Pledge (2018) [Fantasia Fest 2018]

Director Daniel Robbins’ survival college thriller is a pretty typical horror film that surprisingly takes a lot of its beats from “Hostel.” At times it almost felt like a cheap rip off. Despite some interesting ideas, “Pledge” is a pretty crummy horror offering with no real pay off to the climax and lacking any kind of protagonist during its entirety. In fact I was left with a lot of questions when the movie came to a sudden end rather than with a sense I’d been dropped in to a nightmare.

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Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978): 2 Disc Special Edition [Blu-Ray/DVD]

Movies like “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” are virtually bullet proof from criticism. You either go in the movie prepared for the silly, or you can’t quite match the film’s frequency. “Attack of the Killer tomatoes” is one of the earliest known satires of “The Birds” where it’s about the inexplicable sentience and attack of deadly fruit on a small town rather than pecking deadly birds from the sky. And that’s about where it ends there. You figure with the preamble about “The Birds” and how this movie is basically the same thing but with tomatoes, we’d have a full fledged spoof of the Hitchcock movie.

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Knuckleball (2018) [Fantasia 2018]

Following a death in his father’s family, a young boy is dropped off at his maternal grandfather so that his parents can go to the funeral. Once there, grandpa puts him to work and shows him a few things about baseball. As this happens, the odd neighbor comes and goes on the property. As things advance, young Henry has to go get this neighbor for assistance and things go from bad to worse, forcing him to fend for himself and fight for his life.

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Knuckleball (2018) [Fantasia 2018]

It’s disheartening when you’re watching a very good movie from a group of people you love, and then as the film reaches its home stretch you can see the wheels slowly coming off. That’s what “Knuckleball” was like. It’s a great idea, and a twisted premise with some great performances, but by the final twenty minutes it gets unnecessarily weird with a twist that feels tacked on and absolutely out of left field. Which is not to say “Knuckleball” is a bad movie, since right up until the final twenty minutes, I’d highly recommend it as a wrenching of the “Home Alone” formula that also kind of feels like a spiritual companion piece to M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Visit.”

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The First Purge (2018)

I’ve come around on “The Purge” movies in 2018. What I once thought of as goofy exploitation movies, are now goofy exploitation movies with a point. They’re exploitation we need right now, they’re kind of angry diatribes about society that I’ve come to respect. Stuff about the white privileged banking off of the purge, the purge becoming an industry on to itself, “The Purge” posing as an alternate universe tale where the female candidate for president reigned supreme, and now where “The First Purge” begins as an “experiment.”

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Aragne: Sign of Vermillion (2018) [Fantasia 2018]

Saku Sakomoto’s “Aragne” is a real stab at anime horror that embraces its nonsensical story, and never actually delivers a narrative at any point during its run time. “Aragne” is thankfully a merciful hour long film, but one that’s a disorienting, and incoherent experience. And not in the artistic way. More in the realm that Sakomoto seems to have half assed a lot of the film and kind of took it in to the realm where he makes it looks intentional the whole way through.

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John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1994): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray]

John Carpenter has always been about transcending what ever form of storytelling he pursued. Even when paying homage toWesterns or remaking something like “Village of the Damned,” Carpenter never approaches it conventionally. With “In the Mouth of Madness,” he had every chance to repeat the same meta-beats as “They Live,” but he ends up delivering a genius, beautifully loony, often brilliant piece of cinema that’s both a tribute to literature, a meditation on the power of the imagination, and our own state of being and reality.

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