Hannibal Rising (2007)

Directed by Peter Webber [Other horror films: N/A]

While this isn’t really a horror movie, it’s in a series I generally consider horror, so I’ll just throw this one in, which is unfortunate, as I had to watch this pile of trash.

I’m not exactly sure what my biggest problem with this was. Partially, I suspect, my disdain is due to the fact that an origin story was entirely unnecessary. What doesn’t help is the fact that I couldn’t even once see this character as Hannibal Lecter. So he accidentally eats his sister, and then decides to be a cannibal? Oh, and a samurai? Love it.

To be fair, this movie had a decent kill every now and again. One was even actually good, and potentially memorable. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for any of the characters (be it the generic serial killer lead or the pointless detective on his trail) or the movie as a whole.

Gaspard Ulliel didn’t once remind me of Lecter, but I guess he was fine. Dominic West (The Wire) was pointless. I didn’t like Li Gong’s character whatsoever. And no one else was particularly memorable or good either.

A few good kills doesn’t make a movie good, especially when the movie is otherwise entirely generic and unnecessary. Truthfully, this was a struggle to get through, and I’d easily take Red Dragon or Hannibal twenty times over as opposed to ever having to watch this piece of trash again. I legitimately didn’t enjoy this. I did not have a good time. I was displeased.

3/10

7eventy 5ive (2007)

Directed by Brian Hooks [Other horror films: N/A] & Deon Taylor [Other horror films: Nite Tales: The Movie (2008), Chain Letter (2010), Meet the Blacks (2016), The Intruder (2019)]

Originally known under the hideous title 7eventy 5ive, this slasher, better known as Dead Tone in the USA, isn’t that great. It’s okay, it’s watchable, and once you get past the first thirty minutes, it’s tolerable, but the film isn’t quite good.

As far as the cast is concerned, few stand out. I liked both Brian Hooks and Antwon Tanner, and sure, German Legarreta’s flamboyantly gay antics cracked me up, but I didn’t love anyone here. Closest I got was in Austin Basis and Aimee Garcia – Basis’ character was pretty interesting, and Aimee Garcia reminded me of someone every time she was on-screen (though after scanning her IMDb credits thrice, I’ve got nothing), so she became memorable that way. Rutger Hauer literally added nothing to the film but a big name, and Wil Horneff’s performance toward the end was a bit ehh.

The ideas within 7eventy 5ive are interesting, and the ending did something that indeed caught me off-guard, but I think they could have done a better job than they did explaining the twist. It was still a unique idea, but I don’t think the execution was the best.

Something else that somewhat bothered me was the lack of memorable kills. There was a couple of decapitations, but pretty much everything else, save for one of the kills near the conclusion, were generic ax deaths, and none were that enthralling.

On another note, the final ten seconds were terrible. Everything looks to be wrapped up, but OH MY GOD WHO’S THAT??????!?!?!?!?

Yeah, it was the atrocious ending that I rather wish slashers, and horror films in general, would just do away with. It’s entirely possible this movie could have gotten a more average score, but that ending really turned me off. It wasn’t a good movie before, but if this had been executed correctly, I think it would have had potential.

6/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If you’re interested, listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this slasher.

Red Dragon (2002)

Directed by Brett Ratner [Other horror films: N/A]

I’ve not seen Manhunter, the 1986 movie which was the first to portray Hannibal Lecter. The film used to get a bit of a bad rap, but in recent years, I’ve heard pretty positive things about it, and when I do get to that one, I generally expect to enjoy it for what it is. Red Dragon is based off that same novel, though, and with strong star power and a decent story, the film stands out well in my opinion.

Admittedly, I like the story in 2001’s Hannibal more than the story here, but I think the cast for this one is of a higher caliber. Anthony Hopkins does well in his limited screen-time, but he’s not near as memorable here as The Silence of the Lambs. Edward Norton, an actor I enjoy in everything from The Incredible Hulk to Moonrise Kingdom, does great here, and it’s always fun to see Norton on-screen, even if he’s played a tortured FBI agent.

Ralph Fiennes (who played Voldemort in the Harry Potter films) does a fantastic job as the insane Dolarhyde. At times gentle, at times fierce, Fiennes really put a lot into his performance. Philip Seymour Hoffman isn’t a name I really know, but he stood out as a sleazy journalist. I didn’t like his character, but he did a solid job. Others who are worth a mention include Anthony Heald (from The Silence in the Lambs), Ken Leung (2004’s Saw, along with the ill-fated series Inhumans), Harvey Keitel (Pulp Fiction), Emily Watson (I don’t know her, but she is attractive, with a strong performance), and Mary-Louise Parker (a reoccurring character on The West Wing).

