HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: A LONELY PLACE TO DIE (2011)

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A LONELY PLACE TO DIE (2011)

A Lonely Place To Die is more thriller then horror movie but, it is a suspenseful and sometimes nasty little thriller at that and does have the violence, tone and body count one might expect from a horror flick. The film tells the tale of a group of friends… Alison (Melissa George), Rob (Alec Newman), Jenny (Kate Magowan), Ed (Ed Speleers) and Alex (Garry Sweeney)… who are mountain climbing in the Scottish Highlands and find a young Croatian girl, Anna (Holly Boyd), buried in a box in the middle of nowhere. They obviously release her and take her with them but, to say that some very unsavory and very lethal individuals want her back, is an understatement and the vacation turns into a fight for survival against two ruthless and armed thugs. What makes this thriller especially effective though, is it’s ability to smoothly change gears. What starts out as a wilderness survival flick becomes something else about halfway through and without missing a beat. It actually draws us in further, as we didn’t expect the movie to take this direction. The less you know the better, so, I’ll say no more. Director and co-writer Julian Gilbey (along with co-writer Will Gilbey) evolves the story without loosing our attention or breaking the tension he creates early on, giving us something more then we expected, so, we are glued to the screen until the film’s bloody and very intense conclusion. He gives us a few surprises along the way and keeps us from ever getting comfortable in our expectations of where this is all going to lead. Performances all around are good with Melissa George playing a strong yet vulnerable heroine and Sean Harris and Gary Sweeney are brutally effective as the pair of cold and vicious kidnappers. The Scottish locations give the film a nice look under the guidance of Julian Gilbey’s lens and he gives the film a nice no-frills yet visually striking style while providing us with some intense action and suspense. A very entertaining action/thriller and a sign of hopefully more good things to come from Julian Gilbey.¬†Also stars Hellboy’s Karel Roden.

3 and 1/2 bullets!

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REVIEW: FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY (2013)

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FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY (2013)

Frankenstein’s Army is one of those movies that has such potential to be a real midnight movie blast but, is all the more disappointing because it fails to hit the mark. The movie starts with a fun premise loaded with possibilities… a group of Russian soldiers during WWII are sent on what they believe is a rescue mission to a German village. But, it actually is a secret mission to locate Frankenstein’s grandson (Karel Roden) who is reanimating corpses and combining them with machine parts to make hideous and lethal creatures. When they arrive, they find the village massacred and what few survivors are left are in a state of terror as they describe the horrifying abominations that now occupy their home. The soldiers infiltrate the fiendish doctor’s laboratory only to find themselves outmatched and now possible subjects for the next horrifying construct. Director Richard Raaphorst presents some nightmarish visuals and really cool creature designs to serve Chris Mitchell’s script based on Raaphort’s story. And there is plentiful and well executed gore to go along with the bizarre monsters paraded across the screen. But, Frankenstein’s Army doesn’t really take off with the potential of it’s gruesome and amusing story. It’s a bit slow moving and when we do finally get into the lab and meet the army of horrifying creations, the film doesn’t do much with them or go anywhere. It’s like someone came up with a really cool concept… which it is… but, had no idea where to go with it. It kinda just ends without accomplishing anything but splashing the screen with blood and presenting us with it’s army of monstrosities. And while I enjoyed the design and FX work here, we needed the film to do something more interesting with it. The characters of the Russian soldiers are two dimensional and most of them are unlikable thugs and since we could care less about their fate, it has no impact, no matter how gruesome or horrifying, when they meet an unpleasant end or are in danger. That and the biggest complaint I have with the film is the complete pointlessness of using the found footage format. One of the soldiers has a movie camera and is documenting the mission and it is his footage we are watching. There is absolutely no reason for this to be a found footage movie and it really holds it back from going somewhere interesting and certainly doesn’t add anything to what we are watching. The action scenes and confrontations with the monsters are all shaky cam and really robs these scenes of their impact. It’s a shame, this was a great idea and had a very good design and FX crew to compliment the story and this could have been a cult classic but, instead we get a film that’s well made on a production level and mildly amusing to watch but, is sadly forgettable once all is said and done. A real waste of a wild concept and some great design and FX work.

