Vic’s Review – “Afflicted” (2013)

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What’s it About?

Two best friends see their trip f a lifetime turn a turn for the worst when one of them is stricken with a mysterious affliction.

Afflicted”

Directed by Derek LeeClif Prowse

7 out of 10

After being bit on the left arm by a mysterious French woman, world traveler and trip blogger, Derek Lee (Himself), begins to exhibit some strange behaviors and abilities that defy explanation. Derek’s lifelong best friend Clif Prowse (Himself), who is documenting the world wide trip they are on, grows very concerned and worried for Derek as he starts to rapidly change and appears to be evolving into a blood thirsty creature who starts to display vampiric tendencies. As they end up in Italy, where the middle majority of the movie takes place, Clif proceeds to record, with his complicated camera gear from different perspectives, how Derek is changing for the worst and putting not only himself but Clif and innocent people in mortal danger. What happens next in this POV found footage thriller is a pretty engaging and energetic story that is replete with cliches but still is a welcome shot in the arm for the tired and bloated subgenre.

Smartly using a video travel blog as a device to observe and scrutinize them, filmmakers Lee and Prowse start off the film with a going away party and while bypassing some accuracy (they utilize some questionable editing and documenting techniques), we get to know a bit about them both. They are true and old friends that have a long history and a shared passion for traveling and movie making. They also have always taken care of each other. Even when Lee is diagnosed with AVM (a type of brain malady), Prowse vows to always take care of his friend and be by his side. This makes their trip ever more important. For the first half and the set up, Prowse and Lee show us their artistic natures and their compatibility. For this type of film, establishing that we care about the protagonists is important and Lee and Prowse succeed in doing just that which is greatly refreshing here.

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Afflicted” has an impressive and fascinating hook at it’s core and for most of it’s running time the movie has much in the way of chills and humor to satisfy jaded fans of the genre. Lee’s transformation sequences and Prowse’s struggle to help his friend is quite compelling and visceral. Prowse continues to document and even upload videos to the blog where we see shocked reactions from the followers get screen time. Where the movie loses it way a bit for me is when Prowse feels the need to have Lee perform for the camera to show off his new “powers” like leaping from building to building, climbing up walls, breaking huge rocks in half and running 60 miles an hour. It felt too tacked on and more like a wink at “Chronicle.” Also, these are the more effects driven scenes and the mood and horror from the set up is pushed aside, somewhat. But some well placed testimonials by Lee and Derek balance these scenes and righten the ship. I do wish that the arguments and indecisions by the guys regarding the situation were more brief since it becomes a bit redundant, overall.

Lee and Prowse keep the movie moving, though, and never really allow it to lag and it is much to it’s benefit. Once they figure out that Lee needs human blood (because animal blood won’t do and he vomits up everything he ingests) the movie rockets off and they get back on track. Eventually, the authorities become aware of Lee’s bloody nocturnal activities and the movie becomes a chase film that winds up with Lee making his way back to France to find Audrey, who turned him into the creature he is now. But not before there is some fun bloody mayhem on and off the POV screen. There are dizzying chases through alleys, between buildings, shoot outs, scuffles with policemen and so on. Lee and Prowse pack in all the goodies here and sometimes we even forget (and do not care about the logic) that all of this is being recorded by a cam strapped to Lee. The movie has fun with itself during these scenes and I chose to enjoy it for what it was.

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Be be warned, though, the movie trips up again where it counts most and that is in the finale. It once again becomes the victim of familiar found footage tropes. Excessive shaking, uninteresting images, dark scenes and things and people flashing in and out of frame with cliched and uninteresting angles. When Lee reaches France and Audrey arrives it becomes a different animal and quite not as interesting as everything that came before it. The movie has style to be sure but it feels unfinished or incomplete, somehow. Lee and Prowse definitely know how to shoot a film, for sure, using the beautiful French and Mediteranean locales to full benefit. Even the night time sequences have a moody and colorful bend. The movie is indeed ambitious and much to the credit of Lee and Prowse, they have some skill and have single-handedly reminded us how a film in this genre should work but not without falling into the trap that has made much lesser and uninspired efforts so forgettable.

