Sunday, September 26, 2010

Road Kill 2010



This kind of place does strange things to people.

Tempers flair and animosity boils over as four friends get lost in the outback, not only dealing with each other's increasing hostility but the knowledge that a big rig driver with a gun is somewhere near. The ultimate villain is the Road Train, a giant monster diesel with two haulers containing something mysterious. This rig, however, runs on a unique kind of fuel and seems to possess anyone who remains near it for too long.



The hood ornament for the Road Train is a cerebus, three headed wolves splitting into three directions..as a particular character "falls under the rig's spell", we see the image of three wolves with glowing eyes of blood red.

Craig(Bob Morley, quite menacing once he's under the truck's power, a charming smile masking evil intent)has slept with his best friend, Marcus'(Xavier Samuel; TWILIGHT:ECLIPSE)current girlfriend, Liz(Georgina Haig)which continues to produce unease between them. Nina(Sophie Lowe)truly loves Craig, but as the group's terrifying situation escalates due to being stuck in the middle of the outback with no food or water, their relationship becomes strained.

It all begins when the diesel truck almost drives them off the road and Craig retaliates at Liz's urging by passing it. The truck drives their jeep off the road until the vehicle flips multiple times breaking Craig's right arm. Weakened, Craig is quite vulnerable and getting worse with no medical attention. Marcus and Liz notice that the diesel has been abandoned and the four confiscate it with devastating results.

ROAD KILL is a weird movie which doesn't necessarily explain how the truck forces Craig(and the psychotic driver before him)to turn on his friends, seemingly under control of an evil force. We see the grisly method which fuels the big rig and how Craig feeds it. We see that Craig preys on Liz's inability to resist him, and Nina becomes the heroine of the film, trying to survive when everyone turns against her. The presence of the big rig is what I consider ROAD KILL's greatest asset, it's an intimidating monster machine.



The bizarre story framework around it never made much sense to me, but I was certainly absorbed in Nina's fight for survival as Craig becomes the truck's Reinfeld, supplying it with what it needs to keep moving down the highway. Craig's goal is simple, provide the truck with nourishment and let no one stand in his way. Nina becomes an obstacle and this puts her life in danger. I guess you could say the truck is a vampire and Craig is it's slave..but willing slave as Craig seems more than happy to find fresh victims for it. The Australian Outback once again is utilized effectively as a backdrop to the developing horror show, desolate and expansive, endless and vast.



Nina and Liz remain at odds throughout, probably because both have a sexual interest in Craig, although the latter acknowledges Marcus as her boyfriend. The behavior of the cast, once the jeep crash occurs and they are propelled into a harrowing ordeal, does add a strange vibe as we see turmoil and angst only worsen their plight..Craig's change over the course of the movie actually the motivator behind the madness which ensues.

Hunger 2010




Lori Heuring stars as a doctor trapped in a well along with other selected victims, chosen for a madman's human behavior experiments to determine how they will contend with having no food, their bodies desire for sustenance slowly demanding nourishment. Linden Ashby, Joe Egender, Lea Kohl, and Julian Rojas round out the cast of suffering humans, Bjorn Johnson the psychopath monitoring them. Heuring explains to us in one scene, in detail, how the body will slowly deteriorate, the organs cannibalizing inside before total break down, starvation, and death. Bjorn Johnson's motivation derives from an incident when he was a child, eating from his dead mother in order to survive. Johnson will see if this group would do the same. Attempts to escape and reason how to get out of the well give way to anguish, fear, sickness, and mania.



When a couple, choosing an area near the well as a make-out spot, are murdered by Johnson before they could get the trapped group help, we see that he will do whatever it takes to see that no one ruins his experiments. He wants proof that others would do the same as him in order to live(he even places a scalpel down there with them, sharp enough to skin flesh from bone). And, he is proved correct when one among them sick with a heart condition is picked to be food by the more savage ones no longer able to hunger.



