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Hellraiser: Revelations (Blu-ray / DVD)

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Zombie Diaries 2Starring Steven Brand, Nick Eversman, Tracey Fairway, Stephan Smith Collins

Directed by Victor Garcia

Distributed by ARC Entertainment


I don’t know why, but I like Hellraiser Revelations. Not in the traditional sense, and certainly not as a sequel to Clive Barker’s 1987 innovator, but when a film goes this far off the rails, it’s hard to feel any sort of outrage over what Dimension has done to their franchise. After sixteen years of disappointments (longer if you didn’t like Hellraiser III), who was expecting the Hellraiser movie they shot in two weeks to be any good?

To its credit, Revelations feels more in step with Barker’s original creation. At least in principle. Its focal point surrounds a family that has torn itself apart with all sorts of petty jealousies and sins of the flesh. Cheating spouses and estranged relationships have forced two teenagers to head out into the world in search of something more. They wind up in Mexico where the infamous puzzle box rears its ugly head amidst an evening of debauchery and, ahem, hell is inadvertently raised.

The bulk of the story picks up one year later, after the friends have vanished and their parents are left wondering what became of them. They gather at what looks to be some producer’s house in the Hollywood hills for some kind of remembrance dinner when, lo and behold, one of them shows up on the doorstep. Battered and bloodied, he has quite a story to tell …

Hellraiser Revelations (Blu-ray/DVD)Revelations is the kind of movie where tallying all of the poor story decisions, bad performances and general half-assery quickly becomes impossible. What begins as another found footage movie (two kids on a road trip) is quickly discarded in favor of a more traditional narrative. The film reverts back to its cinema vérité roots once it’s revealed that a private investigator has inexplicably recovered both their camera and the puzzle box, but it can’t even be bothered to follow through on this, toggling back and forth between first person and third person throughout these flashbacks. It’s confusing for we the audience as we’re supposed to be seeing what happened through the eyes of the family members watching this footage. If the filmmakers weren’t interested in following through on their found footage Hellraiser, why’d they bother including this element at all?

It’s widely known that Bob Weinstein wanted this movie made in order to hold on to the franchise rights. But what’s odd is that with a lot of story tinkering (preferably an all-out rewrite) and a bit more production value, this story might’ve served as the basis for a decent Hellraiser remake. Its main characters are young and could’ve been cast straight from the CW, and the “truthful cinema” gimmick would’ve been right at home in the middle of this current cinematic trend. Instead they cut virtually every corner imaginable and came up with a movie so sedentary that it feels less like Hellraiser 9 and more like Hellraiser: The High School Stage Play.

FX guru and Neo Art & Logic go-to guy Gary J. Tunnicliffe is responsible for a baffling screenplay that supposes our characters are trapped in their Beverly Hills home because their modes of transportation have all been destroyed (off camera). There’s some additional nonsense about it being better to wait for morning to move the injured boy, but you’d think there’d be a greater sense of urgency on behalf of the kid who randomly turns up on their doorstep half dead. Instead there’s more bickering, in-fighting and heavy drinking – all of it meant to show exactly why these kids flew the coop in the first place. Hellraiser: The After School Special?

Director Victor Garcia (Mirrors 2) must’ve known he was getting into a bad situation, and it’s hard to fault him entirely for this mess. Honestly, what can you do in two weeks? He doesn’t manage a single good performance from this horrendous troupe, each of them coming off as second tier soap opera actors. It’s a movie where someone takes a point blank shotgun blast to the gut and survives the remainder of the movie, miraculously recouping enough strength to fight off one of the villains while retaining enough sense of humor to spout off a one-liner while doing so. Garcia stages a baffling moment of incest between brother and sister over a bowl of soup – every bit as awkward as it sounds. This is a film where Pinhead first appears and the kids hurl expletives at him rather than expressing any real fear or disbelief. Even worse, Garcia shoots Pinhead as if he were Barbra Eden. In Revelations, he’s like a genie in a bottle just waiting to be released. When characters interact with the box, Garcia cuts to Pinhead reacting, as if the Cenobites are actually just sitting inside it waiting to come out. This Hellraiser’s mythos aren’t just confused, they’re flat-out stupid. It’s nothing but clunky – all over Garcia’s rushed production.

Hellraiser Revelations (Blu-ray/DVD)Poor Pinhead. Everything you’ve heard about him is true. Stephan Smith Collins steps into pretty big and iconic shoes…and does absolutely nothing with the part. The worst Hellraisers enjoyed a touch of class (however miniscule) thanks to the continued presence of Doug Bradley, but this is just awful stuff. From the chunky look of the character (Collins would’ve been better suited for Butterball), the slipshod costume (looking like a Halloween knockoff of the real thing) to the dreadful performance. This was the best actor they could find to fill those shoes? When I saw this theatrically, my audience (myself, a friend of mine and one stranger) erupted into laughter the first time he spoke. Subsequent line deliveries are no better, either. Granted, the script doesn’t give the character anything good to say, which makes it seem like Bradley himself played a direct role in sprucing up his character’s dialogue. Collins goes through the motions garnering only one reaction: laughter.

Oddly enough, Revelations offers some nice (if limited) practical FX work. The last few entries in the series suffered from embarrassing morphing FX and lame CGI chains and gore so it’s refreshing to see this one get back to basics. The “new” Cenobite here is pseudo-Pinhead and it illustrates just how lazy the idea men were behind this ninth entry. Pseudo-Pinhead is a silly design but the work that brings him to life is contradictorily solid. Revelations also resurrects other Hellraiser mainstays such as the iconic pillar and skinless bodies. It’s all brought convincingly to life by Tunnicliffe’s people and this honest to goodness FX magic helps make this sucker feel more like Hellraiser than the last few sequels.

Clocking in at 70 minutes (with five additional minutes of credits), this is hardly a chore to sit through. Hellraiser Revelations is loaded with so much unintentional hilarity that I found myself having a good time with the rancid material. Couple that with some genuinely good gore work and you’ve got a terrible movie that manages to be more enjoyable than the last three or four movies in this loosely connected franchise. The picture quality on the Blu-ray is quite nice, with fine detail and rich black levels. Audio is strong, with dialogue being perfectly clear. The only extra material here is a handful of weak deleted scenes. Yes, Revelations is an awful movie, but it’s a fascinating disaster. One that I have no problem recommending to those of you who feel like you may enjoy this sort of thing.

Special Features

  • Deleted Scenes

    Film

    1 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features

    1/2 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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    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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    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 3.5 (8 votes)
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