Afflicted” saves itself in places and is nifty and full of cool authenticity. The filmmakers are brave and sure of their abilities and the film does most assurdedly makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. But as a found footage movie, in itself, it isn’t as original or captivating as it could have been. Perhaps as a straight horror flick, it could have worked better. But since these are new movie makers then this is the go to subgenre to make a quick and easy impression, with limited resources, for sure. And that is not a bad thing. The movie has an escalating air of unease and terror and while Lee and Prowse learn to hone their narrative skills in future projects, “Afflicted” will remain an impressive piece of work that will stand out among more recent home runs like Barry Levinson’s “The Bay.” If you are a fan of FF movies then this movie is a no brainer. If don’t appreciate movies that up chaotic and shaky, you may want to look elsewhere. As for “Afflicted,” there is life in the old genre, yet! Oh, and expect a sequel, gang…

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Vic’s Top 10: Noir Films

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Film Noir
ˌfilm ˈnwär/
noun
  1. 1.
    a style or genre of cinematographic film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace. The term was originally applied (by a group of French critics) to American thriller or detective films made in the period 1944–54 and to the work of directors such as Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, and Billy Wilder.

 

Who doesn’t enjoy a film noir every once I a while? I know I do. Very much. But it was not always so. I did not come to really appreciate the methodology, relevance and unique attributes that permeate this amazing and shadowy genre until the late 1980′s.

That was when I started to seek out and purchase classic black and white thrillers on VHS then graduated, eventually, to Laser-discs when I purchased “The Maltese Falcon” from director John Huston. After watching that film my interest and respect for noir was solidified forever. Since then I have watched and re-visited many noir titles from different film directors who all had different but singular visions.

Noir has been know to come in many forms and incarnations, but ultimately, despite the approach, the films consists of some of the same lasting qualifications and they seem to follow some rules and “hard boiled” conventions and characteristics: Femme fatales, isolation, stark angles, the night, crime, deception, light and shadow, mysterious women, stalwart men, fog, private eyes, distortions, evil henchmen and so on and so on. These are all pretty much in your basic noir classic.

I have gathered here some noir films that, over the years, I have come to really love and watch often or whenever I can. Some titles I have not seen in some time but they have left a considerable impression. I hope you enjoy the Top 10 and please let me know which are some of your favorite noir classics! Thanks and on to the list!

Vic’s Top 10: Noir Films

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10 – The Big Heat (1953)

Directed by Fritz Lang

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Tough cop Dave Bannion takes on a politically powerful crime syndicate.

9 – The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Directed by John Huston Image

A major heist goes off as planned, until bad luck and double crosses cause everything to unravel.

8 – Touch of Evil (1958)

Directed by John Huston Image

A stark, perverse story of murder, kidnapping, and police corruption in a Mexican border town.

7 – They Live by Night (1948)

Directed by Nicholas Ray Image

An escaped convict is injured and is helped by a woman with whom he has an ill-fated relationship.

6 – (Tie) Suspicion (1941) and Notorious (1946)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock Image

A shy young English woman marries a charming gentleman, then begins to suspect him of trying to kill her. Image

A woman is asked to spy on a group of Nazi friends in South America. How far will she have to go to ingratiate herself with them?

5 – Double Indemnity (1944)

Directed by Billy Wilder Image

An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator’s suspicions.

4 – The Big Sleep (1946)

Directed by Howard Hawks Image

Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich family. Before the complex case is over, he’s seen murder, blackmail, and what might be love.

3 – Chinatown (1974)

Directed by Roman Polanski Image

A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption and murder.

2 – The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Directed by John Huston Image

A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.

