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Sound of Thunder, A (DVD)

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Starring Edward Burns, Catherine McCormack, Ben Kingsley, Jemima Rooper, August Zirner

Directed by Peter Hyams

Released by Warner Home Video


“A Sound of Thunder” is a classic short story written by science fiction master Ray Bradbury back in 1952. The story deals with a futuristic time travel company called Time Safari that takes people back in time to hunt prehistoric dinosaurs. Working with the principle that even the slightest change in the past can have monumental impact on the future, Time Safari participants are required to remain on a path that hovers just above the ground and can only shoot animals that are already moments from death. Nothing can be left behind and nothing can be brought back except for a visual documentation of the hunt. One hunter returns to the future and can’t shake the feeling that something just isn’t quite right. It turns out that during a brief moment of panic he had stepped off the path and crushed a butterfly, causing a ripple effect through time. One change leads to another, then another, and the whole thing snowballs throughout history – hence the scientific theory known as the “Butterfly Effect.” Bradbury’s short story never went into any real details involving the differences to the future other than changes in language, spellings, ambience, and politics.

A Sound of Thunder the motion picture feels like someone took Bradbury’s short story, adapted it into a survival horror video game, and this film is Uwe Boll’s movie version of that game. Characters skulk about, navigate from one location to another, get chased by monsters, do a little puzzle solving… if this movie was an actual survival horror video game then it might have been entertaining to play, but as a motion picture it’s the world’s most expensive Sci-Fi Channel original movie. That’s not a good thing.

After gathering dust on a shelf for several years following no shortage of problems getting to the big screen – many of the sets in Prague where the movie was filmed got destroyed in a flood, the production company filed for bankruptcy, etc – A Sound of Thunder got unceremoniously dumped onto a paltry number of screens the weekend after Hurricane Katrina struck. If nothing else, at least those responsible for the film could say it wasn’t the most expensive disaster of that week. How big a disaster was A Sound of Thunder? Well, let’s take a look at the numbers courtesy of boxofficemojo.com:

Budget: $80 million
Domestic Gross: $1,900,451
International Gross: $5,313,824

I do believe I can safely say that this is one of those films that won’t make its money back on DVD. It’s a pity that the only extra the studio bothered to include on the DVD is a trailer for the film, because I suspect an audio commentary track or featurette detailing the film’s troubled history would have proved quite fascinating, infinitely more so than the movie itself.

In Uncle Creepy’s review of the film’s theatrical release, he talked about what a shame it is that Hollywood doesn’t make more monster movies these days. I agree with that sentiment 100%, but A Sound of Thunder is the kind of movie that explains why Hollywood doesn’t make more monster movies. Director Peter Hyams previously made The Relic, a far from perfect creature feature that was still infinitely superior to this turkey. I dare say that between this and Van Damme’s temporal kickfest Timecop, Peter Hyams needs to stay the hell away from the time travel genre because he sucks at it.

Edward Burns, the poor man’s Ben Affleck, which is a really depressing thing to have to say about someone when you consider that these days Ben Affleck himself has become the poor man’s Ben Affleck, plays the scientist that works as the lead tour guide for toupee wearing Ben Kingsley’s Time Safari in futuristic Chicago.

Let me stop right here for a sec. The first time I saw Ed Burns walking around the poorly computer generated matte painting of futuristic Chicago as even less realistic computer generated futuristic cars drove by, I honestly began wondering if I was actually watching one of those 3-D computer animated Hot Wheels DVDs with Edward Burns blue screened in front of the action. I don’t know where the hell that $80 million went but I have a hard time imagining much of it went into the computer effects, since the majority of them are not terribly believable and a few like this are laughably embarrassing.

Anyway, Burns doesn’t particularly like going back to prehistoric times so that rich snobs in need of kicks can kill a dinosaur with a gun that fires ice bullets, but then the real reason he does it is because a virus has wiped out virtually every animal on the planet and he gets to collect some digitized DNA data on every trip that may one day lead to him bringing them back from extinction. This subplot serves no purpose other than to try and establish that his character isn’t really a money-grubbing prick like his boss, toupee wearing Ben Kingsley.

Catherine McCormack, here playing a poor woman’s Helena Bonham Carter, is the scientist that used to work for toupee wearing Ben Kingsley, having created the time travel process only to see it stolen out from under her and transformed into a money-making theme park ride for the super rich while she gets tossed out in the cold. She shows up at Time Safari ranting and raving like a PETA activist at an all fur fashion show about the dangers of time travel in the hands of a scheming industrialist like toupee wearing Ben Kingsley.

