A group of veterans are attacked by drug addicts, as a large drug package is stashed at the bar one of them owns.
VFW is an example of low budget schlock horror in all its glory, featuring a group of classic actors who have seen their best years, it relies on gory, real effects to see it through, as it has little else to offer. The practical effects and some of the veterans actors are enough to elevate it above bargain basement viewing however.
VFW has many production companies and producers, so it takes a while for anything to get going, it must have been difficult to finance the thing, which is unfortunate that in our modern movie making climate, a low budget horror is so hard to get off the ground. We are eventually met with a title card telling us about the problem of new drug ‘Hype’ and how addictive it is, cut to a rouge warehouse and punk kid Lizard (Sierra McCormick) stealing a bag of drugs, we then cut to the eponymous bar that stands for Veterans of Foreign Wars. It is the bar owner Fred’s (Stephen Lang) birthday and he is certainly surrounded by movie veterans including William Sadler (Die Hard 2), Martin Kove (Karate Kid), Fred Williamson (From Dusk ‘till Dawn) and an unrecognisably old David Patrick Kelly (Commando). They are joined by a young soldier, fresh from Afghanistan, and shoot the shit until Lizard comes crashing in, followed by some nasty punks. The veterans must spring into action to save her and the bar.
In a short and simple film like this, it is important to set up the characters so we have something other than violence to hold onto, which is where the film falls down. The writers try really hard to have a lot of conversational dialogue, to show these are old buddies, it just doesn’t work and comes off as nonsense. They are desperately trying to emulate Tarantino here and even though he can be over indulgent himself, he does have a knack for writing meaningful conversations that is hard to emulate. It is good to see the old actors though, perfectly cast as war veterans pining for the good old days, and they certainly outshine Lizard, who is wooden at times.
Of course we are here for the action and it doesn’t disappoint, with heads stomped, brains blown out and bodies blown up. It plays like a zombie movie, with drug addicts playing the undead, a comment on modern society? Perhaps but there is no time to think over the use of claret. A perfectly entertaining way to kill 90 minutes, just not the main event.
WORTH A WATCH!
A big game hunter's animals are released on a freighter, by a convicted killer.
If Primal was a dish on a menu, it would be too delicious to resist, but you might expect a nasty after taste. You may be surprised then, that it delivers what it promises and should leave you with a satisfying taste in your mouth.
Nicolas Cage is Frank Walsh, a big game hunter, who is self described as not a good man. He has captured a rare white Jaguar in the Brazilian rain forest, and proceeds to hitch a ride on a freighter with the Jaguar and an assortment of other exotic animals. They are mostly passible CG, which is better than cutting between random footage of a wild animal and then the actors, as was the technique in days of old. Unfortunately the ship is also being used by a group of US Marshall’s who are transporting a ridiculously dangerous prisoner played by Kevin Durand (who is having a ball as Richard Loffler, an ex-special forces soldier turned assassin), he is also accompanied by Navy doctor Ellen Taylor - played by an almost unrecognisable Famke Janssen, who looks like she is wearing a plastic face mask for a bank robbery, but alas it is her natural look now, how unfortunate. Inevitably Loffler breaks free, lets the animals loose and tries to hijack the ship.
Yes that’s right, juicy stuff indeed, naturally the budget is low, the set drab and un-interesting and Fake Janssen’s acting also seems to have been affected by her transformed face. There are also no freak out moments from Cage, he is on autopilot here, well he was probably tired as this will be his 6th film of 2019! Despite all this, the film delivers; we get death by monkeys, deadly snakes and a parrot called Einstein. Loffler is a worthy adversary and a genuine threat, Frank having to use his hunting skills to beat him, as he is no match one on one. The film relishes in its own concept and never stops having fun, it is fairly violent and the majority of the cast meet a nasty end, some more deserved than others. The script tries to develop Frank Walsh, but doesn’t really get anywhere, he could have been more interesting, but just comes over as an arsehole, rather than a cool arsehole.
If you are attracted to the concept ( why wouldn’t you be) then all you need to know is that the film doesn’t let you down, and does all it can to make the most of this ludicrous concept, that it finds itself in. If only Cage had more time to concentrate on this film, rather than his next 5 roles, he could have put more into his character, I am just glad he turned up. A pleasant meal indeed.
WORTH A WATCH!
In a small town where Ghosts, Werewolves and Witches exist, a serial killer is targeting the delivery drivers of Perfect Pizza.
Everything about Slice appears to scream fun, its quirky, has something to say about the haves and have-nots of society and features a central mystery featuring the supernatural. Credit has to be given for trying to be different, however it falls down on almost every level, and even more criminal, it fails to be interesting.
