Apr

Camp Dread
2014 – Unrated – Image Entertainment
Starring Danielle Harris, Eric Roberts, Felissa Rose – Directed by B. Harrison Smith

Not to be confused with the 2004 horror comedy Club Dread, Camp Dread is a movie that will give you a different impression of what it’s about based on the box art. The tagline suggest that I pitch my tent, which is irrelevant to the film, since they all stay in cabins. Kinda stretching that one for a tagline, but whatever. Films do it all the time, but sure enough, there is a photo of a tent right on the front there. I know it sounds like I’m nitpicking and perhaps I am, but another thing that will come to bother me is the image of Danielle Harris, front and center, as well as her name in eye sight. Hell, there’s even a photo of her on the back, so she occupies a good chunk of the overall box art (even the spine). Don’t get me wrong either, I’m not complaining because she is in the movie, but I won’t spoil it now. As we talk about the movie, you’ll see why it bothers me.

So where do we start? Well, there’s a diner scene with Julian (played by Eric Roberts, turning in the only convincing acting), who plays the director of a fictional slasher movie series called Summer Camp and is now producing a reality TV show based on his horror series and Danielle Harris, is the Sheriff of the small town… and that’s it. I was excited to see her in the role of a sheriff, since it seemed to be something different for her, but this is where the disappointment starts, seeing as after this scene, you won’t see her again for a very long time.

cd_2So a reality TV show themed horror movie, sure you’ve seen this before, but there’s a spin. Seeing as these are all troubled “kids” (clearly in their thirties, but this is even pointed out by Eric Roberts that they aren’t kids, but in their early twenties…), mixed up with drugs, violence or what have you, they have two choices; be a contestant on the show and possibly win a million bucks or face time in jail or rehab. To be honest, what would you go with? On a side note, it is pretty cool that this was filmed at an actual camp in the Poconos. Within moments of exceeding frat boy levels of obnoxious, you come to the realization that these are the characters you are supposed to be identifying with and there’s the underlining problem. NONE of them are identifiable. From the insipid prankster, loudmouth idiot who whenever he spoke, I was screaming “SHUT UP!” at my television to the girl whose dialogue pretty much consist of hate filled, vile homo bashing. Now, I know this can be used to set up a loathsome character, but it becomes so redundant to the point where it’s ineffective and comes off as ignorant. To be fair, there are two other kids that are given some back story and would have been likable if the film had given them a little more development. The only other character that is given a sliver of sympathy is a girl who murdered her brother after he was raping her, but by the end of the film, they manage to strip that away from her.

cd_3It takes serious talent to set up a character with that kind of back story and still make them unlikable by your film’s finale. Wait, is talent the right word?

Julian invites his old producer, John, out to be a part of the show and to bury the hatchet. You see, Julian was notorious for disregarding his actor’s safety and John blew the whistle on him, which in consequence got him black listed from ever directing again. Of course John flies first class to tell Julian off and doesn’t partake in this project. Also joining Julian is Summer Camp actress turned counselor (yeah… quite a coincidence), Rachel, played by Felissa Rose. I was happy to see her come back, but disappointed with how little she is used in the movie and by that I don’t mean she isn’t in it enough, I mean they don’t use her character for much. Come to think of it, they don’t do that with any of the characters in the movie. Like I said, some of them are given a back story or a skill that could be intricate to the plot, but it’s never utilized, because the film makers would rather raise the body count. Hoo-f***ing-ray.

That’s all it is from here… just watching characters die, one by one. The film even drops the ball in this department, often shying away from gore, never really showing much or paying off with its kills. Although some of the kills are creative, such as a prosthetic leg being used to bash someone’s head in and killing another character with a decapitated head. So there is that, but even then it hardly feels worth it. While people are getting picked off, you see Julian has an ulterior motive, a secret plan, but it doesn’t come as a surprise, since you see it coming from the beginning of the film. The killer is exactly who you think it is, certain characters turn on each other the way you thought they would and Eric Roberts is more sleazy than he leads on to be, just as you expected. Speaking of not coming as a surprise, we have a predictable twist ending to get to…

cd_4And just when you were thinking, “Hey, wasn’t Danielle Harris in this movie?” She pops up at the end to unconvincingly tie up the predictable, tired and cliched ending you were really hoping the film wasn’t going for, although it was evident it would, as the movie falls apart in the final act. Well, thanks anyway, Ms. Harris. Your check is in the mail.

