Written Reviews

Written Review: Hellraiser (1987)

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“Hellraiser” is a film that manages to disturb viewers in all the right ways. It blurs the already nebulous line between pleasure and pain, mixing love with cruelty in a way that provokes curiosity into the raw vulgarity hidden within our subconscious. It’s a violent and visceral experience, but takes meticulous efforts not to waste a single drop of blood. Despite the plethora of carnage there is no excess. Every disgusting detail serves to further explore a reality in which sin and vice are unfiltered by societal norms and where people wander endlessly in the pursuit of materialistic satisfaction. Within the tumult of lust and greed exist an order of demons referred to as the Cenobites. The Cenobites act as the gatekeepers of chaos. They shield us from the harsh realities of human nature and maintain order between the savage beast and rational being that make up the contradiction that is mankind. Through the Cenobites, we are given a glimpse into the darkest corners of the human soul, where fear and desire intersect and become indistinguishable from each other. A place we try to deny and turn  away from, but is permanently engraved into our very being.

Written Review: Beyond Re-Animator

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Beyond Re-Animator Poster

“Beyond Re-Animator” is the final installment of Stuart Gordon’s
“Re-animator” series that began in 1985, Like most late installments, this movie comes off as unnecessary and a failed attempt to cash in on a popular title. In the fashion of “Jason goes to Hell”, “Freddy’s dead: The Final Nightmare” and “Halloween: H20”, Beyond Re-animator attempts to restart the series by trying to retcon certain plot elements while pretending to be a legitimate sequel. The result, as usual is a colossal mess of inconsistencies, leaving only the most superficial elements from the originals and leaving out the heart of what made the originals so beloved in the first place. We find our protagonist Herbert West imprisoned in a federal jail after his former assistant Dan Kain apparently turned him in to the authorities for his illegal experimentation. We never find out why Dan, a prominent character in the original films would do such a thing and Beyond Re-animator brushes off any details as unimportant. We’re also provided with no explanation as to how West escaped the cliffhanger conflict at the end of the last film “Bride of Re-animator”.
Jeffrey Combs reprises his role as the mad scientist, who continues his devilish experiments on whatever subjects he can gain access to within the confines of his small prison cell. However,
everything changes for West when Dr. Howard Philips (Jason Barry) takes
over as the prison physician. Philips had witnessed the power of West’s
reagent serum as a child and has since become obsessed with the science of re-animating the dead. Handing West his iconic syringe containing the glowing green reagent, it’s only a matter of time before West restarts his old experiments, and the entire prison is thrown into chaos. The film plays out in the typical fashion that we’ve
come to expect from this series. Characters die only to be used as test subjects for West and Philips who bring them back to life as vicious, murderous monsters. The style blends graphic body horror with ridiculous slap stick comedy. While entertaining at times, Beyond
Re-animator does little more than copy it’s predecessors and fails to
further the story of Herbert West in any meaningful way. The absence of
Stuart Gordon is obvious as the film feels more like a what if
scenario, rather than a genuine attempt to further an existing mythos.
The story is convoluted as the majority of scenes serve little more than excuses to get from A to point B. For example, there’s an ongoing joke about one of the inmates having a pet rat. We see West experiment on the rat which serves as an all to predictable
foreshadowing of the rat being re-animated as one of West’s
experiments and eventually attacking his former owner. The characters in this film, save for Herbert West, were all one dimensional and failed to establish meaningful identities for themselves. Herbert West is deranged and lacking in social graces as always, making him the sole source of entertainment. By comparison, the scenes without West were uninteresting and took up far to much of the film’s run time. It was fun seeing Jeffrey Combs reprise his
most famous role one last time. However, the unoriginal plot and hollow
performances by the rest of the cast simply couldn’t keep up with him
and ultimately dragged him down along with them and the rest of this film.
Beyond Re-animator attempted to bring new life to the Re-animator
series. Unfortunately, this experiment was a failure.

