Sunday, October 7, 2018

Brothers (2016) by Kiefer Liu


Director: Kiefer Liu (as Ah Gan)
Year: 2016
Country: China
Alternate Titles: N/A
Genre: Action

Plot:
Finally rising through the Army's ranks, Chen Tiejin (Li Dong-xue) has overcome his past as a poor vagrant and turned into a brave and experienced company commander. During a dangerous rescue mission, he and his Red Army troop are locked in a heated battle with the rival Kuomintang soldiers and finally manage to capture a small squad as prisoners. About to deliver the final blow, he soon realizes that the main target is his long-lost brother (Peter Ho), thought to have been dead for the past several years but instead is a major figure in their army. Determined to remain true to his family bonds while still honoring his duty to his country, he struggles with the decision to fight his brother to the death he knows he has to undertake.

Review:

For the most part, this was an incredibly disappointing feature. The biggest obstacle to get over is the rather distracting and wholly unneeded visual style present that makes it nearly impossible to tell what's happening. As the film is shot in a stark black-and-white style with only intermittent flashes of color, the film is exceptionally ugly to look at and sometimes impossible to tell what's happening. The action scenes during the war are nearly impossible to tell who's who on the battlefield with all the bodies and bullets flying everywhere and dust-clouds being kicked up by the battle around, exactly the wrong time during the film to be struck by that kind of filmmaking tactic. Worst still, the ploy of doing so is a direct rip-off of other Hollywood films rendering the entire time with a rather familiar feeling which is not enforced by the ugliness of the visuals to go alongside that familiarity.

On top of that issue, the film is far more boring than it should be. This one only requires a select few action scenes in the overall setup here which is only at the beginning and ending of the film, leaving the middle portion to slog through an underdeveloped storyline about the themes of brotherhood and duty to your country which has been done better in other films. Once again, the film revolves around two brothers torn apart by the betrayal of war and must resolve to utilize their skills to overcome the other because he has the sense of honor on his side. There's barely anything here given about the two brothers' history at all, beyond the fact that the older brother just got out of prison at the start of the film and they are on opposite of the fight when they meet up later. This is all the information given for the characters here, and with the utterly banal romance angle that's inflicted here that has no purpose in the film being that we don't even get their names, there is plenty of problems to be had with the story here.

About the only enjoyable aspect of the film is the nice action scenes. The few battle scenes in the film are incredibly enjoyable, which is the clear highlight of the film. Relying on massive battlefields where hundreds of soldiers are engage in combat throughout the screen, this kind of action is played out with a nice exhilarating sense of action where bullets go flying around people's heads, guns continually spray deep into enemy lines and soldiers on both sides go flying into the air quite often. That kind of action makes a couple of appearances in the film in the opening battle where the two sides are engaged in brutal combat, while that is repeated in the finale which sets up the last battle. Adapting a brutal swordplay style with some streetfighting mixed together, there is some fun to be had there which is due to the bloody fighting styles that finally puts the photography style to good use as the scene looks impressive for once. Otherwise, there isn't much else to enjoy about the film.


Overview: **/5
While this one has some enjoyable elements throughout here, the fact that the film has several rather prominent flaws throughout it manages to undermine a lot of those positives and leaves this with a slightly disappointing experience. This is really only recommended to those who can appreciate these positive points in order to really get the most out of it while those that are turned off by them should heed caution with the film.


This was originally written for Asian Movie Pulse and is gratefully reprinted with their cooperation.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018) by Jeong Beom-sik


Director: Jeong Beom-sik
Year: 2018
Country: South Korea
Alternate Titles: Gon-ji-am
Genre: Ghosts

Plot:
Attempting to get more viewers, the crew of a popular horror web-show decide to visit the Gonjiam asylum to film their latest episode, but as they move further into the nightmarish old building they begin to encounter much more than expected inside the place where the ghosts come to life.