For the majority of its run time, Camp Dread walks that fine line of a good bad movie or just bad… and during the final act, it leaps way past that line. This is a film that plays it safe, never taking any risks by sticking to the same predictable cliches you’ve seen done to death and are bored to tears with. It’s almost frustrating at moments when you realize the alternate route they could go in terms of the story and you so badly want it to, but it never does. It tries to push itself at times, trying to be “in your face,” with homophobic bashing and shocking you with potential rape, but it all comes off as annoyingly mean spirited. There is a huge difference between shockingly offensive, controversial and seeming ignorant. This is something the movie can’t seem to figure out, most likely due to the one dimensional, meat headed, bigoted characters, that all seem to be those stereotyped Jersey Shore jock types (because that’s exactly who the majority of any audience wants to spend a 90 minute movie with…). You can’t just have several characters spew out dense, childish homo-bashing lines and expect it to flesh out a character, especially when all of your characters are despicable to begin with. And that’s where one of the major flaws of the movie is; there are too many characters and all but a few are sympathetic, not that they do anything with them anyway. Which brings up another issue… there are WAY too many characters. Camp Dread opts for more characters to increase a body count, rather than a few well developed, solid characters to focus on. It’s a story with too many unlikable, selfish characters with absolutely no character or anything to round them out as a human being. They are just slasher fodder. I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am, or a good population of the horror community for that matter, of horror films that set up horrible, unlikable characters for the sake of getting killed off in the name of a body count. This is a movie will fall into the void of forgettable dime-a-dozen slashers.

Camp Dread
It’s frustrating because although this plot is so generic and uninspiring, there are moments where if the filmmakers had taken a risk, it could have been something unexpected and possibly good. It often teases something scandalous, like a lesbian sex scene, but never goes that route. It’s a film that really wants to shock you with sex, violence and imagery, but it comes off as annoying instead. Like those vegetarians that have to constantly remind you they are a vegetarian and scoff and get upset when there aren’t more vegetarian options at places to eat. It really pains me to experience what I felt while watching this film, because it sounded interesting, but alas, just a diarrhea wolf in sheep clothing. Overall, there isn’t much to be offered here in terms of story, gore, nudity… nothing to really give fans anything they want, unless you are looking for a shameless body count. Perhaps you should go to space camp instead.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Eric Roberts, professional sleaze.
  • Hello, Danielle Harris…
  • Angela returns to camp.
  • He has a ‘leg up.’
  • Hanging meat.
  • Head catapulting!
  • …goodbye, Danielle Harris.
totals

6

blood

BLOOD

Arrow through the eye and a decapitation, but mostly tame.

4

blood

BREASTS

A peak here and there.

3

beast

BEASTS

When it comes down to it, just about everyone is a monster and it is stale.

4.3 OVERALL
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Watch the trailer for “Camp Dread!

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Apr

posted by Barry Goodall | April 8, 2014 | Feature

Poker scenes in movies

The movies love poker – but poker fans don’t always love the way it is portrayed on the silver screen. Writers and directors have often taken what can generously be described as ‘artistic license’ in order to rack the tension up. These scenes all work brilliantly on cinema terms, even if they sometimes have poker fans wanting to attack the filmmakers with a red-hot one.

Casino Royale

This is a prime example of that, as Bond and Le Chiffre trade a serious of absurd poker hands while facing off at Texas Hold’em at a swanky casino. It is the sort of scene that will have any dedicated poker player shaking his or head, while the rest of use are too glued to the OTT drama of it all to notice.

Goodfellas

To be fair, a lot of people don’t remember the poker scene from this 1990 Martin Scorsese epic, which is not because it is not memorable – it’s just that it’s hard to get the scenes of bodies being hacked up and stuffed in car trunks out of your mind. If you can see past such lovely mental images, the poker scene is not notable so much for the actual gaming, as the stream of foulmouthed comments from Joe Pesci during the course of the game. Of course, for Spider (played by Michael Imperioli) the game ends up being memorable in very bad ways – no spoilers here.

Tombstone

One of many fine western movie poker scenes, again the sequence featuring Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) in a 36-hour marathon game, is remembered as much for his behaviour as the game itself. Doc knows he is dying, gets progressively drunker throughout the game (thanks to his scheming lady friend), but still comes out on top in game and wit. It proves to be something of a last hurrah, but it’s surely the way this particular character would have wanted to go out.

Apr

posted by Barry Goodall | April 5, 2014 | B-movie Reviews, B-movies, Review by Die-Anne Takillya

I’ve never been too good at pranks, never have needed to be. After all, there are many ways of being clever! Our flick for tonight, in case you hadn’t guessed is April Fool’s Day!

