Almost Human Movie Review

By Staci Layne Wilson

While writer director Joe Begos is clearly influenced by old-school horror from the likes of Tobe Hooper (Lifeforce), Stuart Gordon (From Beyond), John Carpenter (The Thing), and even Stephen King (story’s set in Maine), he still manages to put a new turn on an old saw (and yes: there is a cruel chainsaw death in Almost Human).

The film opens on the sudden and terrifying nighttime abduction of small town guy Mark (Josh Ethier). A hovering alien craft set its sights and lights on Mark. He is taken right in front of his best bud Seth (Graham Skipper) and his girlfriend Jen (Vanessa Leigh), who are powerless to stop their loved one from getting sucked into the sky. He disappears from their sight, and seemingly the world… for two years.

Then one wintery day, Mark’s nude, frozen body is discovered in the woods by a pair of hunters. He may be frozen, but Mark is not dead. Pretty soon, the hunters are dead. Now we get a good look at Mark, and his soulless eyes. Emitting a decibel-defying howl (not unlike the aliens in the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake), it’s clear he isn’t human anymore. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, Mark’s not even “almost human” – for some inexplicable reason he goes on a mindless murder rampage throughout his home town, brutally offing everyone he sees.

I am a little fuzzy as to why he’s doing this and why does not seem to have a clear M.O. (he uses any and all handy weapons) or purpose (later on, the usual goal of implanting alien parasites into hosts is revealed, but it still doesn’t explain the previous hostility and empty corpses left behind).

Not that it much matters “why” – at least in this case. The film is well-acted (especially by stage veteran Skipper – I loved him in Re-Animator! The Musical), suspenseful, and yeah… brutal! Mark’s a machine when it comes to killing, and there’s no holding back on the bloodletting. The film does begin to run out of steam towards the end (though it’s saved by a good “Gotcha!”) and its shaky-cam conceit wears mighty thin (why is the entire room quaking when Seth is just standing there, talking on the phone?), but overall if you’re looking for a vital, uber-violent sci-fi horror movie to settle in with some night, Almost Human is a safe bet.

Exclusive Interview with Clare Kramer, by Staci Layne Wilson for Inside Horror

Q)  You play a bad-ass military chick who’s after a big-ass spider… Aside from that very cool fact, what was it that made you want to take on this role?

CLARE KRAMER: Ha! You’re right, the Lt. is pretty bad-ass! But seriously, I love working with Mike Mendez, the director. We worked together on Gravedancers, and I really like his style of directing. He has, in my opinion, the perfect infusion of humor and wit into genre films like Big Ass Spider. I mean after all, a spider can only be so scary! So when I initially read the script I read it with Mike’s sensibility in mind, and having him at the helm really was the tipping point for me signing on. Of course Greg, Lombardo and Ray were an absolute blast to work with, and the project has since become one of my favorites to have been involved with.

As far as the character, she’s pretty straightforward actually. Her job in the film is to forward the plot line and the development of Greg’s story. I really did like the physical handling of the weapons though, as I’m a very physical actor, and I’ve never played someone in the military… so those aspects of her appealed to me initially as well.

Q)  Who’s the audience for this movie, and have your kids seen it — what do they think of Mom the bug-basher?

CK: The BAS audience is really anyone who has a sense of humor and an appreciation for indie film making. Honestly, there’s something in it for everyone; scares, laughs, special effects, improv, death…. and it still comes across as a very appealing family film. My kids loved it! I have a philosophy with them which is this: I don’t allow them to watch anything I myself wouldn’t watch. They’ve seen everything from Back to the Future to the Star Wars films to Avatar… so Big Ass Spider was exciting and fun for them. Oh, my oldest Gavin also makes her feature debut! She’s the little girl in the park scene who almost gets impaled by the spider…. She’s very proud of her role!

Q)  What’s next for you, in acting and with Geek Nation?

