REVIEW: EXCISION (2012)

Every now and then, a film comes along that challenges and defies convention…which, when it comes down to it, is a diplomatic way of saying writer/director Richard Bates Junior’s EXCISION clawed and burrowed its way inside my mind, where it has been ever since viewing it for the first time over a week ago. Normally, when it comes time for me to review a film, I watch it once or twice to get a good and solid grasp on the thing and then, once I’ve wrapped my head around the varied aspects that have gone into making it (story/writing, acting, directing, and the overall feel of the film), I’m ready to sit down and get to work on the review. With EXCISION, however…things have been very different.

I had three days in which to watch the film, and within that time frame I was like an addict on a binge. After some viewings, as soon as the film would end, I’d start it all over again because while there were certain aspects I grasped immediately, there were others that went to places rarely found in modern cinema; places of dark truth, glimpses into a mind slipping further and further from a world of falsely forced normality, and into a world where blood, sex, and clinical fantasy coalesce into a beautiful escape from the alienated pain of the film’s “real” world.

The film centers on morbid teenager Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord), an outsider with a blood fetish who fantasizes about one day becoming a surgeon. Though at times she attempts to interact with others, she finds it impossible to connect with anyone except, perhaps, her younger sister Grace (Ariel Winter). She is consistently berated by her overbearing mother Phyllis (Traci Lords), who cannot understand Pauline’s odd obsessions and shows obvious favoritism towards Grace, perpetually asking Pauline why she “can’t be more like her sister.” In an attempt to “fix” her, Phyllis goes so far as to force Pauline to attend sessions with the family priest (played straight, if against type, by the always excellent John Waters). Her father, Bob (Roger Bart), is barely present at all as he silently kowtows to Phyllis, instantly denigrated if he dares, even briefly, to speak his mind or disagree. Though briefly escaping her mother’s tyranny, life at school isn’t much better for Pauline. Because of her outsider status and inability to interact in accordance with social norms, she is completely alienated by everyone. She is not only ostracized and ridiculed by her peers, but her teachers Mr. Cooper (Malcolm McDowell) and Mr. Claybaugh (Matthew Gray Gubler), and Principal Campbell (Ray Wise) as well. As things become ever worse for Pauline, she becomes more distant, often spending more and more time within her darkly erotic fantasy world (more on that a little later).

EXCISION portrays a dark side, a very dark side, of modern suburbia, and takes on the classic coming-of-age film, at times recalling films such as the excellent GINGER SNAPS (Pauline even looks a bit like Bridgette Fitzgerald), and DONNIE DARKO. Think PRETTY IN PINK if John Hughes had gone Peckinpah, particularly later Peckinpah, maniacally directing the film with a headband full of acid. The family’s surname is never given, possibly in an attempt to lessen the gap between the viewers and the characters as, for all the shining, advertised examples of family life in America, Pauline’s dysfunctional familial scenario is far more common.

Traci Lords plays the overbearing mother Phyllis admirably, a woman who strongly desires that perfect family she grew up watching on television, or currently reads about in women’s magazines. In one particular scene, she even talks with Pauline about a book she’s reading on better parenting in book club. In any other film, it could’ve been very easy for Phyllis to have been portrayed as a clichéd, two-dimensional character, but writer/director Bates Jr. wisely interjected scenes that allow us to see a more fully realized character with hopes and fears, a woman driven to the edge by the looming death of one daughter, another with whom she feels completely detached, and an unfulfilled, loveless marriage. Her husband, Bob, is barely even relevant to the story at all and if anything serves as a distraction from the story except to serve as perhaps a set piece to provide a sounding board for Phyllis. I would almost go so far as to say his character is completely unnecessary, except to complete Pauline’s nightmarish nuclear family.

Perhaps Pauline’s one saving grace (pun horribly intended…sometimes I can’t help myself) is her sister Grace. Though dissimilar characters, they share a particular bond. Grace is the only person Pauline can talk to and the only real connection she has to any sense of normalcy. Unfortunately, however, Grace is dying, succumbing quickly to the symptoms of cystic fibrosis, unable to even go through some days without being attached to oxygen machines to temporarily stave off the symptoms of her rapidly failing lungs. With the one person she loves in desperate need of a life saving operation, Pauline is at risk of losing the last link she has to the world.

Now, back to those darkly erotic fantasies I mentioned earlier. During masturbatory dream sequences, Pauline loses herself in a world of sex, blood, bandages, and abscission. Within these fantasies, she is no longer plain and homely, but a dark, yet beautiful golden queen of the grotesque. We, the viewer, are given lingering glimpses at amazingly, morbidly, beautiful scenes wherein she reigns over her dead or dying subjects in varying stages of lifeless decay, at one point slithering over their cadaverous, motionless bodies towards her bathtub throne of blood. Once inside, she erotically drenches herself in a crimson robe of blood, an expression of ecstasy upon her face. Her toes curled in orgasmic bliss, we’re back in the real world again as her eyes flutter open, her head slowly turning as she licks her lips in euphoric satisfaction. Upon first witnessing this stunning insight into her fantasy, into the world as she wishes it to be, I had felt, for the first time in a very long while, I had once again experienced art in cinema.

Already incredibly impressed with the writing, acting, directing, and tone of the film, before I had even witnessed the grotesquely fantastical depths of Pauline’s mind, I suddenly found myself completely drawn into this world Richard Bates Jr. had created. EXCISION, the process of cutting out or off, works perfectly as the title to this film. A work permeated with characters both sympathetic and repulsive, Pauline stands starkly out amongst them. Upon first viewing the picture, we are lulled into thinking the title has everything to do with her fetishistic obsession with surgery and blood, but as the film continues, Pauline begins to drift further and further from reality, excising herself from a world and the people in it she no longer has any connection to, spending ever more time within the horrific beauty of her fantasy world until the two rapidly merge into one, resulting in a heart wrenching climax that brings together love and madness in a way I’ve never seen.

I think while it’s fairly obvious I was thoroughly moved by this film, it is difficult to recommend to everyone. Outsiders and horror fans will most assuredly appreciate EXCISION for reasons both similar and diverse, as the dark elements are there in abundance, but it is, at times, an incredibly challenging film to watch. Richard Bates Jr. has written and directed a film that expertly explores the varied depths of the modern family, the detached teenage outsider, and a visual representation of madness both beautiful and frightening to behold. But for those of you brave enough to experience something new and terrifyingly exciting; something that crawls and burrows its way into your mind and stays with you for days and weeks after you’ve seen it, causing you to question what independent horror filmmaking can be, you must watch this film. 4 out of 5 skulls.

REVIEW: INTO THE PIT: THE SHOCKING TRUE STORY OF DEADPIT.COM

Review: INTO THE PIT: THE SHOCKING TRUE STORY OF DEADPIT.COM

Directed by: Kelly Marcott

Starring: Wes Vance (aka The Creepy Kentuckian) & Aaron Frye (aka Uncle Bill)

Featuring: Kevin S. Tenney, Uwe Boll, Tiffany Shepis, Lloyd Kaufman, Harry Manfredini, Dean Bertram, Michael Felsher, David Gooslin, Clayton Hill, Sharon Hill, Andre’ Gower, Elske McCain, Kane Hodder, Betsy Palmer, PJ Soles, John Landis, Gary Klar, Jay Reel, Tony Moran, etc.

Ok boils ‘n ghouls, before I get into the review, a little horror-talk-radio history lesson.  Back in the cold December of 2005, two Eastern Kentucky natives decided, not knowing many local fiends for horror, to produce an online horror talk radio show.  Now, in 2010, the DeadPit show (found online at www.DeadPit.com and on iTunes) has thousands of listeners worldwide.  Nearly every week has a new celebrity guest from Horror Greats such as George A. Romero and John Carpenter, to people like James Bryan (director of Don’t Go In The Woods…Alone!) and many others.  DeadPit has become something of an internet phenomenon, changing the world of horror and warranting a documentary!

I’ve been a fan of DeadPit (a “Pitimaniac” if you will) since early 2007, finding myself with an iPod and nothing of note to put on it (except, well, Creedence and White Zombie…I will always love you guys…er…ahem), and, looking for something horrorific, happened upon the DeadPit show.  Finally, two guys with even deeper southern accents than me (I’m from the boonies of NC) talkin’ about all things horror!  I’ve come to think of Uncle Bill and The Creepy Kentuckian almost as friends, listening every week to their ideas and commentary on the genre.

