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#343 -- Insanitarium (2008)

Director: Jeff Buhler
Rating: 4.5 / 5

Once again, I found myself watching (and really enjoying) a movie that I didn't expect all that much from. I hadn't even intended to watch this at all (I just downloaded Crackle to my computer and I wanted to see how well it worked), but I just couldn't turn it off! The synopsis that Crackle gave me was pretty bland - something about a guy getting himself committed to an insane asylum in order to break out his whacko sister. See, I've seen a couple of hospital-based horrors, and they're all the same at their core: crazy doctor does mean things, patients die, one patient retaliates and fucks shit up. Yeah, okay. I've seen it before, and I wasn't exactly jumping up and down with excitement to see it again. But, here! It took a turn that I did not expect AT ALL. Sure, if I'd read some reviews, or maybe even a synopsis somewhere else, I might have known what was up. But I'm glad I didn't, because I was surprised at how things turned out, and that's what made me love this movie.

I already gave you the synopsis: a guy convinces folks that he's crazy so he can get into the asylum where his sister is. See, they won't let him talk to her or see her, so he just wants to make sure she's a live. Seems like a good idea, right? Wrong. Once he gets there, he starts to realize that -  hey! - they're doing some pretty wacky shit here, and I don't think I want to be here anymore. But, just what is all that wacky shit? Well, I think part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was that I didn't know what that wacky shit was going into it. That might be the case with you guys, and I definitely don't want to ruin for you; so, I'll save that until later for those of you who don't care.

Anyways...There are several reasons that this movie was great. First of all, it drug me in and wouldn't let me go. From the first few minutes, I was hooked. I could feel the love that Jack had for his sister, and the lengths he was willing to go to to make sure that she was okay. Plus, he was hot. I'm still a woman. Then, when he started acting crazy, I was totally hooked -- he was so good at it! And everyone knows I love me a crazy man. Oh yes. Seeing the other crazy people was great too. They all had individualized personalities that were interesting and unique. I think the character development in this one was wonderful; I even felt like I knew the minor characters pretty well, which is definitely not common in horror movies. There was one guy who reminded me of Hannibal Lector, liked to touch and smell people and was overall one creepy motherfucker. There was a chick who was obsessed with sex, but anytime anyone touched her, she'd freak and scream rape. Oh, and she ended up doing some pretty gnarly things to the security guard that she was fucking. There were plenty of others, but let's move on. I thought the story was great and, even though Jack's decision was downright stupid, it had heart. He was a good guy who loved his sister, and it's always easy to root for the good guy. I also have to praise Jesse Metcalfe on his great acting. He went from an intelligent man to a mumbling psycho in no time, and it seemed an easy transition for him. It seemed natural and believable. And the gore! There was plenty of blood a-flowin' in this one, and it looked great. The kills were great, and the effects that brought them to life were well done. There was one scene where a guy broke a woman's arm, licked the protruding bone, and then proceeded to rip the arm completely off and eat it. And a machete to the face -- gotta love a machete to the face.

All of that sounds great, right? Well, it should, because it is. But that's not even including that wacky shit I mentioned earlier. That's just icing on the bloody cake that was already pretty delicious to begin with.

Continue reading if you want to know what was REALLY going on...

#342 -- Cut (2000)

Director: Kimble Rendall
Rating: 3.5 / 5

It's funny how you can choose a movie for weird reasons that aren't always good. I definitely didn't choose this one because I thought it sounded great. My boyfriend thought we'd already watched this, but I didn't. He was thinking of a movie called Skeleton Crew, but he didn't believe it. So, we started the movie to see who was right. I was, of course, but that's not the point. See, it's funny because you can choose a movie you might not necessarily think is going to be good, and then it is. If you choose a movie you expect to be great, it usually isn't. At least, that's my luck most of the time. Cut isn't the best movie, not even one of the best, but it's good; I didn't really expect that.

It was filmed in Australia and Germany, with a mostly Australian cast; but there was one person that I recognized -- Molly Ringwald! She was older, and blonde, so it took me a minute to recognize her; but I was happy to see that she was actually one of the main players. It's sad how no one seems to care about her anymore; I actually like her. Kylie Minogue was also in it for a little while. I'm not really familiar with her (I know the name and one of her songs), so I didn't recognize her at all until I saw her name on IMDB. Anyways...It started off with a horror movie being filmed, and Molly was its star. It was something about a man who had been horribly burned and went around killing people. Well, the actor who played the killer wasn't very great in the director's eyes, and she planned to fire him. He didn't like that, so he killed her. He also killed some other man and attempted to kill Vanessa (I'll try to refer to her by her character's name, rather than Molly...); thankfully, she was able to defeat him with a swift kick to the nuts and a pair of garden shears . Needless to say, that movie was never finished.