As mentioned, the supernatural is an accepted part of the fictional town of Kingfisher. All the Ghosts live in Ghost Town but Werewolves and Witches haven’t been seen in many years. OK fair enough, we also start with the murder of the director Austin Vesely, playing a Pizza deliveryman called Sean. There are also protests going on about demolishing the square where Perfect Pizza is situated. Sean’s girlfriend Astrid is determined to find the killer and is helped by former deliveryman Chance Bennet (played with zero charisma by Chance the Rapper). The film puts a lot of effort in trying to establish a full backstory, not only is it not particularly engaging, neither is anything that happens in the present. For example: Ghost Town is not scary, funny or interesting. The same goes for the Witches and Werewolves, when they inevitably turn up. You can’t just say things are supernatural, without putting any effort into making them appear unusual or shocking in the world you built.
A drug dealer called Big Cheese is fun, but hardly gets any screen time; neither does Joe Keery from Stranger Things. Slice certainly isn’t the first or the last film to be all set up and no pay off, it gets points for trying, but is all bark and no bite.
A group of friends crash into a cornfield, and are terrorized by a Scarecrow.
Yes that’s right, it is killer Scarecrow time, and why not I ask? I know what you are thinking, are people turned into Scarecrows’ (as is the case with some Scarecrow themed horror) or does it feature a killer Scarecrow come to life? Good question, Husk goes for a bit of both.
A car of stereotypes are driving past a cornfield, the driver is edgy Chris who is talking to best mate Johnny, while shoved in the back is nerd Scott, jock Brian, complete with girlfriend Natalie. As crows launch themselves into their windscreen, they crash into a cornfield. When they come to, Johnny is missing, with only a creepy house in the distance, it is time to enter the cornfield to try and find him.
The best parts of Husk, feature the Scarecrow attacking the victims, it looks suitably scary, with a sewn bag on its head and a smile made up of stiches, it is a great antagonist and moves at speed- a great horror villain indeed. Director Brett Simmons – who also writes here, tries to give us more by including extra rules, which means when you are killed by the Scarecrow, you become one, not a bad idea, however it means you have to sew your own costume in the dilapidated room at the top of the creepy house, so we are subjected to prolonged scenes of Zombie sewing! The film is only 80 minutes long and actually feels more like a short story in a portmanteau, a perfectly acceptable one at that. If you like the concept it is certainly worth a watch, I just wished we spent more time in the field and less time with the sewing machine.
WORTH A WATCH!
Pay The Ghost 2015
A Professor loses his son at a Halloween parade, a year later as he tries to unravel a supernatural mystery, his son tries to contact him.
Like many out there, I am a huge fan of Mr. Nicolas Cage, but as his output has increased and the quality has decreased you have to pick and choose your pictures. Pay the Ghost is a surprisingly standard affair, a slice of supernatural horror with a splattering of CGI.
We randomly start in 1679 (I love these specific dates in horror films!) where we see a group of children hiding in a cellar calling for their Mum. Cut to modern day New York and Nicolas Cage’s Professor of English horror literature? Never quite clear what he is teaching, he knows his mythology, which suits the plot. Anyway, Cage is Mike Lawford, who is neglecting his only son as he is trying to make tenure. A popular story arc in many movies, which basically means you have a job for life at your university, not particularly interesting but it gives a character something to strive for I guess. Trying to make amends for his forgetful ways, Cage takes his son to a parade on Halloween night, misplaces him and we immediately skip to a year later.
What follows is a pretty standard ghost story, we find out that the Mum from 1679 was burned at the stake and takes children on Halloween, Cage does some research and tries to reconnect with his wife, who is understandably miffed off with him. We have horror clichés of spirits flying into the screen and computer generated vultures flying around the city. It’s not terribly done, but is uninspiring, yet the most disappointing thing is how restrained Cage is, I thought we might see some premium freak outs, however they never come. The exposition comes thick and fast at the end, which I actually quite enjoyed and is exemplified by a school teacher who is a part time pagan, after being asked by Mr and Mrs Lawford about the ghost in question, she rightly answers that she is just a part timer before telling the audience everything we need to know about the plot and what needs to happen to get their son back, thank God, they ran into her!
WORTH A WATCH!
A tour guide for seniors is attacked by killer cowboys at an evil rodeo.
