[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.

[EXPRESSO] Black Parthenope (2022) | ♫ Goin’ Naples Underground ♫

Bringing you more new italian horror movies coverage, the new ones that just kinda “sprout” out of nowhere into the programming schedule of my local cinemas, with no fanfare and almost no national marketing budget to speak of.

And i guess this is the year of smaller italian horror movies like this that frustrate me, as they make good use of distinctive regional italian locations and have some potential, but kinda squander it or are afflicted by fairly big flaws.

Black Parthenope is a horror thriller set in the incredibly extensive set of underground catacombs and tunnels of Naples, the so called “Naples Underground”, where some business people met in order to sell the entire “underground city” to a company that’ll make parking lots out of it, but they get lost and haunted by the neopolitean folklore legend of the “Monaciello” (meaning “small monk”), a wronged soul that was shunned and then killed in the underground tunnels, forever seeking revenge on anyone that walks his haunting grounds.

The Neapolis Underground setting it’s great, some of the scenes manage to create a decent atmosphere, the cast it’s decent and it’s a well produced movie… but it’s almost brought down entirely by how shallow, grating and obnoxious the characters are, to say nothing of the aggressively awful dialogue, and how uneven and often middlesome direction can be, falling back to cliches in a way telling of this being a feature debut for the director in question.

While the final part partially redeems the movie from “proper bad” territory, the first act almost makes you wanna give up on it entirely, but at least you can tell that this movie was always meant to be a thriller-horror movie, unlike the previosly reviewed The Bunker Game.

Even so, it’s definitely not a bad effort!

Resurrection (1999) [REVIEW] | In Lambert We Trust

You might or might not celebrate the upcoming festivity, be indifferent, but in the spirit of the holiday, let’s take a break of sorts and on this today go away from the non-budgets or the endless parade of director-actor-producer-writer one-man homegrown created film featuring either a giant or man-sized rabbity thing (NOT of Purcellian’s descent) going around killing people.

We already “did” Beaster Day/ The Beaster Bunny, and i will have that as a representative of the “ rabbit horror movies” subgenre, with 90 % of these belonging to the “no budget” category and often more than not just being more about rabbits than Easter, see for example the previously covered Bunnyman trilogy, which at least doesn’t pretend to be themed around the holiday (as it isn’t).

So instead we’ll talk about the 1999 crime thriller Resurrection, about a detective (played by Christopher Lambert) and his partner (Leland Orser) hunting down a serial killer emerging in the weeks preceding Easter, with the blasphemous plan of creating a new Jesus Christ by sawing together body parts taken from his victims, carefully selected by following the canon, literally.

I’m honestly surprised how – aside from the tired zombie jokes – there’s barely anything in terms of actual horror movies using a similar or the same macabre idea of “my very own flesh boy, JC”, or the theme of resurrection that’s the main point and what this holiday celebrates/it’s about.

And for a nice festive surprise, it’s actually a pretty decent detective thriller, and a solid film overall, the horror element is strong, the idea of the “DIY messiah” is quite grisly and unsettling, with some good gore effects, and yes, you get to see the final frankensteined flesh conscruct, quite the thing.

Sure, it ain’t too original in terms of characters (and the flashback of the incident involving the main detective’s son it’s so trite that becomes unintentionally kinda funny, given how cheesy it is), but it’s well acted, it has a recognizable cast with great actors, even David Cronenberg acting as the red herring creepish pastor, and Russell Mulcahy’s direction (with this movie marking his continuining collaboration with Lambert after the first two Highlander movies) it’s fairly gripping, hitting all the expected beats of the detective thriller flick, with the fake outs, the religiously obsessive serial killer leaving fittingly themed Bible references on the victims, supported by the great cinematography of Jonathan Freeman and decent dialogues with a few memorable quotes.

It’s no masterpiece, but it’s a really robust offering, definitely in the decent-to-good tier of detective thrillers, it has a very young looking Christopher Lambert in it, and to seal the deal, it’s most likely streaming on Amazon Prime Video in your neck of the woods too, so if you like the premise and-or don’t want to bother with crappy Easter themed horror movies, this is an easy recommendation.