Fast forward to twelve years later, and a group of film students decide to finish the film. As they're doing research, they learn that there's a curse on the movie: anyone who tries to finish it dies. That doesn't stop them, of course, because they're quite determined. The director has some personal issues with the movie, which aren't exactly shocking, but you'll get over it. Sure enough, once they start production, people start to die.

There are plenty of red herrings here. We argued throughout the entire movie, because we each had our own theories on who the killer was. Each was cleared, however, and it left us scratching our heads wondering just who the fuck was under that creepy mask. It made for some suspense that a lot of movies I've seen are desperately lacking. So, it's got that going for it. The characters were just okay; some were well developed and likable, while some others were just background players. The most we knew about most of them was who was fucking who, and who everyone wished they were fucking. But that's all we need to know, I guess, since society is obsessed with sex. I did like the killer, and I thought the mask was creepy though it was simple. There were also some good kills going on, though most of them were offscreen or hidden. The ideas of those kills were great though -- like a girl having her head cut off by a motorized saw. I'm guessing that budget issues kept them from being able to show these kills in all of their glory, which I think is better than showing us something that looked tacky and horrible.

I know the story doesn't sound all that unique, but it actually kind of is. There's a twist at the end that I, personally, wasn't expecting. Once it started to be implied and theorized, I hoped that it wasn't true, actually. I wanted things to go one way, and they didn't. But once it all happened, I was actually glad for it. It was different, and they went a different route than I thought they would. It's not your typical slasher movie.

But, really, it all comes down to one thing: was it interesting? Well, I'll tell you this. We were only going to watch a few minutes of it, to determine whether or not we'd already seen it. We ended up watching the whole thing. That's got to mean something, right?


#341 -- Texas Chainsaw (2013)

Director: John Luessenhop
Rating: 4 / 5

I want to start off by saying that I'm not a TCM uber fan. It's not because I don't like it; it's just because I haven't seen all the movies. I've seen the original, and the 2003 remake. I loved how the original was filmed, and how Tobe Hooper directed it; I thought the remake was okay. So I haven't been all that exposed to the movies or Leatherface. Even if I had seen all those, I'm hardly a purist when it comes to these things (I loved the F13 remake), so I'm sure I'd still like this movie. It's not technically a remake, since it takes place after the events of the first movie; but I'm sure there are some old school fans out there who have a problem here.

So, right after Sally escaped from the Sawyer clan, the police showed up, along with a group of angry townspeople. Those townspeople burned the house to the ground, presumably killing everyone inside. There were two survivors: Leatherface, and a little baby girl. Two of the townspeople took the baby and raised her as their own daughter, named her Heather, and she grew up without having the slightest idea of who she really was. That was, until she got a letter saying that her grandmother had passed away -- a grandmother she didn't even know existed. This grandmother had left her house to Heather, and she and her friends took a little road trip to see the place. Along the way, they picked up a cute hitch-hiker (after hitting him with their van; and he actually paid them to give him a ride.) who would prove to be not quite as friendly as they'd thought. When they left to get something to cook for dinner (which he paid for), he decided to steal everything valuable in the house. That led him to the basement, through the wine cellar, and down to the dungeon where Leatherface lived. He was killed, and the maniac was set loose once again.

The main thing people have a problem with is the time line. Heather was born in 1974, right after all those events took place. She couldn't have been older than twenty-five, so realistically speaking, the movie couldn't have taken place any later than '97 or so. But everything was extremely modern. Since the movie did seem to take place in 2012, she would have to be somewhere in her thirties. People have a problem with this, but I don't. I could tell myself that, maybe these fancy cell-phones and things could have been around back in '97 (after all, I was only seven years old then; I don't have a clue what cell phones looked like then), but that's not really necessary. I do believe that Heather could have been in her thirties. The actress who played her is twenty-six, so it's not too far off. Besides, people do tend to look younger than they actually are. I'm twenty-three, people tell me I look fifteen. It happens, people! Besides, this is a horror movie; often times, while watching horror movies, you have to force yourself to believe things that you otherwise wouldn't. It's normal. I really don't understand why there's such a big issue here. Well, scratch that. It's a modern day sequel to a classic movie that everyone loves. People are bound to look for things to bitch about, and I guess they couldn't find anything else.

