Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 (2011)

Directed by Robert Hall [Other horror films: Laid to Rest (2009), Fear Clinic (2014)]

Well, the first Laid to Rest wasn’t amazing, but it did enough to keep the movie memorable. This movie had the gore that you might hope for, but the story wasn’t that great whatsoever.

I don’t care for organizations of killers, so when we find out Chromeskull has backers and a small group of people working for him, my interest in this sequel went down to about zero. Make no mistake, the gore is decently solid, and there were some rather gruesome scenes here (such as the face reconstruction at the beginning), but unlike the first movie, which had a story that fit with the killer, this one threw in elements I didn’t care for at all.

Honestly, that’s about all I have. The gore was fine, but I didn’t like much about the story. Few characters really stood out, and I thought the post-credit scene (starring the Wife of Chromeskull) was just pointless, bordering on idiotic.

The first movie isn’t great, but I think it far surpasses this one, and I probably wouldn’t recommend this one to anyone. It’s not even a particularly poor movie, but I didn’t care for the story, and no amount of gore can make up for that.

5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If you want to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, please listen below.

Silent Night (2012)

Directed by Steven C. Miller [Other horror films: Automaton Transfusion (2006), Scream of the Banshee (2011), Under the Bed (2012)]

Sort of a remake-in-name-only (from 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night), Silent Night is a decent amount of fun, and includes some memorable characters, decently gory deaths, and a cast that mostly makes things work, along with a light tongue-in-cheek feel.

Malcolm McDowell was great here. I didn’t love his portrayal of Loomis in the Halloween remake, but here, his character was a lot of fun and had some great lines. The over-the-top style he sometimes took brought with it a lot of chuckles, and he definitely outstrips the main character, played by Jaime King (who, it should be noted, still did a fine, and sometimes emotional, job). Otherwise, we have Donal Logue (whom I know best as Detective Bullock in the Gotham series), who is great to see, but doesn’t appear enough, along with Ellen Wong (a familiar face from The Void) and John B. Lowe, who played my second favorite character in the film.

There’s not really as much mystery behind the killer in this film as I sort of wish there was. Oh, people wonder who the killer is, but it’s far from a focus, and the audience finds out via a flashback at the conclusion, so no on-screen characters quite figure it out. The good thing is, though, that Silent Night is heavy on gore, and there are some pretty solid kills here. A few stand out as weak (the electrocution scene, for instance), but others make up for is, such as the flamethrower kill, and the wood-chipper scene.

Like I mentioned, there’s a light tongue-in-cheek feeling throughout the film. I wouldn’t call much of the film outright comedy-horror, but a few scenes definitely caused solid laughter, such as a pre-teen girl cussing out church, or a priest who does all the things priests probably shouldn’t be doing. Even some of McDowell’s lines illicit chuckles, such as his ‘Don’t put avocado on a burger’ talking point. This is not at all like Krampus or Santa’s Slay, but there are some amusing bits spread throughout.

There’s a lot of Christmas-themed horror out there, and a lot I’ve not seen as of yet, but it seems to me that many of them don’t quite hit the mark. Views on this loose remake seem to be mixed, and I suspect that’s partially because, as a slasher, Silent Night doesn’t really add anything into the mix. Even so, it’s a film I’ve had fun with during multiple viewings, and while I’d tweak a few things, Silent Night’s a film I enjoy a decent amount.

8/10

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (2014)

Directed by Kaare Andrews [Other horror films: Altitude (2010), The ABCs of Death (2012, segment ‘V is for Vagitus’)]

For the first thirty to forty minutes, I was rather enjoying this flick, as they left much of the idiotic comedy that plagues the first two films and ventured more for a serious look at the flesh-eating disease. And it works out for about half the film, but then multiple factors come together to lead Patient Zero into a repetitive, rather uninspiring, direction.

