Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Ritual, Wicker Man meets Predator

Surviving a horrific and bloody attack has its pitfalls. Sure, you're alive. Some others didn't make it, but you...well, you live to see another day. However, not all is seashells in balloons in the world of the survivor. Fear, anxiety, and guilt are now you're closest companions.  After all, what gives you the right to survive when other didn't?  A silly question, but one many survivors ask. Life now is different, and the realization that you will never be the same torments you.  Hence, 2017's "The Ritual," a new one on Netflix, directed by David Bruckner.
Luke (Rafe Spall) and four buddies plan their next man's getaway. After deciding on a hike in the Swedish wilderness, Robert (Paul Reid) and Luke head into a liquor store for some vodka. Bad idea as our duo walk in on a violent robbery. Robert will be slaughtered and Luke will survive, hiding behind a display. Fast forward several months, the quartet heads to Sweden with their dearly departed buddy heavy on their minds. Luke is wrought with guilt, feeling he should've done something during the robbery to save Robert. His buddies, well they are polite but secretly wonder if Luke could have done anything except hiding in fear.
After wimp Dom (Sam Troughton) injures his knee, the group takes a shortcut through the woods. Shortcuts, as fans of horror films know, are never a good idea. Soon, some monster, just behind the trees and out of sight, begins stalking them. As the fiend gets closer and the group realizes something is hunting them, the fright turns them on each other. After finding refuge in a mysterious cabin, our friends discover they are in woods occupied by pagan magic. All will have mysterious nightmares and in the morning, while running for survival, the pagan behemoth picks them off one by one and dissects them. Even spoilers here, but here's a hint...did you ever see "The Hills Have Eyes"?
The hard part about surviving a brutal attack is coming to grips with the reality that you will never be the same. That's okay. You have become someone else, or more accurately, you have grown into someone else.  How you handle this will decide if you are a better man now, or still a sniveling victim. When Luke comes to grips with this, the pagans and monster might wish they never messed with these blokes. Shot in Romania, "The Ritual" is a good one. My initial comparison to "Predator" and "The Wicker Man" may not be fair, but Luke's plight is one many can learn from.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Radius, Go Drop Dead!

We have all met people that seem to suck all the energy out of a room every time they open up their mouths. Take that to the extreme and we have 2017's "Radius." This is a good one filled with dozens and dozens of deaths, a myriad of plot twists, and a shocking ending.  Perhaps it is a modern day Grim Reaper tale, or a weird and lurid sci-fi offering. See, its not energy that is sucked out of a room in this new one that has just hit is life itself.
Bang! Crash! So we begin. A car wreck leaves a bloodied and battered Liam (Diego Klattenhoff) at the side of a road with amnesia. With no memory, our hunk desperately tries to flag down a car to  take him to the hospital. Uh oh...a car does come...occupied by a corpse.  As Liam continues his trek to find help he makes an ominous discovery. Anytime he gets within 50 feet of a living dies. Liam is a good soul, though an amnesiac, and this unsettles him. As half of Manitoba falls prey to this mysterious death, Liam secludes himself deep within his property, in a shed. Still with no memory, our protagonist is about to get a surprise. Another amnesiac, the sultry Jane (Charlotte Sullivan) finds her way to him. Here's the surprise...she doesn't die.
Is the torment over?  Of course not. What follows will be shocking and eventually very distressing. Some ungodly force of nature or of the cosmos (you'll see) has bound these two great looking peeps together. If they separate...well...death will return.  What caused this horror?  As the film progresses, this question doesn't seem to matter as much as what has connected Jane and Liam after the accident...and before.  As the cops hunt this pair, believing them responsible for some germ-warfare terrorism, these two desperately try to figure out who they really are and how to stop the death. Slowly their memories  return and what they'll eventually'll see.
Exactly what happened to Liam and Jane to cause this predicament?  Will they be able to stop the death that Liam emanates?  What terrifying facts will both these unfortunates remember regarding what brought them together?  The ending is...well, I won't say.  I will say a deep philosophical question will be posed, which you will ponder long after the final credits.  Directed by Caroline Labreche and Steeve Leonard, "Radius" will prove to be a horrific and quite unsettling sci-fi/horror tale.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Too Beautiful to Die, Not in Italian Horror

