Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Netflix Instant Marathon: 3 Days, 8 Movies

Usually when I'm browsing Netflix I feel the same way I do when I'm in a restaurant with a huge menu: I can never decide what I want because there are so many damn options. Sometimes I'll skim through the catalogue for half an hour unable to pick and finally just get annoyed and end up not watching anything at all. Where do all of these movies even come from? Why do they make so many of them? Do any of these things actually make money? I suppose they do or else they wouldn't be making so many, but considering these days thousands upon thousands of independent horror films are released, it couldn't be all that much. Wading through all of these mysterious titles to find the few gems out there can also be downright frustrating. There's a lot of sheer mediocrity out there, which is mostly what I experienced in my random marathon of films, but I stuck them all out until the bitter end... 
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Abandoned Mine (2013; Jeff Chamberlain)
On Halloween night, a high school jock named Brad (Reiley McClendon) decides to take his girlfriend Sharon (Alexa Vega) and three of their other friends into an abandoned, supposedly haunted mine where many died years earlier. Predictability ensues with banal dialogue, unconvincing emoting, inappropriate use of condiments during lame practical jokes and too-slow-to-get-started-and-then-not-much supernatural shenanigans. Upon this film's release, numerous supporters, who may very well be production company sock puppets from the sounds of their glowing posts, kept flooding message boards praising this as a great horror flick for teenagers. In actuality, it's more like a great horror flick for parents who don't want their kids watching real horror films. Though there's little objectionable material here, teenagers, if anyone, will likely be bored senseless as this has no gore, no profanity, no sex and nothing else they want to see. It also happens to have no real scares, no creepy moments, no suspense, a corny ending and is filled with cheap attempts to disorient the viewer by toying around with the timeline and repeating things over and over again to make up for the lack of plot. The portrayal of an Indian supporting character is slightly offensive and it's a muddled bore regardless of how old you are. [USA]  1/2
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Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader (2012; Kevin O'Neill)
Cassie Stratford (Jena Sims) is an unpopular, nerdy college girl with acne, greasy hair and big glasses. Her comically awful mother (Sean Young) is pushing her to become both a cheerleader and sorority girl or else she won't pay for her tuition. Cassie doesn't quite cut it at either, so she takes a pink experimental drug that ends up making her beautiful... but it has a few side effects Allison Hayes, Daryl Hannah and J.J. North already know all about. Cassie soon finds herself stealing a bikini off a giant blow-up display, bathing in swimming pools and crouching down inside a gymnasium hoping her lab partner (Ryan Merriman) can come up with an antidote. This is one of those purposely stupid, silly films that doesn't take itself seriously at all and it's just OK entertainment for B movie fans. The CGI effects (including a giant spider) and much of the acting is awful, but there are a few dumb laughs and Sims, Olivia Alexander (as a bitchy sorority queen bee who also gets injected with the drug) and Anne McDaniels show ample skin for your viewing pleasure. Treat Williams has a co-starring role as a doctor who gets to yodelayheehoo into the heroine's cavernous vagina. There are also brief cameos from the likes of Ted Raimi (another doctor), Mary Woronov (sorority house mother), John Landis (professor) and producer Roger Corman (college dean) for the faithful. Highlight: the nude 50 foot cat fight on a football field, no doubt. [USA]  ★★
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Cheerleader Massacre 2 (2011; Brad Rushing)
Two rival teams - the cleverly-titled red team and blue team - are slated for a competition at a secluded cheerleading camp where a 10 thousand dollar college scholarship is at stake. Meanwhile, some mechanical flying devices with differing abilities have somehow been unleashed into the woods and do the cast in one by one. And what a cast it is! Excluding a dozen skimpily-attired bimbos, we also get a creepy groundskeeper, a pervy camp owner, three cheerleading coaches, a pair of cops, a trio of dumb boys trying to sneak into the camp for some action, a female news reporter and her crew and numerous others. In fact, there are so many damn people in this movie the director can't even kill them all off in 75 minutes even though six die in in the pre-credits sequence alone. There's a ton of nudity, including three shower scenes, two sex scenes and topless sunbathing. Some scenes of nudity (like a large-breasted redhead who speaks in an extremely bizarre Euro monotone like some Hungarian valley girl) seem to have been grafted on at a later point and have nothing to do with the plot. The CGI is laughably awful, as is the acting, dialogue and the killer's motive, but the idea of robots flying around laying waste to a bunch of half-naked airheads puts a smile on my face and I wasn't at all bored while watching this. So while this isn't good at all, it's bad in a good way. Bring on Cheerleader Camp 3, I say! [USA]  1/2  SBIG
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Devil's Pass (2013; Renny Harlin)
In 1959, nine members of a skiing expedition were found dead in Russia's Ural Mountain weeks after the fact. A later investigation revealed that they had ripped their way out of their tent and fled into the snow barefoot for some undetermined reason which has caused a lot of speculation from conspiracy theorists over the years whose theories run the gamut from an avalanche to wild animals to aliens to Yeti and to the Russian government murdering them because they stumbled upon something they shouldn't have. This film uses that real life mystery as a basis for a found footage horror shot from the first person camera perspective of the characters. What an original concept! A female psychology student, a student director, a boom operator and two experienced hikers travel to Russia and hike to the spot of the Dyatlov Pass Incident where they encounter avalanches, a couple of armed government agents, a secret underground military lab, skinny mutant monsters with shaky faces and the ability to teleport and, finally, a time travel wormhole. The characters are unlikable and the acting and dialogue are surprisingly bad considering this film actually had enough of a budget for on-location filming, which makes the first talky hour or so extremely tough to get through. This does become slightly more interesting toward the end but by then they'd already pretty much lost me. I also found it rather distasteful to use still photos of the actual corpses of those killed in 1959 to open this film. [Russia, UK, USA]  ★★
