Hannibal Season 3 and a Farewell to a Great Series

When Hannibal first premiered, I went in skeptical. I'm about as big a fan as the next guy of the Hannibal Lecter franchise, but unlike most others, I find Michael Mann's utterly brilliant Manhunter to be the BEST Hannibal The Cannibal film to date. Of course I love Silence of the Lambs (who doesn't?), but there's just something uber cool about Mann's slick Miami Vice infused take on the material. Visually stunning, suspenseful, with a knockout performance by William Peterson as Will, and Brian Cox as Hannibal, it's really Tom Noonan's portrayal of Francis Dolarhyde aka The Toothfairy Killer that steals the show. And man, what a killer ending. But Ridley Scott's Hannibal film didn't really do anything for me, neither did Red Dragon. So I guess you can say I went into NBC's Hannibal more out of curiosity than anything.

Much like with Breaking Bad, I watched the pilot of and I was immediately hooked. Cleverly written, and brilliantly directed by David Slade, who would eventually direct 5 episodes, Hannibal represented smart adult horror. It was also easily the goriest show you'll ever see on TV, not just network television. In fact, I was shocked at how far the show went in the gore department, and were able to actually get away with it.

While the first season was great, it was really the second season that I absolutely loved. With season 2, they seemed to push the envelope in nearly every department, often going further than you ever expect it to. So of course, when that season ended on a cliffhanger, I couldn't wait for Season 3 to finally start, which seemed to take foreeeeever. But it came, and needless to say, I wasn't a fan; not at all. Season 3 was just odd. Set in Italy with Hannibal on the lam, it took on an entirely different tonal shift that seemed so dull and boring compared to the first 2 seasons. Cube and Splice director Vincenzo Natali took over directing duties for the first half of season 3, and personally speaking, I put a lot of the first half of season 3's problems squarely on Natali's style of directing. While the scripts were not up to par with what was being written before, Natali's constant night shoots made it nearly impossible to make out what was happening half of the time. Shooting in slow-motion 90% of the time didn't help either. It didn't matter what it was - a snail crawling along the floor, water pouring into a glass, a jar falling off a table - everything seemed to be drenched in the slowest of slow-motion that it became annoyingly tedious. For all intents and purposes, it slowed the show down to a crawl, and made it utterly boring.

I was ready to give up on it, and I damn nearly did. But a friend convinced me to finish it out, so I took his advice, despite my reservations. It took 7 looooong episodes for anything remotely interesting to happen, but when it did, it was so nuts that episode 7 almost made up for the severely lacking previous 6 episodes, all of which took place in Italy. It was at this point that Hannibal started to resemble the show that I fell in love with, and from this point on, it only got better, and stronger.

Not long after they introduced the character of Francis Dolarhyde, and the series became great again. It was during this time that the "official" word came that season 3 would be it's last due to poor ratings. Producer Bryan Fuller says that he's not done with Hannibal just yet, and that it will live on somewhere else at some point. It's hard not to think that the very weak first half of this past season didn't have anything to do with that. Who knows? The show had always struggled to connect with viewers and find it's audience. Maybe it was in the cards before season 3 even began shooting? Regardless, it was a sad day when it was announced that it was cancelled.

Luckily, we had the second half of season 3 to more than make up for that sad bit of news. Once The Toothfairy Killer character comes into play, the show finally fell back into place and found it's footing again. I'd read many times that producer Bryan Fuller said that season 3 would be different, that they were going for a more playful approach. I'd read from several different critics who previewed the first few episodes before it's official premiere that it was indeed different, and sometimes funny in a tongue-in-cheek way. I never got any of that. In fact, quite the opposite. It was painfully dull and slow, and had it not been for my friends insistence that I continue, I would have given up on it because it wasn't the great gory adult horror show that it used to be.

