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Review In the Mouth of Madness (1994): A classic through and through!

genre: horror, mystery, lovecraftian

The first time I watched In the Mouth of Madness I was thoroughly impressed. The whole viewing experience was unlike I had seen before since it involved me without really knowing what was going on. Back then it had me questioning reality and making me a little paranoid. Don't worry though it will fade soon after watching. Still I was wondering what I just had seen. Now after many years I know exactly what is going on.

The thing is if you are unfamiliar with H.P. Lovecraft and his work then yes this film very likely won't make sense to you. But if you are familiar then In the Mouth of Madness is a real treat. Actually as a psychological thriller it also ticks the right boxes. Only as a lovecraftian film it's infinitely better and one you can watch and enjoy over and over again. The film is filled with references and depictions of lovecraftian elements. It even downright states or explains of what is going on if you are paying attention enough. That being said if you really don't know anything about Lovecraft then most of what you will see will come across as weird and bizarre. Don't get me wrong, it actually is. However the mystery part won't be perceived as confusing or complicated. But make no mistake John Carpenter is a true master of horror and manages to be effective even after multiple viewings. And this is because In the Mouth of Madness is atmospheric horror. It only shows what it needs to show you. Plus it adds a lightness to the film probably to prevent you from being overwhelmed with it's darkness or dread. 

John Carpenter also pays tribute to Stephen King as he borrows some elements from his work and has him represented in the film as Sutter Cane who also is based on H.P. Lovecraft. I don't know about you but for me that adds to the fun. And In the Mouth of Madness definitely is fun as much as coming doom and damnation allows of course. 

As far as I am concerned this film is a classic through and through.

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Review Revenger (2018) and Review Saat po long: Taam long a.k.a. (2017): Revenger is average at best!

genre: action, martial arts, crime, drama

According to Bruce Khan himself Revenger brings you a true martial arts epic like you haven't seen in ages. If you read the reviews a lot of people seem to agree. I am not one of them. At the very best this is average and has no right even to be compared to better contemporary films in the same genre.

First of all Bruce Khan claims that they haven't made a single fully fledged martial arts flick in South Korea in a decade. Well, maybe there is some truth to that. But then one would need to clarify what exactly his definition is of a martial arts flick. I am a big fan of martial arts films but not even I don't expect only martial arts combat. That simply doesn't make much sense in a world where guns and other weapons have become so much more efficient. I like the mix up of hand to hand combat with gun play. And when combined right you will get the same rush and excitement. Besides has Bruce Khan even seen The Villainess or The Man from Nowhere? But let's say I agree with him, which I don't, but let's say I do. Then you really have to up your own game to deliver that hardcore martial arts action.

In that aspect Revenger fails completely. I can't fault the film for having a bad story. I mean who cares right? But it's as cliche as you could imagine. A guy wants to take revenge on another guy and will squash anyone who comes in between. Sounds awesome right? Wrong. Although to be honest, if it was conveyed how agonizing it had been for the hero to lose his loved ones that definitely would have made it more compelling. But it wasn't. Most of the combat is dull and repetitive. A good fight scene is where usually the odds are stacked against the hero but somehow through sheer strength, perseverance or any other emotion comes on top. Bruce Khan's character never truly is in danger. I could even predict the times the plot would wound him. Fortunately there is one stand out. The sword fight. That one was truly spectacular. Only it's far too late in the film and followed by an extremely disappointing finale. They should have reversed these scenes and it would have at least ended on a good note. 

Don't believe the hype, Revenger is quite boring even if you skip to the fight scenes. Bruce Khan does seem like a badass but lacks the charm and charisma to make me root for him. So I am really struggling to see how anyone could think this film is a martial arts epic. For that it's too simple and lacking.

Saat po long: Taam long a.k.a. Paradox (2017)

Arguably the weakest in the SPL franchise but still superior to many contemporary films and Revenger. If you were hoping for a connection between the previous films I couldn't find one. Not that I really care.

Most important for me was the action. And while it's not as spectacular as SPL 2 it certainly delivers. How can it not? The action is choreographed by none other than Sammo Hung. He knows how to make fight scenes exciting and enjoyable. Of course he is helped by director Wilson Yip who also is a master of getting the most out of a simple story dramatic wise. He manages to very effectively pull the heart strings while at the same by unforgiving and brutal story wise.

Tony Jaa's role is short but sweet. He manages to showcase what we love about him. Therefore I can forgive him for him not being in this as much as I would have liked to. Can we get a proper Tony Jaa film already? I mean come on people!

