The Fly (1986)

‘THE FLY’ (1986) – No Insecticide Needed!

I have never seen David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986)

For years, my only real knowledge of The Fly was when Bart Simpson turned into half-boy/half-insect in a Simpson’s “Treehouse of Horrors” Halloween episode where his mom Marge beat him over the head with a broomstick. Needless to say, I was never jumping at the heels to watch the movie that was being joked about. Aaannnddd I’ve never been a big fan of Jeff Goldblum (I’m allowed to have an opinion!). Aaaaaaaannnnnnnnddddddddd I’ve never fully bought into a horror movie based upon something that is so small and insignificant; my dog doesn’t even always feel a fly when it lands on his nose.

But here we are, after years and years of having next to no interest, one day I caved into my Netflix suggestions and decided I’d turn on the 1986 David Cronenberg remake of the early classic – just have it on for some background noise as I cleaned the basement.

No cleaning was done. This movie, which I thought was going to come off as a campy, dated and lame venture, turned into one of my new favorites. I’m not sure exactly how the movie would like to be categorized. Whether it is a Sci-Fi or a Drama, I’m sticking with calling it a horror movie. This movie itself is 31 years old and has some of the most unsettling, skin crawling scenes that I have ever seen.

Keep reading after the trailer

Seeing as how the premise was what made me keep my distance, it didn’t take me long to completely buy into the scenario at all. Brief rundown: Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) tries getting into the pants of journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) the only way a nerd knows how and that’s by showing her his newest science experiment. Brundle gets Veronica into his dimly lit and ultra rapey science lab/apartment. Brundle shows off his two giant honeycomb looking teleportation devices. These devices, he claims, can transfer a living being from one pod to the next. After multiple test runs, Brundle (now banging Veronica on the reg) decides he has so much faith in his creation, that it’s time for he, himself, to be the first human to experience teleportation. That is until a pesky little fly secretly enters the pod with the unknowing Brundle. Once the transfer of bodies is finished, Brundle’s DNA is now mixed with fly DNA; slowly exposing itself within the confines of the greater part of the 1 hour, 36 minute runtime.

The Fly (1986)
Yo Veronica, wanna see my science experiment?

As silly as that may all sound, the players take it so serious and the movie is played in such a tone, that it isn’t hard for you to invest into it – maybe that’s credit to Cronenberg. 80s movies always had such great scores, and the great acting only bettered this movie, but the make-up, THE MAKE-UP and effects were unreal.

Birth of The Fly

Seeing Seth Brundle slowly turn into a gross looking insect/hunchback was crazy fun to watch; each evolved stage into ugliness becoming more and more uncomfortable to witness. The greasiness and oozing of the puss and the hair growth could be a horror movie in itself. McFarlane Toys made this version of the fly immortalized in their ‘Movie Maniacs’ toyline back in the early 2000s. In one “birth” scene, my girlfriend, who watches most horror movies alongside me (to her dismay), had to actually up and leave because it was so gross and uncomfortable – something I’ve NEVER seen her do!

The Fly (1986) Practical Effects
The greasiness and oozing of the puss and the hair growth could be a horror movie in itself.

“It’s Jeff Goldblum’s best movie so STFU”

This movie is worth finding if you have not already seen it and if you have, revisit this particular lab because it’s an experiment worth repeating. The Fly, although a remake, is a great throwback to how fantastic movies from that era were. The simple fact that it’s so unsettling and revolting keeps you thinking about it long after the credits roll – to me, that’s always the sign of a good movie. It’s Jeff Goldblum’s best movie (my opinion so STFU), and it’s the best insect-inspired horror movie I’ve ever seen. Bonus credit in that it has a 100% “girlfriend will leave you alone while watching” rating. To a modern generation, I feel that ‘The Fly’ is so underrated and really deserves to be in the discussion of all-time greats. As for ‘The Fly II’, maybe I’ll hold off just a bit to savor the enjoyment of this movie. Parting words: just remember to be afraid. Be very afraid.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 Rue Morgue Queer Fear Movie Poster

Rue Morgue and Queer Fear screen ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 2’ to celebrate Pride and recognize the film’s cultural significance

With the immediate success of the ground-breaking 1984 horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street, it was not long before parent company New Line Cinema immediately began plans for a sequel. While they may have been the parent company, the father of Freddy-fright himself, the late legendary writer/director Wes Craven, chose not to participate in the production after reading the script by David Chaskin. The directing reins fell to Jack Sholder (Alone in the Dark, Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies) who brought about an ambiguous approach to the narrative. Rushed into production and opening on November 1, 1985, on an estimated budget of only $3 million, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge was met with mixed to negative reviews despite the mass blitz of hype going into it, including the famous FANGORIA Magazine 50th Issue cover. However, all was not lost, as Robert Englund – the man synonymous with the role of ANOES burned child molester turned dream stalker Freddy Krueger – has said that the film did very well in Europe due to its psycho-sexual subject matter. That subject matter remains prominent to this very day and is the reason why, 32 years later, Rue Morgue magazine has resurrected their CineMacabre movie nights in collaboration with Queer Fear, a Toronto based LGBTQ organization.

