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Guardians (2006)

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Guardians review!Starring Shannon Watson, Tara Ketterer, Hemi Marcum, Sally Huynh, Nick Driessen, Bryce Lord

Written & Directed by Drew Maxwell


Hellboy meets “The A-Team” in Guardians, a low budget supernatural shoot’em up I’d first heard about awhile back. Still unreleased domestically, Guardians hit DVD shelves in Japan last month under an alternate title with the word “Alien” in it even though the movie has bupkis to do with extraterrestrials. I don’t know what the Japanese distributors were thinking, but I will give them for coming up with one seriously kick ass trailer that prompted me to import a copy. Seriously, check out this trailer and tell me Guardians doesn’t look like a kick ass little B-movie. If only it was as much fun as that trailer made it look. Talk about a total slacker of a movie.

On the positive side, Guardians is almost completely devoid of humor or irony; in my opinion a welcome change of pace from so many other similar films that feel compelled to remind everyone how cheesy their subject matter is. It never quite achieves the grim tone and permeating atmosphere of dread it sets out for aside from the dreary production values, much of which appear inspired by the Silent Hill video games. Even the CGI anime-esque demons look cool, though admittedly a tad pedestrian in their monstrous hack-and-slash nature. It’s enough to elevate Guardians from being nothing more than a totally by-the-numbers production.

An occultist villain is using a demonic tome to open a portal to another dimension. The denizens of a small isolated town have become the vessels by which to bring forth an army of supernatural monsters into our world for him to control and use to conquer the mortal realm. The Guardians in their delivery van loaded with heavy firepower are sent in to stop him. It almost never gets any more complicated or imaginative than that simplistic plot synopsis.

Writer-director Drew Maxwell shows technical proficiency, but his script… If only he’d bothered to develop, well, anything. Characters have no dimension and little by way of personality, backstories are only hinted at and the storyline is so barebones that it feels more like the abstract outline of a plot the screenwriter would use as a starting point for writing the script.

The Guardians are a clandestine group of warriors that have fought to exterminate supernatural evil down through the ages. We know this because the opening voiceover narration tells us so. We learn very little else about this ancient order.

Guardians review (click to see it biggere!The villain is Dr. Strand, an ex-member of the Guardians who has turned evil. The script doesn’t bother to explain why he turned evil or anything about his past relationship with the group. Doing so leaves us with a villain who is just a guy who is evil for the sake of being evil. Even his overall goals are barely touched upon.

The Guardians’ team leader is named Alex. We learn nary a thing about him. Mika, a tough Asian chick with a yen for heavy machine guns – nothing more to her character either. Marcus is a tattooed African-American roughneck who doesn’t like guns because they’re too messy yet has no problem using knives, axes and using the van to run bad guys down. Hey, at least that’s something, but otherwise, nothing more to him either. Even the townspeople they’ve come to rescue are blank slates.

The last member of the group is one of the few bright spots where a glimmer of imagination comes shining through. Referred to only as “The Boy”, he’s a creepy-looking child: bald, pale, with reddish-black circles around his eyes (making him look a bit like Uncle Fester’s “Mini-Me”). “The Boy” was a child who survived a previous encounter with the demons the Guardians have come to battle. They were able to stave off the demonic infection that got in his blood, preventing his transformation into one of them, but in doing so left him in a semi-catatonic state: mute, inattentive, always looking away as if he’s staring into nothingness. Whenever evil is nearby, “The Boy” begins twitching. The Guardians use “The Boy” as something of a supernatural Geiger counter/early warning system. The very concept of “The Boy” is a great one; one I wish had been used even more than it was. The presence of this character also pounds home how uncharismatic the other characters all are. I mean everyone else is getting upstaged by a kid who doesn’t talk and barely does anything. What does that tell you?

Guardians review (click to see it biggere!The very existence of “The Boy” also leads to the biggest hole in the plot that, not surprisingly, gets totally glossed over. This is not the Guardians first encounter with these particular demons. So then how did they survive their first encounter with these demons if they don’t currently know how to defeat them? Aside from explaining how the team went about acquiring “The Boy”, we’re told absolutely nothing about this previous encounter.

They need to get their hands on that book. Bullets and rocket launchers have little or no effect on these monsters, yet they’re going to send the guy armed only with knives and a battle axe to go alone to retrieve the book. Just because Alex declares Marcus to be the toughest man he’s even known hardly makes this a sound strategy.

But once they get the book, leading to another scene that shows great potential, in which just reading the text challenges Alex’s sanity, the conclusion he comes to again seems so simplistic it’s hard to believe they didn’t already know to do this.

Oh, and once they’ve stolen that book, Dr. Strand then spends what must have been several hours just walking slowly through the woods with his minions to the boarded-up building where everyone’s hold up. Feel free to take your time there, Mr. Wannabe Ruler of the World.

Would you believe this movie ends with Alex and Dr. Strand dueling in a martial arts knife fight of the Steven Seagal movie variety? Not exactly how I expected a movie like this to wrap up.

Guardians may have zipped along at a reasonably brisk pace with okay man vs. monster scenes, but after awhile it was hard not to keep from getting more than a little aggravated by how little creativity had been put into the script. The production values are good, the acting is okay, the direction is decent, but the backbone of the film feels like it could have been written by an elementary school kid.

2 out of 5

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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