31 Days of Gore (Round 2) begins at midnight CT!

I hate the fall, but I love October. Each day this month I’ll feature a different horror movie, usually featuring hilariously wooden acting, red-colored Karo syrup, demons, monsters, decapitations, castrations, and tons of gratuitous nudity. Bring the whole family!

The Gore Meter

Like last year, each film will be assigned 1-4 on the “gore meter,” which is no indication of the quality of the movie itself. The rating is less affected by the amount of gore in the film than other factors such as the overall satisfaction, the quality, and the pacing of the gore effects. It’s highly subjective, so if you disagree with my rating, tough shit.

Let’s compare my two favorite horror films of all time: Rosemary’s Baby would score about a 1 on the meter, while George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead would get a 4.

Rosemary’s Baby
Dawn of the Dead
That brings you back up to speed, so come back at midnight, you sickos!

Rob Zombie’s ’31’ is on VOD

This one hurts. It could have been great. It should have been great.

It’s like a horror version of The Running Man, masterminded by Malcom McDowell and Judy Geeson. A group of hypersexual carnies, including Sheri Moon Zombie and the insanely fit Meg Foster (two years shy of 70, by the way), are taken hostage and forced to play the twisted game. Remember the video game Manhunt? It’s a lot like that. Director Rob Zombie concocts one great villain after another to torment his leads, but unlike The Running Man, 31 has nothing to say.

The most frustrating thing about Zombie is he’s almost there. He’s uncompromising, unapologetic, doesn’t pull any punches, and makes old fashioned horror without a lick of unnecessary CGI. Best of all, he populates his films with veteran B actors and actresses who might otherwise be pushing autographs for five bucks a pop. Unfortunately, his characters are often too dumb to fulfill the all-important role of becoming a surrogate for the viewer. You need characters you can relate to so you can begin to think: What would I do in this situation? Here, the leads are so thin, you can’t wait for them to die so the movie will just end. And believe me, this one drags like a slug in the mud.
If Zombie put one-tenth of the effort into his good guys that he puts into villains like Doomhead (Richard Brake, who’s fantastic here), we’d have a serviceable film. This is probably why The Devil’s Rejects is his most watchable project to date: everybody in that movie is a villain. If he made a movie like that with Doomhead in the lead, I’d be there in a heartbeat.
The most cringe-inducing part of Zombie’s movies is the dialogue. Why do the talent seem to be delivering their lines in a vacuum? Why do I have such a hard time following the conversations even though I can plainly hear what they’re saying? Why does he shoehorn so many street jokes in? 
Meanwhile, the movie looks as if it were edited with a paper shredder. Editing is supposed to establish things like geography, a sense of time, and most of all coherency. For long stretches at a time, 31 accomplishes none of that. At one point the group of characters are split up by a trap door, but for most of the scene I thought they were all on the same side. In another scene, the characters watch one of their own die and seemingly discover his body in the very next room.
What sucks about all this is I’m really pulling for Zombie to make something great because I think he’s got it in him, but he keeps proving me wrong. The joke’s on me, though, because I paid ten bucks to see the damn thing. I haven’t been more disappointed in a movie all year.
Speaking of 31: 31 Days of Gore begins in a week. I hope you’re pumped because I am.

Chopping Mall Blu-Ray coming September 27th… $40?!

I remember renting Chopping Mall at a grocery store a million years ago and not being prepared for the zany awesomeness of it. Soon we’ll get to see it in HD with a ton of extra features including three audio commentaries. The full list of features is available at Bloody Disgusting.

Speaking of things which are bloody disgusting, 31 Days of Gore begins in 10 days. Considering Amazon lists the Blu Ray of Chopping Mall at $40, I can pretty much guarantee I won’t be reviewing it this year. Oh well. 

Over the Top is over the top

My girlfriend and I were scrolling through Netflix, and when I passed Over the Top she asked me to go back. Reluctantly, I did. I was in the mood for absolutely anything but Over the Top, yet whenever I’m dead set against watching something, Starla goes all in. I tried to talk her out of it by explaining it’s an incredibly sappy film about arm wrestling. This only enticed her further. 

Several minutes into the movie, she asked, “Wait, are you sure this is about arm wrestling?” The movie takes its time warming up, but once it does, whoa boy. Better stand back.

If you’ve never been exposed to the absurdity of Over the Top, Sylvester Stallone plays Lincoln Hawk, a truck driver who just reunited with the son he walked out on a decade earlier. See, the boy’s mother is dying and although her wealthy father (Robert Loggia) is gunning for custody of his grandson, she wants her boy to be with his father. Long story short: complex emotional conflicts are resolved by arm wrestling. Fuck yeah.

There’s something kind of bizarre about viewing American life through the eyes of Israeli director Menahem Golan, co-founder of The Cannon Group. His interpretation of the country has always been unique, no doubt feeding back into the very culture which inspired him, but here he cranks it up to eleven. Or perhaps “jumps the shark” is more accurate.

Hawk, with his muscular physique and rust bucket of a truck (also his home, which contains one-arm exercise equipment) is supposed to be an everyman. Meanwhile Loggia’s character, who is perfectly justified in his assessment that Hawk is a deadbeat, is portrayed as the villain. I don’t want to spoil it, so skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t seen it yet, but Loggia represents The Man, and he despises his son-in-law because he arm wrestles and drives a truck for a living. Loggia ultimately changes his mind when Stallone proceeds to arm wrestle and drive a truck for a living.

