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End Game (2009)

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End Game ReviewReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Kurt Angle, Jenna Morasca, Sam Nicotero, Natalie Bail, Eric Wright, Jonas Chaney

Directed by Bruce Koehler


Kurt Angle. Olympic gold medal-winning amateur wrestler. World championship-winning professional wrestler. Future award-winning actor? Hey, two out of three ain’t bad.

I could see him getting his feet wet in the acting world appearing in a broad comedy or doing the typical b-action movie thing, but playing a devious, smooth-talking, charismatic, master of disguise serial killer requires a thespian skill set that Kurt Angle does not currently possess. Angle’s best acting moment has him do nothing more than stare ominously at a victim without a shred of emotion in his eyes, which he does convincingly, though still looking as if he were a Terminator that wasn’t issued hair at the Skynet factory.

What we have here is another one of those serial killer movies where the cunning murderer spends most of the running time toying with potential victims and the cops after him. The killer frequently changes his appearance, sometimes even passing himself off as a policeman working his own case. The killer also relishes the cat & mouse game he plays with the lead detective on his tail (i.e., calling up the man’s house at all hours to taunt him). The detective – married with a young special needs daughter – further plays into the killer’s hands by getting involved with the stripper roommate of his most recent victim whom he has now begun targeting.

End Game is a pretty lousy movie. That should not come as a shock to anyone when talking about a no-budget serial killer flick starring a professional wrestler and a reality television star turned professional wrestler. Now to be fair, all of the acting ranges from sub-par to terrible to laughably bad. The entire production gives off the vibe of a student film project. There’s so much blue tint lighting used they should have cast The Undertaker instead of Angle. Frequently static camerawork makes many a scene feel like you’re watching the filming of a lethargic stage play. That’s a fitting comparison given the acting much of the time left me feeling like I was watching the rehearsals. Not that the script would make for a compelling thriller even with a bigger budget, a better cast, and a faster pace. Watching End Game isn’t so painful that you’ll need 70 Vicodins to get through it, but I would advise some pep pills to keep you from falling asleep during the extremely dull parts.

If you’re looking for a compelling serial killer thriller, this is so not it. But if you’re a Kurt Angle fan or a connoisseur of movies about or starring professional wrestlers, End Game is an absolute must-see.

End Game ReviewKurt Angle stars as sexual predator Brad Mayfield AKA the “Stranglehold Killer”, a serial killer who has gained his rep for asphyxiating female victims to death after sex. Only the first we see him kill in the film will die at his hands via what I suppose you could call strangulation. The next female victim he seduces gets her neck broken. A male victim (non-sexual, thank goodness) then gets stabbed. I was hoping someone would get anklelocked to death – no dice. For a guy billed as the “Stranglehold Killer”, he doesn’t seem beholden to that particular means of murder.

The movie opens with Angle going doggy-style on his first victim, during which he will redefine the concept of the “rear naked choke” by cupping his hands over her mouth and smothering her to death. So if you’ve ever wanted to see Kurt Angle’s fuck face while repeatedly asking the woman he’s banging from behind “You want me to make you cum?” over and over…

Personally, I could have lived without ever having to see Kurt Angle’s O-face. Not quite as psyche-scarring as the Chyna sex tape or the horrifying thought of one day accidentally stumbling upon an underground viral video of Ox Baker getting titty fucked by Abdullah the Butcher, but this was still not a position I ever wanted to see our Olympic hero in.

Mayfield has now set his murderous sights on the exotic dancer roommate of his most recent victim. Such as the harrowing scene where Mayfield dressed like a cat burglar tries to break into her apartment by lying on the floor and sticking his hand underneath the front door with a lockpick device; she stabs his hand with a screwdriver and he screams like a woman. Something about the staging of this scene left me wondering when Dick Tracy would arrive to question witnesses.

End Game ReviewJenna Morasca, a former “Survivor: Amazon” contestant who posed for Playboy and is now part of the roster of Total Non-stop Action wrestling (the same promotion Kurt Angle just happens to wrestle for), co-stars as a stripper who never takes off any clothes. She develops a relationship with the cop hot on Mayfield’s trail after he pays her a visit at the strip club where she works and watches her never remove a single article of clothing while barely moving on stage.

Should I mention now that the filmmakers were shooting for a PG-13 rating? Despite opening with a sex scene and setting other scenes inside a strip club, there is no actual nudity and the violence is fairly tame. This strikes me a major miscalculation. When you set out to make a motion picture about a psycho sexual serial killer that preys primarily on exotic dancers, it just seems to me that right from the get-go you should already be thinking in R-rated terms. I’ve seen 15-year-old reruns of “Silk Stalkings” more salacious than End Game.

The cops can’t seem to catch Mayfield. That strikes me as odd because Mayfield works in an office under his real name even as the police are on the hunt for him. Maybe I missed something along the way. I have to confess to having been bored into such a stupor at times – anytime the focus was on the police side of things or the melodrama of the lead detective’s personal life – paying attention to the details became quite the arduous task. Sorry to say there’s very little entertainment value outside of the unintended comedy stemming from the novelty of Kurt Angle’s “acting” and his silly disguises.

Mayfield’s favorite disguise is that of “Detective Bishop”, a heavy-set policeman with a voice so husky it could win the Iditarod. A brown fedora, a brown suit designed to make him look at least 50 pounds heavier, and a latex face appliance meant to make him appear older and fat faced: it’s astonishing how much Angle in this outfit combined with his phony deep voice makes him a dead ringer for Tor Johnson in Plan 9 From Outer Space during the scenes of Johnson playing police detective. It simply has to be seen to be believed.

Even more amazing because when we get close-ups of “Detective Bishop” his completely unnatural complexion has the texture of a shinier, more rubbery version of Richard Lynch’s face. He’s about as normal looking as Fantastic Four‘s The Thing whenever he’d walk around in a hat and overcoat, and yet nobody looking at him is ever the wiser.

End Game ReviewAnother awesome disguise has Angle dressing up as a birthday party clown to get inside the investigator’s house. As carnival music plays over the entire scene, Doink the Olympian will KO the wife with a punch to the face and then deadpans the line “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” That incredible moment sets the stage for my favorite exchange of uproariously bad dialogue. Not sure why I laughed so hard at this particular dialogue exchange; possibly because the actor playing the lead detective has a voice almost as gravelly as Don Frye, which just made it sound funnier than it was. As his wife is being loaded into an ambulance (that must have been a hell of a punch!), the detective asks what happens, and she tells him that Mayfield has abducted their special needs daughter, Chrissy.

“Who did this?”

“A clown.”

“A CLOWN?!”

“He took Chrissy.”

“HE TOOK CHRISSY?!”

Yet End Game is still better than 95% of Hulk Hogan’s filmography.

1 out of 5

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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.33 (6 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 3.9 (10 votes)
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The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

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Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

Directed by Alan Lougher


The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Ultimately chilling in nature!

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User Rating 3.31 (16 votes)
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