In all fairness, the second half of season 3 more than makes up for the lackluster start. Utilizing different directors (not Vincenzo Natali), picking up the pace, ramping up the gore content, and moving the setting back to the US and away from Italy, Hannibal felt and looked great again, thanks in no small part to Richard Armitage's brilliant portrayal of The Toothfairy Killer. The finale, which had a lot of people divided, was extremely fitting and a wonderful sendoff in my opinion. It was shocking, violent, and beautiful. I could have done without the end credits scene, which ultimately leads you to believe that the show isn't done and could very well live on somewhere else, as Fuller has stated numerous times. Compared to what just transpired mere minutes before the credits rolled, that end credit scene just kind of felt cheap and tacked on - like a last second effort to fuck with your head.

Hannibal ended on a high note, and each subsequent episode from 7 on, felt like show that so captured my enthusiasm, my imagination, my heart, and my attention.


Quick Shot Review: The People Under The Stairs

Directed by: Wes Craven
Category: Horror

While I currently have a rather large list of reviews I need to catch up on, having just seen this film for the very first time last night (yes, I have no excuse), I felt the urgency to throw down some words on this immediately.

I don't know why I never gave this film a chance, I have no excuse. For some reason it just always passed me by, and I suppose I never really heard any positive word-of-mouth, which would have gotten me to at least consider seeing it. But no, never heard a word, never saw a trailer, never thought "Hey, it's a Wes Craven film. Maybe I should give it a shot". Maybe it was because Shocker still left a bad taste in my mouth? Possibly. But in any case, I never saw it until just last night, and I went in as cold as possible, not knowing a single thing about the story, the setting, or the characters. Here are my thoughts.

Wow! The People Under The Stairs was nothing like what I was expecting, and I don't even know what I was expecting to begin with, but it sure as hell wasn't this. And you know what? I loved every fucking minute of it. This film is so damn bizarre, and so batshit crazy that I constantly kept asking myself "What the hell kind of movie is this?". It's awesome, that's what it is.

It starts off as an urban tale about a kid from the ghetto who decides to help with a robbery that will potentially yield some gold coins that he can use to help pay rent for his family, who will be evicted the following day by the greedy landlords unless they come up with triple rent. It just so happens that the house they intend to rob is also the landlord of their building. Once inside the house, they got more than they bargained for. From this moment on it turns into a house of horrors type film, and gets considerably more and more nuts as the film progresses. 

One can only guess what was going through Craven's head when he conceived this story. For me personally, the whole urban angle really through me for a loop. It's not generally the type of setting or setup you usually find within a Craven film, or any horror film in general. Once the story settles in the house, it does resemble more of a Wes Craven film in both terms of aesthetic and tone, but even then, it goes so far off the rails that you kind of just throw your hands up in the air (metaphorically speaking of course), and just enjoy the ride, because personally speaking, it was one helluva ride.

I'm not sure how to even categorize this, because it's certainly not horror, though that was the intention I'm sure. While there are lots of thrilling moments, and a few intense ones, I would hardly call it scary, and it's also just so strange and oftentimes funny, that had I seen this and not known who wrote and directed it, I would never have guessed this was a horror film made by one of the biggest horror masters of our time. It possesses a very unique vibe; one that I have a hard time pinning down.

File this under "Total Surprise". This easily became one of my new favorite Wes Craven films.


Quick Shot Review: The Green Inferno

Directed by: Eli Roth
Category: Horror

By now, we all know the history about this film. Having sat on the shelf for a full year after it's completion due to it's distributor's financial difficulties, the long wait only getting us all more and more impatient for it's eventual release. Then word comes that it found a new distributor, and the moment we've all been waiting for has finally come. Of course, I had to see it on opening night. Just the idea of Eli Roth's cannibal film represented a lot of what we had been needing in the horror genre, a genre saturated with lame remakes and tedious PG-13 horror films. So how was it you say?

I'm so torn with Green Inferno. On the one hand it's a brave film, made by a brave filmmaker who doesn't cater to, well, anybody or anything really. He makes his own films the way he wants to, and doesn't make or do anything to satisfy anyone else's needs other than his own. That is a trait I admire in him. He's not concerned with box office numbers, or pleasing the studio heads. Not in the least. He wants to make horror films, plain and simple. And for that, I give the guy mad props, even if he's not the most skilled at it.