Naturally, her worst case scenario comes true on the next safari when the group survives nearly getting eaten by a dinosaur and killed by a volcanic eruption only to come back and see the world and every living thing in it getting progressively altered because one of the tourists unknowingly squished a prehistoric butterfly. Not knowing exactly what has happened or how to fix it, Burns seeks out McCormack’s advice and eventually they (a group also consisting of the token black guy, a federal agent, Burns’ niece, and other Time Safari employees that exist just to have someone to kill off along the way) all realize that they need to figure out what has happened and how to reverse it before it’s too late and humanity gets erased.

Toupee wearing Ben Kingsley is the only bright spot in the cast; at least he realizes the movie he’s starring in is crap and decides to have some fun by playing the greedy, reckless Time Safari CEO as a huckster cross between Rupert Murdock and a used car salesman. Compared to his lifeless Bloodrayne performance, Kingsley displays an almost manic personality here. Everyone else in the cast is as flat as the film’s finale. That final scene is so flat I couldn’t believe that was how it was going to end. I assure you it will only pound home the pointlessness of the entire production.

Apparently, the producers and screenwriters got it in their heads that the title A Sound of Thunder meant they needed to make the movie version big and loud and about as subtle as the gargantuan computer generated time ripple that roars across the planet like a thunderous earthquake.

Gone are the subtle political and aesthetic changes in the wake of altering history. Instead, with each new ripple effect a variety of beasties spawn out of thin air, including highly poisonous carnivorous plants, super bats, giant eels in the sewers, and a pack of half reptile/half Mandrill monkey creatures. Those baboon raptor thingies pop up most frequently but once you’ve gotten past their odd appearance there isn’t much to them. None of the film’s monsters are particularly menacing and fail to capture the imagination; every encounter, every chase with these creatures is utterly devoid of suspense, excitement or even camp value.

Well, almost all. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t chuckle quite heartily when their vehicle is a chased by a flock of those super bats. Between the absurdity of the situation and the “you gotta be kidding me” effects bringing the scene to life, it’s a howler for all the wrong reasons.

Two scenes perfectly typify exactly what’s wrong with this film and why it was doomed from the get go. Almost as soon as Burns arrives at McCormack’s condo after returning from the ill-fated safari, she tells him there’s something he needs to see outside the window. He peers out, everything looks normal for a sec, and then the gigantic translucent time tsunami comes across the horizon, striking like a massive earthquake. I don’t think anyone would have missed one of those the first time around and there was no sign of it coming at first so how the hell did she know about it and know that he should look out the window at precisely that very moment?

Immediately afterwards, a swarm of bugs (big ants I believe?) swarm into the condo. The two of them escape the insect onslaught by blowing up the apartment and jumping off the balcony, a move that should prove equally fatal since her apartment was several stories up. Nonetheless, they survive because they land in a giant tree that magically appeared during that last time ripple, a tree neither knew was there when they seemingly jumped to their deaths to survive the explosion designed to kill the ravenous insect swarm.

The more grievous insult if you ask me occurs after they find conclusive evidence that one of the Time Safari security guards has been brutally killed by an unseen creature and yet still decide to take a nature hike through the park rather than drive across town to get where they need to go. Naturally, carnage ensues. Once at their destination it isn’t long before they realize they need to go to yet another part of town. This time they elect to drive there. You come to realize that the only reason they didn’t just do the logical thing by driving to the first place is because the screenplay required them to go walking through the park so that they could get attacked and chased by the first round of monsters.

Pointing out stuff like that isn’t nitpicking. What I’ve just described are two proof positive examples of lousy screenwriting that insults the intelligence of the audience. There’s more where that came from. Take for example when the time machine is incapacitated. All is lost right? Wrong! With just a few minor adjustments, the nuclear supercollider on a nearby college campus can be modified into a time machine. I know this is a dopey sci-fi flick but come on already!

A Sound of Thunder has a few isolated moments where you can see the good movie it wanted to be and the so bad it’s good movie it might have been if the filmmakers had just said “screw it” and gone for broke, but mostly its a tedious adventure that’s very slow to get going and even once it does you never get the feeling it’s going anywhere interesting. Essentially, this is a sci-fi monster movie version of Timeline. That is not a good thing.

But at least I did learn one thing coming away from the film: If anyone ever travels back in time and steps on a butterfly, mankind will eventually evolve into a life form that looks like a cross between a humanoid catfish and a puppet created by the Children’s Television Workshop. Now that’s what I call creative design!

I can only imagine Ray Bradbury actually sitting down to watch this and repeatedly slapping his forehead as the film goes on. If traveling back in time and stepping on a butterfly could have prevented this movie from being made I bet Bradbury would be willing to do it. Judging by those box office numbers, the producers probably would, too…

Special Features
Two theatrical trailers

2 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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