Keep reading after the trailer

The film, starring Mark Patton (Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean and the upcoming Amityville: Evil Never Dies) as Jesse Walsh, takes place five years after the original, as Jesse’s family is getting settled into 1428 Elm Street. Unfortunately for Jesse, Freddy Krueger has decided that he can return from the dream world through Jesse’s virginal body and soul. It was an unusual and daring approach to an already established (and growing tired) formula of the girl-in-trouble slasher vibe by having a male in the protagonist role. Patton, a now openly gay actor, does demonstrate several tendencies and mannerisms that may be absent from the behavior of other lead male players, but this works here and he does it unintentionally, as the character himself is not gay. Or is he? Director Jack Sholder has stated in interviews that when viewed under the homoerotic context, the entire film resonates as a journey of self-discovery for Jesse’s homosexuality, which is why he rejects Lisa (Kim Myers, Studio 5-B, Hellraiser: Bloodline) during sexual arousal (albeit she ultimately saves him) and instead runs to the poster-boy jock/friend Ron Grady (Robert Russler, Sometimes They Come Back, Vamp) for help and protection. Upon first viewing, the homosexual innuendos did not blatantly present themselves to the viewer, even when thrown right in their faces such as the scenes containing the sadomasochistic torture and subsequent killing of the gym teacher, Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell, Total Recall, Virus) while a naked Jesse stands afraid and confused in the shower. Cue the highest pitched scream ever!

You Are All My Children Now

In fact, ANOES 2 takes a daring approach to the subject matter by changing the rules and dynamics set forth by Craven’s original. It is, to some degree, a total mind-fuck of a movie that could seriously be broken down and debated upon in any college or university film studies course. Aside from the symbolism that appeals to the LGBTQ community, there are other factors that ask the viewer to read deep into the material — namely the entire climax and the controversial crossing over of Freddy into the real world: was it reality or was it simply a dream hallucination caused by Jesse’s internal struggle against Freddy? Or by that time, was it Lisa’s dream – tired from the emotional struggle of her push and pull relationship with Jesse and hosting a party – that crossed over into the dream world? The entire climactic elements of ANOES 2 are some of the most iconic of the series, especially with Freddy Krueger looking upon a few dozen horrified teenagers claiming in such perverse threatening fashion “You are all my children now” (as one viewer will touch upon later on and this writer agrees).

Rue Morgue Magazine, breeding out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is a staple of horror publications around the world, and had suspended the CineMacabre horror movie nights (previously written here on 40oz. of Horror some three years ago), but thought it was now time to return. Executive editor Andrea Subissati took the time to discuss the journey of bringing this subjectively followed Elm Street sequel back to the big screen.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2
Rue Morgue and Queer Fear screen ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge’

“The decision was collaborative between myself, our programmer Richelle Charkot and Queer Fear’s Joshua Cross. Joshua had just returned to Toronto after being away for a few years and was keen to bring Queer Fear back, so I proposed the collab, and he’s the one that felt strongly about ANOES 2. I liked the idea of a sequel marking CineMacabre’s return and part of CM’s mandate is to movies that don’t get screened a whole lot, so ANOES 2 fit the bill perfectly. The next all-important question was whether or not we’d be able to secure the rights to screen it, so Richelle got right on that and set it up and gave us the date! She also took care of promotion, including hiring Andrew Barr to do the amazing poster of Freddy in a rainbow sweater, and Joshua did a great job securing the pre-show entertainment and post-screening discussion panel.”

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 Rue Morgue Queer Fear Movie Poster
ANOES 2 poster art by Andrew Barr

Indeed, any promotion is important to a movie and more so a movie event of this magnitude, as it also tied into the Pride activities found across North America. The poster was a colourful take on Krueger by cleverly brightening some of his sweater hues and encompassing everything about Elm Street 2 – from its horror roots for the horror fan to the subtext adored in the gay community. Barr elaborates that Richelle “hired me to do other posters, so she decided they needed a poster for this one and I was the one to go.” Barr’s first work with Rue Morgue “was a poster for Them back last January.”

The event, housed once again in the vintage College Street venue known as the Royal, proved successful with an undeniably impressive turn-out on June 28, 2017; fans were lined up down the block with the concession dishing out popcorn and booze from the ground floor right up to the awaiting patrons in the upstairs bathroom levels. Whether straight or gay, moviegoers packed the ANOES 2 screening and weren’t afraid to voice their laughs or comments during the film – making the whole experience feel more like a grindhouse midnight movie cult viewing than a Wednesday primetime endeavor.

The Cultural Significance of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2

The sell-out crowd demonstrated that while the film may be a somewhat forgotten sequel in the lineage of the Elm Street franchise, its cultural significance may live on longer than Freddy Krueger himself. Subissati gave a very good point in that “Oftentimes, you can’t tell the cultural significance of a movie until a few decades pass and you can look back in retrospect with more clarity, and ANOES 2 is a perfect example of that.” Barr himself reveals that “it was the first Elm Street I ever saw back when it came out on VHS. One of my friends said you have to see this movie, so I saw that movie.”