I don’t have much to say about this, in all honesty, but in this case i’d say it’s a good sign, and i’m not gonna inflate this review for the sake of it.

[EXPRESSO] Occhiali Neri/Dark Glasses (2022) | A Knife For The (Blind) Ladies

You know, this movie just existing should be reason enough to celebrate for many invested in horror movies and adiacent cinema grounds, i mean, a new movie from Dario Argento, and one that sounds like a throwback to old giallo thriller-horrors…. sounds promising, doesn’t it?

At least it does if you’re thinking of Suspiria’s Dario Argento, not the one who cursed us with the abysmal shlockfest of Dracula 3D back in 2012, i remember distinctly that one and will always bring it up as a testament that sometimes, yes, you can lose the “touch” (or the “power”) in a dramatically disastrous and disheartening fashion that shits on your entire legacy.

So yeah, i didn’t set myself for unwarranted expectations of competency… and sadly i was right.

Set in a solar eclipsed Rome, the plot of Dark Glasses see a young escort named Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli) being stalked by a serial killer, leading to a tragic car crash which makes her blind and with vague memories of the incident, and also makes orphan a young chinese boy called Chin (Xinyu Zhang). Diana receives help, a guide dog, and tries to make amends to Chin, but the serial killer comes back to finish the job….

I’ll say this: where Dracula 3D was the depressing kind of bad, Dark Glasses is so bad it’s actually laughable, with the trifecta of main characters where the best acting is actually provided by the seeing-eye dog (i’m not kidding, some unbelievably bad acting, especially from the lead actress), a formulaic and ridiculous script filled with embarassing dialogues, questionable editing, and a fuckton of not giving a shit.

Also the old-school practical gore effects by Argento’s regular Sergio Stivaletti are fun, it’s short and the soundtrack genuinely slaps.

Still crap, but better than Dracula 3D, at least.

[EXPRESSO] Nightmare Alley (2021) | Con Carny

If you’re wondering whenever you should or should not go watch Guillermo Del Toro’s latest film, Nightmare Alley (which has just released here in theathers)…. stop reading this and just go watch it in theathers. It’s 2 hours and a half, yes, but make no mistake, nothing is drawn out or superfluous, it’s one of those very long AND very good Hollywood movies that sometimes still happen.

It’s really fuckin great, so just go watch it now!

Set in the 1940s, the film follows a poor man that enters one of the many circus-fairs troupes, and alonsgide the many tricks of the shady trade, he learns that he has quite the ability as a barker, and trained by an old french mentalist-type carny, he puts his quick wit and oratory prowess to the test time and time again, until he masters them and leaves the circus (alongside his love interest) to bring his act out of the squallid, lurid and shady countryside fairs.

He manages to make a name for himself, bringing his deceptive craft to renowed establishments, living a luxurious life with his wife, but the allure of more money and fame brings him to collude with a corrupt psychatrist and perform as more than a mere mentalist…

The cast it’s great, the acting it’s stellar, the story it’s a classic period piece tale of greed and desperation about the age-old craft of tricking-conning people, the drama is excellent, the characters are great, and the love for horror imagery (and some fairly violent moments) by Del Toro it’s still strong as ever. The 1940’s America of carnies, conmen and prestige it’s alluring as its squallid, the cinematography is fantastic, and it’s enrapturing from beginning to end.

It’s that kind of arguably familiar story, but boy the execution is excellent.

12 Days Of Dino Dicember #5: Claw (2021)

From Gerald Rascionato, mostly know as the director of Open Water 3: Cage Dive, this is the other dinosaur movie he made in 2021 that we mentioned in the review of Triassic Hunt, simply titled Claw.

The premise is fairly simple, with two friends forced to spend the night in a ghost town (after getting a flat tire), where they find themselves hunted by a prehistoric predator.

Almost immediatly i got Raptor Ranch vibes, since we also have a scientist creating dinosaurs via a ramshackle laboratory in a middle-of-nowhere town (here Southern California instead of the usual rural town of backwoods stereotypes), the dinosaur pen, the dinosaur outsmarting his creator, etc.