CK: The next project I have coming out is The Lost Tree with Thomas Ian Nicholas, Michael Madson and Lacey Chabert, which is a psychological thriller. Not quite as family friendly as BAS! And GeekNation is expanding it’s network of shows and podcasts this year. Also, we’ve been putting focus on GN’s written content and I’m very proud of our Senior Editor Ben Pearson and the direction he’s helped us to take site. GN is definitely my 5th child at this point - but it’s been an amazing journey! I can’t believe we launched the site just a year and a half ago.

image

image


[spoiler alert]


REFRESHING!

In one word, that’s how I would describe “Open Grave”.

A by the numbers unique vision on what would have been a traditional tale. Kudos to the director and writer who kept us guessing throughout this contained thriller.

The film takes places mostly in a cabin out in the woods. John Doe just woke up, doesn’t know who he is, doesn’t remember how he got there. Upon entering the premises he is joined by a group of strangers. As the story unfolds, these strangers realize that they aren’t strangers at all. And unravel the chain of events that lead them all to there temporary amnesia.

I highly recommend this film if you’re into stories told in a real time scenario. 


= = =
Reviwed by MmJoe  
[spoiler alert]
REFRESHING!
In one word, that’s how I would describe “Open Grave”.
A by the numbers unique vision on what would have been a traditional tale. Kudos to the director and writer who kept us guessing throughout this contained thriller.
The film takes places mostly in a cabin out in the woods. John Doe just woke up, doesn’t know who he is, doesn’t remember how he got there. Upon entering the premises he is joined by a group of strangers. As the story unfolds, these strangers realize that they aren’t strangers at all. And unravel the chain of events that lead them all to there temporary amnesia.
I highly recommend this film if you’re into stories told in a real time scenario. 
= = =
Reviwed by MmJoe  

3 notes

Here Comes the Devil Movie Review - directed by Adrián García Bogliano (who also did an ABC of Death last year, B is for Bigfoot), is a simple, oft-told story of demonic possession. But how it differs from most is that it’s at once a family drama, a vigilante tale, and a whodunit mystery. We follow a married couple (Francisco Barreiro, Laura Caro) who lose their children while on a family trip near some caves in Tijuana. The kids eventually reappear without explanation, but they are much-changed. Not that it’s any secret they’re possessed, but by whom, and what do these entities really want? It’s not outright terrifying, but Here Comes the Devil is subtly scary and well worth a look.

Directed by Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Here Comes the Devil stars Francisco Barreiro and Laura Caro.  Magnet Releasing will release the film on Friday, December 13.  The film has a running time of 98 minutes and is not yet rated by the MPAA.

5 notes

The Visitor – Alamo Drafhouse Re-Releases This Kooky 70s Sci-Fi Horror Occult Thriller

Title: THE VISITOR

Director: MICHAEL J. PARADISE

Distributor: DRAFTHOUSE FILMS

Theatrical Release Date: NOVEMBER 1, 2013 - LA & AUSTIN   Click here for full release schedule: Drafthouse Films

VOD Release Date: FEBRUARY 2, 2014

Runtime: 108 MINS

Rating: NOT RATED

Website: The Visitor

 

Synopsis: In this unforgettable assault on reality—restored and presented uncut theatrically for the first time ever in the U.S.—legendary Hollywood director/actor John Huston (The Maltese Falcon; Treasure Of The Sierra Madre) stars as an intergalactic warrior who joins a cosmic Christ figure in battle against a demonic 8-year-old girl, and her pet hawk, while the fate of the universe hangs in the balance. Multi-dimensional warfare, pre-adolescent profanity and brutal avian attacks combine to transport the viewer to a state unlike anything they’ve experienced… somewhere between Hell, the darkest reaches of outer space, and  Atlanta, GA . The Visitor fearlessly fuses elements of The Omen, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The Birds, Rosemary’s Baby, The Fury and even Star Wars creating the most ambitious of all ’70s  psychedelic mind-warps . Its baffling all-star cast includes Shelley Winters (Night Of The Hunter), Glenn Ford (Superman), Lance Henriksen (Aliens), Franco Nero (Django) and Sam Peckinpah (director of The Wild Bunch).