With as many solid cast members as there were, it’d be easy to think the story doesn’t matter, but of course it does. While I appreciated the story in Hannibal more, I did like Norton’s quest to catch the Tooth Fairy killer, and like I said, Fiennes did a great job with his role, especially around Watson’s character, who was an interesting addition.

I’d argue that, cast aside, and some story elements, the film’s not really that memorable, and it definitely doesn’t have memorable kills as Hannibal did (though the wheelchair on fire scene was pretty decent). Really, it’s an okay thriller, but since they went a slightly more psychological route, and didn’t really focus much on Lecter, I didn’t find myself enjoying it as much as I did when I’ve seen it before.

None of this means I find the film bad, as I don’t. I do think it’s closer to average than the series has come before, but I think Norton alone is able to help boost the movie up at least a point. I’d certainly recommend this, but I don’t think it’s really as good as Hannibal.

7.5/10

Hannibal (2001)

Directed by Ridley Scott [Other horror films: Alien (1979), Alien: Covenant (2017)]

I can’t recall exactly how long it’s been since I’ve seen this movie in full, but I will say it’s been at least eight years. I remembered some of the scenes here, but not that many, so the film had a somewhat fresh feel to it. Also, it’s a decent amount more graphic than The Silence of the Lambs, which only works in it’s favor. Honestly, I enjoyed this one, and thought it a mostly fun romp.

The idea of a previous victim of Lecter’s seeking revenge against the good doctor is pretty fun, and it casts the victim, Verger, as both sympathetic, but also somewhat blood-thirsty (though certainly not without reason). Even before Lecter gets back to the USA, seeing him ingratiate himself in Italy is a lot of fun too, and in fact, the Italian portions of the film were perhaps the most interesting to me (it doesn’t hurt that the segment ended with a fantastic disembowelment).

Unlike some, I didn’t think Julianne Moore’s presence in lieu of Jodie Foster’s was that bad. Obviously, it would have been great to get Foster to reprise her role, but Moore did perfectly fine playing Clarice, and got on well with Sir Anthony Hopkins. Of course, Hopkins does fantastically as Lecter, and stole the show, especially in his Italian scenes, but really, throughout the film, he’s great. Gary Oldman, playing a rather disfigured victim of Lecter’s, does a great job, and his voice creeps me out as much today as it did when I was younger, watching the film. Other stand-outs include Giancarlo Giannini and Zeljko Ivanek. I didn’t particularly care for Ray Liotta’s performance, but that’s partially because his character was so over-the-top scummy that I didn’t have an ounce of sympathy for him at any point.

This movie isn’t particularly violent, but like The Silence of the Lambs, there are a few good scenes here, ranging from a previously-mentioned disembowelment to some solid pig action (and I don’t mean in a Wedding Trough fashion). There’s nothing that seems over-the-top in Hannibal, and the ending, which leans more toward disturbing than it does violent, was pretty solid.

Really, Hannibal’s gotten a decent amount of flak, which is a shame, as I think it’s a solid follow-up to one of the most classic films of the 1990’s. Truth be told, while I do enjoy The Silence of the Lambs, I think I prefer Hannibal, and a large part of that might be because this has a little more of the horror feeling than it’s predecessor does. I’d give them roughly the same score, but Hannibal was one that, surprisingly, I found I really enjoyed after revisiting.

8.5/10

Laid to Rest (2009)

Directed by Robert Hall [Other horror films: Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 (2011), Fear Clinic (2014)]

Laid to Rest is a film I’ve seen once, perhaps twice, before, and I always appreciated the heavy gore while constantly mocked some of the dialogue (“He wants to make me dead,” and “I woke up in a dead box” being two examples I use to this day). This rewatch pretty much cements that, while the gore is pretty top-notch, the story isn’t particularly deep, and the gore can only do so much.

The main cast of characters is mostly fine. There was only one performance I actually really liked, being Kevin Gage’s nice-guy Tucker, but the others did adequately. Bobbi Sue Luther’s character was drugged during most of the film, so she often went into incoherent hysterics, and I generally couldn’t stand her, but the performance itself is fine. Sean Whalen (Roach from The People Under the Stairs, interestingly enough) consistently reminded me of Steve Buscemi, and his character was okay. Lastly, Lena Headey (famous for playing Cersei on Game of Thrones) was fun to see, if only because she was almost likable in this role.

