon, is trying to collect ‘star metal,’ which he will use to release his serpent-god Set.  Conan and friends all have weapons made out of star metal, the weapons having been fashioned by Conan’s father, and sold at market (it just so happens that those that bought it were brave, strong, and just).  Wrath-Amon comes to Conan’s village to get the star metal his father was selling, and failing to find any, turns Conan’s family to stone.  Thus, Conan sets off to defeat Wrath-Amon and find a cure.

One of the examples of sanitation comes with how the serpent-men are dispatched.  When touched by star metal, a vortex opens above the serpent-man, sucking him into the other dimension which currently houses Set (there’s even a scene in which Set tells Wrath-Amon that the serpent-men are with him, lest the children watching worry what happened to them).

The Hyborian Age draws influences from much of the ancient world.  There are barbarians, of course, as wells as Veniermen (vikings) , the Wasai (and African tribe), and something like the Romans and Egyptians.  It makes for an engaging setting.  The familiar cultures keep it from getting bogged down in made-up minutia, as many fantasy worlds do, while at the same time, the ancient world has a kind of mythical quality to it by its nature.  Its a world you want to explore and see more of.

There’s a punctuated continuity to the series.  All the characters are introduced one at a time, and then show up in random combinations to accompany Conan on one of his quests.  It’s clear that some episodes take place in a certain order, but there are a number of stand alone ones as well.

Accepting the constraints of Saturday morning TV in the ’90s, Conan is a well developed series that respects its audience.  The wonder and adventure of the original Conan stories are carried through to the series, even without the sex and violence.

All in all, it’s an enjoyable show that holds up very well for those who watched it as a child.

Review: Decadent Evil

Decadent Evil.jpgDecadent Evil

The official run time of Decadent Evil is 67 minutes, but the end credits start at the 59 minute mark.  Add to that two or three minute long opening credits and the seven or eight minutes of reused footage from an earlier movie called Vampire Journals, and you’re not left with much time to develop anything of great depth.

A red dressed woman named Morella leads a vampire clan consisting of two subordinate vampire girls who work as strippers.  They’re named Sugar and Spyce (with a ‘y’).  There is some kind of vampire legend that says if a vampire can kill 10,000 people and ingest their souls, they will become a super-vampire with invincibility and the power  to control other vampires.  Soon after the start of the film, Morella needs just three more.

Morella used to be in love with a human, but he cheated on her, so she turned him into a homunclous, which she explains is a prehistoric half-man/half-reptile (though I only have a layman’s knowledge of evolutionary theory, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t represent a part of our history).  For a character with such a prominent role, the puppet they made for him is rather cheap and unconvincing, which makes it hard to sympathize with him later on.

Her failed relationships of the past have made her bitter, so Morella is upset to learn that Sugar has fallen for a young human man and orders her to call it off.  Morella is hard to understand.  If she were simply evil and power-mad, why not force Sugar to bring her boyfriend to the house to be the next victim?  It’s like she wants to protect Sugar’s feelings, but that’s not trait worthy of an evil vampire.  But then, no one’s motivations in the movie are considered that deeply, everyone seems to be moved by base emotions, instinct, or the needs of the plot.

Into this mix comes Ivan, played by Phil Fondacaro, a vampire hunter who shares a past with Morella.

I don’t have anything particularly bad to say about the movie.  The acting is fine, the plot is serviceable.  But the fact that it’s only about 50 minutes long prevents anything from being developed.  The characters aren’t so much people as they are tools to move the plot forward.

Ivan wants revenge, Morella wants power, Spyce (I’m not sure what she wants), and Dex and Sugar are in love.  That’s all we really learn about any of the cast.  And we don’t even learn it so much as we are simply told it.  We never really see anyone being ‘human’ and thus, we never connect with any of them.

Once again, director Charles Band has produced a competent but undistinguished effort.  There’s a few neat twists to the vampire genre, but a short run time and pervasive shallowness keep Decadent Evil from ever becoming special.

Review: AD Police

737187005091.jpgAD Police

What is a human?  Is it defined by one’s body, or emotions?  If one replaces his or her body with a machine, are they human still?  And if a pure machine developed emotions, does it remain just a machine?  These are the questions underpinning AD Police, a three-episode OAV series set in a near future where technology is developing far faster than humans are able to adapt to it.