Review:

This here proved to be a truly enjoyable effort. Among the most impressive elements featured here is the overall atmosphere and sense of dread established by the titular hospital. The setting is simply marvelous, looking exactly like the foreboding setting that's to be expected here. The long, dark corridors leading into the distance, blood-smeared writing along the walls and a general air of decay and abandonment permeate the building which is exactly what should be found in a location where they're investigating and helps to let the later ghostly happenings have even more of an impact coming in a creepy location to start with if it's occurring in a setting that's creepy.

Once that ghostly activity starts, the film truly lets loose with abandon. Under the guise of the reality show shoot, this style affords the film a frantic zig-zag style of shooting that logically works out the various dips around the asylum showing the various interactions. As this generates the usual stand-byes in flickering lights, power going off and on at the most inopportune times and slamming doors no one is near, this one still offers up some some surprises. A fantastic gag with a wig found floating in a pool of water or the freak-outs following the attempt at communicating with the forces inside for their special seance provide the first hints that something isn't right within the asylum, and that's greatly enhanced by the time it moves on into the final half where it ratchets up the tension and scares considerably a slew of impressive tactics from arms being pulled into holes that lead to nowhere, being manipulated by forces that are clearly not visible around them bringing up the far more intense sequences later on.


The finale, which takes place with the gang completely freaking out already, blows the expectations out of the water with some terrifying encounters. Fully believing they’re cursed, the frantic race to get out is halted by the fun ploy of replaying a tactic that was setup to mark their way back to safety and turning into a chilling encounter. The frantic action inside the asylum, ranging from several utterly terrifying encounters with the ghosts inside the asylum offering some fantastic imagery such as the trick with the thermal camera capturing the presence of ghosts the naked eyes don’t which turns into a fantastic callback on the earlier escape out in the surrounding woods and a spine-chilling sequence involving a ghost rushing up behind a victim knowing what’s going on and refusing to move out of its way letting it take him. These are scary, effective and pulled off remarkably which adds to the overall presentation of this one and offers the perfect closing note for this one.


 Seung-wook (Lee Seung-wook) on-camera host, one without the hat
 Je-yoon (Yoo Je-yoon) male in the backwards cap
 Charlotte (Mun Ye-won) one in heels
 Ji-Hyun (Park Ji-hon) girl in the hat
 Sung-hoon (Park Sung-hoon)
 Ha-joon (Wi Ha-joon) one in the tent who stays back


Overview: *****/5
With almost no real flaws to be had here and plenty of strong, noteworthy elements present, this was a truly effective and genuinely frightening genre effort that holds up incredibly well. Seek this out if you’re a fan of Asian horror, a found-footage advocate or curious about Asian attempts at the genre while there isn’t much to dislike here beyond those that don’t appreciate subtitled foreign films in general.


This was originally published on Asian Movie Pulse and is gratefully reprinted with their cooperation.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Book of Birdie (2018) by Elizabeth E. Schuch


Director: Elizabeth E. Schuch
Year: 2018
Country: United Kingdom
Alternate Titles: N/A
Genre: Dark Fantasy

Plot:
Sent off to a secluded nunnery, a troubled young woman prone to hysterical hallucinations begins to dive even deeper into her own sheltered world the longer she stays, and as her grip on reality wanes she begins to cause the other nuns worry that she's developing into an unwarranted religious icon.

Review:

For the most part, this was a wholly effective dark fantasy/drama. The fact that it's built so heavily on the religious symbolism, most prominently the heavy blood-flow featured throughout not only from her own body but also the remnants of whatever else is around at the convent plays such an impactful role here. The constant tie-ins to the stigmatta here provide this with plenty of commentary about the true nature of her purpose there at the convent which is especially prominent the longer she stays at the convent where she begins dabbing blood on herself in order to resemble the crucified Jesus even more. The bloodsoaked decorations and hallucinations she has further this even more and bring about one of it's most enjoyable aspects.

Likewise, the different aspects with the hallucinations she has throughout the film. While some might look at the idea of her ghostly visits with the dead nuns throughout the convent grounds, especially the one hung-up in the tree or the mangled body at the bottom of the staircase, the fact that they're never played for scares as they tend to not only interact with her in their meetings but also provide a sense of how her stay is impacted by the different spirits at the location. It's played out in a fine, distinguished manner which offers a far more poetic, almost lyrical approach to the material which is far different in intent that offering these scenes out as shocks or jump-scares.


