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Fangs (2001)

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Starring Whip (Russkies) Hubley, Tracy (“Father Dowling Mysteries”) Nelson, Katie (Wild Things 2) Stuart, Corbin (The Dentist) Bernsen

Directed by Kelly (“Family Matters”) Sandefeur


About 20 minutes into Fangs I was almost convinced that this film wasn’t new, but actually some movie made in the 80s by NBC that they would have aired sometime around Halloween hyping it as “spooky fun for the whole family.” It’s no wonder I got that vibe since Fangs stars a bunch of low-rung TV actors, is directed by the man who gave the world Urkel, and was written by one of the writers for “Mama’s Family”. I can’t begin to fathom the sheer number of people who have already been suckered into renting this waste of time on the basis of its box art alone, which actually makes the film look like it’s about vicious little bats up to no good.

It lies. This is not a jolly good fangfest.

While Fangs may technically revolve around the concept of killer bats, virtually everything actually involving the bats takes place off-screen, so much so that a more fitting title for the movie would have been Unseen Bat Attacks. Instead of the nature gone amok movie one expects to see, we are subjected to a never-ending sea of cutesy one-liners that even the writers of “HeeHaw” would have considered unfunny. For example, after one character dies (off-screen), the camera cuts to a parking meter where the “Time Expired” sign suddenly pops up. Another example, we’re shown one of the prissy, stuck-up female characters the next day after surviving an onslaught of flying foxes. Dead? Nope. Savagely mauled? Nope. She’s covered in bright blue band-aids and desperately trying to get an appointment with a plastic surgeon. I haven’t even mentioned the stuff involving the scientist’s two female student assistants, both of whom talk like valley girls even though it was now the 21st century the last time I checked. Now if any of this sounds funny to you, then Fangs is the movie for you. Rest assured, there is no horror here other than the horror you’ll experience knowing you paid good money to see it.

Fangs is rated PG-13 although I don’t know why. The body count consists of only three people and a dog. There is no profanity. There is no sex. There is no nudity. Even though there’s a romantic subplot, I don’t recall them ever actually kissing. What the hell is this supposed to be – a wholesome family film about vicious, killer bats? Oh wait, that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. That would be all well and good if the movie wasn’t overloaded with lame writing, uninspired acting, and a lack of screen time for the very thing the movie is supposed to be about.

A university scientist has been genetically engineering a new breed of bat that is more vicious and ravenous for reasons never really explained. He’s also developed some sort of ultrasonic sound device that controls the bats feeding instincts. Since humans can’t hear the tone, this plot device is visually manifested in the form of a remote control device with two lights on it. When the green light is on, the bats are calm. When the red light is turned on, the bats instantly go into a feeding frenzy and will kill any living animal in sight. Somehow the bats get out of their cages and kill the doc before escaping into the night.

Whip Hubley is the recently widowed town veterinarian who likes to snoop around crime scenes without permission from the authorities. He has a teenage daughter looks like she could be Miss Teen USA, also talks like a modern day valley girl, and obsessed with filming everything with her digital camcorder. She in turn has a dimwitted boyfriend who is supposed to be a computer wiz despite being portrayed as being about as bright as Spiccoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Tracy Nelson is the plucky police detective investigating the bat killings. She’s is perpetually flanked by an annoying fraidy cat cop who has never seen a dead body and is terrified of the sight of blood, as if there’s any blood in this movie to begin with. Hell, there’s hardly any bats. She and Whip end up crossing paths and, naturally, start off their budding relationship by having the cutest arguments. They reluctantly end up investigating the bat attacks, the scientist’s research, and the mystery of love all the while engaging in non-stop cute/nauseating banter.

Enter Corbin Bernsen as the obligatory evil rich guy who is accumulating the town’s land by hook or crook so that he can build expensive housing and a golf course in order to attract the upper crust of society and thus become even wealthier and snobbier. The town sheriff is in his back pocket and even aids in his schemes to forcibly evict people. Mr. Generic Evil Yuppie also has a head goon played by the really fat guy who looks after Tony’s uncle on “The Sopranos”, who in turn has a mean-looking pitbull for a pet. Bernsen plays his evil rich guy role with all the subtlety of one of the snobs in Caddyshack. Not since Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo has such industrial villainy been put to film.

The bats themselves are brought to life through a combination of obvious puppetry and even more obvious CGI. When you actually do see the bats swarming, it’s either really blurry or you see people with a toy bat stuck to them. You’ll come to realize rather quickly that maybe you’re better off not seeing the actual attack scenes after all.

It’s soon revealed that there is a shadowy figure using that red/green control device to command the bats to attack specific targets (i.e. Corbin Bernsen & his henchmen), culminating in a pathetic “Scooby Doo”-like finale. I apologize for soiling the good name of Scooby Doo by associating it in any way with this film. Lord knows Scooby’s good name has suffered enough lately so let me rephrase that previous statement and say that the old “Clue Club” cartoon had more compelling mysteries than this.

And I can’t wrap up this review without mentioning the song during the closing credits that sounds like something Cheap Trick would have recorded back in the 80s. Check out these lyrics: “We got an attraction! We got a chemical nuclear reaction! It doesn’t get any better than this!” I would definitely dispute this last part. I always love it when the song in the closing credits has absolutely nothing to do with anything that has preceded it and doesn’t even match the movie’s tone. Then again, this song really sucks, so to that end it does fit the movie.

The mystery of Fangs’ wretchedness is finally revealed at the very end of the closing credits when the web address for the film’s producers, Porchlight Entertainment, scrolls across the screen. Folks, Fangs is a nature gone amok horror movie from a production company founded at the ABC Family Channel during the time when it was owned and operated by Pat Robertson. Yep, this really was designed to be a wholesome family film about vicious, killer bats.

0 ½ 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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User Rating 4.43 (7 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 3.9 (10 votes)
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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 3.31 (16 votes)
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