DIRECT TO VIDEO (DTV) FILMS: THE GOOD AND THE BAD

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DTV FILMS: THE GOOD STUFF

Good DTV Genre Films Part 11 (continued): Do you like your action films down and dirty with very little exposition and lots of gunfights and hand-to-hand combat? Then you can do no better than I AM WRATH (2016), starring (believe it or not) John Travolta as the main character. I wanted to see this DTV film since I heard that Chuck Russell directed it, his first feature film since 2002's THE SCORPION KING. Other Russell films include A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987); the superior remake of THE BLOB (1988); the Jim Carrey comedy/fantasy THE MASK (1994) and the Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick ERASER (1996). So you can see how, after a 14 year absence, I wanted to see what he churned out. And I wasn't disappointed. When former Black Ops agent Stanley Hill (a fit Travolta, who is excellent if you can ignore his bad hairpiece) watches his wife Vivian (Rebecca De Mornay) being murdered, he tries legal means to find out why. It is apparent to Stanley that Detective Gibson (Sam Trammell of TRUE BLOOD) and his group of other detectives are corrupt and may be in on his wife's murder (Stanley beats up two detectives and forces them to give back all the money to an old oriental woman they shook down every month as "protection" for her restaurant. The next day, Stanley watches as the two injured detectives in casts and bandages carry a huge envelope of money into the restaurant and one of the detectives says, "I don't know what hurts worse, the beat-down or doing this."). Stanley and his best friend Dennis (Christopher Meloni of LAW & ORDER: SVU and very good, as well as funny), another former Black Ops agent, work together to get to the bottom of Stanley's wife's murder. From this moment on, the film is nothing but a series of well-staged shootouts, explosions and fisticuffs, where no blood is spared. This was the quickest 92 minutes I have sat through in a long time, as some of the set-pieces are nail-bitingly suspenseful and this film goes way past what we would regard as an R-Rating, as people are shot in the head, lose body parts and are blown apart in explosions. It also has a satisfying conclusion, which leaves the film open for more Travolta/Meloni films in the future (and I hope there are, as they make a great team). I am glad Chuck Russell is back and this is better than most action films I have seen in theaters, but it seems to me that a lot of John Travolta films are going straight to DTV simply because he is being punished for being a Scientologist. It can't be because of the value of the film. He makes a perfect action hero here and also has in some of the other films of his that have gone the DTV route. I only hope this is Chuck Russell's return to the directorial chair and we don't have to wait another 14 years for another film. This one has everything an action film fan could ask for and more. Highly recommended.; THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR (2016) is one of those horror films you are either going to love or hate, there will be no middle ground. I happen to love it because of its exotic location (Mumbai, India) and some really terrifying scares. A husband and wife, Michael (Jeremy Sisto; LAW & ORDER - 2007-2010) and Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies; INTO THE STORM - 2014) are vacationing in India when Maria announces she is pregnant. They decide to live in India because Michaels's job was looking to create an office there. Six years pass and Maria is a wreck. It seems Maria and Michael had two children, Oliver (Logan Creran) and Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky), and Oliver drowned when the car Maria was driving went over a bridge into a raging river during a monsoon. Oliver was trapped, so Maria was only able to save Lucy. Maria is on a spiral of depression, until one day she decides to overdose on sleeping pills, but Michael is able to save her by getting her to the hospital on time. Michael and Maria's housekeeper, Piki (Suchitra Pillai), asks Maria if she would like to talk to her son for one last time and say the things she couldn't say to him before he dies. It involves a Hindu ritual where they dig up Oliver's grave and perform a supernatural spell, where they burn Oliver's body and then Maria goes into a temple and is only able to talk to Oliver through the door. But by no means must she open the door or bad things will happen. Maria agrees to do all this, but makes Piki swear never to tell Michael. They perform the ritual and Maria talks to Oliver through the door, but when Oliver says he must go, Maria thinks she didn't have enough time with him, so she opens the door. Big mistake. Something besides Oliver comes to our side and begins to make life hell for Maria and Lucy. Michael is still oblivious to it all because he spends so much time at the office. At first, Maria believes that the ghost of Oliver has followed her home, because the piano starts playing Oliver's favorite tune. But things turn nasty mighty quick. Lucy starts ending up with bruises on her body. The fish in their pond all die and so do the plants. Chairs slide across the floor and pin Maria into one, where she is forced to sit and read Oliver's favorite story. Scary looking Hindu people begin to appear wherever Maria goes and scare the shit out of her and Lucy. And then we find out the spirit is of a violent girl named Myrtu (played by male actor Javier Botet, and this is not the first time he has portrayed a female ghost or demon. He played a female in [REC] - 2007 and MAMA - 2012), the Gatekeeper of the Underworld. I'll leave the rest for you to discover. What surprised me most is that this film was directed and written by Johannes Roberts, who gave us one of the worst money-making horror films of all time STORAGE 24 (2012; look for a review in the bad DTV section), so I was surprised I would like this film so much. It may remind people of all those American-made versions of Japanese horror films (which I mostly hate), but this one has very unusual location work and some truly scary scenes (it starts nearly in the beginning with a small girl on the beach who points at Maria, screams and her face begins to change into something horrible). See if you agree with me and watch it when you get the chance.; I have to say that I wasn't expecting much from director/producer/co-writer Stephen Chow's MERMAID (2016), since I found most of his previous films overlong visual effects festivals with a minimal of story. Boy was I surprised here. The film starts off in a slapstick comical way (which almost made me turn it off), but there was something about it that told me to stay with the film. The basic plot of the film is about a self-absorbed land developer named Liu Xuan (Chao Deng) and his partner, Li Ruolan (Yuqi Zhang), who plans on developing a gulf with a shipwreck on it into an vacation hotspot. Unfortunately, the area is also the home for the last of a horde of mermaids and other