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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Polaroid’ (2019)

The bad guy is never innocent…

It’s weird that I ended up watching this movie right after the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street (Elm Str). They have a lot of odd similarities. I think the person who wrote this movie, might have been trying to come up with a new adaption on the Elm Str. concept, and just phoned it in. I mean, a child murderer, with supernatural powers, uses them within a very strict mythos, to murder the children of the people who killed him.

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street” (2010)

Unpopular opinion time… this was good…

There was nothing really wrong with this remake. Actually, it was pretty damn good. Sure, there was tons of unnecessary CGI, yeah it wasn’t Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger, YES the original A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984 (Elm Street) was better, but this was good, damn good.

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Bubba Ho-Tep’ (2002)

The best-worst movie you never heard of

If it wasn’t for the internet, this would’ve become just another cult classic… I guess that sorta means it still is a cult classic, but this movie could have faded into obscurity if it was released only a couple years earlier in the late 90s. Meaning, they kinda lucked out riding the crest of the internet age. Right at the start of it all, a time when you could still go viral but right before going viral had lost all meaning.

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘The Crazies’ (2010)

Not as much fun as the original

This just wasn’t as much fun as the original. Now, I’m not saying the original was good, I actually thought it was kind of boring considering the concept they had to work with. The difference between the original and the remake can be spelled out by tone and pacing. So far as tone goes, the original mixed a level of absurdity with the violence. Yeah, there were rampaging lunatics, but some of them were fun rampaging lunatics. It gave you the idea that the virus might cause you to be violent but in random and even wacky ways. We’re not talking comedy levels here, just enough to note the difference.

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Suspiria’ (1977)

I’m required by Horror Critic Law to like this movie…

It’s like a right of god damn passage for a horror critic to review this movie, and since the remake, I knew at some point I’d have to bite the bullet and get it over with. I’d seen it a long damn time ago and remembered it fondly. Though, I never did understand how Suspiria became a critics choice for seriously every fucking critic in the horror industry. Don’t get me wrong, its good. Damn good. And for 1977, WAY the fuck ahead of it’s time.

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

My. Fucking. God…

Where do I even begin? What an absolutely stunning movie! Everything from the dance choreography to the setting, to the story. There was only a solitary moment that was out of place and I’m really pulling hairs to be critical of even that!

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Gasoline – A Texas Chainsaw Massacre Fan Film’ (2019)

Fan boners on display (somewhat literally)…

Yeah, this was a pretty fun fan film. The biggest things I like about this one is that it goes off the tangent universe of the second Texas Chainsaw Massacre (TCM), but it still tries to keep the feel of the first. The difference between TCM and TCM2 is that TCM tried, in all of its efforts, to be a serious horror movie, while the second was more of the typical 80s-90s ‘So bad it’s good’ slapstick. However, TMC2, while hardly serious horror, added a layer of almost alien weirdness to the Sawyer family. In the first movie, they were nothing more than backwards, inbred knuckle-draggers. In the second one, there was almost this paradoxical ethos, a ritual of a sorts. The first movie was just a simple attempt to exploit cultured society’s fear of hillbilly yokels, while the second tried to expand on the concept and just went balls out weird.

This fan film marries those two concepts. That is, expanding on the tangent universe of TCM2 as it doesn’t have to be weird if it’s properly tied back to the first. You could almost see this fan film being a bridge between the first and the second. A sort of stepping stone to explain how a straight forward slasher became a story about a strange family’s murderous rituals. The second is only balls out weird, because there’s no progression to explain how that Sawyer family got from TCM to TCM2.

I also really appreciate the adaptation of Bill Moseley’s famous character “DOG WILL HUNT!” Chop-Top Sawyer. I also have to say their choice for Bubba ‘Leatherface’ Sawyer was also a pretty good pick. While he doesn’t have the iconic Leatherface pig grunt quite right, I not sure anyone could as I believe the original was synthesized. It’s just a hard nut to crack.

But the feel was dead on and for a fan film, that’s all that matters. This isn’t about bringing something new to the table, this is about taking TCM canon and giving it your all, with what little you have. And for what little this indie producer had, they did a great job.

Please give that video above a little click. Any fans of the TCM franchise will appreciate this and hardcore Horror Heads should give these people the respect they deserve.

SPOILERS!!!

Are there really spoilers in a TCM short that’s only 35 minutes long? Travelers stop to buy gas. Admiral Akbar “Its a Trap” meme. Cue Leatherface. There’s only two victims, and only one or neither can survive.

And, of course, since we’re following TCM canon, we know it’s likely going to be the lead actress who survives to the end. And of course it’s because Leatherface has a thing for her and tries to maker it a play date.