Muffy St. John has invited her closest friends to her island mansion for a weekend getaway on Spring Break. We get introduced to Nikki right off the bat, she’s the sassy, sexy one; then Chaz, the cute artistic womanizer; Arch, the hunky jock who’ll sleep with anything that has a pulse; Kit, the good girl; Nan, the nerdy prude; Hal, the gold-digger; Rob, the sensitive guy; and Skip, Muffy’s distant cousin.

Skip and Arch are playing mumbledy-peg when it all goes wrong. Don’t throw knives, kids! Rob and Buck dive in to the rescue, but oh! It turns out to be a prank! Skip and Arch cooked up a fake knife and a blood bag without anyone noticing! Buck the deckhand decides to stay in the water to tie the ferry to the dock, but Captain Cal drives it right into him, and Buck’s face meets the propeller. A lot of screaming and blood, but luckily, Sherriff Sam is right there on the scene, whisking Cal and Buck off to the hospital, and making sure the yuppies know to stay put on the island. (The island that has no way off of it, aside from the ferry that now has no captain, but we’ll overlook that)

Basically, what we have here is the flower of over-privileged 80’s college students out to take over the world, and who have no idea what they want to do with their lives, trapped in a mansion that’s been rigged to annoy and upset them. They have special party favors hidden in their rooms and the one in Nan’s sends her into a pure-d tizzy; a tape of a crying baby hidden in her closet, hinting at some dark past.  Nikki has a drawer full of S&M gear, and everyone else is confused and mildly put out by theirs. Arch goes on a great nookie hunt, and stumbles in on Chaz and Nikki in a position that the doctor from Human Centipede would be proud of. I’ve never seen anyone make the sign of the triple-gilled anteater like that before or since that trip to vegas and all the casino games. Heck, you can try some yourself at www.888casino.com/casino-games.

Then things take a turn; Skip meets with misfortune in the boathouse during the night. Muffy has made a vicious personality change, and nobody much seems to care that Skip is missing until Rob and Kat attempt to make the sign of the electrocuted mud weasel and his dead body floats past. Then in classic style, they all split up.

I have to admit, this movie isn’t much on thrilling action so much as it is all about the psychological. Red herrings abound as they blame the ferry captain and Buck for the mayhem. People are getting picked off one by one; the water goes out and Nikki ends up in the well with Nan’s body and the decapitated heads of Skip and Arch. Then Hal, Chaz, and Nikki eat it in imaginary ways; we even have a pruning of the wangdoodle.

Soon, none but Rob, Kit, and Muffy are left. We get thrilling chases, during which there are pictures found of Muffy and…Buffy? Who’s Buffy? Oh, only Muffy’s psycho twin sister, who has decided that she and all her friends all have to go…permanently. It all ends with Rob locked in the pantry, and a showdown between Kit and Buffy, and in her final moments Kit stumbles into the den where she finds…

Everyone. They’re all alive and well, and laughing it up. Rob is released from the pantry by Buck, who is scaring him half crazy, when he takes off the prosthetic makeup and slaps it on Rob’s face and gives him a big ol’ smacker before chasing him to the Den. Everyone yells “April Fool’s,” and Muffy lets the cat out of the bag. There is no Buffy, but her twin is Skip. She’s going to lose her inheritance unless she can

maintain the upkeep on the mansion, so she’s decided to turn the mansion into a murder mystery house, and her friends are the guinea pigs. Aww, what a wholesome activity.

There’s one final prank, but I’ll let you see it for yourselves.

Roadside Totals:2 breasts, no dead bodies, no quarts blood, 3 quarts fake blood, 3 mannequin heads,  1 simulated wangdoodle removal, prank-fu, feathered hair-fu, exploding cigars, jack-in-the-box scares.

I think it’s what inspired M. Knight to make every movie have a twist.

Apr

Thou Shall Not Kill... Except
1985 – Unrated – Synapse Films
Starring Robert Rickman, Sam Raimi – Directed by Josh Becker

Very few films can take two completely opposing ideas, put them together and make them work. Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except (also called Stryker’s War) is one of those films. It’s one part Vietnam War, one part Manson Family, all bottled up in one great revenge flick left on the shelf to ferment over time and it aged marvelously, fine enough for you to sip on or share with your friends. It’s wild and perhaps a bit unruly, but it never gets completely out of control. This is an interesting concept, to say the least. It’s one that easily could not have worked, but when you have the crew responsible for The Evil Dead behind it, rest assured you’re in capable hands to mix the mad and the macabre with outrageous, zany antics.

