Monthly Archives: February 2012

Crash Analysis: THE LODGE (2008)

Dumb 

Bad vacation choice for a couple at a lodge who face off against a killer.

Cliché ridden and hackneyed, we’ve seen this story one time too many. Worst still, we see the same lame story elements that have made audiences groan in utter dismay for decades. For example, you get a jump on the killer. You hit him. He goes down. You run away. Why characters in these dumb horrors don’t go balls to the wall to save themselves is beyond logic. Oh, and if you see the car keys through a glass door and the door’s locked, why not just break the damn window and get them?

This film had too many “ugh” moments like the aforementioned. And with common sense out the window, the rest doesn’t really matter.

I can’t remember rolling my eyes this much since I listened to a drunken instructor try to teach Shakespeare.

And the half-star goes to Elizabeth Kell for crying on a dime, and because Mandi Kreisher played a very creepy kid. The child’s name in the movie was Desi, so think “dizzy” and you get the idea. However, even with these elements this isn’t worth an inquisitive look.

0.5 out of 5 stars

Crash Analysis: PIRANHA (2010)

A mixed bag of chum

Prehistoric piranhas unleashed into an Arizona lake and feast on swimmers.

Wow. This is a tongue in cheek horror/comedy loaded with unintelligence, impossibilities and insconsistent special effects.

Originally shot in 3D – the latest Hollywood gimmick – the movie’s teeth infested fish simply look pathetic and are distracting in their cartoonish looks. Actually, the 3D elements weren’t added to the movie until afterwards, which is a strong indicator that either the conversion process is substandard or that the special effects crew weren’t good enough for the job. And I’m sure they did the poorly executed opening with Richard Dreyfuss. Once again, the special effects were distracting because it was abundantly clear that they were fake and looked appalingly childish.

The one star award does, however, go to the make-up special effects crew. This film is bloody and gorey with torn flesh, guts, missing limbs and missing faces. These special effects were remarkable and often downright phenomenal. After all, renowned special effects makeup artist, Greg Nicotero was the makeup effects supervisor, so it’s obvious why the quality was so incredibly high. (You can see Greg’s work in countless films including: MULHOLLAND DRIVE, THE BOOK OF ELI, SIN CITY, PULP FICTION, WISHMASTER and dozens upon dozens more.)

If you want a laugh and want to immerse yourself in a laughable bloodfest, have at it. Hell, I watched it twice. Then again, I just couldn’t turn away from Nicotero’s phenomenal gags that are outrageous – in the best sense of the word.

1 out of 5 stars

Spoiler:

READ ON, SAILOR

Crash Analysis: VAN HELSING (2004 USA/Czech Republic)

Van Horrible

The doctor takes on Dracula – and every classic monstosity known to horror.

Yikes! What a bombastic, over-the-top, third rate CGI fantasy ride.

I’m not sure what Jackman and Beckinsale thought they had signed up for, but when they sat back and watched the film, after all the “special defects” had been worked out in during post-production, I’m sure they whimpered and felt as cheated as future audiences did.

Besides a ho-hum storyline, the tale was plagued by clichés (including a cookie cutter sidekick that was intelligent, yet meek as well as goofy), and extraordinarily weak matte paintings and CGI. Hell, some of the CGI almost mirrored the Claymation of old in its unrealistic stiffness (hadn’t anyone on staff learned from visionary special effects master Jon Dykstra’s dragon in DRAGONSLAYER?).

Most scenes, however, were drawn out to the point where they lost any hold on the viewer. Even worse, many of the human characters, no matter how much pain and suffering they endured at the hands of vampires, werewolves and such, brushed themselves off with barely a scratch and moved on. Please. Vampires and such are supernatural. We’re natural and break easily.

Weak, trite, boring and not worth watching except for maybe a laugh if you like throwing your money away.

1/2 out of 5 stars

Crash Analysis: THE HOWLING (1981)

Over-rated and Far too Silly

Werewolves need rehab too.                  

For some reason, this flick has a multitude of devotees – and that’s perfectly fine. If you love horror and werewolves, definitely check it out.

Unfortunately, there was far too much tongue-in-cheekiness for me – and absolutely no scares. More important, I was disappointed that renowned writer/ director John Sayles’ story wasn’t executed better on-screen. The concept was wonderful, but it fell flat due to overly long scenes in some cases and outrageously short ones at other times. Worst still, I hate lengthy werewolf transformations while a frightened character stands by to watch the entire (ho-hum) process before they become dinner. Ludicrous. I’d be running for the nearest set of silver cutlery.

Rob Bottin’s special effects were fantastic, however, though some of the “bubbling” was over-the-top. Luckily, he completely nailed all that down when he helped deliver the far more darker – and utterly brilliant – THE THING a year later for John Carpenter.

Other recommendations: The best two lycanthropic experiences are GINGER SNAPS (2000 Canada) and DOG SOLDIERS (2002 UK/Luxembourg/UK), followed by AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981 UK/USA) and BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (2001 France).

1.5 out of 5 stars

Crash Analysis: I CAN SEE YOU (2008)

Abysmal

A photoshoot in the woods leads to surreality.