creatures, including their leader, The Octopus (Zhixiang Luo) and an elderly mermaid Queen, with the biggest flippers you ever saw. The Octopus assigns female mermaid Shan (the beautiful Jelly Lin, a.k.a. Yun Lin) to disguise herself as a human hooker (the way it is done is quite ingenius) and kill Liu Xuan. She tries using many undersea weapons, but is comically defeated every time and never noticed by Liu Xuan. An American scientist (Ivan Kotik, who speaks perfect Mandarin), has developed a sonic weapon that will kill all dolphins from returning to the gulf (they try the weapon out in a goldfish bowl and the poor goldfish explodes), but that also means it will kill all the mermaids and other creatures in the gulf. Unfortunately, Shan falls in love with Liu and things become very complicated until it develops into Liu being betrayed by Li Ruolan, who wants a live mermaid to become extremely rich and that mermaid happens to be Shan. You'll have to watch the film to see how it turns out. One thing I loved about this film is how it starts out as a slapstick comedy and within its short 94 minutes (for Stephen Chow films, anyway) slowly becomes more violent and violent until there is an all-out war between the mermaids and Li Ruolan's automatic weapon-carrying soldiers. It turns out to be a bloodbath until Liu Xuan and The Queen intervenes and the tacked-on finale gives it a happy ending, the only thing that seemed to be unoriginal, but kind of touching anyway. Besides some dodgy CGI, the film is a spectacle for the eyes, as the colorful underwater scenery seems to pop-out of the screen (it was shot in 3D). This is the most finacially successful Chinese film ever made, bringing in nearly $500 million in China in 2016 alone. There is a reason for that. It is very entertaining, full of action and some good comedy (watching two police officer trying to draw a mermaid from Liu Xuan's description is a howl) and a really good all-out bloody brawl during the finale (as well as an ecological message like in the 2009 documentary THE COVE). Even though it was certified hit in China, it only got a limited theatrical/VOD release in the United States before being dumped on disc and cable TV. At least we get to see it as it was originally intended, language in Mandarin with English subtitles. Look for Chinese legend Tsui Hark as Uncle Rich (he uses the pseudonym "Ke Xu" here). Hark said he only took the part because he wanted to see how Stephen Chow works, since all his films have been certified hits in China. This is also the only Stephen Chow directed film without Stephen Chow as the star. My highest recommendation.; If KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE (2016) seems familiar, it is because the plot follows nearly all the martial arts films since they were created in the U.S and abroad in the 1980's. This one features a very good performance by Jean-Claude Van Damme, who starred in the original KICKBOXER (1989), only this time he is the teacher rather than the fighter (although he does a good amount of martial arts fighting on his own without the benefit of a stuntman; more than I remember him seeing do in the past several years, where he preferred guns over martial arts). Like I said, the story is as old as the ages: When Kurt Sloane (Alain Moussi; a stuntman-turned-actor and not bad at all) sees his brother Eric (the late Darren Shahlavi, in his final film role) killed at the hands of Muay Thai champion Tong Po (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY's and WWE wrestler David Bautista) in an underground martial arts combat ring (a caged squared circle) in Thailand, the Muay Thai inexperienced (but martial arts proficient) Kurt promises that he will kill Tong Po for what he has done. Three months pass and he has to prove himself to Eric's teacher Master Durand (Van Damme, sporting a wicker fedora and sunglasses, even in the rain!) that he is worthy enough to be taught Muay Thai. Eventually, Master Durand gives in and agrees to train Kurt, while Kurt's soon-to-be girlfriend Marcia (Gina Carano), a local Thailand Royal Police detective (half of whom are on Tong Po's take), tries to stop Kurt from getting himself killed (He saves her life once from a bunch of Tong Po's thugs, part of the fight taking place on the backs of two elephants!). The second third of the film is one big 80's montage, as Durant gets Kurt into shape for his first fight (he has to work his way up to Tong Po) and Van Damme seems to be having a good time here (he's thinner than normal, but still built like a brick shithouse and can still kick high). After some successful and unsuccessful fights, Kurt decides he is ready for Tong Po, but Durant proves to him that he isn't (Durant beats Kurt in a well-choreographed martial arts fight, but then pro-Po fighter Kavi {UFC fighter Georges "Rush" St-Pierre; DEATH WARRIOR - 2009} comes to join in, which Durant makes mincemeat of and convinces Kavi to be Kurt's sparring partner!). We all know how all these films end, so there is no reason to tell you what it is, but this film definitely belongs to Jean-Claude Van Damme. I originally thought he was just going to put in a 5 minute cameo, but the fact is, he looks like he is having so much fun making this film, you can't help but like it, too. Van Damme may be getting old, but with his age comes not just plenty of exercise to keep him in shape, but a true ability to act. It also doesn't hurt that everyone, including Gina Carano, know how to fight in real life and director/actor John Stockwell (CAT RUN - 2011; and made IN THE BLOOD - 2013 with Gina Carano) fills this movie with little tributes to the first film (and ignores the "sequels" starring Sasha Mitchell and Mark Decascos). One such little tribute is when a prisoner asks Durant and Kurt to take him with them when they escape prison. The prisoner who asks that question is Michel Qissi, who played Tong Po in the original film. The end of the film also contains a funny scene for those who remember the original movie. Dimitri Logotheti, the director of SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK (1987), is co-writer of this film and is directing and writing a sequel to this film starring both Van Damme and Moussi and called KICKBOXER: RETALIATION, for release sometime in 2017. David Bautista is the person who puts minimum time into this film, as we watch him kill Eric in the beginning of the film (and then bed two naked ladies), see him kill another opponent at the film's halfway mark and then gets into the main fight at the end (but it is a lengthy fight, nearly 20 minutes long). Instead of being bald or having short-cropped hair like we normally see him, he sports an enormously thick ponytail and chin hair which makes him look even more evil. If you just want to watch a good old-fashioned mindless martial arts action flick like you did in the 80's & early-90's, I can't think of a better film to recommend. Van Damme deserves to be on the big screen again. I love his DTV films, but someone should give him a chance to be in theatrical films again. His acting abilities will surprise you.