On the other hand though, The Green Inferno doesn't quite live up to expectations for a number of reasons. First, it takes it's time setting things up, trying to make us care for the characters as people before their fateful trip. While these setups are necessary, and oftentimes crucial in character development, 30 minutes was just too long, when all we really want to see is cannibal action. That brings me to another issue. When the group, those that survived the plane crash anyway, are captured, we are treated to a pretty brutal killing. And let me tell you, this sequence is the highlight of the film. So much so in fact that the rest of the film couldn't possibly measure up to that one sequence, and sadly, it doesn't. While the rest of the film, which depicts the remaining survivors being tortured and kept prisoners by the cannibalistic tribe, does offer a few intense moments, none of it holds a candle to that one sequence. That's really unfortunate when considering what kind of film this is supposed to be, and what film in particular it takes it's inspiration from.

One of the other issues we all had was that shockingly, this had some humor. While the few sequences were indeed quite funny, it kind of throws you off and takes you out of the experience, because you don't expect it. And that's a complaint I keep hearing from a lot of people, that it was funnier than they were expecting. "Funny" is not a term you think of when going into a cannibals-in-the-jungle film.

Overall it was a fun film, but not a film I will have any desire to revisit again. It takes it's time building things up, blows our minds with an insane kill halfway through, then slowly becomes less and less interesting as it goes on. It never reaches the level you expect it to, and it kind of leaves a lot of questions unanswered, like what ever happened to the tribe's psycho bitch leader, who was the most fucked up and brutal of the bunch? We don't know. She disappears somewhere in the end and is never mentioned again. Roth has never been one of the most talented, or most visually striking filmmakers out there, but he is a brave one. I will give him  that. Sadly though, this won't be going down in the history books or even reach a cult status. It's just not that kind of film, though we were all hoping it would be.


Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

Directed by: Kim Henkel
Category: Horror

I honestly don't know what the fuck Kim Henkel was thinking when he made this. I'd long resisted watching this because it's reputation is terrible, and because, well, it just didn't look very good. But hey, it's getting close to Halloween, and I'm in horror mode, which means going out and looking for films I never got around to watching before in the horror genre. I did hope for one thing though; that this would be "So Bad, It's Good". I hoped.

TCM:TNG begins with a pretty killer title sequence. So I'm already feeling a little better about this. As the film progresses for the next hour, I'm actually thinking that this isn't all that bad. While Henkel is no Tobe Hooper, he does give the film a certain Grindhouse look and vibe; it's gritty, washed-out color palate gives the film a much older look than it's 90's setting. But honestly, that's really where the praise stops, because the rest of the film is a fucking mess.

Let's start with the actors. They're annoying as shit. How are we supposed to care about what happens to them when we don't even like them as human beings? Then there's McConaughey, who's so over the top that I think the point was that he would come off as scary, but only comes off as annoying. He made this a year after Dazed & Confused, and before anyone knew his name. The same thing with Renee Zellwegger. But we already know all that history. 2 years later they both went on to hit the big time and have tried to erase this from their memory.

As you know, Kim Henkel, who wrote and directed this, was the co-writer of the original Chainsaw film directed by Tobe Hooper. This was Henkel's one and only directing credit, and has only a few other titles under his belt as a writer. He intended this to be the first true sequel to the franchise because as you know, each film pretty much has it's own universe, not following any coherent storyline from any of the other films before or after, which is one of the things that make this particular franchise stand out from the other slasher franchises with countless sequels. Does Henkel succeed in making this a true sequel? No, because the "family" are all new characters. And that's another thing that might surprise a lot of people who haven't seen this entry yet. Rather than focus primarily on Leatherface, Henkel puts the majority of the focus on the entire family, more often than not zeroing in on McConaughey's character more than any other. In fact, Leatherface takes quite the backseat to the character of Vilmer (McConaughey).  On top of that, Henkel doesn't really add anything new to the character of Leatherface; quite the opposite. You can easily say that this particular film pretty much plays out like a remake of the very first film, even going as far as essentially redoing the end scene with Leatherface swinging his chainsaw in the air in frustration when his victim escapes. Seen it all before.

