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Scream of the Banshee (2011)

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Scream of the BansheeStarring Lauren Holly, Lance Henriksen, Monica Acosta, Eric F. Adams, Marcelle Baer

Directed by Steven C. Miller


That Syfy chose to commemorate the occasion of their 200th original movie with Scream of the Banshee seems an odd choice in retrospect. This co-production with the Afterdark Horrorfest eschews much of the typical Syfy creature feature formula by featuring a monster that is brought to life almost entirely via practical make-up and prosthetic effects, a slow-burning plot with a low body count, more nighttime scenes than daylight shots, and a general sense that the makers had loftier goals than just making another silly Syfy creature feature. For those reasons alone, Scream of the Banshee is all the more disappointing.

This is one of those reviews I dread having to write because this is one of those movies I find myself with not much to say one way or another. The only aspect I found to be truly worthy of compliment was the great practical make-up and prosthetic work done to bring the banshee to life. The one negative that skewers my entire opinion of the film remains the horrifically slow pacing. The director of Automaton Transfusion and the writer-director of Boo have partnered for a monstrous hybrid of The Ring and Dead Silence that sadly falls into that category of not being good enough or even bad enough to be much fun. I’m afraid there just isn’t much to scream about here.

For me the film also relies too heavily on one of my least favorite horror movie devices: dream sequences and hallucinations. Unless your name is Freddy Krueger I find this tactic to be tiresome. The banshee here cannot kill anyone until unless they scream first. To get them to scream she jerks potential victims around with a whole lot of mind games that aren’t any more likely to make viewers scream as it is her victims. The cast is tiny and that means the body count will be miniscule, which in turn means that most of the hallucinations will result in nothing but filler. I found myself watching and wanting to give the banshee ideas on getting people to scream. Tossing some thumbtacks on the ground near a barefoot victim seemed a much more effective means of getting someone to holler than some of her fake jump scares.

Where the production excels is the make-up work. The banshee is said to be able to appear as a beautiful woman or an old hag. For the most part she only appears as an old hag with decaying greenish-yellowish skin. Other times she takes on an even more fiendish appearance – a crazy eyeless monstrously fanged fiend that flails about like a crazy Deadite. One needs no further proof of the quality of the prosthetic work than to compare it to the few moments of poorly rendered computer animation and obvious green screen work.

College professor Lauren Holly and her students – that I cannot recall a single character’s name should tell you something – discover a mysterious box and medieval gauntlet stashed away in the basement of their university. A whole lot of strangeness surrounds this box – not the least of which being a mysterious noise emanating from it – but instead of taking their time to further investigate they just go right ahead and open it up. Inside they find the severed head of something clearly not fully human. That ghoulish head lets out an ear-piercing scream and then disintegrates. Now they’re all cursed.

An ancient evil banshee is again on the loose and the first thing she does is immediately kills the black security guard for no reason other than even having been a severed head locked away in a metal box for centuries she still fully understands the pecking order in horror movies.

When not researching the origins of the box and the legend of the banshee, Lauren Holly and her student daughter engage in some soap operatic mother-daughter quarrelling that further exacerbates the drudgery of the midsection.

After slogging along for nearly an hour the pacing abruptly shifts into overdrive for a hurried finale that really could have used some of that time squandered earlier to properly build itself. This one definitely needed more of Lance Henriksen (His name was actually misspelled in the opening credits – sheesh!) running around in a bathrobe with painted nails and a shotgun.

2 out of 5

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

  • Alive in New Light
5.0

Summary

IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell

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Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law

Directed by John Law


I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.

The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.

The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.

  • Film
3.5

Summary

The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.

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