INTO THE PIT takes a look at the people behind the Uncle Bill and Creepy Kentuckian talk show personalities, humanizing what had previously been only voices in my headphones (and in my car).  Through interviews with parents and lifelong friends, we discover the early years of Aaron Frye (UB) and Wes Vance (CK).  Childhood friends, they found themselves to be outcasts within a small town (Prestonsburg Kentucky, waaaay back in the hills) populated by those who found themselves interested in Hunting, Nascar, Church, Country Music, and Burt Reynolds flicks (not that there’s anything wrong with Burt Reynolds flicks), more than Horror Movies and Metal.  Like me, and perhaps quite a few horror fans the world over, Wes and Aaron found themselves going to the local 1 or 2 screen theater and watching the latest big-screen horrors like the Friday the 13th flicks, and popping in at the neighborhood mom ‘n pop video store (I miss ’em), to rent the seemingly endless supply of horror on VHS.  Aaron’s father, we learn, is also a horror fan, and raised him right with all the classics.  I imagine them, like me, sitting in their rooms at night and reading the latest Fangoria (back when the mag was worth reading) and listening to some Iron Maiden.

We then move to present day and learn not only about how DeadPit came about, but also what the guys are doing when they’re not putting together the latest show.  It’s interesting to note that people who aren’t horror fans are always so surprised to learn that horror fans (with SOME exceptions, of course) are some of the nicest, most down to earth, NORMAL people, and it’s no different with Aaron and Wes.  These are normal guys, with normal jobs, who happen to be two of the world’s biggest horror fans.

It’s interesting to note that fans of the show, upon listening for the first time, are sometimes a little put-off by the heavy, HEAVY southern accents.  These guys are from eastern Kentucky, after all, in the heart of the Appalachian mountains.  In the documentary, a fan from Australia says that when he first listened to DeadPit, he imagined that Uncle Bill and The Creepy Kentuckian were two “rednecks” back in some shack in the hills watching old and new horror releases on some rickety old VHS player.  They even got emails from places like England from fans stating, in awe, “People actually TALK like that?!”  What these listeners, and everyone else, come to find is that these guys have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of horror, from the classics to the obscure, Uncle Bill and The Creepy Kentuckian can spout off a list of facts and trivia that’ll leave your head spinning.  These guys have seen just about EVERYTHING and INTO THE PIT gives us a look inside what makes these guys tick.

Initially one would think INTO THE PIT would be a documentary limited to the DeadPit fans alone, but I’d say this is a documentary for HORROR fans as a whole.  Uncle Bill and The Creepy Kentuckian are like us, horror fans, who took their love of the genre and did something about it, creating the world’s first (and best) internet horror talk radio show and, through it, living the horror fan dream.  They’ve become horror icons themselves, being invited to various horror conventions and becoming known as experts in the genre.  One of the best parts of the documentary is a glimpse inside what I call the “DeadPit Dungeon.”  There are thousands upon thousands of old VHS tapes and DVD’s along with just about every sort of horror memorabilia out there.  Original posters, 8×10’s, Jason Hockey masks, you name it, signed by all the horror greats.  The documentary also showcases a list of who’s-who within the genre, all talking about DeadPit.  There’s even a brief bit with Uwe Boll, perhaps the worst filmmaker of all time (yet people STILL give him money), responding to the verbal lashing UB and CK have given him over the years (the even, once, challenged him to a wrestling match).  INTO THE PIT documents the lives of the new kings of horror fandom(with the passing of Forrest Ackerman, they’re the obvious heirs to the throne), humanizing the DeadPit personalities and showing us that horror fans rock the world over!

What I viewed was a screener, so there were a few sound-sync issues I’m sure will be cleaned up before release.  Also, I can’t comment upon special features, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of extra footage show up, perhaps some more interviews with horror celebrities, a commentary with Kelly, Uncle Bill and The Creepy Kentuckian HAS to be on there, and who knows what other goodies are on the way.  Keep it tuned to BackwoodsHorror.com for updates on when INTO THE PIT: THE SHOCKING TRUE STORY OF DEADPIT.COM will be available for purchase.  I’ll be getting a copy, by Gawd, so should you!

4 skulls outta 5!
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Check out the Trailer and Kick-ASS poster courtesy Into the Pit the Movie,L.L.C. & Rusty Robot Productions:

Into The Pit Poster

‘JENNIFER’S BODY’–THE REVIEW!

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I’ve watched Jennifer’s Body about 4 times now.  Normally, that’d be a good thing, the movie being just so damn good, I had to watch it again and again, like, for instance, THE EVIL DEAD.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case here.  The more I saw, the more repulsed I became.  By the very end, I was a bitter, broken mess, driven half insane by what I can only describe as, a not-as-clever-as-it-wants-to-be-cluster-fuck-of-a-flick.  A shame, as I really was looking forward to a smartly-written, intelligent horror film.  I know that’s what the filmmakers, “including Oscar-winning writer Diablo Cody,” tried to do, they just fell WAAAAAAAY short of the goal.

I’m going to go ahead and say it.  What Jennifer’s Body wanted to accomplish, Ginger Snaps already accomplished years ago.  The “teenage girl as monster” allegories were expertly handled in Ginger Snaps, while Jennifer’s Body shot and missed.  While GS set up the physical, mental, and social changes of a teen girl getting her period for the first time (though, I hear, thanks to growth hormones, kindergartners get ’em now) with the werewolf as metaphor, JB botched the job of the changing teen-girl-dynamic with the demonic possession metaphor.  I applaud the attempt, however, especially in regard to the allegorical view of two exceedingly different young girls, bound by friendship at a young age, who face the inevitable destruction of said friendship due to social status (and in this case, demonic possession as well).  That’s a decent set-up, but the movie just couldn’t pull it off.  Why?

Well, the direction was competent, so I’m not going to fault Karyn Kusama.  Unfortunately, directors are blamed for bad writing, bad acting, etc.  Of course, it IS the director’s job to make sure the actors are right for the parts and to make something workable from the script.  But then, there’s that expression, you can’t polish a turd.  I wasn’t a big fan of JUNO.  I mean, it was okay, but Oscar-Worthy?  Lowered standards seem to be a given with film these days.  At least it was somewhat competent, but I don’t think Diablo Cody really understands teenagers.  Given, I haven’t been a teenager for 8 years now, and I’ve already gone right into OLD MAN “Get Off My Lawn!” phase, skipping all others to the point where I LOATHE today’s teens, but I still doubt I have more of a false, skewed perspective than Diablo Cody.  It seems the woman writes her teenagers as caricatures of teens.  Perhaps she bases her teenagers off teen magazines, written, also, by 30-something year old women who should know better.  The dialogue was simply atrocious, pandering and ridiculous.  Cutesy phrases were made up for the sake of cleverness, but continually failed.   Awful writing can make or break a film, and, in this case, it was 60% responsible.

30% goes to terrible acting.  I mean, sure, the actors here only had so much to work with, but I’m certain Megan Fox can’t act anyway, and works only as a pretty face and, due to said face, name recognition.  Her saving grace in Transformers was that she only said about 3 words in the movie.  This time, she actually had to, you know, ACT!  Cardboard boxes have better acting chops.  Then there’s Amanda Seyfried.  She looked like she was quoting Shakespeare beside Fox, but that’s not saying much.  At least she was able to show real emotion and, I felt, had to carry the film upon a poorly written script.  Given more to work with, perhaps she could’ve done a better job, but as it was, there was simply no chemistry between her and Fox, nor her and her on-screen boyfriend who I could’ve sworn was in the “special-kids” class.

Now let us delve into the HORROR aspect of Jennifer’s Body.  There was a bit of gore (including a ridiculous scene where an herbivorous DEER was eating human intestinal tract), but nothing to write home about.  There were one or two jump scares, the most frightening thing in the movie being the repeated exposure to a fake Emo band’s fake Emo song (not to mention exposure to many other popular…I guess…Emo bands and THEIR songs).  Then, ok, and this may seem crass, but it’s a horror flick, dammit, no boobs.  None.  When you have a flick marketed to teens, with a trailer that begins with a naked chick in a lake, and you have nothing in the topless category, what the hell are you doing?  Do these people never even WATCH horror flicks?  Anything that would’ve made this an actual horror film went right out the window.  Gore alone won’t do it.  Saving Private Ryan had more gore in the first few minutes.

All in all, if you’re curious about the flick, go ahead an check it out and make up your own damn mind.  If you want my opinion (and why ELSE would you be here if you didn’t), stay away from Jennifer’s Body and go watch Ginger Snaps instead.

0 out of 5 skulls.

REVIEW: ROUGH CUT

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ROUGH CUT

WRITER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER • TODD KLICK

WRITER/PRODUCER
• SEAN GASTON

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
• TODD J. SHILL

Would you kill to make a movie? The scary thing is, two independent filmmakers did.

In January 2003 a woman was found beaten, strangled, and stabbed in her Pennsylvania home. 8 months earlier, an independent horror film was shot on the nearby Appalachian Trail.

Rough Cut is a feature length documentary that explores the twisted true tale of two first-time filmmakers who had a dream of making a horror movie and the bizarre events that followed.