The film is nothing short of a culture shock when you look at that timeframe – the Halloween series was on hiatus, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was still in pre-production, Friday the 13th had killed Jason – so what exactly was New Line to do to give their Elm Street sequel an edge? To see so many people turn out to a screening of the film shows that time heals all wounds, as Subissati continues, “One thing I noticed when I was chatting with people in the lobby is that most horror fans saw ANOES 2 when it first came out and dismissed it as an oddball misfire in the franchise. The original ANOES is so inventive and seminal that most audiences weren’t expecting something so different in the first sequel. I certainly hadn’t picked up on the film’s queer elements the first time I saw it in the ’80s but they’re unmistakable now.”

One of those people in the lobby showed more balls than were used in the coach’s death scene by showing up to this event in the guise of Freddy’s famous later on-screen nemesis Jason Voorhees. The man behind the mask – so to speak – was Toronto resident Skyland Fisher, who has his own similar outlook on the sequel saying “it [has] definitely the most ’80s feel of any Nightmare on Elm Street Film. The clothing style. The music style. It has this whole feel that says this is the 1980s. I almost can’t put it into words. It has the most iconic scenes of the series, in my opinion, like when [Freddy] goes ‘You’re all my children now’ and the whole pool scene; it was incredible. Also the whole him coming out of Jesse’s body, like cutting him open and everything, amazing scene. [It’s] iconic to the franchise.“ No doubt, before CGI dominated and subsequently ruined the horror genre, the practical effects headed by Kevin Yagher were on point, from Freddy’s makeup, the aforementioned Freddy-evolving-from-Jesse scene to the school bus perched high upon a hellfire pit. Whether or not the script was strong, the direction was resourceful, or the acting was believable, the special effects presented here were those of a time now forgotten by most modern filmmakers, and they prove to be some of the most extraordinary of the series.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 is one of those films that I find important, even if I don’t objectively love to watch it.

Make no mistake that ANOES 2 tries to upstage neither its predecessor nor any of the successful entries in the series, such as Part 3, Dream Warriors, which is perhaps the biggest success and highlight of the franchise. Subissati even admits “ANOES 2 is one of those films that I find important, even if I don’t objectively love to watch it. The first film is a landmark in horror and probably my personal favorite of the bunch. In terms of watchability, ANOES 3 is the real crowd-pleaser, so I guess I love the first three films for completely different reasons!” Fisher backs up her statement, adding that ANOES 2 “hammers [the gay subtext] home in the most hilarious way. I like the franchise in general but kind of stopped liking it after Part 3. It hits its high point then slowly declines from there. 2 is probably my third favorite. I like the first one the best and third is the one after that I like most. I would say [Dream Warriors] was so iconic [in relation] to Part 2 because Wes Craven returned in a capacity and also the return of Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) brought up the game. They added in new elements like the Dream Warrior powers.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, Barr isn’t hesitant to say that “for the longest time, [ANOES 2] was the only one that I had seen. I didn’t see another one until 4. And for the longest time, those were the only two I saw.”

Regardless of your orientation or sexual preference, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 symbolizes what continues to be a fundamental element of the horror genre that many critics discard, in that it brings together fans of all types, with no negative bias or prejudice; working together to maintain a piece of beloved art. While certainly Rue Morgue Magazine, Queer Fear and any organizations of the type, work together or independently to revive life into forgotten favorites, it is important for all of us in the horror community to never discard a film upon its initial viewing because somehow, somewhere, elements may just play a more prominent role in our society ruling on a fundamental basis beyond our imagination. Maybe that is truly Freddy’s Revenge: exposing us to our own realities; forcing us to admit that even in horror, acceptance and change are necessary.

For more information on Rue Morgue Magazine and CineMacabre horror nights, visit: www.rue-morgue.com

For more information on Queer Fear, visit them at: queerfear.tumblr.com/

For more information on Freelance Illustrator Art Mercenary, Andrew Barr, visit his website: www.moviemonsters.blogspot.com

Very special thanks to Andrea Subissati, Richelle Charkot, Rue-Morgue Magazine and Marrs Media Inc., Andrew Barr and APB Art, Skyland Fisher, The Royal, Amy Rusan, Joshua Cross and Queer Fear, the LGBTQ community, and to all of the horror fans around the world who keep our genre alive.

Resident Evil: Vendetta

A big V for Vendetta: The new ‘Resident Evil’ animated film finally hits home with grounded franchise fandom

After a total of eight films built out of the godfather franchise that gave birth to the survival horror video game, was it possible that this ninth, but subsequently third of the animated series portion, hit the jackpot? Having a limited one night only theatrical engagement, the new Resident Evil: Vendetta ran in select theatres nationwide on Monday, June 19th 2017. It is safe to say that if you felt the concluding entry in the live-action portion of the Capcom franchise, last winter’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, was probably best left unwritten and unproduced, this new animated film was everything that a Resident Evil film should have been from the start and more.