My point is, I really don't give a shit about the time line being unrealistic. The biggest issue I ever have with a horror movie is that it's boring. If it's exciting, has a decent story and good characters, I'm behind it. I don't care how contrived it seems; if it's done well, I'm cool. And I think this one was very well done. The crew behind the movie knew their stuff; they were either big fans of the movies or they did their research. With the film-making, it was pretty true to the original. And they threw some things in there that should have made fans giggle (I know I did...). Like Officer Hooper, and the fact that the lady who played Sally in the original was Heather's grandmother. And Gunnar Hansen, the original Leatherface, was a white-haired member of the Sawyer family here. I thought it was cool. There were other small things about the movie that I liked as well. Like the fact that Heather knew absolutely nothing about her blood relatives, yet she still grew up to be a butcher. It's in their blood.

I don't know how he was portrayed in all the other sequels, but what I know from this and the original (I don't remember anything about that remake in 2003), makes me really love Leatherface. In the original, his family forced him to do the things he was doing. They were rude to him, and I can assume that he suffered childhood abuse. He wasn't "all there," and he didn't know any better. He thought what he was doing was normal, and that all these people were hurting him for nothing. In this one, someone said that he had the mind of an 8-year-old trapped in that big 'ol body. It's really sad if you think about it. He's only doing what he was taught to do, and everyone hates him for it. A few other things I really like about Leatherface: he has his priorities straight (family comes first), and he gives absolutely zero fucks. He will chase a bitch out into town with his chainsaw blaring and not think twice about it. I know he's not the brightest guy, and he probably, literally, doesn't think about it. But I think he's a badass. That was what I liked about him in the original, and they kept that going here. He actually chased Heather to a carnival and sent all the patrons fleeing. Most other killers would lurk in the shadows and wait. Not Leatherface!

But what it really comes down to is the fact that the movie was entertaining. The action was pretty much non-stop, there was a decent amount of gore (which I always love), and that family bond that Heather and Leatherface shared was touching. Seriously, I thought I was going to cry. So the times aren't realistic; I can live with that. So the characters did a few things that don't make sense. Because horror movie characters are always smart about the decisions they make. I can live with that too; we all can, because we have to. It was entertaining, and it stayed true to the only original that I'm familiar with. To me, it's a winner.


MMM Day 7: #340 -- Frankenthumb (2002)

Director: David Bourla
Rating: 4 / 5

As May Monster Madness draws to a close, I will leave you on a very light note. Today's movie was written by Steve Oedekerk, the same guy who brought us Kung Pow. I think it's pretty easy to tell that this movie is not one to be taken seriously. It's silly, and it's funny as hell. It's actually one of several in the Thumbs! series, which includes Bat Thumb, The Blair Thumb, Thumbtanic, Thumb Wars, and The GodThumb. The characters are all -- you guessed it -- thumbs!

So, we're all familiar with the story of Frankenstein, and this one's pretty much the same. A monster is created, it is cast out, it runs amok, and it's led to a lighthouse and torched. It's amazing how they can tell pretty much the exact same story in such a weird way. These characters aren't nearly as tragic as those in Frankenstein, nor are they quite as sophisticated. In fact, they're all just downright dumb. But dumb in such a fantastic way.

Pepper & Humpy
Dr. Frankenthumb's assistant is not named Fritz, or Igor, as we've grown accustomed to. He is a hunchbacked thing named Humpy. Yes, Humpy. And the Monster actually has a name here! His name is Pepper, because he spiced up Dr. Frankenthumb's life. He's pretty mean to begin with, and he definitely doesn't like Pepper at all. Or small animals. But once his daddy casts him out, he starts to feel bad and becomes a very comical version of the creature that I love. Sad and lonely. I think my favorite part in the movie is when one of the angry mob finds a lighter, and he gets the shit beat out of him for it. An angry mob just wouldn't be the same without the torches, I guess. Either that, or the extremely weird ending, in which Bat Thumb himself makes an appearance.

