Monday, February 11, 2013


"No reason"

Those 2 words spoken several times during the opening monologue are the defining reason why this movie is so marvelously different.

Let me give you the synopsis: a rubber tire, apparently named Robert, comes mysteriously to life in the desert and starts killing using its telepathic powers.

Yes, you read that right.

That bird's in trouble.

As well as that, there are quite a few other things in the movie that defy explanation; that happen for no reason.

Therein lies the beauty of this film.

As in the beginning of the excellent game Alan Wake, Alan quotes Stephen King thus, "Stephen King once wrote that nightmares exist outside of logic, and there's little fun to be had in explanations. They're antithetical to the poetry of fear. In a horror story, the victim keeps asking why. But there can be no explanation, and there shouldn't be one. The unanswered mystery is what stays with us the longest., and it's what we'll remember in the end."

Gee, I wonder who started that fire.

When you first see this film, don't expect... well, don't expect anything. Instead, listen to the opening monologue. Listen well and it will be the path to viewing this movie from the proper perspective and frame of mind.

Is Rubber really a horror film in the true sense of the word? It could be. But I think that would be unfairly pigeonholing it. It certainly does have elements of horror. Horror, comedy, avant-garde, sci-fi, suspense, all these styles and elements are in there as well. But when I look at the movie as a whole, I see it as a wonderfully refreshing and experimental film, gleefully kicking Hollywood in the nuts.

The big chase scene!

The effects are not of the multimillion-dollar style. Nor are they the cheesy sy-fy channel style. They are what they need to be. And they work just fine.

The acting was surprisingly good. I think it's hard to come across with a believable projection in such an off the wall film, but the actors did an exemplary job. I can't recall one stiff or unenthusiastic or unbelievable performance. Quite a feat in a movie such as Rubber.

Why yes, that is Robert going into a motel room with a girl.

It's hard to explain much about this movie. Not due to spoilers, but more in trying to give a coherent and clear explanation to something that is neither coherent or clear. And is not meant to be. All i know is that i enjoyed it immensely. And in the end, that's what counts. Don't you agree?

If you are the type of person that needs answers, explanations, cleanly wrapped up ending, and no loose ends, please move on. Trust me.

Robert relaxing.

If you are the type of person who can appreciate a movie for its originality and not question it too closely, then by all means, see this film!

Why did the the tire come to life? How did it end up with telepathic powers? Why does it kill? Why are there people with binoculars watching the story unfold? I have no idea. Maybe there's no reason.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Vascular Symphony: Japanese Riot

Who the hell is Rodak?

Face it, that’s what most record execs would say. Worse still, that’s what they figure the general public would say, squashing the hope that a song like Vascular Symphony’s “Rodak” would ever see the light of  day. Never mind that the song’s intro alone can hook anyone in for the whole space ride. I guess the song itself doesn’t count, right? Maybe some backup dancers would help? Maybe. If the backup dancers looked like gorillas wearing blonde wigs.

I don’t think that Vascular Symphony, comprised of  Philip T. Lacinak and Theodore Sharpless,  really give a crap what record execs or the general public think. If they did, their new release, Japanese Riot, would sound like 99% of the crap in the top 40 today. Rest assured, it doesn’t. So thank the deity of your choice that home recording and independent releases have become the way to go for bands that don’t compromise!

If you’re not familiar with Rodak or Dr. Gori, who cares (however, a search on “Commander of Conquest Earth” may yield an interesting pre-Vascular Symphony precursor)? Look it up later if it means that much to you. What you should be focusing on here is VS’s in your face sound and Japanese sci-fi geek-friendly lyrics!

Japanese Riot starts off with a seemingly simple rhythm line that quickly adds a sinister voice and transforms into a tractor beam that pulls you all the way into the mosh pit-flavored center of “Rodak”.

Philip T. Lacinak: lead vocals, percussion

As soon as the next track, “Space Elevator” hits, you’re going to notice that this is a very bass-heavy offering so  far. And you’ll be right. Theodore is one of those few proud bass players that let the bass guitar be the center instrument in the band, rather than blend into the background. We need more of these guys.  In fact, those of you who pay attention may be surprised at just how much the bass fills up the majority of the quite full-sounding VS sound. You may question if Vascular Symphony really is only 2 guys. Yes, it is! The trick is that it’s 2 very talented guys.