1 – (Tie) The Third Man (1949) and Citizen Kane (1941)

Directed by Carol Reed and Orson Welles

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Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, black-market opportunist Harry Lime. Image Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.

Honorable Mentions -

Blood Simple,  The Killing,  In a Lonely Place,  Out of the Past , The Wrong Man,  Strangers on a Train , The Lost Weekend , White Heat , Blade Runner , Odd Man Out / Murder my Sweet

Enjoy some selected Noir trailers below!

 

Netflix Streaming Alert – Recent Additions / April 2014

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Hey everyone! Vic here with a new Netflix Alert for April, 2014. Netflix has made some decent titles available.  I hope you all find something worthy to check out.

Some titles will be available in “Super HD” (720p to 1080p resolution) for those who have a Hi Def TV and High Speed Internet.  If you find anything notable while browsing that I may have missed, just give me a holler and I will add to the list!

So, sit back and check out what’s new and enjoy some trailers!

Insidious Chapter 2 2013

Iron Sky: Director’s Cut 2013

Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977

The Last Days on Mars 2013

Let the Fire Burn 2013

Beyond Outrage 2014 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2000

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The Running Man 1987

Frankenstein’s Army 2013 

The Terminator 1984

Jobs 2013 

The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear 1991

Chinatown 1974 

Ali 2001 

Dragonslayer 1981 

House, M.D. 2004

The Thomas Crown Affair 1999 

The Muppets Take Manhattan 1984 

Thanks for stopping by gang! I hope you all find something you may enjoy or love! If you come across a title I may have missed just give me a shout! Until next time, keep streaming!

Vic

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Brian’s Review – “Persona” (1966) A Film by Ingmar Bergman

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What’s it About?
A nurse is put in charge of an actress who can’t talk and finds that the actress’s persona is melding with hers.

“Persona”    

Directed by  Ingmar Bergman  

9 out of 10

By Brian

The great thing about Bergman’s films has always been that they are open to interpretive analysis. Other great directors like Kubrick and Fellini are famous for doing the same thing but none have dealt with issues that relate to all human beings better than Bergman. The Seventh Seal dealt with man’s relationship with God, Wild Strawberries was about analyzing your life’s accomplishments, Cries and Whispers was about death, and Persona, which deftly handles a story of mental illness.

Now, each person who watches this may get something different from it but I’ll give you my perspective. I feel this film is about a schizophrenic, delusional, and mentally ill woman. I think the character of the actress (played by Liv Ullmann) is completely in the mind of the nurse (played by Bibi Andersson). The beginning of the film is filled with flashes of light, dark, a young boy, a tarantula, and a crucifixion. It seems to be the random memories of of Bibi Andersson as she moves back into reality. As the story progresses, the nurse is placed on an island alone with the actress who refuses to speak but seems normal otherwise.

They spend a great deal of time together until Bibi Andersson is comfortable enough to let her guard down and relate her most disturbing regret and decision. Part of her believes that by relating this story to a mute woman is a way of letting out her feelings without fear that it can be verbally repeated, But, soon she finds an open envelope with a letter to someone from the actress that relates the entire confession and it turns the film from a story of friendship to one of anger and revenge.

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I don’t want to give any more away because Persona, like all Bergman films, are much better experienced than they are explained. Similar to 2001, you’ll likely have a different experience than I had watching it and may even come to a different conclusion. I felt as though the entire film took place in Bibi Andersson’s mind.

She wrote the letter herself while in her actress personality so that when her personality switched back to the nurse, she had no memory of the event. There are also other scenes that reinforce my idea such as when they spend time in the mirror together, how the actress only speaks in whispers(a common symptom of schizophrenics), or the camera shot of the two women side by side representing one person with two faces.

A lot of this review may sound confusing and the movie may not be your cup of tea. All of Bergman’s films require your full attention and provoke a lot of thought. However, there is no other director that understood the human condition better and if you’re ready to handle a very challenging film, Persona is one that you can’t wait to discuss once it’s finished.

