Bruiser (2000)

Directed by George A. Romero [Other horror films: Night of the Living Dead (1968), Hungry Wives (1972), The Crazies (1973), The Amusement Park (1975), Martin (1976), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Creepshow (1982), Day of the Dead (1985), Monkey Shines (1988), Due occhi diabolici (1990, segment ‘The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar’), The Dark Half (1993), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), Survival of the Dead (2009)]

This movie is a hodge-podge of different ideas, and I think that’s partially why it came across, at least to me, as a mess. It’s part thriller, part romance, part comedy (I guess?), part slasher, and for the lulz, it throws in some music at the end.

Listen, the fact that Romeo directed this doesn’t bother me. I enjoy Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead (I’ve yet to see any sequels past that), but he’s not someone who I’d rate up there in the best horror directors, and if he wanted to change things up with this one, so be it. It’s just that Bruiser is such a mess that it defies almost any enjoyment.

Hell, it’s an hour and 45 minutes, and I watched every second. I still have exactly no idea what “brusier” even means, and that’s a problem, but just one of many.

Primarily, it could be said that the fact Brusier isn’t strictly horror is my biggest personal issue. Don’t get me wrong, even if it focused more on horror and less on the thriller/romance/fantasy stuff, I’d probably still rather dislike it, but it just seemed all over the place, as if it had no idea what it was going for (some scenes were openly comedic, but that never seemed the main idea either).

The whole premise bothers me, to be honest. This living carpet of a man wakes up one morning and his face is all white, probably because he has no identity (well, an overtly aggressive identity, anyway). Why this is is never explained, or how. Or what. It just happens, and it didn’t interest or intrigue me at all, especially once I found out we probably weren’t getting any answers on that anyway.

Jason Flemyng was decent in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but he doesn’t suit the role here. To be fair, no matter who took on the role, I’d have hated it, but even so, Flemyng doesn’t seem right here. Peter Stormare (Fargo) was unbearable in his over-the-top role, and I hated him. Tom Atkins (The Fog, Night of the Creeps, Halloween III) is here, but it also doesn’t do anything at all for me, given how poor the film is.

Listen, I don’t even want to harp on this anymore – for some people, Bruiser apparently worked fine. It’s straddling the 5/10 rating on IMDb, so enough people found it competent, at least. I didn’t. I legitimately didn’t have a good time at all. I felt it was going for some deep message about identity, but it never really makes it clear, and without a focus, it felt like a mess. Oh, and that last scene? Just shows me that the whole thing is a joke that no one bothered to explain.

I’ll throw it a few points for Flemyng’s recital of a poem, though, and for that scene where he shoots his backstabbing friend. Otherwise, this has little to nothing going for it, at least not in my opinion.

4/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Brusier.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Directed by Zack Snyder [Other horror films: Army of the Dead (2021)]

Perhaps one of the best zombie movies of the 2000’s, this remake does a lot right. I happened to see this before I caught the original, and while I do like the original more, this version is no slouch, and it’s a solid ride throughout.

I think a large part of this is how some of the characters here develop, such as Michael Kelly’s CJ, who started off as an utter jackass, but then becomes quite a valuable team member. It’s accurate, actually, to say that most focal performances here are solid, from the lead actress, Sarah Polley, to the sarcastic rich asshole, Ty Burrell (who cracked me up throughout).

With such a large cast, I want to at least give kudos to most of these performances. R.D. Reid, Boyd Banks, Jayne Eastwood, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Kevin Zegers, and Michael Barry (who I randomly know from the Goosebumps two-parter The Werewolf of Fever Swamp) were all solid in their roles. I didn’t care much for Lindy Booth (though her actions may play a role in that) or Inna Korobkina, but it was nice seeing Ken Foree and Tom Savini here.

Being a big budget film, the special effects and cinematography were pretty top-notch. I don’t think I have a favorite scene of gore, but some of the shots early on in the film, showing the destruction of Sarah Polley’s suburban life, are shot beautifully. The chaos there is fantastic, and you have to love it. Also, throwing on what may be one of Johnny Cash’s best songs (“The Man Comes Around”) during the title sequence was a solid choice.

