Los Cronocrímenes (2007)

This is the first full-length film by Nacho Vigalondo, whose work also appears in the anthologies The ABCs of Death, The Profane Exhibit and VHS: Viral. He’s since made his English-language debut with the Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey-starring Open Windows and was noticed by his films Colossal and Pooka!

He was inspired to make this movie by the comic 2000AD, citing the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons story “Chronocops.”

Somewhere in Spain, a middle-aged man named Hector and his wife Clara are outside when he sees a young nude woman. After his wife leaves to go shopping, he investigates and finds the girl unconscious. Soon, a man in pink bandages stabs him. Hector runs to a building where a scientist warns him of the bandaged man and leads him to a machine that takes him backward one hour in time.

The scientist now refers to our hero as Hector 2, who runs away despite being warned that he must hide. After an accident, his face is damaged and he must wrap it up, turning the white gauze pink. He’s accidentally hit a woman, who is the nude woman he saw before, so he feels compelled to recreate the same scenario that he just saw. This compulsion will drive the story toward several conclusions and overlapping narratives.

I loved the look and feel of this movie, despite how confusion the plot can get. I also absolutely adored the use of Blondie’s “Picture This,” which the director claims sounds happy but is actually very sad. There was a rumor that Cronenberg was going to direct a remake of this with Tom Cruise in the lead, but that was more than a decade ago.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Ghost Rider (2007)

Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda!) owns the soul of Johnny Blaze, who gave it willingly to cure his father’s cancer. Of course, his dad dies the very next day in a stunt. Blaze becomes a famous stunt rider but the devil still owns his soul, no matter what he does. However — the illegitimate son of Satan named Blackheart and his quest for a thousand corrupt souls my give the stuntman an escape.

Ghost Rider was a character that was big in the 70’s and 90’s for Marvel. This film comes from Mark Steven Johnson, who also created Daredevil (and wrote the two Grumpy Old Men films).

I really like the casting of this film, with Wes Bentley as Blackheart, Eva Mendes as Johnny’s lost love Roxanne, Sam Elliot as a past Ghost Rider who is now the Caretaker, Donal Logue has a nice small role and even a young Rebel Wilson shows up.

Nicholas Cage is, of course, perfect for the role. He already had a Ghost Rider tattoo before the movie even started, as he’s such a comic book fan. After all, he took his stage name from Luke Cage and named his son Kal-El after Superman.

St. John In Exile (2007)

This is another odd part of Dan Curtis’ career — a filmed version of Dean Jones (That Darn Cat!The Love Bug) acting out the final days of John, the last living disciple of Jesus’ twelve apostles.

He speaks to the audience as if they can hear him and continually makes jokes throughout, but gives you the idea of what it would be like to actually hear Jesus’ story from someone who lived it.

Who knew that this week would take me from Dark Shadows to the realm of Kolchak, the classics like Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker, and then to…the Bible? Ah well. It’s never boring writing about movies.

The reviews on Amazon are mixed by people absolutely loving this and hardcore fundamentalists who don’t like all the jokes. Then there are others who are upset that it’s basically a filmed stage play. Me? I was entertained, as I rarely watch anything like this.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Strange Nature: Headless Horseman (2007)

Originally airing on SyFy back when it was still Sci-Fi, way back on October 27, 2007, Headless Horseman is all about the famous Washington Irving story, which was true and was much less scary than what actually happened.

It’s directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, who would go on to create Sharknado.

On their way to a party, seven teens stumble upon the town of Wormwood Ridge, whose townsfolk are celebrating a ceremony honoring the Headless Horseman. Turns out that the town wants their skulls, to quote the Misfits.

Nearly everyone loses their head in this one, quite literally. You know, if I’ve learned anything, if you end up in a small town and it feels weird, just leave before you die.

Richard Moll shows up. Seriously, that dude is in so many of my favorite weird 1980’s movies, like EvilspeakNight Train to Terror, House and The Sword and the Sorcerer.

So yeah. Don’t go in expecting Sleepy Hollow and just aim to have some fun and you’ll be just fine.

