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Ogre (2008)

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Sci-Fi's OgreReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring John Schneider, Katharine Isabelle, Ryan Kennedy, Chelan Simmons and Brendan Fletcher

Directed by Steven R. Monroe


A group of college age friends on an excursion happen upon a tiny backwoods town isolated from the rest of the world that appears to be stuck in a timewarp as if it were still the mid-1800’s. The town elders struck a deal with the devil to save the town long ago leading to immortality on their part but at the cost of having an evil monster come calling for its annual human sacrifice, and now the young friends who’ve stumbled upon this secret might be the next ones sacrificed.

Hold on just one cotton-pickin’ minute!

Group of good-looking young’ens? Town stuck in a timewarp? An unholy curse? Evil monster that collects sacrifices on a timeframe? I’d swear the Sci-Fi Channel already premiered this movie last Halloween when it was called Headless Horseman. The set-up is practically the same.

Headless Horseman did not, however, feature a creature that looked like Vince McMahon’s ideal version of Shrek. Like a pot-bellied boss monster from a video game, the ogre in all its hokey CGI glory looks like a giant inflatable crossbreeding of Shrek, a sumo wrestler, and the blocky title monster from Sci-Fi’s S.S. Doomtrooper, which itself was one of the most LOL-worthy monstrosities they’ve ever unleashed upon viewers. If you don’t come close to doing a spit-take the moment the ogre first appears in the film’s opening minutes then the best thing you can do is switch the channel immediately because its goofy appearance is one of the only two things Ogre has going for it. For goodness sake, THE OGRE HAS BITCH TITS!

Ellensford, Pennsylvania in the year of our lord 1859: Sir Henry Bartlett (“Smallville‘s” John Schneider, considerably less annoying than he was in Lake Placid 2 earlier this year) is named the new magistrate after the village elder dies from the plague that’s been killing the townspeople. Why do the townsfolk hastily elect Bartlett to be their new leader? Because Sir Henry Bartlett is the town magi and they believe he can cast a spell that’ll save them.

Town magi? I seem to remember learning in history class that people such as this during that particular time period tended to be religious and none too accepting of people proclaiming to practice the dark arts. Guess my history teacher never heard of Ellensford, PA; they not only accept this sorcerer, they make him their leader and allow him to enter them into an unholy contract with the devil to save them from the pox killing off their community. Good ol’ Satanism, the only 100% guaranteed cure for the common cold.

The plague is gone and the denizens of Ellensford gain immortality, but there’s a catch. There’s always a catch, isn’t there? Everything evil and diseased that has befallen the village has been pulled out of the people and manifested in the form of an enormous ogre. Now every year on a certain day during the winter solstice a chosen one amongst the villagers will be sacrificed to the ogre King Kong-style.

It’s worth noting that the ogre hides it shame behind a loin cloth. It may be the living embodiment of all the town’s wickedness and disease but never let it be said that the forces of darkness have no modesty.

Ogre (click for larger image)Present day: a group of young hikers are out in the Pennsylvania woods partaking in their own personal “Destination Truth” in search of the lost town of Ellensford. One of them will trip and fracture his ankle. He’ll be left behind with another female to tend to him while our two leads, the non-dimensional Mike (Ryan Kennedy, soon to be seen in the highly anticipated Poison Ivy 4: The Secret Society) and a brainless ninny named Jessica (Ginger Snaps‘ Katharine Isabelle, giving an embarrassing performance of Tara Reid-ish proportions), go looking for help, preferably a ranger station. They won’t have to go far before happening upon a gated dirt road with an old, homemade “No Trespassing” sign on it. Naturally, they trespass. Once doing so, these modern interlopers quickly find themselves in Wicker Man territory.

Sir Bartlett will blame these trespassers for Ellensford’s latest ills brought on after ankle boy and the girl that stayed behind with him unknowingly unlock the lair where the ogre is kept until it comes time for the yearly sacrifice; now it’s skulking about killing indiscriminately: grabbing, slashing, gutting, biting off heads, and taking a page out of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s book by stomping a mud hole into people and walking it dry – literally. Bartlett’s daughter, Hope (Chelan Simmons, the naked tanning bed victim from Final Destination 3 that wasn’t Crystal Lowe), will attempt to lead an uprising against her scheming father and put an end to the ogre curse once and for all using the magical anti-evil amulet her evil dad gave her.