Its' also helped out with some stellar acting prowess. Newcomer Ilirida Memedovski is absolutely exquisite as the lead Birdie, a perfect mix of Gothic innocence and wide-eyed wonder. With a vast majority of the film focused on her story, the fact that she keeps us firmly on her side as she delves into madness through her behavior is quite impressive, with her focus away from the religious antics that's to be expected here offering up quite an intriguing character. The way she even interacts with the others around her at the convent, from the strict Mother Superior played by Suzan Crowley, the rest of the nuns at the convent or even the groundskeeper's lesbian daughter Julia, played by Kitty Hall which provide this one with plenty of likable elements to raise it up over it's few minor issues.

The main problem with the film is the fact that it's not in the slightest bit comprehensible about what's going on. The film offers up no answer for anything that goes on within here, about why she's dropped off at the convent in the first place to whether the religious intonations are caused by the ghosts inhabiting the locale or are part of her doing all along or even the cause of her rebirth into the spiritual deity they claim. Each of these are important answers that are glossed over in favor of the glossy visuals throughout here which are distracting enough that they might not even be noticed by many. Likewise, it's more fantasy-oriented approach might put some off looking for overt horror aesthetics but overall, it's not as detrimental as expected compared to the other issues at hand.


Overview: ****/5
With plenty of stand-out fantasy elements packed throughout here which allows for a strong lyrical bent, this was quite an impactful effort that has very little going against it. Give this one a chance if you're fond of these delirious fantasy-driven efforts or are curious about it's symbolistic intent, while those looking for an out-and-out horror feature should leave this one alone.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Five Fingers of Death (1973) by Jeong Chang-hwa


Director: Jeong Chang-hwa
Year: 1973
Country: Hong Kong
Alternate Titles: Tian xia di yi quan, King Boxer, Hand of Death, Invincible Boxer
Genre: Kung-Fu

Plot:
After an attack on his teacher, Chao Chih-hao (Lo Lieh) and his beloved Sung Ying-ying (Wang Ping) are asked to join his colleague Sun Hsin-pei (Mien Fang) before an upcoming tournament is held in the area. When his training is found to be inferior, he starts training under Yen Chu Hung (Chin-Feng Wang) who immediately beings taunting and teasing him over his lower skill-set which is put to the test when Meng Tung Shun (Tien Feng) and his gang move into the area. As the two schools begin jockeying for position in the big tournament to be able to rule the area, he embarks on a quest to improve his skill-set tremendously to be able to help his newfound family hold back the invading gang.

Review:

This here was quite an entertaining if somewhat troubling effort. What really works here is the rather enjoyable and continuous nature of the attacks that offer up an impressive pace within here. The opening ambush on the professor gives this a solid start as the outnumbered instructor is able to fend off the gang with a bit of intervention, the street fights are a solid manner of introducing us to the characters' skill-sets in brief fashion, while the series of confrontations within the cantina where the gang resides provides some brutal and somewhat bloody brawls between combatants. That increases the deeper it gets into the film as both sides pull out all the stops to prevent the other from getting to the tournament, beating up rivals outside the dojos or ambushing each other in alleyways throughout the village which set up the fine choreography that is greatly exemplified by the two big action scenes. The ambush in the woods where he's maimed horribly in an accident is starkly brutal and beautiful at the same time, while the multi-fighter tournament in the second half offers the fighters numerous chances to showcase their skill-set as the honor and pride normally featured in such films brings this to a close in a satisfying if cliched manner.