Nonetheless, Over the Top is a surprisingly fun ride through the cheesiest depths of the 1980s. This remarkable artifact from my childhood even films its climax during a real life arm wrestling tournament. I know what you’re thinking: Arm wrestling tournaments really existed? Well, sort of. This one was created specifically for the film, and two guys actually got their arms broken. One of the incidents ends up in the final cut during an obligatory sports movie montage.

Over the Top is a lot more entertaining than I remembered. It’s interesting to find out how the usually ball-related cliches in sports movies get translated to a movie about arm wrestling of all things. And in case you’re wondering about the title, it refers to a “special move” Stallone’s character has incorporated into his matches. It’s pretty stupid and I suspect it has no basis in reality, but this movie isn’t filmed in reality, anyway, so what’s the problem?

Warning: When I say this movie’s sappy, I mean embarrassingly sappy. 

Blood Father is available on VOD

spoilers in this trailer

The silver lining in Mel Gibson’s infamous meltdown, if there is one, is that it forced him out of his ridiculous descent into Oscar bait and steered him back into B-movie territory. I couldn’t care less about Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ, or Apocalypto. Like so many movie stars, he understandably wanted to prove to the world he has range—and he does—but let’s not pretend he wasn’t taking himself just a little too seriously. Lethal Weapon, on the other hand, really was something unique, a balancing act nobody else in the world could’ve pulled off. Meanwhile Hamlet, though sufficient, was just another Shakespeare adaptation.

His post-meltdown roles, so far, have been amusing at best (he’s the only reason you need to see Machete Kills). Edge of Darkness and Get the Gringo, neither one of which I managed to finish, seemed to prove he was having trouble finding his footing. Yet I believe with Blood Father he’s rediscovered his purpose in film. Or maybe he’s just grown comfortable with the fact he’s a much better movie star than a serious thespian. 
Make no mistake: this is little more than a run-of-the-mill B-movie. It just happens to be a good run-of-the-mill B-movie, which also features William H. Macy and Michael Parks. The character he plays, Link, is a guy who’s more or less exactly where the real life Gibson is at this point in his career: he’s made some mistakes and he’s at least trying to be a better person. The ex-con has settled down in a small desert community where he keeps his head low, attends AA meetings everyday, and works as a tattoo artist. 
Then there’s his estranged teenage daughter, Lydia, who has gotten herself mixed in with dangerous people. Her introduction, which is the opening scene, is worrisome because it’s got the wrong feel to it: MTV editing, choppy pacing, and a complete and utter lack of fun. In this scene we see her shoot her drug dealing boyfriend, which puts a hefty price on her head. Then she has no one else she can turn to but her dear old pops, who’s disgusted to find she’s making some of the same stupid decisions he made in life.
Whereas most movies like this get me on board early only to lose me by the end, this one quickly softens its initial straight-to-video feel and switches over to a tone we’d expect from a drive-in theater twenty years ago. It manages to dazzle and entertain on a relatively small budget, which is really all I’m asking for. And the first time we see Gibson is in a close-up which details every crack and wrinkle in his troubled face, assuring us this isn’t the same guy we were familiar with before his publicity trouble began.
The action scenes are a little too choppily edited for my liking, but it’s still a fun ride. I want to see Gibson do more of this. Hell, put him in a movie in which he and Liam Neeson simply threaten bad guys over the phone for two hours and I’d be in hog heaven.

Don’t Breathe will literally make you hold your breath

There’s a scene in Don’t Breathe that people are going to talk about for a very long time. It’s a rabbit-in-the-stew kind of moment, something as memorable as what Kathy Bates did in Misery. Or maybe the “Is that hair gel?” scene in There’s Something About Mary is a more apt comparison. Either way you slice it, I haven’t seen anything like it since Bone Tomahawk. I guarantee you the scene in question is fueling Don’t Breathe’s runaway word-of-mouth.

You’re either going to love it or you’re going to barf. On the way out the door, I heard just as many people praising the movie as hating on it. But at least the audience was engaged, which is something you can’t say about the endless reboots and remakes and comic book movies. So many of the movies I’ve seen this year evoked little more than a shrug from the viewers as they quietly collected their belongings and shuffled outside. They had come to see a movie, that’s what they saw, and it neither disappointed nor wowed them. This one knows the secret of making a story stick: you can try to please everyone, but nobody ever falls in love with movies that play it safe.

This is something special.

Which isn’t to say I’m in love with Don’t Breathe. As far as thrills go, I thought The Green Room was twice as good and only half as hyped. But this one’s good, too—almost great—and I can see why people are talking about it. I mean… my God… what a great (disgusting) spurt of cinematic ingenuity. The detail and the closeups… holy shit. I just… wow.

Although I wasn’t a fan of Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake, I couldn’t wait to see what the guy made next. (In retrospect, I was too close to the source material to ever enjoy that movie, so it’s not his fault I walked away disappointed). Here’s a serious horror movie which doesn’t comprise on scares. Unlike most of these flicks, this one is quiet—so quiet you can hear a pin drop in the theater—and it’s interesting how quiet the audience gets. You can almost feel the people around you holding their breath, waiting for the next jump-scare. And that’s another interesting creative decision: there actually aren’t a whole lot of jump-scares. Best of all, there’s none of that silly MTV editing, either. It’s just a straightforward horror film that works and you’re not going to see a better movie this weekend.

My biggest complaint is the Rottweiler in the film. That dog is one of the shittiest actors I’ve seen in a long time.