That talent is evident by the contrast between the tracks “Dr. Gori” and “Mastermind” and their equality on different levels. “Dr. Gori” sounds like a simple enough song, until you can’t stop singing “Hey Dr. Gori what’s your story? Hey Dr. Gori don’t you worry!” for the rest of the day. “Mastermind”, on the other hand, had me listening to see if I could determine how many unique sounds there were in the song and which ones were were live and which ones were programmed. I gave up and just listened because it’s a cool fucking song; which is all that really counts anyway, right?

The standout song for me, however, is “Insults of Rodak”.  A song where you’d swear Phil is inviting you to sing along, and that’ll have you playing air guitar… to a BASS! Never thought you’d do that, did you?!

Theodore Sharpless: programming, bass guitar, backing vocals

So, are the record execs right in deciding for you that you should be listening to their fresh-of-the-assembly-line bands, or are you going to support the true artists of the future?

Go Space Giants!!!

Check them out at: Vascular Symphony

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Orphan Killer

Lets get this out of the way right now. The Orphan killer does not kill orphans. He is an orphan. See? Much  in the same way David Berkowitz was called the .44 Caliber Killer. He didn't actually kill .44 caliber guns, right? Ok, moving on...

There are obvious similarities between The Orphan Killer and Halloween. Both Marcus Miller and Michael Myers wear masks, kill people and are trying to kill their sister. Michael Myers' reason has been so convoluted to me now that i have no idea if he even knows why he wants to kill her any more. Whereas Marcus Miller's motivation is clear and simple: he believes his sister abandoned him at the orphanage where they ended up after their parents were killed, and forgot about him. Well, at least i know their mother was killed. You don't see what happens to the father and are left to assume he was killed.

The abuse he receives at the hands of the nuns that run the orphanage take their toll on Marcus. His mind deteriorates and twists the ideals of religion to fit his plan for revenge on, and salvation of, his sister, Audrey Miller.

Blame the nuns for the mask!

Years later, Marcus returns to the orphanage where it all started, and where Audrey now works, and brutally kills his way through everyone to reach her and bring on one of the best torture scenes i've seen on film.

It may have been in different ways, but they both asked for it!

The conclusion was somewhat predictable, and i say this in a good way. I was already hoping for a sequel by that point in the film, and the ending gives me hope to see one.

Yes, The Orphan Killer is an indie film. But not since Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi have i seen the line between and indie and studio film appear to be so thin. In fact, i can definitely say that TOK is superior to quite a few studio horror movies out there. To begin with, there are the actors. Diane Foster, who plays Marcus' sister Audrey, does an impeccable job. While some actresses overplay the victim role to the point where you want them to die, Diane reigns in her ability and releases it with maximum effect at the right moments. She does it right and i never once questioned her character. Ok, maybe at the beginning where i think her wardrobe for a Catholic school play was less than conservative. David Backhaus, playing Marcus Miller, did a fine job creating TOK's personality through his range of physical motions and minimal dialog. The other minor roles were well handled by the actors with Director Matt Farnsworth doing a commendable job by molding everything together into a nice neat package. Matt also played the role of Officer Mike Hunt. Mike Hunt. Get it? Say it out loud if you don't.

I'm a lumberjack and I'm ok!

I was happy to see that the effects in the movie were "real" and not cgi. Honestly, i'm sick of cgi! How hard is it to mix some stuff together to make a red liquid and spray it around a bit? All the gore was well-executed, pun intended, and felt satisfying, due in no small part to the use of physical props. It's obvious that the budget in the special effects department was not skimped on and that they had some talented artists on this production.
While i love the music featured in the movie, i don't think it fit all that well with some scenes. I would have appreciated a more moody or eerie song in some situations and the death metal that was provided sort of went against the visual mood. Even jarringly so a few times. Don't get me wrong, i love all kinds of metal, so i know there is a wide gamut of metal songs out there that may have been used more effectively, in my opinion.

Instead of nitpicking and exposing minor flaws and shortcomings, i'd rather focus on the positives about the film. TOK was positively FUN! So much so that within the first 15 minutes of the film, i totally lost that "uh-oh, what kind of cheesy indie film am i stuck watching now" feeling. In fact, i had soon gotten so into it that Marcus was instilling in me that feeling to cheer when the bad guy came on screen. Furthermore, i couldn't stop thinking that i needed to have that mask! After i mentioned this to my wife halfway through the movie, she patiently informed me that i have the mask. I had ordered the blu-ray/mask bundle and my immersion in the film had made me forget that little fact. Who knows what kind of magic there is in some movies that just pulls you in and makes you want to see it again as soon as the credits stop rolling. Whatever it is, The Orphan Killer has it!

