Wednesday, March 30, 2016

ADAM CHAPLIN (2011)



ADAM CHAPLIN (2011)

Director: Emanuele de Santi & Gulio de Santi
Writer: Emanuale de Santi & Gulio de Santi

Starring: Emanuele de Santi, Valeria Sannino, Paolo Luciani



Anyone out there who thinks Italian horror is dead really needs to get a load of Adam Chaplin. Not only does it prove that Italian horror is alive and well, but it ranks as one of the coolest flicks that Italian horror has to offer. Oh, and did I mention it's definitely one of the bloodiest?
    After his wife Emily (Valeria Sannino) is murdered by mob boss Denny Richards (Chiara Marfella and Christian R., yes, played by two people) for failing to pay back a loan, Adam Chaplin (writer/director Emanuele de Santi) summons a demon who agrees to help him find and kill Denny. Adam just has to obey all his requests along the way. Cue the smashed heads, ripped off limbs, and enough blood to drown a small city!
          As you've probably guessed, Adam Chaplin is a splatter film, Italian style. There is enough bloodshed here to satiate even the most hardcore of gorehounds and splatter aficionados. Of course, it's all absurd and over-the-top. Yes, the glorious red stuff flows freely here, folks, and in very liberal amounts, and Adam Chaplin has to be commended for doing this with, mostly, practical effects. Sure, CGI is used here and there, but it meshes well with the film's style. Thankfully, very little of the blood is of the CGI variety: the filmmakers relied on old-fashioned methods to achieve the spurting red stuff.
          Sometimes, splatter films land in boring territory because, let's face it, story is not a splatter film's top priority. With very little to keep viewers engaged or by overstaying their welcome, many run the risk of being forgettable or turned off. Not so with Adam Chaplin. With frantic energy, Adam Chaplin moves along from one gory scenario to the next. Not once did I find myself wondering how much longer this flick had left. Adam Chaplin starts off strong, continues strong, and ends strong. Bravo.
    The characters in Adam Chaplin are a bit more developed than your average splatter film and are more than props to be covered with/deprived of the red stuff. While none of the characters are three-dimensional—no one's gonna win any Oscars here—the filmmakers at least attempt to create interesting characters, provide a bit of backstory for them and give them unique quirks. This makes them, if not relatable, at least memorable.
     Adam Chaplin is one of the coolest horror flicks to come out of Italy in some time and is a definite must-see for gorehounds and fans of Italian horror. Great effects, fast-paced storytelling and memorable characters make Adam Chaplin top-shelf viewing material worthy of gracing any horror collection. Adam Chaplin is now available in an extended edition—in other words: more gore!— and is presented in Italian with optional English subtitles.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

DARK HOUSE (2006)



DARK HOUSE (2009)

Director: Darin Scott
Writer: Darin Scott

Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Meghan Ory, Diane Salinger



You’d think that Fangoria would be a little more discriminating in the movies they slap their name on. How foolish of me to think that! The fact that Fangoria slapped their “Fangoria FrightFest” label on 2009’s Dark House shows they have lower standards than I do. And that’s pretty fuckin’ low.


     The film opens with a pretty desperate attempt to conjure up a creepy atmosphere: cheap dolls splashed with red food coloring…er, I mean blood. Yeah, we’ll call it blood. In the background screams can be heard. Yeah, we’re in for a good time here, folks. Anyways, a little girl goes into a house (the Darrode house) and finds the bodies of murdered children littering the place like refuse. In the kitchen, she finds a crazed woman with her hand in the garbage disposal—which, of course, is turned to full blast and eating the shit out of her hand. Fast forward 14 years. The little girl (or is it?) has grown up. We find out that her name is Claire (Meghan Ory). She is an aspiring actress—keep aspiring, honey—who is mentally disturbed by the events she witnessed at the Darrode house. Her psychiatrist suggests that she return to the house and face her fears but Claire says that every time she tries she chickens out. Jump to her “advanced” acting class—populated by people who bribed their way in and who’ll never graduate. The lesson is interrupted by Walston (Jeffrey Combs, the best thing about this movie). Walston creates haunted attractions for a living and requires some actors and actresses to assist in his latest attraction—which just so happens to be set up at the Darrode house. Claire, seeing an opportunity to follow her shrink’s advice, convinces the others, who are reluctant because they are “serious” actors, to take Walston up on his offer. Once there, things go awry as the holograms set up to scare people are possessed by the spirit of Mrs. Darrode (which the movie reminds us of several times to pad out the running time) and begin killing people. Who will survive? Will Claire be able to overcome her fears? Will the audience be able to stay awake?
     I knew from the opening scene that Dark House was going to drag me right to the bottom of the pit. And I was right. Is there anything positive to say about this movie? Yes. Two things.
     1) Lily (Shelly Cole) in her bra and panties (incomplete with no ass shot which depresses me).
     2) Jeffrey Combs. He’s pretty much the only reason to suffer through this turd. He just let loose and set the Ham Factor so high that you could serve him at Christmas and no one would know the difference. He’s also the only one here who knows the definition of “acting,” unlike the other corpses shambling about who couldn’t act their way out of a wet paper bag in the middle of a rainstorm. Truly awful and laughably inept come to mind. And if the actors aren’t insulting acting, then they’re just being annoying. Moreton (Scott White) is like a hybrid of Chris Angel, a Jackass jackass and Johnny Depp from Secret Window without the talent of any of them I couldn’t wait for that annoying shit to buy the farm and I was poppin’ open the champagne and smokin’ a big fucking cigar when he did! Oh, and there’s some fuckin’ reporter dude named Reed (Ian Reed Kesler) who’s irritating as all hell. You’ve probably met a type like him: one of those people who are over-enthusiastic about everything that it’s tantamount to an ethical violation. Sorry bud, the stuff on display is not worth creaming your panties over. Another cigar and bottle of champagne emerged when he croaked as well.
     Okay, let’s leave the “acting” behind and move on to production values, which were probably bought at the .99 cent store. Seriously, this looks like a failed Goosebumps episode. Most everything is bland and generic, boring to look at and is an affront to aesthetic taste. I’ve seen coffins with a better interior design. And the effects appear to have been lifted right out of a Disney Channel Halloween movie. I’ve seen better vanishing effects on YouTube videos. And, I’m guessing, the filmmakers were either too cheap to purchase a light bulb, or the budget didn’t allow for it because—and I’m not kidding—they CGI a porch light coming on complete with a click! sound! Oh Lord, hope and faith have just gone the way of my entertainment.
     Normally, I won’t pick at little inconsistencies or stupid actions if the film is enjoyable. But this film isn’t so here we go. At one point a perfectly normal door becomes, in Walston’s words, a “security door.” Uh, when the fuck did this happen? And why wasn’t it brought up early on? Or, why wasn’t it brought up when a character was attempting to get out? Instead, it isn’t brought up until another character is trying to get out. And, according to this movie’s logic, windows can change places. Early on, it is mentioned that the only unsealed window is in the attic. Then, it changes to the bathroom window. Oh, and we can’t forget my favorite bit of brain-deadery: after the basement door magically becomes another “security door” when the characters attempt to break it down, Walston and Co. must go upstairs to a second fuse box, cut some wires and shut off the holograms (which, of course, is supposed to be a “suspenseful” scene). After the wires are cut to no effect and another character gets written off, Walston realizes the keys to the basement door are in his pocket! Wow. Seriously!? I suspect this bit was added merely to pad out the running time about 10 extra minutes—as well as testing your patience for 10 extra minutes.
     Hm…am I forgetting something? Ah yes: the death scenes! Well, apparently the movie forgot them too because most of them happen off-camera. And the few they do show are unremarkable at best. And minimal gore begs the question: just how in the hell did this film land an R rating? This is PG-13 fare at best, especially seeing as there is no nudity to go along with the crumbiness.
     So there you have it: the unremarkable, non-memorable, failed abortion on celluloid that is Dark House. I’d say give it to your dog as a chew toy but Fido deserves to be treated better than that.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (1989)