The live-action series, starting in 2002, did their own thing for better or worse, introducing established video game characters into an otherwise alternate RE world. Three of them, alright maybe four, were good and the other two sadly, were not as good. Flashback to 2008, Resident Evil: Degeneration – the first of the animated films – made its debut on DVD and Blu-Ray and that was a welcome return for fans of the franchise. Intertwined with the video game universe, that film welcomed adored characters like Claire Redfield (Alyson Court, “Resident Evil 2”, “Murdoch Mysteries”) and Leon S. Kennedy (voiced then by Paul Mercier, “Resident Evil 4”) back in a new storyline expanding on the corrupt corporation known as Umbrella and evolving the infamous, and infectious, T-Virus. However, it still lacked some of the “Umph” that the first few video games had. Fast forward to 2012, Resident Evil: Damnation pops up in a storyline focusing on Leon (Matthew Mercer, “Monsters University”, “Resident Evil 6”) and giving RE fans their extra fix with another beloved character, Ada Wong (Courtenay Taylor, “Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City”, “Skylanders Academy”). Soviet nation corruption, mixed with experimentation on the T-Virus, lead to a better developed story and the appearances of the tyrant monster Mr. X, so it hit some of the right notes. But what else could be done with this animated line of the franchise? Where are more of the major characters that populated the video games; characters that we all wanted to see come alive in this format.

Keep reading after the trailer

Worry no more Resident Evil gruesome gorehounds – Resident Evil: Vendetta delivers from the very beginning. Launching with a more defined and intriguing narrative structure, we are re-introduced right away to Leon Kennedy (veteran voice actor Matthew Mercer reprising the role once again) in a scene that foreshadows how he will play into this new story while simultaneously letting us all reflect on the loves and the loss in his life so far throughout the video games and movies – story remnants of the Los Illuminados from RE4 are even carried over later on in a nice touch. The best part of these animated films is that they indeed interlock with the running storylines of the games – making it one mass true-to-form Resident Evil world. No sooner after this tease of Leon are we launched into action that is reminiscent of the very first game with a team, led by the number one contender for franchise favorite character, Chris Redfield (Kevin Dorman, “Fallout 4”, “Real Steel”, “Avatar”), as he heads into Mexico on a rescue mission to retrieve a woman and her young son both of whom have been kidnapped by arms dealer and now bio-weapons terrorist Glenn Arias (John DeMita, “Final Fantasy”, “Friday the 13th: The Game”). The helicopter descends and the team gets right to…a creepy old mansion. Perfect. There is just the right balance between the “we have seen this before” element and the “danger lurks so grab the edge of your seat quick” adventure looming on the horizon.

Resident Evil Vendetta

A lot goes down in this opening ten minutes, and then the opening title screen hits. Seriously!? All this and the film is only really beginning. The main antagonist is introduced with such bravado and a hint of compassion, as is a peak at his subsidiaries that will both play prominent sub-boss roles, and we see how the vendetta story arc comes into play. One quick negative remark here and that is that we get the proverbial and clichéd “Noooooooo” shouts into the sky by not one, but two characters; whether it was meant to mirror the other and their vendettas – these just get a bit ridiculous after how many years in movies. Granted, this is the only negative for which can be said here. Right back into the positive saddle is the face that long-time fans have clamored to see whether in the animated or the live-action but never had, and that is the character of Rebecca Chambers (Erin Cahill, “Power Rangers: Time Force”, “Boogeyman 3”); Chambers is an original game character that actually encountered the T-Virus before Chris Redfield and others – she even had her own prequel game on just that encounter with Resident Evil Zero. Where favorites like Jill Valentine and Ada Wong have their no-nonsense and tough-as-nails attitude, and Claire Redfield has her heart on her sleeve with innocence even in her strongest times, Rebecca Chambers is the full real deal combining strength, skills, wills, and the smarts to deal with all kind of situations. In fact, she will play right on the equal field along with Chris and Leon because of her smarts – she has figured out Arias’s new “A-Virus” and developed a vaccine! For this reason, she also becomes the major target in the new story. Not to jump ahead but if you want to see why Chris Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy are the faces that run the RE places – you will not be disappointed as both get some star-shining, serious ass-kicking moments.