It gets particularly unsettling when Huering is bound by the others so she can not interfere with their din-din, and we can hear flesh tearing and chewing. Lea Kohl, as Anna, is quite chilling when she admits, in a cold and heartless manner, how she convinced Alex(Rojas) to kill Grant(Ashby) so easily, with Jordan(Heuring) having to endure her testimony restrained.



HUNGER is one of those movies which reveals the true colors of those trapped bit by bit until each character is fully exposed. Again, as is often the case, it's a woman(in this case, Anna) who manipulates using sex and her allure as a tool of destruction. Alex's experienced cannibalism(and cabin fever)evolves into a psychosis as he rants about the essence of flesh while Luke(Egender) is given the keys to the kingdom so to speak(he has the scalpel). Essentially, Alex becomes an animal, his humanity all but gone, just a primal beast remaining. Luke is antagonistic and intolerable from the get-go, difficult to get along with. When Luke snaps, it's no surprise.

Anna's true self emerging is rather an eye-opener, although using your beauty and look of innocence as an advantage shouldn't shock anyone watching the movie, I don't think. Besides the cannibalism and bloodletting which on their own are disturbing, Johnson's enjoyment at seeing his subjects tearing themselves apart may be even more macabre. Johnson has a wall with photographs and written information about each subject proving that he took special care in which people would be trapped in his dungeon. He underestimates Jordan, though, who retains her humanity and outsmarts her monstrous peers.

It's the SAW formula made manifest once again, kidnapped characters from different backgrounds forced into a dangerous game where the one responsible for their predicament looks on from afar in a secret room as they slowly succumb to their base natures, the group trying to find an exit strategy, one by one turning on each other. "What will we do to survive," is a story arch used a lot the last seven or so years. Solid acting from a capable cast of mostly unknowns along with a twisted story give HUNGER must-see appeal for fans of the SAW films and their ilk.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Black House 2007




Jean Juno, a former banker, starts a new job working as an insurance salesman, immediately finding himself in a bit of a quandary, a client, demanding payment on the loss of his child, could have murdered his own step-son. Juno, not accepting that this little boy actually committed suicide, believing he was murdered, will attempt to prove his death was in fact a homicide. Juno is haunted by the suicide of his brother(a victim of bullies)and this has shaped him as an adult.

In regards to cold blooded female psychopaths, Shin Yi-Hwa reminded me of Béatrice Dalle from À l'intérieur and Asami Yamazaki(Eihi Shiina)of Takashi Miike's Ôdishon. She has these black soulless eyes reminiscent to Michael Meyers, there's a void where humanity should be present yet isn't. Yi-Hwa moves in a deliberate but determined manner, a crook in her walk due to a handicapped foot which bends inward. Director Terra Shin often points his camera at Yi-Hwa's feet, establishing her presence in a room approaching her quarry with evil intent.



The hero of this movie Jean Juno(Jeong-min Hwang)wants desperately to believe that Yi-Hwa is human, that she has emotions, can feel something. What we see, though, is anything but. To manipulate her unstable (third) husband to chop of his arms for insurance money(and to sew a victim's eyes shut, pulling another with a chain in front of a moving train), it's hard to accept that Yi-Hwa is human at all.

BLACK HOUSE is definitely macabre in the grandest sense as Jean Juno's insurance salesman/investigator questions whether or not Yi-Hwa's son actually committed suicide or was hung by his step-father, Park Choong-Bae(Shin-il Kang)for a 30 million dollar policy taken out only recently on the entire family. Choong-Bae was heavily in debt due to a gambling habit, only a sheet metal worker unemployed yet somehow still making the payments on the policy. Juno is a direct opposite of Yi-Hwa, his heart is pure and only wants justice for the dead boy he found hung in Choong-Bae's home. At the onset, Juno thought Yi-Hwa was in danger, but as he crusades in behalf of the fallen child, a startling discovery awakens him to the truth..it's not Choong-Bae who is the mastermind behind gaining moneys from insurance policies, but Yi-Hwa.