Mill Creek Entertainment’s Savage Nature set has this movie and three other films all about the evil side of Mother Nature. You also get a code for all four films on their MovieSPREE service. Want to see it for yourself? Then grab a copy right here.

You can also watch this on Amazon Prime.

DISCLAIMER: This movie was sent to us by Mill Creek Entertainment.

Pray (2007)

About the Author: Paul Andolina is one of my favorite people to talk movies with. If you like his stuff, check out his sites Wrestling with Film and Is the Dad Alive?

I recently finished reading a book called Celluloid Sermons: The Emergence of the Christian Film Industry, 1930-1986. Christian films have been a staple in my life since a very young age but I had no clue how it even started. I would have never guessed it started in 1927 and how it went from being distributed church to church on 16mm to big screens and DTV titles. Ever since starting the book I had been on the hunt for interesting and odd Christian films and that is how I stumbled upon Pray. I would like to preface that I’m coming at this film a little bit different than most of my reviews as I’m looking at not only the entertainment value of the film but also what the film is saying theologically. I was a religion major in college and still do read quite a bit about theology, I’m a Lutheran so many of my comments will be coming from that doctrinal standard.about as theologically sound as the film, which is not very good.

 

Pray is a 2007 Christian thriller supposedly based on a true story that involves a young lady being stalked by an unknown suspect in a mall after closing time. A lot of the stuff I had read about the film talked about it being a Halloween rip-off but apart from a few references to the film, like the woman who goes missing being named Laurie Curtis a portmanteau of the protagonist’s name from Halloween and the name of the actress who portrays her, and the antagonist being credited as the shape in the credits, it’s a different animal than Halloween.

The movie is about miracles and how God uses harrowing situations to call folks to him. This is a prevalent belief in popular Christianity, that God uses situations to get people’s attention instead of Holy Scripture being sufficient to turn men’s hearts to Christ. It’s all about the experience, you know? How boring would it be if someone’s testimony was simply I went to church and heard the sermon with the Word properly preached and I started to see my sin and longed for the sweetness of the Gospel: you gotta have scary killers stalking people and miracles to move folks into conversion ya dig, but I digress apart from some pretty crappy theology, I guess the point of the movie is to entertain you.

It is a mildly entertaining film but I certainly wouldn’t be showing it to people who are not Christians in an attempt to “save” them as they’re more than likely going to laugh in your face after you show them this. The big twist of the film is that there is no way this young lady should have survived and it was an actual miracle that protected her from the killer. I’m not one of those folks who believes miracles are impossible but I think they are far and few between since Scripture is revelatory and sufficient for the conversion of mankind.

The acting is a bit amateur but not once during the movie did I feel the characters were acting odd, most of the cast is teenagers, and they act about how I expect kids of their ilk would. This movie isn’t going to win any awards for being a great horror flick but it’s a nice little thriller that does not feature nudity, crassness, or much violence which may be what someone who buys this film is looking for. Most other viewers, especially horror fans will find little in the way of this being worth their time.

If you are a sucker for low budget films this one may be up your alley, it went on to not only spawn two sequels but a Pray 2.5 as well that combines this film and the 2nd with some added material. I didn’t manage to pick up a copy of it 2.5 but I do have both Pray 2: The Woods and Pray 3D: The Storm that I will cover as well. The DVDs also include Bible Studies on the discs themselves but they’re probably about as theologically sound as the film, which is not very good.

I Am Legend (2007)

Remember when Will Smith was the king of summer? This comes at the end of that and is anything but a crowd-pleaser. In fact, it’s one of the most downbeat major motion pictures I can think of.

It’s based on Richard Mathson’s 1954 novel of the same name, which also inspired The Omega Man and The Last Man on Earth, as well as Night of the Living Dead.

This movie sat in development for decades, as Warner Brothers had owned the rights to the story since 1970.

Mark Protosevich was hired to write the script after the studio was impressed with his script The Cell. His first take took place in San Francisco but was closer to The Omega Man than this film.

All sorts of people were going to star — Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas and Mel Gibson — with Ridley Scott as director, but the studio wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger. The studio came to regret giving Scott creative control, as his movie was dark and had a downer ending. They were looking for action figures.