I do have to say that the story is a little far fetched. I mean they didn't attempt to show how powerful the bad guys truly are. If they had then there would have been more tension and understanding for certain characters to act like they did. In any case SPL 3 is worth watching at least once and in my opinion a better showcase of martial arts and stunt work than Revenger. Plus I rooted for the characters which I can't stress enough is vital for films like these.

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Review From Beyond (1986): Definitely more going on than sticky tentacles.

genre: lovecraftian, horror, science fiction

Dr. Edward Pretorius and his assistant, the physician Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) have been experimenting with the pineal gland in order to stimulate the sixth sense. One of their experiments doesn't go exactly as planned and has devastating consequences for both Pretorius and Crawford.

Pretorius ends up dead and Crawford gets locked up in a mental asylum because the authorities believe he is responsible. Then Dr. Katherine McMichaels (played by Barbara Crampton) takes him in her custody to give him a chance of proving he is innocent. Secretly though she is more interested in the experiment than curing Crawford. Even Crawford himself doesn't want to participate because of the dangers he could unleash. But Katherine is adamant and insisting that nothing will happen. Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree) is the cop tasked by keeping an eye on the two. The poor guy of course has no idea what he gotten himself into. Because from the moment they set in the house things go crazy real fast. 

This craziness could be interpreted as laughable or comedic. However one could also take it seriously and embrace the dread this cosmic horror is confronting you with. The practical special effects might look weird and cheap at first they are hugely effective. It doesn't take much imagination to believe all of the events could be real. Think about it. A special machine or device makes you see things you normally wouldn't see. Actually more than that. Suddenly these hideous creatures from another dimension are able to come at you and hurt you or worse. The idea of these creatures being out there and only needing a machine to get exposed should terrify you. Especially since they also have the power to manipulate your essence. I am aware that Lovecraft purists have problems with the light approach in this adaptation. But with all respect I think they are missing the fact that a lot is packed in the film. It's far more mature than given credit for. And it benefits from not explaining of what is going on and who these creatures are. But anyone who has dabbled in Lovecraftian horror will know. 

Overall From Beyond is a blast from beginning to end. It manages to do so much in little time. For example it celebrates the wonders of science while at the same time the humans are criticized for exploiting it. It also exposes you to some social commentary concerning mental health. So yes, there is definitely more going on than sticky tentacles.

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Horror Film Marathon (2019): Zombieland: Double Tap (2019), Crawl (2019), Aterrados (2017), Rattlesnake (2019), Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019), Eli (2019, The Perfection (2019) and Deadtectives (2018)

In celebration of Halloween and Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) it's time for my yearly tradition of holding a movie marathon. Now this does have to be taken broadly since I will be watching as many as I can in one sitting (1 and 2 november 2019). However I will take breaks in between. What can I say? I am getting old and need my naps.

First film I watched was:

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

I actually was looking forward to this. I enjoyed the original and thought that Woody Harrelson alone could make a film better. And I was right. He did make this one better. Unfortunately Zombieland: Double Tap was incredibly disappointing since it tried too hard to be edgy and funny like the original but simply wasn't. The real revelation was Zoey Deutch. She and Woody stole the show every time. The most fun scene was at the end during the credits when a very familiar face makes his entrance. Very likely most people would have left the cinema already to enjoy it.

After this I felt like:

Crawl (2019)

I wished I could say I this viewing experience was better but no. While I appreciated the premise and the potential I wasn't invested in this film one bit. Only a few times I connected but those usually were the none horror moments. The biggest problem with Crawl is the lack of tension and suspense. Only a few times the scares were effective. But for the most part they happen as you would expect and feel nothing about it. In my opinion a waste of your time!

After a considerable nap I wanted to watch  a film that was unscheduled:

Aterrados (2017)

A film I came across Netflix and that seemed very inviting. It's incredibly over the top especially since it wastes no time into exposing the supernatural. But then manages to creep you out and put you on the edge due to sheer insanity. The scares in this are incredibly effective since they are used sparingly. Trust me on this. I was very skeptical at first myself but became a true believer at the end. Not that it was perfect. Far from it. But because it manages to do what a horror film is supposed to do.

It's a real mystery to me why this one is not being pushed by Netflix as opposed to the next film I am going to discuss. Since it's far superior to the disaster that is:

Rattlesnake (2019)

Rattlesnake is a film that had a pretty interesting premise but then fails to deliver on it. In short, the daughter of  Carmen Ejogo's character gets bitten by a rattlesnake then gets cured by this mysterious woman. Then several figures come up to her and tell her to pay the price which is another person's soul. These people don't tell her more so there might have been several ways to tackle this but writer and director  Zak Hilditch resorts to the most predictable. Carme Ejogo is the only real reason you should watch. She gives the film the weight it deserves but is let down by the script and execution. In my opinion this is one to avoid entirely.