Continua a leggere “12 Days Of Dino Dicember #5: Claw (2021)”

[EXPRESSO] Dos (2021) | Flesh Sewn Shut

Browsing Netflix new releases and this caught my eyes, i mean, the simple title made me curious and i’m always in when it’s a spanish horror thriller about two complete strangers waking up to found themselves literally sewn together and placed into a room.

It’s not human-to-walrus surgery, but i will indulge regardless, it’s also fairly short, clocking just above 60 minutes (plus credits), quite surprising some other bloated films Netflix has as exclusives.

It has definitely an arthouse feel (the finale with the title reveal it’s really indicative of director Mar Taragona’s ambition), but the bold decision to compact it all in a shorter runtime pays off in spades, both for impact and in cutting out the fat from the narrative.

The main mystery keeping the story going is the identity of the culprit, and of course the purpose of joining together two people by literally sewning their flesh together, which is ultimately not the Saw-esque random ass gruesome torturer with a deviant penchant for justice and retribution you might think it’s gonna be revealed. It’s not that… exactly, and it’s a shame because the script never properly explore the themes it tackles, nor manages to fully utilize the isolated setting and premise, going for an arthouse ending, with some impact but ultimately not that satisfactory.

A shame since the movie is already intriguing before that, with plenty of questions and the grisly circumstances, while the two are trying to make sense of the really uncomfortable – even more since they’re butt naked – situation they’re in, leading to some good drama and time spent with this likeable and relatable “surprise duo”.

Shame it hasn’t much depth to it as it clearly wanted, (i’d guess it was originally meant to be a lot longer), but it’s a decent watch.

[EXPRESSO] The Ice Road (2021) | Truckin’ Vengeance

Nothing says “almost not quite Christmas” as Liam Neeson starring in an action thriller, which already really tells you a lot of what the movie it’s gonna be about, even before you learn what the plot it’s about. You know it does.

The Ice Road it’s about Liam Neeson (not gonna bother with his character’s name), an expert trucker tasked to face the icy roads of Canada in order to save 26 diamond miners that got trapped, and with his team he faces this desperate rescue mission, only to find out there’s even more danger out there, and it’s nor the cold nor the icy roads…

And no, it’s not surprise dinosaurs. I always expect that as well, to much disappointment, and this movie it’s no different. As in, it doesn’t have dinosaurs nor cannibalism, the rescue mission itself would be enough for a tense ride, but of course it would require a lot of talent to pull it off, and it would deprive Liam Neeson from having to get vengeance on someone for something, with the usual expected chases and brawls from an action movie with such an actor.

It’s not bad, i find the plot decent enough to make something more of the premise, scenario and ok characters, but it plays it safe, delivering the kind of fare you expect to see in a movie with Liam Neeson playing the main character (there’s also Lawrence Fisburne, which is nice) by now, it’s that kind of predictable action movie cheesy concoction, that at least delivers on having stuff happen and being entertaining enough.

It’s exactly what you think it’s gonna be, so i can’t really fault the movie for that, but i can for the cheap special effects just slightly above “Asylum quality”, they really felt like a joke.

[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.

The Spooktacular Eight # 5: Land Of The Minotaur/The Devil’s Men (1976)

While Greek mythology is arguably the most overrepresented in media (followed closely by Norse mythology as one of the many “free idea buckets”), you don’t exactly think of horror when you think of Greek cinema, as the many monsters from that mythos often are more used in videogames.

But of course, there are exceptions, odd relics that surface when you start digging hard and long enough, and Land Of Minoutar does have the allure of starring Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance, which is enough to have it featured here.

Even if this isn’t the first time the two beloved actors worked together, as The Flesh And The Fiends is from 1960.

And because this is a very obscure film, it has alternate titles, like just “Minotaur” and “The Devil’s Men”, the latter being used for its UK release, and my copy as well.

Continua a leggere “The Spooktacular Eight # 5: Land Of The Minotaur/The Devil’s Men (1976)”