Review: OK, so The Visitor has a head-spinning who’s who cast list, a crazy plot line, a whacky reputation and is something of a legend since its original release in 1979. But is it any good?

Yes!

It reminded me of a cross between Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World on a Wire crossed with Mervyn LeRoy’s The Bad Seed. If that sort of thing appeals to you, read on.

The Visitor is a Euro-American science-fiction horror extravaganza about an ancient being (Huston) from faraway galaxy who travels through time and space to Atlanta, GA., to retrieve a very special, and very spiteful, 8-year-old little girl named Katy (Paige Conner). Katy’s mom Barbara (Joanne Nail) is the lone human descendant of a powerful alien being who’s infused Barbara’s womb with otherworldly DNA and passed his terrifying telekinetic powers to creepy Katy. Barbara’s boyfriend Raymond (Henriksen) wants to marry her and give Katy a little brother, but that is something which Barbara is dead-set against. They can’t just adopt, because Barbara’s ability to bear gifted children is coveted by a power conglomerate run by Dr. Walker (Mel Ferrer), and they’re quite disappointed with Raymond’s failure to follow through on their master plan… who will pay the price? And what’s up with that nutty nanny (Winters) and her silly songs? Why is  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the movie?

Oh, so many questions! (See it on the big screen and have fun trying to figure it all out.)

= = =

Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson

 

1 note

Carrie (2013) Movie Review

SPOILER ALERT

I’m writing this review assuming you’re as familiar with the book and (especially) the original film, as I am. I’m gonna drop more spoilers than the rain of tampons in the girls’ locker room.

Brian de Palma’s 1976 version of Carrie is about as perfect as it’s going to get. But let’s face it: Stephen King’s a bankable name, the studio wants to cash in, and there’s a whole crop of kiddies out there who won’t watch anything “old.” Remakes of all our faves are inevitable. Gotta be realistic here.

Some fare better than others. Since Carrie already has a solid base with a seminal novel by a great author, intriguing characters, and a story that’s timeless and relatable, it stands a better chance than, say, Friday the 13th. Since it’s such a deeply female tale, it was smart to cast Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore as mother and daughter, and then to go so far as to bring on a woman director (Kimberly Pierce, whose breakout film, Boys Don’t Cry, still resonates to this day).

Plot-wise, the movie is the one we know and love: Carrie White is still a shy, awkward outcast, teased mercilessly by her peers, and browbeaten by her reclusive, religious-zealot mother. We get the “plug it up” scene, and the “dirty pillows” line. The telekinesis is there and so is the pig’s blood in all its gory glory. The film is rated R. So far, so good.

On the not-so-good side, Carrie looks and feels almost like a slick TV movie. While it would be unrealistic to expect cinematic style on the scale of De Palma, I was surprised Pierce offered up nothing of herself here. It’s egregiously over-lit (none of the neo-noir beauty of BDC), the actors are fine but not fearless (unlike Hilary Swank and Peter Saarsgard in BDC), and the score / soundtrack is humdrum (nothing edgy… and there’s even my worst pet-peeve: a standard-issue clothes shopping spree musical montage set to banal pop!). I won’t reveal what happens at the graveside at the end, but let’s just say the tombstone was probably made of cheese.

On the good side, Carrie is an absorbing tale and even though I knew what would happen beat for beat (no surprises here) I was still captivated enough by the story to be drawn into Carrie White’s plight.

Definitely worth a look.

= = =

Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson

 

Exclusive interview with Vinenzo Natali all about Haunter

Staci Layne Wilson: I really enjoyed Haunter. I thought it was a lot of fun because it feels like a great old-school older kids’ horror movie, which we haven’t had in a long time. Family fare isn’t usually what you do, so I’m curious to know how you came on to the project.

Vincenzo Natali: Sure. First of all, thank you for those kind words. I came onto it because it was written by a very close friend of mine, Brian King. And Brian and I frequently trade scripts, give each other creative feedback. And Haunter was a script he had given to me. In fact, I’d read a number of iterations of it over maybe a year or two—never thinking that I would become the director.