In Giallo (Italian horror), no woman is too beautiful to die. In fact, the better looking you are, the gorier will be your demise. Slashed with razors, impaled by pipes, carved up by a maniac...yep...the perfect 10s in Italy will usually be turned into hairy blobs of strawberry ice-cream as a demented fiend humiliates them. Today we take a look at some Italian super-models behaving badly and dying horribly, 1998's "Too Beautiful to Die" (directed by Dario Piana).
A bevy of gorgeous Italian super-models find themselves rubbing each other in a hot tub. Poor Sylvia (Gioia Scola), it is about to turn ugly for her. The clean cut virgin is then gang raped in the tub by her super-model friends and a crusty old Italian politician. She runs out humiliated, no longer a virgin, and will next be seen in all her charred remains in a car at the bottom of a ditch. David is upset, the director of the provocative videos which feature the babes, liked Sylvia a lot. The models must now keep a secret as they do not want to be implicated in Sylvia's death, as an Italian pol was also in the tub.
Needing a replacement, David finds the very hot Melanie (Florence Guerin). Melanie will be perfect for the current video in which the babes don skimpy leather gladiator outfits and misbehave with blades. This carefully choreographed video hits a bump when the steamy and sweaty Leslie (Nora Ariffin) dies in an Iron Maiden torture device.  The spikes were supposed to be phony. Now afraid, the surviving babes sense they are being hunted. Michelle (Helena Jesus) will get stuck with a medieval blade thing, and David seems clueless. Oh yes, Melanie has moved in on the now deceased Leslie...she has taken over her roles and apartment.  After all, the dead Asian beauty won't need them anymore.  Melanie also begins a relationship with David and the two will have some steamy pre-marital sex.
Is Sylvia really dead? After all, her body was burned beyond recognition. How about Melanie? As Sylvia's replacement, she has moved in nicely and the murders didn't begin until her arrival? Will any of these Italian lovelies survive the blade and medieval weapon wielding maniac? This film has gratuitous super-models in hot tub scenes...gratuitous super-model pre-marital sex scenes...gratuitous super-model dance scenes...and gratuitous super-model dying horribly scenes. All the actresses are quite stunning and in true Italian fashion, a nice surprise ending awaits you in "Too Beautiful to Die."

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Vulture, Half Man...Half Bird...Very Radioactive

Oh to be nobility in England.  Living in damp but spacious castles...being referred to as Sir or Lady...and having ancestors that ruled the empire...what can top that?  Of course, having kick-a** ancestors means they probably ticked a few people off centuries ago.  When that happens, the obligatory curse follows, proving to be a bane in the lives of modern day heirs. Fortunately nuclear science was invented, and from America comes hope.  Today we take a peek at "The Vulture" from 1966.
Alas the Stroud family.  In 1749 they declared a Spaniard a satanist, buried him alive in unconsecrated land, and shoved his pet vulture in the coffin to die with him.  I know, we all have done that as part of college pranks, but in the eighteenth century, this was a big deal. Enter Ellen (Annette Carell). She just doesn't listen.  This reasonable woman ventured across a graveyard late one night and witnessed someone...or something...rise out of that Spaniard's grave.  The shock of it turns her hair white overnight and her account convinces the authorities she is completely mad...but is she? Now it is apparent, whatever came out of this grave is a flying monster that rips apart descendants of the Stroud family with razor sharp talons.
Trudy, the librarian look
An arrogant American, Eric (Robert Hutton) arrives.  He is a nuclear scientist and married to Stroud descendant, the lovely...well...kinda plain actually...Trudy (Diane Clare).  Upon hearing of the killings, Eric believes science...nuclear science...can explain the monster.  After familiarizing himself with the particulars of the curse, Eric plays detective.  Brian (Broderick Crawford), the family patriarch, doesn't believe in any curse, and this will cost him dearly when the bird-monster hauls him away for dissection. With the frumpy Trudy next in line to be picked apart, Eric enlists the help of a very weird and suspicious Professor Hans Koniglich (Akim Tamiroff).  As the bird thing gets more aggressive, and Trudy is lured into the open, our scientist better hurry...and beware who he trusts.
An over helpful professor
Will the stunning...okay, so she's only a five at best...Trudy be able to escape a centuries old curse? Is a curse the real culprit here, or is nuclear science to blame? Remember, one nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day.  Directed by Lawrence Huntington, "The Vulture" starts out as a very reserved horror film and then explodes into an ambitious horror/scifi hybrid.  Filmed in beautiful Cornwall, a destination I must visit someday, "The Vulture" is a neat scare.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Teenagers Battle the Thing, No Not Acne

