[EXPRESSO] Studio 666 (2022) | Dave Grohl Made Me Do It

No, this is not a Jojo reference, nor its one of those weird hybrid music video-concert films (see for example Metallica’s Through The Never), this a full on fictionalized affair, and one i’ve been looking forward to since it was announced. Sure, rock and metal superstar bands aren’t new to cinematic experiences about their personas, but the pitch-premise of a comedy horror starring Dave Ghrol and his bandmates as themselves it’s so good it’s hard to ignore.

As the band Foo Fighters it’s struggling to come up with ideas for its tenth studio album, they get recommended a secluded house in Encino, California, where in the 70s a band called Dream Widow went to record an album, ending with the frontman massacring all the band members before killing himself. The band settles in despite the creepy vibes they pick up from the house, but things get progressively out of hand, leading to Dave Grohl being possessed by a demon. Among other things.

It’s a good dang premise, and thankfully the script and direction are up to snuff to make the most of the pitch, having a zany time with horror cliches and the expected “behind the music” stuff, with the band proving to be very good sports in this delightfully ridiculous comedy horror romp, especially Dave Grohl overacting like a champ as he grows progressively more obsessed once he manages to “magically” get over his artistic block.

Yeah, it’s pretty funny, there’s more to the story than expect, and Studio 666 isn’t afraid to be extra cheesy and honestly it’s kinda surprising that the effects are very good, but besides that, i’ve seen horror movies that try to take themselves seriously but ultimately wish they could pull off even half-successfully a random jumpscare this movie uses as a joke.

Recommended!

[EXPRESSO] Black Phone (2021) | The Basement Dead

Time for some fresh meat, as this one will drop in theathers here in a week’s time, but i manage to see this earlier preview screening, and boy i’m glad i did, as i’ve heard of this movie before but kinda forgot when or if it was gonna come out in theathers here.

Based on the short story of the same name by Joe Hill, Black Phone is the new feature from Sinister ‘s (and the 2016’s Doctor Strange, as marketing makes abundantly clear) director Scott Derrickson, telling the story of a serial killer – dubbed “The Grabber” by the community – that in 1978 terrorizes a suburban town in Colorado by kidnapping children, with the sixth being the 13 yo Finny Shaw. While being imprisoned, Finny realizes that the black phone in the basement, despite having the line physically severed, acts a conduit for the Grabber’ previous victims to talk with the boy and hopefully help him escape. At the same time, Finny’s sister begins to have weird dreams, or visions..

You know when the trailer and most of the marking material makes the movie look good and “proper”, you go see it and then it’s actually quite good? Yeah, Black Phone it’s one of those.

Not only the setting it’s good, the presentation excellent at using “low budget tricks” like scenes filmed or edited to feel like era archive footage (which is not surprising given the director), all contributing to avoid the common modern mistake of “overly produced/shiny horror movies”, it’s a pretty creepy slice of that late 70s’ suburban America, with a really good atmosphere, a little bit of well integrated comedy and great characters all around, with the villain being as creepy as he looks.

Pretty good, fairly intense and quite satisfying to boot. Recommended.

Dynasty Warriors (2021) [REVIEW] | Wuxia Warriors Of The Three Kingdoms

One last review to end this year’s Musou May (and yes i want to make this a regular column) proper, and it couldn’t be anything else than the Dynasty Warriors live-action film that came out last year in Chinese territories and has landed on Netflix pretty much everywhere. In 2021.

I genuinely did not knew it arrived last summer, and somehow Netflix forgot to tell me they even had it, shocking given my cronology, and due to me genuinely looking forward more to the movie than to mainline Dynasty Warriors games, as i’ve lamented before.

Though it’s one that both leaves you with a lot and very little to talk about, at least in terms of plot, since the series it’s one of the many adaptations of the Romance Of The Three Kingdoms novel, and despite their over the top nature, the games stayed fairly loyal to the source material in terms of characters and events, heck, even on stuff like the sparing supernatural-magic elements.