Staci: Oh really?

VN: Yeah, it was just, I would describe it as a slowly evolving love affair between me and that script. And at a certain point, it just became the obvious thing to do. And it was a truly pleasurable experience making that movie. And in many respects, kind of a different experience for me because totally, it’s quite unlike anything I’ve done before.

Staci: Definitely. Like I said, it does have a real family horror vibe. And I mean that in a nice way. I think it reminds me a little bit of some of the 80s horror films that I grew up with like The Watcher in the Woods, and The Lady in White, those kind of things. Was that kind of what you were aiming for?

VN: Yeah, I think that was sort of imprinted in the DNA of Brian’s story. And I think that there was something really miracle and magical about what he wrote. And I didn’t even approach it so much as a horror film as kind of a fantasmagorigal fantasy. I kept thinking of Neil Gaiman, like sort of a dark fantasy. But at its heart, quite warm and inviting. And that’s what we did.

Staci: Well, your protagonist in Abigail Breslin is so likable, and it’s so easy to follow her throughout the entire movie. Can you tell me a little bit about how she came on?

VN: She found us. I don’t even know how she got the script, but quite out of the blue we heard from her representatives that she wanted to do the movie. In fact, we did quite an extensive search for our Lisa. We were totally prepared to cast an unknown. And then we got this call that Abigail was interested, and she was kind of born to play the part. She turned 16 two weeks before we started shooting. And we said the film takes place the night before, the day before Lisa’s 16th birthday. So the timing was just right. She just completely embodied the character, and gave it this whole other level of, I would say emotional depth and strength. She was really great to work with, of course. She’s a lovely, lovely person.

Staci: Yeah, we don’t really think of you as a children’s director/kid’s director. At 16, she is growing up, but still she’s not to the maturity level of most of the actors that you’ve worked with. What was it like to direct someone that young?

VN: You know, she is at the level of people I work with, that’s the crazy thing. I’ve had this experience, in my previous film, Splice. I had Sarah Polley as one of the lead roles. Sarah was in her late 20s by the time we did that movie. But she began as a child actor, and it was a very similar kind of experience. Young actors like that, they mature very quickly. And they have kind of an innate, almost reflexive understanding of the craft that people who’ve gone into this later in life that you just don’t think they’re capable of possessing. So really, working with Abbie, she’s technically perfect, and she’s a very nice person, very genuine kind of person—and very mature and intelligent, highly intelligent. So I didn’t treat her any differently than anyone else that I’ve worked with before. And it was a pleasure. And it was a lot to put on her shoulders, because Lisa’s in every scene. She carries the movie.

Staci: Right. And it doesn’t become tedious watching her. She’s always got this sort of sense of discovery along with the character. Now you also have Stephen McHattie, who’s one of my favorites. He kind of came into my own awareness when he did Pontypool. How have you known him, I know he’s a Canadian actor and he’s been around a long time.

VN: It was the same thing for me. I’m sure I’ve seen Stephen in other things—in fact I know I have—but Pontypool is the one that just blew me away. That is just such an extraordinary performance, and it was a one-man show, really. Stephen was the top of my list. We went after him very aggressively. And he was great.

Staci: What is his style? To be Hollywood about it, what’s his process as an actor? Does he do his own thing, or does he collaborate?

VN: He’s the kind of actor that is really exciting to work with because he tries things. He will try, he’s a very creative man. And he’s more than an actor. He’s a very studied and worldly guy. So he brings stuff to his performance. I really liked working with him. And then he just has this magnificent face—so fascinating and photogenic, and writhing when he wants it to be.

Staci: And that voice.

VN: Yeah, it was great. The character, Lisa, in the movie plays the clarinet. And at multiple points in the film she plays Peter and the Wolf on her clarinet. And she of course is Peter, and the Pale Man, played by Stephen McHattie, is the Wolf. And he fully embodied that. I actually made a point, when we were shooting the film, of insisting that Abigail and Stephen never see each other off set. I only wanted them to encounter each other as their characters. I did not want Abigail to feel comfortable around him—I wanted him to scare her.