You know this isn't going to end well, right?

As i mentioned, i bought the blu-ray/mask bundle which also comes with the soundtrack. I haven't seen the standard dvd version of the film, so i can't compare the quality. But i can say that the blu-ray, for the most part, looks and sounds very good. It sounded like the dialog was too loud during the first scene, but it balanced out soon enough. Other than that, the 5.1 audio mix was appropriately effective and clear. 

TOK has a nice dark surreal look, however the HD transfer sometimes accentuates the limitations of the camera and gives a few scenes more graininess than what i think was intended. Most of the brighter scenes show good clarity and contrast. Overall, i'm glad i bought the blu-ray and i'm quite satisfied with it.

I was a teenage Marcus Miller

Bottom line is i enjoyed this movie immensely and have no reservations recommending it to anyone. As a matter of fact, i encourage everyone to watch this movie and see what indie horror movies are really capable of. The orphan Killers is available in several bundles including signed copies, shirts, masks, etc. I don't know how anyone could not get the signed blu-ray or dvd/mask/soundtrack bundle. But hey, as long as you get the movie, that's what counts. 

Bullshit! Don't be so cheap! At least get the dvd/t-shirt package and support these guys so we'll see The Orphan Killer 2, dammit!

Be sure to visit The Orphan Killer on their website: The Orphan Killer

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I Spit On Your Grave (2010)

Cringe-inducing torture porn? Yep.
Was it good? It was ok.
Could it have been better? Again, yep.

First of all, the protagonist, Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler), says she's a novelist looking for a quiet place to work on her new book. She's 25. I thought she appeared more to be a college student studying for an exam. I wasn't terribly impressed with her acting skills, either. I think director Renny Harlin is partially to blame for this as well. The torure/rape scenes are presented fairly well. However, Jennifer's tranistion into madness isn't very clearly defined. On the plus side, they found a nice way to dispose of her cell phone.

After she goes through her transformation from mild-mannered novelist to killing machine, her performance is enough to convince me that she's pissed off and crazy. Just not really pissed off and crazy. And it's a shame because the 4 main antagonists do a great job of displaying individual and believable personalities. What her performance lacks is made up by the creative ways in which she dispatches her adversaries that would give any Saw movie a run for it's money. I would not want to be sheriff Storch!

I rented this from Amazon Instant Video in HD. It didn't really look or sound very HD to me. I should have gotten the SD version.

It was an ok way to spend about 1 hour and 45 minutes. As long as you don't question too many things. But if you DO want to question things, how bout this?

{spoler alert}

How does someone die just from having their eyes pecked out by crows?
Crows eat fish guts?
Why would a crow eat only the eyes and leave the rest of a perfectly good dead face behind?
Where did Jennifer get that car the 2nd time she goes to the gas station?
Is there really only one cop in the whole town?
Where did she get those clothes after they burned everything she had?
How did those clothes fit her so perfectly?
How did she stay so clean after living in the woods for a month?
Why didn't that guy just roll off the planks over the bathtub?
Why does her hair look freshly washed and blow-dried in the final scene?
 Why wasn't Camille Keaton given a cameo?!

Final thought: worth renting, not buying.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Living Deads

You have to respect a band that takes the do-it-yourself style to a whole new level, as well as having the kind of passion for music that they do. How many bands that you know of would just drive off across America in an RV and book shows as they go? How many bands that you know of wouldn't miss a beat (pun intended) when their singer/guitarist quits on them at 3am? How many bands that you know of would resort to kidnapping guitarists in order to carry on touring? I know of one, and they're called The Living Deads!

     The Living Deads are a rhythm section hailing out of Denver, Colorado who I had the pleasure of seeing and hanging out with when they played at The Record Collector in Bordentown, NJ on May 25, 2012. The Record Collector is an actual record store that hosts regular performances by a diverse range of bands and musicians. The place is not a huge hall, but you wouldn't have known it from the energy drummer/vocals Randee, bassist/vocals Symphony, and new guitarist/singer Nasty Nate Harris put into it. I was afraid it was going to be a low-key event. That fear was totally obliterated as soon as they launched into their first song, Ronnie Dawson's Rockin Bones. In sharp contrast to The Cramps' slowed down version, this one went off like rocket fuel. The pace occasionally slowed down, but their energy and enthusiasm never did as they went through a list of songs including several originals and classics from artists such as Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Three Blue Teardrops, and The Ramones.