TCM:TNG is frustrating. When we get to the third act, a whole new character is introduced out of nowhere, with no explanation. He shows up in the middle of the chaos, and seems to be in control of everything that's going on. But who is he? Why or how does he control the family? The indication is that they do all the kidnapping and killing for him, but why? Don't even get me started on the scene where he opens his shirt, only to reveal something truly bizarre, which is also never explained. Then, just to make things even more confusing, the same guy ends up setting the last remaining victim free, "and" even takes her to the hospital! If that wasn't strange and frustrating enough, Kim Henkel decided it would be a good idea to throw in one last, strange sequence. It takes place in the hospital, and the victim, as she's being questioned, looks over to see a woman being pushed in a stretcher. The camera lingers a bit too long on this "anonymous" person, as it does on the orderly pushing the stretcher. You think, "okay, there's something to this. Nobody just shoots a sequence like this for no reason, lingering the camera on these two for this amount of time with dramatic effect as the camera fades out." But that's exactly what he did. No explanation as to who these individuals are or why we're even supposed to care. If you do some digging on IMDB, you'll get the answers under the "trivia" section, but still. it was handled so badly, and whatever the intention was, it's lost on the viewer.

TCM:TNG was a failure, financially and in the eyes of the public and hardcore Chainsaw fans. Henkel never directed again and it took 9 long years before anybody would touch the franchise. Ultimately that would be Michael Bay's Platinum Dune's production company with their 2003 remake, which isn't bad, and far better than this. Personally, I've always loved Part 3, and though it doesn't quite follow the original storyline and characters, and pretty much stays gore-free due to the MPAA, it's the closest thing to the look and feel of a real Chainsaw sequel to me. It's also the one Chainsaw film I've revisited constantly throughout the years, more than any of the others.

Though I went in with hopes of a "So Bad, It's Good" experience, TCM:TNG is just bad. I get it. I understand now why it's never discussed . It's really not that bad in general for most of it, but shockingly falls apart in the third act in such a drastic way that there's just no way to salvage it.


Review: Sleepaway Camp

Directed by: Robert Hiltzik
Category: Horror

I don't know why, but the Sleepaway Camp films have always escaped me. Honestly, I have no excuse. I know they have a large following in the slasher genre, but I suppose I just never heard enough things about it to warrant the effort of actually seeking it out. With Netflix offering part 2 for streaming, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to finally go out and grab the original so I can move on to the sequel, which I've heard more than once is most people's favorite in the series.

One of the things that stands out with Sleepaway Camp more than anything is how light and fluffy it comes across. While it's 100% inspired by the Friday the 13th franchise, among a few others, it's almost like a PG-13 rated version of Friday. The tone is a lot more lighter, a lot more sillier, and a lot of the main cast being a lot younger than the kind of age group you expect in a slasher film. Even when it comes to the kills, they're so far and few between, with none of them really going that extra mile to be shocking or gruesome, that you tend to forget that you're watching a horror film because it more often than not comes off as an edgier coming of age tale set in the early 80's. And that's another thing Sleepaway Camp has going for it. Even if you don't particularly like the film in general, it's hard not to be swept away by it's fun retro vibe. Set and release in 1983, the fashion sense is really the one constant thing my screening partner and I took an insane amount of pleasure in. When you stop and look back on the film in general, it was pretty much the one thing, other than the ending (more on that later), that we took away from.

Like I mentioned before, you oftentimes forget you're watching a slasher as it hardly ever plays like a serious one. In fact, in some ways, it sort of comes off as a parody, but it's fun. It's a fun film, whether you take it seriously or not, and when the kills come along, though elementary, do in fact remind you that you are watching a horror film.