Staci: Really? Well, it certainly translates well into the movie. Now what’s the plan for the film? Is it being released theatrically, or where can people see it, how and when?

VN: Yes, it’s getting a multi-platform release, where it comes out theatrically on VOD, and I don’t know if its coming out on DVD at the same time, but you can see it just about everywhere at once.

Staci: Good. So are you working on another project now? What can we expect from you next?

VN: I’m working on many things, yes, as always. I actually just, the next thing you’ll see from me is a TV series that I produced here in Toronto with my producing partner. It’s a horror anthology, and the pilot is going online on Halloween day, and it’s called Darknet. We’re going to start sending stuff out online, you’re going to see little bits and pieces out there.

Staci: Oh perfect. Sounds great. Is there a website for it?

VN: There is, it’s called DarknetFiles.com. And you won’t see too much—we have a Facebook page, all that stuff. There isn’t much content there yet, we have a very grand plan for this thing. It begins with the pilot, but it’s going to go to some interesting places after that.

Staci: Wow, ok, I’ll check it out. You know I’m in.

VN: I know, Staci. I was definitely thinking of you when I did it.

Staci: Wow, I’m honored. Now I am definitely in!

VN: Thanks.

= = =

More with Vincenzo Natali here

http://www.horror.com/php/article-3196-1.html

Discopath L.A. Premiere at BeyondFest

BeyondFest is in full swing at the historical Egyptian and Aero Theaters. I was lucky enough to attend last Saturday night, for the L.A. premiere of Discopath.

Discopath is a retro-slasher set in the late 1970s, and it’s about an introverted short-order cook who makes short work of anyone who listens to disco music. The beat sends him into murderous rages, gloriously illustrated in the first murder set-piece which takes place under the multi-colored lights of a thumping discotheque dance floor. After that, the action switches to Montreal, where the killer has fled (and where the filmmakers and actors are based – and from here on out, most of the movie is in French). Here, he infiltrates a Catholic school and is sent into a record-breaking rage when he spies the girls spinning disco 45s.

As one might expect, Discopath has a great score (by Bruce Cameron) and soundtrack (even, despite its low budget, featuring recognizable hits from Kiss and K.C. and the Sunshine Band). The acting is good-bad (think: 70s giallo and 80s slashers), and there’s nothing held back in the gore department (think: the classic Maniac). While there are some very clever twists and an awesome upshot at the end, overall Discopath falls short because of its uneasy balance on tone. It’s kind of funny, but isn’t a comedy. It’s kind of scary, but isn’t quite suspenseful enough to succeed on a horror level. It’s kind of gory, but not truly exploitative.

Making his feature debut following a series of shorts, writer/director Renaud Gauthier shows he’s got lots of potential. I look forward to seeing what he does next.

After Discopath played, we were treated to beers in the lobby at intermission, and a chance to meet Mr. Gauthier as well as the upcoming performer, Umberto. Umberto would be treating us to a live organ accompaniment to Pieces, the notorious 80s slasher flick. (And the evening would wind down with another Canadian disco-death flick, Prom Night.)

Umberto’s music was fantastic! However, I didn’t think the choice of films was quite right. I have seen Pieces before, and while it’s simple enough to follow the plot even without audible dialogue, I do think the presentation would have been more satisfying with a subtitled foreign flick.

BeyondFest continues at The Egyptian and The Aero through October. Click here for calendar and prices: http://beyond-fest.com/

Dracula: The Dark Prince DVD Movie Review

“It’s a film that will appeal to the legion of Twilight fans around the world. Our Dracula is a young, good-looking hero who is betrayed by those closest to him and exacts his revenge on a grand scale.” – Producer, Stephen Paul

If that’s not enough to make you want to stake your own heart, read on.