It’s a good thing that the cast is competent, because without the cast, we’d be stuck with just the gore. Now, make no mistake, the gore is great, but the cast allows the movie as a whole to come across as more full.

As for my favorite spot of gore, it’s hard to say. The tire sealant portion was perhaps the most grisly, but the scene in which a character rips his face off, or another one with a solid disembowelment, stand out positively also. Even some of the bodies in the film, of previous victims, are solidly gruesome, with plenty of dismembered and decapitated corpses just lying in deadboxes – sorry, coffins – for your eyes to behold.

Laid to Rest is decently quick-paced, so while the film runs about 86 minutes or so, it doesn’t feel like a chore to get through. There aren’t really any terribly slower moments, and action can be found throughout. The twisty twist at the end didn’t really do much for me, and didn’t really change anything, but at least we finally got some backstory on the girl (as for the killer, we never find out a single thing about him, aside from the fact he’s prolific and sadistic).

For a somewhat repetitive film, Laid to Rest is decent. If you’re a slasher and a gorehound, I suspect that you’ve probably already seen this one, but if not, I’d recommend giving it a go. I personally wish the movie had a bit more to it, but after having seen it multiple times, I still somewhat enjoy it, though it’s pretty much average overall.

7/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil, so if you’re interested, you can listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Swamp Zombies!!! (2005)

Directed by Len Kabasinski [Other horror films: Curse of the Wolf (2006), Fist of the Vampire (2007), Wendigo: Bound by Blood (2010), Ninja: Prophecy of Death (2011), Skull Forest (2012), Blood Mercury (2014), Angel of Reckoning (2016), Blood Prism (2017), Swamp Zombies 2 (2018), Schlock-O-Rama (2018, segment ‘Film Trailer’)]

This is a film I have somewhat mixed views on. Certainly Swamp Zombies!!!, at a two-hour run time, is a bit much. They certainly could have cut more than a bit of it out, and the movie would be a more digestible one. At the same time, there’s a certain element of fun to be had here (and given the rather low ratings the movie generally receives, I admit it may just be me), so I still find value in it.

Being a very low-budget movie, there’s not much in the way of performances that are particularly good. However, there were a few individuals who stood out somewhat positively, not because of their acting, but their solid fighting skills (Swamp Zombies!!! is virtually a kung-fu movie at times). Len Kabasinski (who is also the director of this film) has much of the fighting sequences, and he’s decently fun to watch. Certainly he’s one of the most kick-ass park rangers I know. Brian Heffron (who randomly had an origin flashback for some reason) and Dan Severn (who unfortunately didn’t appear much) also got some good fright scenes in.

Overall, the story is about as uninteresting as you could expect, and the zombie attacks, along with the fighting back, are as repetitive as zombie movies tend to be. Gore-wise, nothing really stood out, and while I had no big issues with the lower-budget special effects, I do sort of wish there was a bit more variety insofar as the zombies were concerned.

Another thing that Swamp Zombies!!! threw in was quite a bit of nudity. I guess that’s one way to keep people watching, and admittedly some of the ladies were pretty attractive, but when there’s a woman showering for a few minutes, rubbing soap over her breasts multiple times, adding nothing to the story, I can’t pretend I wasn’t a little bored.

This said, Swamp Zombies!!! is probably the exact type of movie you would expect if asked to imagine a low-budget zombie film. It runs on far too long, but there’s still fun fight sequences and solid neck-snappings to keep us moderately engaged. I saw this once before, and to be honest, I forget what I really thought about it, but seeing it again, while it’s far from being a good movie, I was amused enough to see that, despite how bad many think it is, I almost liked it. I probably wouldn’t recommend this to anyone else, though.

6/10

Slices (2008)

Directed by Lenny Lenox [segment ‘Turnout’ / Other horror films: N/A], Neil McCurry [segment ‘Night Screams’ / Other horror films: N/A], Lance Polland [segment ‘The Range’ / Other horror films: Crack Whore (2012), Werewolves in Heat (2015)], Steven Richards [segment ‘Dead Letters’ / Other horror films: N/A] & Vito Trabucco [segments ‘The Exterminator’ & ‘Wraparounds’ / Other horror films: B-Movie: The Shooting of ‘Farmhouse Massacre’ (2002), Visions of Horror (2007, segment ‘Hooligan’s Valley’), Bloody Bloody Bible Camp (2012), Never Open the Door (2014), Happy Horror Days (2020, segment ‘4th of July’)]

When I first saw this film, I knew I found it below average. What I had forgotten in the years that passed was just how below average this mess of an anthology film actually was.

