Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Load Of Boll: Seed(2007)

The only film I had on DVD directed by Uwe Boll, until a few days ago, was Bloodrayne, primarily because I'm a sucker for vampire flicks of any kind and also because I really like Kristanna Loken as a redhead in the title role.

Uwe Boll has, I believe justifiably, more than his fair share of critics who lambast the poor sets and overall production quality of his past films. Boll is also someone who is perceived as being arrogant, which makes him look even more like a buffoon in the eyes of movie fans and critics alike, especially in light of the mostly subpar movies he's cranked out.

I haven't seen Postal, a Uwe Boll helmed movie but I've seen trailers of this parody and it looks decent. Also leading me to think Boll is showing improvement in the director's chair: Seed, a 2007 horror film directed by Uwe Boll and just released to R1 DVD on 9/9/08.

Boll's Seed is a journey into the mind of a homicidal maniac, much like the "Saw" films explore Jigsaw and Eli Roth's "Hostel" films examine people who pay money in order to torture someone to death.
The villain in Seed(2007) is a bulky, masked and grubby looking man named Max Seed, who has, we learn, killed 666 people and videotaped every one of his murders, the police receiving Seed's tapes in the mail. (get the reference here? 666?) Seed is finally captured by a hard bitten cop named Matthew Bishop(played by Michael Pare), but not before Seed murders every uniformed police officer who accompanied Detective Bishop to Seed's boondocks hideout to apprehend the killer.

Fast forward to Max Seed being placed in the electric chair. You would think several jolts of 15,000 volts of electricity would kill a person. Not Max Seed. Despite remaining alive Seed is signed off as dead by the prison warden and attending physician, and unceremoniously buried alive. Predictably, Seed digs himself out of his pine box and the strata and sets off to kill those who took part in his electrocution and burial...including Detective Matthew Bishop. (no other spoilers)

Observations: As a horror movie "gorehound" I think Uwe Boll gets quite a few things right in this film as he "explores the depths of human brutality"(Boll's own words from the film's audio commentary).
What works for me:
-the villain, Max Seed, does not speak at all in the movie, which helps sustain a level of revulsion, and mystery, needed for this character
-the villain is absolutely merciless during his carnage, which is a necessity, I believe, for this genre of horror film
-the various effects shots used during Seed's carnage, in particular Seed blasting a captured female victim in the head over two hundred times with a hammer, is surprisingly realistic. Also, time lapse shots used while the cops look at Seed's videotaped abuse of his victims is effective. There's something very disturbing about watching a baby, an adult female, and a dog captured and then left to rot in a locked room. Boll's use of maggots during this part of the film is especially nasty.
-the performance of Michael Pare: the veteran actor doesn't phone in his performance, like he has done in other of his recent films. Pare is solid in this movie.
-the PETA animal abuse images at the beginning of the film: these images, from PETA archives, show animals, including dogs, being bludgeoned to death. Obviously this is disturbing and would not be easy for anyone to watch but it immediately sets the bleak tone for the film and frames, if you will, the mentality, or lack of, in the killer Max Seed as he sits in the room watching the clips of animal abuse on a TV set, mask over his head.

What I did not like:

-the production sets remain, judging by this movie, a work in progress for Uwe Boll. No doubt Mr. Boll is looking to save budget here and there.

-the acting of the secondary characters in this film is very average and at times below that

In summary: Seed(2007) is not, IMO, nearly as good as the other established "slasher" and gore horror movie franchises, like "Friday The 13th", "Halloween", "Saw" or even torture fests like the two "Hostel" films. For fans of this kind of horror film it is, however, worth a look on DVD rental and might be a "buy" for true hardcore fans of this kind of horror film. Seed(2007) is a functioning, and periodically entertaining, look at the apparent vacuum that exists in the mind and heart of a vicious maniac.

A promo trailer for Seed(2007):

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hell On Wheels: The Car(1977)

The decade of the 1970's was one great sojourn to the movie theater after another, spending an entire afternoon watching movies, playing video games like Galaga and Pac Man in the theater video arcades. There have been some great horror movies produced during the 70's and one in particular I like to revisit, by watching on DVD: The Car, a film released in May, 1977 by Universal, directed by Eliott Silverstein, and starring James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, Ronny Cox and R.G. Armstrong.

The film's story: a mysterious black limousine with heaviliy tinted windows appears out of nowhere in the tiny Arizona town of Santa Ynez. The car immediately begins a murderous rampage by running over people and making the lives of others it comes in contact with absolutely miserable. Santa Ynez sheriff Wade Parent(played by James Brolin) has one hell of a problem on his hands, literally, as he and his deputies attempt to stop the marauding, and driverless, car from killing more people. As the movie progresses it becomes apparent to Sheriff Parent and his deputies that the mysterious and deadly black car may be something akin to a demon. (no other spoilers)
A surprisingly entertaining film, despite what I consider a preposterous theme. The action drives this film along and James Brolin is effective as the affable and laid back sheriff whose stress level understandably ramps up as the deadly black car terrorizes the citizenry of his town and those he's sworn to protect. Veteran character actor R.G. Armstrong is also a welcome presence in this movie. Camera mounted shots taken from the black limo from hell as it speeds along the dusty back roads of Santa Ynez, deputies cars in pursuit, also lends to the sense of dread and tension in this film.

The theatrical trailer for The Car:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Head Games: Scanners(1981)

There have been, over the decades, some truly marvelous horror movie directors: Terence Fisher, Roger Corman, Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, Clive Barker, John Landis, Alfred Hitchcock, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and George Romero. While I am an admirer and fan of these directors I am especially fond of David Cronenberg. One of Cronenberg's films is a personal favorite of mine, a movie I first watched in a movie theater as a college freshman. I'm referring to Scanners, a film distributed by MGM, written and directed by David Cronenberg and originally released to theaters in January, 1981.

The film's story:
An underground group of people with formidable and destructive telepathic abilities, called "scanners", are a threat to mankind, lead by an especially powerful scanner named Darryl Revok(played by Michael Ironside), who wants to build a scanner "army" and dominate the world.
Opposing Revok is a another scanner named Cameron Vale(played by Stephen Lack), a man who knows nothing about his background and who is recruited by a scientist(played by Patrick McGoohan) specializing in the study of "scanners" to ultimately stop Darryl Revok. Through plot twists and turns we see both Cameron Vale and Darryl Revok use their scanning abilities to effective and often lethal effect on others. In the end the struggle comes down to a face off between Revok and Vale, with one important story line revelation preceding their final battle, and an ending that is, IMO, terrific and startling at the same time! (no other spoilers)

What works for me:
-Michael Ironside is very effective in the role of the antagonist "Darryl Revok". He's as mentally unstable as he is powerful, which makes for an unsettling combination in this film.
-The special makeup effects: marvelous, especially the infamous "exploding head" scene and the effects used to render the absolute carnage that Revok and Vale inflict upon each other in the final battle, a test of their respective scanning abilities.

What doesn't work for me:
-Stephen Lack, whose acting was, IMO, somewhat muted. He definitely lacked a "presence" in this movie, something that his bad guy counterpart Michael Ironside did not lack at all. I've always considered Michael Ironside a terrific character actor and this movie is confirmation.

This film is a clever and entertaining look at the science, and science fiction, of telepathy, mind control and all of its potentially ugly(and gory) undersides. One of David Cronenberg's early directorial efforts and a must have DVD for any self respecting fan of classic sci-fi and horror.

One of the trailers for Scanners(1981):

Here's the MGM Region 1 DVD of this film for sale at Deep Discount.com: http://www.deepdiscount.com/viewproduct.htm?productId=5753810