In the decades before smart phones, teenagers were actually equipped to save the world from monstrous invaders. Today, other than posting promiscuous pictures of themselves, high school kids are pretty useless. From 1958, "Teenagers Battle the Thing" reminds us that the acne faced dimwits of today are hardly the heroes their predecessors were. In a "Leave it to Beaver" sort of way, this film is a retelling of 1951's "The Thing From Another World."
Because of budget the classic "The Thing From Another World" left its creature (James Arness) as a tall but underwhelming monster. In our feature today, the gorilla suited fiend is toothy and menacing. Okay, very clean-cut teenagers join the museum's Dr. Wyman (Bill Simonsen) and their science teacher Roger (Bob Clymire) for an archaeological dig near Ivanpah (a quaint place that sells soda pop for a dime). By accident they come across a cave which contains a mummy. With no qualms of disturbing the burial grounds of native peoples, the happy team purloins it and hauls it to a shed in a neighborhood.
The grave-robbers put blankets over it and overnight the thing climbs out of its mummy bandages while the terrified teen Norman (Ken Koepfer) watches. Busting out of the shed, just as James Arness busted out of the Arctic research facility, the creature heads into the lemon grove. After coming across a neighboring home, the monster kills a housewife. Wrought with guilt, the happy team seeks to find the creature and put an end to its reign of terror. No spoilers here...well...maybe just figuring out how to stop this thing's reign of terror, it is clear the teens and their adult companions saw "The Thing From Another World."
Will the fiend be displayed prominently in the kids upcoming yearbook? Will the National Park Service prosecute Dr. Wyman for disturbing tribal lands? How about science teacher Roger, will the school board suspend him for...well...for whatever he did? This is a very low-budget B movie but a lot of fun. The creature was very neat and was scarier than James Arness. For some clean-cut fun and a nostalgic look at the good old 1950s, grab a soda pop and see "Teenagers Battle the Thing," directed by Dave Flocker.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Horror Castle, Torturer of Fair Maidens