In Slices, we have five stories plus a framing sequence. Of these six total stories, maybe two are acceptable, and the other four all range from tepidly bad to downright awful. You certainly get a variety here, what with a  vampire story (‘Night Screams’), a slasher (‘Turnout’), a zombie story (‘The Range’), and torture porn (‘The Exterminator’). The last one (‘Dead Letters’) is sort of a Monkey’s Paw-like story, slightly unique in that is occasionally uses what seems to be claymation.

So you do get a variety with these entries, but as very few of them are worth watching, I don’t personally think it means much. Look at ‘Night Screams’ and ‘Turnout’ – both have needlessly dramatic narration (I don’t even know why they thought ‘Turnout’ even needed narration, but whatever) that doesn’t really add much. It’s pretty bad for ‘Night Screams’ because the monotone narration about ‘My life has been molded by a series of bad decisions. Tonight turned out to be another one’ was about as non-enthralling as you could expect.

Also, a bit of the 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead is shown here. They don’t try to pass it off as part of the actual movie (such as O.C. Babes and the Slasher of Zombietown did) but just because the film’s in public domain, it doesn’t need to be seen in every other low-budget horror movie. It gets really old; I’m just saying. Also, it might be advisable to give your stories a conclusion, but as ‘The Range’ lacked one, perhaps that’s just my point of view.

The best thing about this film is Trent Haaga, playing a Svengoli rip-off named Lucius Phibes on Theater of the Macarbe that the framing story’s based around. Haaga did fantastic as the over-the-top and cheesy horror host, and while pretty much nothing else in the movie was worth much, it was great seeing him having such a fun time.

Otherwise, Slices can likely be placed in a Top 10 worse anthology horror film list. There are worse ones out there, don’t get me wrong (such as The Telling from 2009 and Nightmare Alley from 2010), but Slices is pretty inept. Also, this is worth noting, I had no problem with the lower-budget nature of the film – had the stories been made with more money, they still would have sucked. Slices just isn’t really worth it.

4/10

Urchin (2007)

Directed by John Harlacher [Other horror films: N/A]

While a moderately interesting movie, I don’t really have a lot to say about Urchin, as it ultimately didn’t really do much for me, either as a horror film or a drama.

I will say that the Kid, played by Sebastian Montoya, did pretty decent for a young actor (he apparently turned ten during the filming of the flick). Other main actors did well also, such as Rick Poli and Larry Swansen (who died just a couple of years after Urchin was released). Norm Golden didn’t have a whole lot of screen-time, but I enjoyed his character also.

It’s the story of this film, though, that will probably draw the bulk of attention Urchin gets. A homeless man claims he can lead some other homeless people to a paradise within the Earth, but he must find noble souls. One of the homeless guys (Poli) decides to murder five ‘good’ people as a ticket to paradise, while The Kid (Montoya) tries to bring money to the Old Man (Swansen) in order to also secure his place on his side.

As one might imagine, most of the horror-centered scenes come from Poli’s kills, such as a decapitation that was decently well done, along with the kidnap and murder of another person. The Kid gets in some kills too, though, with the use of an acid-filled water-gun and an electrified fork weapon as he fights some gangsters who stole some money he was able to get his hands on. Combine this with a subplot of a man who takes to The Kid, because his daughter recently died, and he’s trying to find closure.

Urchin isn’t an average film, and it can’t cleanly be placed in any real genre. Elements were very strongly drama at times, such as most of the end (and in fact, the finale is actually somewhat moving), but there’s some horror at the beginning that’s decent also.

For a low-budget film with a rather unique story, not to mention ambitious, Urchin was okay, but it wasn’t my cup of tea at all, and while I did enjoy a few things in the film (enough to allow me not to rate the film nearly as lowly as others), it’s not something I can really see myself having the urge to watch again.

5/10

What Lies Beneath (2000)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis [Other horror films: Two-Fisted Tales (1992, segment ‘Yellow’), Death Becomes Her (1992)]

“A horror movie starring Harrison Ford,” I can hear people crying out in confusion. Truth be told, while this movie has a lot of nostalgic feelings for me, I feel that, by-and-large, it’s generally forgotten. I can certainly see why, given how milquetoast it tends to be, but even so, there are some solidly suspenseful scenes here.