     The incredible thing I couldn't help but notice was how tight and polished their sound was. Not a huge feat in a touring band, but quite an achievement when you've only been playing with your guitarist/lead singer for about a month and a half.
     After having their original guitarist suddenly quit on them, Randee and Symphony went on a "kidnapping" spree where they would actually recruit  local and established guitar players to help them continue the tour, such as Danny B. Harvey, Chuck Hughes, and James Hunnicutt. They would commonly enter the venue with whoever the "victim" was at the time, haul him up onstage, and make him play the set.

     The guitarists were all temporary but gracious enough to help Randee and Symphony out. True musical heroes, in my humble opinion. The idea was a pretty cool one, but booking gigs on the fly must be nerve-wracking enough. On top of that, not knowing who your guitar player will be for the next show, or even if you'll have a guitar player, must be enough to push anyone over the edge. Enter one Nasty Nate Harris. As fate would have it, he was looking for a new band and The living Deads were looking for, well... a guitarist. What they found was a gem. One plane ticket later, and Nate was the new member of The Living Deads.

     His impressive guitar playing and vocals left nothing to be desired. He put his heart into all the music, and you could tell. There was no holding back with Nate. I even think he would have done fine without a microphone during some of the songs. He gave it his all and gave us a spotless performance. When you see him locked in with Randee and Symphony, and you see how much the band is enjoying what they're doing together, you can't help but enjoy it that much more yourself. This is what true music is about.

     Like i said at the beginning, you have to respect a band that takes the do-it-yourself style to a whole new level, as well as having the passion for music that they do. Not only do they tour in their RV, they live in it. It is their home. Literally. They do their own bookings. They design, print and sell their own t-shirts. They have no road crew. All the driving is done by them. All the gear setup and breakdown is done by them, and maybe whatever help the venue can offer. It ain't easy and it's not a comfy lifestyle. You've really got to love music to continue on like this. And i have no doubt whatsoever that these three wonderful people love music. And also like i said before, this is what true music is all about!

     Rock `n Roll!

Please visit their web page for tour dates and information at: The Living Deads

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Underworld: Awakening

Much like Kate Beckinsale, the Underworld franchise is starting to show it's age.

     The not unexpected plot of Selene and the not-appearing-in-this-film Michael Corvin's (Scott Speedman) daughter being born is advanced when the unnatural couple are cryogenically captured after fleeing government forces bent on wiping out all lycans and vampires, and kept on ice for 12 years. Ok, Michael does appear in the film but for maybe all of 30 seconds.Selene, also known as "Subject 1" is released from her cryogenic sleep by "subject 1". Having the ability to see through Subject 2's eyes, Selene fights her way out of the mysterious lab she's being held at, run by Dr. Jacob Lane (Stephen Rea), and tracks down her rescuer who turns out to be her 12 year old daughter, played by then-17-year-old India Esiley, Eve (groan). The lycans and vampires still haven't made nice. Instead of banding together to fight the humans, they contine to fight each other and the humans at the same time. Sounds good, but personally, I liked it better when the vampires and lycans were still the stuff of nightmares. Kinda sucks when humans find out about them and bring them to the brink of extinction. Seriously, do these things have any really good powers?
     The lycans, are now focusing their attention on acquiring Eve for their evil plans and soon have her in their clutches. Selene, the protective, if somewhat cold, mom enlists the help of Detective Sebastian (Michael Ealy) and fellow vampire David (Theo James). Turned out by Davids disapproving father Thomas, played without the personality of previous head vampires, by Charles Dance, Selene and Detective Sebastian set out to recover Eve and find out what the lycans want with her. Shenanigans ensue.