The cast is just as solid as the martial arts prowess. Lo Lieh as the hero Chao Chih-Hao is the prototypical hero found in Shaw Brothers' films at the time. He's courageous, kind and generous to a fault, trust others to be as honorable and righteous as he is simply because of his training which allows him to get into danger through these actions rather than acting with any reasonable behavior. However, that's the trope of the studio's heroes and he does well with the role, performing the martial arts with nice skill and power without difficulty and allows us to stay on his side during the double-crossing later on. Of the two dojo heads, Mien Fang as the kind Sun Hsin-Pei and Feng Tien as the brutal Meng Tung-Shun both serve their styles nicely and emerge as the appropriate leaders for their respective styles. Like most women from this time period, Ping Wang as his love interest Sung Ying Ying offers nothing beyond a romantic subplot to make the hero more relatable and down-to-Earth but doesn't do anything beyond that. The rest of the cast is typically one-dimensional brutal thugs or just bodies to be thrown around in the fights.

Beyond the martial arts prowess on display, there isn't much else to the film. The simple story nicely keeps things moving along at a brisk pace by introducing reasons to fight each other as the rivalry continues to escalate with various participants continually targeted in the name of honor and revenge. As these are topics that would be broached by hundreds of efforts both before and after this one, the film stands out for the simplistic nature of how it proceeds. The mere fact that it runs as long as it does merely serves to highlight how nothing really changes from the start of the film to the end as not even romantic dalliances or allegiances switching sides throughout the film serve much purpose here. As well, an odd structural dynamic of the story stretches this out a little longer than normal where the final revenge isn't over with the end of the tournament as the film is stretched out with a couple of flimsy fighting that should've been added into the story earlier on so it's not ten minutes too long. However, this isn't a detriment as much as the simplistic nature really is.


Overview: ****/5
With some stellar work featured here and being quite an important piece of work in the genre beyond most measures within the film itself, this is certainly an important and prominent work in the scene. Wholly recommended to any fan of old-school kung-fu efforts or just martial arts cinema in general, while those who prefer more contemporary leanings in these types of films should still give it a chance anyway.


This was originally published on Asian Movie Pulse and is gratefully reprinted with their permission.

Ruin Me (2018) by Preston DeFrancis


Director: Preston DeFrancis
Year: 2018
Country: USA
Alternate Titles: N/A
Genre: Slasher

Plot:
Attending a retreat with friends, a troubled woman finds that the horror film reenactment in the woods they've signed up for is the real thing when a group of psychopaths start killing them for real and must try to help overcome their own problematic pasts to get the others away alive.

Review:

This was quite an enjoyable and original take on the genre. Among the most enjoyable aspects here is the film's central premise where it lets the game play itself out. Taking the real-life issue of the popularity of survival games and escape rooms to a rather enjoyable slasher concept is a wholly unique idea which is seen played out in the storyline for the sleepover game they partake in of having to escape the crazy people said to be running through the woods. Relying on clues to lead them to their next location or the items in their possession at the start of the game, this one offers up the kind of unique game setup which really brings in the fun.

As the game carries on and they start to become aware of what's going on around them with their ability to understand the slasher setpieces around them, the premise becomes a lot more fun and energetic with the discovery of the body in the tree, the series of scenes that bring about the realization it was actually happening for real when they come across the crazed psycho running loose in the woods and the group emerging out of the woods to announce their intentions with the savage killing of the other members of the group in pretty brutal manners which injects some much needed energy into the film. Alongside the nice body-count and fun gore, these hold it up over it's troublesome areas.


Frankly, the biggest obstacle to overcome here is the absolutely ridiculous storyline twist here of involving the girls' drug-user ex-boyfriend in the proceedings when he wasn't necessary at all. The fact that this brings up that plotpoint in the first place when it wasn't even mentioned beforehand makes no sense and only serves to distract this from the killers' motivations since it hampers the amount of on-screen stalking that occurs. The other big problem to be had with the final twist involved in enhancing a contrived and utterly headache inducing point that makes everything that happened completely moot and doesn't serve the film at all at the worst possible time.

The last big problem to overcome with this one is the wholesale finale where it has several big issues. Not only does this one end up changing around the entire structure of the film but this one also introduces the most overbearingly whiny and pathetic excuses for a killer's motivation possible which severely undermines the effectiveness of the entire premise with how ridiculous the entire setup is. The killer becomes the most irritating, annoying individual ever possible with that resolution, and despite the fantastic confrontation it's still troublesome because of that. These here are what hold it back overall.