I fucking love the head nod to the torture scene from Reservoir Dogs. Brilliant use of another movie’s graphic violence on top a franchise known for it’s graphic violence. They just went hand in hand beautifully.

And of course there’s got to be the famous defacing scene followed by ‘Pretty Leatherface’ and dinner with the Sawyers. But I gotta give them this. Their sense of setting, atmosphere, and practical FX are fucking spot on here. Indies tend to really ignore the power of simple camera filters and lighting. And being able to dress up a set on a budget but make it feel like the decrepit Sawyer House is not an easy feat and, surprisingly, really easy to fuck up. Their attention to detail deserves credit. While this is very clearly not the Sawyer House, you could easily believe Leatherface and Chop-Top are chilling in a flop pad they took over together as brothers.

One thing they should’ve used more of was the body cam. The body cam added a nice effect to the inevitable chase scene, but for some reason, they only used it once, and only for a couple seconds, then scrapped it for the rest of the filming. It could have been equipment malfunction or something, but still, I wish they had more of it.

Not going to spoil the twist at the ending, but you’ll likely get a tickle out of it. I know I did.

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Cloverfield’ (2008)

How Kaiju was brought back to horror

As a horror head, one of the most interesting things I ever heard about horror was from my father. When he was a kid, the idea of Godzilla scared the shit out of him. Today, we crave something more out of modern horror. The idea of being scared by Kaiju sounds kinda cute, really. Even with the advent of Shin Godzilla, going back to the roots of the evil king lizard, it’s not what anyone would really consider scary.

But if you stop to think about it, the idea should be pretty damn terrifying! This gargantuan thing just rises up out of the water and brings wholesale slaughter to everyone in sight. Not necessarily even from trying, just by moving. Ever step it takes shakes the ground; if its tail so much as brushes a building, the shear weight brings the whole building crashing down. Hell, just the ‘rising up from the water’ part would cause such a sudden tsunami which would wipe out hundreds of people before they could even react—maybe even thousands. There’s no defense against it; all you can really do is run from it, (and hope it doesn’t decide to just start moving in that direction), you can’t even prepare for it. You can’t exactly ‘Godzilla Proof’ a building. So why isn’t Godzilla scary?

The problem is presentation. The audience is on the outside looking in and even on the big screen, Godzilla ain’t that big. Horror heads, especially Godzilla fans, are kinda blood thirsty. We’re just there for the cool looking monsters and the inevitable monster wrestling match. We have no connection to the destruction on the ground level, even when they try to show it.

Enter J. J. Abrams. And as much as I don’t have a ton of respect for him as a director, he saw what was missing from the Kaiju genre and fixed it. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate ‘Shaky Camera.’ There’s almost never an excuse for Hollywood to use it, and even if they do use it, if it’s gratuitous, it fucks the whole movie up and makes it nigh unwatchable. I wrote a review of The Taking of Deborah Logan (TTODL) to illustrate how and why it is completely unacceptable as cinematography. You can see that review below: The Taking of Debora Logan

It’s an earlier review so it’s kinda fast and loose, but rightfully angry. They RUINED what should have otherwise been an amazing horror movie with gratuitous ‘Shaky Camera.’

So what did J. J. get right that TTODL fucked up so bad? First of all, ‘Shaky Camera’ put the audience back where they needed to be in order to recapture the sense of helplessness and total chaos from a Kaiju film; right on the fucking ground. Second, the found footage genre was used in a way that made the fantastic seem more real and relatable. Being on the ground level in almost a mocumentary sense, it felt similar to following the camera guy in an actual war zone on the news. It was the perfect way for the audience to connect with something they’ve actually witnessed in real life. Finally, but most importantly, the character Hud, who was doing the filming, HELD THE FUCKING CAMERA STEADY!!! JESUS-FUCKING-TAP-DANCING-CHRIST!!! Hud manages to get amateur footage that was almost professional quality. They literally wrote into the movie that Hud got a nice camera, with a fucking harness from his buddy’s brother.

In TTODL, the fucking so called PROFESSIONAL camera guy spends more time videotaping his own two fucking feet than he does videotaping the shit happening to Deborah! Hud, a fucking amateur, gets a partial shot of the goddamn monster in the first 20 fucking minutes of the movie! Not even 45 minutes into the movie and Hud’s captured better footage than a news crew. I don’t give a flying fuck if that seems unrealistic, I came to watch a fucking movie, not an hour of some jackass filming himself tripping over his own feet over and fucking over again! Jesus, Hud even manages to get good footage when he does trip over his own two damn feet!

