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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Mandy’ (2018)

‘Going Full Cage: The Movie’

With The Color Out of Space soon to be released, I figure I’d give Cage one last chance, and see if he has what it takes to pull off Cosmic Horror the likes of H. P. Lovecraft. I wrote an article a little while back, skeptical of Cage’s ability to do the genre any justice. You can read that article at the following link: Nicholas Cage: What Does He Contribute to Horror?

However, at the time I wrote the article, I’d yet to see Mandy. Lovers of the Lovecraftian genre hailed it as the best in a long time. And I’ll admit, I instantly noticed similarities to some of my favorites Lovecraft styled movies. Most notably was Lord of Illusions. The cult leader, Jeremiah is styled similar to the cult leader Nix, and his second in command is even named ‘Brother Swan’ which seemed like an intentional head nod. Director Panos Cosmatos must have also felt a little upstaged by Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem, as the two movies have a very similar feel. Until Rob’s throws with the brown acid, Panos firmly held the title of ‘horror weirdo’ with his movie Beyond the Black Rainbow.

Technically Mandy failed my 30 minute rule, in that nothing really happens in the first 30 minutes of the movie. Every scene was irritatingly drawn out to the point where one scene was even in slow motion, and another scene was devoted, no shit, to waiting impatiently. It’s like Panos knew he was being a dick by making the audience wait, akin to the Family Guy gag where Peter Griffin skins his knee. And that was the first 45 minutes of the fucking movie. Needlessly drawn out setup, that seemed to intentionally punish the viewers, and go abso-fucking-lutely nowhere. It’s like Stanley Kubrick who always had two distinct movements in all of his movies… except annoying and not at all clever.

Going Full Cage

What’s worse, this movie started out pretty riffable, and for the most part, actually enjoyable because of how hammy it tended to get. It’s caused my wife to coin a new trope she calls ‘ForeCaging.’ It’s like foreshadowing, except rather than hinting at plot to come, it hints at riff worthy material to come. I was promised that I’d get Nicolas Cage, completely untethered and further out of his mind than I’d ever seen him. But what I got was actually pretty good acting for horror. That’s not what I expect from Cage, I expect him to deliver the ham of godly proportions. For a short scene, there was ton of ‘ForeCaging’ setting up all sorts of quintessential Cage moments that he frankly failed to deliver on. I’m waiting for something well beyond ‘Not The Bees’ and what I got was standard hammy horror acting.

Some of the acting was actually even good. Richard Brake and Bill Duke made spot appearances that really amped things up a notch. The cultists and Mandy herself were even pretty solid actors, including names like Ned Dennehy.

And frankly a lot of the stuff in this film was too campy to even merit decent actors. There are these four bikers, who are actually more like mudders, or what I jokingly referred to as The Four Mudpuddlers of the Apocalypse. They were clearly intended to be serious antagonists, even perhaps demonic, but came off more like ‘The Plague’ from Hobo With a Shotgun. It’s cool, and pretty metal, but its also rather silly. As a mater of fact, a lot of this movie came off as a sort of half-cocked, death-metal video. Some of it was even seemed to be a head nod to the animated classic, Heavy Metal. It was the sort of thing I expect out of an episode of Metalocalypse. Brutal, but impossible to take seriously.

Were it not for the scenes that were just impossible to take seriously, this movie would have been visually stunning. The lighting, filters, and practical FX were all very compelling. It made for a deeply gritty and murky atmosphere that forces you to turn off the lights, just to see the movie. Normally I’d applaud this, but then I go back to The Four Mudpuddlers of the Apocalypse, and it just ruins it.

All of that being said, this should have made the movie so campy, it should be riffing gold. But it’s like they tried to make a movie that was both intentionally good and intentionally bad at the same time. A sort of “Let’s make a movie out of some young metalhead’s wet dream, but try to make it serious.” Those two things just don’t mesh.

I don’t think I can recommend this movie to anyone. Me and my wife did enjoy riffing it, and she really didn’t pull any punches, but too often it left us bored and it underwhelmed at the end. I can’t even recommend it to Riffers.

SPOILERS!!!

I think the problem with this movie is, at its core, it’s really just lame revenge porn. Mandy and Cage’s Character, Red, are taken by a cult. The cult leader, Jeremiah, fails to seduce Mandy, burns her alive, and leave Red to bleed out. Red survives and goes on a murderous rampage intent on killing, not just the cult leader, but the ‘biker’ gang that helps the cult. Yeah, Panos tried to have the same kind of feel as Beyond the Black Rainbow, and yeah, there is clearly something otherworldly going on in the background, but all of that is lost in the dull overarching plot.

And for revenge porn that’s supposed to be revolutionary, it brings nothing new to the table. The kills are even in the wrong order. Cage’s character fights The Four Mudpuddlers of the Apocalypse in the first go, leaving half of the lame cultists to fight next. Yeah, there’s a chainsaw fight, which is both a head-nod to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and Phantasm 2, but its nothing new or even special. I mean, if they were going to go with a lame ripoff of ‘The Plague,’ they might as well have hired actor Robert Maillet, strapped a logging chainsaw to each of his arms and stepped the chainsaw fight up a notch. Make a real effort to go full death-metal.