Overview: **1/2/5
While it does manage to stay somewhat enjoyable in the long-run, the long-term enjoyment here is somewhat undone by the final half which is what really drops this one overall. Give this a chance if you're into these meta-heavy modern horror films or find this kind of thing enjoyable while those that are turned off by it's flaws should overall heed caution.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Ultraman Episode #6 - The Coast Guard Command


Director: Samaji Nonagase
Year: 1967
Country: Japan
Alternate Titles: (Alternate DVD Title: Coast Guard Orders) (沿岸警備命令 Engan Keibi Meirei?)
Genre: Tokusatsu TV

Plot:
While out with friends, Hosino spots a pair of smugglers moving into the local warehouses looking for stolen diamonds, but when the cacao beans the diamonds are smuggled in attract the attention of Gesura, a giant lizard from the Amazon also stolen away in the trip, they rely on Ultraman to stop the creature.

Story:

While on the surface it has a simple story, this is also quite the fun episode. We get a series of mentions about something happening in the area, from the giant shark attack and the series of ship disasters that signal the creature appearing in the area with the occasional connection found to the cacao beans featured there. Since there's also the pair of smugglers in the area looking for a cache of diamonds brought over with the cacao bean shipment, they get involved with the kids looking for the monster and soon all three storylines converge together requiring the assistance of Ultraman to stop the creature and save the kids.

This simple setup comes off rather nicely here due to the influx of the smuggler storyline. This does draw up eerie comparisons several years later when a similar situation occurs of kids meeting up with smugglers, and this one does quite a fun job setting up their interaction here by having their stolen targets inside the cacao beans that have gotten the childrens' interest. This doesn't really explain the creatures' size increase (a singular line is given about the creature growing due to ingesting the specific beans it feeds on yet not why that grows the creature to a kaiju size) but it provides enough of a starting point to keep the kids involved as well as getting the creature on-screen.

Special Effects:

The special effects here are perfectly adequate if not outright outstanding. The main monster Gesura, a giant brightly-colored amphibious fish, has a nice impression with the large protruding fish-face adorned with plenty of green, blue and yellow splotches of color, giant pink fish lips and a bright tentacle piece on the back of it's head. As the rest of the body looks incredibly fish-like with the mix of fish-scales along a lizard-like body that looks like an impressive kaiju TV-show monster. This is exactly the kind of place where this design works as the floppy stub-like tail, dangling fish scales and grotesquely overlarge head would wear out it's welcome in a feature-length adaptation, so it works perfectly in this setup.

Elsewhere, we don't get much innovation but just impressive work whenever it appears. The composite shots here are somewhat impressive, most notably a stellar sequence of Gesura appearing over the top of a warehouse while the Science Patrol is fleeing the area in the foreground. Other times, including a rampage in the warehouse district while the Science Patrol is evacuating the rest of the bay or the shot of Ultraman saving a police-car featuring the kids and the Science Patrol which Gesura is about to step on, are spot-on and look extremely effective. A few scattered cut-shots to the miniature set from the live-action setups look a little obvious based on the hard-jump away from the two locales, but otherwise it's camera-work is quite nice.

Still, the standout special effects featured here are the miniature models and buildings. The ships that Gesura attacks and sinks looks impressive, like actual ships to be found in real life with the masts and wooden hulls which stay intact during the attacks which is what a real ship would be like. The warehouse district, though, is an unequivocal highlight, taking the massive buildings in scale to a row of dynamic buildings that look wholly realistic, crumble effectively and are photographed from incredible angles that highlight the model-work full-on. Providing the setting for the final fight between Gesura and Ultraman as the two skirmish in the rubble of the destroyed warehouse, this is a fantastic aspect of the episode.