That ending though. It really is this film's saving grace. Had it not had that batshit crazy ending, I seriously doubt this film would have been as memorable as it is. While we did enjoy the film overall, it wasn't until that ending that we were completely sold. Hell, we even applauded. No shit. It's fucking great and so WTF? bizarre.

I get the appeal of this film now, and we're glad we finally got to see it. It's not great, or even very good to be honest. It borrows heavily from other better slashers of it's time, and the kills and gore come off as amateurish, but all of it's failures pale in comparison to it's shocking ending, and what a doozy it is. Here's hoping the sequel delivers the goods as it's reputation seems to indicate.


Review: Days of Thunder

Directed by: Tony Scott
Category: Drama

This is probably the one and only Tony Scott film I never got around to watching. Though I generally love his films, and was pretty sure visually it would be impressive, just the idea about a drama about stock car racing never inspired much interest in me. But after having seen MI: Rogue Nation, I guess you can say I got in sort of a Tom Cruise kick, with plans to check out MI 2 - which I never got around to seeing - and revisiting Minority Report. But I had seen this particular Cruise flick hanging around Netflix for months and decided to just give it a shot.

I've often said that 1990 is the best year in film. So many of my favorite films in every genre were made in 1990; it really was a very special year for film. Unfortunately, Days of Thunder is not one of them. Made 5 years after their breakout and massive success of Top Gun, director Tony Scott re-teams with his star once again for another drama, hoping to capture lightning in a bottle twice, this time centered around stock car racing. One of the first things blatantly apparent is just how cheesy this film is. I mean, when Tom Cruise makes his first entrance, it's epic. Here's how it goes. They're discussing Tom's character Cole, on a race track. When one of them asks "Well where is he?", the cheesy guitar music cue's, and Cole comes riding through a random wall of smoke on a motorcycle wearing a trenchcoat and sunglasses in slow motion. Fucking epic I tell you. If only the rest of the movie was this entertaining.

While Days of Thunder displays director Tony Scott's amazing ability to capture breathtaking scenery and action, the fact is that the film as a whole is anything but interesting. For me personally, the fact that the character Tom Cruise plays, Cole Trickle, is just so damn unlikable for every second of the film really hurts the film. He really is. He's arrogant, selfish, cocky, and moody with a hot temper. Nothing about his personality emits any kind of sympathy or emotion from you other than knowing right up front that this guy is an arrogant dick. It would have been such a different movie had he been more likable, or even sincere. And what kind of shocks me is that there is never a single moment, not even in the end, where he redeems himself with an act of kindness, that he totally redeems himself because when he does ultimately agree to help a bitter rival out, it's really just to get back in the race car after it was painfully apparent there was no other way he would. It's all for selfish reasons.

Hanz Zimmer is credited for the score, and I'm not sure what the directions were from Scott or even the producers, but it is so cheesy, so patriotic, and so overly tacky that it kind of feels forced, and hurts the films overall vibe. I'm not totally convinced that a more subdued score would have helped the film overall, but it would definitely be better than what is currently present.

Tony Scott is hands down one of my favorite directors of all time. Nobody has, and probably never will be able to duplicate his very specific aesthetic. He was a one-of-a-kind tour de force in the film world, delivering some of the most breathtaking, exciting, and downright stellar films in the action, comedy, drama, and thriller genre's of the 80's and 90's. His imprint will be admired for generations, and that's not something that can be said about a lot of filmmakers. Days of Thunder is really just a slight speed bump in his career, because the same year he delivered one of his best films ever with Revenge, and then went on to direct The Last Boy Scout the following year, followed by one of his most important films 2 years later with True Romance in 1993. That reminds me. I need to revisit True Romance again. It's been too long.