There are some scenes throughout the film that personally never did that much for me, such as the baby sequence, and, in relation, the degradation of Mekhi Phifer’s character, who was somewhat interesting at the beginning. It makes sense in context, but I still don’t care much for it. Lindy Booth (who, if she looks familiar, you may remember from Wrong Turn) plays a character who suffers multiple losses, but still ends up making a rather stupid mistake late into the film. Still, the parking garage scene in fun, and their escape attempt, with their decked out buses, was quality too.

Dawn of the Dead is a somewhat longer film (the version I went with was an hour and 50 minutes or so), but it doesn’t really drag at any point, even when some characters are thrown in who never really get screen-time (such as those played by Jayne Eastwood, R.D. Reid, and Kim Poirier). We get some time lapses of their life in the mall, which are equal parts amusing and realistic. And when the action comes around, it sure do come around, brahs.

This is a fun movie throughout, and there’s a reason why so many fans of the genre give it such props. Like I said, I don’t think it’s as good as the original Dawn of the Dead, but this is still a well-done zombie movie well worth the respect it’s gathered.

8.5/10

Silent Hill (2006)

Directed by Christophe Gans [Other horror films: Necronomicon (1993, segment ‘#1: The Drawned’), Le pacte des loups (2001)]

Silent Hill is one of those films that I saw many years back, and haven’t seen since. It’s not one that crosses my mind too often, and I pretty much only recall confusion. To be fair, I’ve never played any of the Silent Hill games, nor watched any game-play, nor read any plot synopsis. The only thing I can really claim insofar as prior knowledge about the story is the Spanish film Broken Notes, which I didn’t even care for.

As it was, I was interested in seeing this one again with fresh eyes, but, and this wasn’t that much a surprise, I found that little changed. Aspects of the story were certainly decent, but boy, do I think the plot definitely needed some clarification somewhere along the way.

Lead Radha Mitchell was passable; I never felt strongly about her character one way or the other. The same can be said for Sean Bean’s character. Honestly, Sean Bean was pretty much a waste of time from beginning to end, because he never really added anything of any use whatsoever to the story. I sort of liked Laurie Holden (who appeared a year later in The Mist) here, but she also didn’t leave that huge an impression. And again, the same can be said for Jodelle Ferland, who I only mention because she later appears in a few movies I enjoy (The Unspoken and Neverknock).

I don’t think the problem is the cast, though, as uninspiring as I found them. It’s the God-awful story. And maybe the story’s not awful – maybe it was a clever look into multi-dimensional space using quantum physics and religious mania to showcase the dangers of rituals and doppelgängers or something. Don’t get me wrong – the Hellraiser-inspired chain massacre at the end was cool, but otherwise, I had a deep difficulty following along with this story. I won’t say that it wasn’t there for those who looked deep enough, but I didn’t see it.

If you came into this movie with some previous experience with the games, maybe a lot of this is easier to grasp. I certainly won’t discount that, and I know that this film, while still receiving somewhat mixed views, is generally, to an extent, liked. However, I definitely feel that aspects of the story could have been touched on more, and instead of feeling like things were muddled, what with doppelgängers and cults and multiple different dimensions (for some reason), maybe things would have felt more connected. Also, Pyramidhead looked cool, but was never explained, so that was fun.

Silent Hill isn’t a movie without potential. The atmosphere here was occasionally pretty solid, especially during the first half of the film. The problem is, Broken Notes did the atmosphere better. Like I said, I didn’t much care for that film (and for much the same reason as this one – the story befuddled me), but I got a much more genuine feel from that low-budget flick than I did this Hollywood production.

I may well be in the minority here, but I’ll find a way to live with that. Silent Hill was a poor movie that did a terrible job at actually giving the audience any reason whatsoever to care about the characters or the story. Just make things a little more clear-cut, and you might have a winner here. As it is, Silent Hill is definitely below average, and I can’t imagine a situation in which I’d want to sit through this two-hour long movie again.

5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as we discuss the film.

The Purge (2013)

Directed by James DeMonaco [Other horror films: The Purge: Anarchy (2014), The Purge: Election Year (2016)]

I wasn’t that big a fan of this the first time I saw it, and in many ways, it’s not that far removed from a generic home invasion flick, but I still found myself enjoying it more than some years back when I first saw it. I’d never call The Purge great, but I think it’s decent.

The cast here is surprisingly solid. Ethan Hawke (Sinister) was thrown into a pretty interesting role of a father trying to protect his family. Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) actually got some sympathy from me, which was nice. Adelaide Kane was quite attractive, which was a nice plus. Though maybe a little over-the-top, Rhys Wakefield was pretty fun (and psychopathic) in his role too.