Acting:

Without much in the way of character development here, there's not much to say in regards to the acting here. The addition of bringing Hoshino into a more prominent role by letting him be more of a kid his own age, hanging out with the friends at the pier and letting him use his skills acquired from being around the Science Patrol for aide in escaping the bandits offers this one some stellar kid-friendly scenes for him. The only real questionable action throughout here is the idea that the Science Patrol, a corporation specifically set up to deal with giant monsters threatening the world and have done so on at least five previous occasions to date, would scoff off a report of a possible monster from a reliable character they have personally interacted with on several of those encounters. To make the entire affair about the smuggler rather than the possible monster sighting they should be in charge of preventing should it prove true, and to overlook that seems dangerous and not quite responsible.

Other Factors:

About the only extra element to add here is the rather enjoyable element added to the final fight here. Not only is Ultraman not shown using any special powers of any kind since the Specium Ray is never used to dole out the knock-out blow, but the fact that Gesura itself also never offers up any kind of special attack with the fight consisting mostly of them wrestling and brawling with a creative, unique twist to finally offer the killing strike is pretty fun. This is a big, bright fight and has some brutality to it by the way they engage in such a physical brawl and is one of the best for that reason.

Overview: ****/5
Despite not being stellar in any area, the fact that it remains as fun and enjoyable from what's on display gives this a solid feeling overall. It's definitely not the best episode but it's got enough to like which makes this a rather worthwhile if nonessential episode.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Ouija Seance: The Final Game (2018) by Andrea Mugnaini


Director: Andrea Mugnaini
Year: 2018
Country: Italy
Alternate Titles: N/A
Genre: Supernatural

Plot:
After a change of plans, a group of friends are forced to spend the weekend at a remote villa in the Italian countryside in order to sort out an inheritance, and when they find an old ouija board inside they unwittingly unleash a deadly supernatural force that targets everyone involved.

Review:

For the most part, this one wasn't all that great. One of the more enjoyable aspects here is the rather nice atmosphere of the house, which is highly enjoyable and sets an imposing setting. Being the remote lodge in the middle of the woods, it looks quite creepy with the dust-covered furniture, several dark corridors with plenty of rather chilling ideas and causes this one to really work out plenty of dark atmosphere for the chilling work to come later on. When the craziness starts, it goes off rather suddenly as the actions spawned here are ripped off in a hurry with a pretty brutal ambush and some fun action to be had around the house as the fine series of encounters offer some halfway decent action here that at least attempts to bring some action into the mix. This is really all that works here as there are some rather big problems at play within this one.

Among it's biggest problems is the fact that there's just not a lot going on here for much of it's running time. The film barely runs eighty minutes long and yet is filled with plenty of filler material for a story that doesn't really need it. The exploits of the group preparing for their trip doesn't need to be there, nor does the useless series of scenes showing them wandering around before arriving at the house since they don't really offer character building material or any sort of suspense so that it's way too late in the film before anything really happens. That this one spends so much time on group at the house before the spirit is unleashed, basically detailing their party sitting around talking to each other, getting high or just spending their time arguing over perceived jealousies and insecurities that the amount of time spent on the actual haunting here isn't that high with these issues taking up way too much time in the film.

The other big issue to really hold this one back is the fact that a lot of the horror here is completely underwhelming and not that scary. There's really nothing here given about the cursed board game as for what it's actually doing in the house in the first since it never gives any reasoning why it's there or how it affects the family, the actual exploits of what it's purpose is for and what it's trying to do which is the main purpose of a film of any caliber. So much of this is left to the imagination that it's finale, filled with a half-hearted haunting filled with body-hopping makes no sense of any kind and it just doesn't serve any kind of scares that matter here since everything's left not only unexplained but also is weak and let-down by the low-budget nature of the film. These here are what really hold this one back.


Overview: */5
Among the gluttony of shows that partake in this type of style, there's very little need for this entry where it has so many problematic issues that end up holding it back. Really only go for this one if you're a hardcore completist of these kinds of supernatural genre fare, although all others should avoid this one in favor of other genre efforts of similar style.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Gate II: The Trespassers (1992) by Tibor Takács


Director: Tibor Takács
Year: 1992
Country: USA/Canada
Alternate Titles: N/A
Genre: Creature Feature

Plot:
Realizing the gateway hasn't been closed, a teen ventures back to his friends' house to perform the proper closing spell inadvertently causes a mischievous demon to break through and disrupt his friends' lives forcing him to put his skills to the test to send the demon back once again.