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From Parlor Of Horror: Top 5 Horror and Sci Fi Sequels that Rock!

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Top 5 Horror and Sci-fi Sequels that Rock!

By Mike

from Parlor of Horror

Most sequels don’t come anywhere near the spirit, quality and greatness of the films for which they owe their namesake. It’s just the nature of the beast - we’ve already seen what’s behind the curtain. The wizard is exposed and the magic is fading. It’s not easy to get the cat back in the bag, but every once in a while, lightning strikes twice. (If I use one more cliché, I’ll hold the record for the most in one paragraph.)

On to the movies:

5) Poltergeist II (1986)

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It’s hard to believe there would be anymore to the story. Instead of rehashing the theme of a home being built on consecrated ground, we have a false prophet that let his followers die at his hand, rather than question their faith in him. Kane, the preacher, is a creepy spirit, reawakened to collect more followers. And who can forget the nasty Tequila worm!

4) Terminator II (1991)

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Most will claim this to be their favorite Terminator film. Made at the dawn of CGI film use, James Cameron pushed the digital effects artists to new heights and surreal visuals. The new T-2000 is a metal alloy made of ‘liquid metal.’ I’m sure many of you will be repeating the words ‘liquid metal’ in your best Arnie impression for the rest of the day.

3) Hellraiser II (1988)

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If you thought the original was gory, wait until you get a look at the brain surgeon. Repeats some themes from the original. Added to the melee are the mute child that is a genius puzzle solver, large scale views of the Labyrinth,  and a great scene depicting the origin/creation of Pinhead.

2) Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

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Ginny Field is a wonderful character and a heroine worth standing with. Even though Jason has yet to don the hockey mask, he is still a force of horror, wearing a burlap sack with one eye-hole cut out of it. The last act features one of the best stalk and chase scenes in slasher films and Ginny uses her smarts to defeat the masked killer.

1) Evil Dead II (1987)

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Raimi and Campbell turn their melodramatic multiple-possession horror flick into a full-tilt black-comedy. They re-shoot parts of the first film with a bigger budget and better results all around. Wonderfully amusing effects gags abound! Eyeball in the mouth, fight with the hand, laughing deer-head, and the dancing lamp are just a few.

Honorable mentions go to:

Aliens

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The Amityville Horror II

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The Exorcist 3

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Jurassic Park 3

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2010: The Year We Make Contact

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Please Visit Mike’s Great Blog and Horror Movie Review Site Called “Parlor Of Horror”

Over Here: www.parlorofhorror.com 

If You Love Sci Fi and Horror, You Will Not Be Disappointed!

Thanks Again for this amazing Post, Mike!

Vic

So what’s your favorite horror/sci-fi sequels? Sound off below!

 

 

Vic’s Review – “Haunt” (2013)

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What’s it About?

An introverted teen sparks with his new neighbor, and together the couple begins to explore the haunted house that his family has unknowingly just purchased.

Haunt

Directed by Mac Carter

5 out of 10

By Vic

“Every ghost story begins with a house. And a Tragedy.”

Writer Andrew Barrer (Leave) provides somewhat suitable but cliched material for director Mac Carter (Secret Origins: The Story of DC Comics) in the form of this 2013 horror film named “Haunt.” The film, which has all of the James Wan-like flourishes that are a common staple now, is an average piece that has some merit. Merit that is warranted because Carter does know how to maintain a small level of flair, style and the all too familiar tropes that can sink a film with lesser ambition.

Horror film fans can be a very fickle bunch. Some love different kinds. Ghost stories, Slashers, Torture, Zombies and so on and so on. Sometimes, the most casual of horror movie watchers are VERY discriminating only sticking to some films that are widely lauded. James Wans’ Insidious and The Conjuring immediately come to mind. Carter’s film fall into the supernatural / ghost story category and I think that the most fickle of us may not be too forgiving or patient with Carter’s routine manipulations and approach. But the effort is there and when the genre gets inundated with so many pedestrian and lackluster entries, this could feel like a breath of fresh air. But that doesn’t get this movie off the hook.