Deep in the jungles of Michigan, I mean… Vietnam, Sgt. Stryker leads his mean, the brute Sgt. Walker, the green 2nd Lt. Dave Miller and the wisecracking Lt. Cpt. Tyler and a bunch of other guys without names through hazardous enemy territory. Without warning, the soldiers are ambushed (I guess that’s why it’s called an ambush)! Most of the men are killed, except our aforementioned cast, and Stryker is shot in the leg, forever disabling him with a bum leg. He returns home to make walking with a cane look cool way before Dr. House did and to start his life over again in his secluded creep cabin, where he spends most of his time drinking whiskey with his dog… Whiskey. That is, until his high school sweetie Sally is asking her grandfather, who visits Stryker often, about him. He wants her, she wants him, but he’s too stubborn because of his injury and thinks she’s only taking pity on him. You know the story. Eventually, he gives in and goes out on a date with her and it’s like old times and the two reconnect, like they were never distant. However, Sally cuts the date short because of work (always seems like that’s the case, right fellas?) and they plan a second date. But before she can meet Stryker for that rendezvous, she and grandpa has some uninvited guests over for dinner…

tsnk_2Shortly, his rowdy friends arrive from Vietnam (who are most certainly ready for some football) and visit Stryker at his cabin. The old unit catches up by drinking some beers at a local bar and defending the bar maiden from a biker gang in what looks like a well choreographed fight scene, but not the most graceful, as the actors almost fall over their own kicks and punches that sounds like someone is smacking an empty plastic jug against a side of meat… in a can (if any of that makes sense). Then again, they just finished drinking Nick Nolte levels of alcohol and knowing this crew’s filming methods, it’s very possible that the actors were actually drunk. Once that’s done, they drink some more and pass out, then drink some more and shoot at an old shed with guns. So, basically drinking. They drink. A lot.

Stryker believes Sally is standing him up once it’s evident (unbeknownst to Stryker) that she won’t be showing up, but once his dog Whiskey goes missing, the gang splits up and searches for him and stumbling upon Sally’s uninvited dinner guests… a blood thirsty cult led by Sam Raimi in a Manson wig and carrying a pirate sword! But these folks are no laughing matter, regardless of Sam Raimi’s scenery chewing. Having taken the entire town hostage (or at least a good chunk of them), killed off the police force (the whole one guy), barbecuing poor ol’ Whiskey (insert cooking with whiskey joke here) and having kidnapped and torturing Sally, things are serious or as Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys would say, “S**t just got real!” They rally back at Stryker’s love shack and arm themselves, starting yet another militia in the state of Michigan.

tsnk_3Confronting the cult and freeing the townspeople, Stryker and his old unit go to war with the b-movie equivalent of the Manson family. Battle ensues with guns, knives, sharp sticks… literally. All sorts of things are used for weapons in the final twenty minutes, which serves as one large fight. Luckily, it never feels like it’s dragging out, mostly due to some satisfying, over the top style kills, as the cult is impaled by tree limbs, multiple garden instruments, swords or blown to bits in a satisfying manner as Stryker and his men blast these scumbags down with shotguns. Although never reaching extreme moments in gross out gore, quite a lot of blood is spilled as the unnamed cult leader played by Sam Raimi impales one of his own followers for his motorcycle to flee and quickly becoming lost in the forest maze of trees. But these are Stryker’s woods… he knows them like the back of his hand. Hell, this is his backyard and he’s going to get revenge for Sally and Whiskey!

Finally, we get to the showdown between Stryker (who I have to say that Brian Schulz plays this roll in a charming smug kind of way) and the Charles Manson/Sam Raimi amalgamation after he wrecks his hog. Like all classic hero vs. villain fights, the odds juggle back and forth with the baddie seemingly having the upper hand and tossing out a great stinger, followed by the hero’s retort and execution…

“I am Jesus Christ!”
“No you’re not… you’re dead.”

tsnk_4Several shotgun blasts to the abdomen and an impalement on a busted dirt bike later, Stryker and crew find Sally and they all drive off triumphantly into the sunrise, accompanied by a well deserved and welcoming victory fanfare.