It took nearly another decade until Schwarzenegger became the producer of I Am Legend for a brief time, bringing on Michael Bay as director and Will Smith as star. Nothing happened there and a few years later, Akiva Goldsman and director Francis Lawrence (Constantine, four of The Hunger Games films) came on board.

Between closing big parts of New York City and a $5 million dollar Brooklyn Bridge scene, the film just feels huge and empty at the same time. And a week into filming, Lawrence decided to scrap the practical monsters for CGI. Trust me, time has not been kind to the effects in this film. I am a fan of how they sound, though, as Mike Patton of the bands Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas (and a few hundred other lineups) did some great vocal work for the bad guys.

The film concerns a genetically re-engineered measles virus — once a cure for cancer — that killed 90% of the world’s popular and turned the rest into mutants called Darkseekers who are basically vampires.

Three years later,  US Army virologist Lt. Col. Robert Neville (Smith) lives the same day, day after day, alone with his dog Sam in the heart of Manhattan. Nearly the entire film is spent with Smith slowly going crazy, defending what’s left of the world and talking to anything that looks remotely human.

While the ending of this film isn’t anything like the book, it wasn’t the only one filmed. There was another version where Neville and the Alpha Darkseeker come to an understanding about the female in the lab. This one is the happy ending, but didn’t feel like it fit the spirit of the film.

One of the things I really liked is that most of the art on the walls of Neville’s apartment has been rescued from museums. If you’re the last man on Earth, why not grab something from the Museum of Modern Art?

Grindhouse: Death Proof (2007)

When it came time to create his part of Grindhouse, Quentin Tarantino had to figure out a genre. He said, “I realized I couldn’t do a straight slasher film, because with the exception of women-in-prison films, there is no other genre quite as rigid.” What he ended up with is a movie about a killer who uses his death proof stunt car — another obsession of his — to kill beautiful women.

I love that the movie starts with a title card calling the movie Quentin Tarantino’s Thunderbolt before the Death Proof name is quickly inserted over that. The film was purposefully edited down for Grindhouse, as if it was bought by a distributor and hacked to bits so it could play shorter running times in drive-ins and rough theater houses on 42nd Street. However, an extended, 127-minute version of Death Proof was screened in competition for the Palme d’Or at the 60th Cannes Film Festival.

Arlene, Shanna and radio DJ “Jungle” Julia Lucai (Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd — who appeared in Embrace of the Vampire, a 1990’s video favorite — and Sydney Poitier) are on their way to the bar to celebrate Julie’s birthday. Julie had mentioned that Arlene would give a lap dance to anyone who finds her, calls her by the name Butterfly and reads a poem to her — the same poem that alerts the sleeper agents in Telefon. Stuntman Mike McKay (Kurt Russell) takes her up on this dare, getting one hell of a dance before everyone leaves the bar.

Stuntman Mike gives Pam (Rose McGowan) a ride, but soon reveals his sinister nature, murdering her inside his car by smashing her head against the windshield. He then hunts down the other women and kills them too, but since it looks like the girls were driving drunk, he gets away. Texas Rangers Earl and Edgar McGraw (Michael and James Parks) tell him to get the hell out of Texas.

One year later and Mike is hunting a whole new set of girls n Tennessee — Abernathy Ross, Kim Mathis, Lee Montgomery and Zoe Bell (Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and, yes, Zoe Bell). This time, it doesn’t go so well for Mike, who gets obliterated by the women.

Marley Shelton shows up as Dr. Dakota Block, reprising her role from the Planet Terror section of Grindhouse, plus Tarantino and Eli Roth show up at the bar as love interests for the first set of women. There’s also plenty of bare feet — of course — and way too much talking.