What Lies Beneath has a strong sense of mystery, which is where I think the movie does best. There are some legitimately creepy and suspenseful scenes, but it’s the mystery which really pulled me in. There are a few mishaps with the story (such as the possession scene), and perhaps there were a few too many red herrings, but I generally enjoyed a lot of it.

Michelle Pfeiffer does really good with her role, and though I don’t care a lot for her character mid-film, I do think she shines really well at the end. Harrison Ford is an actor I’ve pretty much loved in everything, from Witness to the Indiana Jones’ films. Here, he does a great job too, and really brings with him some big name recognition to this movie. That might turn some horror fans off, but I enjoy Ford, and seeing him play a solid role is fun. Essentially, Ford and Pfeiffer are the only two really important characters, and mostly no one else does a whole lot for me, but both Diana Scarwid and Ray Baker do well in low-key ways.

The mystery is great, but one of my favorite scenes is pure suspense, being the bathtub sequence at the end. I obviously won’t spoil any of the details, but that scene, while it runs perhaps a little longer than might be necessary, is suspense through-and-through. Really gets your heart pumping, leading to a somewhat mixed (but overall decent) conclusion.

Downsides, though, include a few portions of the story, the unnecessary length, and the rather tepid feel of the film. I didn’t care for the more overtly supernatural portions of What Lies Beneath – I thought it’d have been better to leave things more open-ended, giving the film a sort of more mysterious feel. Also, at two hours and ten minutes, I don’t really think there’s story’s good enough to demand that kind of time. I loved the finale, but there were some things in the middle of the film they probably could have done without.

Lastly, being a mainstream horror film directed by Robert Zemeckis (of Back to the Future fame) and starring Harrison Ford alongside Michelle Pfeiffer, What Lies Beneath feels incredibly safe and rather tepid at points. It has some really strong suspense, but generally, this is just a safe horror film, PG-13 rating, and that likely wouldn’t do it for some horror fans.

What Lies Beneath isn’t some gorefest that devoted fans of the underground releases would gravitate towards, but if you’re cool with a somewhat safe, potentially supernatural, movie, then I think you could do worse. This might even attract more Ford fans than horror fans, but speaking primarily as a horror fan, while this is far from perfect, I do think it has enough to keep the movie fresh, and I think it’s generally an above-average film, though not by much.

7.5/10

Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell (2001)

Directed by Chris Angel [Other horror films: The Fear: Resurrection (1999), Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled (2002)]

This movie was ill-advised. Of course, I also hold the somewhat unpopular opinion that the second film was also ill-advised, but I promise that in this case, I’m more in the mainstream of popular thought.

If this movie has anything going for it, at least on a personal interest level, it’s that is stars A.J. Cook. Sure, she was in Final Destination 2, Wer, and The Virgin Suicides (which I saw once, and found decent), and also hilariously had a young appearance in an episode of Goosebumps, but I best know her from her long-running role on Criminal Minds, which is one of the few crime shows I regularly watched on television. Seeing J.J. (her character on Criminal Minds) dealing with a Djinn was oddly fun.

Unfortunately, that’s the best I can say about this one. It’s true that Jason Connery (who was in one of Colin Baker’s better stories during his stint on Doctor Who, Vengeance on Varos) was moderately entertaining, but the rest of the cast, such as Louisette Geiss, Aaron Smolinski, and Tobias Mehler, did little to nothing for me. I don’t really blame the cast, though, as the story strikes me as far more troubling.

Like I mentioned, I wasn’t a fan of the second movie, and I don’t even know if this is that much worse, but I do think the story here was lackluster. Now, the story wasn’t great during the first half of the film, but it took even a worse turn as soon as St. Michael the Archangel took possession of Tobias Mehler’s body. Our lead wished for St. Michael’s help, and so, by God, we got it, which lent a strong fantasy feel to the second half of the film (including a magical flaming sword) but did nothing to cause any more enjoyment for myself.

The base of the story was almost interesting, or at least as interesting as a low-budget Wishmaster movie can muster, but I don’t think there was all that much heart in this. The movie is noticeably cheap, the college doesn’t really seem like a college to me, and some of the more amusing scenes (such as Connery, who is possessed by the Djinn early on into the film, berating a bunch of history students for not accepting the importance of the Djinn during the war over Helen of Troy) are scarce indeed.

A.J. Cook aside, I can’t think of any good reason to really give this a watch, but obviously, you do you. Just don’t expect this to rival the first film, or come anywhere close.

4/10