AD Police is a prequel to Bubblegum Crisis, a series about four women who don mechanical suits to fight crimes involving Boomers (humanoid robots with varying degrees of realism).  The AD Police are the official, government-sanctioned force tasked with the same goal; though with only machine guns and light armour, they aren’t as effective at it.

BGC features a romantic subplot between one of the Knight Sabers (the four women) and an AD Police officer named Leon McNichol.  AD Police follows Leon’s days as a rookie and his veteran partner, Jeena Malso.  Despite being the protagonists and appearing in every episode, we don’t really get to know them that well.  The series feels more like an anthology, with each episode spending more time on its guest stars than on the central cast.  Leon and Jeena spend most of each episode working in the background.  It’s kind of a shame, because what we do see of Jeena is interesting.  Compared to most anime heroines, she’s very mature and somewhat jaded.  She’s an actual, believable adult woman.

Each of the three episodes deals with a different level of human/machine integration.  The first involves an android that was used in the sex trade that seems to develop emotions (albeit, negative ones).  The second is about a woman who has had some of her organs replaced, and no longer feels like a whole person.  The third is about a man who has his entire body replaced, save his brain and tongue, and is now becoming detached from humanity.

On a superficial level, AD Police is a satisfying action/procedural show.  The crimes are interesting, and the investigation is well-paced with a logical solution.  But what makes this show special is its introspective side.  The producers clearly spent time hashing out what a world with advanced robotics would look like, and how that technology would affect people; not only only practically, but also emotionally.  It’s that rare breed of hard science fiction that actually requires you to think.

This OAV series is dark; not only thematically, but also in its visual style.  Most of it takes place at night, and everything looks dark and murky.  It’s almost as if the city the story takes place in has become a giant mechanical body that everyone is trapped in.  The animation of is fairly high quality, as most OAVs from the ’80s were (back then, the producers thought they had to put effort into these things to get fans to buy them.  Now they just pump out something cheap and empty, knowing that they fans will clamour to get it).

Review: Buried Alive

Buried Alive Movie.jpgBuried Alive

Dumb college kids go to a remote cabin and are hunted down by a monster.

Zane’s ancestors used to own a gold mine; but despite taking millions of dollars worth of metal out of the ground, the money never materialized.  It seems that great grandpa mined the gold only to hide it away somewhere.  Zane, who has mental problems and was just kicked out of college, thinks that finding the gold is his best hope for the future.

Rene, Zane’s cousin, with whom he shares a near-incestuous closeness embarks with him on a road trip to the family mine (though she doesn’t know his true intent).  They take with them Danny, Rene’s terrible boyfriend; Phil, the computer nerd who Zane conscripted to research his grandfather (because Googling something requires the rarified intelligence that only a geek can provide) and two dumb girls (dressed as a cow and dog) who are pledging to Rene’s sorority.

Cow is the dumbest of the lot.  In an early scene, she’s shown to be unable to distinguish between live and stuffed animals, even after petting them.  She has a sex scene shortly thereafter which just comes off as creepy and exploitative given her issues.  Rene, likewise, creepily orders her to undress several times, and you can’t help but think, ‘Rene’s a bitch, I hope she dies soon.’

I’m not quite sure what the plot is.  I take it the grandfather’s first wife was ‘buried alive,’ then came back as a ghost, killed his family, and continues to kill his ancestors (and anyone else that happens to be around).  The one thing that can stop her is a Native American totem symbol, which is carved into a necklace once owned by wife number one, and now by Rene, and also happens to be tattooed on the back of Dog’s neck (which we discover during a lengthy scene in which she dances in her underwear).  Dog is the only remotely likeable character in the movie; her only real character flaw is that she associates with such awful people.

The ghost kills with an ax, usually cutting people in half.  The effects are graphic, but I’m not sure if they’re anatomically accurate (there’s just a lot of indistinguishable red stuff inside the kids).

Buried Alive looks okay, the acting is tolerable, and the make-up is detailed (if not always believable); but the story is underdeveloped, and the characters are mostly just annoying.

Review: Call Girl of Cthulhu

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 6.41.25 PM.pngThe producers of Call Girl of Cthulhu raised a little over $25,000 on Kickstarter to make this movie; and I think the backers got their money’s worth.