DTV FILMS: THE BAD STUFF

Bad DTV Genre Films Part 13 (continued):I'm going to keep this review short and sweet because of the bad taste topic, which happens to be suicide. The name of the film is THE FOREST (2015) and not only is it a bad film full of false scares and tepid dialogue, the theme of suicide just makes my blood boil, especially since this was being made at the time of Robin Williams' suicide and I knew people who committed such an act. Anything for a buck. A woman named Sarah gets a call from the Japanese police saying her twin sister Jess, since she was seen entering the Aokigahara Forest, also known as "The Suicide Forest" and "Sea Of Trees" (since it is a real place, the Japanese would not let the crew film there out of respect to the families of the victims, so they had to settle for the Tara National Forest in Serbia), may have committed suicide. Sarah travels to Japan and hires a guide and a newsman joins her, as they find bodies of suicide victims on their travels and something else may be in the woods following them. Since suicide should not be a topic for a horror film. especially a PG-13 piece of shit like this, I am going to stop here and never watch another film ever directed by Jason Zada (this being his freshman feature directorial debut). A film about a subject so serious should be a documentary or fictional film that traces the causes of suicide, not a $10,000,000 horror film that will make more than its budget in one week and then disappear (It made $26,500,000). The worst part of all of this is that the grotesque posters for the film are actually recreations of some of the real-life suicide victims that were found in The Suicide Forest, some after years of being lost in the forest. Way to pay respect to the families of the victims assholes!; BODY (2015) is a short 75-minute hipster horror drama, only this time the hipsters are three young women. They banter endlessly on Christmas Eve until one of the girls suggests they go to her Uncle's mansion because he always goes away for Christmas. The only thing is the girl is lying. The mansion belongs to a couple she once babysitted for and she knows they always travel on Christmas. What they don't count on is the couple have hired Arthur (screen legend Larry Fessenden) to look after the mansion and when two of the girls spot him at the top of the stairs, one of them pushes him down the stairs and think they have killed him. His back is broken, but he is still alive and he begs the girls to call for an ambulance. The leader of the girls doesn't want to get in trouble for breaking and entering, even though Arthur promises he won't say a thing, so they leave Arthur in another room and hope that he dies during the night. When he doesn't, the leader goes into the room and suffocates Arthur. They are now all responsible for murder, so the other two girls come up with a plan that will kill their leader and make it look like Arthur did it. And they get away with it. That is the entire film in a nutshell, so you don't have to watch this slowly-moving short feature film. Again, it takes two directors, Dan Berk & Robert Olsen (who both also wrote the screenplay), this being their first barely feature-length film, to come up with a film that has plenty of cursing, but no nudity and barely any blood or gore. Even as a straight thriller, this film doesn't pass muster (Why doesn't a huge mansion have a camera security system?) and I would advise anyone wanting to see this film to change their minds. The acting and technical aspects of the film are fine. It is just the movie that stinks.; The crime film MOMENTUM (2015) starts out exciting enough, as four thieves in high-tech body suits that hide their identities and distort their voices steal a load of money and some diamonds from the bank's even more high-tech safe. The person that hired them to pull off the heist, a U.S. Senator (Morgan Freemen, in a five-minute cameo) doesn't want the money or diamonds, but a USB drive with top secret blueprints on it that is in the diamond's pouch that will bring governments to their knees. One of the thieves, Alexis Farraday (Olga Kurylenko; HITMAN - 2007), who is a martial arts ass-kicker, finds the USB drive, while the Senator has his men (led by Mr. Washington, played by James Purefoy, the best asset of this film) kill the thieves and try to kill Alexis, but she manages to get herself out of all types of situations, including gunfights, hand-to-hand combat and car chases. While all the fights and chases are terrific, we are cheated out of a proper ending, when the Senator is told that Alexis is going to be a martyr by releasing the contents of the USB drive on the internet and the Senator says, "Do you know what makes a martyr? You have to be dead.", as we watch Alexis fly away in a plane. THE END. Huh? Then I learned that this film was supposed to be the first part of a franchise, yet when this movie (filmed mainly in South Africa) was released in the United Kingdom, it just earned a paltry $69.00 on ten screens on its opening weekend, so I can guarantee you that there will be no second film in this series. We never learn what is on the USB drive (except for a quick look at the end of the film) or who Alexis really works for. Olga Kurylenko is great on the eyes and can fight really well (as well as kill without emotion using a gun), but an action film needs a plot that audiences can understand and leaving everyone hanging at the end is a major no-no. Freeman's short film time was shot in two days in Los Angeles as a favor for  director Stephen S. Campanelli because he was the Camera & Steadicam operator for Clint Eastwood's MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004), in which Freemen had a major role. The film is not a bad time-waster as long as you don't mind non-endings. I do.; THE CONDEMNED 2 (2015) is not really a sequel to the Steve Austin-starrer THE CONDEMNED (2007), but more like a retelling of the first film, since it was directed by the man of many DTV sequels Roel Reiné, who also gave us THE MARINE 2 (2009), DEATH RACE 2 (2010), DEATH RACE 3: INFERNO (2012), THE SCORPION KING 3: BATTLE FOR REDEMPTION (2012) and THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS 2 (2015) and many others. Since this is