All the while the ogre just seems to be wandering around aimlessly until it’s time to mutilate a cast member. This is another one of those monster movies where I found myself wondering just what the heck was the monster doing during all the time it wasn’t on the screen, especially considering the very limited proximity of the area it has to wander around in.

Ogre (click for larger image)I also couldn’t help but detect a basic fundamental problem with the townspeople and their unholy bargain. They may be immortal but they’re incapable of spawning – very Highlander-esque of the writers – so if they continue with the sacrifices there will eventually be none of them left anyway. If they deny the ogre its sacrifice and attempt to fight back it’ll kill them all. If they succeed in destroying the ogre they’ll all die, disintegrating into a beam of light as happens to any villager who attempts to exit the town’s outer limits. Any which way you cut it, they’re all dead. Honestly, other than the horror of having to give someone up every year to be mutilated by a hideous monster, what does it matter how all this all ends for them since it all ends with them all dead regardless?

That’s also the biggest problem with Ogre as a film – everything is inevitable. You know the townspeople are history regardless of how it turns out so that just leaves us with the two leads from our time and their fate – also quite predictable. Not that you care much about them anyway; Mike and Jessica are practically supporting characters only necessary as catalysts to unleashing the ogre who afterwards come across as completely expendable side characters.

Not expendable though is John Schneider as the Voldemort of Hazzard County. I’ve complained in the past that John Schneider usually just plays John Schneider. If that’s truly the case then this time John Schneider is playing John Schneider as one of the judges in a stage production of The Crucible. A very theatrical acting job if ever there was, he’s a site to behold dressed in his Witchfinder General attire, sporting a pilgrim beard, and wielding a stone encrusted wizard staff straight out of Lord of the Rings. I’d swear I’ve seen that very staff for sale in one of those catalogs that specializes in fantasy gear and weaponry. I don’t think I’ve ever written this line before so here it goes: John Schneider steals the movie.

Ogre (click for larger image)I can tell you precisely the moment all the air gets let out of Ogre, though doing so requires a SPOILER WARNING – assuming anyone cares about such a film being spoiled. After devoting so much time setting up Henry Bartlett as a scheming villain with magical powers, the character is unceremoniously killed off by the ogre about mid-movie. Schneider’s performance was so hammy as to be genuinely amusing and the moment the movie lost him it lost a major source of its cheese factor and as I said from the outset, that cheese factor is all this movie has going for it. But worse than just losing a major provider of its cinematic lactose, the bulk of the film’s first half worked to establish antagonism between Bartlett and his daughter, he and the two unintended interventionists, and the ground work had even been laid for a confrontation between the townspeople who had begun dividing up into those that trust Sir Henry and those that agree that it’s time to end this infernal pact. The moment Schneider gets killed off the movie in effect kills off the biggest source of its dramatic conflict, negating almost everything it had been building up to.

Following that major misstep the second half sinks into the repetitiously lame Sci-Fi Channel everyone-rally-together-to-kill-the-monster motif and by then we’d already seen so much of the ogre that the novelty of this silly computer-generated creature running amok was beginning to wear off, much like whatever charm the film itself had.

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“>“>
2 out of 5

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THE STRANGERS Blu-ray Review – Let This Stellar Release From Scream Factory Sneak Into Your Home

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Starring Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Man in the Mask, Dollface, Pin-up

Directed by Bryan Bertino

Distributed by Scream Factory


It’s a bit odd – though somewhat fitting, given the number of waited-too-long sequels being produced these days – The Strangers (2008) finally got a follow-up after a lengthy ten-year gap. The original is a fine example of a home invasion picture done right, or at least well enough, but, as anyone who has seen the film knows, the leads probably won’t be returning and the killers have the personalities of dime store Halloween masks. The Strangers is a disturbing film in the sense the events seem like they “could happen to you” – it is, after all, “based on a true story” (not really). Plus, the situations our leads find themselves in are exactly the sort people still freak themselves out, like whenever someone enters a room with large windows at night – let’s all be honest here. The only thing scarier than things that go bump in the night is the thought those things are just out of eyesight, waiting to scare you. With the exception of a few “wait, why are you doing that?” moments The Strangers manages to activate certain primal responses to being stalked and frightened. It’s creepy.