The movie is about a virginal artist named Carter Wilcox who falls for an escort, Riley Whatley.  Said escort is unfortunately also being pursued by a cult who wants her to mate with Cthulhu. Carter himself gets dragged into the fight when a couple of cult fighters enlist him and his art skills in their plan.

The plot moves along briskly as the multiple storylines weave together into an ending that is very satisfying, with some nice and unexpected twists along the way.

A terrible person might watch this movie and then whine about it not reaching the technical standards of Infinity War; but the fact is, it’s a fun, entertaining movie made by people that clearly cared about delivering on their promise.

It’s a light-hearted movie, though maybe a little too cute at times – my wife noticed that every scene change was prefaced by a line of dialogue that referenced the next scene. i.e. ‘we have to close the door!’ is followed by a shot of a door closing. It’s not laugh out loud funny, but it’s pleasant.

The characters are likeable and well developed.  The acting is pretty good as well (another observation from my wife – the director must have a thing for girls with short brown hair).

The effects, mostly practical, are quite well done; especially the monster at the end.  Even the cult’s costumes, while very cheap and simple, are none-the-less evocative and believable.

Call Girl of Cthulhu was recently released on Blu-ray by Camp Motion Pictures and looks wonderful.

Review: Don’t Answer the Phone

2a94a8ac0b1e76bde2c295f42e4b239b.jpgKirk Smith is an amateur photographer.  He works mostly in the genre of fetish porn.  At the end of each shoot, he strangles and sexually assaults his models (which is never shown in the movie, only talked about).

As someone who’s done a lot of nude photoshoots, I can attest that most shoots do not end that way.  A handshake and a ‘thank you’ is sufficient for most people.  Of course, there are creepy photographers out there; so the character of Kirk Smith is not completely without grounding.

The title of this movie, on the other hand, makes not sense what-so-ever.  The only time the phone comes into play in the story is when Kirk calls a radio psychologist, Lindsay Gale, to brag about his kills.  The phone calls lead the police directly to the killer, so really, she damn well SHOULD answer the phone.

Don’t Answer the Phone is essentially a slasher film, but with very little on-screen slashing (well, I guess there’s on-screen strangling).  Kirk drives around town looking for victims; some are models, others just random women in their homes, all of whom find an excuse to get topless prior to dying.  Meanwhile, the police (two dull, forgettable detectives) track him down with some little help from Lindsay.

Since the killer is introduced to us in the first scene, there’s no suspense or mystery to the story.  It’s just a 94 minute exercise in who he will kill next, and when the police will stop him.

Don’t Answer the Phone is utilitarian horror – it checks all the necessary boxes, but brings nothing notable or exceptional to the table.  The Blu-ray, lovingly produced by Vinegar Syndrome, is great, though.

Review: Casshan: Robot Hunter

A1MRbAe5uML._SL1500_.jpgEastern Star

Japanese comics are often noted for their wide breadth of subject matter, in contrast to the superhero-heavy comics found in America.  But just as America has many non-super comics, Japan has its own breed of super hero; though the genre doesn’t seem to have evolved all that much over there.

There’s a remarkable lack of variety to be found in Japanese superheroes.  If you’ve seen any of the variations of Power Rangers, you know all the basics.  Either one or a team of people in skin-tight bodysuits with a symbol on the front and a helmet of some kind fight monsters using technology-enhanced martial arts.  Kamen Rider, UltraMan, they’re all the same; and so is Casshan.

The four episode OAV picks up four years after robots have taken over the Earth.  They’re very ‘human’ robots, with individual personalities and emotions.  It kind of makes you wonder if the guy who created the series knows what a robot is; at the very least, he clearly didn’t put any thought into developing the villains for this series.  It should be noted that this is a remake of an older TV series, so the this time around the producers are a little more self aware.  For instances, the robots keep humans alive for use as slave labor, which leads to a debate between the robot commanders as to why, since keeping them alive uses up resources that outweigh their value.

Casshan, we learn, is the son of the man who invented the leader of the evil robots, Black King Boss; though he never intended it to be evil.  To make up for his father’s sins, Casshan becomes part robot; and in doing so gains the power to fight back.  We don’t get a clear picture of what exactly his change entailed.  He has a human face and seemingly human body, but he’s stronger than the average man.  He says that he can never go back; but then in the last episode says he’ll return as Tetsuya, his human alter-ego.