This movie became an instant classic for its cinematography and its re-connection with the Kaiju genre. It’s basically required watching for Horror Heads, unlike the two prequels, of which only 10 Cloverfield Lane is even worth watching. But I can even recommend this to general adult audiences. It’s just that good.

SPOILERS!!!

Only one thing to really bitch about that might constitute a spoiler. Besides the character Rob, dragging his friends to certain death over a girl who basically tossed his ass. At the very end, when Hud, Rob and Ms. Forgettable-Damsel-in-Distress-Trope are all being evacuated by chopper… why the fuck was the rescue chopper following the monster? It was literally flying along side it. I mean, cool footage and all that jazz, but… did J. J. not know how ‘evac’ works? Because it literally means flying away from the danger. Not buzzing it for a cool photo-op. What ‘the cinnamon toast fuck’ is that shit?

I’d like to go full Morbo right now, but technically the character Lily survives.

In any case, it really is an awesome movie. I was so impressed by it, I actually wrote a story that was my idea for a prequel. Frankly, I think mine was better and made more fucking sense. So watch this, and enjoy! Maybe one of these days you’ll figure out which one of my books was supposed to be a prequel.

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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 ‘Toad Road’ (2012)

You can’t trust your memories…

Toad Road invokes an urban legend about a place where the seven gates of hell can be visited right here on earth, a place right in your own home town. It’s the sort of stories you hear about the trail that use to be a utility road for an insane asylum, or a sewer tunnel with labyrinthine ducts like the one in New Jersey. We had one in my home town in CT, the Norwich asylum. It’s the sort of place you hear about when you’re in high school; not coincidentally the place you likely went to do drugs. Or maybe that was just me and my friends. It starts with the sense you’re being watched, then touched, then assaulted metaphysically, and so on. And here we find ourselves, of all the idiotic ideas, engaging in drug culture for a cheep thrill and a little sense of adventure. If you identify with that, you will love this movie. Even if you’re just a ghost hunter who digs urban legends, you will love this movie.

I think the most important part of this story is the bridge between the pursuit of a higher state of consciousness and just being a wastoid druggy. What is getting fucked up? What are we after when we chase that high? So many lost down the rabbit hole in the pursuit of that perfect beautiful moment. So many after that high who only find the lowest low achievable.

The main character is clearly a wastoid who’s just trying to drag his girlfriend into the abyss, using the excuse of pursuing a higher state of consciousness. God alone know why anyone would want to do that while trying to find a gateway to hell. Seriously though, I can relate and that connected me to the movie’s plot.

And for a shoe-string independent movie with zero budget, the acting was actually okay. Not good, but okay. Good enough for horror at least and that’s acceptable.

Now, the movie was basically shot on a standard digital camera, so it almost feels like shaky camera, but that only helps the feel of the movie. I mean, if we’re going for ‘Urban Legend’ the feeling of almost a ‘found footage hybrid’ really fits.

I’m not sure who this movie would appeal to outside of ghost hunters, drug users, and urban legend enthusiasts, but I highly recommend giving it a chance.

SPOILER!!!

At some point these two lovers -the druggy and his girlfriend- walk down that haunted road. But the druggy doesn’t actually believe there is something on the other end of that rabbit hole. He’s just out to get high, to fill this void in his life. His girlfriend is just beginning her journey. So, there they find themselves on Toad Road. On a head full of acid. Not the brightest idea. However, from the audience’s perspective, the female lead actually begins a journey to see that moment of higher consciousness, and on the other end does find a final gate. To where? Lord knows. We’re seeing things from the perspective of two people on acid. The druggy, after all, has never found a bottom to that rabbit hole, and only sees tragic years wasted.

Suddenly, the girl is just gone. The druggy wakes up and his girlfriend has vanished. This is where the plot really kicks in. Did she find the other side? Was there actually a portal to another dimension? Or did she just get lost in the forest, high on acid? That’s a reasonable explanation, after all. The druggy doesn’t come off as the most responsible person who would actually know how to take care of someone doing acid for the first time. Believe me, you do need to babysit them closely sometimes. There’s also the possibility that the druggy killed her or got her killed. That’s pretty much what the town thinks. That only strengthens the urban legend of Toad Road. The idea that some drugged out lunatic murdered his drugged up girlfriend trying to open a portal to hell.

But for him there is nothing. He can’t remember what happened and none of it seems real. For all he knows, he did murder his girlfriend, or at the very least got her killed. And you as the audience don’t get to know. All three things are perfectly possible in a horror movie. The only thing he finds is rock bottom. In the end, for him, is a dark decay, his own personal trip through the seven gates of his own private hell.

God it was soul crushing, and amazing. Watch this!

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