Resident Evil Vendetta PosterThe animation is by far the best yet of any of the animated movies, which are a testament to the ever growing CGI technology, but also the team behind-the-scenes who gives the direction and editing to make these scenes blend together and actually forget you are watching animated characters. There is a ton of action here, with some superb hand-to-hand combat sequences and a jaw-dropping scene with Leon, on his motorcycle, racing to evade the nasty virus-infected dogs known as the Cerberus. We have zombies. We have blood. We have brains. We have guts. We have creepy, dark settings like the aforementioned Mexican mansion, as well as dark halls of institutes and even New York City skyscrapers. We have characters that, although established through video games and previous films, still have their own demons and work to face them each day. This is not a fictitious land where heroes experience these horrors then move on – these are characters that hurt, feel, reflect, and ponder what their life is. There is even a great scene with Chris Redfield where he downplays fellow soldiers’ compliments to him with an insight into the reality of being a heroic soldier in a corrupt, virus-infected world. There is a formula that resonated with every game player in 1996, 1998, 2000 and so on up until, maybe Resident Evil 5, that was simply: establish the horror, work the mood, follow the characters, uncover the secrets of the plot, fight horrific zombies and other nasties and lastly, have a climactic battle with a huge experiment turned monster that will gladly make someone need a change of underwear when revealed. Unlike any of the live-action, and the past animated films though they did have their climactic battles with evolved virus-infected characters, Resident Evil: Vendetta gives us the biggest and best while paying homage to the classic Tyrant of the original, and the extremely popular William Birkin G-Monster of RE2.

In a time where the reboot button was partially set on the video games with the recent back-to-the-basics Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, and an actual remake planned to start a fresh line of live-action films, there was nothing more rewarding than knowing that after all this time – the creative was able to hit this entry out of the park and out of this world. The other audience members in the theatre this evening equally shared this enthusiasm – reacting to certain scenes – and geeking out by the time the end credits rolled; clearly ready to rush home to play their favorite entries or discuss and theorize where Vendetta fits in and speculate what will happen now (or where it exactly fits though one viewer did mention she believed it was just before, or just after, Resident Evil 6). It is a rarity to have such a compelling horror video game turned animated movie that asks questions, gives the answers, and takes you on one hell of a ride in between. RE fans have no vendetta against the creative anymore – this time fans have a movie that truly can make them proud to be resident, evil.

Resident Evil: Vendetta is scheduled for Blu-Ray and DVD release July 18th, 2017.

Review of Chandler Riggs in 'Mercy'

Chandler Riggs: Future “Scream King” shows us some ‘MERCY’

Spotlight on Chandler Riggs: Why this direct-to-DVD King Adaptation of MERCY is worth the watch

It’s hard being a child actor in the entertainment industry no doubt and surely harder to be a good one. With Nickelodeon and Disney Channel programming, many child actors get stereotyped into one clichéd image or another. Children characters are often all the more annoying and whether watching as a child, a teenager, or an adult, you can’t help but shake your head in frustration. You have your rare gems among the bunch and, with specific view on the horror genre, only one name stands out: Danielle Harris. She entered the scene with a top billed spot in Halloween 4 and 5; solidifying her status as a future scream queen and showing that not all children are depicted as bratty or cookie-cutter fodder. Then comes the television phenomenon in the Fall of 2010 that continues to this day. The Walking Dead introduced the world to characters out of a major graphic novel series. The show introduced us to Chandler Riggs. While an entire article can be written on the importance of the Carl Grimes character (a personal favorite), it is the young adult portraying him that takes center stage.

Having parents who work in the entertainment industry (William and Gina Ann), the now 17 year-old Riggs was well suited, and protected, once he got into the business but his qualifications and abilities to be there speak for themselves. Born June 27th, 1999 out of Atlanta, Georgia, Riggs would not enter the spotlight until his first bit into horror as a boy in the 2006 feature Jesus H. Zombie. Then with the introduction of The Walking Dead, not since Danielle Harris has a child actor rose to such prominence and admiration among many fans, and their natural ability to play realism on the silver screen is what separates both from the rest. The horror genre also deals with mature subject matter so its takes an extra gifted talent to handle that responsibly and play to that level respectably. Riggs does that and more, especially as The Walking Dead seasons continue for his character Carl, and so too did he three years ago in this little horror film called Mercy.

Keep reading after the trailer of MERCY

The supernatural elements of witchcraft and demonism have been featured in countless movies, so it is difficult in this modern era to make one that actually feels fresh. Directed by Peter Cornwell, this film seemingly shot somewhere between 2012 and 2013 found its North American release in the Fall of 2014. Mercy could easily have been a title that came out and sat as a dust collector but it wasn’t to be, especially since the storyline is an adaptation of Gramma by the legendary name of Stephen King; the story featured as part of his short-stories collection called Skeleton Crew.

Mercy is not just a clever title

The generic title Mercy is actually revealed to not be a cash-in for just a strong sounding word, but is actually the name of the grandmother character that young George (Riggs) is very close to. The storyline plays out that in 1967, Mercy was subject to witnessing her husband take an axe to himself while she cared for a small baby. Flash forward to modern day, George, along with his older brother Buddy (Joel Courtney, Super 8, The Messengers) and Mother Rebecca (Frances O’Connor, The Conjuring 2, Bedazzled) are forced to move back to Mercy’s home and care for her while she is in her final stages of life. No longer the healthy and caring adult that was able to guide George; it is now his responsibility to sit by her side and inject her with the necessary medication to keep her at peace. Just one thing though – the other residents of the old age home where Mercy (Shirley Knight, As Good As It Gets, If These Walls Could Talk) was at were scared of her, and often would keep a bible near to ward off any danger. With decay just touching the surface of her skin, and strange mannerisms, the film slowly starts inserting the creep factor as the audience gets to understand that Mercy may have more going on inside of her than one might think. As his family is in danger, and some members are hurt or killed including Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story, The Practice) as a long-time family friend, it is up to George to uncover the mystery behind his grandmother’s behavior and face up to his demons.