What is most interesting about The Purge is the Purge itself, an annual event in the U.S.A. in which all crime is legalized in order to ‘purge’ the hatred and violence in the citizens, giving them an outlet for their desires. Otherwise, crime is low, and society is generally happy, including Hawke’s family, who are quite wealthy due to his business in selling security systems. Because they’re wealthy and have little chance of being impacted, Hawke’s character fully supports the Purge, despite not participating himself.

It’s a very barbaric idea wrapped up in psychology and good policy. The rich going around and killing the poor (physically, as opposed to how they do it in our actual society) is certainly somewhat a political statement, and this movie was interesting for that aspect alone. The dialogue of Wakefield made it quite clear that he thought the homeless were only there to be purged, which is an unique point-of-view, not to mention arrogantly self-centered (but we’re talking about the wealthy here, so I’m repeating myself).

Obviously, I think The Strangers had a lot of influence on this one, from the whole home invasion thing to the creepy masks the multitude of killers wear. Now, I actually like this a bit more than The Strangers, because the whole Purge element, while pretty ludicrous, is still something that’s on the unique side of things (and also, given it’s government-sanctioned, adds an extra element to it). I wasn’t a big fan of The Strangers anyway, so while this isn’t necessarily a whole lot better in terms of home invasion (though it is, to the extent that we have a family here while in The Strangers was a soon-to-be-broken up couple), I do find The Purge better.

There’s some violence here, but none of it is really over the top, and while we do see some knives and machetes, much of the violence is via firearms, giving a much more action feel to this film than a horror one. Make no mistake, the movie’s still horror, but don’t be surprised if you feel like you tuned into Die Hard at times.

The Purge isn’t a great movie, but I do think it’s decent, and reasonably entertaining with a strong cast and interesting moral issues that aren’t generally present in other home invasion flicks, which alone gives it a slight edge.

7/10

Dead End (2003)

Directed by Jean-Baptiste Andrea [Other horror films: N/A] & Fabrice Canepa [Other horror films: N/A]

I’m sure this comparison has been made before, but Dead End really feels like an elongated episode of the Twilight Zone. There’s a deep feeling of unease here, and while the final product is far from perfect, I think seeing this again has solidly thrown it into one of the better movies of the early 2000’s.

Personally, I don’t know if I care much for the black humor aspects (it was never really overblown, but it was definitely noticeable, especially in Lin Shaye’s character), but the story overall was interesting, though admittedly going down an expected route. I always loved the overhead shots of the car driving down the road, which was entirely void of lights and surrounded on all sides by a thick, impenetrable forest.

Performances are a mixed bag. You have your annoying adolescence in Mick Cain, and though he’s sometimes amusing, boy, does he get on my nerves. Lin Shaye (A Nightmare on Elm Street and Insidious being what I recognize her most from) was decent in a starring role, though past a certain point, she felt more dark comedic relief than anything (though to be sure, she did provide us with a few pretty tense moments). I’d say between Ray Wise (Jeepers Creepers 2) and Alexandra Holden (I’ve seen her in both Wishcraft and A Dead Calling), Holden had the better performance, but Wise did a good job too. Much like Shaye, though, he sort of went off the deep end by the finale, while Holden’s character was generally more stable.

Not that they didn’t have a good reason to lose it, which is where the Twilight Zone feel comes from. Seemingly in an inescapable situation, no matter how long you drive (and the only upcoming town sign being a name that’s not even on the map), Dead End really did have good tension. At around 80 minutes, I personally feel it went on a bit longer than it had to, and the ending itself was more a mixed bag (some elements were welcomed, others not so much), but still, the plot made for a good movie.

I enjoyed Dead End when I first saw it some years back, and it mostly holds up. I wish a slightly different direction was taken, but hey, the road obviously had no turnoffs, so what can they do?

7.5/10

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

Vampyr (1932)

Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer [Other horror films: Prästänkan (1920)]

Sometimes called a German classic, Vampyr is a rather interesting film with unique stylistic choices. I don’t think any of it makes the film particularly good, despite the strong, often eerie, atmosphere, however.

