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Hydra (2008)

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Hydra reviewReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring George Stults, Polly Shannon, Alex McArthur, Texas Battle, Dawn Olivieri, Michael Shamus Wiles, Roark Critchlow, Jana Williams, William Gregory Lee

Directed by Andrew Prendergast


Four gazillionaires are on a yacht heading to a deserted island for the ultimate luxury adventure for the person who has it all but still isn’t satisfied: hunting humans for sport. The organizer of this most dangerous game is going to be paid tens of millions a pop to provide these bloodthirsty tycoons with four criminals to hunt and kill, each guilty of a crime that somehow correlates to a misdeed the wealthy hunters have had perpetrated against them. The four potential victims find themselves held captive in the ship’s hull before arriving at an island where they will then be off-loaded and given a 24-hour head start before the hunt begins. It just happens that the island selected is home to a multi-headed serpentine hydra of Greek mythology. What are the odds?

If you’re talking about the Sci-Fi Channel-bound creature feature Hydra then the odds are quite good. Odds are also quite good that somewhere on the island is the mythical sword of Hercules, the only possible weapon that can slay the legendary serpent. Funny how these things tend to work out on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Further complicating matters for the bloodthirsty billionaires is the last minute replacement for the fourth potential slot in their trophy case, a guy that the unscrupulous captain of the boat harbors a deep seeded grudge against and just so happens to be a former Special Forces soldier. George Stults of the defunct series “7th Heaven” is cast as this heroic ex-Special Forces soldier. I say “is cast” because he was definitely cast as a tough ex-military survivalist type but I sure as heck didn’t buy him in the role. Without him building traps and keeping the other inept three organized I have a hard time believing those wealthy hunters wouldn’t be demanding their money back.

The characterizations of both the hunters and the hunted are shallow at best, non-existent at worst. The potential prey could just as easily been introduced as a group of college friends out on some island excursion and you’d never realize they’re supposed to be ex-cons who’ve been kidnapped and hunted for sport.

The hunters – most of them barely even get any dialogue; they’re just there to get chomped. Nothing even comes of the aspect about how each hunter has had their life irrevocably altered by a crime similar to that committed by the people they’re hunting. Even the whole hunt aspect comes up short. It’s just a small group of people stumbling about a landscape not doing much of anything until the monster makes its timely appearance to thin the cast.

Alex McArthur plays the hunt’s scheming organizer and he dances circles around everyone else in the cast. Too bad he spends almost the entire film on the boat away from the action. Even the actress playing his money-grubbing, often bikini clad, trophy wife comes across as more villainous than anyone actually doing the hunting.

Also on this island is a female archaeologist, the lone survivor of a research expedition that fell prey to the hydra. Her character exists solely to explain what the monster is to the others and point them in the direction of the mystical sword that can kill it.

The true star is the hydra, the enormous three-headed snake (though the heads look more like toothy eels to me) that each time it loses a head it grows two new ones in its place. Those heads multiply fast – the better to chomp you to death. I can happily say that Sci-Fi Channel digital effects have come a long way since the days of “>Snake King (review), a truly rancid Sci-Fi creature feature from years ago with a similar multi-headed, serpentine monstrosity.

All in all, Hydra is a relatively run-of-the-mill Sci-Fi Channel monster movie that perks up whenever the monster goes on the attack but fails to give you much to hold your attention when the hydra isn’t on the screen chomping the hell out of people. Best served as background fodder, a movie to have on while you’re doing something else and can look up periodically when the title monster appears to do what it does. If you don’t pay too much attention to anything in between you really won’t be missing much.

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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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