This was one truly bizarre fuckin’ story!  I went in expecting one thing, and came out with the realization of another.  First of all, I thought this documentary, upon hearing about it some time ago, was about a director who wanted to make his film so incredibly badly, no matter the cost, had gone so far as to actually kill someone on set…something of a modern snuff film in the “killer in the woods” vein.  Though some aspect of the defunct horror film THROUGH HIKE’s behind the scenes is presented within the context of this documentary, so much more is going on beyond even that.

We have possible love triangles, always hinted at, but never fully realized.  We have the police heavily interested in how Dungeons and Dragons may have played a role (it didn’t, but I always love it when I see authorities going after Dungeons & Dragons).  For the most part, we have a long, twisted, and odd series of events that, for the duration, had me going “huh, who did WHAT now?”  Rough Cut has it all in regard to “the truth is often stranger than fiction” vein.  Let’s get a little more in depth…

We’re introduced, through wedding video at the beginning of the film (after a chilling 911 call in audio with subtitles describing a violently battered and stabbed woman, covered in her own blood, dead in her own garage) to Brian and Randi Trimble, newlyweds with seemingly their entire lives ahead of them (well, not really, I mean, come on, you’re reading about it here, something’s BOUND to go very badly.
Brian-RandiRight after the wedding interviews, we’re led through a series of interviews with family members and detectives discussing the violent slaying of Randi Trimble.  Brian apparently had come home from work to find her, face down in a pool of her own blood, dead.  Beaten, strangled with an extension cord, and stabbed 27 times to death.  The house had been ransacked in what, at first, appeared to be a robbery, but turned out to be staged, perhaps to get the police off the scent in regard to motive.

Cut to Blaine Morris, a wannabe filmmaker, horror geek, Dungeons and Dragons fanboy, lover of books regarding how to kill people as a hitman for hire.  Oh, and there’s also the wall of midieval weapons.  Sounds like a lot of guys I know.  Blaine decides to make a horror film ‘THROUGH HIKE’ (the edited version of which is still rotting in the evidence basement of the local police department).  Much of the documentary is spent taking a look behind the scenes into the making of the film.  Blaine’s personal life, his heavy filmmaking debt (totalling around $18-$20,000), his failing marriage and strange sexual deviences.  More or less, we’re introduced to a very odd individual.
BlaineThough ‘THROUGH HIKE’ looks like a fantastically awful piece of shit, it is interesting to see these behind-the-scenes looks into the making of an independent (albeit awful) little horror film. Within ROUGH CUT, we get interviews with much of the cast and crew on their thoughts on making the film.  This was perhaps my second favorite part of the documentary, what goes on behind the scenes and everyone’s perspective on it all.

We, the audience are lulled into the normalcy of everything.  The married life of Brian and Randi, as we come to find out that Brian has been diagnosed with MS and Randi has vowed to stick by him, though her mom suggests she not marry him as the responsibility of taking care of someone with a progressively degenerative disease is quite the herculean task.  “I Love Him So Much,” Randi says to her mother at one point.  Blaine, against overwhelming financial and technical difficutlties (not to mention it looks for all the world as though he has no idea what the fuck he’s doing), continues to plod along, working to get his own Citizen Kane (a terrible fucking movie, btw) made at all costs.

But then, as sometimes things dow, it all starts to spiral downwards, out of controll…

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Scroll On Down Till You See “SPOILERS OVER” in Bold If You Like The Surprises Films Bring So Inherently!

Brian is originally tapped (as he’s a part-time professional wedding videographer) to DP ‘THROUGH HIKE’.  It would seem that Randi isn’t having any of it.  She doesn’t seem to want her husband trapsing about in the woods with a man she’s never met.  So, of course, Brian bows out of the picture, opting instead for a compromise.  He wants to lend Blaine the camera equipment.  Once Randi hears of this, she flips out on the man and plants a solid no to answer the unspoken question of “can I lend Blaine the…”.  It’s not an overly unreasonable response from her.  That’s thousands of dollars worth of Camera equipment Blaine would be taking out into the dangerous woods and though the equipment doesn’t belong to Randi, per se, she and Brian are married and she really sseems to be looking out for his welfare…somewhat overbearinngly.  (Really though, that’s what contracts are for kiddies.  You fuck my shit up, you signed, you pay!)

Brian begins to complain to Blaine about his marriage woes (commradery I suppose, as Blaine’s exceedingly ugly wife, not that he’s a looker, is leaving him and taking the child as well).  Blaine or Brian (it’s hard to tell) bring up the prospect of murdering Brian’s wife.  Brian’s tired of Randi telling him what to do all the time, never allowing him to spend time with his friends, etc.  He contemplates a divorce, but later says he “can’t put her through the pain and embarrassment of divorce.”

At first, the police of course suspect Brian and are curious a bit by Blaine as he hires a lawyer immediately after being questioned by police simply fom the viewpoint of a friend.  Brian moves into a hotel and begins to spend his savings on booze, drugs, and girls, something not very befitting the grieving widow, but, hey, we all grieve in our own ways, right?  An anonymous letter is sent into the police office stating that someone by the pseudonymn TROOPER performed the murders and that he’ll never be caught.  The police take it somewhat seriously, but believe it to be another tactic to lead them off the trail of the real killer.

Bugs are placed in Brian’s new apartment, Blaine and Brian are trailed.  Blaine’s property is seized (perhaps the final end for THROUGH HIKE).  One detective continually harrasses Brian (which, really, I thought was over the line.  The detective was speaking upon how Brian and he would run into each other in strange places purposefully upon the part of said detective.  That same detective would show up at Brian’s apartment at 10pm, 11pm, on into the night, just to “see how things were goin'”.  The detective states that Brian was starting to freak out.  No shit.  I really take issue with this as ANYONE receiving that form of treatment would be freaked and Brian would be well within his rights to pursue a harrassment charge (though, he’s a scumbag, so, in this case, fuck ‘im).

After months and months of police work, Brian confesses to the entire thing stating he didn’t kill Randi, but that he had planned it and gotten his friend Blaine to do the deed.  Of course, that’s not a solid case against’ Blaine, so they confiscate every last stitch of anything from the man’s house and search his car as well, wherein they find a receipt for the clothes he bought specifically to murder Randi.

They are both arrested and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

SPOILERS OVER SPOILERS OVER SPOILERS OVER SPOILERS OVER SPOILERS OVER SPOILERS OVER!!!!!!!!!

Ok, so, likes and dislikes.  I thought the subject matter was interesting.  I mean, it’s a complete Jerry Springer, day time talk, fucked up story to be sure.  Though there was murder and intrigue, something about the story just seemed so, well, ho-hum as the film plodded along slowly (intentionally no doubt), taking its time to reach the “climax” (though I don’t think Climaxes exist in documentaries).  Any twists or turns are seen well in advance aside from perhaps a few aspects.

I enjoyed all of the behind-the-scenes camerawork inter-cut into the rest of the documentary,  which was shot quite competently I might add.  I found the film to be a rather interesting tale, to say the least.  Though, at times I would feel like nodding off, so slowly were things brought about, but carried on for though I found the film boring at parts, I always found the subject matter and sheer “fucked-up-ed-ness” of the situation as a whole rather interesting altogether.  Within the documantary proper (i.e. none of the VHS looking behind-the-scenes shots), the documentary look was upheld with competent lighting and camera placement.  Sound seemed to continuosly go up and down with annoying irregularity, especially this bass hum towards the end that seemed to crescendo without warning to rattle the windows.  Otherwise, however, a dencent early effort from filmmaker Todd Klick into this strange and off-beat tale of nerdy murder for hire and the strange and tangled lives we lead.  I’d suggest giving it a watch.  3 out of 5 skulls.

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‘HEADER': A REVIEW

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I’ve been a bit too long in posting this review.  Perhaps it’s simply because, after viewing HEADER a few times, I was still unsure as to what to say about it.  I’m gonna call this a half-n-halfer because I liked half the film, but the other half seemed like it should’ve been a different movie altogether, much to the detriment of the other.

On one side we have so many things I could ask for in a horror flick.  Just out of jail, Travis Clyde Tuckton (Elliot V. Votek) seeks a place to stay with his crazy, half toothless, wheelchair-bound granpappy, Jake Martin (Dick Mullaney).  With no job or prospects, Travis gets to spend a good deal of time with ‘ol Jake, talkin’ about the good ‘ol days when the old man brings up an old family tradition…a HEADER!  What’s a “header” you may ask?  Well, I’ll tell ya …SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER… a header involves an electric, rusty-ass, blood-caked bone saw (I suppose they used a regular handsaw or hatchet in the old days), a nubile young farm girl, and a BRAIN FUCKIN’!  That’s right, these good ‘ol boys have a way of getting revenge that surpasses all other means of revenge.  Whenever they think someone’s done ’em wrong, the worst possible thing they can do to get revenge is to get a young girl of the offending family, knock her out, cut the top of her head off, and litterally fuck her brains out.  HOLY SHIT! you might be sayin’.  Yeah, that’s about what I said too.  Fuckin’ crazy.  Anyway, these two yokels start thinkin’ about all the different families that’ve wronged ’em and go after young ladies of said clan and proceed to perform a HEADER on ’em.  After a while, Travis just starts lookin’ for girls at random to do it to as I guess he’s bored.  The best part of the film is a touching moment of bonding between grandfather and grandson as Travis helps the old man do his own, er, headin’.