Review: H20

Directed by: Steve Miner
Category: Horror

Exactly a year ago I set out to revisit the entire Halloween franchise from beginning to end in order; The Halloween season always does that to me. But after being underwhelmed by Part 4, being annoyed as fuck and just flat-out hating Part 5, only to be left somewhat unaffected at all by Part 6, I pretty much just gave up completely. It's taken me exactly a year to come back to the original franchise, outside of Rob Zombie's Halloween films - which I just love - to finally get around to revisiting this entry, which I only saw once in the theater and remember absolutely zilch about. That's never a good sign.

Let me start off by saying that I've never been a fan of director Steve Miner. I honestly can't understand the love for the guy. Sure he's mostly known for having directed Friday the 13th Part 2 and 3, as well as helming the 80's horror/comedy cult classic House and Warlock, but even when you look at those films, there's nothing really special about them. There's nothing about Miner's ability as a director that makes him stand out among any other paint-by-numbers director out there. Yet somehow his name is always remembered. The films listed above are his only horror efforts, as he's mainly stuck to drama's and television work. So when he was announced as the director for H20 way back when the film got greenlit, I was anything but excited. And you know, I guess my feelings were pretty spot-on because as I said, I don't remember a single thing about this film other than Myer's head getting cut off in the end. So as I sat down to revisit H20, I actually hoped for the best.

I'm more surprised than anyone to admit this, but while not great, or even very good for that matter, I found H20 to be far more competent than a few of the last entries, making it somewhat a better experience than I had anticipated. From a franchise standpoint, it's not a bad film overall. Sure the poster art is uber lame and tacky, and once again, Miner's direction and vision is as bland as I feared, but structure-wise, it's in keeping with a story set 20 years after the fact and logically, some of it makes enough sense.

While the entire first half is a tad tedious in introducing us to all the new characters, as well as getting us caught up with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and what she's been up to since her brother tried to kill her all those years ago, it's really the second half where H20 really comes to life and turns into an all-out slasher, which is what we really came to see isn't it? Except, director Miner films everything with such a bland palate that you can't help but think how much more exciting it could have all been on a visual level had someone else, with a much more visual flare, had been in charge. What's frustrating is that there are a few scenes scattered throughout that surprised me - scenes that implore some impressive camerawork, only for the majority of the film to fall back to lazy handheld steadi-cam work. Watching the special features located on Scream Factory's massive blu ray set, it seems the DoP really set out to make something visually striking in widescreen. I mean, he feels like he did with the end result, but I didn't get any of that by watching it. Even the now classic scene of Laurie coming face to face with Michael through a small round window in a door for the first time in 20 years is treated in a rushed manner, with handheld shaky camerawork, where it would have had a much stronger impact had it been better orchestrated with some stable camerawork. It carries a made-for-tv quality that is almost unforgivable, if Halloween 5 hadn't been so much worse. So in that respect, this isn't a total loss.

Jamie Lee Curtis tries really hard to play it tough here, almost giving you glimpses of Sigourney Weaver tough from Aliens. But it oftentimes comes off as just being mean, arrogant, and very condescending to pretty much everyone in the film. She's pretty annoying overall. But through lots of screams and tears, she does manage to physically fight and outwit Michael through most of the second half, culminating in the films seemingly "final" death of her brother by loping his head off with an ax. But of course, as well all know, producer Moustapha Akkad just couldn't let the franchise die, so we still, somehow, got the inevitable sequel after this, even though Michael got his head cut off. His son Malek Akkad, also a producer on the franchise, is at least forth-coming about some of the bad decisions made in the past in regards to these films, like stunt casting and such. At least he'll be the first to admit when they shouldn't have done something that potentially hurt the franchise.

I liked the stunt actor they cast for Michael this time around; Chris Durand. Tall, big and physically imposing, he's pretty much what you want Michael Myers to look like in a jumpsuit, unlike some of the actors they chose for entries 4, 5, and 6. The scene where Myer's lowers himself from a pipe hanging from the ceiling as Laurie walks past him is fucking killer, but again, loses much of it's impact due to lazy camerawork.