Chandler Riggs Headshot
Check out Chandler Riggs in ‘MERCY’

The traditional King elements of story structure and something lurking beneath the surface are all present, and while the film was shot on a modest budget, the special effects and bloodshed are never presented as more than they should be – angles, lighting and sheer cinematic effect take priority over explicit visuals. This is credit to the film, including the mythical Death Wolf beast which is shown only through shadow shapes and glowing yellow eyes; effective and leaves the viewer enthralled by the danger rather than risk exposing a limited effect and ruining the moments. The narrative structure, including flashbacks, flows smoothly and never does it feel dragged out (as some King material can so credit to Screenplay Writer Matt Greenberg there).

The most satisfactory bit is that it has a distinct beginning, middle and end – nicely wrapped up within George’s world and never once does the film stray from his perspective and importance to the story. If there was only one complaint to be had, it would be in the climax where George must decide what sacrifices he has to make to free Mercy’s soul from the demon Hastur; corrupting or purifying his own fate in the process. The understanding is there but the sequence gets confusing especially when there is a gross vomiting of blood or other supernatural matter that winds up all over George. In retrospect, it does make sense how he plans to evade the evil that is now seeping into him but on first watch, it leaves a little bit to question. The chill factor is only effective as the music that accompanies it and the soundtrack did not disappoint with atmospheric tones and resonance courtesy of Reza Safinia. Another reason this film is effective? It’s Producer! Jason Blum is no stranger to horror and likely had a hand in keeping this on track too with his long list of credits including ‘Insidious’ and Paranormal Activity.

All-in-all, Mercy is definitely one to check out if the creepy-supernatural genre is your cup of tea and the film is clearly as popular on the rental shelves as it is thanks to Riggs involvement. This was Riggs first leading role and to demonstrate the understanding of the emotional levels that he had to show in the film – loss of family, loss of surroundings, loss of self – is a lot to ask for a younger teen at the time yet he nails every moment. Between this film, The Walking Dead, and the new thriller Keep Watching, there is a strong future ahead for the one day “Scream King” Chandler Riggs, having just graduated as well from High School and accepted into Auburn University in Alabama.

Having had the opportunity to meet Chandler Riggs twice (class act, professional and a polite as all hell kid might I add), I told his Father just a little over a month ago at Horrorhound Weekend, that Chandler “has redefined the performance standards for any young adult actor now and in the future.” This writer stands by his words. Riggs has already been nominated and won multiple Young Artist, Satellite and Saturn Awards for his performance on The Walking Dead’ so have mercy on anybody that thinks anything other than he will be a name in the genre for a long time to come.

William Riggs (and Chandler) have an official merchandise website www.chandlerriggs.com where you can purchase personalized authentic autographed photos with proceeds supporting the Wounded Warrior Project, Make A Wish Foundation, National Kidney Foundation, National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and more. You can also join William and visit the locations of The Walking Dead; learn more by visiting www.dadszombieroadtrip.com.

Cube Movie Review

Looking back into the ‘CUBE’ – Why this Canadian chiller still holds up

I’m a goddamn sucker for single room movies. I know some people hate them, and I completely understand why, but for me I buy in every time. The suspense is built without even really having to doing anything; just knowing you will be experiencing an entire ninety minute movie while the characters are confined to one single space gives me a semi-chub.

Cube is a mind-fuck of a movie

Now like I said, there are a lot of haters out there who hate this form of movie. So I’m going to split the difference with you today. CUBE isn’t exactly a single room film. Hell, I don’t even know if it’s quite a horror film. What it is, is a sick and tormenting, mind-fuck of a movie that is just as complex as it is simple. Seven strangers from all walks of life, wake up in a giant size, pseudo-Rubik’s Cube in which every identical room inside said CUBE wants to kill you.

The characters go through a Lord of the Flies-type experience. First learning about each other, then doing their best to govern themselves, until chaos ensues. The limited knowledge given for each person is just enough to keep them interesting yet never revealing more than we really need to know.

This movie actually doesn’t spell much out for you at all. You’re left to your own conclusions basically from the get-go. Which makes following along easy for an idiot like me! It keeps that eerie feeling of wondering who, what, when, where and why is this all happening — without ever really figuring it out.

For whatever reason, this movie isn’t nearly as popular as it should be. Its twenty years old but there is nothing in it which dates it or cheapens it at all. Which is even more surprising seeing as this is a Canadian made film. And being a Canuck myself I can tell you, and this may be a controversial opinion, but a lot of small budget, Canadian made film or TV projects are simply terrible.