The way that the characters speak, and their facial expressions are absolutely hilarious. They're over-the-top and stupid as hell, but it works. There are plenty of things going on here that don't make a lot of sense -- like the random cyclops that appears in the mob -- but it's all the more fantastic because of them. It, like Kung Pow, thrives on the things that don't make sense. Because they're nonsensical in a way that makes them hilarious. Again, not a movie to be taken seriously, and I would hope that no one would. If so, there's something seriously wrong. The story of Frankenstein is one that I have always loved, and I have no problem with poking fun at it. It's a light-hearted good time; you'll laugh and you might lose a few brain cells, but hey! We don't need all of those anyway, right?

Note: If you find the link in The Trailer Park for this one, it's actually a link to the full movie, if you're interested.

Well, the madness is over, guys. I had fun, and I hope you guys did too.


MMM Day 6: #339 -- The Thing (1982)

Director: John Carpenter
Rating: 3 / 5

This is actually the first time I've seen this movie. I'd heard great things about it, and I knew that a lot of people loved it. The idea was intriguing, so it was definitely on my watch list. I thought it was going to be a masterpiece, but I was disappointed with it for a couple of reasons.

Synopsis: A group of explorers in Antarctica come across an Alien being that is able to take the form of whoever or whatever it wishes. We follow their collective mental breakdown as they try to figure out who they can trust, and whose body has been overtaken by The Thing.

And...that's pretty much it. It started off with some Norwegians in a helicopter trying to shoot a beautiful Husky dog. Right off the bat, I was pissed; I was more worried about that dog in those couple of minutes than I was about anything else throughout the rest of the movie. Of course, the dog had been "possessed," and it actually would have been really helpful if those people had been able to shoot it. The group that the movie follows killed the Norwegians, and The Thing infiltrated their camp. They took the dog in, after saving it, and put it in a kennel with a bunch of other dogs. Apparently they had a hobby of rescuing wild dogs. Immediately, the dog began to attack the other dogs an adopt their appearances. The group learned from some research that it would keep on doing this until all other life forms -- threats to its life-- were eliminated. Most of the movie consisted of each person losing their trust in the rest. They didn't know who they could trust, until they figured out a way to test their blood for The Thing's presence. So, it was a bunch of accusations and not a lot of action.

Where there was action, though -- oh boy, that was some fucked up shit. I can't even describe what The Thing looked like, but it was pretty gnarly. It was nasty in a I-think-I'm-gonna-puke sort of way, and the effects were wonderful. The problem was that there wasn't much for me to care about. There were a lot of people in the camp, and none of them were very developed. At least, not in a way that I could get behind. None of them seemed to care about each other, they didn't really have any memorable characteristics, and I have a hard time even remembering their names. After all was said and done, the movie ended on a fairly calm way that kind of felt incomplete All that being said, I did enjoy the movie. The story was unique and, again, the monster was fucking incredible.

I'm feeling kind of weird at this point. There are several movies that are loved by many; and most of those I find somewhat boring. I think this would have been a lot better if the creature had been on screen more often, because that was definitely the best part. It was so great that it's a total shame that it was hidden for so long. I get that it was hidden inside the explorers, and it was part of the story; but I'm sure they could have figured something out. Really, that's the biggest problem that I have with it. Otherwise, it's definitely entertaining.


MMM Day 5: #338 -- Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Rating: 3 / 5

I wanted to include Dracula in this week's monster madness, but I already reviewed the 1931 movie a while ago. I found this on demand, and I jumped on it. I've gone against everything I believe in. I have now seen two Dracula movies, and I haven't read the book. The shame!

I love Bela Lugosi as Dracula. To me, he is Dracula, and he always will be. This variation on the Count was interesting, to say the least. I thought Gary Oldman did a good job with the role, and the character was definitely creepy and different. But I just couldn't let myself believe that it was Dracula. He was a monster out of a child's nightmare. He could transform his looks at the blink of an eye -- from young to old, from human-like to werewolf to giant bat-creature. I'm familiar with vampires being able to transform into other beasts, but...the way I like it, they turn into regular bats and wolves. It seems more natural that way, if that makes any sense. The reason that I love Bela's Dracula is because he is natural. He was a monster disguised as a human; very sophisticated and romantic. This Dracula tried to be those things, but I just didn't feel it like I did with Bela. He lived in an enormous castle in Transylvania, he wore extravagant clothing, and he spoke with eloquence. But it just wasn't the same.

