Directed by James Gunn
Distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment
“Where have they gone?” That’s the question I always find myself asking when I get that familiar itch. Usually there is no relief. The only thing that can scratch it is a cool looking beastie causing mayhem in a nice little violent atmosphere. Sadly, nowadays monster movies are few and far between. Or maybe I should say good monster movies are. Wait, how about we go a little further and say good horror movies are getting harder and harder to find, period!?! If I have to sit through one more PG-13 neutered snooze-fest or another dreadful remake, I will scream until my lungs burst. Many fans echo my sentiments which is why I am all the more disturbed. I listen to folks complain endlessly: “No more remakes!” “Stop making our movies so kid-friendly!” Yadda yadda yadda. Yet, when a good R-rated original horror film hits theatres, everyone stays home. That’s right! Movies like the abysmal When a Stranger Calls remake and the bloodless smarmy teen-fest Cry_Wolf make it to the top of the box office while quality films like James Gunn’s Slither open so poorly that it’s out of theatres within a couple of weeks. This will forever be one of life’s little mysteries. Sad but true. However, there is some light at the end of this dismal tunnel. Thanks to the advent of home video and especially DVD, films that are (for whatever reason) without their audience can finally find one. Mark my words, Slither will be one of those flicks that is beloved many years from now. It’s a true B-movie classic in every sense of the word, especially in its storyline. It fits like an old comfortable sweater.
They came from outer space! Don’t they always? Bad shit always happens in small towns. Enter the meteorite. Upon crash landing on our humble planet, it is discovered by town honcho, Grant Grant (Rooker). Grant’s going through the usual mid-life crisis stuff and is looking for a change. Holy shit does he find one. Actually, one found him! Before you can say “Poke it with a stick,” the deadly space-rock splits open and out pour alien life-forms of the slug variety. There’s no amount of salt in the world that can save the human race from these slimy bastards. They descend upon Grant in dramatic fashion and set up shop within his body.
Our newly arrived space slugs have some interesting characteristics. For one thing, upon inhabiting a human, the host is then transformed into a bloodthirsty zombie. Their victims (especially Grant) start evolving into a new breed of creature, one that could spell the end of the world as we know it. *does quick Michael Stipe-like shimmy* Can anyone stop them?! Meet lawman Bill Pardy (Fillion). Pardy’s just your average Joe, looking to keep his town quiet and score with Grant’s wife, Starla (Banks). He, Starla, and a few others are our first and last line of defense against these creatures. Can the carnage be contained? Will Pardy get the girl? Have you ever seen so much pus and blood before? Does the Grant monster have two schlongs? The stage is set, and you don’t want to miss a single squishy second.
In 1986, while dealing with a similar situation, Detective Ray Cameron would greet people with the words “Thrill me.” It’s taken twenty years, but someone has answered that challenge.
The people behind Slither know exactly what kind of movie they’re making. They know what key elements are needed to churn out a wickedly disgusting, yet fun ride. Director James Gunn is a proud horror fan, and who better to make a movie like this? Pay close attention to Slither, and you’ll see exactly what I am getting at. For instance most of the film’s characters and sights are named after those from some of our favorite movies. Need a few brief examples? I’ve got your hook-up.
The town’s mayor is named R. J. MacReady (The Thing)
There are neighbors in the film named the Castevets. The Castevets were Rosemary’s neighbors in Rosemary’s Baby
Earl Bassett High School was named after the lead character in Tremors
The gun store is named after Max Renn from Videodrome
The local bar is called “Henenlotter’s” (a nod to director Frank “Basket Case” Henenlotter)
There are many more homages to be found as well. While things like this may go unnoticed to the casual fan, believe me when I tell you we rabid ones eat shit like that up! Know what else we eat up? Blood and other various bodily fluids! Slime and pus are splashed around with reckless abandon. You can almost hear the F/X guy giggling with glee. As a result, there are scenes in Slither that are both cringe and vomit inducing. Not since the Eighties have I had this much fun watching an unabashedly cheesy alien invasion flick. Slither is without question this generation’s Night of the Creeps. Now if only we could get that one on DVD next. Alas, that’s a rant for another time.
Let’s talk supplemental materials. This disc delivers! How many times have you put on the extras for your favorite film expecting to be entertained and end up being bored to tears? This is not one of those instances. Slither‘s extras are fast paced, at times funny, and overall totally entertaining. Even on-set stress is handled in a lighthearted manner. When asked about the film during one of the featurettes, Gunn had this to say about his flick:
“This movie has its cock in my mouth, and I’m fucking gagging. My eyes are watering, I’m gagging, but I refuse to spit it out because I’m a trooper. It’s gonna cum if it’s the last thing I do! Put that on your fucking DVD.”
Ya just gotta love it. Aside from the oodles of extras (the longest one clocking in at around twenty minutes), we also get a commentary track by Gunn and actor Nathan Fillion. Even though the two aren’t even in the same country at the time of the recording (yay telephones) they still have enough chemistry to keep things lively and engaging. Bottom line – these guys are fuckin’ funny. Best damned commentary I’ve listened to in years.