Taratino’s own jukebox — AMI — was used here, with the list of songs written out in his own hand. Thanks to IMDB, those songs are:

  1. Isaac Hayes – “Theme from Shaft” / “Ellie’s Love Theme”
  2. Barry White – “You’re My First, My Last, My Everything” / “Can’t Get Enough”
  3. Bob Dylan – “George Jackson (Acoustic)” / “George Jackson (Big Band)
  4. Stevie Wonder – “Lately” / “If It’s Magic”
  5. The Chi-Lites – “Have You Seen Her” / “Oh Girl”
  6. The THP Orchestra – “Theme from S.W.A.T., Pt. 1″ / “Oh Girl”
  7. Stevie Wonder – “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It” / “Knocks Me off My Feet”
  8. Bloodstone – “Natural High” / “This Thing is Heavy”
  9. Don McLean – “American Pie, Pt. 1” / “American Pie, Pt. 2”
  10. Sweet – “Little Willy” / “Man from Mecca”
  11. The Isley Brothers – “Take Me to the Next Phase, Pt. 1” / “Take Me to the Next Phase, Pt. 2”
  12. The Miracles – “Love Machine, Pt. 1” / “Love Machine, Pt. 2”
  13. Bob Dylan – “Subterranean Homesick Blues” / “She Belongs to Me”
  14. Honey Cone – “Stick Up” / “V.I.P.”
  15. Earth Wind & Fire – “Shining Star” / “Yearning, Learning”
  16. Amii Stewart – “Knock on Wood” / “When You Are Beautiful”
  17. Honey Cone – “Want Ads” / “We Belong Together”
  18. Kool & The Gang – “Hollywood Swinging” / “Jungle Boogie”
  19. Bob Dylan – “Band of the Hand” / “Theme from Joe’s Death”
  20. Sweet – “Wig-Wam-Bam” / “New York Connection”
  21. Friends of Distinction – “Grazing in the Grass” / “I Really Hope You Do”
  22. Marvin Gaye – “:Trouble Man” / “Don’t Mess With Mr. T
  23. Bob Dylan – “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” / “Rita May”
  24. Pacific Gas & Electric – “Are You Ready?” / “Staggolee”
  25. Donna Summer – “Love to Love you Baby” / “Need-A-Man Blues”
  26. Michael Zager Band – “Let’s All Chant” / “Love Express”
  27. Santa Esmeralda – “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” / “You’re My Everything”
  28. Jigsaw – “Sky High” / “Brand New Love Affair”
  29. George Baker Selection – “Little Green Bag” / “Pretty Little Dreamer”
  30. Sweet – “Blockbuster” / “Need a Lot of Lovin'”
  31. Eddie Floyd – “Good Love, Bad Love” / “Things Get Better”
  32. Joe Tex – “The Love You Save” / “If Sugar Was as Sweet as You”
  33. Bob Dylan – “Gotta Serve Somebody (Long Version)” / “Gotta Serve Somebody (Short Version)”
  34. Dick Dale – “Misirlou” / “Eight Till Midnight”
  35. Lee Williams – “They Told a Lie” / “I’m Tore Up”
  36. William Bell – “Formula of Love” / “You Don’t Miss Your Water”
  37. Dinah Washington – “Mad About the Boy” / “Stormy Weather”
  38. The Box Tops – “Cry Like a Baby” / “The Door You Closed to Me”
  39. The Checkmates Ltd. – “Black Pearl” / “Lazy Susan”
  40. Sweet – “Fox on the Run” / “Miss Demeanor”
  41. The Delfonics – “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” / “La-La Means I Love You”
  42. Brothers Johnson – “Get the Funk Outta Ma Face” / “Tomorrow”
  43. Bob Dylan – “Hurricane, Pt. 1” / “Hurricane, Pt. 2”
  44. ABBA – “Waterloo” / “Watch Out”;
  45. T. Rex – “Jeepster” / “Life’s a Gas”
  46. Melanie – “What Have They Done to My Song Ma?” / “Ruby Tuesday”
  47. George Frayne – “Hot Rod Lincoln” / “Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar”
  48. Robert Mitchum – “The Ballad of Thunder Road” / “The Tip of My Fingers”
  49. Dean Martin – “Rio Bravo” / “My Rifle My Pony and Me”
  50. Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich – “Hold Tight” / “You Know What I Want”

That jukebox list is more interesting to me than this film. I’ve tried several times to enjoy it and get into it — the grindhouse nature of it being so talky isn’t lost on me. It just never really goes anywhere, no matter how many times I watch it.