I don't think I am that demanding when it comes to horror films. I don't mind if they are predictable but you at least have to deliver on some of the elements that make it fun. Like being scary or creepy. Or comedy if you are focused on delivering laughs. But most on this list failed in my opinion.

So after a long break (sleep, daily life things and other stuff) we started up the marathon again with:

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Another title I was looking forward this seeing how this was produced and written by Guillermo del Toro. Premise wise this definitely is a step above the standard fare. It was very entertaining. However it was never scary nor creepy. It could have been but for some reason they opted this to be PG-13 and remove all the elements that would have made this terrifying. It's very clear this film is jumping on the bandwagon of Stranger Things and at this point that is quite lame. But I went with it and enjoyed myself while it lasted. Still it's very disappointing that it's so forgettable. 

Next up was Eli which is available on Netflix and if you are looking for a good horror films on Netflix this is one to pick:

Eli (2019)

Eli is a real treat. It delivers on the mystery and horror. Sure it relies on the cliches and some predictable scares but they are very effective and fun. You really are rooting for Eli because the kid has a lot to endure. What really made this a good viewing experience for me was that it played around with conventions enough to give them a different spin. Eli manages to keep you guessing on what is going on until the very end. Even for a veteran like me. So a must watch for sure!

After a short break we watched:

The Perfection (2019)

Another Netflix that genuinely surprised me. It's quite twisted and bizarre. But good god does it deliver on the horror goodness! Just when you think you know how events are going to play out it changes up and heads into another direction. The twists and turns will make your head spin. And it's not afraid to depict the horror in all it's glory. Sometimes that was a little too much as it was gross as hell. But I am so glad to find out that Netflix also has films like these. After the extremely poor In the Tall Grass and Rattlesnake I lost hope. 

We felt we could take on another film which was:

Deadtectives (2018)

Clearly more focused on the laughs than horror elements. And some actors tried a little too hard to be relevant and cool like for example Martha Higareda but the others make up for it as they are more genuine and invested. I think that is what makes Deadtectives really enjoyable. It's a bunch of film makers having fun and wanting the audience to have fun as well. The horror elements are done as much as you could expect but I personally would not have minded had they incorporated truly scare scenes. Perhaps they could work on this in case they want to turn this into a franchise.

A lot of disappointing films in this marathon. Fortunately the good ones were so good that they made up for them and it didn't feel like a waste of time. Or perhaps I should abstain myself from watching the good ones and save them. I'll think about it!

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Review The Mother of Tears a.k.a. La terza madre (2007): Tears will flow for sure!

genre: giallo, horror, mystery

The Mother of Tears is the final part in the The Three Mothers trilogy which is a complete departure from the two previous films. All the style and atmosphere is replaced with gore and the equivalent to jedi mind tricks. Suspiria and Inferno were over the top but even within their universe they were subtle and moderate relatively speaking.  So what was Dario Argento thinking?

I do have to state that the first time I had watched this film I had a lot of fun. This second time around I still enjoyed myself for the most part. But now I noticed quite a few flaws that ruined the viewing experience a little. The lack of style and atmosphere is a real mood killer for this film. All the suspense and mystery is gone. Inferno had managed to build on what was set up in Suspiria but The Mother of Tears almost forsakes what is established and goes into a different direction which can be quite confusing and laughable. Suddenly white witches exist who can battle the mothers and their minions. Main character Sarah Mandy played by Asia Argento turns out to be one just like her mother was. Her mother is played by real life mother Daria Nicolodi. She pops up now again in the same vein as Obi-Wan Kenobi giving advice whenever she needs it.

And believe me Asia needs it a lot in this film. Asia when she feels like it can be a real good actress. However she also can be an extremely bad one which is the case here. One minute her characters acts resourceful and clever, the next she acts like a total buffoon. She claims to be a scientist and yet never acts like one. At one point it becomes highly annoying. And yet I was rooting for her when she was being chased. 

One of the best elements of this film is that this it's truly first time the witches and minions are out in the open. They don't hide in the shadows any more. The apocalypse is near and they feel empowered to wreak havoc and chaos. In a way I understand what Dario was going for. He probably wanted to expand on the global effects and influence of the mothers in the world. There is no point in fearing them if they aren't as powerful as claimed. These lower witches and demons also are forces who can't be ignored. There are quite a few demonstrations of their wickedness. Gross, disgusting and bloody. However while they seem threatening and dangerous, The Third Mother is far from menacing. I am aware she is the one who instigates and controls everything. But if it weren't for her minion she herself doesn't look nor acts that dangerous. The previous mothers had this air of mystery and dread surrounding them. The Third Mother just looks like someone who does cosplay. 