While certainly not an A-list film, Slither still finds itself sitting pretty high upon the B-movie heap. That’s more than I can say for most.
So listen up! If you didn’t go see Slither in theatres, do yourself a favor — click that little link at the bottom of this review and order the DVD. Don’t live without it for another second. You don’t even have to get off your ass to do it so no more excuses! It’s a helluva lot easier than finding a needle in a fuck-stack. Whatever that means!
Feature commentary with director James Gunn and actor Nathan Fillion
Bringing Slither’s Creatures to Life featurette
Slithery set tour with Nathan Fillion
A Making Of: The Sick Minds and Slimy Days of Slither featurette
Lloyd Kaufman’s On-set Video Diary
4 1/2 out of 5
Desolation Review: Campers + Lunatic = Simplicity, But Not Always a Better Product
Starring Jaimi Page, Alyshia Ochse, Toby Nichols
Directed by Sam Patton
I’m usually all in when it comes to a psycho in the woods flick, but there was just something about Sam Patton’s Desolation that seemed a bit distant for me…distance…desolation – I’m sure there’s a connection in there somewhere. Either that or I’m suffering from a minor case of sleep-deprivation. Either way, make sure you’ve got your backpack stuffed, cause we’re hitting the timber-lands for this one.
The film focuses on mother and son tandem Abby and Sam, and the tragic notion that Abby’s love and father to her son, has passed away. The absence has been a crippling one, and Abby’s idea of closure is to take her adolescent offspring to the woods where her husband used to love to run and scatter his ashes as a memorial tribute. Abby invites her best friend Jenn along as emotional support, and together all three are planning on making this trip a fitting and dedicatory experience…until the mystery man shows up. Looking like a member of the Ted Kaczynski clan (The Unabomber himself), this creepy fellow seems content to simply watch the threesome, and when he ultimately decides to close the distance, it’ll be a jaunt in the forest that this close-knit group will never forget.
So there you have it – doesn’t beg a long, descriptive, bled-out dissertation – Patton tosses all of his cards on the table in plain view for the audience to scan at their leisure. While the tension is palpable at times, it’s the equivalent of watching someone stumble towards the edge of a cliff, and NEVER tumble over…for a long time – you literally watch them do the drunken two-step near the lip for what seems like an eternity. What I’m getting at is that the movie has the bells and whistles to give white-knucklers something to get amped about, yet it never all seems to come into complete focus, or allow itself to spread out in such a way that you can feel satisfied after the credits roll. If I may harp on the performance-aspect for a few, it basically broke down this way for me: both Abby and Jenn’s characters were well-displayed, making you feel as if you really were watching long-time besties at play. Sam’s character was a bit tough to swallow, as he was the sadder-than-sad kid due to his father’s absence, but JEEZ this kid was a friggin malcontented little jerk – all I can say is “role well-played, young man.”
As we get to our leading transient, kook, outsider – whatever you want to call him: he simply shaved down into a hum-drum personality – no sizzle here, folks. Truly a disappointment for someone who was hoping for an enigmatic nutbag to terrorize our not-so-merry band of backpackers – oh well, Santa isn’t always listening, I guess. Simplicity has its place and time when displaying the picture-perfect lunatic, and before everyone gets a wild hair across their ass because of what I’m saying, all this is was the wish to have THIS PARTICULAR psycho be a bit more colorful – I can still appreciate face-biters like Hannibal Lecter and those of the restrained lunacy set. Overall, Desolation is one of those films that had all the pieces meticulously set in place, like a house of cards…until that drunk friend stumbled into the table, sending everything crumbling down. A one-timer if you can’t find anything else readily available to watch.
Looking for a little direction way out in the woods? Look elsewhere, because this guide doesn’t have a whole lot to offer.
Children of the Fall Review – This Israeli Slasher Gets Political
Starring Noa Maiman, Aki Avni, Yafit Shalev, Iftach Ophir, Michael Ironside
Directed by Eitan Gafny
Reviewed out of Utopia 2017
Slashers are a subgenre of horror that are often looked down upon. After all, what can a movie about a killer slaughtering multiple people have to say about, well…anything. Those of us in the community know full well that this is nonsense and that any kind of horror movie can be a jabbing (no pun intended) commentary on society, culture, politics, art, etc… And that’s precisely what Eitan Gafny aims to do with Children of the Fall, one of the few Israeli slashers ever created.
Set on the eve of the Yom Kippur war, the film follows Rachel (Maiman), a young American woman who comes to Israel to join a kibbutz after suffering some serious personal tragedies. Her goal to make aliyah (the return of Jews to Israel) is however hampered by some rather unpleasant encounters with local IDF soldiers and members of the kibbutz. Pushing through, she makes friends with others in the commune and her Zionistic views are only strengthened, although they do not go untested. Once Yom Kippur, one of the holiest holidays in Jewish culture, begins, a killer begins picking off the kibbutz workers one by one in violent and gruesome ways.