I understand all the reasoning why we, north of the border, may not have the production quality of those in the USA but that may also be what gives this kind of Canadian movie its true “charm.” My two favorite shows in the world are Canadian made, super low budget, yet ultra-funny and creative (Kenny vs. Spenny and The Trailer Park Boys).

Much like those two shows, CUBE embraces its flaws while highlighting its strengths. So that might be why I have such a fascination with this badboy and choose to disregard some of the horrendous acting. It’s more or less a single room thriller, made on a super tight budget with tons of creativity, fun kills, great visuals and an even better mystery. It stands out because there isn’t a lot like it floating around.

So do yourself a favor: if you’re sick of reboots, super hero movies or cheeseball comedies then give CUBE a watch. It’s not full of gore or jump scares so your girlfriend will give it a chance too.

If you made it this far in my article then you obviously have a gift for making it through cheap Canadian content. But this movie is a perfect example that low-budget does not always have to mean low-quality.

Fear, paranoia, suspicion, desperation are all found within the six sides of this CUBE.

The Strangers Movie Review

Because You Were Home: A Reflection on one of the best modern horror films, “The Strangers.”

A regular go-to, show-any-friend-who-hasn’t-seen-much-horror, watches-a-couple-times-a-year movie that I constantly find myself going back too, is arguably one of the most realistic non-fiction movies in the genre. It is a movie that gets under your skin on such a humanely realistic level that no one, anywhere, can say they haven’t thought of the situation happening to them. I’m not talking about the monster under your bed, but more that strange sound you hear in your closet. That fear of looking out your bedroom window and seeing someone looking back. This movie reflects that all too real vibe of being watched but too scared to look and actually see but what happens when you do.

This all goes back to why your Mom told you to never talk to THE STRANGERS.

Keep reading after the trailer

From the opening prologue that teaches you about the “real life” couple that was subjected to this madness thus inspiring the film, I’m always hooked. With only a little backstory, this movie wastes little time in its quest to unnerve you. The rare art of having little to no background music forces you to sit and marinate in all the dialogue, noises and dread shared between the characters. A tactic often used poorly, but when correct, brings a sense of urgency and suspense to a scene.

I’m going to do my best to not spoil anything, although this movie is not one to overthink. It has an incredibly basic plot of having your home (that personal feeling of your safe place) invaded by people that you have no connection with. This invasion is random – an act with no rhyme or reason other than to hurt and scare.
These strangers aren’t just out for blood. They seem to want to scare you much deeper than any wound can. It is much like how my love for Freddy Krueger began. He wasn’t only on the hunt for victims but rather he took great enjoyment in the traumatization before their demise. Ultimately the sadism of the predator’s actions is what satisfies them. These three masked intruders seem to share the same love for that kind of macabre arousal.

The Strangers Movie Review
Why are you doing this to us?

The setting is the real star of the movie for me: a beautiful, somewhat outdated, home sitting on a large chunk of land. A long gravel driveway leads up to it. Far enough on the outskirts of town to feel isolated. Funny enough, it almost perfectly mirrors my first girlfriend’s house, allowing me to really picture myself there and in the couple’s shoes. The vastness of the property actually serves as the main limitation too because you are looking for any option to escape and end this nightmare.

The utter madness displayed by the three strangers really is the terrifying part. Worse than The Devil’s Rejects because those people are whacko and make no qualms to hide it. You could say that these strangers are all mentally ill but you can also imagine them just being terribly bored with life. That’s what is really off-putting about it all. There is a real sense that they are all simply making this up as they go along. It is like they jumped into this scenario without any plan, yet seem to have no emotion or worry about it going forward. That’s what is terrifying! They could just be anyone; acting upon one bad thought.

I’ve seen a lot of horror movies in my life both fiction and non-fiction (true crime); documentaries with real footage that have audio so you hear serial killers give detailed descriptions of their murders. But there are a few scenes in this movie which will forever haunt me. The shots where you see these faceless entities hiding in the shadows with only enough light to show their masks remain a particular highlight. They watch you from near and far. This psychological torment is something I still think about any time I hear a bump in the night.

Even after all that horror is completed, the sun rises and a new day starts, the absolute creepiest, weirdest, skin crawling, spine tingling, nightmare inducing line is said (in my opinion). The female lead Kristen (Liv Tyler) simply asks “Why are you doing this to us?” and the female stranger responds….”Because you were home.”

Sweet dreams thinking on that one guys. And whether or not we will ever get to have the long rumoured and production stalled ‘The Strangers 2’, there is no denying exactly what this 2008, 10 million dollar budgeted, horror movie gave us that nine years later I am still scared to think about who could be outside my window or at the front door.

Don't Hang Up movie review

The true horror thriller is calling and you definitely ‘Don’t Hang Up!’

