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Hyenas (2011)

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Hyenas ReviewStarring Christa Campbell, Costas Mandylor, Meshach Taylor, Rudolph Martin, Amanda Aardsma

Written and directed by Eric Weston


Hyenas is an early frontrunner for the best bad horror movie of 2011. Performances are campy, dialogue is loopy, make-up and visual effects are silly, and I’m positive something must have gone down behind the scenes to explain why Hyenas is such a hot mess. Did the production run out of money and what we’re seeing is the end result of an editing bay salvage job? Was there a hard breeze that blew away some of the pages of the only script the day before filming that they were never able to recover?

Hyenas is wacky enough even on a conceptual level. This is a movie about werehyenas, folks. They’re never actually called werehyenas because that sounds even loonier than “crypto-humans” – the term the film does use to describe them. Calling them “crypto-humans” makes them sound like some new offshoot of the X-Men instead of a breed of werewolf that shapeshifts into cartoonish looking computer generated hyenas – effects so chintzy they’re a comic delight. These hyenas are supposed to be menacing, but all I wanted to do was pet them and make “goo-goo” sounds while telling them how cute they look.

The real hyena comic gold comes during the transformation scenes in which actual make-up appears to have been used to bridge the gap between person and cheap digital effect; the make-up is more believable looking and yet way more laughable all at the same time.

Hyenas Review

I also dare anyone watching not to bust a gut laughing whenever these crypto-humans in their human form let out a hyena laugh. Hyena laughter doesn’t exactly exude the same menace as a wolf howl, especially when it’s being shown coming out of the mouths of actors with glowing red eyes straight out of a 1980’s heavy metal video.

These hyenas are a female dominated society, which means women rule and males are second-class citizens forced to sit around and bemoan having to eat second even though nearly every hyena kill in the movie would give you the impression that the males were the hunters that ate first while Christa Campbell prances around naked. There’s a lot of talk of hyena pack politics that never adds up to much because it feels like there are key scenes chronicling the changing hierarchy of the hyena pack missing.

A heavily tattooed and frequently clothing optional Christa Campbell is the defacto pack leader, Wilda. Why Campbell speaks with a Scarlett O’Hara accent even though not a single other member of the pack does so is anyone’s guess. Campbell is a hoot as hyena hoochie Wilda, preening and prancing about, often in various states of undress. She definitely appears to be having fun.

The absurdity all begins when the wife and newborn baby of a man named Gannon get eaten by the hyenas. Gannon is played by Saw substitute Costas Mandylor in a performance that can only be best described as positively Mandylorian. I’ve given Mandylor a lot of grief in the past, but he’s perfectly fine here, and something hysterically corny he does in his final moments on screen will make it impossible for me to ever hate on him again.

The police believe they merely got ambushed by wild animals after getting a flat tire, but “Crazy Briggs” knows the truth and forces Gannon at gunpoint to follow him into the woods to learn the truth about “crypto-humans”. Briggs is played with raspy-voiced enthusiasm by Meshach Taylor, perhaps best known for his role as flamboyantly gay window dresser “Hollywood” in the Mannequin movies. Something about his appearance here brought to mind a Jamaican cowboy Arsenio Hall.

Just when I thought this whole movie was going to be about Briggs and Gannon hunting Wilda and her pack, the film shifts focus onto two teenage cliques experiencing their own personal West Side Story. I could almost hear a producer screaming, “What do you mean there aren’t any teenagers? It’s a horror movie! There have to be teenagers!” So here we go with a group of white teens feuding with a group of Mexican teens unaware that the sister of a dimwitted kid being hazed by the white clique is secretly dating a Latino hunk from the Mexican clique.

Thank goodness for this inclusion; otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to go 15 minutes without getting to hear a Mexican called a “beaner” or “wetback”. The odd thing is I understand why racist white kids would constantly be making disparaging remarks against Mexicans; I’m not quite sure why the Mexican teens have to continuously say things designed to remind us they are very much Mexican. For all the racial slurs the white teens hurl, at least the Mexicans stick by their bros. Two of the white teens get eaten by hyenas, and none of their homies ever inquire as to their disappearance or even appear aware that two of their own have gone missing. Some friends they are.

That dimwitted brother I mentioned gets an awful lot of screen time as a lot of the storyline involving the two rival teen factions has this kid stuck in the middle. He’s even put in a position to potentially fall victim midway, but after all this concern over his character, he has no involvement in the finale whatsoever.

The focus will eventually shift back towards Gannon and Briggs after they rescue an attractive young woman whose car gets ambushed by hyenas in precisely the same manner as Gannon’s late wife. She and Gannon will quickly begin a romance that had me thinking this seemed strangely inappropriate considering it hadn’t been that long since his wife and newborn baby were eaten alive. A mere throwaway line of dialogue will reveal that two years have passed since his wife and baby were eaten.

Two years? What? When did this transpire – during that montage? It seemed like maybe a few weeks had passed, perhaps even a few months – not two years.

Okay, so two years have passed and Briggs and Gannon are supposedly traveling about killing all “crypto-humans” in search of their lair. So why is it that they don’t appear to have ever left the same location they started in? Wilda and her pack also have no clue where Gannon and Briggs are hiding out even though they’ve all been lurking in the same locale for two straight years. This town and these woods are not that big, people. Near the end Wilda decides they need to finish these two hunters once and for all and – you know it – she and her pack head straight for the house in the woods where Gannon and Briggs have been staying without any indication as to how they suddenly know precisely where to find them.

There are plenty of amusingly head-scratching moments like that adding to the nutty entertainment value of Hyenas. Like how Briggs talks about Gannon as if he’s never had a partner before and gives no indication that anyone other than he knows of the existence of these “crypto-humans”. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, with no proper introduction to this character, Gannon gets a phone call from a fellow hunter informing them that the pack’s “alpha female” is dying. Who is this guy? Where did he come from? How did he learn this critical piece of inside the pack information? We’ll never know because this new guy gets killed almost as soon as he gets off the phone. And does Wilda or her kin interrogate the guy before killing him to learn of Gannon and Briggs location? Of course not!

There’s also a dopey plot twist involving a certain character that if you don’t see coming from a mile away then you’re as clueless as Gannon. So clueless the script has Wilda outright mock him for not having figured it out by the time she reveals it to him.

Hyenas Review

Watching Hyenas will probably make you a laughing hyena. I certainly made me one.

3 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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