Warning Juno to pay up and butt out, Yi-Hwa is only concerned with the money and will kill anyone who stands in her way. Labeling Yi-Hwa as dedicated would be an understatement. Juno also inadvertently brings his beloved girlfriend, a hospital doc, Mina(Seao-hyeong Kim)into the cross-hairs of Yi-Hwa's mania. Yi-Hwa will use Mina to draw Juno into her lair, a veritable slaughterhouse where multiple victims(including an insurance investigator from Juno's company whose upper torso is hanging from hooks, eyes and mouth sown shut)and their body parts are stored.

I'm amused at how the butcher knives in horror movies nowadays resemble machetes, they're so long and gigantic, quite imposing especially when you have someone as intimidating as Yi-Hwa pressing her way towards you with only one goal in mind, burying it into her prey's body. Juno pays a price for his courage, taking his share of lumps(more like stabs)because of this pursuit to see that Yi-Hwa is stopped. Fans of horror movies about psychotics should enjoy this one.

There's a character whose role is small but important as it pertains to Yi-Hwa's downfall, a student working on a thesis about psychopaths who provides Juno some information on his subject, this research costing him his life.

I imagine that anyone who sees BLACK HOUSE will be hard pressed to forget Seon Yu's role as Yi-Hwa; she definitely leaves a lump in the throat, particularly at the end where she toys with her bleeding eye socket(Juno punctures it with a house key!)seemingly unable to feel any pain whatsoever.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sugar Boxx 2009



Director Cody Jarrett's homage to Jack Hill's women-in-prison exploitation flicks(it even features Hill in a cameo as a corrupt judge!)concerns a news journalist going undercover to undermine/shakedown a prostitution ring headed by an evil warden and her guards, using inmates as hookers to wealthy clientèle.

Aunt Irene(Jacqueline Scott)calls up news reporter Valerie March(Geneviere Anderson), known for her crusades against those in power positions using their authority to commit criminal acts. Irene's niece, Cheryl Jean(Jayme Rhae Edwards), was arrested for prostitution(not a crime which warrants an excessive prison term)and she desires for Valerie to help save her. Valerie beckons her publisher to allow her the opportunity to assume the identity of hooker named Angel, and while clashing with certain inmates, she does, albeit not without some initial resistance, befriend a prostitute named Loretta(Thela Brown; an obvious Pam Grier imitation), a tough-talking sista with attitude who fires back at anyone who raises her ire.



When her plans of rescuing Cheryl(and taking down the prison camp)backfires, Valerie decides to take matters into her own hands, instigating a prison revolt and violently resolving her issues with all those behind the abuse of authority which had even resulted in the rape and murder of inmates. Darin Cooper is Captain Greene, over the security guards, who basks in treating the prisoners with cruelty, besmirching the women with vile comments, while his equally repellent boss, Warden Beverly Buckner(Linda Dona)imbues her employees with the ability to do whatever they so desire.

SUGAR BOXX caters to a devoted crowd who like films about foul-mouthed women rising up against the despicable cretins who hold power over them, enjoying a steady diet of sleaze and vulgarity(the violence isn't particularly graphic, although the retribution is satisfying because the villains are so repulsive). Lots of nudity and sexually explicit dialogue. The movie looks like it cost about 10 bucks and some change, so don't expect a heavily budgeted affair. Anderson, in "hooker garb" wielding a whip and sword, is quite a distinctive image.

Dorm 2006



Chatree(Charlie Trairat) is sent to a boardinghouse for boys due to low grades and his current poor performance in school. Once there, a tight pack tell Chatree ghost stories which set up a terror in his mind which makes nights difficult for him. Adjusting and adapting to his new environment will prove difficult and uneasy, but Chatree soon makes at least one friend who starts up a conversation with him.