Not-newly-engaged couple James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler) have returned to James’ childhood summer home after a day spent at a wedding, where James’ proposal to Kristen was sadly declined. They go through some awkward motions back at home, trying to figure out where their relationship stands, when there’s a sudden KNOCK at the door. James answers and finds a young girl asking for a person who has never lived there. She leaves, cryptically mumbling she’ll “see them later”. She does, along with two other “friends” – the Man in the Mask and another girl in a pin-up mask – who proceed to stalk, taunt, tease, and terrorize both Kristen and James until the morning light breaks.

There aren’t many huge surprises in this film but the less you know about how the night plays out, the better. This isn’t to suggest the main characters make smart decisions viewers aren’t expecting, though. James is initially dismissive of a series of terrorizing occurrences Kirsten experiences when he goes out to get her a pack of smokes, brushing all of it off like she has an overactive imagination; this after the weird situation with the girl moments before. And expectedly, once James is finally on board with believing something sinister is afoot it’s already too late to do much about it. Past that point he and Kristen do act like rational people (mostly) and their plight gains a little more sympathy because of their noble efforts.

I hate the scene where James’ friend, Mike (Glenn Howerton), shows up, though. Spoiler alert: any viewer can see his accidental death coming from a mile away. Since it’s established early on James has called Mike to pick him up, what would have worked better would be if all the footage of Mike’s arrival and inspection of the house was cut. That way, his reveal at James and Kristen’s makeshift stronghold in the back bedroom would have been a major surprise. Instead, it plays out so obviously the intended impact is completely muted.

While the film falters in a few areas, it manages to make up for those gaffes by stepping outside the norm. One thing is does incredibly right is refusing to give the trio of terrorizers any personality or backstory or motivation. Viewers are left just as cold once the credits roll as they were upon being introduced to these faceless miscreants. This feels especially refreshing when watching the movie today because lately it seems so many horror films have been yanking the mystique out of things; between prequels and reboots and lengthy exposition it’s rare when a film chooses to eschew all of that. The film is also dire and dour, leaving little room for hope aside from a tiny tidbit that occurs at the very end. There are no white knights; the cavalry isn’t coming – and when you are staying at a house with weak security, near the woods, with no neighbors close by, don’t expect a deus ex machina to save the day.

Universal previously issued The Strangers on Blu-ray, though it featured both cuts on a single BD-25 and used an outdated codec. This new release from Scream Factory spreads the goods out onto two discs, giving each cut a full BD-50 to maximize bit rate. As a result, the 2.35:1 1080p image looks much more refined, smoothing out past compression issues and tightening up both contrast and definition. The lion’s share of this film was shot at night and black levels maintain a rich consistency throughout, while still allowing for details to remain apparent. Nothing is lost to the shadows, which frequently bathe the actors and environments. Scream Factory touts a new 2K scan of the intermediate and the results are nearly flawless.

As viewers might expect, sound design plays a crucial role in this film and the audio options ensure they’ll be immersed in subtle and not-so-subtle sounds from every direction. Both cuts feature an English DTS-HD Master Audio track in both 2.0 and 5.1 options. As expected, the multi-channel track offers a more discreet experience, spreading out the spooky sound design to fully envelope listeners. Thuds, knocks, voices, and footsteps creep from unexpected corners of the room, placing viewers right in the action and heightening the tension. The soundtrack goes a bit overboard on the jump scares stingers but since the whole point of this film is a couple being jolt scared over and over they seem fitting. Subtitles are included in English SDH.

Just as buyers should rightfully expect, Scream Factory has included all of the previous extra features found on Universal’s release and then some.

DISC ONE: Theatrical Cut

“The Element of Terror” – This is a routine EPK, filled with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast & crew.

“Strangers at the Door” – This piece covers the film’s initial concept and shows off some of the cast & crew working on set, with a few being interviewed, too.

A reel of deleted scenes, three TV spots, and a theatrical trailer, which is quite effective, can also be found on this disc.

DISC TWO: Unrated Cut

“Defining Moments – Interview with writer/director Bryan Bertino” – This is a newly recorded chat with the director, who discusses not only the making of the film but its legacy now that so much time has passed since release.

“All the Right Movies – Interview with actor Kip Weeks (Man in the Mask) – Here, the actor discusses how he got the role and what kind of direction was given to him for the character.

“Brains and Brawn – Interview with actress Laura Margolis (Pin-up Girl) – Just as with Kip Weeks, Margolis talks about playing such a quiet character as well as discussing some changes to the trio that were made during production.