The main issue with this film is that it’s rather incomprehensible at times. It’s experimental and dreamy, but despite the somewhat simple plot, not really coherent, so while you get some memorable sequences and rather interesting cinematography (especially regarding shadows), it’s possible that such design will fall flat if the style of the film doesn’t much enamor you.

One somewhat fun thing about the film is the sparse dialogue. The film was filmed much like it would have been during the silent era, and there are even plenty of title screens present, so the film really feels older than 1932. The dialogue they do have is generally inconsequential, and I don’t think it really helps make the story clearer.

Unfortunately, that’s my biggest problem with the film. Vampyr often feels incoherent, and while the skeleton outline of a story is there, it definitely isn’t explained well. Some may argue this helps induce a dreamy atmosphere, and it partially does, but when there’s atmosphere at the expense of story, I sometimes have problems.

As such, I can think of so many more classic horror films from the 1930’s that I’d rather watch again than this one. In fact, I might have liked this one more the first time I saw it, because it really didn’t gel with me upon my most-recent viewing. Vampyr has it’s fans, and it probably should, but I will admit to not being one of them, and despite some decent scenes and a solid aura, I don’t come close to loving the film.

5/10

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

Faceless (1987)

Directed by Jesús Franco [Other horror films: Gritos en la noche (1962), La mano de un hombre muerto (1962), El secreto del Dr. Orloff (1964), Miss Muerte (1966), Necronomicon – Geträumte Sünden (1968), The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968), Der heiße Tod (1969), Marquis de Sade: Justine (1969), The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969), Paroxismus (1969), De Sade 70 (1970), Il trono di fuoco (1970), Nachts, wenn Dracula erwacht (1970), Les cauchemars naissent la nuit (1970), Vampyros Lesbos (1971), Sie tötete in Ekstase (1971), Jungfrauen-Report (1972), Drácula contra Frankenstein (1972), Der Todesrächer von Soho (1972), La fille de Dracula (1972), Dr. M schlägt zu (1972), Les démons (1973), La comtesse noire (1973), La maldición de Frankenstein (1973), La nuit des étoiles filantes (1973), Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff (1973), Al otro lado del espejo (1973), La noche de los asesinos (1974), Les possédées du diable (1974), La comtesse perverse (1974), Les gloutonnes (1975), L’éventreur de Notre-Dame (1975), Sexorcismes (1975), Frauengefängnis (1976), Jack the Ripper (1976), Un silencio de tumba (1976), In 80 Betten um die Welt (1976), Die Marquise von Sade (1976), Greta – Haus ohne Männer (1977), Die Liebesbriefe einer portugiesischen Nonne (1977), Die teuflischen Schwestern (1977), Der Ruf der blonden Göttin (1977), El sádico de Notre-Dame (1979), Mondo cannibale (1980), El caníbal (1980), Die Säge des Todes (1981), La tumba de los muertos vivientes (1982), La mansión de los muertos vivientes (1982), Revenge in the House of Usher (1983), El tesoro de la diosa blanca (1983), Macumba sexual (1983), Sola ante el terror (1983), Sangre en mis zapatos (1983), Mil sexos tiene la noche (1984), El siniestro doctor Orloff (1984), Lilian (la virgen pervertida) (1984), La esclava blanca (1985), Killer Barbys (1996), Tender Flesh (1997), Mari-Cookie and the Killer Tarantula (1998), Lust for Frankenstein (1998), Vampire Blues (1999), Dr. Wong’s Virtual Hell (1999), Helter Skelter (2000), Vampire Junction (2001), Incubus (2002), Killer Barbys vs. Dracula (2002), Snakewoman (2005), La cripta de las mujeres malditas (2008), La cripta de las mujeres malditas II (2008), La cripta de las condenadas (2012), La cripta de las condenadas: Parte II (2012)]

To be honest, I’ve not seen that many Jesús Franco flicks (and as you can see, even within just the horror genre, he was hella prolific). Off the top of my head, The Bloody Judge and Oasis of the Zombies are the only others from him I’ve seen. Not that I have anything against Franco – I’ve heard pretty mixed things about his work, but plenty of it sounds interesting. All of this is to say that I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into this one, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.

Sure, the gore here is definitely good, and I’ll touch on that in a bit, but the story was surprisingly solid, sympathetic to both sides of the violence. Things went a bit deeper than I’d have expected, and on a whole, it was a nice surprise.