I suppose his parental history can be considered character development, but it’s fairly shallow.  Beyond that, Casshan is a fairly blank slate.  Ironically, he’s more ‘robotic’ than the robots he fights.  His sidekicks are Luna, his childhood friend turned resistance fighter, and a robot dog named Friender.  There’s also a robot swan that gives him advice from time to time. These are all standard cliches that you’ll find in any show of this genre; there’s really nothing unique about Casshan, and the execution is utilitarian.  It’s a straight-forward homage to the classic Japanese superhero; whether you’ll enjoy it or not depends on what you think of the source material.

Review: 976-EVIL 2

I haven’t seen the original, but from what I gather, it’s about an evil psychic hot-line which grants people the knowledge and power to make their dreams come true, but at a horrible cost.

In this sequel, the dean of a community college is given the power of astral projection, which he uses to kill people.

The dean’s motivation is kind of confusing.  In the opening scene, he uses his powers to kill a girl in the shower room (which is a beautifully executed ’80s slasher movie sequence, by the way).  Then, he uses his astral projection powers to kill the witnesses, or anyone trying to stop him, while locked away in his jail cell.

Because his actions were so practical (only killing people that got in his way) the dean wasn’t all the threatening.  He’s not a maniacal slasher that can kill anyone at any moment, he’s just a guy to be avoided.

976-EVIL 2‘s horror sequences aren’t scary.  Much like Prom Night 2, 976 takes the weirdness of Nightmare on Elm Street, but lacks the creepy villain to ground it and make it feel genuinely dangerous.  Instead, we’re just left with a prankster ghost who makes refrigerator doors open menacingly.  ‘Horror’ isn’t just a dangerous situation, it’s the sense of dread that accompanies it.

There are some nice, creative sequences, though.  The aforementioned shower-chase scene is one, and there is also a very cleaver mash-up of Night of the Living Dead and It’s a Wonderful Life.  Again, neither scene is horrific, but they do look good, and display a lot more effort than normally goes into to this kind of movie.

The dashing hero of the film is a leather-clad biker named Spike.  I take it he was in the first movie as well.  He isn’t very interesting, though he’s slightly amusing as a walking cliche to be laughed at.  I think they could have replaced him with a cowboy who rode a horse all over town and he would have fit into the rest of the movie just as well as leather-biker-man does.

Joining Spike in his war against the dean is Robin, the blond screamer that also adds nothing in particular to the story.

976-EVIL 2 is a run-of-the-mill, direct-to-video horror movie sequel.  It has a few creative touches, and is competently produced, acted, and directed.  On the other hand, it isn’t scary at all.  The villain is dull and the underlying evil is mostly disregarded.

Review: Grave Mistake

Produced, Written, and Directed by Shawn Darling.  Starring Shawn Darling.  Editing, Makeup, and Soundtrack by Shawn Darling.

Grave Mistake opens with a drunken fat man dumping chemicals on a few graves, which were placed in the middle of the desert for some reason.  The drunk man then goes home to abuse his child, Alex (Seth Darling), at least physically; though there’s an air of sexual perversion as he beats his son.  I’m not sure if that’s intentional, or just something the actor brought to the roll.

The ‘hero’ is Mike Shaw, a cowardly mechanic.  There’s a scene where he’s talking to the drunk man and mutters ‘beaten any kids lately?’ and when the drunk asks ‘what did you say?’ Shaw bravely responds, ‘nothing.  I was talking to my car.’  Yes, that’s our hero.

Mike Shaw used to be a Navy Seal or something, but he left because something happened and he now feels responsible for killing his squad; but that storyline doesn’t really go anywhere.  If my description sounds vague, just remember that I finished watching the movie five minutes ago and this is all I remember from it.

There’s not a lot of understanding of character arc or emotion.  People react in superficial ways to tragedy, but there are no lasting repressions.  For instance,  a woman’s son turns into a zombie and Mike kills him.  In the next scene, he asks her how she is, and she cries and says she’s sad because he killed her son, but she knows it had to be done.  And then the next line is, ‘so what did you do before you a mechanic?’  As if that would be the first question on her mind and not, ‘are we going to live?’ or ‘where did all these zombies come from?’ or ‘you killed my son, F$@# off!’