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Exit to Hell (2013; Robert Conway)
Man, I am so sick of these current throwback "grindhouse" flicks. The fake film grain and scratches added in post production, the purposely choppy editing, the constant jumps and split second flash-forward snippets so our ADD-racked minds don't stray... Guess what filmmakers? This has already been done hundreds of times. It's not clever. It's not stylish. It's not novel. It's just tired and copycat, makes you look like a bargain Tarantino wannabe and really does nothing to actually improve your film. Enough already. It's a shame in this case because this film otherwise has a few things going for it. After shooting up a Russian gangster's strip club and fleeing with a bag of cash, four criminals headed toward Mexico take a wrong turn and end up in a small Arizona town where everyone seems a little bit off their rocker Two-Thousand Maniacs-style. The town is resided over by Sheriff Sickle (Kane Hodder), who slaughters bad folks and then cannibalizes them with his son and obese wife. There's not a moment in here or a stylistic choice that hasn't been cribbed directly from another film, the direction, editing and camerawork are often massively distracting and every single character is unlikable. On the plus side, there's gore and nudity, Hodder isn't bad in his role, Dustin Leighton and Tiffany Shepis do the best they can as two of the criminals and there's a standout role for Dan Higgins as a gas station attendant. The film falls short of its potential simply because the the director is so infatuated with "style" he neglects the story. The who, why and how are all extremely vague. Filmed in the Spring of 2009 under the title Sickle, this took until the end of 2013 to get a DVD release. [USA]  ★★
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Midnight Movie (2008; Jack Messitt)
Clearly influenced by Demons (1985), Anguish (1987) and Popcorn (1991), this supernatural slasher flick set in a movie theater is acceptable within its own limited parameters. Bridget (Rebekah Brandes) is the put upon manager of a cinema who's planning on screening a black-and-white horror flick from the 70s by a long-forgotten director named Ted Radford (Arthur Roberts) at midnight. Years earlier, Radford had gone crazy and was stuck in an insane asylum where everyone else was mysteriously slaughtered. Ted however was not among the bodies found and may still be on the loose. Well, never mind that. What unspools for us here isn't the tale of a mad director per se but of the mad director's creation. The killer on screen (a guy in a skull mask and some hand-held giant corkscrew) materializes in the theater and goes on a "real" murder spree. His murders even magically show up on the screen as part of the older movie. Granted much of the acting is amateurish and the plot hasn't been thought through all that well, this is fast-paced, performed with enthusiasm by the cast and is entertaining (and bloody) enough for slasher flick fans. [USA]  ★★1/2
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100 Bloody Acres (2012; Cameron Cairnes and Colin Cairnes)
*PICK OF THE LITTER* The Morgan Brothers, Reg (Damon Herriman) and Lindsay (Angus Sampson), have a successful organic fertilizer business with a product capable of growing gigantic vegetables. Their secret ingredient? Roadkill. The siblings don't limit that to just dead animals either and have no issue snatching humans up from accident sites if they can get to them before the cops can. Hoping to improve their fertilizer even more, their next scheme is to drain fresh potassium from live humans. Reg stumbles upon a trio of young folks having car problems, takes them back to their secluded farm, ties them up and demonstrates their patented meat grinder. Troubles arise when Reg starts having second thoughts about what they're doing and finds himself having feelings for the lone female captive (Anna McGahan), who's not quite happy with her current love life, anyway. This medium budget backwoods Aussie effort - more a comedy with gore than a horror-comedy - is well made, well acted, nicely photographed and edited, breezy with the pacing, light on the tone and entertaining for the most part. There's enough enthusiasm on display to mostly overcome the threadbare plot, though some cliché drug humor seems out of place and the aggressive attempts to be quirky and charming seem forced and calculated at times. That said, this was easily the best film from my marathon. John Jarratt (Wolf Creek) has a fun cameo as a police officer. [Australia]  
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Zombie Night (2013; John Gulager)
After starting this and seeing the production company was "The Asylum," I automatically set my expectations low. Good thing, too, as this film is infested with annoying boneheads doing moronic things simply to advance the nearly nonexistent plot. Speaking of plot; I couldn't really find one here. Zombies rise from their graves, attack a town and people scurry around trying to avoid being killed. That's it. There's no explanation behind the zombie plague and there's also no explanation for why the zombies "die" when the sun comes up. The film moves along at a brisk pace, has plenty of action, highly variable makeups and gore (some of the CGI blood splatters are terrible) and the acting from the leads (Anthony Michael Hall, Daryl Hannah, Alan Ruck) is acceptable. What drags this down are the characters, including a whiny blind mother (Shirley Jones!) who won't shut the fuck up until a bullet is put into her head, a horrible little brat whose retarded actions get several people needlessly killed and a couple of teens glued to their cell phones and moping around over one another for an hour. At one point, a small group of survivors - knowing they only have to survive a few hour until morning - have full access to a safe room but then leave the house for no reason whatsoever. Director Gulager (the son of actor Clu) also made the Feast films. [USA]  ★★
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Thanks for reading.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cheerleader Massacre 2: Been wanting to see this, if only because I find the concept of wannabe Sentinel Spheres killing cheerleaders intriguing. Plus, there's not that many killer robot slashers.

Midnight Movie: Despite all the problems, I liked this one, especially the final girl.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

CM2 was pretty hilarious. I still need to see the original!

Midnight Movie wasn't bad at all. I enjoyed it more than many 80s slasher "classics" I've seen actually.

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