Review:

This was a rather obvious lower-quality sequel. One of the few enjoyable elements about this one is the rather fun connection to the supernatural and occult that pops up sparingly throughout here. This starts out nicely with the ceremony at the abandoned house where the black magic ceremonies and rituals they engage in are quite fun as well as getting in the bright colors that show up nicely in the Gothic manor. The setup of taking the summoned creature back home and setting up the main storyline about the captured demon being kept and studied in the house which shows the effects of them wishing for different items and initially appearing to be beneficial only to turn out to have a shelf-life for their effectiveness which drives the second half of the film as they end up watching their friends deteriorate due to their exposure to the creatures. As well, with the fun rousing finale set in the abandoned factory where the demonic friend is loose hunting them down with all the noise and growls off in the distance setting the stage for the fun of the practical monster being shown in somewhat decent detail.

The cast here isn't bad but doesn't hold up to the original. Again, bringing Louis Tripp back as Terry isn't really asking for much as he's a lot more mopey and downbeat this time around which shouldn't be too surprising considering the events and actions which took place yet doesn't make for all that appealing a character. The far more grieving he does in the second half makes him a total downer to be around and he isn't as action-ready as he was before so he comes off as the weak point. The two thugs, Simon Reynolds as Moe and James Villemaire as John are far more likable and engaging, with a fine character change for Moe who is clearly under John's controlling thumb but wanting to come free with a paying job and being far more open to the black magic he performs. They are perfectly fine as a pair of friends who are clearly caught up way over their heads and they become somewhat sympathetic as a result. The girlfriend Liz, played by Pamela Adlon, is the best character here who is the cliched love interest who has an interest in the occult before turning allegiances into the final girl. Still retaining a little bit of sass and yet capable of holding a sympathic relationship with him, she's a definite highlight here and really scores nicely in their scenes together. These here are what hold it up over it's main flaws.

The main issue holding this one back is the fact that so little of the film is actually horrific that it's rather boring for much of the running time. The main focus on the family drama between him and his father is a typical subplot in these efforts which is placed so heavily in the narrative that it doesn't really have any kind of impact due to the cliche nature of it all, a facet sadly repeated in the romance between the two kids due to the adventures they share. The softer focus on these scenes throughout the first half of the film really lessens the impact of the horror scenes here which are reduced in quantity considerably. In turn, that even slows the pacing down rather significantly as well, making for a wholly bland and boring entry that has so few finely developed horror scenes it crams it all into a tonally out-of-place finale that really sticks out badly here. The traveling into another dimension and battling with the creatures serves as a wash in the end when it is forced into the episode to deal with the lack of horror throughout the remaining parts of the movie. Along with the patently obvious low-budget nature of the special effects, these are what hold this one back.


Overview: *1/2/5
A watchable effort in the least and a rather forgettable affair overall, there's not much to this one which makes this one a truly bland sequel entry. Only give this a chance if you're a completist for these kinds of demonic genre films or are a hardcore fan of the original, while those that aren't should just save time and stick with the first film.


The Gate (1987) by Tibor Takács


Director: Tibor Takács
Year: 1987
Country: Canada/USA
Alternate Titles: N/A
Genre: Creature Feature

Plot:
After finding a hole in his backyard, a teen and his friends learn the hole is a gateway to Hell and is unleashing diminutive demons upon their house-party and forces them to stop the creatures' evil plans.

Review:

This was quite a fun and enjoyable kid-friendly effort. One of the better aspects here is the film does a rather fun job of building to the actual infestation of the demons as there's some cheesy scenes to really make this work. The hole's appearance at the very beginning and its contrived openings along with the discovery of the strange rocks starts this off rather well, and with the supernatural lights and party levitation tricks which all come along together very well in setting the stage for the other child-antics to come during their sleepover and the party later that night.