The whole movie could’ve been about this and I would’ve been fairly happy with it.  But nooooo, they had to throw in some bullshit about an ATF agent, Stewart Cummings (Jake Suffian) and his “sickly” girlfriend.  Turns out, to pay for all of her expensive prescriptions (we’re not certain what the hell’s wrong with her), he’s had to turn dirty, runnin’ interference for drug dealers and eventually runnin’ drugs himself.  He’s not a bad man, just a bad ATF agent.  Ok, more SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS.  Ok, well, he gets involved with local police when they come across one of the HEADER victims and he can’t leave it alone.  He starts his own investigation (which leads him to cross paths flimsily with the HEADER boys in an attempt to tie the two stories together).  He finds out what a HEADER is, finds out who a shoeprint belongs to because granpappy Jake makes custom boots, and makes his way out to the cabin to find the two ‘ol boys in the act of a good, old fashioned HEADER party.  Needless to say, he blows ’em away.  I mean, what else could he do, he had just come from blowing away the drug dealers he’d been runnin’ for in a double-cross, takin’ a metric shit-ton (or would it be tonne if it’s metric…um…) of money so he could finally take care of all his girl’s problems.  Afterwards, needless to say, things spiral ever downward into deeper shit climaxing in a crazy ending I actually kinda liked.

So, we know which half I liked and which half I could’ve done without seein’.  Based on an Edward Lee novella I’d never read, the author himself said he thought it was a story that could never have been brought to the medium of film.  He was right…it was brought to video.  I understand it was an independent effort, but, I mean, come on guys, you could’ve made a little bit of an effort to make the flick more, well, cinematic.  Plenty of indie flicks are shot on video, and most of them suck, but some of them cut through that problem by finding fantastic actors, a better story, and better directorial talent.  It feels so harsh to say it because I LOVE independent filmmaking, especially independent HORROR filmmaking (at least when it’s not a certain…OTHER…indie flick I’ve reviewed here that garnered quite a bit of heat).  It’s not complete trash, I actually liked half of it, like I said, and I’d suggest it to others who wanted to see something really fucked up, but I cannot fully put the Backwoods Horror gash of approval on this one for reasons mentioned above.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t like to see more from Archibald Flancranstin (Jeebus, that’s a mouthful…yes…that’s what she said) and MPYREAL Entertainment.  I believe they’ve got the makin’s of an interesting indie filmmaking troupe and I look forward to their next, hopefully, HORROR outing.  I also salute SYNAPSE for distributing indie horror.  Keep ’em comin’!  2 out of 5 skulls.

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REVIEW: THE WILD MAN OF THE NAVIDAD

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THE WILD MAN OF THE NAVIDAD

Written, Directed, & Edited By: DUANE GRAVES and JUSTIN MEEKS
Based On The Journals Of: DALE S. ROGERS
Produced By: JUSTIN MEEKS, KIM HENKEL, and DUANE GRAVES

Starring: JUSTIN MEEKS, ALEX GARCIA, CHARLIE HURTIN, EDMOND GEYER, STACY MEEKS, KIM HENKEL, MAC McBRIDE, BOB WOOD, JAMES BARGSLEY, PATRICK HEWLETT, and TONY WOLFORD as THE WILD MAN

A BRIEF SYNOPSIS: From Greeks Productions and the producer of the original 70’s horror classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre comes The Wild Man of the Navidad. This vintage horror tale is based on the real-life journals of Dale S. Rogers. Shot in a 70’s style B-movie aesthetic, Mr. Roger’s veracious accounts are brought to vivid, chilling life in this intelligent retelling of an old rural legend involving a small Texas community terrified for years by a mysterious creature inhabiting the nearby woods.

I first became aware of Independent Filmmakers Duane Graves and Justin Meeks when I picked up, years ago, a DVD in MediaPlay called FREAK, a film now discontinued by the distributor.  I became aware of this flick whenever I read about a short film included on the disc over at TexasChainsawMassacre.net called HEAD CHEESE, an early, very strange film, from the two Texans that took place at a few of the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE locations.  Though HEAD CHEESE could be considered very “art school” in nature, present throughout the film were genuinely eerie. and disturbing scenes.  Aided by a very odd, sparse, musical score, and a mashup of 8mm and 16mm film stock, the short carried with it the look and psychological feel of perhaps the only remaining scrap of stock from some obscure exploitation film from the late 60’s or 70’s with washed out colors and a heavy grain, along with the requisite pops and scratches we’ve come to recognize with such films.

I eagerly anticipated a feature length work within the horror genre after seeing HEAD CHEESE, something I was certain could only be a matter of time.  Then, last year, news came down the line about a new film the two had been working on called THE WILD MAN OF THE NAVIDAD.  In fact, my very first post here at BACKWOODS HORROR was about the film (to be followed by more as my excitement and anticipation grew with every new little bit of news that came along).

Following in the footsteps of two of my all-time favorite films (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE & THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK), adding that bit of, what I’ve often refered to on the site as, “DIRTY SOUTH” (or Southern Gothic if you will, I like my name better) atmosphere, the realistic, if sometimes dark atmosphere of the true South, I couldn’t help, even with its few flaws,  but fall in love with this fantastic independent film masterpiece.

I’ll get into those flaws first, and go ahead and get them out of the way to make room for the main course, just how fucking fantastic this film is…how easily you can forget, while watching, that this film was just made, and lose yourself in the nostalgia of it, as if you’d just found a long lost drive-in treasure.  A film Joe Bob Briggs should’ve written about those years ago but never did.

The only flaw in this film is the special effects makeup, and that isn’t too heavy a flaw when you come down to it.  The problem is that the film, being released in the here and now, is compared to other films, all kinds of films, from the here and now with money.  MONEY, boils ‘n ghouls, and imagination is what it takes to make those effects pop.  With just imagination, you can generally get the point across, sometimes well, but that blood starts to really look like red paint.  Now, if WMOTN were released in the late 60’s or early 70’s, then we wouldn’t have a problem with it because even WITH money, effects were limited by technology and materials.  It was still a fairly new science.  H.G. Lewis’s films, we can all be assured, are fantastically, ludicrously, wonderfully gory, but the effects look like play-dough and red paint.  Though he was the godfather of the modern gore film, the gore and effects just don’t hold up.  (I’m sure I’ll receive hate mail from nostaligic fans, but hey, take a critical, objective eye and look again).  Thankfully, the gore is very light in this film, so the gripe isn’t really all that big.  The only BIG gripe I have is the WILD MAN creature makeup/costume.  One of the reasons THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK worked then and still, in a way, works now, is that the monster was always kept just out of focus and slightly in the shadows.  You never really got a good look at the creature.  We today, thanks to high-priced hollywood effects, are spoiled, always able to see the monster in our multi-screened movie houses, but NOT always satisfied with what we see.  As in literature (and yes, the horror genre IS literature…if you think otherwise, get the hell outta my shack!), in film, it is often, for the most part, best to leave the monster to our imaginations when money isn’t high on the resource list.  Hell, even when money’s coming out of the director’s ears, in some cases, it’s better to leave the monster in the shadows because the creature we see in our minds will almost always be far more hideous and terrible.  Why?  Because everyone’s conception of what scares THEM is different, thus, when the monster is shown to us, some will, invariably, scream, some will laugh, and some will just be pissed off with a look on their face screaming “what the fuck?  Is that it?”

Unfortunately, that’s just the sort of look I probably had stamped all over my face when the WILD MAN was revealed as a sort of man-boar with crazy lower teeth, or tusks, who happens to be a giant of a man covered in deer skins with antler hands.  What the fuck?  Of course, if the monster hadn’t been shown, many jaded-ass filmgoers and critics who’ve been spoon-fed their creature-features for years where the monster is ALWAYS shown will say “HEY, where’s my MONSTER!” and that might just be why the filmmakers here decided to show it.  Unfortunate, I say, for I subscribe to the school where what is not shown, when set up properly, is often invariably far scarier than what is.  Never underestimate the fucked up imagination of the general audience.  An audience whose life experiences and nightmares are often far worse than what any filmmaker could dream up or create.  The only reason this was such a big problem with me is because I loved the rest of the film so damn much.  If it were a giant, flaming piece of shit, then that monster wouldn’t have come off as such a disappointment because I was already disappointed by the rest of the film.  Not the case here, shitty monster makeup aside, I fucking LOVED this flick!