Not the disaster I was expecting, yet very unfulfilling as a slasher that set out to capture some of the magic of the first few entries decades earlier. With H20, it's made abundantly clear that the Halloween franchise is tired and needs a drastic overhaul up to this point, or to just be laid to rest. Of course we all know that didn't happen, with the release of Halloween: Resurrection 4 years later. Thankfully, Rob Zombie really did a remarkable job (personally speaking) rebooting the franchise with his 2 stellar Halloween films beginning in 2007. They may not be perfect, and even I have some issues with them, but you can't deny as old-school style slasher's, they're brutal as fuck and the closest thing we have to a solid entry in that sub-genre next to The Collection.


Review: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

Directed by: Kiah Roache-Turner
Category: Horror

I'm pretty late to the game on this one, but I held off on watching it for long enough; it was time to get on it, which was made especially easier since Netflix added it to their streaming site last month. Now I had no excuses.

Since this film initially came out, hitting the festival circuits and then the home video market, I've been keeping up with it - following it's status, buzz and word of mouth. From everything I'd read, it had mostly positive reviews, with some out there that just didn't like it, or understand the love for it. Kind of how I feel about Boondock Saints. And of course, that comes with every film, so it's no real surprise. But the general consensus for Wyrmwood was that it kicked ass. So I kind of went in with some expectations.

Wyrmwood did indeed kick ass, and did not disappoint. I will say though that I half expected it to play out more silly and playful, and it didn't. So that was a surprise. I guess with all the buzz and subject matter, I guess I assumed they would have gone the fun route, but instead took the serious path, which was just fine, because it worked effectively well.

This film is "strong" on a number of levels. Visually, first time writer/director Kiah Roache-Turner
goes the freestyle handheld approach, intermittently throwing in some impressive and stylish "stable" shots. Overall, it works. Being someone who is usually turned off by this freestyle approach, he does it rather well, and never overdoes it to sell anything. It really adds to the films frenetic pace, and in my book, that's a plus.

The effects work is another solid plus. While they do implore a large amount of CGI, mainly in the bullet wounds and head shots, while noticeable, it's not bad. I've seen worse. The practical effects work though is pretty outstanding, and where Wyrmwood really shines.

One of the pluses from taking the serious route, the intensity level is pretty high in this. I found a number of sequences to be pretty spot-on in it's attempt to emit a sense of intensity, dread, and urgency. It's one thing if a zombie film is serious, but if it doesn't get you to care about any of the characters, or what's happening to them, then it's hard to feel any of those emotions. Wyrmwood tackles all of that the right way. You care about these people, and because of that, when shit hits the fan, it's pretty damn intense. But that doesn't keep the filmmakers from having a bit of fun with the idea, because while the film is loaded with creative ideas, witty dialogue and a sharp intensity, it's also fun. A LOT of fun.

Today it's getting increasingly hard to make zombie films, because currently it's probably the biggest and most used horror sub-genre. Hell, I've lost count how many zombie shows we currently have available on cable, and that's not even counting the relentless onslaught of Straight-To-Video or VOD titles that all have pretty much the same cover. So when something like Wyrmwood comes out, it's such a breath of fresh air. Why? Because it's anything but a conventional zombie film. Set in the Australian countryside, first time writer/director Kiah Roache-Turner has put a slightly new spin on the zombie genre, offering up some new and inventively creative touches that easily make this stand out among the crowd. Sure, we'll never get anything near the quality of Romero's Dawn or Day of the Dead, but we can do our best to look past that and embrace the few gems in the over-saturated and cluttered genre. Films like Wyrmwood are a reminder that there are good zombie films still left out there.


Review: Turbo Kid

Directged by: RKSS
Category: Action

The term "throwback" has been used a lot lately, generally when describing someone's attempt at replicating an action or horror film of the 80's more than anything. Sometimes they're successful, and sometimes they're not. But people keep trying, and when it's done correctly, it's quite an entertaining experience. While I have yet to see one of these throwback's that do it 100% correctly, like not using CGI for the effects, not using the shaky-cam style of filmmaking, and not hiring models for the roles, there are examples that come have come really close, like recent films such as It Follows, The Guest, Starry Eyes, We Are Still Here, and the one that kind of got it all started, Hobo with a Shotgun.