The makeup and special effects are actually pretty good, and satisfyingly graphic.  There are some gory scenes of people being eaten alive, and body parts being removed in a variety of ways.

As a movie, its mediocre, with a vapid story and horrendous acting.  As a show reel for someone’s makeup effect work, it’s worthy of an internship.

Hmm, this review needs a stupid, quotable pun.  I know:  Watching this movie would be a Grave Mistake!  Ha!

Review: The Vampire Lovers

Scream Factory (Blu-ray)

Hammer Films, famous for its costume drama gothic horror, decided to sex-up its offering with this film, the first in a loosely-connected ‘Karnstein Trilogy,’ based on the 1872 novella Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, which predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by a full 25 years, tells of a female vampire named Carmilla, who preys on a series of young girls.  At its heart, it’s story of isolation.  Specifically that of Laura, a girl who lives with her father, a retired general, in a castle in the forests of Austria.  As the novella opens, Laura learns that another young girl who was to visit her has suddenly died under mysterious circumstances.  Laura is heartbroken, since this other girl was her only hope for a friend and human companionship.

It is when Laura is at her weakest that Carmilla arrives.

Carmilla seduces the girl, but not in a strictly sexual way (though it’s implied about as strongly as a 19th century novel can).  Carmilla is worldly, mature, and confident; the opposite of Laura in every way; and she shows Laura affection (the only true affection she has ever received from someone who wasn’t required to like her).  The combination is intoxicating, and soon Laura falls to the strange girl’s charms.

Hammer’s adaptation doesn’t really delve into the more interesting aspects of Laura’s character; the loneliness that grooms her for the vampire.   Instead, Laura (and the second girl, Emma) are merely generic ‘innocents;’ whilst Carmilla (or Mircalla) is the ‘bad’ girl.  Hammer productions have always had a slight ‘morality play’ aspect to them; and the virgin/whore dichotomy of the two female leads comes from that tradition.  The characters are fine and well-acted; but the movie could have been so much more if Hammer had drawn more out of the original story.

The Vampire Lovers tends to jump around a lot.  Carmilla’s encounter with the first girl (the one only revealed in a letter in the original novella) is presented in full, basically killing the surprise reveal at the end.  At the same time, the slow build-up of the original, as Carmilla’s true nature comes into focus, is largely skipped over; she shows up and is sucking girls off within minutes.  Basically, anything that would serve to build tension or create mystery has been stripped away.

Aside from the addition of some light girl-on-girl frolicking; The Vampire Lovers sits very comfortably within Hammer’s oeuvre.  It has the same look and feel as all their other films; and the ‘adult’ aspects of the movie are handled with class and subtlety.  It’s sure to satisfy hardcore Hammer fans, as well as those that find the studio’s earlier work to be a little too family-friendly.

Review: Yokai Girls, Volume 1

Ghost Ship

Yokai Girls is one of the first titles to be released by Seven Sea’s mature imprint, Ghost Ship. ‘Mature’ in this case means a lot of nudity and revealing outfits.  It’s essentially a harem series; one guy plus many women.  The women, however, are yokai (monster) girls; a set up which has become just as cliche in recent years as the harem itself.

That said, Yokai Girls manages to be a bit better than the average monster girl series.  The characters are more likeable, and the world they inhabit is more interesting. The Yokai have a backstory (somewhat reminiscent of American Gods); and each of the yokai girls has their own motivation that extends a bit beyond a one-dimensional character trait. As an added bonus, it’s set in Akihabara, which is cool to see since it reminds me of my visit there.

With most harem series, it feels like characters are added to check off a list of romantic archetypes – the serious woman, the drunk woman, the ninja woman, etc.  The characters in Yokai Girls, while still being archetypes to some extent, at least help to drive the plot and change the course of the protagonist’s life in material ways.

The art is above average as well.  While not stylistic or unique, it’s highly refined and easy to follow.

If you like standard manga harem comedies, and want a step up from Monster Musume, Yokai Girls might be what you’re looking for.  It doesn’t break new ground, but it does what it does pretty well.