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Dark Queen (2004)

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Starring Tian Kitchen, Sean Klitzner, Michael Marks, Sheyenne Rivers

Directed by Lou Aguilar


Dark Queen is an astoundingly bad take on the traditional Jekyll and Hyde theme that is practically boiling over with laughably bad acting and howlingly bad dialogue. If not for the occasional moments of stupefying badness, there would be absolutely nothing redeeming about the movie whatsoever. It’s just dreadful on every level. The script is total gibberish, the directing is utterly lifeless, the acting is embarrassingly amateurish, and the quality of the production values often go back and forth between looking professional and looking like a public access television production. Even though Dark Queen was obviously meant to be campy that still doesn’t change the fact that the only really amusing moments are so for unintentional reasons.

Okay, the movie does have one other thing going for it – breasts. Just about every major female character pops her top at least once yet there’s still a shocking lack of sex in this movie, and that strikes me as being especially odd since the plot seems tailor made for a film of the Cinemax After Dark variety. It just feels like the kind of film that should constantly devolve into softcore sex scenes that go on for several minutes at a time. I wish it did have long sex scenes in it, not just to see ample flesh bumping and grinding but also because it would have cut down on the seemingly endless amount of dull talky scenes. This is a movie with very little action going on and not just of the sexy variety.

Helen Reynolds (Played by Tian Kitchen, who came in sixth place on “The Amazing Race” a few years back and proves yet again that reality show contestants don’t make for the best actors) is an allegedly brilliant biochemist looking for the chemical link that generates the “Cassandra Factor”, aka psychic powers. Her scientific goal is to unlock the biological source of psychic powers in order to eventually turn mankind as a whole into the X-Men. Seriously.

Her newest test subject is Sebastian Horn, a woman-hating psychopath with a God complex who has used his ability to control the minds of women, making them commit suicide but not before declaring their undying loyalty to him.

If I’ve said it once I’ll say it a thousand times – never use mass murderers as test subjects! Death row inmates make for the worst guinea pigs because they always end up either escaping and killing a bunch of people or getting mutated into something and killing a bunch of people or someone somehow gets infected with their murderous essence that causes someone else to start killing a bunch of people. If you need a test subject for an experiment and the only person you can get to volunteer is a homicidal maniac then the experiment is not worth conducting. Nothing good can come from it! How many times do I have to keep telling you people this? Will you people ever learn?

Horn sits in prison playing chess while wearing some sort of gizmo on his head that is never adequately explained so I’m just going to assume it somehow blocks his mental powers. Helen extracts some of his brain fluid and takes it back to her lab where she mutates it into some sort of glowing green liquid. For no particular reason, she just up and drinks the formula resulting in a horny, power hungry Mr. Hyde persona named Cassandra to emerge.

If I’ve said it once I’ll say it a thousand times – if someone has developed some sort of new serum and it is a neon green color then do not under any circumstances ingest it, inject it, or even rub it on your skin! Glowing green formulas developed by scientists are extremely bad for your health, even worse than smoking. If you see a vial filled with glowing green liquid for God’s sake resist the urge to sample it. Nothing good can come from it! How many times do I have to keep telling you people this? Will you people ever learn?

So what specific effects does drinking this psychic brain fluid have on Helen, you ask? She magically develops dark blue eye shadow, red lipstick, rouge on her cheeks, and silver nail polish. It corrects her vision so that she no longer needs those bookish glasses. It inspires her to let her hair down and dress in a leather two-piece number so that she looks like someone at a Xena convention. She develops the ability to wield unspecified and unexplained blasts of light. Most importantly, she develops the personality of a megalomaniac sex kitten capable of controlling the minds of others and has a psychic link to the evil Horn, who actively encourages her new persona to aid him in his quest to destroy mankind. That’s some formula, huh?

Helen/Cassandra spends the rest of the movie killing people, seducing people then killing them, arguing with herself in the mirror, being psychically taunted and/or encouraged by Horn, and carrying out their master plan to take control of some rich industrialist’s satellite in order to beam a transmission all over the world that will make everyone that sees it run outside and behave like the people in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas do when you use the citizens riot with weapons cheat code.

The only person standing in her way is her young lab assistant Gary, who in the end takes the formula himself so he can combat her powers with some of his own. I really don’t know why Gary would even need to take the formula himself since he already seems to have some strange hold over every woman he meets. Despite being a reasonably handsome yet still quite average looking young man, Helen lusts after him, Cassandra lusts after him, he gets to bang a really hot cheerleader, and he even manages to quickly seduce a hottie police woman investigating Cassandra’s trail of carnage.

Come to think of it, except for the fat guy we’re supposed to believe is Helen’s would be boyfriend, just about everyone in this movie is young and good-looking. Then again, we’re also supposed to believe that Helen is really insecure about her looks even though with glasses, her hair pulled back, and little make-up she still looks far more attractive than your everyday scientist. It’s simply ridiculous. Heck, the policewoman’s partner looks like a male stripper, for crying out loud.

There is just so much here that is laughable for all the wrong reasons. Cassandra uses her mental powers to make a guy kill himself by drinking a jar of acid that looks suspiciously like orange Gatorade. The young police woman dresses like a 17-year old you’d see at the mall on a Friday night and walks around with a gun like they would on the old Charlie’s Angels TV series. Cassandra demonstrates her newfound powers to Gary by making her eyes glow to which a Gary far too casually responds, “Your eyes…Turn ’em off.” There’s even a staggering continuity error late in the movie when a woman dives into a swimming pool wearing a bikini, emerges from the pool topless, and when she walks over to talk to Cassandra mere seconds later not only has her bikini top magically reappeared but she isn’t even wet anymore.

The most dumbfounding moment of all comes when Cassandra tries to seduce Gary by mental trickery. First, she makes him think he’s been transported into his favorite Sheena-like TV show where the title character fails to seduce him after Gary realizes its all a deception by asking her how she escaped certain death at the end of an episode, which she answers incorrectly. Next thing you know, Gary is in a Japanese setting being seduced by his own mother, who looks like a 21-year old Playboy centerfold wearing a kimono that speaks with a thick Southern drawl. Admittedly, this bit of idiocy was clearly intentional on the part of the filmmaker but instead of being funny in a campy sort of way it instead had me sitting there dumbfounded wondering to myself, “What the hell is this crap and why the hell am I watching it?”

Now that I think about it, that phrase pretty much sums up this whole movie. Actually, that phrase pretty much sums up most of the movies I end up watching. On second thought, maybe that phrase says more about me than the movies themselves. I knew I shouldn’t have drunk that glowing green vial of Uwe Boll’s brain fluid.


1 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 3.59 (22 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 4.13 (23 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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