The love story at play here felt more like Romeo and Juliet than anything. In the beginning, we see Dracula with his lover, Elisabeta. Assuming (for reasons I didn't catch) that Dracula was dead, she took her own life. Dracula then stabbed a cross, from which gallons of blood spewed, and somehow turned himself into a vampire, swearing that he would avenge her death one day. How you can avenge someone's suicide is beyond me. Jump to the 1800s, and the story picks up in familiar territory. Jonathan Harker traveling to Transylvania to meet with the Count with real estate business. He ended up seduced and held captive by Dracula's three brides, while the Count went to London to seduce Jonathan's wife-to-be, Mina. Even though she barely knew him, and was apparently deeply in love with Jonathan not long before, she fell in love with Dracula. She married Jonathan anyway, even though she knew that she wanted someone else. Then she let Dracula transform her, and tried to protect him as Jonathan, Van Helsing, and some other people set out to kill him.

It sounds good, now that I write it out. And I guess the story is pretty good, it just wasn't executed in a way that I could get behind. The love story wasn't developed quite enough, and I couldn't feel the love that they supposedly felt for one another (neither Mina and Jonathan's, nor Mina and Dracula's). It didn't leave a mark. That love story is actually the only part of the movie that I was able to follow, since that was the main plot point going on here. The rest could have been cut out and I wouldn't feel any differently. I felt like I just couldn't follow the movie. Every couple of minutes, I felt like it had skipped and that I'd missed something. I just didn't get it. Though I did like Gary Oldman somewhat, the rest of the characters just didn't sit well with me. His was the only one that was actually developed; the rest were dull and forgettable.

Visually, the movie was great. I loved the atmosphere at work, and the cinematography looked good. The special effects were also striking, and it felt like a gothic fairy tale. A low budget movie with no effects or fancy camera work can still be a great movie if it has a great story to back it up. But a movie with all the technology to its disposal will still fail if the story is lacking that special something. That is the case with Bram Stoker's Dracula. Again, I haven't read the book; but those who have say that this is an awful adaptation. I'm not sure how the 1931 movie holds up for those people. But for me, sixty years, a lot of money and fancy equipment did not make a better movie.


MMM Day 4: #337 -- Monster from a Prehistoric Planet (1967)

Director: Haruyasu Noguchi
Rating: 3 / 5

First off, this title is a little bit misleading. Don't be fooled the way I was. I thought there was going to be some time and/or space travel going on here, and that we'd be dealing with some dinosaurs or something. But that's not the case. The "prehistoric planet" is an island...On Earth, in Japan. The original Japanese title translates to "The Giant Beast, Gappa," or something along those lines, and that makes a lot more sense. I guess they figured "Monster from a Prehistoric Planet" sounded cooler. Well, it definitely roped me in. That's not to say that it's a bad movie, but I was ready for some T-Rex action, and I didn't get it.

Synopsis: A group of explorers travel to said island to locate some exotic animals for their company's upcoming tourist attraction: an island/park called Playmate Land. They meet island natives who worship a god called Gappa that resides in a forbidden part of the island. Intrigued, the explorers venture into this forbidden area and discover an egg. The egg hatches, and out comes a baby lizard. They take the baby back home for research, and to get it ready for the park's opening. But that made Mama and Daddy Gappa very angry, and they went a'searching for their baby.

So, what exactly is a Gappa? To me, it looked like a giant pigeon with a tail. That could breathe fire. Since it was a bird-lizard, it had great homing abilities, and Mama and Daddy found their baby easily. Since this was a great discovery, the scientists/money-hungry-executives were all over it. So, when Mama and Daddy showed up and started tearing the city apart trying to find their baby, they refused to believe the solution was as simple as giving the thing back. Or rather, they just refused to give it back, because they'd lose money. They succeeded in scaring the two away for a while, and they retreated to the waters. Then, the idiots lured the things back up, thinking that they'd be able to kill them this time. When they were unable to obliterate the things, they finally decided to give the baby back.

At times, I found the movie hard to follow, because I felt like it jumped around a lot. Maybe it's just me. But I was still able to get the gist of things. Stupid people do stupid things, and Japan is destroyed -- as it often is. I liked the Gappa monster, though. It was definitely comical, and it reminded me of something I'd see on an old episode of The Power Rangers. I kept waiting for Megazord to swoop in and save the day. Despite the fact that there were no dinosaurs, or time travel like I expected, I still found it entertaining.