THE WOMAN IN BLACK (1989)

Director: Herbert Wise
Writer: Nigel Kneale

Starring: Adrian Rawlins, Bernard Hepton, Pauline Moran

Okay, so I absolutely loved the 2012 adaptation of The Woman in Black (yes, the one with Harry Potter). When I discovered that there had been an earlier adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel I put it right on my To Watch list. It would be a few years before I got around to watching it, but thankfully some kind soul uploaded it to YouTube. Oh, thank you Cinema Gods! Yes, you are surely smiling down upon me. Right?
     RIGHT!?
     After Mrs. Drablow (Pauline Moran) kicks the bucket, Arthur Kidd (Adrian Rawlins), a young solicitor, is sent by his firm to settle the estate. Upon arriving in the seaside town of Crythin, Kidd finds the townsfolk reluctant to discuss the old widow or Eel Marsh House. Once at the house, Kidd begins seeing a woman in black lingering around the grounds like a fart. Who is this woman? Is she some crazed loon? Or could she be the vengeful ghost of Mrs. Drablow?
     Despite my penchant for fine splatter, gritty exploitation of the lowest denominator and extreme horror, I am perfectly capable of enjoying a slow-moving and atmospheric ghost story (i.e., The Changeling)—if done well, that is. Sadly, The Woman in Black isn’t. In fact, it’s boring as shit. In fact, I shut it off several times to go do other things, and it took me two days to finish the damn thing. Despite having nice cinematography, the film lacks the atmosphere necessary to fill viewers with a sense of dread and foreboding. And having a setting that’s fairly bland doesn’t help. Seriously, Eel Marsh House doesn’t look threatening or imposing in the slightest. Just an average house propped up on a patch of land. Yawn.
     Tension and chills are also out to lunch. I’m sorry, but having a bit of silence punctuated by a sudden noise doesn’t generate tension or creepiness. It might make you jump, but that’s about it. On the same note, having a character act scared while hearing voices doesn’t do the job either.
     And is it just me, or does the Woman in Black look more like a middle-aged woman desperate for sleep after an all-weekend bender as opposed to a vengeful spirit? Putting a bit of makeup around one’s eyes does not create the image of a spirit, just a spirit of laziness and a dead imagination. There is only one scene in which the Woman in Black comes off as creepy—but it also happens to be an extremely corny scene which basically negates the creep factor.
     But the icing on the cake comes in the form of the acting and characters. Everyone here seems apathetic which results in bland characters. It’s almost as if no one could even be bothered to try. Sure, horror flicks aren’t known for having the greatest acting in the world, but I’d take bad acting over apathetic acting any day because at least you know the bad actors are trying, which cannot be said for the corpses shifting about the sets here. Slow-burns like this need actors who care about the roles and material; otherwise, the viewers wind up emotionally detached from any and all goings-on—which is exactly what happens here. I found myself not giving half a shit about what was going on, not caring about the characters, not caring about the outcome. In short, not caring at all.
     All said, The Woman in Black is a huge misfire and stands as a firm reminder as to why I don’t watch television. With none of the ingredients that make a successful ghost story, what we’re left with is a dish best tossed to the dog—so they can ignore it and go eat some grass instead. Don’t waste your time or energy watching this bland affair. Go watch the 2012 adaptation instead. You can thank me later.