a WWE Productions film, it stars wrestler Randy Orton as bounty hunter Will Tanner who, with his team, try to arrest Cyrus Merrick (Wes Studi; DEEP RISING [1998], in a cameo), who runs an operation where two bums are strapped and attached to a chemical suicide machine and people bet on who dies first of the lethal injection. Will tells his crew to shoot anyone in the legs who shoots at them, because he doesn't want anyone dead. but when Will ends up fighting Cyrus, he accidentally kills him (by impalement). The only person to escape is Raul Baccaro (Steven Michael Quezada; BREAKING BAD [2008-2013]) when the police arrive. Will is arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter and the judge imposes a two year suspended sentence, with five years probation after the two years are up. Will drives to his father Frank's (Eric Roberts, in a much bigger role than usual in these kind of films and the best thing about this film) house and tells him he is giving up the bounty hunting business he inherited from his father, who has retired. Frank is none too happy that Will has given up a business that he gave him and makes it known in no uncertain terms. Almost as soon as he comes home, he is greeted by one of his old bounty hunting team, who tries to kill Will in a bar. Turns out that Raul has turned all the bounty hunting team against each other (using relatives' lives as a way of making them do it) without Will's participation and he runs a very lucrative high-stakes internet business, where helicopter drones (the kind with four spinning blades on each four corner) equipped with cameras keep an eye on the action, while the rich elite place bets in an abandoned warehouse on who lives and who dies during each battle. While there are plenty of gunfights, hand-to-hand combat (which is particularly weak since Orton is a good wrestler) and big explosions, the film fails for one big reason: We have seen this all done before and done much better.  There is plenty of blood (the female cop's death is memorable) and bloody bullet squibs and a fiery explosion-filled finale, where Will takes on Raul, who decided to put himself in the game because two of Will's ex-team join with Will (as does Frank) and refuse to kill each other, although the sniper on his team tries his hardest to kill them all in his dune buggy at the most inopportune times. Basically this film is HARD TARGET (1993; which Roel Reiné directed a sequel of in 2016, starring new action icon Scott Adkins!) without enough talent to make it believable (and Randy Orton has some big ears!). Only Eric Roberts registers here as a disappointed father who slowly realizes that son Will is being set up. Otherwise, this is ordinary at best. Director Roel Reiné used the pseudonyn "John Rebel" to direct two non-sequels, BEAR and WOLF TOWN (both 2010) which get shown a lot on the Chiller channel. They are also pretty bad horror flicks.; OK, now will someone tell me who wanted practically a word for word remake (or as they rather call it, a "reboot") of director Eli Roth's 2002 horror flick CABIN FEVER? Well it seems like director Travis Zariwny (who uses the name "Travis Z" here) and screenwriter Randy Pearlstein (who used most of Eli Roth's script verbatim) filmed their own version of CABIN FEVER in 2015, with Eli Roth's blessing (he is one of this film's Executive Producers and puts in an uncredited cameo) and made this idiotic piece of deja vu, only with worse actors and some comedy that falls flatter than a ten year-old girl's chest. The only real difference between the two films is the opening of the new one, where a guy camping out in the woods returns with a dead rabbit and tells his dog that they now have dinner. He turns the dog over and it sprays him in the face with blood. The dog's name? PanCakes (a take off on a certain scene in the original). The rest of the film is basically an exact retread of the original, only with two differences: 1.) Instead of the partying cop Detective Winston (Giuseppe Andrews), this films does a gender reversal and Detective Winston is now a female partying cop, played by Louise Linton (and she gets much less time than Giuseppe) and 2.) instead of the group having a single-shot rifle, they now have a fully automatic rifle (Now where does an older teenager gets his hands on a full auto?). This film also ups the gore factor than the 2002 film, but the original was much better acted and we never knew what was going to happen (and it was gory enough), only here, 13 years later, we know EXACTLY what is going to happen. No surprises, nothing new. Oh, and it completely omits the old man in the backwoods store and his iconic line to the three black people who walk into his store at the finale (We have to be politically correct now and it pisses me off!). Instead, they substitute a scene that leaves this film wide open for a sequel that I hope never happens. It makes me wonder why this film was greenlit so soon after the original. It is Rated R, so anyone born in 2002 would still not be legally able to see it without a parent or guardian, Sometimes it boggles the mind that people would remake a film that already had two sequels and do it so soon (one sequel was made a year before this film!). Doesn't anyone have an original idea in their heads? If you feel you must see this film, remember one thing: It went the basic limited theater/VOD route in 2016 before being dumped on Home Video and Cable TV. If you haven't seen the original film, I would recommend that you watch that one instead because it was a quasi-hit back in 2002 and for a reason. It was somewhat original in its ideas and was acted so much better than this one. This new reboot is for masochists only. Especially if you have seen the original. This reminds me so much as when director Gus Van Sant tried to remake Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960) word-for-word, scene-for-scene in 1998. Just like this film, it stank, it bombed and all because the directors and actors didn't have the talent to pull it off.; ANDRON (2015) is exactly like those "Young Adult" films like THE MAZE RUNNER (2014; actually based on an Italian TV movie called THE PLACE [2012], made by the same director of this abomination), but with more blood and foul language to