As with any movie, the number one element has to be story above all else. Sadly, I CAN SEE YOU just didn’t have it. What little story there was did nothing to excite the senses. Furthermore, the narrative as well as one too many scenes were completely drawn out and laborious by writer/director Graham Reznik (this is the first feature in which he directed).

Although Larry Fessenden shined as Mickey Hauser, there was little to feel for any of the characters. That lack of connection between audience and character did not leave much in regard of emotional attachment. And if the audience doesn’t care about those who inhabit the film then there is no need to care about the movie at all.

Dramatic horrors can be wonderful, strong and engaging (THE SHINING, ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE ORPHANAGE for example), but this debacle never generated enough tension or suspense to draw the audience in at all.

Only rent this one if you require a sleep aide.

1/2 out of 5 stars

Crash Report: Why the hell are you making a short horror film?

No choice. Dammit.

In 2008, my vampire horror/action script RED AGENDA won First Place at the International Horror and Sci-fi Film Festival in Phoenix (http://www.horrorscifi.com/). Afterwards, thanks to the festival’s promoters, producers contacted me like crazy. One even reached me through my Kutztown University email because he was at Sundance and had heard it was an “awesome” script. I also got my second agent (my first had moved from New York to Los Angeles, got drunk, stole a Jaguar, went to jail and got her ass kicked out of the WGA).

As a screenwriter, I had impressed producers in the past with my work and knew all too well that nothing may materialize – and that’s why the sale of script is often referred to as “hitting the screenwriter’s lottery.” But with a young and hungry agent, and after having exchanged emails with some of the producers, as well as phone calls, I thought something might happen.

Then, two shitty things happened: My agent got pregnant, bailed on her one-year-old agency (leaving over a dozen screenwriters in the lurch), and the economy collapsed. The latter, as I’m sure many of you are aware, caused producers and studios to run for cover and not take chances on new writers.

That was that.

Oh, and then vampire mania became the latest Hollywood craze, sucking the life out of the genre – especially with all that TWILIGHT bullshit. (Now, however, a production company thinks the time is right and is trying to raise money for the project. I’ve been in contact with them twice over a six month period. I still may not get the sale, but they haven’t changed their phone number or email address on me yet.)

Since that win and subsequent disappointment, I have won another contest and additional scripts faired well in others. But again, hitting that lottery is extremely difficult. There are so many scripts circulating that the chances of selling a screenplay are ultra-low. According to ScreenStyle: The Screenwriting Store, roughly 100,000 feature scripts are written each year and Hollywood produces about 500. Google this stuff and you’ll get different numbers from a multitude of sources, but the fact remains: The market is flooded, and Hollywood can afford to be as picky as hell.

If I can’t sell a script, then I might as well make my own movie. Now, just writing that sentence gives me the shivers. The scary part is that it will take money I don’t have – and lots of it. Plus, I don’t want to churn out some low budget piece of shit that continually degrades the genre (I don’t want to be an idiot running around with a camcorder and recruit friends as actors). Therefore, I’m taking a trial step: making a short horror movie first. This will be roughly five minutes in length. And the goal is to create something of quality so I can enter the work into contests and, hopefully, generate enough interest to attract investors to my own feature horror film. And believe me, if I don’t like the result of this short movie, I won’t show it to a soul. This has to be worthwhile for cast, crew and me.

Plus, there’s something else weighing in on the venture. This project is more out of need than out of want. I am a writer. I want to remain behind the scenes, sell my work, and, if possible, make a living off of my writing. But I have a Master of Fine Arts degree, and I teach in higher education. In order to earn tenure, at Kutztown University or anywhere else, I need a volume of work. Contest wins are great. Published poetry, short stories, conference presentations and academic papers are wonderful as well. However, for real impact, I need a published book or a movie.

And no, vanity publishing is frowned upon to the point where my career would be destroyed. Self-publishing is not taken seriously. But to make a movie, since it is such a collaborative project as well as an expensive enterprise, is seen as admirable.
I love teaching and want to remain in academia. I am confident in my storytelling ability and want to please an audience.

I have to make my own movie. Dammit.

Crash Analysis: FINAL DESTINATION 5 (2011)

The best in the series?

People avoid a major disaster – but they can’t cheat death for long…

Though originally a 3D venture, which is obvious thanks to that annoying “in your face” camera angle, and sometimes shoddy looking special effects, this the first of the movies to hold my interest throughout.

Granted, it’s over-the-top and corny to a degree, but the characters are a bit stronger as well as the suspense. Director Steven Quale did a solid job in making certain tension was maintained throughout, and for not allowing the audience to catch their breath.

Definitely not as silly as the other installments, this one definitely had its surprises. Although I wasn’t jolted by the scares, I was entertained and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. However, the scariest part may be how much actor Miles Fisher resembles a young Tom Cruise.

The original FINAL DESTINATION (2001) had one of the strongest and most un-nerving first acts I’ve seen in a horror, but the final two acts were ludicrous and destroyed any true sense of fear and trauma. This latest installment is what it is from the very beginning and continues on a wild ride of gore and horror, thanks to the steady writing hand of Eric Heisserer.

For a great horror romp, this makes for a solid rental that should leave you cringing.

3 out of 5 stars