One hour into the film, the very buxom Rossana Podesta finally gets dressed. Before she dons a very smart, if not slightly tight business suit, our Euro-babe prances through this flick in a loose, cleavage friendly, white negligee. Whether running through castle corridors, fleeing a 300 year old torturer, or trying to escape from a torture chamber, our damsel in much distress wears that negligee well. So, on to 1963's "Horror Castle," an Italian film, set in Germany and directed by Antonio Margheriti.
Ah, The Virgin of Nuremberg! No not our buxom protagonist Mary (Podesta). No, this moralist from the 17th Century is a torture device resembling an Iron Maiden. As a nubile Euro-babe screams from the inside of this device, Mary is woken. Her new  husband Max (Georges Riviere) is nowhere to be found, so the apparent damsel explores. She finds the The Virgin of Nuremberg with a very bloody corpse of a beautiful woman, who probably wasn't a virgin, inside. See 300 years ago, an ancestor of Max was a torture expert who loved plying his trade on immoral woman. Is he back? Mary will wake up in her room the next morning heavily sedated and assured by Max and a suspicious looking maid (Laura Nucci) that she dreamed the whole thing. Mary knows what she saw and when given more sedatives, fakes taking them.
As Max has apparently left for business, the negligee clad Mary sneaks out of bed to investigate. She finds a bag of surgical/torture tools in the office of Max' assistant, Erich (Christopher Lee). Erich has a scarred face and a creepy demeanor and tells Mary the bag belongs to Max' deceased dad. As Mary begins to be stalked by a masked torturer, she is now on the run, locked in the castle. She'll come across a nubile, but apparently immoral, Euro-babe in the torture chamber whose face was just eaten by a rat. She faints again and wakes in bed with Max assuring her everything is fine (oh yeah, why would anyone think otherwise?).  Knowing what she saw, Mary and her soon to be dead maid-servant attempt to leave the castle. NO ONE LEAVES! Because she has such impressive cleavage, the 300 year old torturer believes Mary to be impure...I guess. Now the fiend sets his sights on the red-headed beauty, but Mary is far from helpless.
Is Max really the torturer, or is it in fact a 300 year old monster?  Will the quite capable Mary give in to Euro-horror stereotypes and need a man to save her?  Is the fact that Mary faces her greatest peril once she has changed out of her negligee into professional attire a misogynistic statement about the role of women in modern western civilization? The answer to the mystery is revealed through a horrific and heartbreaking backstory which explains everything. For some very gratuitous, and very smart horror, treat yourself to "Horror Castle."

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Alien vs. Ninja, Japan Fights for Survival

Forget about the atomic bombs in 1945.  Forget about Godzilla, Gamera, and Mothra. Japan's most precarious moments in history occurred centuries ago when a fireball from space crashed in the woods. Kingdoms, who invaded and attacked with their armies of paid ninjas, were forced to put their differences aside as the ninjas joined forces to fight an alien invasion. Besides, those kingdoms were shredded by the aforementioned aliens. From 2010, the Japanese neoclassic "Alien vs. Ninja."
Fresh from a successful mission of carnage and mayhem a band of ninjas is given a supposedly simple assignment. Go into the woods and investigate a fireball that landed the previous night. Yamata (Masanori Mimoto) heads into the woods with his merry band of killers. There they meet another tribe of ninjas, which include the beautiful and deadly Rin (Mika Hijii). Clad in tight leather, she is constantly sexually harassed by her fellow ninjas...but she is great with a sword.  As the ninjas discuss the fireball a creature begins going through them like crap through a goose. Rin's colleagues are pulled into the ground and pureed. As ninja limbs go flying, and guts splatter on trees the surviving ninjas retreat, regroup and plan. Joining them is Nishi (Yuki Ogoe), a teenager who is the lone survivor of a beset village.
Our survivors set traps which work brilliantly but soon realize there are several aliens who capture ninjas and use them as warm places for their spawn.  More ninjas will be shredded but Rin and Yamata fight well. One alien is impressed with Rin's sultry appearance and desires sex with her. This won't end well for the alien rapist as Rin will eventually castrate it. As the surviving ninjas begin to have success against their tormentors a final confrontation is certain and now it looks like the ninjas have the edge. But wait! The aliens have surprises in store for Rin and Yamata.
Will Rin and Yamata prevail and finish off the invasion force? Do the aroused fiends have something more carnal planned for the nubile but deadly Rin? If the ninjas don't prevail, what will be the fate of Godzilla? This is an action packed horror/scifi flick blending the elements of "Alien" and "Predator." Rin is a most attractive protagonist and many of her ninja moves are quite...well...let us use the word 'alluring' again. Directed by Seiji Chiba, have fun with "Alien vs. Ninja."