give it an R-Rating. In the far-off future, a group of people wake up in an underground maze and must figure a way to get out. The problem is, this is a game developed by Chancellor Gordon (Danny Glover) and controlled by Gamemaster Adam (Alec Baldwin; both Baldwin and Glover shot their scenes in one day) called "The Redemption Game" and the entire population are slaves. The slaves also bet on which person will come out of the maze alive and if their pick is killed, so are they. This entire game is nothing but a ploy to kill as much as the population as the ruling government can, because in the words of Chancellor Gordon, "This planet can not sustain more than 2 billion people". Cameras follow the group, as they are attacked by cyborg-like soldiers and traitors within the group and the group is whittled down little by little. They also manage to defeat the Gamemaster from time to time, which pisses off Chancellor Gordon, who promises Adam that he will be killed if anything else goes wrong with the game (But Adam has more tricks up his sleeve than a cheesy Vegas magician). In the finale, after all the fighting (much of it shot in the dark, so it is impossible to make out), two people make it out alive and they are welcomed by a voice that tells them, "Welcome to Level Two.", as the computerized outside buildings morph into an ocean and our two heroes are standing on a beach. Huh? C'mon now, throughout the entire film, there was no mention of different levels of the game. This Italy/Malta/UK/Canada-financed film, directed and written by Francesco Cinquemani (his first theatrical feature and it shows), was hoping for a sequel, which is made quite apparent by the ending, but I can't see it happening unless the investors want to lose money. This movie was filmed in 21 days and it is apparent as the mole on a witch's nose. The fighting is horribly staged, the futuristic special effects consist of Adam's computer and some quick shots during the end (all done poorly) and both Baldwin and Glover (who is quickly becoming the king of B-film cameos) look bored beyond belief. It had a quick limited theatrical/VOD release in the Summer of 2016 in the U.S. and then quickly went to pay cable. This is a cheap, grimy YA wannabe that is not worth the time of YA enthusiasts. Even the R-Rating makes no sense, because all we ever see are people being electrocuted by futuristic weapons and puddles of blood, things we have already seen in PG-13 films. It got the rougher rating because people say fuck more times than a PG-13 film will allow. Please save me from watching crap like this!; THE BOY (2015) is another one of those horror films that was made for a minimal amount of money ($8 million) in hopes that the first week in theaters would make four times the budget. Well, the film went on to make $11 million on the first week in theaters (hardly a blockbuster) and made near $36 million by the time it left theaters 2 months later (it also made $23 million in all foreign territories). A nice haul for a film so absurd it wouldn't scare anyone (thanks to its PG-13 Rating). American Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan; THE WALKING DEAD - 2011-2017) travels to a mansion in the United Kingdom to take care of a boy named Brahms, because her boyfriend Cole (Ben Robson; TV's ANIMAL KINGDOM - 2016, based on the 2010 movie.) found out Greta was pregnant with his baby and he beat her up, killing the fetus in the process. When she gets to the mansion, she meets handsome food delivery man Malcolm (Rupert Evans; ASYLUM BLACKOUT - 2011), who tells her she is in for a very strange experience (and you know almost from the beginning that Greta and Malcolm will become lovers). Greta meets Mr. & Mrs. Heelshire (Jim Norton [not the comedian; STRAW DOGS - 1971] & Diana Hardcastle), who introduce her to Brahms: A creepy porcelain doll that the mother and father treat as if he is alive. Even though Greta finds all this extremely strange, she accepts the job (Mrs. Heelshire tells her that Brahms accepts her, the first caretaker he has approved of in over two years) because she is getting a pile of money to basically do nothing. The Heelshires tell Greta that they are going on a much needed vacation (they actually put rocks in their coat pockets and walk into the ocean, killing themselves.), but there is a list of rules Greta must follow to make Brahms happy. When the Heelshires are gone, Greta takes it easy, ignoring the rules and she soon finds out by not following the list of rules, that she is being punished. Her shoes, clothing and necklace disappear and other strange things happen (Most of them jump scares while Greta is sleeping, a turn-off for any real horror fan). Greta decides to follow the list of rules and her items begin to come back to her. Malcolm tells her that Brahms died in a fire at the mansion twenty years ago, so the Heelshires made a doll to replace him. About three quarters into the film, Cole tracks Greta down and the film does a complete 180° turn. A turn so unbelievable, that you will immediately begin to feel ripped off. While Cole is abusing Greta and Malcolm appears to try and stop him, it seems that the real Brahms is still alive, wearing a porcelain mask to cover his fire-scarred skin (which we never get a good look at) and spying on everything and everyone that goes on in the house through secret hallways behind the walls. Brahms wants Greta for himself, so he kills Cole with a piece of the doll's head that Cole smashed on the edge of a coffee table by stabbing him in the neck (we never really see anything), knocks-out Malcolm (Why doesn't he just kill him?) and chases after Greta. Greta manages to stab Brahms in the leg and stomach with a screwdriver, rescues Malcolm and they both drive off to safety. The final shot finds Brahms, who is somehow still alive, gluing the pieces of the doll's head together. Next victim, please! Director William Brent Bell (STAY ALIVE - 2006; WER - 2013) forgot the first rule of horror films: Don't wait 75 minutes to show the first death and quit playing us with false jump scares. The story has been done tons of time before, so there isn't even anything new here. Just do yourself a favor and go to bed instead of watching this. It looks like you need sleep.