As is the case when one is attempting to express love, however, I’m having a difficult time formulating it into words.  (Maybe that’s why we often only see critics bashing films, because they just aren’t talented enough writers to say anything positive if they truly enjoyed a film.  Perhaps it’s unfashionable.  Luckily, I have terrible fashion sense).  The overall atmosphere of WMOTN is really what won me over.  With skillfull camerawork (including a few tricks I won’t give away that have us thinking the entire time that these guys found some stash of fast filmstock from the 70’s, perhaps reels of Kodak 800 left over from AIP’s glory days, and then fed it through an ancient ARRI), fantastic editing, spot-on direction, and glorious writing, Meeks and Graves have perfectly transported the viewer into their dream world.  A world of rusty, worn out cars, always in some state of repair or disrepair.  A world of the corner bar, a cement cube with a worn neon sign the owner’s probably exceedingly proud of, with an interior of mismatched tables and chairs, wooden bar, and cold beer from a cooler that says Coca-Cola on the side of it and would’ve looked at home in any country gas station from the early 60’s to mid 80’s (or, if you grew up where I did, it looks at home in the corner store now, still sitting there with the coldest cokes and nehi’s in bottles you ever had).  The small, Southern town, where everyone seems to know each other.  Where important meetings are often held at that cement, dusty watering hole.  Where the sun always seems to cast more of an orange-brown hue over everything than the bright white we often see in movies.  That small town where the locals take care of their own, where myths and legends are often spoken of in hushed tones, winks, and nods.  Everyone knows, but no one’s saying a damn thing, and all hell to outsiders who want to come poking around, stirring things up.  A place where things are the way they are, as they’ve always been, and you’ll be damned if you try and change it now.

Though there is an obvious exploitive bit throughout the film in regard to the moonshine sub-subplot, these boys are from Texas and they didn’t go too overboard like someone who’d never been around that sort of crowd would, and thus, the exploitation in that regard is kept at a minimum, thankfully.  But that isn’t to say this couldn’t be classified as an exploitation film in the highest regard.  If WMOTN had been released during the bigfoot craze of the 70’s that started with THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, and included BIGFOOT, SASQUATCH, NIGHT OF THE DEMON(1980, towards the end of the craze), and CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE, among other, lesser flicks, it would’ve no doubt been a hit at the drive-in, and perhaps the grindhouse circuit.  For that, I love it, it’s MY kind of movie.  I think the kids who love the torture-porn flicks today might not view it in such a gloriously dusty light, but you know what?  Fuck ’em, because their idea of a good movie is comparable to watching flies struggle till they die on flypaper, their wings beating furiously, trying in vain to escape this sticky, terrible hell they’ve unwittingly wandered into.  There’s no story, no atmosphere, no real characters you can care about or relate to, it’s just gore and death for their sake alone and it’s BORING AS ALL FUCK!  WMOTN has story, it has atmosphere in spades, and it has genuine, down to earth characters every man and woman can relate to.  It is a finely woven tapestry of small town life and small town people, their concerns, fears, triumphs, all blending together to create a living, breathing picture of that life all brought to a critical mass as it starts to unravel when people start dying due to an old legend that is more than a legend, THE WILD MAN OF THE NAVIDAD is on the loose, he’s pissed as hell, and he’s out for blood.

If you dream of a time where films actually took you out of your life for a while and put you, ever so slowly and craftfully into the life of the story onscreen, films that made you think, made you wonder, and offered story, atmosphere, and character over simple, bland gore and violence alone (though, don’t get me wrong, WMOTN has plenty of violence, but when it happens, you CARE that it’s happening, you’re INVESTED in the story, you care about what’s happening), you’ll love this movie.  If you love films like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, and all of the other films I’ve mentioned already, then WILD MAN OF THE NAVIDAD is for you.  I can’t recommend this film enough.  MEEKS and GRAVES are a pair of talented filmmakers and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next.  When this film hits DVD August 11th, 2009, show your support for some damn talented independent horror filmmakers and buy it.  You’ll be supporting a couple of guys who have the potential to make the next TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, the next great independent film that, unlike the torture-porn trash we keep getting so often today, will live on.  These are the kind of filmmakers we want making the kind of movies we want, the kind of movies people will still be talking about in hushed tones saying “have you SEEN this?”  I remember, growing up, how it was something of a right of passage to have seen films like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and THE EVIL DEAD…independent films that changed the face of horror.  While WMOTN isn’t quite it, I can see the edge of the storm and I say, let it rain blood!

4 out of 5 skulls!

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REVIEW(S): FRIDAY THE 13th PART 4, 5, and 6 DELUXE EDITIONS

FINALLY, THE REVIEWS YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR (DUE TO WORK OBLIGATIONS AND TECHNICAL PROBLEMS) ARE FINALLY HERE!

Ok, first of all, I’m going to have to mention something I didn’t in my reviews of Friday the 13th 1, 2, and 3.  The entire series was a favorite of my brother and I growing up.  The first Friday flick I can remember seeing as a kid is part 4, The Final Chapter.  I remember being ok with it (for the most part, my dad making me cover my eyes during the tit shots…yet, of course, the gore was ok…hmmmm), until the dog went out the window.  I was absolutely convinced Jason had thrown that dog out the window and killed it.  More than the kids or anything else, it was the image of that dog being harmed that gave me nightmares.

So my brother and I would consistently get into debates, conversations, and sometimes downright arguments over the various aspects of the series.  We were wild about Jason, my brother moreso than myself.  In fact, I remember one of my brother’s most prized possessions being one of those cheapola, glow-in-the-dark hockey masks you can get at Halloween.  He’d wear that thing all the time.  At one point, we even drew little comics, somewhat recreating the movies and somewhat coming up with our own stories.  I cannot emphasize enough how much we loved this series.  (A big reason, more than likely, why we absolutely hated what New Line did to it, though, honestly, we did kind of dig on the mythology of Jason Goes To Hell and waited with baited breath for FREDDY VS. JASON which then came out years and years later as a GIANT PIECE OF SHIT!).  But I digress, on with the reviews:

FRIDAY THE 13th PART IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER

friday-the-13th-goes-deluxe-20090421013231448_640wMy indoctrination into the Friday the 13th series began with Part 4, THE FINAL CHAPTER!  This movie was fucking brilliant for me growing up a horror nut.  First and foremost, it had a kid about my age in it, Tommy Jarvis, played by Corey Feldman, I could really relate to.  Based on Tom Savini, obviously, the kid was into video games and horror movies.  He was an amateur inventor (at least I pretended I was, I took stuff apart anyway), and made all kindsa crazy monster masks!  BRILLIANT!

The movie picks up RIGHT AFTER the events of Part 3.  Paramedics and Cops are cleaning up the mess.  There’s this fantastic tracking shot that starts off on a helicopter, then pans down in one long shot, moving past covered stretchers and professionals going about their gruesome business, until the shot finally ends on a couple of cops throwing a sheet over the corpse of JASON VOORHEES.  Cut to the hospital.  We meet this ridiculous coroner, Axle. He’s eating this sandwich, laying it down on Jason’s corpse.  He basically just doesn’t give a shit about dead people, it’s just a job to him.  So he’s into this nurse and he keeps trying to get it on with her, but she continually rejects him.  She finally gives in, but freaks out when Jason’s hand slides out from under the sheet and she runs off.  Axle goes back to watching some seriously weird Aerobic video with these lesbians or something in it when Jason takes a bone saw to his neck and then twists it completely around.  Then, of course, he guts the nurse like a hawg.   Like Friday the 13th Part 3, this one doesn’t take place at a camp either.  There’s a lake.  Might’ve been Crystal Lake, but there’s no real mention of that.  Let’s just assume, as I always have, that it’s on the other side of the lake and there are these two cabins, one inhabited by Tommy Jarvis’ recently divorced mother and older virginal sister.   This will also be the first film in the “Tommy Jarvis Trilogy.”

The other cabin is being, I guess, rented by some kids (from the city, I suppose, they never really say, but, I mean, aren’t all these “damn kids” from “the city?”).  We’re introduced to them as they’re driving out there.  It’s your standard group of Jason-fodder with one notable exception…one of the kids is CRISPIN FUCKING GLOVER!!  As if the movie wasn’t crazy enough, we get that fucking weirdass too!  Of course, this had to be one of his early flicks and, perhaps, he wasn’t completely fucking apeshit bananas yet.  I think his name is “Dead Fuck” Jimmy.  His friend, some punkass greaser, keeps calling him a Dead Fuck, thus the nickname.  Of course, he does get…”screwed” in the end, as he is finished off with a corkscrew.  HA!  The other kids are all, of course, the sex-obsessed regular type we usually get with this kind of movie.  Two odd things occur as they’re driving out to the cabin.  First, they pass by some Rosie O’Donnell lookalike fatty who gets stabbed through the throat while she’s eating a banana.  They also, while stopping to figure out where they are, just happen to have stopped by the grave of Pamela Voorhees, Jason’s mom.  Arriving at the cabin, they meet Tommy Jarvis, his dog Gordon and his sister, Trish and immediately decide to invite her over for a party or something later.  The next day, for some odd reason, while on some kind of nature jog, something that I guess was popular at the time, they run across the Double-Mint twins who have this weird accent (I think they were British and poorly attempting to cover it up). Next, it’s SKINNY DIP TIME!