Instead, what should be the biggest fight is at the beginning, followed by a slow culling of the cultists, interrupted by the usual chainsaw fight, and ending with a monologuing Jeremiah, who even offers to suck Red’s dick in an effort to save his own life. There’s no demonic presence that tries to repel Red, there no Nix like manifestation. Whatever the supernatural element is supposed to be, it just disappears completely. At least it wasn’t ‘the flying eye poke’ from Lord of Illusions, but it’s still pretty lame.

There is nothing in this movie to give me hope that Cage won’t fuck up The Color Out Of Space. If anything, it proves that when Cage is given permission to go ‘Full Cage,’ he can’t even do that right.

Give this a pass.

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Dagon’ (2001)

‘Evil Dead 2s’ fucked up flipper-baby cousin.

The movie was awful and campy and tropey as fuck! AND IT WAS FUCKING AMAZING AND I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT!!!

Continue reading Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Dagon’ (2001)
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Nicholas Cage: What Does He Contribute to Horror?

Nicolas Cage is slated to play the male lead in a movie adaptation of “The Color out of Space” by H. P. Lovecraft. So, are we going to get a deep and thoughtful rendition of an incredibly complex story line? Or are we going to get the usual “Not the bees” hammed up acting that Nicholas Cage is well known for?

I hit the threads to ask fellow horror heads in Frightland what they thought and it broke down pretty simply.

It should be noted that the sample is about half what I consider acceptable (no less than 300 reporting) and my targeted sample group are horror fanatics who have specific biases.  However, those are the biases are what I’m after. First, the hard numbers.

When asked if they thought Nicholas Cage was an appropriate fit, those surveyed had this to say.

Stats: Sample size 144
Nicholas Cage is a fine actor and will do a great job 62 43%
Nicholas Cage’s over the top acting will fit the genre 41 28%
Nicholas Cage is not fit for this movie 20 14%
No Opinion 21 15%

Though just barely, I am immediately hit by the fact that individuals who didn’t care one way or the other, outnumber individuals who believe Cage is going to bomb.  Even if just by one. There are two primary camps for support. Those who believe Cage is actually a good actor and can handle it. Not sure how familiar these people are with his filmography but it’s their opinion.  The second camp believe that Cage’s usual over the top method acting is actually perfect for Lovecraftian setting. This may be a good point. Lovecraft delves deeply into madness and if anyone does a ‘frothing at the mouth raving lunatic’ right, it’s Cage.

For those who believe Cage is a decent actor, it is true his filmography is filled with smashing performances. Matchstick Man, Raising Arizona, and 8mm. Even films like The Rock, as campy as it was, Cage did a fine job. He’s clearly capable of amazing acting… but then we start to look at his track record in horror and it seems like his quality level takes a nosedive.  In several of my reviews, I’ve told him to please leave horror and never come back.

We don’t have to just use examples like “Not the bees” from The Wicker Man.  He hasn’t exactly had a great track-record with horror at all. The worst being Vampire’s Kiss which was so over the top, it has since become a series of memes that have launched his campy ridiculousness into legendary status.  Cage went so over the top in Vampire’s Kiss we got full blown ‘So Bad It’s Good’ with levels not seen since Troll 2.

In my review of Pay the Ghost, I was surprised to be hit by a lukewarm performance as opposed to the hammy over acting.

In my review of Mom and Dad, literally the only bad acting was Cage, and he was surrounded by a bunch of nobodies.

But with 8mm under his belt, Cage clearly shows he’s capable of the edgy subtlety necessary for Lovecraftian stories.  And that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for one of Cages full blown over the top zany moments. We all remember Bruce Campbell’s  scene from Evil Dead 2 when confronted by laughing furniture, or when actor Sam Neill completely cracks at the end of, In the Mouth of Madness.  Most recently, fans of the good ol’ fashioned Cage freak out point to Mandy, where his over the top acting filled the role almost too perfectly. It was like a natural fit.

Current director Richard Stanley, maybe keenly aware of Cages ability to deliver both and if he has the capacity to wrangle in the great ego that is Cage, it could work out perfectly.  While there is something about horror that Cage never really seems to get a handle on, using 8mm again as an example, if The Color out of Space is presented more as an ‘investigative thriller,’ maybe he won’t ham it up until eventually given clearance from the director to, so to speak, ‘go full Cage.’

Looking at the director’s filmography, nothing stands out as a particular gem and the list is depressingly short over a very long time period.  I wonder if this director has the clout to reign in an ego like Cage and rangle up appropriate acting.

In the end, there is a slight glimmer of hope that Cage can pull off Lovecraft.  It’s likely just a matter of presenting it to the actor in the correct way. If it can be done, The Color out of Space may deliver the final adaptation for the story to be taken seriously in cinema.  However, I’m not holding my breath. We literally only have 8mm to point to as the right style for Cage, that and a director I strongly doubt has the level of clout needed to direct Cage.

