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Total Recall (2012)

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Total Recall (2012)Starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bookeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy

Directed by Len Wiseman


Based on Phillip K. Dick’s classic story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” Total Recall follows Douglas Quaid (Farrell), an average factory worker who struggles daily with his ordinary life and feels like he was meant to do something more than just the same tedious job day in, day out. He’s plagued nightly by the same dream: He and a mysterious woman (Biel) are on the run from a bunch of government types, which only adds to Doug’s evolving sense of déjà vu and becomes a serious point of concern for Doug’s wife, Lori (Beckinsale), who struggles to help him through what seems to be an identity crisis of sorts.

Looking for some thrills, Doug takes a trip to Rekall – a company that implants its customers with synthetic memories – which turns out to be a terrible idea. During the implant process something goes wrong, and suddenly a whole new side of our hero is triggered, a side that can take out a room full of SWAT team members that happen to show up during his Rekall visit without ever breaking a sweat. Needless to say, Doug is pretty confused and thinking his loving wife, Lori, will be there to help him through everything; little does he know she’s actually working for the nefarious Chancellor Cohaagen (Cranston), whose reign of terror hangs in the balance once Doug begins to regain his real memory.

As someone who vividly remembers seeing Paul Verhoeven’s version of Total Recall at the drive-in the summer of 1990 as part of a double feature with Gremlins 2: The New Batch (how awesome, right?), my expectations were set pretty high when word came in that Len Wiseman would be helming a remake of a film that still remains one of my favorite childhood drive-in experiences of all time.

Thankfully, Mr. Wiseman doesn’t disappoint (mostly) with his new take on the world of Total Recall; the look and feel of the flick deliver an entirely new vision of this futuristic world where only two habitable places remain on Earth – the United Federation of Britain (UFB) and The Colony – and a top-notch cast brings this new iteration to life.

Farrell (who could pretty much be dubbed “The Remake King” these days) makes for a compelling hero in Total Recall, bringing a sense of realism to Quaid’s bewildering situation that forces him to question everything he thought he knew about his “ordinary” life, and he shares great chemistry with both of his leading ladies.

And speaking of leading ladies… Beckinsale, who never disappoints in her more action-y roles, delivers yet another badass performance that allows her to have a bit more fun as one of the main villains, showing off a different side of the actress than we’ve seen in some of her other work (like the Underworld series), which typically found Beckinsale playing things a bit more coldly than she does here. It was nice to see her change things up a bit, and who can’t help but smile when she icily retorts during a fight with Farrell, “I give good wife.“?

As Doug’s other love interest, Biel’s work is strong, even if her character is a bit under-developed; she has great chemistry with Farrell and definitely gives Beckinsale a run for her money, proving once again why Biel’s always someone you can count on to give a quality performance even if the material she’s given to work with isn’t particularly remarkable.

Both Cranston and Nighy are great as usual, although they are both criminally underused throughout Total Recall; we never get more than a few moments with Nighy’s character, Mattias, an integral force behind Cohaagen’s eventual downfall, and the time we do spend with Mattias is mostly Nighy delivering a monologue that offers very little insight into the rebel movement. And with most of Cranston’s screen time occurring via video screens until late into the second act, the tension in Total Recall would have been better served has Wiseman allowed us to get a sense of just how evil and maniacal Cohaagen truly is.

Total Recall (2012)But the look of Total Recall is an absolute marvel; Wiseman seamlessly blends practical sets with CGI backdrops, and Patrick Tatopoulos’ production design has hints of Blade Runner and The Fifth Element coursing through its DNA. In this Total Recall residents who need to travel between the UFB and The Colony must do so through a contraption called “The Fall”- a giant elevator that takes its passengers from one side of Earth to the other straight through the planet’s core with moments of zero gravity as you approach/leave the core, making for a killer action sequence set-up that Wiseman smartly uses during one of the many kick-ass showdowns in the film. And while it would have been cool to see his take on Mars, Wiseman does enough with Earth as a location to make up for the omission; plus we get the inclusion of the “Three-Breasted Hooker,” which was a fan favorite from Verhoeven’s film. We also get some nifty gadget updates like cell phones implanted in your hand and the ability to video touch just by putting your hand on glass, which make for some nice visual moments as well.

No stranger to the world of action after working on projects like Underworld, Underworld: Evolution and Live Free or Die Hard, Wiseman seems comfortable at the helm of Total Recall and delivers some pretty jaw-dropping moments of action spectacle, particularly the first throwdown between Beckinsale and Farrell, which feels visceral, frenzied and exhilarating all at once.

Another great moment involves the previously mentioned subterranean elevator The Fall wherein Farrell, Beckinsale, Biel and a gaggle of SWAT-like dudes square off during zero gravity, and we also get a crazy ass car chase in hover cars that will make you action fans out there giggle with delight.

And while it’s true that Wiseman’s Total Recall certainly hits all the right action and visual notes, it isn’t a flawless film by any means and almost derails completely during a rushed third act that feels a little flat and uninspired compared to the rest of the action leading up to it. The movie is also plagued by a somewhat shallow story that plays it way too safe most of the time and never fully answers any of the questions it poses to us, the viewers, thereby never giving us reason to invest any real interest in the themes being explored in Total Recall.

It all boils down to the fact that with Total Recall you get a lot of eye candy but no real meat and potatoes; depending on whether or not you’re cool with that will determine just how much fun you have with the flick. But as someone who notoriously loves mindless action flicks, Total Recall is certainly a film I’d recommend seeing on the big screen as it does deliver in the entertainment department with a bold and stylish take on the future with several mind-blowing feats of action elevating the film above its flimsy story.

Most of my disappointment mostly lies with the fact that Wiseman had such compelling and rich source material to draw from (Phillip K. Dick’s original story) and a talented and capable ensemble to boot but never takes any chances on going deeper into the ideas of identity to rise above mindless action for something slightly more thought-provoking. Total Recall had the potential to be an inventive reimagining but plays it safe, leaving it in “good but not great” territory.

But hey- we get a new (and hotter) “Three-Breasted Hooker” so there is always that.

3 out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.65 (20 votes)
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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 4.14 (22 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 3.95 (20 votes)
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