This led to a period of time where I was worried that I’d never like a Tarantino film again. I’m happy to report that that time has passed.

Grindhouse: Planet Terror (2007)

The idea for Planet Terror came up while Robert Rodriguez was making The Faculty. He told the young actors that zombie movies were ready to rise from its grave and he wanted to get there first. He was more than correct and he missed his chance to be the first of many modern zombie films.

When Tarantino and Rodriguez came up with the idea for Grindhouse, his zombie film idea came back to him. The name of the film pays homage to the late night horror movie show that aired in the director’s hometown of San Antonio on KENS-TV during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Many of the cast members had previously worked with Rodriguez, with Marley Shelton and Bruce Willis appearing in Sin City, Savini in From Dusk Till Dawn and Michael Parks reprising his role of Earl McGraw from that film (he also plays the same role in Death Proof). However, Harvey Weinstein didn’t want Rose McGowan to be cast in the film. That’s because she had raised alleged sexually assault allegations against him and as a result, was blacklisted from any Miramax movie. Rodriguez was her at the time and specifically cast her knowing that it would enrage Harvey while his brother Bob would still release the film, as he controlled the Dimension releases.

McGowan would accuse Rodriguez of exploiting her, but the director supporter her statements against Weinstein. He said that she signed on to the script and whenever she’s threatened by men, she always ends up taking them out.

McGowan plays Cherry Darling, an exotic dancer who leaves behind her job and runs back into her ex, El Ray (Freddy Rodriguez) in the midst of a growing zombie invasion that leads them to the Bone Shack. There, the last remnants of humanity — J.T. Hague (Jeff Fahey), his brother Sherrif Hague (Michael Biehn) and his deputies (Tom Savini and Carlos Gallardo) — are battling the living dead.

This is all happens because Lt. Muldoon (Willis) and his men — who killed Osama Bin laden — are making a transaction with chemical engineer Abby (Naveen Andrews) for mass quantities of the gas that keeps them alive, which is called Project Terror. The gas gets released, soon mutating everyone.

There’s also a very Halloween 2 hospital, which is presided over by Dr. William Block (Josh Brolin) and his soon-to-be estranged wife Dakota (Shelton), who is trying to get their son (Rodriguez’s son Rebel) and her lover Tammy (Fergie) out of town. That’s where Cherry ends up after an accident and zombie attack, losing her leg and gaining a gun for an appendage.

Dakota ends up being the daughter of Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, but her son Tony shoots himself in the face when she gives him a gun (Rodriguez made a happy ending, the one he has shown to his son, which plays after the credits). As Cherry and El Wray start to rekindle their relationship, the reel for the film is missing — just like a real grindhouse movie — and when we come back, the zombies have attached the Bone Shack and the rest of the film basically turns into a John Carpenter movie, stacking the deck against the heroes with near impossible odds. Rodriguez used the soundtracks to Escape From New York and The Thing to get the actors in the mood on set. The director wanted Carpenter to write the music for this movie, but that never happened.

Planet Terror succeeds where Death Proof fails in that it’s a non-stop action ride that’s short on brains and long on fun. I love that Bruce Willis is never in the same frame as any of the other actors, as if this were an Italian horror film and his scenes were added on to get international distribution thanks to his name value.

It’s pretty much the big budget remake of Nightmare City, except there are no scenes where zombies attack a bunch of ladies while they Jazzercise. There are also references and homages to Beyond the Valley of the DollsCry of the BansheeKilldozerFrom Beyond and Fulci’s Zombie. It is in no way as good as those films, while fun in its own right. Hopefully, it introduced some audience to the undistilled bursts of insanity that it attempted to recreate.

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

How did I go eleven years without watching this? I should hang my head in shame. I love portmanteau movies and stuff that gets really weird, so I have no real reason why I skipped this. Here’s hoping everyone can find it in their heart to forgive me.

Inspired by Season’s Greetings, an animated short created by Trick ‘r Treat writer and director Michael Dougherty, this film tells the story of the night of Halloween in Warren Valley, Ohio. It’s nonlinear the way it all plays out (think Pulp Fiction) and several of the stories cross over. They all have one thing in common — Sam, a little trick or treater dressed in pajamas and a burlap sack for a mask. If anyone goes against the rules of the holiday, he’s there to ensure they pay for it.