Lasso executes a fun concept surprisingly well, with well thought out gimmicks for the evil cowboys involved. The characters/victims are largely forgettable, a group of pensioners who are driven to a lackluster looking rodeo by a tour company led by feisty Kit (Lindsay Morgan) with neck tattooed layabout Simon (Andrew Jacobs) vaguely helping out. When they understandably want to leave for the day, they are interrupted by a woman screaming for help, chased by a cowboy with a claw whip. Luckily, they are joined by a couple of more interesting individuals; a strong woman who won a hay bale stacking competition (naturally) and a one-armed rodeo rider played by Sean Patrick Flanery – the most famous actor here, you may have seen him in Dexter, maybe. Unfairly these characters are also kidnapped and then hunted by the rodeo crew, they were just taking part and being good sports!
Lasso triumphs with its variety of villains, we have a strong man, the aforementioned whip wielding cowboy, the prodder (as he is known in the credits) complete with cattle prod, the brander and best of all, a rodeo clown. This odd character turns up randomly throughout the movie, he never utters a word but he is vital, helping our heroes escape in the first place. No one would survive without the rodeo clown…
The film is naturally low budget, all set in a poor excuse for a rodeo that consists of a barn and a dusty old field. Not much is explained, why are they mercilessly killing people and how have they not been caught is a mystery, they are sort of part of a cult but it’s never really explained. Nevertheless it hardly matters and the deaths are inventive getting sillier as the film goes on, for some reason blunt objects have the power to slice through people in this universe! A film that consists of very little is elevated by quirky villains, plenty of action and of course that rodeo clown; whose actions certainly speak louder than words.
WORTH A WATCH!
Tell Me How I Die 2016
A group of young volunteers for an experimental drug, start seeing the future and their own deaths.
You may start to realise that I am a sucker for any film that plays with time, and Tell Me How I Die is a great example of a new twist on an old convention. Who would of thought!
The aforementioned 'young people' are sent to a test facility in the middle of nowhere, to test a drug that is meant to help memory, with only ice covered roads surrounding them; what could go wrong. The characters we are introduced to are quite promising at first Anna (Virginia Gardener) needs money after losing her job and has great intuition about people, Den who immediately takes a liking to her after meeting her for a second is ‘a decent guy’, we have human experiment veteran Scratch (played by YouTube star Ryan Higa) who delivers one liners but it likeable enough and Marcus – a down on his luck gambler. The initial angle about the volunteers having abilities with memory is intriguing but it is not explored further, nor are the character’s backstories.
What makes this film a stand out, is not only its interesting premise but its introduction of the mysterious villain: Pascal. It is revealed that this experiment has been performed before, with a heavily overdosed volunteer now seeing time in a non-linear fashion and out for revenge against the scientists who invented the drug. Yes, that’s right we are now dealing with physics and the nature of time, I bet that is a surprise to you. This mystery is weaved into the main classic plot of people being hunted down one by one, so it makes the usual slasher deaths much more interesting.
Even more surprising is the films conclusion: Warning Spoilers Ahead! As you might expect it comes down to Anna fighting our time powered villain. Pascal loses after Anna uses her own time ability, but wait! It turns out that it was Pascal’s premonition we were seeing and he adjusts to escape unscathed giving Den a nasty stab in the process. This is a nice touch as why wouldn’t he be able to get the better of someone who has only experienced these gifts for a few hours, whereas this man has transcended time!? So, he disappears into the night, as mysterious and intriguing as he always was. Our two main characters might die, they might not, but we don’t really care at this point as we haven’t learned anything about them. Pascal is the star of the show and certainly needs his own spin off.
What starts as a low budget standard slasher, evolves into something smart, considered and a fun discussion for amateur physicists. Is time linear? Albert Einstein and Tell Me How I Die don’t think so!
DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH!
Bad Samaritan 2018
A down on his luck valet who robs his customers, picks on the wrong man and his life starts to fall apart.
Bad Samaritan has a promising set up and a decent cast. Robert Sheehan (Sean) of Misifits and now Umbrella Academy fame, falls foul of David Tennant's rich boy with issues the ridiculously named Cale Erendreich, it uses the classic wrong place, wrong time scenario - so well played in 2009's The Collector. However, unlike that film there are no scares, little peril and no clever twists and turns.
After Sean breaks into Cale’s house, he finds a kidnapped woman and tries to go to the police, having covered it up Cale sets up a relentless and ludicrous campaign against Sean and his family - getting his Dad fired and exposing Sean’s criminal past to his girlfriend. Cale turns out to just be the recipient of a trust fund, yet he does things only a person with real power could pull off.
As it a comes down to a predictable climax in a wood cabin, you feel that good actors are no match for poor writing, yet because of the star power it was advertised on The Graham Norton Show, making the public think it might be worth seeing. Not a terrible movie, but a forgettable one. The writer clearly watched Jessica Jones and thought it would be easy to make Tennant a great villain; they just forgot to write an interesting script.