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Residue’ (2017)

Time is an illusion, your life is meaningless and nothing is real.

Kicking off out last Lovecraftian horror before the release of my new novella “In the Shadow of the Mountain,” already available for pre-order, we’ll look at an absolute fantastic b-rated Lovecraftian style movie, that is creepy, cerebral, and silly. Order it here!

Continue reading Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Residue’ (2017)
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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Black Mountain Side’ (2014)

Kicking off the release of “In the Shadow of the Mountains” by Reed Alexander, one of the many movies that inspired it.  Interestingly enough this movie was inspired by another fantastic work of horror fictions call “At the Mountains of Madness” by H.P. Lovecraft.

Can a movie be too intellectual to be scary?

This was a damn good movie.  It’s definitely not for everyone.  I’m not sure what kind of crowd this would appeal to but it hit all my buttons.  It was just such an intelligent movie.  The characters, step by step, logically addressed the illogical.  It’s based on Lovecraft’s “The Mountains of Madness.” It doesn’t follow the actual story of H. P. Lovecraft, but rather supposes what happened before “The Mountains of Madness” kicks off.

But can I recommend this to Lovecraft fans?  It has some of the feel of Lovecraft, but really is a lot more like John Carpenter’s The Thing in stylization.  One could argue that John Carpenter had a Lovecraftian style, but Lovecraft was more subtle, J. C. was pretty in your face.  But it doesn’t have the same brutality as J. C., so can I recommend it to fans of The Thing?

I could almost recommend this movie to fans of anthropology.  Of course the anthropological discoveries are all fake, but they go over them in such amazing detail.  The archaeology builds the mythos so deeply you can almost believe it.  It does get a little strenuous sometimes but it really pulls you into the setting.  It gives it such amazing life.

The acting is fantastic and brilliantly thought out.  When the writer and the actors connect like this, it make for the best movies.  Every reaction is in step with what makes the most sense.  The story just flows out of the actors naturally.  A little too naturally at times.  Dialog turns into needless banter occasionally, but for the most part is really solid.  And the atmosphere.  Man, isolationism is really the strongest setting for any horror.  I mean, it’s easy, but also easy to fuck up.  The wrong lighting, the wrong filters, and a set that’s supposed to feel a million miles from civilization instead feels next door to a major metropolitan area.  But this movie was so dark.  I’ve been talking about this in some of my recent reviews.  It’s dark to the point you have to turn the lights out just to see the screen.  The darkness feels alive.

So, who do I recommend this movie too?  I think it’s a must see for Horror Heads.  It’s certainly required viewing for fans of Lovecraft and J.C.  But I think the people who would be the best target audience are those ancient aliens nuts.

SPOILERS!!!

This movie promised me parasitic cephalopods!  I WANT MY FUCKING CEPHALOPODS!  What do I get instead?  A couple undulating tumors.  Now, don’t get me wrong, creepy rolling tumors are cool, but only because something is supposed to pop out of them.  The characters talk about this mutagenic infection that’s causing tumors which turn into cephalopods, but you never get to see one.  How fucking cool would that have been?  A corpse bursting into dozens of squirming octopus like critters.  That’s the kind of shit horror fans live for.  Maybe they didn’t have the budget?  It was just a disappointment.

They did have fun with the crew’s slow descent into madness.  That’s what this movie was really all about.  Though I’m not sure if slow is the right word.  It’s not fast but the curve is pretty steep.  First a dead cat, then the work crew disappear, then a guy vomits black ichor.  The next thing you know, they’re hacking off a guys arm because something is moving around under the skin, and another character is talking to some strange looking anthropomorphic dear creature from the darkness.  It starts off as a slowly building simmer that last for such a long time, but then suddenly and violently, shit hits the fan.

I don’t understand the motivations of the dear creature.  You get the feeling that it’s trying to propagate the spread of it’s cephalopod tumors, but then it’s constantly having the crew do thing counteractive to the success of the spread.  It infects a guy then has another guy kill him.  Then it doesn’t try to infect anyone else, it just starts convincing them to kill each other.  So, it doesn’t want worshipers, it doesn’t want to successfully spread the parasites.  What the fuck does it want?  It tells the crew that it’s not bound to the dig site, but it doesn’t seem interested in leaving to spread it’s infection.  So what the fuck is it doing?  Pretty much just admiring the stars and brutally murdering any dumb bastard that wanders by.

The ending is actually kinda disappointing, but it did do one thing right.  Say it with me now, in your best Morbo impersonation! “THERE WERE NO SURVIVORS!!!” I mean, if this is supposed to be the incident before “The Mountains of Madness,” then no one can survive.  Two guys effectively die from the infection, most of the rest wind up killing each other, but the last guy is what bothered me.  The last guy dies by getting stuck in a bear trap.  Really?  Is that all?  We’re just going to have it end with some guy dying of bad luck?  That’s just fucking lame.

But yes, I do recommend this movie.  It’s not just good, it’s fascinating.

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