I love the look of Sam. For the first part of the movie, I was sure he was just a little trick or treater who was left behind by his friends and was witnessing everything going on. Once you realize what he’s doing, you start rooting for the little guy.

From a couple who take down their decorations too soon to an obese boy who can’t stop smashing pumpkins, everyone gets their reward. There’s also the school principal and potential serial killer Steven Wilkins, the elderly recluse Mr. Kreeg (the always great Brian Cox), a gang of kids trying to frighten Rhonda with the Halloween School Bus Massacre urban legend and a group of four girls out to party (including Anna Paquin as a shy virgin). Each of their tales will all be intertwined, complete with murder, gore, werewolves, zombies and finally, Sam’s secret face.

This feels like the great lost 1980’s horror movie and I loved every single minute of it. They’ve been teasing a sequel for a few years and now I can’t wait for everyone to get their act together. Writer/director Michael Dougherty was also behind the film Krampus, which I could not enjoy no matter how hard I tried, and is the writer/director behind next year’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Hopefully, his next project is the follow up for Sam!

Shout! Factory has just released an anniversary version of this, complete with a new cover, a 2K scan of the film, new interviews with Michael Dougherty, deleted and alternate scenes and Season’s Greetings and a story from the Trick ‘r Treat comic book!

2018 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 24: Dead Silence (2007)

Day 24 of the Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge is 24. PUPPETS OR DOLLS: Sometimes they play back. When I first started dating my wife, this was a movie that she picked for us to watch. While I scoffed at the time, it’s been in our DVD player more times than I may like to admit. It’s an early film from James Wan, after the first Saw but before The Conjuring and Insidious.

You need to know a few things about this film.

First, it takes place in a fairy tale reality that has nothing to do with our world as you know it.

Second, no one acts like a normal human being.

Third, everything — and I mean everything — is shot in blue filter and overly processed, appearing washed out.

Finally, every single bit of the frame is overly art directed. Everything it too complicated. Everything is too dirty. Everything is too macabre. Nothing ends up being frightening because everything is too much, too much and way too much.

But I have a soft spot in my hard heart for this wacky little movie. It’s never really sure who it wants to be — is it about the dolls doing the killing? Is it the legend of Mary Shaw? Is it a police procedural? And why does the evil woman have such a frightening tongue?

Mary Shaw has an undefined moveset, as it were. Should we be worried about her ability to silence areas and kill people when they scream? Or should we be worried about someone else? or should we be worried about all the killer dolls? There is so much to worry about!

Big shout out to Donnie Wahlberg here, who must have just finished an acting class that said, “You gotta have some kind of object for your character so you can do object and hand work.” He was like, “What if I continually shave my face with an electric razor in every scene?” And everyone on set was real harried that day and said, “Sure, I guess that sounds good.” So basically all I can tell you about his character, Detective Jim Lipton, is that he shaves in every scene. It’s also hilarious to me that the above class I mention, which doesn’t probably exist outside of my brain, was an Actor’s Studio class and he wanted to credit James Lipton with the name of the character as a way of paying back his mentor.

So what can I say good about this movie? The theater set — I refuse to believe a small town that was the happiest town ever would name their theater after France’s Grand Guignol but go with this movie for a bit — is awe inspiring. I love how it looks, as nature has had its way with it, with a giant display case of hundreds upon hundreds of evil dolls. Seriously, if you have an issue with dummies, don’t watch this. It’s like Magic times one hundred and one, minus the talent and story.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. The studio got super involved with this one, to the point that Leigh Whannell (who also wrote most of the Saw and Insidious films, as well as writing and directing the superior Upgrade) was so displeased with the final film that he only writes scripts on spec now, instead of pitching to studios and being paid to write the screenplay.

I say all these things knowing that I’ll end up watching this movie once a year, laughing at some of its worst moments, puzzling over some of its poor FX and trying to decipher why the characters would act the way they do. I’ll also wonder how such a quaint little town has such a sleazy motel in it. And then I’ll watch it all over again.