On their way to go swimming at the lake, Tommy and his sister have some car trouble.  While little Tommy Jarvis attempts to fix the car, we’re introduced to Jason Hunter Extraodinaire, Rob, who later explains that he’s hunting Jason out of Revenge for the brutal, BRUTAL slaying of his sister a few Friday’s prior (part 2, I believe).  He and Trish develop a slight romantic attachment and he heads back into the woods.

Out of the hospital and out for revenge, Rob finds his rifle destroyed at his tent, grabs his machete, and goes out after Jason.  Meanwhile, all hell’s breaking loose down at the cabins, people are dying left and right in wonderfully grisly ways, and Trish heads out to the woods to find Rob, nearly getting sliced and diced by him in the process as he initially mistakes her for Jason.  She give him the scoop on what’s been going down back at the cabins and he heads out to help.

Spoilers:
Of course, Rob Dies.  All the kids who came out to the cabin die, including the Double-Mint twins, and then we have the showdown between Trish, Tommy, and Jason.  While Trish is valiantly fighting Jason (he get’s whacked in the arm, then the shoulder), Tommy’s upstairs shaving his head, and trying to mongoloid himself up with some slight makeup magic.  The fight starts to turn in Jason’s favor and just as he’s about to seriously fuck Trish up, Tommy rushes downstairs and, beyond all explanation, confuses Jason by “looking like him” long enough for him to get another whack from Trish and then Tommy rushes in and plants a machete in our favorite goalie-masked killer.  Believing it to be over, Tommy and Trish are hugging each other when Tommy sees Jaon’s fingers twitch.  Tommy then picks up the Machete and just fucking contiues to wail on Jason, supposedly (this is the final chapter), making ground beef of the guy.  Later, in the hospital, Tommy and Trish are hugging again and we zoom in as Tommy’s eyes open and look straight ahead with cold, killing eyes.

This was truly supposed to be, in everyone’s mind, the Final Chapter.  Director Joe Zito and directed it balls to the wall, pulling out all the stops, figuring he might as well make it a fitting finale to the series.  Tom Savini only came back because he felt it fitting that he helped kill the monster he had “created” in the first film.  Thanks to this, we have some of the best special makeup effects of the series, including Jason getting the Machete to the head.  The scene required Tom Savini to create a special, articulated fake head that split apart nearly completely and spew blood as it slid slowly down the machete.  I thought that shit was killer and I still do.  Well written and well directed, THE FINAL CHAPTER comes out as one of the strongest films in the franchise.  A fan favorite, it grossed over 32 MILLION dollars at the box office, so, of course, Paramount said, and I quote “who gives a shit if we said final chapter, this fucking franchise is MONEY IN DA BANK!”  Perhaps I’m paraphrasing, oooooor completely making that statement up, but we’ll get to its meaning in the next review. There really is nothing that I dislike about this particular film.  Even though Ted White is kind of a douchebag, he played a really good Jason Voorhees (he’s no Kane Hodder, but, I mean, who is?) and all of the actors really pulled off their characters convincingly.  It’s not my favorite Friday film, but, from a technical standpoint, it’s probably one of the best, second only to the first Friday the 13th.

Paramount’s transfer, while new, looked only slightly better than the box set version of the film and will probably look as good as it ever will (until, of course, the blu-ray comes out, then I’ll just have to see how clean that one is).  I still don’t knnow why they didn’t do the re-mastering for any of the other deluxe editions like they did for Part 1.  I mean, if they’re going to be releasing the Blu-Ray, and creating a fantastic print for that edition, why not?  The commentary was insightful.  I listened to the commentary with Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2=Shitty) and Adam Green (Hatchet=Not as shitty as Wrong Turn 2, but still, Shitty) which was, well, ok, but not really anything to write home about.  Imagine watching the movie with two friends who also love Friday the 13th and talking about it while you watch it aaaaaaaaaand, that’s about what you get.  No real genius directorial insight as they kind of both blow as directors anyway.  Just a couple of guys who weren’t even entertaining.  We also got another entry into the throwaway mini-series-movie Lost Tales from Camp Blood–Part 4, which really has been a terrible addition to the special features of these Deluxe editions and which feels like filler more than anything.  Years from now, hell, even today, this added little, whatever they’re calling it, won’t really mean anything.  Just more throwaway celluloid (though, it looks as though it was shot digitally, so I guess I should say “magnetic media” or “ones and zeros”).  Deleted Scenes were a nice touch, an example being the “lost” ending which is really nothing special, just a different sort of take on the ending of the film.  I always love the “behind-the-scenes” stuff, here entitled JASON’S UNLUCKY DAY: 25 Years After Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.  Very nice.  A weird entry into the special features was THE CRYSTAL LAKE MASSACRES REVISITED–Part 1, which took on a somewhat documentary style going over the killings at Crystal Lake, interviewing residents, the local Sherriff, etc.  At first, it was all really very cheesy, but I actually got into it.  It reminded me of that Blair Witch documentary they did before that movie came out.  Of course, there was the Original Trailer.  The best, BEST part of the special features, however, is the JIMMY’S DEAD FUCK DANCE MOVES outtakes wherein Crispin Glover’s weird-ass dance is shown again and again, take after take.  The guy never wavers, he had actually coreographed that dance.

Overall, I give FRIDAY THE 13th PART IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER 4 out of 5 skulls
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FRIDAY THE 13th PART V: A NEW BEGINNING

friday-the-13th-5Perhaps the most underrated of the series, for sure, is Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning.  First, A brief synopsis, and then I’ll go into why Friday 5 is really an overlooked work of black comedy genius from writer/director (and former porn director) Danny Steinmann.

The Film starts off with a (though we don’t know it yet) dream sequence of young a Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman reprising the role in his own backyard and a rain machine.  Originally, the producers wanted Feldman to come back and play the role of Tommy Jarvis again, but he had a prior commitment to some forgotten film called THE GOONIES or something like that) watching as two nameless dumbasses dig up Jason’s grave.  There’s no given reason as to WHY they decide to do this or WHY Tommy Jarvis is watching them.  Of course, Jason inexplicably comes back to life for no real reason…he just pops up (he was buried with his mask on and a Machete in his hand…I guess he wanted to be remembered for how he lived…so touching…) and stabs one guy, then takes out the other.  Paralyzed in fear, lil Tommy does nothing but watch as Jason draws nearer and nearer.  He pulls back to strike and just as he deals the death blow….AAAAAAHHHH!!! A much OLDER Tommy Jarvis (played by John Shepherd) wakes up in the back of a Mental Hospital van just as it pulls up to PINEHURST halfway house.  A little bit of Trivia: Not counting the laughing or yelling, Tommy Jarvis only says 24 words throughout the whole film. (Thanks to Wikipedia for that one!)

Ok, so, once Tommy shows up at the place, we’re introduced to some of the weird characters inhabiting PINEHURST including the two owners of the place: Pam and Matt.  Other “Normals” in the place are a young boy named Reggie (the Reckless) and his uncle George.  The Weirdos are “Angry” Vic, “Chocolate Bar” Joey, Robin, “Goth” Violet, “Big Tit” Tina, “Stuttering” Jake etc. etc.  Each with their own little quirks for the most part (though some seem relatively normal).  We’re also introduced to CRAZY ETHEL and her son JUNIOR (capitalized because I’ll pay attention to them more in detail in the actual review) when the sherriff brings a couple of the inhabitants of PINEHURST back to the place after he finds them “screwing their brains out” on Ethel’s land.  Shortly after, she and Junior show up on Junior’s motorbike.  I’ll talk more about her and junior later but they are fucking hilarious and almost MAKE the film.  She’s pissed and threatens to kill any of the kids of PINEHURST if she catches them on her land.

Later that day, Fatty Joey goes around annoying everyone by offering them a chocolate bar.  He fucks up the clothes some chicks (including GOTH Violet) are hanging out on the line because he has chocolate all over his pudgy fat fingers.  Then he goes up to VIC.  Ok, let me take a minute to question why they give the guy in PINEHURST, the ONLY guy, who has obvious anger issues an axe to cut up wood with.  Anyway, Joey offers Vic a chocolate bar but when Vic declines, Joey sort of insults him and as he walks away, Vic chops the shit out of Joey with that axe.  The cops and paramedics come to clean things up, and we see that one of the paramedics, Roy, is obviously disturbed by the sight of the fatboy in pieces on the ground.