Don’t be fooled by Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except’s low budget. This movie packs quite a fun punch. As I said earlier in the review, this is an interesting concept, a blend of two different ideas that could have easily not worked if it weren’t in the right hands, but luckily this was a brain child of Bruce Campbell and Josh Becker. Speaking of the Big Chin, he originally played Sgt. Stryker in the 40 minutes short (called Stryker’s War, included on the Synapse Blu-ray) and was cast to return to the role for the full length feature, but due to Bruce having recently joined the Screen Actor’s Guild, he was unable to participate in a non SAG movie. He did however provide help as an assistant sound editor, as well as allowed the crew to shoot on his own property. You can see how the role was originally written for Bruce, but Brian Schulz makes this his own without shadowing Bruce Campbell’s portrayal of the character. The man is just as charismatic as he is cocky. Sam Raimi easily steals the show with his cult leader character, chewing the scenery like Big League Chew in such a memorable way. And of course, Ted Raimi makes an appearance as a cult member in a mask and chains, cackling like a mad man in typical Ted-like fashion that you know and love.

Although the film was a low budget 16mm, Synapse has painfully restored it from the original prints, so everything looks crisp and clean. Sure, there are flaws here and there (mostly with the old stock footage), but what do you expect from a nearly thirty year old film shot on 16mm? I know I may be repeating myself here, but this film seriously looks beautiful. It’s amazing how well restored it is, with dirt and scratches cleaned up, lines sharpened, very few grainy scenes… it’s stunning and remarkable. One of the best looking older releases I have ever seen. And of course, the audio, also for being what it was, sounds terrific. Dialogue is well heard (which is a good thing, since there are no subtitles), but some of the sound effects, like the kicks and punches I mentioned earlier, sound a bit muffled, but it’s nothing to turn you off from the movie. In fact, the movie offers multiple viewings with two different, well informed and interesting commentaries. These are my favorite kind of commentaries too; small, low budget films with a cast and crew that reflect on it fondly. Just listening to them, you can tell they love it and had a blast doing it.

Thou Shall Not Kill... Except
So, fall in line, maggot! Grab your rifle and a copy of Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except and be ready, for The Blood Bath is coming!

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • War is hell.
  • Dr. Stryker, MD.
  • Drink, fight, repeat.
  • Blood Bath, the cult movie Mansons.
  • Whiskey BBQ!
  • Lawn Dart Cop.
  • Hippie hunting!
totals

7

blood

BLOOD

Shotguns rip apart hippie’s stomachs and plenty of ‘em get impaled by various instruments.

4

blood

BREASTS

Sam squeezes Sally’s bazooms, leaving bloody handprints.

8

beast

BEASTS

I would totally join this cult, as long as they had a good 401k and benefits.

6.3 OVERALL
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Watch the trailer for “Though Shalt Not Kill… Except!

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Apr

posted by Barry Goodall | April 3, 2014 | Feature

Star Wars is a cult film that has been around for years. Almost everyone has seen it but it does beg the question, what are the Star Wars cast up to now?

Harrison Ford

Ford played the role of Han Solo in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope in 1977 and has since gone on to landing the role of Indiana Jones in 1981’s, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. Harrison Ford, nicknamed ‘Harry’ in the acting industry, received both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his role as John Book in ‘Witness’ (1985) according to his IMDB page. The actor was recently in ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ in 2011 and ‘Anchor-man 2: The Legend Continues’ in 2013.

Mark Hamill

Mark Hamill grew up in California and is probably most well-known for his role of Luke Skywalker in: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. Unfortunately the actor was involved in a devastating car crash but despite this, Hamill returned to our screens in 1989. Since his Star Wars days, Mark Hamill has gone onto voicing the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series (1992).

Warwick Davis

This lesser known Star Wars actor appeared in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) where he played an Ewok after, according to his IMDB page, his grandmother heard the radio appeal for under four foot actors to audition for the role. Warwick Davis suffers from spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenital (SED), which ironically led him to landing his role in Star Wars. The actor also starred in Harry Potter more recently.

Peter Serafinowicz

This Star Wars actor appeared in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999). He also acted in Shaun of the Dead (2004) and more recently, Couples Retreat in 2009, according to his IMDB page. Peter Serafinowicz is well known for his trademark deep voice which appears in the new Motors.co.uk advert. His naturally deep voice is distinguishable and recognisable and has since gone onto being the actor’s most well-known trademark and feature.

Liam Neeson

Neeson starred in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) as Qui-Gon Jinn. The Northern-Irish actor voiced Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) and as displayed on his IMDB page, recently starred in such films as The Grey (2011), Battleship (2012) and Taken 2 (2012).

Natalie Portman

This actress played Queen Amidala in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sixth (2005). Portman also recently starred in Thor and received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Black Swan.

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About the Highway

Lost Highway is your satirical detour down the twisted back roads of b-movies and cult films reviews. learn more >>