Overall The Mother of Tears is worth watching at least once even if it was just for showing how powerful the Three Mothers are. Other than that this is a Dario Argento film that lacks almost everything that made Suspiria and Inferno special. Quite sad really!

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Review Inferno (1980): One of those rare titles that gets better with multiple viewings!

genre: giallo, horror

Inferno is the second part in the The Three Mothers trilogy and a direct sequel to Suspiria. A lot is said about it and usually it's met with praise or the opposite. In my opinion it's one that you will appreciate more and more with multiple viewings.

If you were expecting the same level of dread and shock that was displayed in Suspiria then Inferno definitely will be disappointing. However as a continuation of the mythology concerning The Three Mothers Inferno is absolutely fascinating. It might seem less coherent and more confusing but in hindsight that might have been the point. These witches are set out to make you doubt what you see. They deliberately want to confuse the characters and the viewer in order to make you question their existence. The colourful and stylish imagery often could also be regarded as dreams or hallucinations. In Inferno there are quite a few examples of where the characters aren't really certain if what they just have seen or experienced is real. Once unsettled evil strikes upon them with sheer wrath and fury.

Now obviously most of the characters who fall victim don't deserve it. However why couldn't they let things be? Many times they put themselves in danger. Due to unrelenting curiosity. Or are they secretly seeking power and destruction themselves? One of the flaws of Inferno that the motivation for the characters is lacking, Eleonora Giorgi as Sara just happens to see the letter of fellow student Mark lying on his desk. She takes it and plans to return it to him. Then decides to read the letter and go on the quest to find out more about the mysteries described in this letter she had no business reading in the first place. Rose even warns Mark to be cautious. Sara blatantly ignores this and well...

Inferno does build on what has been established in Suspiria so it is recommended to have seen that first. But you don't really need to since as a standalone Inferno is quite strong and effective because of some random horrific events that occur. Overall Inferno is very much worth your time and definitely a must watch for Argento fans.

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Review Body Puzzle (1992): Heavily flawed but decent enough!

genre: giallo, mystery, thriller, horror

If you have never seen Body Puzzle it will deliver on suspense and some tense moments. However for multiple viewings this just won't do. Mind you that goes for most thrillers so not sure if you could fault Lamberto Bava for this. Then again he has made films before that still deliver after you have seen them many times. So what gives?

The problem lies in the plot. It's to pretentious and convoluted for it's own good. It seems like the goal was to make you think one thing while another thing was occurring. Naturally this could be said of most thrillers so what exactly I am getting at? Misdirection is good. But there has to be some logic to it. And this is where Body Puzzle fails. It demands you to suspend disbelief so much that it becomes too ridiculous. The whole concept of Body Puzzle is macabre and dark. Naturally it would have been far more interesting to find out why and what motivates the killer. Like with most killers the answer is blatantly obvious. There is no deeper meaning. Another problem is the fact that it takes itself far too seriously. Given the main plot twist is stupid as hell that is just asking too much.

Fortunately the film doesn't spare you. It has no problems showing you blood and body parts cut off. One scene in particular is quite shocking and disturbing if you think about it if it weren't for one little detail. Imagine the impact it could have without that detail. It's safe to say the killer is one sick individual and should have been caught and locked up years ago.

As a Lamberto Bava title one could say it's one of his lesser titles. As a giallo this definitely is middle tier but definitely one to check out if you are a fan.

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Filmography Lamberto Bava

Listed are all the titles Lamberto Bava was involved in as a director or assistant director (excluding the TV Shows).

The Road to Fort Alamo (1964)
Planet of the Vampires (1965)
Kill, Baby, Kill (1966)
Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966)
Danger: Diabolik (1986)
Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)
Roy Colt & Winchester Jack (1970)
Baron Blood (1972)
The Kiss (1974)
Lisa and the Devil (1974)
Last Cannibal World (1977)
Shock (1977)
Inferno (1980)
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Macabre (1980)
Blastfighter (1984)
Monster Shark a.k.a. Shark: Rosso nell'oceano (1984)
Graveyard Disturbance (1987)
Rabid Dogs (1988)
Until Death (1989)
The Ogre (1989)
Dinner with a Vampire (1989)
La maschera del demonio (1990)
The Prince of Terror (1999)
Eyewitness (1999)
School of Fear (1999)
The Torturer (2005)
Ghost Son (2007)
The Man Who Didn't Want to Die (2007)
Twins (2020)

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Review Until Dawn (PS4) Satisfying horror experience!

genre: adventure, horror
year: 2015

To be honest I was a bit skeptical about Until Dawn. There aren't that many interactive adventures out there that actually have managed to do what this does. And that is to recreate genuine thrills and scares you would experience when watching a film. 

