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Ultraviolet (2006)

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Starring Milla Jovovich, Cameron Bright, Nick Chinlund, William Fichtner, Sebastien Andrieu

Written & Directed by Kurt Wimmer


Dark Horizons’ Garth Franklin wrote the following in his review of Stephen Sommers’ Van Helsing: “Sommers is like a kid who’s just discovered masturbation, he just cannot control himself and has to keep doing things bigger, wilder and ultimately dumber – long past the point of reason or madness.” I’d say that statement also applies – perhaps doubly so – to writer/director Kurt Wimmer’s Ultraviolet. This film is pure masturbation on the part of a director not without talent, who clearly lost all rhyme and reason somewhere along the way. He masturbates like Stephen Sommers but ejaculates like Uwe Boll. Ultraviolet takes all the badness of Catwoman and repackages it with the look of live action anime and the mentality of a video game you have no control over.

Ultraviolet‘s story has to do with a dystopian future where everyone lives in fear of a virus that turns people into vampires, or as the movie calls them, “hemophages.” The word vampire is used exactly once in the whole film, not that it matters since aside from having fangs and being told that they like blood – this may be the first vampire film in history to feature not a single scene of blood-drinking – there’s absolutely nothing vampiric about them whatsoever. The whole “hemophage” concept is obviously the excuse Wimmer came up with to justify the superhuman abilities of certain characters, and even they see those abilities enhanced by some high tech gadgets. Our heroine Violet is told at one point that she’s lucky that her turning didn’t make her super sensitive to sunlight. I don’t recall any hemophage being shown sensitive to sunlight, so what’s the point with including a line like that? Heck, the majority of the film takes place in broad daylight.

The film’s conflict is built around a “blood war” between humans and hemophages. Humanity discovered the virus that causes vampirism, experimented with it, and inadvertently unleashed a mutated version of it into the populace, leading to people becoming hemophages and the rest of the populace living in fear of both the hemophages and becoming infected. Humans have assembled a high-tech fighting force of faceless storm troopers led by a guy named Daxis whose official title is Vice Cardinal; they seek to exterminate all hemophages. Even getting doused with even a drop of hemophage blood can cause infection and is grounds for immediate execution. The hemophages have, in turn, declared war on the government. This whole plot fails right off the bat because we’re never shown anything that justifies mankind feeling threatened enough to want to flat out exterminate every last hemophage. We’re also briefly introduced to the concept that hemophages have split off into various factions; a completely worthless addition to the script that exists solely to give the heroine some fellow hemophages to feud with.

Hemophage superheroine Violet is assigned to steal a case containing a weapon that the humans are planning to use against the hemophages to wipe them out once and for all. The level of cyberpunk security she has to make her way through borders on self parody. A half hour and approximately seven empty action set pieces later, including a motorcycle chase boasting quite possibly the worst CGI you’ll ever see on the big screen, Violet is on the run from both the Vice Cardinal’s forces and the hemophages she’s double-crossed with a kid known only as Six, who was the confines of the case she stole. Another concept that Wimmer introduces is that of “flat space,” which I won’t explain for my own lack of space; besides, the reason it exists in the film is to explain how an unconscious child could be contained in a case the size of a toilet seat and how everyone is able to literally pull swords and guns out of thin air.

Milla Jovovich as Violet sashays through the film like a pretentious late 60’s European fashion model that got lost on the way to one of Andy Warhol’s parties and found herself trapped in a Luc Besson sci-fi film. As a convoluted (a word that typifies much of everything in the film) flashback sequence explains minutes in, Violet was once human, married, and pregnant until something vague happened, her husband was killed, she got infected, turned into a hemophage, lost her unborn baby, and… Well, like I said, it’s all rather vague. With no explanation as to how she developed her unmatched fighting skills, Violet is now a part of the hemophage resistance and claims an absolute hatred for humans. Wimmer gives you little reason to root for her due in large part to the fact that much of the time her actions and loyalties appear to hinge on what kind of mood she’s in during that particular scene.

Violet’s supposed to bond with this kid whose blood may hold the key to curing hemophages or wiping them out, which is why both factions are in pursuit, even making their own deals with one another. The truth about what the Vice Cardinal wants with the kid is monumentally stupid. I won’t reveal it but just imagine an Orwellian version of what the Mission Impossible 2 villains were aiming for. It’s also kind of hard to root for this kid after he deliberately sets up an innocent child to take a bullet meant for him, and Violet doesn’t bat an eye at this act either.

This leads us back to the script, which seemed to be the fourth thing on his mind behind the art direction, action choreography, and visual effects. Aside from a hemophage scientist friend of Violet nicely played “Invasion” star William Fichtner, nobody, and I do mean nobody, has any real depth other than their attitude. I know the studio took the movie away from Wimmer and re-edited it but I can’t help but suspect that this for once was a major studio’s legitimate attempt to salvage a film made by a filmmaker that had taken total leave of his senses. I doubt any amount of reediting would change save the story that manages to be both barely there and hopelessly convoluted at the same time, the characters that are treated with all the respect of a first grader playing with his army men in the backyard, and the dialogue that comes out of these poor actors’ mouths that’s downright embarrassing at times. When the evil Daxis declares before the penultimate fight scene with Violet that “It’s on!” I found myself wondering if the script supervisor accidentally mixed up some pages with the screenplay of You Got Served.

All Kurt Wimmer seemed to be concerned with were elevating the aesthetics of the sci-fi action movie genre. The use of colors, the special effects, the fight choreography, the pumping metal music, the hyper editing, the unusual camera angles, the endless amounts of posing by the actors – it’s all for nothing and amounts to nothing. He seemed to be trying to do something revolutionary but all he’s done is put on a repetitive fireworks display that grows increasingly numbing with each new action set piece. Because the plot and the characters matter so little, the action scenes, as numerous as they might be, ring hollow. Violet enters a room for whatever reason and finds herself doing battle with a small army; the majority of whom she’ll take out in a matter of seconds either with her sword or using “gunkata,” Wimmer’s own personal brand of gunplay first unveiled in the vastly superior Equilibrium that involves a person gunning down multiple targets with how they pose while firing being far more important than any logistics. There were times when I thought I might actually be watching Uwe Boll’s big screen version of the game “Smash TV”.
It’s amazing how a film that should be a visual feast and a non-stop smorgasbord of action sequences can fail so miserably. I went into Ultraviolet expecting a mostly mindless, ultra-stylized, comic book style action flick and found myself tempted to walk out about halfway through due more to the insufferably smug aura of “Hey, look how cool I am!” it gave off than the overall terribleness of the story mechanics. No matter how in love with itself the film may be, there’s just no getting around the fact that Ultraviolet is just an awful, awful movie that’s takes itself too seriously and is way too impressed with itself to be any fun.

From what I’ve read about Kurt Wimmer, he supposedly hates movie critics. After sitting through Ultraviolet I find myself wondering if he hates audiences too. Right now the feeling is mutual. Being a fan of bad movies, maybe in time I’ll be able to look back on Ultraviolet and derive some entertainment from the sheer awfulness of it all, but for now this exercise in cinematic masturbation left me feeling like I was on the receiving end of a Peter North facial. Wimmer may have gotten himself off but all I want to do is clean myself off.

0 ½ 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 3.25 (12 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 4.11 (18 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 4 (17 votes)
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