Continua a leggere “Dynasty Warriors (2021) [REVIEW] | Wuxia Warriors Of The Three Kingdoms”

[EXPRESSO] Choose Or Die (2022) | Curse Text Adventure

It was just a matter of time before we got a movie like Choose Or Die, not only due to the rising prominence of videogames in popular culture, but also as a byproduct of the various legends like the Polybius one, and inadvertly of the metacurrent, as i got whiffs of an hypothetical Pony Island X Jumanji reboot crossover (plus references to the Waterworld Atari contest and the likes) from this.

Plus, it has Robert Englund in it. Always nice to see, regardless of the movie.

The plot sees two friends booting up an old 80s videogame, intrigued by the fact there was a competition with money on the line, but nobody ever claim the rewards in the following decades.

To their dismay, they actually enter the game, Curs<r, and will have to survive the surreal world laying before their eyes, as the game it’s actually, literally cursed, and can alter reality with destructive, immediate effect, forcing the player to make horrible binary choices.

It’s a simple premise but it’s novel enough, and the execution it’s surprisingly good, the direction is confindent has quite the bite, taking advantage of the premise (in this case the videogame elements) in a straightforward but also quite interesting and satisfying manner, leading to some really grisly (yet not over the top in terms of graphical violence) setpieces that show off some style to boot.

The likeable characters (especially the main protagonist), and compact runtime round up the package, making Choose Or Die a very nice surprise, overall, especially for Netflix’s often lacking offerings in terms of horror films.

It’s nothing special or deep, and maybe it was a bit longer it could have actually explored in any depth some of its themes, but regardless, a solid, fun, fresh teen horror romp with some pizzaz.

[EXPRESSO] Seance (2021) | Spooky Slashing Schoolgirls

Late February isn’t exactly the usual “dumping ground” in terms of releasing horror movies that actually came out last year in most english speaking market, but whatever, i’m game.

Didn’t exactly heard much about this one besides being kinda ok… and i’m not gonna tell you it’s this underrated gem mistreated by a cruel and fickle press. I just can’t.

Set in an elite women’s college, Seance tells of the new enlisted student, Camille, able to join after the mysterious death of a student named Kerrie, following a prank at her expenses to try and scare her with the legend of the ghost of Eveldyne, a female student who killed herself there decades ago.

The newcomer gets herself and some of her bitchy asshole classmates in detention by standing up to their bullshit, but they do get spooked and intrigued when they try to make a seance to contact Kerrie… and it seems to work, but things soon get worse as the girls are stalked and killed like flies by someone or something …

Yeah, it’s teen slasher…. a very middling one at that.

It’s not that bad as a first time directing piece by Simon Barrett, who previously produced and penned horror movies such as Frankenfish, You’Re Next, 2016’s Blair Witch… and 2017’s Temple.

Sure, it’s pretty obvious who the culprit is, most of the kills leading to the reveal are very limp…. but it’s short, it redeems itself enough in the final act in terms of both gore and entertainment, helped by a good cast, decent acting and solid production values.

Thought it’s really predictable, and it’s basically the director hodgepotching horror cliches more to see what sticks than using them in service of a precise vision or tone, making for a watchable but forgettable and throwaway flick.

[EXPRESSO] El Paramo (2022) | Thy Patience Consumed

Some really fresh (as in “new”) Netflix content for me and you, El Paramo is set in 19th centhury Spain, where a family living in a remote house is haunted by an entity that feeds on their terror, and it falls upon the young boy Diego to save his mother from the entity… and herself.

…. or so this is premise as Netflix puts in the description. A correct synopsis that doesn’t spoil the experience, i’m not harping on that, i just prefer to describe this movie as “mother simulator”, since the mother not only has to suffer her husband basically disappearing and never coming back most likely due to the wars happening outside their isolated refuge, having to defend herself from a supernatural beast that she thought was just a legend, but also having to put up with her son, one of the most annoying and dumbass child character i’ve seen in a recent horror film.