Play Violet for Me (2015)

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“Play Violet for me” is a murder mystery in the style of a classic Noir film. Foley, a stalker obsessed with a young woman named Violet, finds Violet murdered one night after following her home. He calls Violet’s identical twin sister Lyla to discuss the murder and affirms his innocence. The film transitions between the present day and the past, showing the exchange between Foley and Lyla as well as scenes of Foley’s increasing obsession with Violet up until her murder. The present is shown in black and white to portray the somber overtone of the murder being discussed. Conversely, the past is represented in bright and vibrant colors, symbolizing Foley’s idealized version of the past.  After listening to Foley’s story, Lyla confesses to murdering her sister and claims that she was actually Violet all along. Foley’s failure to identify Violet reveals his obsession as nothing more than him projecting character traits onto someone he never actually knew. This exposes his feelings as superficial and lacking justification in reality. Violet had used Foley’s obsession to set him up as the main suspect of her sister’s murder, placing him at the scene of the crime. In the end it’s uncertain whether the murderer was in fact Violet, or Lyla playing her sister and taking on Violet’s identity. This film questions the very concept of identity and whether our perceptions and the qualities we attribute to ourselves and others define reality.

The Curse of Blanchard Hill (2006)

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This movie is so forgettable that I’m having trouble coming up with anything to say about it. The plot revolved around an area in the woods called “Blanchard Hill”, that was cursed by the restless souls of a native tribe. The souls would possess people who entered the woods and have them kill any white people they encountered as revenge for how they treated the natives in the past. The story has potential, but the execution is extremely poor. Most of the scenes have little to no connection to the plot and are nothing more than filler intended to extended the length of the film to full length status. It’s obvious that the film crew had little to no budget while making this movie so they were unable to really include any nature related deaths. This resulted in the film looking more like a typical demonic possession story told poorly. The themes and moral lessons present in “The Curse of Blanchard Hill” are heavy handed and come off as trying to hard. There’s really no point in watching this movie, unless you plan on sleeping for an hour and fourteen minutes.

Absolution (2003)

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I’ve watched hundreds of low budget films. As such I’ve learned to
judge what I watch by how well executed the film is given the budget
and technology restrictions that the film crew had available.
Therefore, I feel secure saying that “Absolution” is such a terrible
film that I was barely able to sit through it. This movie is part of
the “Sub Rosa Extreme” collection, which consist low budget,
underground films shot on home video. Most of the films by this
production company are meant to imitate existing films, but with more
explicit and “extreme” content. These films consist of titles such as
“I Spit on your corpse, I piss on your Grave”, “Last House on Hell
Street” and “Killers by Nature”. All obvious rip offs of well known
films. “Absolution” attempts to be every Quentin Tarantino film ever
made all at once and fails miserably at it. Each scene consist almost
entirely of dialogue so forced and cringe worthy that it took every
once of will power I had not to turn it off or fast forward through 99
percent of it. The poor visual and audio quality only served to make
the experience even more unbearable. The plot is virtually non
existent, jumping from scene to scene with little to no transition. If
you wish to keep your sanity, then I suggest you stay away from this
one at all cost. This film isn’t bad just because it was made on a low
budget. It’s bad because every quality of it is offensive to the
senses.

I Spit on your Grave (1978)

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Minority Report (2002)

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I may be in the minority (lol bad puns), but I was less than impressed with the film “Minority Report”. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that the movie deviates from the short story of the same name by Philip K Dick. I was looking forward to seeing how the concepts of the source materials could be explored in new and interesting ways as well as with more action scenes. Unfortunately, what we got was a standard action film that pretended to be more intelligent than it actually was. John Anderton (played by Tom Cruise) is a detective who works for a special agency called “Precrime”, where he helps prevent crimes before they actually happen using the predictions of a group of psychics known as “Pre-Cogs”. The movie briefly touches on the moral and ethical principles of such an organization arresting people who haven’t actually committed any crimes when Anderton finds his own name selected as a future killer. From that point on, Anderton is hunted by the organization he used to lead in some of the worst chase scenes I’ve ever seen. In an attempt to make Anderton look cool, they make everyone else look incompetent. To prove his innocence, Anderton attempts a ridiculously convoluted plan to capture one of the Pre-cogs in order to prove his innocence. This fails and ends up having no impact on the plot other than having the pre-cog become a character. Eventually a conspiracy by the agency is exposed and Anderton manages to clear his name by proving that the Pre-crime unit was a stupid idea. This whole movie just talks in circles, making simple ideas seem complex and deep. Most of the scenes serve as nothing more than showing off the futuristic environment, where you can’t help but think that the future has way too many unnecessary advancements (talking cereal boxes?). Minority Report talks a big game, but fails to deliver anything of real value other than the aesthetics. This movie defines style over substance. Don’t waste your time with this trash. There are better action and Science Fiction Films out that deserve more attention than this one.