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Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004)

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Starring Emily (Ginger Snaps) Perkins, Katherine (Freddy Vs. Jason) Isabelle, Nathaniel (American Outlaws) Arcand, JR (Thirteen Ghosts) Bourne

Directed by Grant Harvey


I have to admit it, and the more I see the more proud I am to do so, I loved Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed (review). I thought it was the perfect sequel, at least in terms of smaller budgeted productions. It took a character from the first one and shoved her center-stage and put her in a fairly realistic situation with a suprsingly horrific outcome. That’s why it’s too bad the series couldn’t have ended with that film instead of this one.

Don’t get me wrong, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning isn’t a terrible movie. But the problem is, after the fantastic first film, and the equally cool sequel, the prequel that ends the series should’ve been something spectacular. Instead it’s just…”eh”.

The story finds the Fitzgerald sisters, (thankfully lacking fake-sounding French accents, as is the rest of the cast) circa the 19th. Lost and cold and alone, an Indian leads them into an outpost camp manned by soldiers who are just trying to stay alive, after the supplies they had been expecting to arrive two months previously never showed. To add insult to injury, they are beseeched day and night by vicious monsters who’s only goal is to kill and eat, and maybe create a few new ones in the process. An Indian woman warns the sisters before they’re taken into the camp to “Kill the boy, or one sister will kill the other”, but like all cryptic messages it doesn’t really make sense until it’s far too late. Of course, one of the girls is bitten and the other has to try and get her out, or at the very least keep her safe, while sanity and order crumbles around them.

So where does it fall flat? The Creeture and I were discussing that right after watching it, and we both came to the conclusion that it lets too much of the film rest on the relationship between the Fitzgerald girls and doesn’t concentrate enough on an actual story. You’re supposed to fear for these girls, you’re supposed to really care about them and feel like they really mean it when they say “together forever”, but either their performances or the script (or a mixture of both) come off as stale and phoned-in for most of the film. No history was given as to why these two sisters were alone in the woods, what happened to their family, why they’ve made a vow to be “together forever” (although the fact they seem to be alone in the world is a bit revealing on that point, some exposition wouldn’t have hurt); mostly I just couldn’t bring myself to care what’s happens to them.

So what about the werewolves? We saw a definite improvement in its design in the last film, and seeing as how they were made back-to-back you would think the design would have stayed the same, and for the most part it does, except for one major change; the front legs of these beasts are much, much longer than their back legs. It leads them to look awkward most of the time, which is a shame because at one point there are a lot of them on screen and that scene alone could’ve been amazing. I can only guess this re-design was done because of their number and the fact that they were far more mobile than they had been in the past, I just think there must have been a way to accomidate this and keep the creatures slick and vicious. And before you even ask no, there are no transformations.

It does have its good points, don’t get me wrong. It’s shot beautifully, with full usage of the Canadian wilderness coming into play, and the dreams sequences look especially amazing. The music is subtle but effective, nothing like the grinding semi-industrial track of the last one, which is good because it would’ve made zero sense in this situation. Some of the characters are great, even if they seem to be just filling in stereotypes, and there’s a good amount of the red stuff to be had.

Unfortunately, though, none of those things are enough to elevate it past a status of “eh” for me, and I almost hope someone decides to make just one more, and make it the spectacular film this one should’ve been, just so we can have a good sense of closure with the series.
 

2 ½ out of 5 Mugs O’ Blood
 

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The Cured Review – Ellen Page Fights for Her Life

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Starring Ellen Page, Sam Keeley, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Paula Malcomson

Written and directed by David Freyne


Taking a cue from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the new Irish horror film The Cured begins where most zombie stories end. Drawing more comparisons, the themes of mistrust and social upheaval are front and center here as well. We’re the real villains, and the infectious disease turning humans into monsters is only there to hold up a mirror to show the worst sides of ourselves. The Cured uses the zombie mythos as Romero intended as a commentary on culture, with a little cannibalism thrown in for good measure.

Against the backdrop of a military takeover attempting to reintroduce the recently cured back into society, two people try to return to some kind of normalcy in a war-torn Ireland that’s been turned upside down by the zombie menace. Recently widowed, Abbey (Page) allows her now virus-free brother-in-law Senan (Keeley) to live with her and her son, even though most survivors are forced to live in an army encampment. Under constant surveillance, Senan’s old friend Conor (Vaughan-Lawlor) radicalizes the mistreated survivors of the virus into open rebellion.

The treatment of the survivors isn’t entirely unfair considering that they still have a connection and are not detected by a small percentage of the infected that haven’t responded to the cure. As both sides size each other up, Abbey and Senan are caught in the middle as they try to restore their humanity before the powder keg around them erupts.

Given its far out premise, the story stays firmly grounded in reality, focusing on the growing resistance and its political implications, drawing parallels to the protest movements such as the “Black Block” that have dominated some recent news cycles. When the virus divided the population, it was easy to know what side you were on; now, the cure has created a new class structure where the lower class is maligned until they cross the line and overthrow the uninfected. Clearly still affected and haunted by the heinous acts they committed when they were infected, the cannibalistic rage they still carry reflects the rage felt by the mistreated masses hellbent on overthrowing the powers-that-be.