Bad DTV Genre Films Part 14 (continued): THE REMAINS (2016) is just another one of those supernatural horror films where a family moves into a haunted house, strange stuff happens, they all die and another new family moves in at the finale. That's basically the whole storyline to this hackneyed film. The film opens up in the 1800's, where a couple go to a strange looking house to meet a medium, Madame Addison (Maria Olsen; THE LORDS OF SALEM - 2012), to find out if their daughter, who has been missing for three weeks, is dead or alive. The medium asks the couple to give her something that is important to them and the husband (who is a non-believer) gives her his pocket watch. During the seance, where Madame Addison tells the couple not to break the circle (Guess what happens?), the medium becomes possessed by an evil spirit, slit's the wife's throat with a knife (probably the most bloody scene in the film) and then kills the father. Cut to present times, where recent widower John (Todd Lowe; "Terry Bellefleur" on TRUE BLOOD from 2008 to 2014), teenage daughter Izzy (Brooke Butler; THE SAND - 2015), and young son and daughter Aiden (Dash Williams) and Victoria (Hannah Nordberg) are driving to look for a new house to live in, when they run across the same house where the couple were murdered 100 years before and it is so cheap, John can hardly believe it, so he buys it from real estate agent Claire (Ashley Crow), who knows the history of the house, but dances around John's questions. It is not long before the usual haunted house crap happens: Doors close by themselves; the library has all the books strewn over the floor; people see ghosts for a split second; an old Victrola keeps playing buy itself; and John gets a warning from a ghost girl named Melissa (Lisa Brenner), who suddenly appears in the attic and tells him to burn everything because "She" is coming. Aiden and Victoria find a chest full of stuff and show it to their father. It has the pocket watch in it, a creepy doll that Victoria wants to keep, Tarot cards, and "ghost photos", which were usually fake photos double exposed to make it look like ghosts were present. John asks Claire about why all this stuff is in the attic and she tells him about Madame Addison and the murders of the couple. John does some research (Seems that there have been more murders in this house over the years) and becomes highly concerned, because Aiden and Victoria are changing their attitudes, talking in monotone and disobeying him and he believes Claire is not telling him everything about the house. He throws away everything that was found in the chest into the garbage outside, but he discovers that all of it is back in the house (He catches next door neighbor Melissa [Lisa Brenner] reading Aiden and Victoria's future with the Tarot cards when he comes home and John throws her out of the house. She comes back that night to apologize and tells him that ever since her father entered that house, he had a near-fatal heart attack and now she looks after him next door). John tries a do-it-yourself home exorcism kit, but it fails and John once again finds the pocket watch on the floor. It all ends with the entire family either dead or joining "She" in the depth of the Underworld and ends with another couple with kids moving into the house, meeting Claire at the front door. I can honestly say there is not one genuine scare in this film. This is director/screenwriter Thomas Della Bella's first stab at a horror film (he is usually a Production Assistant on TV Series and Theatrical Films) and he has to learn if you are making a haunted house film, put some scares in the damn thing. I can't complain about the acting and technical aspects of the film because they are all first-rate, but as a horror film, it stinks. Don't waste your time unless you have to see every haunted house film ever made (and this is no THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE [1973] by a long shot).; THE CARETAKER (2016) starts out creepy enough, when a male caretaker digs up a box outside and gives it to sick old lady Birdie (Sondra Kerr Blake; HELTER SKELTER - 1976), the owner of the creepy house, who is listening to 78 rpm records on her Victrola while sitting in her favorite chair. Inside the box is a ragdoll named Scarlett and a pair of scissors. Birdy takes the pair of scissors and cuts her right hand deeply, causing blood to drip to the floor. The caretaker hears her cries and enters her bedroom, where he finds her standing and she says to him, "Get out of my house!" Birdie's granddaughter Mallorie (Meegan Warner; SCARE CAMPAIGN - 2016), gets a call from Birdie's doctor and he tells her that Birdie needs a new caretaker. Little does Mallorie realize is that the caretaker will be her. She was raised by Birdie when she was a child after Mallorie's mother disappeared when she was four and just four months ago, she moved in with fiance August (Sean Martini), so he goes along with Mallorie to take care of Birdie, but the old lady takes an instant dislike to August (She says to him, "I wonder who is going to die first, you or me?") and warns him not to have any type of sexual activity in her house (she makes him sleep on the couch). Mallorie remembers Scarlett and Birdie gives it to her, but whenever she holds it at night, she sleepwalks calling August's name and August has to put her back to bed. Mallorie and August put an ad in the newspaper for a new caretaker (Sebastian, played the late Irwin Keyes, in one of his last films, shows up and fills in the hole left by the last caretaker, but August thinks he is too weird to take care of Birdie), but they can't seem to find anyone who hasn't worked for Birdie before and has been fired by the old bat. Birdy becomes more and more unhinged and so does Mallorie in her own way, which worries August, who goes sees a psychiatrist to see what she thinks about Mallorie's sleepwalking. The psychiatrist gives August signs about Mallorie to look for. Mallorie and August find a red folder full of documents which fill in the blanks and the question now is: Can they ever leave this house? A search of the attic gives them the answer (It is full of old VHS tapes and a creepy room that awakens something in Mallorie). You have all the clues you need to figure out how director/producer Jeff Prugh (his first horror film) and screenwriter/producer Jeremy Robinson's (also his first