It’s really a shame, as the film shows plenty of potential. The problem becomes that they jam so many things into the final twenty minutes or so that the movie quickly loses much of the fun feeling the movie had. Also, it didn’t help that it threw in a cat-fight between two woman who are both virtually skinless, because that’s something that the audience definitely needed.

Technically, the special effects and make-up are fine, but toward the end of the film, they go way overboard. Some of the victims of this skin-eating disease appear far more like what you’d expect from zombies as opposed to actual people, so some restraint would have been preferred. Early on, things look fine, but it just strikes me as unrealistic where things apparently end up.

Not many of the performances really helped out. I sort of liked Mitch Ryan, Currie Graham (who I know from two series, House and Agent Carter), and Jillian Murray. Graham’s character rather annoyed me, but it was nice to see a familiar face. Murray provided an attractive character, but really, she doesn’t matter past the first thirty minutes or so. I wasn’t necessarily expecting more from Solly Duran, Sean Astin, or Lydia Hearst, but I was rather let-down by their performances.

Honestly, though, it’s the story that’s the biggest problem here. The plot twist they threw in at the end didn’t come close to wowing me, and past the fifty minute mark, I won’t pretend that I wasn’t rather shut of the whole thing, which again is a shame, as if any Cabin Fever movie had potential, it was this one. As such, it’s probably better than Spring Fever, but if it is, it’s not by a perceivable amount.

5/10

Sharknado (2013)

Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante [Other horror films: Boo (2005), Headless Horseman (2007), Hansel & Gretel (2013), Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014), Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015), Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens (2016), Forgotten Evil (2017), Sharknado 5: Global Swarming (2017), The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time (2018), Zombie Tidal Wave (2019)]

Well, The Asylum comes out swinging with the beginning of one of the most ridiculous franchises imaginable, Sharknado. Honestly, the film is sort of fun, but in that rather awful way you come to expect from Syfy atrocities. I’ve seen this once before, and God forgive me, I’ll probably see it again, but the movie isn’t at all good, as many would expect.

There are a few strong cast members, though. I’m not a giant fan of the main character, played by Ian Ziering, but I did like both Cassandra Scerbo and Jason Simmons. I don’t know Simmons from anything else, but Scerbo starred in another rather awful Syfy flick titled Bering Sea Beast. She’s a fun addition here, and along with Simmons, makes Sharknado worth watching. I will admit, though, I do like Ziering’s character, if not the actor, especially during his more heroic portions.

Of course, the special effects here are just really awful. So is the plot. And so is mostly everything. Sharknado’s strength lies in the fact that, beneath what a mess the film is, you can certainly have fun with the film if you’re so inclined, and I’ve apparently been inclined both times I’ve seen this.

I can’t speak for any of the many sequels (to date, there are five following this one), but I can say that I enjoyed this one to an extent, and though I’ve rated it somewhat lowly, I don’t have any really big issue watching this again in the future. It’s far from a good movie, but as I have fun watching it, how much does that really matter?

5.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast – if interested, listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Sharknado.

Cat Sick Blues (2015)

Directed by Dave Jackson [Other horror films: Cannibal Suburbia (2008)]

Australia has brought the horror genre some rather, shall we say interesting, entries. Cat Sick Blues isn’t a very pleasant watch, as it often contains unsettling and uncomfortable content, but it is very well-made, and certainly possesses enough gore and unique ideas to keep the film memorable.

If there’s one big problem I have with the film, it’s the somewhat lengthy dream sequence toward the end. I felt it wholly unnecessary, and while the film flirted with more fantastic ideas prior to that, I thought it was way over-the-top ridiculous. I just didn’t care for that little segment whatsoever, and if that had just been cut, I personally would have given the film a higher rating.

Everything else, though, is decently on point. Playing the main character, Shain Denovan does a great job pretty much throughout, from the emotional detachment following the rape sequence to the scene where she realized she knew the killer (in a Biblical sense). She doesn’t seem to be a big actress, which is a bit of a shame, as she did well here. Playing the unsettling killer, Matthew C. Vaughan also did pretty well, certainly gave off that very disturbed vibe. He looked silly in that mask and clothes far too small for him, but you’ll likely not laugh for long.

There’s a lot of great stuff in the film insofar as special effects and gore goes. With a couple of decapitations, multiple throat-slittings, a head getting utterly demolished and smashed in, and even someone being force-drunk blood, the movie has a lot going for it. If I had to choose a favorite scene of carnage, it’d be the slow-motion murder of the four girls in the hostel, all-the-while a smooth, electronic song by Mistabishi plays. The cinematography during this scene is just fantastic. The opening kills are great also, and really help set the tone of the tone.

And what a tone it is. The rape scene isn’t necessarily graphic, but that wasn’t an easy scene to watch. What was ever more difficult was the reaction videos to the leaked rape, which were utterly disgusting, and I can very easily see that type of thing happening in today’s technologically-dedicated society. Also, just the callous killing of the cat, followed by throwing it out the window, was just harsh.

Speaking of harsh, I wanted to mention the music. While at times it was akin to many other films, playing somewhat accessible music (even if the content itself on screen wasn’t accessible), it wasn’t uncommon for discordant tones to pop up, some very harsh noises that certainly kept me on my toes. Even the song during the opening credits was intensely cacophonous, so kudos to whoever made the soundtrack.

Were it not for that dream sequence toward the end that just really turned me off, I think I’d have enjoyed this more. Worth noting that Cat Sick Blues is a movie I’ve seen once before, but I entirely forgot that disagreeable scene at the end, so when it popped up here, I was somewhat taken aback. I did enjoy the film more this time around, but it definitely has to be said that the content can sometimes be a bit much. If you’re a fan of strange foreign slashers, I’d give this one a go.

7.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. To listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, check out the video below.

Bering Sea Beast (2013)

Directed by Don E. FauntLeRoy [Other horror films: Anaconda: Offspring (2008), Anacondas 4: Trail of Blood (2009), SnakeHead Swamp (2014), Gates of Darkness (2019)]

Another true modern-day classic from Syfy. Also known as Beast of the Bering Sea, Bering Sea Beast is about what you’d expect from Syfy – underwhelming story, utterly atrocious special effects and CGI, and a hollow feel.

As such, there’s still enjoyment to be had here, coming from a combination of the less-than-stellar performances and just terrible CGI ‘sea vampires.’ Words probably exist to describe how bad these creatures look, but I don’t have them. Do yourself a solid and just look them up, and you’ll see (and because I believe in making life easier, the picture above should help out). These elements, which alone further cement Bering Sea Beast as terrible, come together majestically to create the final product.

I actually sort of liked one of the main characters, played by Cassandra Scerbo (who is likely most well-known for her role in the Sharknado films). Scerbo’s acting here is very questionable at times (her line delivery, to be exact, really faltered a time or two, causing one scene in particular to be worthy of a few rewinds), but her character had spunk, and was perhaps the most fun here. Brandon Beemer did fine for a generic, somewhat dull lead, while Jaqueline Fleming did rather better as a helpful marine biologist (though boy, did her character make a few idiotic mistakes).

Honestly, if you can get past terrible CGI (and if you’re watching a Syfy movie, you probably can), Bering Sea Beast can be a perfectly enjoyable time for all the wrong reasons. Wrong reasons or not, having seen this one twice now (once in 2017, and now again in 2019, at the time of this writing), I find the movie somewhat amusing, and while it’s certainly a below average film, I could see myself turning to it a third time in the future.

6/10

Cherokee Creek (2018)

Directed by Todd Jenkins [Other horror films: N/A]

Sometimes my reviews can go a bit longer than they really need to. For some films, I think it’s worth examining much of the film, from performances to the special effects, and at times, maybe it’s a bit much. I’ll try not to make the same error with Cherokee Creek, though, and the only point I really need to make clear is just how utterly unenjoyable I found this piece of trash.

I honestly thought the film was a joke at first – to me, the film felt so bad, they had to know it was bad, and there was going to be some early reveal about how it was a movie-in-a-movie type situation or something. Alas, that’s not what happens, and the movie kept going and going with these jokes that don’t even approach amusing.

Cherokee Creek is an hour and 56 minutes. We don’t get about any Bigfoot action until about an hour and ten minutes in, and unfortunately, it’s far, far, far, far, far too late to make any positive difference. It’s true that for a lower-budget film, the special effects are good, but damn it, by the time they show up, I wish I were dead already multiple times over. The nudity might have helped out if I was quite a bit younger, but it didn’t do anything for me here. None of the characters were remotely likable, and few of the performances were decent.

If the film had been shorter, the movie still would have been bad, but I will say that, had it been only an hour, the film definitely would have been more digestible and wouldn’t have gotten nearly as low a score. There was an ultra low budget film I saw some time ago called What Happens in the Mountains – Should Stay in the Mountains, a movie that was 40 minutes long and doesn’t even have an IMDb page. That film knew what it was, kept things short, and despite the lower-budget, rather amused me at times.

Cherokee Creek did nothing of the sort. I think I laughed once toward the beginning (with the foul-mouthed old woman), but that was about it.

The movie opens with two of the actors pointing guns at the camera commending the audience for watching the film (providing they paid for it), and went on to comment that if the audience didn’t pay for the film (or pirating it, which is the only way I’d recommend watching this), they’d need to buy it after finishing the film because of how good we’d undeniably find it.

I didn’t pay for this. Luckily, it was uploaded on one of the many streaming sites I use, which is a good thing, as this movie was complete and utter trash. Maybe in the future, I can find the words to explain why, but for now, after having just finished it, I don’t much feel like spending more time on this.

0.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If you’re interested in checking out Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discussing this one, check it out below.

House of the Witch (2017)

Directed by Alex Merkin [Other horror films: No Escape Room (2018)]

For a Syfy original, I think House of the Witch is decent. It’s not great, by any means, but I do think it transcends much of the crap that they’ve put out in the last seven years.

There’s not much in the way of plot – a group of teenagers go to the local haunted house for a small Halloween party, but shortly after arriving, things begin to happen, such as entities appearing in mirrors, and the doors lock, trapping them all inside.

Despite this, I generally found the film enjoyable, albeit easily on the average side. I think a large part of my tepid enjoyment was due to the six central performances all being reasonably decent. Starring Jesse Pepe, Coy Stewart, Michelle Randolph, Darren Mann, Arden Belle (who is probably the weakest link), and Emily Bader, I found most of them acceptable and decently realistic, so while the story itself isn’t overflowing in creativity, it comes together nicely.

Most of the special effects are your average Syfy fair, but there was one decent scene in which one of the characters had a few of their fingernails pulled our – definitely a painful sequence to watch. Another thing I enjoyed was the idea that breaking the windows of the house didn’t lead outside, but into something else (what that could have been wasn’t explained, but I liked the way they went about it).

House of the Witch isn’t the most inspired Syfy original, but I do think it was decent enough to be thrown an around average score. It’s not as good as Neverknock was, but it blew films like The Sandman and Truth or Dare (all three Syfy films from 2017) out of the water.

7/10

Lavalantula (2015)

Directed by Mike Mendez [Other horror films: Killers (1996), Bimbo Movie Bash (1997), The Convent (2000), Masters of Horror (2002), The Gravedancers (2006), Big Ass Spider! (2013), Tales of Halloween (2015, segment ‘Friday the 31st’), The Last Heist (2016), Don’t Kill It (2016)]

What makes a movie good?

That’s a question I sometimes, perhaps often, find myself wrestling with. There are occasions which I watch a movie that’s terrible on many technical levels, but I still enjoy. The IMDb score might be south of 3/10, but I still want to rate the film an average score (7/10 for me). Is enjoyment more important than technical value?

It must be, because despite the flaws, I found Lavalantula an exceptionally acceptable and enjoyable film.

Let’s talk cast, brothers and sisters: Steve Guttenberg (of Police Academy fame) stars, and while he’s definitely older, you can certainly tell it’s him. Honestly, I’ve not seen Guttenberg in anything outside of the 1984 classic comedy – at the same time, Police Academy is one of my favorite comedy movies ever, so it’s enough to feel nostalgic seeing him here. I really enjoy his sometimes over-the-top performance, and overall got a kick out of him.

No one else really blows me away in particular, but there are some solid performances here. Nia Peeples (who I just saw a few days back, at the time of this writing, in DeepStar Six) does pretty good as an action-oriented mother. Patrick Renna (X-Files ‘Bad Blood’ episode, 2006’s Dark Ride, 2016’s Fear, Inc.) was pretty amusing as a fanboy of Guttenberg’s action-hero persona. There are three characters here who also played characters in the original Police Academy (Michael Winslow, Marion Ramsey, and Leslie Easterbrook), but none of them really do a whole lot for me.

What makes this movie fun is the fact Guttenberg plays a washed-up action-hero, and there are quite a few references made to other films throughout Lavalantula that made me crack a grin (such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and of course, 1997’s Volcano). There’s not really anything that special about the humor, but I had a good time with it.

And I think that’s what this comes down to. Certainly, the special effects here, while still terrible, were better than fellow contemporaries like Arachnoquake, and the spiders here definitely had a better design than the creatures in Arachnoquake, but what matters more was that I had a lot of fun with this one. The conclusion is a bit more ridiculous than I’ve have preferred, but it doesn’t really damage the film much. Overall, Lavalantula is a movie I could see myself buying on DVD, or at the very least, watching again, without much guilt. Or at least, too much guilt.

7.5/10

Arachnoquake (2012)

Directed by Griff Furst [Other horror films: I Am Omega (2007), Wolvesbayne (2009), 30 Days to Die (2009), Lake Placid 3 (2010), Maskerade (2011), Swamp Shark (2011), Ghost Shark (2013), Ragin Cajun Redneck Gators (2013), Starve (2014), Cold Moon (2016), Trailer Park Shark (2017), Nightmare Shark (2018)]

When I first saw this one, I was somewhat amused, because unlike other Syfy films that actually try for a more serious tone and epically fail, from the beginning, you could tell that this one knew it was utterly ridiculous. There’s a humorous tone throughout, and that went a long way to make Arachnoquake more enjoyable despite the atrocity of the CGI.

One thing I definitely didn’t care for, though, was Edward Furlong. I didn’t really see much of a point in his character, other than to pad out some additional time. Most other performances were fine (or at least not terrible), but Furlong just rubbed me the wrong way. On the other hand, there were two rather attractive women, Megan Adelle and Olivia Hardt, so it wasn’t all bad. Also nice to see Ethan Phillips (who I definitely recognize, but I can’t figure out from where), and Bug Hall made for a decent leading actor.

The biggest issue with the film is the fact that the spiders don’t look anything like actual spiders, and given the CGI is so bad to begin with, it’s a rather large detriment. Obviously, I don’t think people go into a Syfy movie with high expectations insofar as special effects go, but at the same time, I feel like they definitely could have tried to do a better job with the design. Also, while much of the movie flows at a decent pace, the final twenty minutes were a bit of a grind. If they had found a way to trim out maybe ten minutes, perhaps fifteen, I think that Arachnoquake would probably work a bit better.

As it is, I generally find this film fun. There are some attractive ladies, some amusing lines, and while the special effects were just utterly abysmal, I had fun with the story. Like I said, this is one that I’ve seen before, and though it’s not quite good, I suspect that I wouldn’t have that much hesitation with watching it again.

6/10