2 and 1/2 abomination creations!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: HELLBOY and HELLBOY 2

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HELLBOY (2004)

While I’m not familiar with the comic that this is based on, I do know it was created by Mike Mignola and is about a demon who battles other paranormal creatures. Guillermo del Toro’s film adaptation opens during World War II where American commandos thwart the opening of an otherworldly dimension by the Nazis and the Russian monk Rasputin (Karel Roden). Before the rift is closed, occult expect Trevor Bruttenholm (Kevin Trainor during the WWII scenes and John Hurt as an older man), discovers something came through…a red baby demon with a huge stone hand. 60 years later “Hellboy” (a perfectly cast Ron Perlman) has been raised by Bruttenholm and is now part of the Bureau Of Paranormal Research And Defense, battling other paranormal threats to keep us safe. He fights along with fish-man, Abe Sapien (performed by Doug Jones but voiced by David Hyde Pierce), fire-starter and girlfriend, Liz (Selma Blair) and freshman Agent Myers (Rupert Evans). Rasputin has been resurrected and is now lurking about trying to awaken the Lovecraftian Ogdru Jahad and bring them into our world…and he needs to unlock Hellboy’s true demon nature to do it. Can Hellboy and Co. defeat Rasputin when Hellboy himself is the secret to the success of his plans to destroy our world?

As guided by del Toro, Hellboy is a visually cool and fun supernatural superhero story with some really good action set pieces and plenty of equally creepy monsters and characters. His design work is captivating and the action moves at a good clip as we go from some skirmishes with otherworldly beasties in New York to it’s fun and gooey climax in Russia. And the SPFX are for the most part flawless with both practical and CGI FX used to bring del Toro’s vision of Mignola’s world to the screen.

The cast are all good for the most part with Perlman stealing the show and the supporting cast backing him up well. What brought this down a bit for me was Rasputin was kind of a standard villain with Karel Roden really not seeming to get the material as did the rest of the cast. He seems to take things a bit too seriously and to be honest, is a bit bland. Even the supporting villains were a bit more matched with the material such as the blade wielding zombie, Karl Kroenen (Ladislav Beran). The pacing can be a little off at times too, a subplot involving a rivalry for Liz’s affections with Myers kinda slows things down a bit, but overall, it’s a fun and colorful fantasy flick that paved the way for an even better sequel.

A solid 3 Hellboys!

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HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008)

Guillermo del Toro cranks things up for the Hellboy sequel which really scores with an amazing visual style and some stunning creature design. Del Toro this time brings a faster and more even pace to this one, as well as, a story that is a bit more Brothers Grimm than Lovecraft and that helps lighten the tone a bit, too. There’s a little more humor (Hellboy and Abe drunkenly singing Barry Manilow is sidesplitting), but the film never gets silly.

The story this time finds Hellboy (Ron Perlman) outing himself to the general public while a noble but vengeful elf prince, Nuada, (Played with dignity and strength by Luke Goss) plans to resurrect the mythic Golden Army to rid the world of mankind, so the creatures of fairy can return to their former glory. His twin sister, Nuala (Anna Walton) tries to thwart his efforts at genocide and allies herself with Hellboy and the team to protect pieces of a golden crown which can resurrect and control the goblin-made mechanical army. Can Hellboy defeat this powerful elven prince in order to protect the very humans who now seem to reject him, despite all he’s done to protect them?

Del Toro stages some absolutely beautiful set pieces with his trademark sumptuous visually style and design. Highlights of the film being The Troll Market scene and the following sequence featuring a giant plant elemental battling our heroes by the Brooklyn Bridge. They alone are worth the price of admission, not to mention the climactic battle against the Golden Army itself. There is an amazing assortment of supporting fantasy creatures that are incredibly designed and rendered and are worth the price of admission as well. Once again the mix of practical and CGI FX is truly breathtaking and elevate an already very entertaining film.

The cast are mostly all back except, Doug Jones now voices Abe himself and Agent Myers is absent. There is also new team member Johann Krauss, an ectoplasmic gas in a diving suit voiced by Seth MacFarlane, who butts heads…or glass bubbles…with the loose cannon, Hellboy.

Not only is Hellboy 2 a bigger and faster paced supernatural action flick, but it is a visual feast for the eyes and just plain loads of fun. A sequel that exceeds and improves on the entertaining original.

3 and 1/2 Hellboys!

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