horror movie) film is going turn out (The only new caretaker to show up is a Spanish woman, who takes one look at Birdie and calles her a "Bruja", Spanish for "witch", and quickly leaves the house.). While not a bad film, it is merely a regular one (There's even a music video of Birdie and August dancing!), as Sondra Kerr Blake (who was once married to accused murderer/actor Robert Blake for 22 years) is simply terrifying as Birdie and Sean Martini is awful as August (it was his first acting gig and it shows). Those looking for lots of blood and gore and going to be very disappointed, because this is more of a supernatural gothic thriller. Believe it or not, Irwin Keyes, who is in this film for not more than two minutes, won a Best Supporting Actor award in a Feature Film from the FANtastic Horror Film Festival in San Diego. Maybe it was their way of paying tribute to a recently passed actor, one that I always loved, too. Otherwise, this is nothing but standard DTV pablum. Watch out for the scissors (and lipstick)!; FIGHT VALLEY (2016) is an extremely poor actioner because it stars real-life UFC/MMA female and male fighters and the story is about as old as it comes. Director/screenwriter Rob Hawk at least had the sense to fill the film with some well-known female UFC fighters (Meisha Tate, a star of this film, defeated Holly Holm to become the women's bantamweight champion of the UFC. Holly Holm, another one of the stars of this film, defeated Ronda Rousey to become the women's bantamweight champion of the UFC), but to even attempt to call them actors is doing the acting profession a disservice. As actors, the entire cast are good fighters. The story is as plain as it comes: When her sister Tori (Chelsea Durkalec), a "knockaround girl" (a girl who streetfights with no manager in streets and alleys), is murdered by some unknown person, Windsor (Susie Celek) gets into a series of fights to find Tori's killer, even though she is not a fighter. Windsor gets some much needed help in streetfighting by Jabs (Tate), who puts her through an 80's montage (nearly the whole second third of the film) of ways to learn how to become a fighter quick. She learns about "Fight Valley", the place where her sister was killed by a champion fighter named Church (Cris "Cyborg"). The only problem is that you have to get invited to go to Fight Valley, otherwise everyone there will stomp your ass. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out how this story ends, but the terrible acting from everyone involved (especially Salvatore Franciosa as Windsor and Tori's father Gino, also a Producer and Executive Producer) makes the film seem twice as long as it really is. If you have never heard of this film, good for you. I had to watch it. The women aren't especially good looking and the nudity is kept to a minimum, but there is plenty of lesbianism and foul language for ten action films. And the violence is kept to the the outside (There is only one fight in the UFC fighting octangle) and none of it is very well staged. This looks like an action film if it was made by the late Jess Franco. That is not a good thing. Avoid it. It makes the female UFC/MMA fighters look like a bunch of foul-mouthed, gay pseudo-martial artists. Filmed mostly in New Jersey. Believe it or not, a sequel has been announced!; THE SHALLOWS (2016) is only good for one thing: Seeing Blake Lively in a bikini. The rest of the film is the same old story about being prevented from coming to shore by an evil-tempered shark. Nancy (Lively) takes a vacation to the favorite Spanish surfing spot of her late mother (much to the dismay of her father and friends, one who was supposed to go with her, but got sick). She goes out about 100 yards and sees something that upsets her: a dead whale with a big chunk bitten out of its side. Soon she is the only one in the area and a shark (both real life footage and mechanical) goes after her, biting her surfboard in half and forcing her to take refuge on the body of the dead whale. It seems that every time Nancy ends up in the water, she gets hurt and this time she has a nasty cut on her upper thigh, so she uses her belt to fashion a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. After what seems like a lifetime, where she watches two divers with cameras being killed by the shark and finds one of the cameras (head not included because this is a PG-13 film) and makes a "save me' video before throwing the camera towards shore, she hops on board a huge metal buoy (but not before getting hurt for like the fourth time) and must fight the shark and kill it in a way not seen before. It is not graphic, but it is interesting. OK, there are two reasons to watch this film. A small Spanish boy finds the camera and gives it to the young Spanish guy Carlos (Óscar Jaenada) who drove Nancy to this location and he finds her on the shore as she is spitting water out of her mouth. So the camera "save me" video did her no good (it just took up time to make the film feature length) and she had to rely on her own wits to kill the shark. Not exactly original, but the shark's death is. A year later, Nancy (with a hugh shark bite scar on her leg), brings her young sister Chloe (Sedona Legge) and Father (Brett Cullen) to the exact spot where she was attacked to teach Chloe how to surf. Is Nancy out of her mind or is she working out some issues from her mother's death? Who fucking cares?. Director/Executive Producer Jaume Collet-Serra (HOUSE OF WAX - 2005; ORPHAN - 2009) and screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski (the excellent VANISHING ON 7TH STREET - 2010) are lazy in their approach of Nancy's urgency. Case in point: Nancy finds a seagull with a dislocated wing (listed as "Sully 'Steven' Seagull" in the credits) and fixes its wing so it can fly. This is not one minute after being attacked by the shark. The entire film is full of scenes such as this (not to mention flares from a flare gun that get wet and only fly about 20 yards, even though flares were made to work when they are wet), which takes any reason the film could have had tension-wise out of contention. If you just want to see Blake Lively in a teenie bikini, fine. But if you want to see a scary film about a killer shark, look someplace else.; LIGHTS OUT (2016) is another one of those PG-13 Rated horror films which manages to show as little as possible while throwing in plenty of