Whether for budget reasons or simply a style choice, the eating frenzies that occurred before the cure are never fully shown so any gore and graphic images that could’ve been showcases for effects are left to the imagination. Maybe they weren’t shown because these acts were so unspeakable that they are too horrific to see and too painful to fully be remembered by the survivors. The top-notch sound design ratchets up instead and roars to life to the point where just hearing the carnage is enough to make you turn away.

Page’s performance is the emotional core of the film as she goes from understanding to fear to dealing with the ultimate betrayal. It’s important for a slow-developing story like this to have an actress with some star power, and director David Freyne and his team were fortunate to have a high caliber actress ready to deliver in some of the film’s quieter, more intense moments. Freyne directs these smaller character moments with care and also delivers once things open up to show the inevitable anarchy brimming under the surface.

The Cured may feel too closed off at times to allow its bigger ideas to fully breathe, but it never pretends to encompass a more epic scope that would be more in the vein of something like World War Z. Without ever addressing it directly, Freyne, as an Irishman, seems well aware of the history of the country; and he and cinematographer Piers McGrail inject their film with a pathos that makes Dublin come to life inside the world of the undead.

  • The Cured
3.5

Summary

The Cured is a gritty take on the genre that fits nicely into the new type of storytelling that these stories need to embrace in a post-Romero world.

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Bad Apples Review – Rotten Fruit, Indeed

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Starring Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim

Directed by Brian Coyne


Like a seriously bad rash, some films stick with you regardless of whichever topical ointment you slather in generous fashion over your regions – ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce today’s orbital irritant: Bad Apples.

Directed (rather misdirected) by Brian Coyne, this lamentably sterile piece of celluloid follows a couple of murderous sisters, donning horrific (and not in a good sense) masks, and generally putting the sharp edges to random folk on Halloween night…case closed. Only problem here is this: the film has no pulse, no interesting characters to speak of, and basically nothing to redeem or recapture the time that you’ll have spent watching this complete dud. A husband and wife duo has a spotlight on them as well, but their tempestuous relationship makes rooting for them about as pleasing as sitting through 3 hours of Olympic curling…absolutely brutal. Also, you’re reading the babblings of a guy who loves to put the boots to any film that has been deemed “unwatchable”, but this complete wreck of a production is entirely that – something so remedial and uninspired that to type an endless array of rightful vitriol would be an utter waste of time.

So I’ll go on a bit longer with my public display of vehemence, as the casting seems WAY out of whack, and the production? Whoa…don’t even get me started on this – okay, I’ll go on a bit. With differing levels of sound editing, you’ll get the feeling at times like you could pick up a needle drop inside of a concert hall, and other frames of dialogue are so muddled they’re incomprehensible (not like you’ll feel the need to know what’s going on). Wonky camera angles and following shots are so horrendously captured, you’ll be wishing to watch your Mom and Dad’s old home movies just to gain a sense of stability. I normally pride myself on not begging this particular audience to take what I say to heart, or to shy away from something that could potentially ruin their eyesight, but believe me when I plead with you: do not waste your valuable time on this shipwreck – even if your time isn’t all that valuable: don’t waste it. Find something else to do and take a big ol’ pass on this wannabe slasher.

  • Film
1.5

Summary

I don’t mean to pick on the low-hanging fruit, but these Apples should be batted away with a Louisville Slugger.

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Edge of Isolation Review – A Movie with a Simple Message: Don’t Trust Anyone

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Starring Michael Marcel, Marem Hassler, Alexandra Peters

Directed by Jeff Houkal


Sometimes, relying on the kindness of strangers is the thing that’ll do your gullible asses in – kindness? Strangers? Come on – think about it! Even further proof of said warning comes in the form of director Jeff Houkal’s brutally blatant film, Edge Of Isolation – won’t you come inside and grab a seat? You see! You fell right into another trap – jeezus, people…don’t trust just anyone, will ya?

Set up in a simplistic format, we’ve got a traveling couple (Lance and Kendra) whose Jeep, conveniently enough decides to shit the bed along a desolate stretch of roadway, leaving them at the mercy of the Polifer family, a slightly odd bunch of backwoods residents. This particular clan isn’t exactly wrapped too tightly, and they’re not afraid to let their freak flags fly, that’s for sure. You see, the family has been deeply-rooted in these here woods, and their “hospitality” has kept them fed for quite some time, and with a fresh supply of unsuspecting commuters stopping in at varying spells, their stomachs never truly seem to growl out of sustained hunger…oh, that kindness will bite you in the ass every single waking moment.

As I mentioned earlier, the film is constructed fairly simple, yet effective in its barbarism, and those who dig survivalist-horror will be wringing their mitts in anticipation for this one. While some editing does look a bit hokey, the practical effects more than make up for an at-times bit of strewn-about plot navigation, but who’s keeping score? Certainly not me, that’s for sure. I absolutely revel in low-budgeted films that don’t necessarily have the looks and feels of such, and Edge Of Isolation is one of those presentations that is certainly worth its weight in blood and guts – do yourself a solid and give this one a look when it becomes available to the masses, and for f**k’s sake, don’t take up anyone’s offer to chill at their place when your ride breaks down – get AAA and save your life (the previous statement was in no way affiliated or endorsed by the Triple A Automotive group – just sayin’).

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Edge Of Isolation doesn’t need a full-blown allocation to keep future stranded motorists from losing their heads – all they have to do is push “play.”

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