DORM might be a bit too sappy and sad for some horror fans wanting edgy and visceral thrills because the filmmakers care about their little protagonist and his situation. They want us to sympathize with his predicament, but understand the father's reasons for his actions. Due to bad grades, his disapproving father sends Chatree to a boarding school hoping his boy will wise up and straighten himself out for the better. We have a dinner table memory where Chatree is informed that he would be "sent away", left by his parents in an institution where all the boys sleep in cots next to each other, washing themselves in the same bathroom. After ghost stories, told to him by a group of boys hoping to frighten him, leave Chatree terrified to urinate, resulting in peeing in his cot, the kid is tormented by his fellow students, a laughingstock.



The school's master, Miss Pranee(Chintara Sukapatana), has an air of mystery about her(seemingly anguished about something we later learn has to do with a death, a record player stuck in a place during a key moment of a song symbolizing the chief problem later revealed) and we wonder if there is a ghost is roaming the halls at night, whether one of the stories regarding tragedy is in fact true.

The culprit which led to Chatree being placed in the school is television. But, honestly, we see that this place really isn't as terrible as it first seems and the boys aren't imprisoned or oppressed, but have freedoms outside the classroom. Chatree finally finds a friendly companion in Vichien(Sirachuch Chienthaworn) who also seems to be desiring a buddy to hang out with, the two bonding, a revelation potentially shattering their camaraderie.

DORM is less a spookshow as it is a melodrama involving a ghost who no one else sees other than Chatree. Is Vichien an imaginary friend, or is he a ghost who desperately longs for a pal in Chatree? We see that Chatree avoids his father as much as possible, not taking phone calls from pops who has guilt over his decision to leave the boy at the school. Probably the most memorable scene to me is the eerie image of a laboratory full of dissected rabbits used for scientific purposes. Another haunting recurrence shows a helpless Chatree having to watch a relived drowning of Vichien.



I think DORM will receive the stigma of "generic" for attaining the "restless repeated cyclical event of a ghost's demise" plot as it pertains to why the spirit still remains active where he died in the past. There's an interesting character named Nui(a sullen kid, kind of creepy, nicknamed "Dr. Nui" by his friends)who tells Chatree he was witness to a motorcycle crash resulting in a death which continued every night the same time the driver was ejected and killed after speeding around a corner too fast. Nui informs Chatree that the spirit of the dead needs to be reborn or else the pattern goes on and on for infinity..Nui says that you must free your spirit from the body in order to help the restless ghost become unborn. So Chatree may just follow his "instructions" so that Vichien can have peace. Still, a storyline about friendship transcending life and death may be a bit syrupy(the score designed to tug on the heartstrings) for some onryo fans hoping for more scares and ghoulish shenanigans. If you like movies about a kid growing up during a term in a brand new location using the supernatural as a means to further the story, then DORM might just be for you.

The Unborn 2003



Por(Intira Jaroenpura)is a bartender(who deals and abuses drugs)who narrowly escapes a drowning after being pummeled by Ord, her sadistic supplier after he discovers that she is actually using his product instead of selling it like she's supposed to.

When she awakens in a hospital, Por is told by her caring physician, Dr. Rudee(Aranya Namwong)that she is pregnant. Por realizes that her guitarist boyfriend(who leaves her to go on tour with a new band)is the father and wants an abortion.

The pregnancy is the least of her troubles because not only must she contend with Ord who demands answers, but a ghost named Mai(Prangthong Changdham)is haunting her. The Nong Luang Swamp where Por almost died was the location for which Mai's body was found. Mai wants what belongs to her and will torment Por into investigating so that this dead girl's spirit can find rest.



"The dead don't stay dead," is what passed through my mind as I watched Bhandit Thongdee's THE UNBORN, a staple in Asian horror regarding restless ghosts who beckon a living person to bring the truth about how they died, closure to those who were killed in a criminal way demanding satisfaction. As is the case in THE UNBORN, it follows the familiar theme often present in onryo films..the ghost will revisit those responsible for her demise, getting revenge, the protagonist(in this case, Por)her device to lead us, the viewer, to all the details, the secrets revealed.