When the Turbo Kid trailer first hit, it literally to come out of nowhere, and seemed just what us die-hard retro gorehounds were looking for. Really, it's got everything we could really want in a throwback homage to 80's action films. Post Apocalyptic Future: CHECK. Over the top gore and violence: CHECK. Cult Film Icon: CHECK. Action: CHECK. Synth Score: CHECK. Practical Effects: CHECK. Yes, it's all here and it's fucking badass.

Set in the post apocalyptic future of 1997, water is scarce, and our hero is a comic book loving teenager who has a penchant for collecting random 80's artifacts. When he stumbles upon a power suit straight out of his comic books, he uses his new-found power to rescue his new friend from the hands of a ruthless overlord. 

There is just so much to love about Turbo Kid. It's a fun, engaging, highly spirited and ultra violent homage to post apocalyptic films that ran rampant in the 80's. So much care has been taken to capture the look, feel, and retro vibe of this particular kind of film, and yet, the filmmakers also seem to go through great pains taking everything a step further. There is so much nostalgia drenched into nearly every single frame that it's almost an overload to the senses. Of course, you really had to have grown up in the 80's to appreciate all the sight gags and gimmicks, but even if you didn't, it's all retro enough for you to know how cool and hip these things are.

One of the best things this film has going for it, is that you never expect it to be as violent as it ultimately is. Seriously. When the violence, action, fights, and battles roll in, they will blow your mind. When Turbo Kid finally became available on VOD last week, I immediately rented it, and filled my living room with a dozen friends; friends who love and appreciate these kinds of films. Every single one of us were consistently blown away with every sequence of violence, as each one demonstrated a new kill that none of us had ever seen before. Imagine a room filled with a dozen adults constantly screaming "Oh!!", "Oh Shit!!", and "Whoa that's fucking awesome!". Yea, that's what it was like and it was indeed awesome.

Turbo Kid originally spawned as a short that was submitted to the ABC's of Death producers. Soon after an Indigogo campaign was launched to fund a full length feature film and the rest is history. Written/directed/Co-starring the triple threat duo known as RKSS (Francois Simard, Anouk Wissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell), Turbo Kid oozes style and substance out of every pore. The film is stunningly shot, offering up some striking visuals of the desolate landscape. What I found interesting was that even though there were 3 different directors, you'd never know it. It's all consistent without any one of them having a drastically different style or approach than the other two. This is made all the more impressive when the practical effects work come into play. These moments are genius, impressive, hilarious, much gorier than you expect them to be, and the meat of the film.

While there is a lot to admire and revel in with Turbo Kid, there was one thing that kept it being 100% totally awesome for me, and that was that the film kept shifting from fast to slow repeatedly, never maintaining a consistent pace. I know why they did it. One thing Turbo Kid has a lot of is heart. And for a lot of people that's a bonus, but for me, all these moments that slowed down to a crawl always took me out of the experience because when the film wasn't working so hard to make us care for the characters, it was easily one of the most impressive pieces of Badass Cinema I have come across in recent years. But you know, it's really a small complaint, if you would even call it a complaint. I guess if there was anything I'd be willing to change, it would be that. But even then, it wasn't too much of a distraction for me, and I'm sure it won't be for most others as I seemed to be in the minority on that within my group.

Currently you can rent or purchase Turbo Kid digitally on VIMEO and iTunes. You can also buy a DVD, Blu Ray or VHS through their Indigogo campaign, but be prepared to spend some a large chunk of change on these items as they're not cheap. As of this posting, I haven't heard anything about a planned large scale legit DVD or Blu Ray release here in the US, but I hope it's soon, because I'd love to own a physical copy of this. There will, however, be a DVD/Blu release in the UK on Oct. 5th, so if you have a region free player, then you're in luck!