Carter’s film begins with an interesting sequence involving a distressed middle aged man named Morello, who, while drinking, is speaking into a device that picks up EVP’s (Electronic Voice Phenomenon). He comes into contact with an entity and after he begins to further unravel it appears that an other worldly force takes over him. It doesn’t end well for Morello. Carter, who knows his way around the horror movie universe with creepy angles, shadows and nifty lenses and filters, proceeds with a back story to the events. Mrs. Morello (Jacki Weaver), in voice over,  gives us the sordid history of her and her family who are plagued by deadly forces that ruins the family and their medical practice. Then after the set up we are introduced to the new family moving into the home which is known in the area as being haunted and off limits. Typical huh? Yep. Pretty much.

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Harrison Gilbertson (Need for Speed) plays a brooding teen (There is always some brooding teen now, isn’t there?), named Evan who befriends a troubled teen girl , who lives next door named Sam, played by Liana Liberato (Erased). After Evan tries to help her she sort of lands right into Evans bed one night asking him to protect her.  From what? Evan has no idea. Also, Mrs Morello steps in and talks to Evan while retrieving a painting that was left behind. And Mrs Morello never has anything good to say even when she is asked for help later in the film.

Obviously, there are weird, saturated and off color flash backs utilized to fill in the gaps and holes to provide insight. Carter manages to make the film appear to be an extended episode of “American Horror Story” rather than displaying sorely needed scares with unique design and style. But his character interactions are well written and somber with good mood supplied by Reinhold Heil’s score. These scenes are done with good form.

As things get more intense after a decent set up (despite the flashy  noises and loud music to facilitate a scare), the movie starts to buckle in with ever increasing bits of predictable moments and carbon copy antics borrowed from other films. Carter’s film is good looking mimicry. After Sam shows Evan the cool looking “EVP Ghost Box” (which is actually a pretty creepy looking thing) Sam (who never seems to go home or have any parents and when we see her Dad, he’s out of focus) freaks Evan out and when the box actually works the story kicks up a notch.

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Barrer tries too hard, though, to get “deep” with what is going on and he lost me with all the strange teen angst crap. Eventually Evan and Sam start to make discoveries to try and give some more weight to the movie. Their discussions about the afterlife and their close proximity to it are interesting enough to become engaged but it’s short lived. “Haunt” really strives to be more but so many sequences seem to owe themselves to better movies of the genre. The ending, which will divide some, just seemed average and quite garden variety to me. But I do like those ghost box scenes. The damn prop becomes a character all in itself. Sam and Evan, then, work their way to trying to reach deceased members of the Morello clan. When they do, we get the obligatory fill in scenes of what really happened to the Morello’s and their legacy years before.

“Haunt” provides us with much more of the same regarding the types of scares. Lights that flicker and reveal a ghost person, kids talking to spirits (and creepy dolls) that are not there, apparitions that just explode into the frame and or lurk around corners, possessed people, parents that don’t know what is going on, the troubled girlfriend that knows all of the strange things in the home and etc etc. Yep, it’s all here.

Even conversations held regarding the history of the home, some deaths and the Morello’s sordid history all seem as if dropped in from better films like The Conjuring, Insidious and The Amityville Horror (the film even ends with a loud title card in bright red. yawn). In his defense, Carter still has plenty of room to grow and hone his skills at trying to maintain suspense and the right mood to satisfy horror lovers. The material is what is the elephant in the room. We’ve seen it all before. “Haunt” looks and sounds good but ultimately it is a forgettable amalgam of “Sinister” and other dark haunted house movies that every so often can really scare us. Consider it as a rental if you want to see this! Proceed with caution.

 

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