Stupid, grating and spineless too, just in case the kid wasn’t annoying enough to deal with, even though it eventually leads to his character arc going where you would expect…but until the last act he doesn’t come off as the more sane and kind character he actually is, but as cowardly dumbass that almost makes this movie an accidental “anti-Babadook”, as for most of it i was rooting for the mother to get rid of both “annoyances”, not only the monster, and have some peace.

That said, let me stress that the movie it’s not bad, the setting it’s pretty good, the cinematography it’s also quite nice, the creature’s lore and design are spooky enough and played fairly decently for tension instead of jumpscares, and there are some atmospheric moments, but there’s just not much to it and overall it’s mostly average.

[EXPRESSO] The Whole Truth (2021) | Meet The Granps

Dipping into the Netflix waters these weeks more than planned since i’m not really interested in many theathrical releases until House Of Gucci (i can survive without seeing or reviewing Clifford The Big Red Dog live-action film, i feel you can as well).

So let’s talk about the Netflix esclusive Thai horror thriller The Whole Truth, about siblings that find a mysterious hole in their grandparents’ house (where they temporarily reside as their mother is in a coma after nearly dying in a car crash), leading to terrifying events and them discovering creepy secrets about their family.

The circumstances around the events might led you to believe this is going into The Visit territory, but it’s not like that at all, this isn’t one of those that play the supernatural angle only to have a twist undo-negate it either. It’s just a fairly typical supernatural asian horror movie, quite average, i’d say.

It’s not bad but it’s also not that involving, the movie tries to have some flair to it but the plot and the horror elements never move past being cliches, the subplots ain’t bad (arguably the granpa’s revenge subplot is kinda more interesting than most of the “ghost shit”) but it takes a lot for most of them to factor in to the main one, and to be honest the movie kinda feels stretched to 2 hours.

The decent acting and the execution make it so that you wanna stick around to the end, so there’s that, and a decently satisfying payoff, even it’s kinda oddly paced and “delayed”, but it plays well enough with the idea of truth, ending on a somewhat fittingly “positive” note.

Overall, The Whole Truth (gimmicky international-localized name aside) is alright, nothing special, really, but it’s worth seeing once at the very least.

Mother Krampus AKA 12 Deaths Of Christmas (2017) [REVIEW] | Christmas Hexe

Since we’re still having a “dinosaur christmas” this year too (though on a smaller and more canonical scale, as previously stated) and now it’s technically december, let’s look at a couple of Christmas horror flicks, just for kicks.

After the Krampus quick “discovery” and exploitation as another spin for chrismas horror movies (often by extremely low budget productions), something else had to be done, ransacking christmas folklore around the world as a way to some kind of legitimacy, which also leads to terribly confusing – even if somehow apt- titles like “Mother Krampus”.

While that itself isn’t confusing, keep in mind we’re talking about the 2017 movie by James Klass, there also Mother Krampus 2: Slay Ride, that came out in 2018, but released on DVD in the UK as just “Mother Krampus”. Not that the movies are connected in any way, but come on, this is some supreme titulatory bullshit, vintage bullshit that should have died out in the 80s.

Continua a leggere “Mother Krampus AKA 12 Deaths Of Christmas (2017) [REVIEW] | Christmas Hexe”

[EXPRESSO] Last Night In Soho (2021) | Perfect Bleach

Eloise, grown up with her grandmother due to her mother’s suicide, arrives in London with the dream of becoming a stylist, with the myth of the Swinging London and 60s music she listens to on her old portable jukeboxs. After an unhappy experience while training at the school she was admitted to, she moves to an apartment in Soho rented to her by an old lady.

There, Elosie dreams of traveling to the past, to the romanticized London she worships, and there she meets Sandie, an aspiring singer living the glamour and the excitement of a colorful hip city.