Best of all, this one manages to tie these factors into their true significance with a heavy metal record that not only gives them the final clue that something's going on but also the tactics needed to fully resolve the situation rather than what was commonly done at the time which meant being the root cause of it all simply for being loud and aggressive. This is pretty novel and unique which gives it some rather clever marks for its story that makes the resulting supernatural-themed action so fun as the effects of the gate opening weave throughout this.


There's the creation of the second pit beneath the house, the abduction of their friends and the initial haunting dreams to go along with these scenes as well as the frantic finale which features everything from tiny demons crawling throughout the house to the fight against the multi-limbed monstrosity that appears at the end which provides this with plenty of rather enjoyable action-packed scenes that come off quite fun due to the supernatural bent to these scenes. Along with the rather appealing child-friendly storyline, there here are enough for this one to hold off the film's few problems that pop up in here.

One of the bigger problems here is the fact that there's very little actual involvement of the main gateway towards the kids, as the main half here tends towards scenes involving them being home with their friends rather than anything of any significance against the titular gateway. The supernatural activity is kept to such a minimum that it really feels in a back-seat against the film's main point which is the teen angst drama of being unable to connect with his sister as she grows up as this particular storyline overwhelms the movie so much to the detriment the more horror-centered elements found in the second half the other flaw to this one is the absolutely banal and ridiculous special effects used for the demons here, with some really bad stop-motion photography that's jerky and obvious and just plain up-front about its origins which really tends to lower this one somewhat. Overall, these here are the film's flaws.


Overview: *** 1/2/5
While it's not entirely without merit, this one offers up enough strong positive elements to make this a fun and wholly enjoyable entry with just those few elements holding it back. Give it a shot if you're into these kinds of fun, cheesy genre features or have a lot of appreciation for these kinds of films, while those looking for more hardcore genre fare should heed caution even though still giving it a chance.

Party Night (2018) by Troy Escamilla


Director: Troy Escamilla
Year: 2018
Country: USA
Alternate Titles: N/A
Genre: Slasher

Plot:
Heading to a special after-party, a group of friends arrive at a secluded cabin in the woods for a special after-prom party only to find the area being stalked by a ravenous killer who begins to kill them off one-by-one and must find a way to stop him and get away from the house alive.

Review:

This one wasn't all that bad of a low-budget slasher. One of the main positives here is the rather solid homage to the old-school slasher setups that's usually featured here. The general setup of the group heading out into the middle of the woods for a secluded party no one knows about and coming across the killer hunting in the area serves as the usually fun setup that emerges here as the to-the-point storyline and shorter running time keeps this quite heavily in line with that style.

That, in turn, leads into the other big aspect to like here with the slashing scenes which typically take on the quick and brutal style. From the opening spree murders that set the film up, to the deaths around the cabin that spring up and feature them finding the killer taking them out which forces them to engage in several confrontations with him around the cabin which has some fun encounters. Preparing the way for the final girl chase around the cabin finding all the dead bodies left around for the final confrontation, these here are all that really hold this one up.


Among the first problem here is the utter ridiculous storyline that offers up no real sense at all. The idea of the group of kids going to a cabin in the woods that a friend owns the night after prom lets out is such a goofy premise for these kinds of genre efforts and really stretches the kind of incredulity already when it covers their lack of a party that concerns ridiculously petty teenage problems since this weak idea doesn’t really work well enough to last for a feature-length idea. To have this one struggle deeply to be credible enough to be realistic in it's main setup is a rather huge hurdle.

Lastly, the film is so cheaply made that it’s nearly impossible to take this seriously in the slightest. The sound is so hard to hear that it’s at times impossible to pick out what’s being said, the general look and feel of the cabin speaks highly to the idea of just having used public property without permission and the special effects in total are just cringeworthy. The blood is about the consistency of colored water, trickles out like water and resembles food-coloring while the less said about the decapitation the better. These are what really hold this one back the most.


Overview:
As this has some rather large issues that really hold this one back for the most part, it's still nowhere near the weakest or worst in the style which isn't much, granted, but is has some positive values. Give this a chance if you're the most devout fans of retro, throwback slashers or appreciate these cheap, low-budget indie genre features, while those that don't in the slightest should heed extreme caution.

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