jump scares just for the hell of it. Based on the popular 2013 internet short of the same name by David F. Sandberg (who also directed this film), this is one of those "make a horror film for less than $5 million dollars and get your money back (and then some) the first week it is in theaters". This film went on to make nearly $22 million in its first week (and $67 million before its run ended in the U.S., plus $90 million worldwide), making Sandberg the new "it" horror director (He was hired immediately to direct ANNABELLE: CREATION [2017], the sequel to ANNABELLE - 2014, another low-budget, high financial return horror film). One good thing I can say about this short, 81-minute, film, is that it gets to the action right away. The stepfather of a family (a cameo by Billy Burke of TV's ZOO) and his female assistant Esther (Lotta Losten, in her feature film debut) are killed by some demon who is afraid by the light. We then go on to meet disillusioned stepdaughter Rebecca (Teresa Palmer; POINT BREAK - 2015), her stepbrother Martin (Gabriel Bateman; the fialed TV series AMERICAN GOTHIC - 2016, and one of the stars of ANNABELLE - 2014) and loony mother Sophie (Maria Bello; ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 - 2005), who once spent a couple of years in a mental institution and somehow brought a demon named Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey) home with her to keep her company (Diana was once a human friend of Sophie's in the institution and then died, turning her into some kind of demon, which proves that all mental cases may not be what they seem); Sophie's only stipulation is that Diana does not hurt her family in any way. Martin is the only human living in the house with Mom (Rebecca has her own place, and her boyfriend, Bret [Alexander DiPersia], keeps trying, and failing, to get at least some space to put some clothes so he can stay the night), so when stepdad dies and Martin is shaking worse than a 8.0 earthquake, Rebecca decides to move in with Sophie and Martin. Immediately, they are attacked at night when the lights go out, so they learn to carry flashlights and other means of light that don't depend on electricity or battery (Diana can turn off all those devices). In short, Sophie learns never to trust demons and ends up putting a bullet in her brain to save her kids. No Sophie, no Diana, right? The film makes you think so, but if you buy the DVD or Blu-Ray of the film, there is an extra on how the film really ended, but advanced audiences hated it so much, it was cut out of the film (In this instance, I think it was a good idea, although a germ of an idea still remains). All we ever get to see of Diana is her thin silhouette and grotesque hands, which burn when light touches them. Sandberg decided to keep the effects practical (the same way with the light, which makes some of the action difficult to see), which is all fine and dandy, except there are few physical effects in the film. Poor Alicia Vela-Bailey had to wear a photorealistic prosthetic suit, so when the lights went on, her body would disappear from the camera using the green screen technique. While not the worst of the films of this type (OUIJI [2014] would get that honor and both films were shot in the same house and the basement [where a lot of the action take place] caught fire a few months after this film wrapped!), there is not much to recommend here. Which tells me one thing: Just because a short film is successful, doesn't mean a full-length film based on that short will have the same effect. This may scare children, but adults beware.; Zombies have become an over-used theme in recent horror films and I am getting sick of watching them. Double that disappointment with zombie comedies and you have what is called ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES (2016), a German film (filmed in English, but the few portions filmed in German are subtitled) that is about as funny as watching a live cat being dissected. The plot is simple as can be: Climate change has reduced the amount of snow at ski resorts (this one was filmed at the Mountains of South Tyrol, Italy), so inventor Franz (Karl Fischer) has created a green liquid that can produce instant snow that he hopes to sell to an investor. At the same time, two champion snowboarders, Josh (Oscar Dyekjær Giese) and Steve (Laurie Calvert), jump out of a helicopter, with Steve's girlfriend/producer of this documentary, Branka (Gabriela Marcinková), telling Steve that there is someone important waiting for him at the end point. Steve stops down halfway and strips off all his clothes, only to find out the "special guest" was a nine year-old terminal girl in a wheelchair. The backers of the documentary leave the threesome to get home on their own, as they take the helicopter is disgust and leave them in the lurch. Franz shows the investor how the liquid he has created can make snow, but something goes wrong with the machine and Franz gets a face-full of his own liquid, which turns him into a zombie. As you can guess, he begins turning all the lodge guests into zombies by biting them, so our threesome, plus obese, buxom barmaid Rita (Margarete Tiesel, the best thing about this film), try to find a way to get to civilization, which is impossible by snowboard or skis and they only have one snowmobile (At a ski resort? C'mon now!). Rita saves their asses more times than I can count (the only really good death is when she drops a hinged trap door from a ceiling and it decapitates a zombie). If you are a zombie comedy fan, I'll leave the rest for you to discover, but director/co-writer Dominik Hartl (his first feature length horror feature; his film before this was a romantic comedy) piles on the gore, as you will see ripped-off body parts, intestines falling to the ground, zombies taking big bites out of people and even some zombie deer (fake-looking, but funny). Zombie fans may like this, but I have seen too many to make me appreciate them unless they have a special hook. I was watching this one and thinking to myself: "This is nothing but a seasonal change take on director Jorge Grau's LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (1974), which are turning the dead into zombies with an experimental machine used to get rid of insects in farming fields." If I were you, I would watch that film instead.


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