Then, for no reason, these greaser guys are on the road with a broken down car.  One goes to take a piss or something and while he’s gone, one of the greasers gets it with a road flare to the face.  When the other one gets back, he gets it in the neck.  Roy shows up on the scene again when the sherriff comes out to clean up that mess, but he doesn’t seem nearly as disturbed.  In fact, it almost seems like he has a smile on  his face.  SUSPICIOUS!

Then we’re back on Ethel’s farm with her and Junior in the kitchen when a homeless drifter appears at the door, begging for food.  We get the now infamous “Who the fuck are you and what the fuck do you want!?” from Ethel.  She tells him to go “clean all the shit outta the chicken coop.”  When we see him next, he’s spying on two of the kids from Pinehurst goin’ at it in the woods.  Around his creepy spying (for which, of course, he HAS to die), we get, perhaps, the BEST rack in ALL of the Friday flicks.  OBSERVE:  (WARNING KIDDOS, NUDITY BELOW)

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All Natural Debi Sue Voorhees, boils ‘n ghouls.  That’s right, this actress had JASON’S LAST NAME!  I thought that HAD to be a pseudonymn for the film, but no, that’s her REAL FRIKKIN’ NAME!  Perfect casting.  Of course, Debi Sue and her boytoy get the chop.

This shit is getting long, so let me start to breeze through the good shit  (WARNING, SPOILERS). Pam takes little Reckless out to see his brother “Demon” who is apparently living in a van with some drugged out chick.  They take Tommy along and he gets into a kung-fu showdown with fuckin’ Junior and really fucks his world up.  Because of this, Tommy runs off and Reckless and Pam go back to Pinehurst.  Junior gets decapitated while riding his motorbike around in the yard crying about how bad Tommy kicked his ass.  Then Ethel get’s the chop through the window, her head landing PLOP in the “slop.”  Reckless Reggie and Pam get back to Pinehurst to find that everyone’s been killed by Jason and that he’s still there and wants to kill THEM too.  Thus ensues the screaming and running in the rain.  Fucking PAM goes after Jason with a fucking CHAINSAW at one point.  When it looks grim for Pam and Reggie, Tommy shows up, gets slashed, kicks a little ass, then passes out.  Reggie almost kills Jason by knocking him out of the upper bard, but Jason caught on and was clawing back to get ’em when Tommy wakes back up and knocks him out of the window down onto some kind of farm equipment pulling double duty as a bed of IRON SPIKES!  Then we find out IT WASN’T REALLY JASON, BUT ROY ALL ALONG!  FAT JOEY WAS HIS SON AND HE WENT NUTS AND PUT ON THE MASK AND WENT AROUND KILLING EVERYONE!  OMG!!!!!!!11!!!1!!  Seriously though?  Fuck that.

Because of that ending, Friday fans, for the most part, consider Friday the 13th Part 5 to be the Halloween 3 of the series.  To differentiate Roy from Jason Proper, there was a different mask with BLUE triangles on it.  Uh….ok.  So I call bullshit on that, but then, so does everyone else.  I also call bullshit on the MPAA for cutting out a LOT of the gore originally slated for this flick.  The film was supposed to begin with Tommy Jarvis going apeshit in a hospital, killing all these people to get to Jason’s body to destroy it, turning the place into a bloodbath, but nope, that was out.  Then there’s the Goth Violet Death scene.  Originally, as she was doing the robot to, I dunno, David Bowie or something, Jason was going to split her in half, starting at the VaJAY JAY!  That would’ve been a fuckin’ sweet gore gag!  Then there’s Debi Sue Voorhees.  There was originally a much longer sex scene, but the MPAA screamed X and they had to cut all that boobiful footage.  A Cryin’ damn shame if you ask me!

So, why is it I said this film was underrated?  Why do I like it?  Because it’s comedy gold.  While far and away one of the weaker films in the franchise, it makes up for all the bullshit it pulls by paying off with some great dark humor.  I mean, ETHEL AND JUNIOR?  What the fuck are those two rednecks doing there?  I mean, I see rednecks all the time, but aren’t these movies supposed to take place up north?  New York State, maybe?  Who knows, but they’re two of the most hilariously memorable Friday the 13th characters EVER.  Tommy “I’m Too Nuts To Talk” Jarvis’s character was great in this one too!  For some reason, he happens to somehow know kung fu and he’s pissed off ALL THE TIME!  All of the cast of fuckups at Pinehurst are great, from crazy and angry as fuckall VIC, to lardass Joey, to Goth Violet, to Tits McGee Voorhees, and the rest, all of them had something to offer that made this flick a laugh a minute.  Steinmann’s original script was hacked to bits by Paramount who forced his hand, somewhat, in the filming choices he made, so instead of getting a fright flick (even though he was ordered to give a scare or kill ever 5-7 minutes), we got a crazy spot of humor.  So, for those of us who can sit through the whole thing, we are, in the end, rewarded.

For Special Features, we get the Obligatory Commentary from director Danny Steinmann and some of the cast and crew, a commentary that offered up a little more insight into the troubled film than the making-of doc NEW BEGINNINGS: The Making of Friday the 13th Part V-A New Beginning.  We get another dreadful entry into the LOST TALES OF CAMP BLOOD series/mini-movie, the Trailer, and the second part of the enjoyable pseudo-documentary THE CRYSTAL LAKE MASSACRES REVISITED (PART II).

3 out of 5 Skulls

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FRIDAY THE 13th PART VI: JASON LIVES

f136b Finally, ladies and gents, we get the REAL return of Jason in FRIDAY the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives (which is somewhat of a misnomer as, in fact, he more or less roams around as the undead in this one, not living, not dead, but something in between, something…TERRIBLE).  Often overlooked and seen as somewhat forgettable by many, Writer/Director Tom McLoughlin finishes up the Tommy Jarvis cycle decently, if not perfectly.

Tommy and a friend, escaped from the mental hospital I believe, drive out to the cemetary of the town now known as Forest Green, renamed, we’re told by the sherriff later, so they could forget Crystal Lake and all that happened there.  So these two ‘tards dig up Jason’s grave and see him there, all maggoted up and Tommy grabs a piece of the fence and starts to go apeshit on the corpse, stabbing it over and over again.  Leaving the sharp piece of fence in Jason, he gets out to get the can of Gasoline (they had planned to cremate him).  Suddenly, lightning strikes the iron piece of fencing Tommy left in Jason in what amounts to a small explosion.  THEN, lightning strikes again bringing (unknowingly to Tommy and his pal) Jason back to life.  Maggots and all, Jason crawls out of his grave, scaring the shit out of these guys.  Tommy starts to spray him with gasoline and then lights a match to burn him to cinders, but it begins to rain, dousing the match.  Tommy’s friend hits Jason over the back with a shovel, which is bad news because Jason just turns around and PUNCHES HIS HEART OUT!  Of course, Tommy Jarvis gets the fuck outta dodge and Jason puts on the iconic Hockey Mask.

Tommy runs for help to the Sherriff who, figuring out who he is, locks him up.  We’re introduced to some people heading out to the new camp (that’s right, we have a CAMP again), including the director’s current wife, who are very quickly dispatched even though they attempt to escape almost right away, the woman stating “I’ve seen enough horror movies to know,”  etc. etc.  She gets a spear through the face.  Meanwhile, at the Sherriff’s office, young love is a-brewin’ as his daughter and retarded teenage friends (including John Travolta’s Nephew) show up to ask if he can do something about their (now deader’n shit) friends who haven’t shown up yet.  The Sherriff’s daughter, Megan, gets a peek at her dad’s prisoner and she’s, as ACDC would put it, Thunderstruck (see what I did there?  Tommy Jarvis had the same effect on Jason…HEYO!).

So the “kids” all go back to camp and Tommy, the next morning, is being driven out of town when he swerves into the cemetary.  The drunken caretaker has covered up Jason’s grave, however, and Tommy, seen as a complete lunatic, is taken out of town.  Of course, he comes back.  The kids arrive and we get to see some little campers doing little camper things.  Blah Blah Blah.  Then Travolta’s “What’re you doin’, takin’ a dump?!” Nephew is, later that night, out with some girl fuckin’ with their clothes on in a camper when Jason cuts the power (a clever one, that Jason, he cuts the phone line at the camp later on…JASON HATES UTILITY BILLS!).  Deciding it’s time to go after investigating the torn-out power cable, Travolta Jr. drives while his girlfriend is dragged into the bathroom, her face shoved through the wall in a rather cool scene.  Then, lil Travolta (who consistently sounds like his uncle from Grease) gets a knife to the neck and the camper flips and bursts into flames.  Jason gets out and sort of just stands around menacingly for no real reason.