Let’s start with what Children of the Fall gets right, okay? As slashers go, it’s actually quite beautiful. There are wonderfully expansive shots that make use of the size and diversity of the kibbutz. The film opens with a beautiful shot of a cow stable, barn, water towers, and miscellaneous outbuildings, all set against a dark and stormy night. The lighting of this scene, and throughout the film, is also very good. I found myself darting my eyes across the screen multiple times throughout the film thinking I’d seen something lurking in the shadows.
The kills, while unoriginal, are very satisfying. Each death is meaty, bloody, and doesn’t feel rushed. In fact, the camera has no problems lingering during each kill, allowing us to appreciate the practical FX and copious amounts of blood used. And if you believe that a slasher needs to have nudity, you won’t be disappointed.
The acting is middle of the road. Maiman is serviceable as Rachel but the real star of the film is Aki Avni as “Yaron”. His range of emotion is fantastic, from warm and welcoming to Rachel when she arrives to emoting grief and pain during his Yom Kippur announcement where we learn that he was a child in a concentration camp. The rest of the cast are perfectly acceptable as fodder for the killer.
So where does Children of the Fall stray? Let’s start with the most obvious part: the runtime. Clocking in at nearly two hours, that’s about 30 minutes too much. The film could easily have gone through some hefty editing without affecting the final product. Instead, we have a movie that feels elongated when unnecessary.
Additionally, the societal and political commentary is very in-your-face but the film can’t seem to make up its mind as to what it’s trying to get across. Natalia, a Belarussian kibbutz worker, raises the concept of Israeli racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, her hostility unabashedly pouring out in the midst of IDF soldiers, locals, other kibbutz members, and more. Is there validity to what she’s saying? Undoubtedly. But there is also validity to Rachel’s retorts, which include calling this woman out on her own vitriolic views. This back-and-forth mentality frustratingly prevails throughout the film, as though Gafny was unwilling to just commit.
The dialogue is also quite painful at times, although I attribute this to difficulties with translating from Hebrew to English. Even the best English speakers in Israel don’t get everything perfect and the little quirks here and there, while charming, are quite detracting. Also, why is this movie trying to tell me that Robert Smith of The Cure is a character here? While amusing, it makes absolutely no sense nor does it fit in Smith’s own timeline.
Had this film gone through a couple rounds of editing, I feel like we’d have gotten something really great. Eitan Gafny is definitely someone that we need to be watching very closely.
While Children of the Fall has a lot going for it, it has just as much working against it. Overly long, you’ll get a really great slasher that is bogged down by uneven social and political commentary.
Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club Review – A Charming, Quirky Dark Drama
Starring Keren Mor, Yiftach Klein, Hana Laslo, Ania Bukstein
Directed by Guilhad Emilio Schenker
Reviewed out of Utopia 2017
One of the great joys I have in being a horror fan is seeing horror films from around the world. I view these films as a chance to learn about the fears, folklore, mythology, and lore of varied cultures. Films like Inugami, Frontier(s), [REC], and the like transport me across oceans and into places I might never get the chance to visit otherwise. Hence my interest in the Israeli dark drama Madam Yankeolva’s Fine Literature Club, the feature debut of director Guilhad Emilio Schenker.
The film follows Sophie (Mor), a member of a strange, female-only reading club – who believes that love is a lie – that we soon realize brings men into its midst only to have them killed. The woman who brings the most fitting man is awarded a trophy for her fine taste. When a member reaches 100 trophies, they get to enter a coveted and highly esteemed upper echelon of the reading club’s society, one that includes lavish surroundings and an almost regal lifestyle. Sophie starts the film earning her 99th trophy but her plans towards the all-important 100th trophy are thrown askew when she ends up developing feelings for her latest victim. She must now decide if the mission that has been so dear to her for so many years is something she wishes to see through or if she’s ready to take a huge risk and fall in love.
Now, if this seems like a strange story for a horror website, I don’t disagree. Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is certainly not your traditional horror film. In fact, I’d liken it far more to the more playful works of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children than something more grotesque and violent. It’s very playful and quite charming, although there are times when the presentation feels amateurish and certain moments when things become wildly unbelievable. That being said, the film aims to be a dark fairy tale come to life, so a healthy amount of “I’m okay letting that go” will not go unappreciated.
The film is shot in such a way that it’s very soft around the edges, almost like we’re constantly in a dream. This is aided by composer Tal Yardeni’s score, which obviously takes inspiration from Danny Elfman, playfully weaving its way through each scene.
While there’s a lot to love about Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club, it’s certainly not a flawless film. As mentioned previously, there are times when it feels quite amateurish, as though no one thought to look at how a scene is being filmed and say, “People, this isn’t how things would go down. We can have fun but this just doesn’t sit right.” Additionally, the story moves very quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of love at first sight. But that’s not how this story plays out, so the wildly strong feelings that develop between Sophie and Yosef (Klein) seem strangely out of place.
All things being what they are, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a charming film that can definitely appeal to horror fans if they’re willing to stretch their boundaries to include films that have absolutely no scares or gore but imply quite a horrific situation.
Charming, quirky, but not without its faults, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a dark drama for fans of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Don’t go in expecting any scares or gore. Rather, anticipate a fairy tale that might be just a bit too gruesome in tone for young children.
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