“Deep Cuts – Interview with editor Kevin Greutert” – Learn about how the film took shape, the reasoning behind cuts and sequencing, and what changes were made right up until the theatrical release date.

A still gallery is also included.

The cover art is reversible and there is a slipcover included on first pressings featuring newly commissioned artwork.

Special Features:

  • NEW 2K REMASTER of the Theatrical Version of the film
  • NEW 2K REMASTER of the Unrated Version of the film
  • NEW Defining Moments – An Interview With Writer/Director Bryan Bertino
  • NEW All The Right Moves – An Interview With Actor Kip Weeks (Man In The Mask)
  • NEW Brains And Brawn – An Interview With Actress Laura Margolis (Pin Up Girl)
  • NEW Deep Cuts – An Interview With Editor Kevin Greutert
  • The Element of Terror – Interviews With The Cast And Crew
  • Strangers At The Door – Interviews With Writer/Director Bryan Bertino And The Cast
  • Deleted Scenes
  • TV Spots
  • The Strangers
  • Special Features
3.8

Summary

Still effective only with only a modicum of true stupidity, “The Strangers” might not be the classic it’s been called in more than a few recent retrospective pieces but it does occupy a cushy spot near the top of the contemporary home invasion film list. Scream Factory’s release offers up excellent A/V quality and all the bonus features anyone could want (barring an audio commentary).

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7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB Review – Rest Easy, Indiana Jones, There’s Not Much To See Here

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Starring Kellan Lutz, Bingbing Li, Kelsey Grammar

Directed by Kimble Rendall


If it only weren’t for those friggin’ spiders. Kimble Rendall’s adventurous flick, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is one of those “wanted to be, yet couldn’t quite hit the mark” action-films that will probably entertain those looking for some cave-dwelling escapades caught on celluloid, but for the more picky aficionado of said slam-bang pics, this one might be viewed as a bit stagnant. Let’s strap on our mining helmets and pick around this one, shall we?

Acting as a bit of a search-and-rescue formation, the movie tails alongside Dr. Jia Lee (Li) as she hunts down the whereabouts of her missing brother after losing contact with him while he was on expedition in Western China. Apparently he was looking for a secretive Emperor’s tomb that supposedly holds a potion that can reanimate, or re-invigorate…or rehabilitate – anyway you slice it, the juice has got some pretty potent powers. So a search team is assembled, led by Mason (Grammar – glad someone got Frasier off of the barstool), and he’s latched onto all-American fella Jack (Lutz) to assist this operation. As it turns out, the initial journey is cut off fairly quick when a violent electrical storm forces the group to head underground, and that’s when things get creepy and crawly…like 8-legged style. The film is ripe with some feverish action and a few decent performances, but it’s the overall framework that acts as the big bully, tauntingly kicking sand in the little guy’s face at the beach.

We’ve got love interests, a flurry of backstories, and oh my lord, those spiders! Yep, even the heartiest of CGI can effectively ruin a good case of the willies when it comes to arachnids and their powers of sucking humans and animals dry of their lifeforce. It’s an intently goofy movie, and even the dialogue seems a bit showy at times, leaving plausibility and intelligence at the entrance to the caves. Lutz is fun to watch as the burly rescuer, and he looks as the type who is just waiting for his cinematic moment to step into the spotlight. What pains me is that this movie really could have been something much bigger, and apparently it looks as if the majority of the film’s budget was wasted on those hokey-looking computerized spiders.

All in all, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is spotty entertainment, even if you despise those little skittering aphids racing towards you, programmed or not. Give it a peek if Raiders Of The Lost Ark isn’t readily available at your disposal…even that crappy Crystal Skull one.

  • Film
2.5

Summary

A film that could have been so much more adventure-wise instead comes off looking like a lesson in how not to waste too much time on computer imagery.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 160 – A QUIET PLACE

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Lately, it seems as though comedy actors are cutting their teeth as horror directors and absolutely killing it! This year’s indie horror darling comes in the form of John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place. Chris has been sick as a dog, so the haomie Christine from Horrible Imaginings Film Fest is filling in to discuss whether A Quiet Place is 2018’s horror heavyweight, or just a lot of noise.

What Bruno took was what changed me; it only amplifies your essence. It simply makes you more of what you already are. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 160!

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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