As far as performances go, the only one that really stood out was Helmut Berger. Gérard Zalcberg was pretty solid as a degenerate rapist and murderer, to be sure, but Berger is by far the most memorable. It’s not as though we’re inundated with bad performances, though – most people here do perfectly fine.

The gore within Faceless is most paramount, though. It’s just fantastic – the most brutal scene is a botched removal of a face (utterly sickening, but it really does it’s job), but even the successful facial removal is gruesome (especially given the victim is still alive, and taunted with their own face in sociopathic fashion). You also have a decapitation by chainsaw, a stab through the throat by some scissors, a needle stab in the eye, some power drill and hook action, all the goodies. This movie came to play, and play it did.

Even without the great gore, there were some really suspenseful scenes here. In one, a victim was just about to make herself known to someone searching for her, but last second, she’s dragged into another room and all hope vanishes. Speaking of vanishing hope, the conclusion here is a lot darker than I’d have initially expected. Talk about a dreary finale.

Faceless isn’t the most amazing Italian movie of the late 1980’s, nor do I suspect it’ll be the most memorable as the days move on, but it was a surprisingly solid time, and I’d certainly recommend it to fans of the genre.

7.5/10

And for even more on this, Faceless was one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, episode #28. If you’re interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Directed by Edgar Wright [Other horror films: N/A]

Often called one of the greatest zombie-comedies, Shaun of the Dead is an undeniably fun film. It never gets too silly (which is one of my personal pet peeves when it comes to comedy-horror films), and is just a good movie to throw in when little else is going on.

Much of the reason this works is because of Simon Pegg, who does great as the unmotivated, titular Shaun. His was a rather enjoyable performance throughout. Much of the time, I didn’t care for Nick Frost’s character, but as an actor, he did well. Most others were enjoyable also, such as Bill Nighy (who had one of the few emotional scenes in the film), Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, and Penelope Wilton (who’s cheery ‘Hello’ always cracked me up). Hell, we even got a cameo of Martin Freeman before he became the star he now is.

Of course, the story’s fun, the style is solid (love the quick cuts used constantly), and I do enjoy the scenes of Pegg walking to and from his apartment, as they bring a very localized feel to the film. I don’t have any real big complaints, aside from a few portions that felt a bit much (such as the end, which was a tad more goofy than I’d have hoped for).

Generally, though, there’s a reason that this movie is held to such high regard, and though it’s not perfect, it is an enjoyable, potentially brainless, film that is pretty well worth seeing. There’s even a little gore, as one of the characters gets his legs and arms ripped off by a horde of zombies, so there’s a little something here for many horror fans.

I don’t necessarily love Shaun of the Dead, but I’ve seen it multiple times, and it’s never failed to amuse. Stand-out scene was probably the “Don’t Stop Me Now” Queen sequence in the pub. “Kill the Queen” indeed.

8/10

Urban Legend (1998)

Urban legend

Directed by Jamie Blanks [Other horror films: Valentine (2001), Storm Warning (2007), Long Weekend (2008)]

In many ways, while still a fun film, this late 90’s slasher feels rather neutered at times. I still like it, and it’s probably one of my favorite late 90’s post-Scream slashers, but still, Urban Legend just felt lacking at times.

First off, though, I have to say that the opening scene has long been a favorite of mine. The gas station attendant trying to shout, “There’s someone in the backseat” just always gave me chills. It was a solid way to open this film. Sadly, much of it can’t maintain that level of pure tension.

The story overall is pretty fun. I just wish that it had been more gory over stylistic, because it really felt like it was pulling it’s punches. Plenty of opportunities for gore, but very little delivery.

The cast was pretty damn good, though. Alicia Witt was decent enough, but Jared Leto (most well-known, to me, anyways, as the lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars) has always been rather enjoyable in this. Rebecca Gayheart is rather animated (which comes with it’s pros and cons), and Loretta Devine’s character is really fun. Lastly, two great side-characters include Robert Englund (playing a college professor) and John Neville, the college dean (Neville’s most known to me from 1965’s A Study in Terror and The X-Files series), who add good flavor to the film.

Like I said, though, the lack of gore is pretty noticeable here, and it’s rather disappointing that 80’s slashers have more to offer than slashers from the late 90’s. Still, this is one of the post-Scream slashers worth watching, even if it isn’t amazing.

7.5/10