    Am i missing something or are these the lamest vampires ever? It seems they get their darkness-dwelling butts handed to them in every fight. Seriously, they may as well be special forces commandos that drink blood. If it weren't for their extensive firepower, they'd have been annihilated by now. There's a reason you never see Selene (Kate Beckinsale) not dual-wielding those pistols of hers. It's because they add to what seems to be these vampires' most important trait, their clothes! I think the producers were more interested in getting the right angles of Selene's flapping black trench coat then in making a better movie. Ok, we get that vampires land on their feet from great heights. I don't need to see it multiple times in every Underworld film. And what's with the lycans this time around? They look kinda skinny and big-headed.
     Regardless of the negatives, the movie is still good enough to entertain you for it's 90 minute run. In general, it didn't make a good movie bad, but rather stopped a good movie from being better. The action was well-paced if somewhat silly in places to the point of Selene using a very similar escape from the first film, though much more sloppily. Most of the acting was good, with the exception of some lame performances.
     The visuals, color, and special effects all complimented each other. The scenes were a rich black but never to the point where detail was lost. Indeed, they were a major part of the look of the film and added great contrast to many a scene.
     The audio is a bit tricky. The bass was rumbly enough that it kept overloading my subwoofer. Yes, time for a new one, I know. Due to that, I had to lower the volume at certain points. Even when I had the volume at my normal high level, the center channel dialog seemed a bit low. Perhaps too much focus was spent on the booms rather than on the subtleties.  But then again, Underworld isn't about being subtle. Is it?

The blu-ray comes packed with these extras:
Filmmaker's Commentary
Blooper Reel
Heavy Prey Music Video featuring Lacey Stum of Flyleaf and ex-Filter guitarist Geno Lenardo
5 Behind the Scenes featurettes
Cracking the Underworld: A Picture-in-Picture feature
Video: 1080p High Definition 2.40:1 aspect ratio
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French Spanish

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Father's Day

 You haven't lived until you've seen a Troma movie in a theater hosted by the legendary Lloyd Kayfman. I was able to do just that this last Thursday at the NJ premiere of Father's Day at The Showroom in Asbury Park.

     Made by the Talented guys at Astron-6, Father's Day packs everything you'd ever expect from a Troma movie; horror, humor, gore, over the top characters, insane plot, a cameo by Lloyd, and boobs!

     The story revolves around Ahab (Adam Brooks), who as a child witnessed the murder of his father, and then had one of his peepers cut out, by the antagonist of the film Chris Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdock). And now Ahab is looking for revenge. Problem is, Eric Fuchman is not some ordinary killer. He has become an urban legend and about as easy to track down as any urban legend could be. Following the trail of raped and disemboweled and eaten fathers, he takes on the help of a naive but determined Father John Sullivan, charmingly played by Matthew Kennedy, and a street twink named, appropriately enough, Twink (Conor Sweeney). How is this urban legend still around and causing such paternal carnage? Well, there's also a Fuchmanicus involved. Yep, a Fuchmanicus.

     The film looks like crap. And that's a beautiful thing. If this film had been shot in flawless HD, it wouldn't feel authentic, it wouldn't work. It's essence would be lost much the same way I believe the essence of a really old blues recording would be ruined if they remastered it and took out all the hisses scratches and pops that give it it's unique personality. Now, I'm not saying that the film looks like crap on accident. I'm saying the movie looks like crap because that's exactly how Astron-6 wanted it to look. All the scratches and blemishes unquestionably add to the look rather than take an ounce away.

     The sound of the film was surprisingly good. Loud and satisfying shotgun blasts, car engines, gurglings, and just about every kind of gross noise you can think of, were all very clear and well-defined. The spatial sound of the score had me look to my left several times thinking some knucklehead had left his cellphone on and was getting a call using some odd ringtone.

     Father's Day is a conundrum. Although it undeniably has grindhouse elements, it's too good to fit comfortably into the grindhouse category. And although it has incredible moments of disturbing horror, there was also an equal amount of laugh-out-loud comedy and Astron-6 did an impeccable job of balancing everything. The only semi-controversial are of the film is about two-thirds into the movie when it breaks for a commercial. The commercial is a Astron-6 made trailer for a bogus movie called Space Raiders. Lloyd Kaufman suggested they leave it out of the final cut, but they decided to leave it in. Some may find it to be to jarring a change of scenery. Admittedly, it does offer a nice jolt of culture shock to be watching a dark horror movie one moment and then alien blasting interplanetary travelers the next, but I found it as entertaining as the rocket ship sequence in Monty Python's Life of Brian.

     So what do we have here? A horror? A comedy? A black comedy? An "A" movie? A "B" movie? A Grindhouse movie? A Mainstream movie? I think it's all these things and it's Astron-6 saying look, we can do anything, and do it well! In the end, what it is is a good film! and that's all that counts.

Father's Day homepage

Astron-6 homepage