While the horror genre has continued to wander in and out of our theaters, and Netflix streams, there have been very few lately that have the ability to leave any sort of mark for its fan base. Independent horror has seen a devoted increase over the last several years with many new filmmakers entering the scene if only for their film to be shown at one or two festivals. Zombie television is okay and possession scares on the big screen can grow old, but to take conventions from fifty years of horror thrillers that we love – I Saw What You Did And Know Who You Are, Black Christmas, When a Stranger CallsScream and Saw – and tie their principle elements (and best ones) into one recycled premise well then you have Don’t Hang Up.

Recycled as it may be, the film’s plot is actually refreshing; taking the simplicities of some of these earlier films, and working them into a pseudo-2017 era. With a limited theatrical run, but available on iTunes for rental or purchase, Don’t Hang Up has brought back something missing from genre fare. It has turned those horror clichés upside down and even succeeds in making the home phone, cell phone, computers, and our reliance on internet and Wi-Fi scary again! I can’t remember the last time a horror film was able to utilize all those things, even making a Smart TV scary when it turns on and off, while furthering the plot and enhancing the tension. In fact, the oldest trick, or should I say prank, in the book is turning the lights out. You think the dark can’t be scary anymore? It can always be scary especially in your own home. This film actually succeeded in drawing the viewer into it, laying the framework for your mind to start trying to figure out who the murderer is and how the characters actions influence their fates.

Keep reading after the trailer

Everybody has done pranks, phone calls, or other nasty jokes that ultimately ends up getting them in trouble one way or another. Enter our two main characters: Sam Fuller (Gregg Sulkin, Anti-Social) and Brady Mannion (Garrett Clayton, King Cobra, Hairspray Live – talk about diversity of roles! A future Zac Efron perhaps?); these two college frat pranksters are having the time of their lives along with their other two buddies in causing fear among many an unsuspecting victim. Running a successful feed of YouTube videos, these boys are drawing viewers in by the masses by preying on the fear they temporarily instill upon both guys and girls. While the film runs the risk of alienating the characters and making them unsympathetic, especially Clayton’s Brady, it takes enough time to show that Sam actually has feelings and dealing with relationship troubles with his girlfriend Peyton (Bella Dayne, The Goldbergs, Person of Interest) and even the absence of his parents. But it is the biggest dick of them all, Brady, who has the most baggage that is likely causing his behavior, when we learn of his lack of parental attention, failing grades, and wanting to escape it all by proving he can be something more to his parents by joining the Army. No sooner are they back in the prank calling action while chugging beer and munching down pizza when it is Sam’s phone that rings with an ominous male voice that has decided he’s going to turn the tides on them. If you think it is Scream all over again, you’re wrong, this guy literally toys with these guys – with that toying turning to torture once he reveals just how close he is to them, friends, and family. The fact that this film right away tosses the virginal-girl-in-trouble protagonist out the window and gives us two guys that are suddenly stripped of their egotistical masculinity, and made vulnerable, is grounds for immediate applause to Screenwriter Joe Johnson and the Directorial Duo of Damien Macé and Alexis Wajsbrot.

Don't Hang Up Movie Review

After the opening credits, one still has to wonder what they can expect from the acting especially when you have the fratboy, college nuances blatantly overacted at almost every turn. Turn it does though by fifteen minutes into the film, with Sulkin giving his most over to the part and finding that internal innocence that has now being violated. Despite the asshole that you do love to hate in Brady, Clayton’s teary puppy dog eyes when the character is at his most emotionally unstable, can’t NOT garner a bit of sympathy that yearns to help him and his friend out of this dire situation. That is yet another great thing about the film that it can warrant that type of response from the viewer where even though you know the guys deserve a good kick-in-the-ass and scare, the extremes they are put in now bring the fundamentals of their very humanity to the surface.

The cinematography is phenomenal, especially given the limited resume of the Directors, and the shots used immediately set the tone, environment, and pace; bringing us up close and personal in times of trauma for our characters, and far away for shots that make even the bravest viewer squirm not knowing where the killer is lurking. Sometimes with an independent production, certain values are compromised whether it is picture or sound but both are clean and crisp; the contrasts appropriate for the murky atmosphere that envelopes over the course of the film and the sounds from creaking floors and moving doors provide enough additional tension to keep an eye over your own shoulder.

Just when I thought that I knew what was going to happen, the film took a turn and gave me something more than I bargained for. Without spoiling it, I will say that even the experienced horror fan that could likely put the pieces together, won’t totally be sure until the final reveal and even small things, nothing original by any means, are placed just right where you are still clinging to the seat with your eyes locked onto the screen.

It is too bad that the film was not able to get a wide release, because it is exactly what the horror genre needs more of. It brings back the heyday of horror happenings. The tension is there. The horror is there. The blood is even most certainly there. There is no skimping on the carnage suffered by the victims or even the protagonists for that matter.

Lastly, it was a bonus to see Sienna Guillory (Resident Evil: Retribution) in the cast, with her part having an extremely vital role in establishing the storyline and more specifically, what the viewer and our characters are about to endure. It is with great pleasure that I say don’t skip it because when a genre entry like this comes calling, you don’t hang up!