Por isn't a saint, far from it, and doesn't exactly ingratiate herself to others, often difficult and stubborn. Kruphol Tiansuwan is Pat, someone who needs Por to provide information to his employer, a company who keeps tabs to make sure she doesn't abuse drugs(she was recently released from a drug rehabilitation center who need to ensure she stays on the straight and narrow). Pat soon assists Por in her search to identify Mai and find out all about her.

Mai was pregnant, her stillborn child cut from her womb, disappearing. Ord is an undertaker(along with his regular duty as a drug dealer), and, along with a member of the hospital staff, have a history as it pertains to Mai's infant child. Ord is definitely the antagonist, a danger to Por's well-being, hot-headed, without a conscience(what he does to Mai is reprehensible)and prone to violent outbursts. Por's petite and small, so when she crosses Ord(after multiple punches to the face and stomach, she strikes back with a piece of plank wood from a pier overlooking the swamp), a bit too big for her britches, he responds in kind, the result not pretty.

There's a twist involving the enraged mother of a young male teacher who was Mai's married lover(and the one who impregnated her), implicated for his involvement in her death which I personally found amusing(you know something's up when the movie doesn't end once Mai's killers have been brought to justice for their actions), seemingly included as a means to surprise the audience because she seems like such a pleasant and giving woman..it isn't unusual in horror for a saint to have a dark side, turning into an unstable border-line psychotic when her perfect world is shattered by the heroine of the film.

Pig Hunt 2008





John Hickman(Travis Aaron Wade), his girlfriend Brooks(Tina Huang)and friends, Ben(Howard Johnson Jr), Quincy(Trevor Bullock), and Wayne(Rajiv Shah)decide to go huntin' into the California wilderness. John's uncle is killed by something fierce at the beginning of the movie which turns out to be a gigantic monstrous pig known as "the ripper".

John is using his uncle's land to camp on and old pals(he'd soon have avoided like the plague)from his childhood, dirty, foul hick brothers Jake(Jason Foster)and Ricky(Nick Tagas)impose themselves on the group. Tagging along(despite John and company's desire for them not to), Jake and Ricky go on and on about killing hogs, in particular, the ripper.



Well, an incident involving the dirty duo's insistence on bagging up dope for profit(marijuana fields are being illegally cultivated on John's uncle's land), turns violent resulting in accidental murder, which spirals out of control as Jake warns them of the wrath to come as he heads for his family's residence to round up his redneck troops for a showdown. John and his friends also have to contend with a hippie cult who sort of worship the ripper, led by the intimidating machete-wielding Cimi(Cimi Ahluwalia).

I have to say it takes a while to get to the goods, but director James Isaac(JASON X)does, to his credit, eventually deliver. Most of the gore and action happens between John and his friends contending with Jake and his family of gun-toting hillbillies. Isaac provides some stunningly photographed stunt sequences such as when Quincy is caught in Ben's SUV as Jake drives his huge truck into him, and the director shoots the hillbillies cruising in their various off-road vehicles at rapid speeds, hooping and hollering in anticipation.

Isaac, to his credit, doesn't use computer generated effects when the ripper's presence is finally revealed, carefully shooting the pig's massive face(mostly mouth, husks, and eyes at close-up)without long shots which would disrupt the intensity of the situation exposing the beast as a special effects fraud. I imagine it could've resulted in chuckles instead of thrills, but Issac, before the finale, decides to shoot with point-of-view and end results(the scene with the horse's head a highlight). The more gruesome scenes involve Ricky gutting a pig, pulling out it's innards in graphic detail.



And, yes, we get plenty of nudity as the hippie commune has uninhibited pot smoking honeys with nothing better to do than lay around, getting high and such. Maybe, many viewers will not like the fact that it takes until the end before the giant pig is introduced, but Isaac tries to make up for this with the mayhem which erupts between the groups of John and Jake.

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The Boogens - Intro

While I must admit that as a monster movie, The Boogens (1981) doesn’t quite measure up (its monsters aren’t particularly menacing ...