Now some of you still might think that it wouldn't be that hard to mimic horror films through cut scenes and it's narrative. But Until Dawn goes beyond that. Since the actual story is filled with cliches and predictability. What it stands out in is to give the player the sense he or she is part of the adventure. And when something or someone pops out of nowhere you will jump up. Like with comedy timing is everything. That and build up of suspense and tension. Until Dawn does a real good job of that. Not surprising since experienced horror filmmakers have been involved with this game.

Even while I am pleasantly surprised I am not as impressed as Ultimategamer 132 was. Read his review to what he thinks. He even goes so far to call it game of a year material. There is not a single year where present, past or future where that would be the case. Look, Until Dawn definitely gives you the illusion of having control. However you can't really opt out not to participate. Other than to stay put. Certainly there are times when you are given choices. But if then you opt out to make a choice the game will decide for you. At times that depends on the actions you opted for previously or it just plays out like the game needs you to play out. It's this aspect that is a problem for me. Sure I like choices. But as a gamer I want more. I want full control. In Until Dawn I can only explore where the game allows me to explore. Just heading in some direction it will trigger a cut scene and usually that means I can't go back. I would have liked an indication where it's stated that if I head into that direction there is no point of return. Granted this would break the immersion so perhaps the option to replay this specific sequence would be a far better option than to be forced to replay the whole damn chapter.

Then there are the QTE's, Quick Time Events. I don't like them. Fortunately most games give you the option to start over when you failed. In Until Dawn the game continues. There is a way to restart these by pressing the home button and close the game. But then you have to start from the point the game has saved last. Until Dawn doesn't allow you to manually save. The excuse is that you have to play out the game and then you will be given the choice to replay the chapters to make other choices. The oldest adventure games like King's Quest and Monkey Island even gave you the option to do this and they were immersive as hell. Besides you could technically finish those games in a few hours. Until Dawn easily will take days. That is time I don't have. So why can't Until Dawn give me the choice to replay a section at the time I want to replay it? Basically Until Dawn forces you to replay it many times until you have played out all the available paths and endings. Getting back to the mechanics. The QTE's in this game are horrendous. Often you are not given enough time to respond. And it's not that I am slow in reacting. It's more that once a sequence starts it takes a while for you to actually have to do something. You lose focus. I wouldn't if I had full control. 

Overall Until Dawn is a satisfying horror experience. Is Until Dawn a game? Well, yes! But barely. I need to be able to make my own choices. And Until Dawn doesn't allow you to. In the heydays of adventure gaming you had quite a few titles that would play out like a film and still gave you full control of your actions. Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within is a good example of this. So there still is a lot of room for improvement. Let's hope Man of Medan steps up!

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Review The Wrath a.k.a. Yeo-gok-seong (2018): A missed opportunity!

genre: horror, mystery

Right from the start The Wrath introduces us to the evil elements that are present at the household of Lee Gyeong-jin, a high-ranking official of Joseon Kingdom. A woman pregnant with a child of the third son of the house soon learns of the evil spirit that haunts the house.

The Wrath has a lot of atmosphere and remains pretty creepy for a while but I wouldn't call it exactly subtle. Supernatural events occur far too often and not all of them are as effective as one would expect. But like with most of these haunted house films it's the background story that matters. In hindsight it's one that could have been decent if not for the fact that it completely forsakes development character wise. The characters are either far too good or far too evil. There is no middle ground whatsoever. Besides one of the biggest flaws of haunted house stories is that it is required of you to suspend disbelief which I am very willing to do as long as the dread and suspense remains consistent. Unfortunately this is not the case. Once you figure out what is going on The Wrath becomes predictable as hell. 

Apparently The Wrath is a remake of Yeogokseong a.k.a. Cry of a Woman (1986). I hope I will manage to get a hold of a copy somehow since it does look like it's far superior to this remake. The remake is far more concerned with being slick and stylish instead of actually wanting to scare you. It had potential to do so. But it's squandered by excess. When are some filmmakers going to learn that in horror films usually less is more. 

Ultimately The Wrath is incredibly disappointing. It simply fails to deliver on what is promised. And that is to fill you with dread and fear. Not one that is worthy of your time!

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