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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)



Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (click for larger image)Starring Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Karoline Herfurth

Directed by Tom Tykwer

If all you know of director Tom Tykwer’s work is the frenetic, uber-cool Run Lola Run, then you’re likely to be blown away by what he has accomplished with Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Hell, I’ve seen just about everything the man has done over the past decade, and I was still surprised by the film’s awesome scope and amazing beauty. Tykwer’s talent has reached a pinnacle with Perfume that no doubt many other directors will be striving to emulate for years to come much like his main character, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille’s, all-consuming quest to create the ultimate scent.

Let’s look for a moment at this Jean-Baptiste (Whishaw). Born in 1738 and left for dead in the streets of the Paris fish market by his mother, his sole value is the money he brings to the orphanage in which he is placed. But it soon becomes clear that Jean-Baptiste is no ordinary boy; he has a sense of smell the likes of which the world has never known. No scent is deemed good or bad; it just is. Feared by the other children because he’s so “different,” upon reaching the appropriate age, he is sold by the orphanage head to a local tanner. On a trip to the city with the tanner, he is nearly overcome by all the odors he encounters, most notably that of a beautiful red-haired girl selling plums, who meets a most tragic end at the hands of our young protagonist. Shortly thereafter he makes his way to the shop of renowned perfumer Giuseppe Baldini, who has fallen on some rather lean times as a result of his rival’s great success with an innovative fragrance that has taken Paris by storm. Jean-Baptiste convinces Baldini (Hoffman) to hire him on as an apprentice, and the boy quickly learns everything he can from his new master. Before long the tables are turned, and Baldini is learning from him. But still Jean-Baptiste’s desire to capture and preserve the essence of a woman in perfume form is unachievable.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer review (click for larger image)Realizing that the boy’s talents far exceed those of his own, Baldini gives him permission to travel to the legendary town of Grasse to study the art of enfleurage (absorbing scent with animal fat). It is here where Jean-Baptiste becomes truly obsessed with creating the perfect embodiment of virginal womanhood. One young woman in particular, Laura Richis (Hurd-Wood) — another redhead interestingly enough — becomes his primary target. She remains elusive, but other bodies start piling up, and the townspeople begin to panic at the thought of a mass murderer in their midst. By this time Jean-Baptiste has refined his technique, but the final ingredient, the lovely Laura’s innocent essence, is lacking. Her father, the affluent and influential Antoine Richis (Rickman), senses something is afoot and does everything in his power to protect his beloved daughter, but Jean-Baptiste will not be dissuaded, and the chase is on.

This is the story of Perfume in its simplest form, but there is much greater depth and detail involved. Its opening scenes in particular are some of the most gorgeous yet ghastly you’re likely to see all year. Tykwer’s command of the camera and the audience’s attention goes well beyond impressive. In a sort of sensory overload, it’s as if we, the viewers, can smell each aroma portrayed onscreen. Frank Griebe, the cinematographer, shows his brilliance in every frame. It’s obvious why Tykwer has chosen to work exclusively with him throughout his career. Every aspect of the period is accounted for from the dirt and grime of the Parisian lower class to the lush landscape of Provence to the sumptuous clothing and accessories of the wealthy as represented by Richis and his social circle. The music (which, as is his custom, includes works by Tykwer and his usual cohorts Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek), sound design, sets, effects, and editing are all top-notch. It does run a tad long, but with all there is to savor, Tykwer can be forgiven for indulging himself a bit.

Speaking of savoring, the next best thing about Perfume after Tykwer is the acting. Ben Whishaw is a revelation. Appearing in practically every scene, he dominates the screen and reminds this reviewer of a young Steve McQueen. He makes Jean-Baptiste an atypically handsome, intriguingly aloof anti-hero for the ages. We are equally charmed and repelled by the character. Yes, he’s a murderer as the title proclaims, but he still somehow manages to elicit our sympathy, most notably when he realizes incredulously that he, himself, carries no odor whatsoever. It’s remarkably poignant and compelling. The supporting players are also noteworthy. When I first saw that Hoffman was cast as Baldini, I had a moment of concern as he hasn’t had the best track record with me as of late. But my worries were for naught as he embraced the role and filled it with nuances and intensity I haven’t seen from him in years. Bravo to the return of Dustin as we knew him in the 60’s and 70’s! And Rickman shines as well. His part may be small, but it’s pivotal, and he hits every note perfectly. We don’t question his love for Laura for a second and feel his pain when the inevitable happens. Every other actor imbues his or her role with the same distinction and fits the era flawlessly. There’s been some quibbling about the unusually bright red color of Laura’s hair (I’m a stickler for such details myself; i.e., the freshly bleached blonde in Reign of Fire and the impossibly clean Heather Graham in From Hell both drove me crazy), but considering that henna has been used in such a manner for thousands of years, I didn’t have any problem with it here at all.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer review (click for larger image)Unfortunately, Perfume does contain one significant shortcoming: its climax (no pun intended to those who have seen the film and know what I’m talking about). I haven’t read the book on which it is based, but from the small amount of research I did prior to writing this review, apparently Perfume is quite true to its source material. I fully understand the point of the piece, but when audience members laugh out loud at a time when they should be engrossed and moved emotionally, there’s a definite disconnect at play. Perhaps it is better served by visualizing it in one’s own head instead of seeing it fleshed out on the big screen. Personally I could easily look past the more fantastical elements of the scene, but people seem to be split 50/50 on the matter, much like what happened in another recent film, The Prestige. Whereas I was on the side of those who didn’t particularly care for the end result of The Prestige, I’m on the opposite side of the fence with Perfume and feel the storyline does an adequate job of leading the viewer to its fairly unrealistic finale (although I’m typically no fan of gratuitous Christ-like imagery of the type found here). But that’s for each individual to decide, and I encourage you to see it with an open mind and form your own conclusions. With so much that’s right about Perfume, I can’t let that one small component deduct too much from my rating, especially since what follows the moment and comprises the real ending is wholly in keeping with the overall tone of the film — and delightfully grotesque.

So here it is only January of 2007, and I’ve already found what’s sure to be one of my top picks of the year. While it may be light on gore and typical scares, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is full of everything else that makes up a good film — horror or otherwise. As one of its taglines states, Perfume introduces us to “an intoxicating world of passion, obsession, and murder,” three of my favorite subjects. If they are among yours as well, then make sure you don’t miss out on the pleasure to be had by immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of Perfume.

4 out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review



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


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.

User Rating 3.25 (12 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters



Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


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)


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.

User Rating 4.11 (18 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror




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.


  • 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


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.

User Rating 4 (17 votes)
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