Oh, some paintballers die early on, forgot to mention that because it’s only memorable because Jason gets his machete here and slams a guys face into a tree, leaving a smiley face outline for some reason.  So Megan goes back to the Sherriff’s office to talk to her dad.  He has to leave because they found the two from earlier and she hangs out.  Tommy calls and she comes out to get him.  She wants to help him, you see, because she loves him THAT much.  Anyway, they run into a roadblock and Tommy’s thrown back in jail.  Meanwhile, Megan’s remaining friends are getting massacred back at camp and one little girl keeps seeing (Jason) a Monster.  Megan and Tommy escape and meet up with the Sherriff and some cops out at the camp.  The sherriff gets into fisticuffs with Jason and is split, in an effect that looks cheesy as all fuck, in half.  Jason goes after Megan, but Tommy lures him to the lake, feeling the need to return Jason to the lake where he drowned.  There’s a final battle involving chains, a big-ass rock, and a boat motor, and Jason is sunk to the bottom of the lake, dead once again…

Ok, so, this movie is merely OK, and my least favorite of the bunch here.  It’s a decent flick as far as Friday the 13th flicks go, but lacks any sort of gore or nudity for which the franchise is known.  The only really decent aspect of this one is that it is the last of the Jarvis series and the first flick in which Jason comes back to life as an undead, unstoppable fiend from beyond, more of a supernatural entity than anything else, and it is THIS Jason that I truly love.  For that, the movie gets put on the map if for nothing else.  The characters where plain-jane and the story…well…meh.

Special features include a Commentary (of course) and another Behind the Scenes with JASON LIVES: THE MAKING OF FRIDAY THE 13th: PART VI.  There’s one really cool aspect in that we learn, in the ORIGINAL story, we meet, for the first time, Jason’s father, who’s been paying the caretaker (who didn’t die originally, but get’s bottle knifed in this one) to watch over the graves of his former wife and son.  I guess he’s supposed to be a crazed, killer-type, too.  Who knows.  Deleted scenes are there, as well as the original Teaser Trailer.  Also offered is the last part of the enjoyable psuedo-documentary THE CRYSTAL LAKE MASSACRES REVISITED (Part III).

All in all, I give this film 2 out of 5 skulls.  It’s ok, but JUST OK.

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And that’s that folks.  Look for more reviews coming soon from BACKWOODSHORROR.com and THE BACKWOODS HORRORSHOW

“DRAG ME TO HELL” REVIEW: POLISHED EVIL DEAD

I’m going back and forth on this one.  On the one hand, I like it, on the other, it just seems too damn slick for a Raimi horror flick.  When I hear of Raimi’s triumphant return to horror, I expect gritty, grimy violence.  Don’t get me me wrong, DRAG ME TO HELL was a fucking rollercoaster ride of fun with definite Raimi-esque quality, but it just didn’t strike me how his past foray’s into horror have done.

Oh, yeah, shit, a synopsis for those of you who have been lazy fucks and haven’t gone to see the damn thing (stolen, obviously, because I’m lazy):


The film follows a loan officer (Alison Lohman) who is ordered to evict an old woman from her home and finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse that turns her life into a living hell. Desperate, she turns to a seer to try and save her soul, while evil forces work to push her to a breaking point.
(Thanks to Bloody Disgusting who, in turn, stole it from IMDB)

A rathre brief synopsis, for sure, and one that doesn’t truly encapsulate the feeling of the film.  Rather dry, I’d say.
The film is definitely Raimi’s return to form, with the odd dutch angles, strange camera work, fantastic use of sound and imagery as only a master can do.  The flick is a fucking roller coaster ride.  Reminds me of something I read in Bruce Campbell’s autobiography “once the action/violence starts, NEVER EVER let up” and this flick delivers in spades.

The story was both simple and relatively refreshing given the glutton of absolute shit being pumped outtta the ‘ol Hollywood orifice these days and it was quite a welcomed relief.  I don’t believe I’ve had such fun at a horor flick in ages.

There were of course some issues.  Justin Long (the boyfriend) for example.  Who dug the mac guy up.  Motherfucker even says he hates CCR in the newest Die Hard movie.  Fuck him with a razorwire baseball bat to the ass for all I care.  I’ve seen soggy cardboard act better.  A shame because I kind of liked him in Jeepers Creepers.  Lohman did a fantastic job, finding a place between fear and downright ass-kicker a’la Bruce Campbell in the Evil Dead flicks.

While not a perfect movie, it is incredibly enjoyable and a recommend for all of you horror fiends looking for something new to bring to the table.  Watch this fucker TODAY!

Because of certain flaws and some stiff acting, DRAG ME TO HELL will be receiving the coveted 3 out of 5 skulls.  Good job, Sam…I expect more from your future efforts.  Fuck SpiderMan!

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REVIEW: SPLINTER(2008)

SPLINTER

Director: Toby Wilkins

Writers: Kai Barry, Ian Shorr, Toby Wilkins

Awards:
Splinter won six awards at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival: Best Editing, Best Score, Best Special Effects, Best Make-Up, Best Directing and Best Picture.
Splinter was nominated for Best Horror Film award by the 35th Annual Saturn Awards. Winners are due to be announced at a ceremony in Burbank, CA, on June 24th 2009.

A Brief Synopsis:
A young couple (played by Paul Costanzo and Jill Wagner) are out for an anniversary weekend of fun and camping.  Having to head back into town, they are stopped at gunpoint by two hitchhiking criminals heading north (played by Shea Whigham and Rachel Kerbs).  Things go from bad to worse as the group get a flat while running over a strangely active bit of roadkill.  Pulling into a gas station to take care of a busted radiator, the night takes a horrific turn as a strange, parasitic SPLINTER creature with the ability to inhabit, completely distort human (and any other mammal) bodies to use as their own personal death vehicles to attack other creatures while it continues to devour the creature it inhabits from the inside out.  CAN IT BE STOPPED?  WHO WILL SURVIVE?  WHAT WILL BE LEFT OF THEM?  (Wait, can I use that last bit?)

This movie was fantastic.  I can see why it won all of those freakin’ screamfest awards.  The makeup was spot on, the story was spot on, and most importantly (and something that generally brings down a good independent horror flick) the writing and acting was great!  I was drawn in by the story from the word go and the movie took hold and didn’t let go for the entire ride.  For fans of the site, it’s no real secret that I’ve been excited by this film since I first heard about it some months ago.  I mean, a movie set entirely in the backwoods, mainly a backwoods old gas station is sure to drag me in (look at the name of the site for cryin’ out loud), so when I found out that I was getting a review copy, I was stoked.  I watched the film a few days ago and decided not to write a review right after I saw it in order to let it roll around in the ‘ol noggin’ for a while.  I wanted to get over my initial excitement and see if the movie still had me after a while.

It does boils ‘n ghouls, without a doubt.

The only negative I can find with the movie would have  to be with the monster itself.  Though the last bit of the movie showed a good bit of the creature (in a way), I could’ve done with more.  I understand that keeping it to the shadows was probably both a budgetary and asthetic necessity, but, as with any good creature feature, I want to see the monster!  The hand gag, however, was freakin’ hilarious and reminded me of THE EVIL DEAD 2 a great deal.  I could probably have used a little more on the gore as well, but that’s just personal bias there.  What can I say, at times, I’m a gore hound.  One of the best aspects of the film would have to be watching Owen (from THE BACKWOODS HORRORSHOW and THE LINUX BLOG) jump at all the right places.  It’s great to see that kind of reaction from a horror film.

I look forward to the work Toby Wilkins will be doing in the future.  We have the potential for a new horror great on our hands.

REVIEW: SEED

While not a long or in depth review by any means, the following exposition fully captures my thoughts on the film.  At least…the first minute and a half of the film.

Uwe Boll, have you truly sunk so low as to actually incorporate the filmed torture, maiming, and live skinning of dogs into your film to achieve some form of, what, exploitation cred?  What, you think you can be “cool” like Deodato?  Go fuck yourself you (lowercase) german piece of shit.  I’m sorry, was that not politically correct?  I’m just trying to be sooooooo edgy like you.  I have a new pinnacle for worst movie here at Backwoods Horror.  I didn’t think it’d happen so soon.  Motherfuck I’m mad.  Seriously, I wish I’d had a chance to go in the ring with the “raging” Boll.  I’d fucking curbstomp your ass Boll.  What?  Not allowed?  I suppose continuing to break your fucking skull past all recognition would just constitute unprofessional journalism.  Hmmmm, how to be classy.  Oh yeah, you threw that out the windown WHEN YOU PUT FUCKING ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF THE TORTURE, SKINNING, MAIMING, AND OVERALL SICK FUCK BULLSHIT TREATMENT OF THOSE FUCKING DOGS IN YOUR MOVIE FOR ENTERTAINMENT VALUE.  It’s a real shame you weren’t aborted.

Ahem.  And that is my review.  Pretty much sums it up.