Slowly Elosie keeps confusing her own personality with Sandie, learning about the squallor and misery of her real life, continously slipping between nightmare and reality, leading Elosie to “witness” a murder that happened in the past.

If this sounds like it could be described Edgar Wright’s Perfect Blue via Hitchcock and a not insignificant amount of supernatural horror elements… it’s not quite that, but it’s hard not to draw some comparisons and notice some of the inspirations (and i wanna avoid spoilers), even if at the end the result definitely feels like something Wright would direct, as -aside his use of music for stylish fair and editing’ sake- it pulls off something noteworthy and incredibly easy to fuck up, especially the horror elements would have been so easy to mishandle with disastrous effects.

But as one would expect of the director, nothing feels out of place in Last Night In Soho, the cast it’s great as expected, the atmosphere is consistently unsettling and the script plays some good tricks and delivers a pretty good twist, remaining enthralling all the way through his 2 hour runtime.

It’s pretty great, so good see it while it’s still in theathers.

Definitely a must watch.

The Spooktacular Eight #7: The House On Skull Mountain (1974)

Blaxploitation isn’t my forte, but there’s a lot of horror movies in this vague “category-label”.

I like to not go for the obvious choice (when possible), and we didn’t spotlight an “old dark house movie” with the more typical murder mystery set-up of always: reading of the will of long distant relative that recently croaked in presence of his nephews, many not having ever seen the old lady or the other cousins before this very occasion.

It just happens the deceased was a voodoo priestess living in her southern estate, and her relatives that stay to hear the will are being killed off one by one with voodoo magic, with the survivors trying to figure out who is the killer before it gets to them as well.

And i guess it worked a bit too well as this was the final film for Mike Evans (Good Times, The Jeffersons, All In The Family), not his final acting role, thought.

As you could guess from the plot and the title, it’s a blackploitation horror film with a somewhat gothic theme, due to the mansion and it taking place on “Skull Mountain”, which means some real estate did Skeletor dirty, so to speak. I say “somewhat” due to voodoo being involved, but it’s magical, supernatural stuff regardless, and it looking at a different tradition makes it less trite.

And as one of the characters puts it “one doesn’t exclude the other”.

In case you disagree, there’s the costant thunder cracking outside the mansion (yes, done in the exact same fashion you expect) that sets the gothic mood, the nearly costant rain and some fog. And “tribal drumming”.

An irksome point is that i feel the characters called there to the house were made cousins and thus related way late into scripting to avoid the very notion of afroamerican and white people (as one of the cousins it’s played by Victor French) having a relationship, which it’s fuckin racist as hell, but even odder since they didn’t change some of the music during the “date” montage to fit this.

It’s iffy, to say the least, but it’s also a sign of the decade it was made, i guess.

Despite what you may think, the “blaxploitation” label it’s kinda ill fitting, as this doesn’t have gratituous gore, nudity or harsh language (it barely has blood), it’s indeed a old dark house type of horror thriller that focuses on the atmosphere, the supernatural events and magic, and it’s fairly effective, a bit on the cheesy side (as there are skull shaped door knockers) but spooky indeed.

It’s a bit slow at times since it’s not a mystery who’s actually causing the murder and how, so you wait for a twist, and after a ritual tribal dance scene that goes on a little longer than i liked (to be honest i had enough of rhytmic african drumming solos for a good 6 months)… you don’t really get it either, as the situation it’s pretty much what you thought was shaping up to be.

But you get a pretty spectacular finale, so it’s definitely more than “fine”.

I honestly don’t have much else to say or to complain about, it’s good.

Solid production values, good atmosphere, good acting, and not really exploitative, so i can conclude i’d recommend giving The House On Skull Mountain a good watch however you can.

And remember, blood and magic are thicker than water or skin pigmentation.

Seriously, it’s a good one not deserving its relative obscurity.