Dracula: The Dark Prince is a Walmart exclusive, which kind of says it all. But let me tell you more. The story, nothing at all like Bram Stoker’s novel, follows Dracula (Luke Roberts, from the latest Beauty & the Beast TV series) after he kidnaps a woman he believes is the reincarnation of his dead wife. Vampire hunter Van Helsing (Jon Voigt) and his companions step up rescue her before time runs out.

 image

The acting isn’t too bad, all things considered (Voigt is amusingly hamming it up, but no-one can ever reach the Honeybaked perfection of Anthony Hopkins in the Coppola version). The casting is not good (the leads are far too wet-behind-the-ears to evoke any sense of gravitas), and worse still: It’s got the look and feel of an Uwe Boll movie (think: Bloodrayne, Dungeon Siege).

The DVD has audio commentary with Director Pearry Teo, and features cast interviews plus a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Dracula: The Dark Prince is on DVD as a Walmart exclusive, as well as Video on Demand, Pay-Per-View and Digital HD on October 15.

 = = =

Also Available:

Ghost Team One

I’ll have what Indiewire and Film Threat are having. Their respective reviews call this on-the-cheap indie mockumentary “Ludicrously endearing!” and “Pure comedy gold!” If only I had sipped that Kool-Aid before slipping this disaster of a disc into my DVD player.

If you think the idea of an even more sophomoric version of Animal House mixed with an even shoddier-looking Paranormal Activity sequel, then Ghost Team One might be up your dark alley. The story — such as it is — follows a few frat boys who’ve set out to film the vengeful spirit of a girl who was murdered in their dorm. Add one psychic gal-pal, and it’s a party (complete with guests who sh*t in the kitchen sink). Turns out the ghost has a thing for girls, and she’s been looking to get laid for decades. Vulgar, unfunny, and not scary.

Ghost Team One is in selected theaters and on VOD October 11.

Vincenzo Natali’s HAUNTER Movie Review

Who recalls, back in the 80s, when there were lots of quality horror movies for children? I don’t mean teen-slashers; I’m talking about the spooky, mysterious, non-comedic stories that are geared toward 11- and 12-year olds. Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Lady in White, The Goonies, The Watcher in the Woods. These movies featured kids in perilous supernatural situations, solving the unsolved, empowered by their own initiative and smarts.

While our Haunter protagonist, Lisa (Abigail Breslin), at 15, is a little older, she’s got a normal, everyday big sister vibe, making her as relatable to younger kids as she is to teens and adults. Plus, it’s largely set in the 80s. Win/win.

Sort of a Groundhog Day meets The Lovely Bones, Lisa wakes up every morning on the eve of her birthday, doomed to repeat the same routine: morning with mom and dad and little brother, laundry, mac ‘n cheese for lunch, the same episode of Murder, She Wrote on the tube, dinner, and then bed. For some reason, she can never leave her house. A strange mist surrounds it, keeping her at bay. Slowly, awareness begins to creep in. How long has Lisa been repeating this tedious cycle, and why?

As her mind sharpens, so too do the claws of the killer (Stephen McHattie) who put her there. Desperate to solve the mystery of her death — and to prevent anyone else from being murdered and sent to purgatory — Lisa takes matters into her own hands. Needless to say, the consequences are quite dangerous.

Directed by Vincenzo Natali, a filmmaker who specializes in claustrophobic  thrillers (Cube, Nothing, Splice), Haunter has elements of that, but it is less horror and mystery than it is suspense and puzzle. You already know, early on, that Lisa is a ghost, so it’s more about seeing how it’s all going to turn out. As The Pale Man, McHattie is menacing as can be, and he plays his role to the hilt without ever hamming it up. (If his name rings a bell: this raspy-voiced Lance Henricksen lookalike has been in all the Jesse Stone TV movies, and gave a tour de force performance in the underrated zombie film, Pontypool.)

The movie doesn’t look as cinematic as one might hope, but that is probably because TV vet Jon Joffin is the DP. It’s surprising that Natali, known for his visual flair, went with a flat and obvious shot-on-digital look here. Nevertheless, deft direction, strong performances, and an absorbing story elevate Haunter to the status of one of the better “family” horror films (and it’s not even animated!) of recent years.

= = =

Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson