Rogue (2007)

Directed by Greg McLean [Other horror films: Wolf Creek (2005), Wolf Creek 2 (2013), The Darkness (2016), The Belko Experiment (2016)]

Having never seen this before, I wasn’t necessarily sure what to expect, but I was hoping for a fun film. Well, this is no Alligator or Lake Placid, but a decently serious tourist-trip-gone-bad, and while I enjoyed some of the film, I will admit to not being thrilled with the movie as a whole.

Most of the cast is perfectly acceptable. Radha Mitchell (2006’s Silent Hill and The Crazies remake) and Michael Vartan worked well together, and other stand-outs include John Jarratt (Mick Taylor from the Wolf Creek series), Mia Wasikowska, Caroline Brazier (who reminded me a bit of Sara Gilbert), and Sam Worthington. Stephen Curry’s character seemed to have the potential to be more important near the beginning, but it never really went anywhere.

Where the movie succeeds is in building each of the characters into sympathetic beings, what with the mother battling cancer, or the man who came to spread the ashes of his loved one (that scene was rather touching, and perhaps my favorite of the film), or the American tourist who just doesn’t want to be eaten by a crocodile. It’s an hour and forty minute film, so they have time to show different sides of these characters, and I think they do a good job.

Otherwise, though, while I liked the tense sequences sprinkled throughout, I thought the final fight went on a bit long, and at times during the film, I was bordering on disinterest. I feel that 15 minutes could probably have been cut safely, so an 100-minute movie wasn’t necessary.

The gore, when it popped up, was solid. The only instance where it really made an impact was during a scene in which a character’s hand got impaled by the crocodile’s tooth, but even so, the movie, while not focusing on this aspect, didn’t shy away from occasional bloodshed.

Overall, though, I wasn’t deeply enjoying Rogue. I think it was well-made, and I think the characters really add to the film, but the ending, again, felt like it dragged, and I didn’t find myself as engaged throughout as I wish I was. It’s an Australian movie worth seeing, I’d say, but there are better ones out there.

7/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast – listen below, if at all interested in a time of mirth, as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this flick.

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.

Turkey Shoot (1982)

Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith [Other horror films: Dead End Drive-In (1986), Out of the Body (1989), Night of the Demons 2 (1994), Leprechaun 3 (1995), Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996), Atomic Dog (1998), Sightings: Heartland Ghost (2002)]

This Australian action/horror mix is generally a lot of fun, sort of in The Most Dangerous Game vein, only gory, which brought quite a bit of additional enjoyment to the film.

Taking place in a fascist government’s ‘re-education camp’ led by, get this, a guy named Thatcher (played by Michael Craig), the camp’s motto is ‘Freedom is obedience, obedience is work, work is life.’ Anyone who disagrees with the far-right government is thrown into this camp, along with ‘deviants,’ such as homosexuals, the poor, and anyone else the far-right hates.

I don’t know anything about Australian politics, but the film certainly seems topical from an American point of view, given the wide swings we’ve taken to the right since the 1980’s onward. I always appreciate when horror films (or, partial horror films, as Turkey Shoot often feels far more action-orientated) tackle politics, and this one did it well.

Ignoring the fascist government, which punishes homosexuality by death yet allows rape by the prison camp’s guards, Turkey Shoot has a lot to offer in terms of excitement and gore. It takes about thirty minutes or so for things to really pick up, but once they do, there’s little breathing room past that point, which I rather enjoyed.

Plenty of gory scenes were to be seen here, such as a great dismemberment sequence, along with decent machete action, crossbow action, a guy getting cut in half with a bulldozer, a spike trap obliterating someone, and a solid scene in which someone’s set on fire. There’s no shortage of violence here, or potential violence (as the scene in which Olivia Hussey’s character is almost raped multiple times), and it’s definitely action-packed.

There were a few elements I didn’t care for, or felt out of place, such as a gorilla-type monster being used by one of the characters. The make-up was decent, but it just felt a bit too outlandish to me. That said, overall, the movie works, and a lot of that is due to the multiple solid performances.

Admittedly, I wasn’t overly excited with Olivia Hussey’s (perhaps best known as Audra from the 1990 television adaptation of Stephen King’s It) character for most of the film, but toward the end, she started becoming useful, and all worked out. Steve Railsback (who I saw just a few days ago in the 1985 Lifeforce) was a rather good leading character. Roger Ward and Michael Craig made a great pair of antagonists, Ward especially with his threatening appearance. Three others I liked include Bill Young, Michael Petrovitch, and Noel Ferrier.

I can imagine that some horror fans may be hard-pressed to consider this in the same genre as Halloween, but horror comes in many forms, and many people see different things as fitting into the genre. I don’t personally have a problem counting Turkey Shoot, or similar movies, such as The Most Dangerous Game or Battle Royale, as horror, but definitely don’t go into this one expecting something in the more traditional vein.

As Turkey Shoot stands, I think it’s a very solid Australian film, and it definitely exceeded my admittedly low expectations when it came to gore. With solid action and plenty of violence, Turkey Shoot was certainly worth watching, and I’d recommend it to fans of action-orientated horror flicks.

8.5/10

Frenchman’s Farm (1987)

Directed by Ron Way [Other horror films: N/A]

This Australian mystery/horror/romance/drama is rather interesting. Not necessarily good, mind you, but interesting. Calling it horror is probably fine, but the film is definitely more focused on the mystery aspect than the multiple killings, which is a bit of a shame, really.

With Frenchman’s Farm, there’s a lot of exposition in a lot of scenes. There’s quite a few names and dates that you’d best try to remember, or otherwise you may get lost along the way. As it was, I actually missed something somewhere, so there’s something that didn’t make sense to me come the end (regarding the ghost of the farm), but I suspect that if I watched closer with a more attuned ear to the Australian accents, everything would be clearer.

As it is, because so much of the movie relies on understanding the mystery, I will admit to feeling it dragged past a certain point. To be fair, given the movie’s a hour and forty minutes, perhaps it would have felt like it was dragging anyways. There are some horror aspects that certainly pop up throughout the film (some rather effectively creepy, too), but I don’t know if it’s really enough to sate me given the total time spent with the film.

Being an Australian film, I don’t really know any of the actors here, but everyone involved did a reasonably good job, such as Tracey Tainsh and David Reyne, who play the main characters. Their relationship feels authentic, and I appreciate the both of them. Others who do well include Norman Kaye and Andrew Blackman. I want to give a special mention to John Meillon, who played Riley in the first two Crocodile Dundee movies. I didn’t even recognize him when watching the film due to his character having a mustache, but looking back, it’s definitely him, which is sort of cool.

While there was a lot I enjoyed about the film, I find it a hard one to really recommend to fellow horror fans, given that, while no doubt in my mind horror, that others would be inclined to disagree. Given the focus of this is far more the mystery the two main characters are trying to uncover, the horror portions (as great as some of them are, especially near the end) are overshadowed. Might be worth a look if you’re into Australian cinema, but otherwise, I suspect many would be disappointed, especially given some of the posters for this one.

7.5/10

The Invisible Man (2020)

Directed by Leigh Whannell [Other horror films: Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), Upgrade (2018)]

As soon as I heard this story was being remade, I was pretty interested. The original Universal classic is a favorite of mine, so I was curious as to how such a story could be updated to fit into the modern times, and though I was moderately impressed with this adaptation, it was not enough to see this film as much more than average.

One pretty interesting idea that took me aback (in part, due to it’s simplicity) was the idea that the main character (played by Elisabeth Moss) would be taken as mentally unstable due to her claims that an invisible man was after her. This psychological approach isn’t really present at all in the original, and I thought they did nicely with the idea, and it did lead to some rather tense moments.

Elisabeth Moss (who I know best from her appearances on The West Wing, but she was also in the low-budget outing The Attic) did really solid as a battered yet strong-willed woman, and while I didn’t necessarily love where some of her story went, she did great here. Even better, though, was Aldis Hodge – I don’t know him from anything whatsoever, but he had a calming aura about him that I appreciated throughout the film.

More mixed was Harriet Dyer’s character. I loved how she stood up for her sister for much of the beginning, but once an angry email is sent to her (supposedly by said sister), she entirely shuts Moss’ character out, which just struck me as needlessly vindictive. I mean, I’m pretty sure emails have been hacked in the past, and more to the point, why anyone would think someone would send an email like that and then show up as if nothing happened is just beyond me. Dyer’s character was certainly decent, and she did a good job with that performance (and let’s not forget the rather surprising conclusion to her character), but that little bit of the film did bother me.

Lastly, we have Michael Dorman and Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Dorman (previously in Triangle) consistently had that smug attitude that just made you want to punch him, and especially toward the end, you were likely just so done with his character (that scene in the mental hospital especially was just horrible, yet fitting, for him). Jackson-Cohen didn’t get a lot of screen-time, but I definitely felt that, while palatable, he didn’t give anywhere near as memorable a performance as Claude Rains.

And I think that’s the moderately problematic downside of the film. Certainly there were a decent amount of both suspenseful and emotional scenes (in a movie that clocks in at over two hours, including credits, you would hope so), but how many of them were memorable? Maybe that kitchen scene early on, just due to the way it’s filmed. That attic reveal about an hour in, and of course the dinner scene with Moss and her sister. Lastly, maybe the breakout, which was reasonably fun. But that’s not really enough to make the movie great.

I still think this version of The Invisible Man is decent, though. While I think it runs overlong, and some sequences don’t interest me as much (such as going back to the coastal house and finding the invisibility suit), and while the gas lighting aspect was suitable for the story, the whole of the conclusion just didn’t sit entirely right with me (though I don’t judge Moss’ character whatsoever).

Overall, I enjoyed the film. I don’t think it was great, and I honestly don’t think it’ll turn out to be memorable, but it still provided a decent time. Naturally, I prefer the 1933 original, which I find a much more fun and enjoyable time, but this adaptation had solid things going for it. I just pretty much think it broke even with some story issues and it’s unnecessary length.

7/10

See No Evil (2006)

Directed by Gregory Dark [Other horror films: Night of the Living Babes (1987), Mirror Images (1992)]

God, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen this slasher, and I forgot just how amateurish some aspects of this movie are. See No Evil gets a few things right, but I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed the movie as a whole.

Before I skewer the film with my complaints, I’d like to say that the setting (a large, abandoned hotel) is on point. At times it felt a bit too gritty and messy, but still, I liked what they were going for. As for the kills themselves, there were decent. The idea of a large chain piercing your jaw, or impaling your leg and dragging you off, is pretty brutal, and of course getting your eyes ripped out would be a fate to avoid. There’s not a whole lot of gore here, but what they went with was still decent.

As for the story, though, boy, do some things bother me. Firstly, the idea of reducing one’s sentence by doing some work is fine and well, but they didn’t ensure there wasn’t a connection between any of the prisoners beforehand? As soon as it’s discovered one of the male prisoners had an unruly relationship with one of the women prisoners, either the male prisoner should have been removed immediately or the whole thing should have been scrapped.

Another thing – they take a group of eight prisoners to a hotel, give them some quarters after telling them to stay in their rooms, and though there are only two supervisors, they just go down to the bar and expect the prisoners to listen? Are you kidding me?

Once we get to the killings, the fact that the story’s pretty poor stops mattering, but there were some really questionable things in this script, and that includes the little twist at the end (I have a hard time believing that some of the background of certain characters didn’t go unnoticed or impact relations). There are aspects I liked about the route they took, but I just didn’t buy it.

I don’t know anything about wrestling, so I have no idea who Kane is, but he does decent here as a mostly silent serial killer. The little pieces of history they throw to us via flashbacks show what a terrible childhood he led (along with showing us the dangers of extremist religious beliefs), and does lend his character a bit of sympathy. I will admit to not understanding the tattoo thing, though – his mother pointed out to him that they were blasphemous, and he still rips eyes out of women who have them (see the opening), so why bother keeping them captive for a little if they have a tattoo? I just didn’t get it.

Other performances worth mentioning include Luke Pegler, Steven Vindler, and Rachael Taylor. Pegler’s character was awful throughout the film, as he was that macho-type guy who did idiotic things for no reason other than he can. He redeemed himself a bit when he started kicking ass toward the end, but his character was still atrocious. Vindler’s character was decently honorable in a way, though he didn’t add that much to the film, and while Taylor’s character was one of the most annoying, the fact that the actress later goes on to play Patricia Walker in the Jessica Jones MCU series is sort of interesting.

I need to mention this before getting to my rating, as much as I’d rather forget it. There’s a scene near the end in which a character falls out a window. That thirty second sequence, from the start of the fall to the landing, was drenched in some of the worst CGI I’ve witnessed recently. It just looked so bad. One thing about this film that I didn’t like at all was the editing, the quick, spooky cuts in rapid speed which made it seem more like a music video than a movie (which makes sense, as the director has done plenty of music videos in the past). Other films used this in worse ways (such as the utterly terrible Death Tunnel), but it was still annoying here.

Oh, and that extra post-credit scene? What a waste of time.

I liked some things about See No Evil, but other things were done utterly terribly. It’s a movie that might get by okay if you can ignore some story problems, or perhaps remove your own eyes so you don’t have to deal with the editing or CGI, but hey, the setting’s cool, and some of the kills are decent. It’s a below-average film, and very much a mixed bag.

5.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If interested in hearing some quality conversation, check it out below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss See No Evil.

Ghost Ship (2002)

Directed by Steve Beck [Other horror films: Thir13en Ghosts (2001)]

Ghost Ship is pretty much what I expected – an unique enough story, but due to the very Hollywood feel, it just feels neutered and pretty underwhelming.

I’ll give it props for the story idea (despite occasionally feeling a lot like 1980’s Death Ship), because it was sort of interesting. The opening to the film also got your attention (though some of the special effects there were quite atrocious in a way only early 2000’s horror can be), but as much as I was hoping this would surprise me, I’m not that lucky a man.

Truth be told, one of the reasons I really wasn’t expecting much was due to the fact I knew this was directed by Steve Beck, who isn’t a big name, but he is the guy who did the underwhelming Thir13en Ghosts a year earlier, and the unfortunate thing is that this movie’s quite a bit worse than that earlier effort, which is a wonderful feeling, believe you me.

What the movie has is potential, but that’s the most it has. The setting, a desolate, empty ship, is pretty solid, and like I said, the plot itself is interesting, but the route the movie takes (especially in regards to the finale, which I thought was entirely too expected) just hollows everything out into [insert generic Hollywood horror movie comparison here].

I sort of liked seeing Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects), but otherwise, the cast here struck me as weak. I guess both Isaiah Washington and Julianna Margulies were okay (though Washington’s story was pretty poor), but Desmond Harrington’s character, and the route he took, wasn’t at all something I cared for.

Death Ship is a movie I mentioned earlier, and bringing that back for a second, the one positive thing I can say for sure about Ghost Ship is that it’d be an easier movie to rewatch. I’m not saying the movie’s necessarily better, but it’s not near as dry as Death Ship was (and also, Death Ship had a lot more potential than Ghost Ship ever did, which ultimately hurt it). All this said, though, Ghost Ship is still a very weak and generic movie that’s not really worth watching, and I’m just sad to say that I pretty much saw that coming.

5/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this film.

Darkness Falls (2003)

Darkness Falls

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman [Other horror films: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006), The Killing Room (2009)]

This strikes me as an utterly fruitless and unenjoyable film to watch, and only if one has nostalgic connections to this one could I see Darkness Falls being a movie one would willingly go back to.

The story behind Matilda Dixon is sort of cool (and reminds me, though it came out many years later, of Dead Silence), but everything else seemed very, very hollow, and honestly, I felt like little happened despite the film being eighty minutes or so long. At times, I was reminded of better movies such as Fear of the Dark (also from 2003), and some worse movies, like Alone in the Dark (2005), or They (2002) but the point is that this story, while possessing potential, felt utterly wasted.

Almost all of the performances here weren’t up to par for what I’d hope to see. Chaney Kley was terribly weak as the star, which could probably be explained by the fact that he didn’t really do that much before taking this role. It doesn’t help that his character didn’t seem fleshed out at all (which is true for most of these characters). Kley died at 34 years old back in 2007, which is a shame, as maybe he had improved past this point. I know that Lee Cormie was just a kid here, but his acting too is rather pitiful. Grant Piro’s character seemed good for nothing but extraordinarily weak comedic relief, and while not bad, Emma Caulfield didn’t much shine in this one either.

It’s somewhat hard to pinpoint exactly why not only I just don’t like this, but rather hate it. It felt far too tepid, too tame, and too shallow, with bad, Hollywood scares and a very bad story. The movie’s made worse by the fact that other movies from around the same time were so much better (Jeepers Creepers in 2001, which had a much better police headquarters take-down, or the aforementioned Fear of the Dark).

I don’t remember particularly caring for this one when I first saw it, but I also don’t remember disliking it as much as I do now. If you’ve a nostalgic connection to this shallow film, then perhaps it works out for you, but as for me, I found Darkness Falls a deeply tedious and tepid mess.

4/10

Leák (1981)

Leak

Directed by H. Tjut Djalil [Other horror films: Batas Impian Ranjang Setan (1986), Ratu buaya putih (1988), Pembalasan ratu pantai selatan (1989), Misteri janda kembang (1991), Skandal Iblis (1992), Gaun merah (1994), Dangerous Seductress (1995)]

Eh, I don’t really know what to say about this one.

There were certainly some decent things in this Indonesian horror film, originally titled Leák (pronounced Le-ak, which is apparently some kind of black magic), but known far better as Mystics in Bali, such as an ominous and threatening atmosphere, some decent special effects, and a plot that’s played pretty seriously (despite how the final product ended up coming out).

But despite some interesting scenes, about thirty, forty minutes in, I was getting bored, and really much of the movie is just a young woman becoming unintentionally aligned with a dark practitioner of an evil magic, and becoming possessed, in a way. Some creepy scenes were present, such as throwing up what seems to be green slime and live mice, along with the initial appearance of the witch-like Leák Master, but it wasn’t enough to keep my interest alive.

I don’t have much experience with Indonesian horror. I do know that much of this film is taken from Balinese mythology and folklore, which is culturally sort of cool. But the movie didn’t really do much of anything for me, and though portions were probably decent for Indonesian films back in the 1980s, some of the effects look rather hokey now. Might be worth a watch if you want to see something a little different, but I wouldn’t expect to love it.

5/10