Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ Category

“Strippers Versus Werewolves” Bares More Than Fangs.   Leave a comment

No "Gone with the Wind" or even "Howard the Duck."

No “Gone with the Wind” or even “Howard the Duck.”

By C. Michael Forsyth

It would seem impossible to screw up some movies. Take “Strippers Versus Werewolves.” As a viewer, your expectations aren’t very high. You just want a campy, tongue-in-cheek romp with a healthy dose of T & A and a few scares.

Sadly, nothing is completely idiot-proof. This amateurishly filmed excuse for a horror-comedy makes the dismal “Zombie Strippers” look like a cinematic masterpiece.

First problem is that the strippers are clad in unflattering and unrevealing outfits, while executing dance routines that are relentlessly unsexy. Second problem is that less effort went into creating believable werewolves than would take place in an unambitious student film.

HUBBA HUBBA! If images like this get you hot and bothered you'll love the movie's striptease scenes.

HUBBA HUBBA! If images like this get you hot and bothered you’ll love the movie’s striptease scenes.

I’ve long wanted to see another werewolf flick with minimal makeup, like Henry Hull’s in “The Werewolf of London” or Jack Nicholson’s in “Wolf. “But the rubber noses, ears and fangs in this British movie look like they came from the Halloween discount bin at Wal-Mart — not even a real costume shop.

LESS than convincing werewolf effects pump a silver bullet into film.

LESS-than-convincing werewolf effects put a silver bullet in the heart of this film.

The one starlet in the picture I wouldn’t kick out of bed for eating crackers is spectacularly well-endowed Lucy Pinder. Unfortunately, instead of making full use of her assets, the producers don’t Lucy cast as a stripper — but rather, almost perversely, as a member of a vampire duo who show up for a few seconds.

ASSETS UNDERUTILIZED:  Lucy Pinder appears but, tragically NOT as a stripper.

ASSETS UNDERUTILIZED: Lucy Pinder appears but, tragically, NOT as a stripper.

DOUBLE D TROUBLE: Vampire duo add to the woes.

DOUBLE D TROUBLE: Vampire duo add to the woes.

There’s one cool idea: The pack of werewolves are basically a gang of English houligans. There’s one really good performance: Robert Compston as a young member of the pack whose girlfriend turns out to be one of the strippers. Robert Englund has a cameo as the imprisoned former leader of the gang, the Alpha male” as he puts it, and the “Nightmare on Elm Street” star is at his menacing best in the five minutes he’s on screen. But Englund, who also livened up “Zombie Strippers” a bit as a sleazy club owner, couldn’t save this dog of a werewolf movie.

Instead of blowing cash on this DVD release, better to invest in a lap dance at your local topless watering hole.

ALPHA MALE: Robert Englund has brief cameo as ex-packe leader..

ALPHA MALE: Robert Englund has brief cameo as ex-pack leader.

PRISON life becomes even more hellish when a vampire epidemic erupts in a women's prison.

PRISON life becomes even more hellish when a vampire epidemic erupts in a women’s prison.


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I’m excited to announce the launch of my first graphic novel, Night Cage! The premise of the horror story is simple: Vampires take over a women’s prison. Just imagine Orange is the New Black meets Salem’s Lot.

The project is being funded through Kickstarter. Folks who jump on the bandwagon will get a boatload of goodies and rewards, ranging from advance copies of the book and exclusive art, posters and T-shirts to a chance to be drawn into the graphic novel as a character!

Please check out the video out HERE, and share the news with all your social media friends!

PRISONERS fight for survival against a bloodthirsty army of the undead in the graphic novel Night Cage.

PRISONERS fight for survival against a bloodthirsty army of the undead in the graphic novel Night Cage.

<img src="https://freedomshammer.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/hour_of_beast_cover_web1.jpg" alt="Speaking of werewolves and sex, in this reviewer's acclaimed horror novel Hour of the Beast, a bride is raped by a wolfman on her wedding night — then things start to get out of hand! ” width=”466″ height=”324″ class=”size-full wp-image-933″ /> Speaking of werewolves and sex, in this reviewer’s acclaimed horror novel Hour of the Beast, a bride is raped by a wolfman on her wedding night — then things start to get out of hand!

To check out Hour of the Beast, click HERE,

Wrong Turns of Events: Good Ol’ Boys Mistaken for Killers in “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil”   Leave a comment

BURLY Dale (Tyler Labine) and shifty-eyed Tucker (Alan Tudyk) may look like bloodthirsty, banjo-playing backwoods cannibals, but they’re just misunderstood.

By C. Michael Forsyth

“Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil” is one of the best horror comedies ever! It would certainly have made my list of top ten films in the subgenre if it was available on DVD when I made my picks a while back.

In the movie, a car-load of dimwitted college students on a camping trip encounter two guys they fear are killer hillbillies – but are actually harmless good ol’ boys fixing up their summer house. What ensues is a wild comedy of errors with plenty of over-the-top gore.

Although I’m a fan of the “Scary Movie” series, I found it refreshing that this is not an “Airplane”-type spoof like that, but instead a classic screwball comedy. The humor flows from goofy but basically realistic characters responding to a situation that keeps going from bad to worse. The physical gags – often involving the idiotic college kids accidentally killing themselves in gruesome ways – are handled so deftly that however improbable, you buy them.

I like the reversal of stereotypes. Although Tucker and Dale aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer, they’re rocket scientists compared to the college kids, who have the survival instincts of barnyard turkeys. There is a sweet love story between one of the coeds and hulking, bearded Dale, played with charm by Tyler Labine.

The heart of the movie is the friendship between backwoods buddies Dale and Tucker (Alan Tudyk). The actors’ timing and chemistry makes them a great screen duo. I’d love to see a series of Tucker and Dale pictures, like the old Abbot and Costello comedies — perhaps battling vampires, zombies or other things that go bump in the night.

NUBILE coed Allison (Katrina Bowden) picks a bad time to go skinnydipping.

The author of this review penned Hour of the Beast , hailed by Horror Fiction Review as “a fast-paced, rip-snorting, action-packed, sexy college romp.” The book is available in hardcover and softcover at Amazon.com. But you can save $4 by clicking HERE! The Kindle version is just $7 and the eBbook is a measly $5. Be the first on your block to read this bone-chilling tale — before the movie comes out.

What Lies Beneath “Cabin in the Woods” ?   Leave a comment

RULE No. 1: Never visit a remote cabin with no cell phone reception. Rule No. 2: Never go in the basement. Curt (Chris Hemsworth) and his pals commit horror no-nos.

By C. Michael Forsyth

Ever wonder why characters in horror movies choose the worst possible time and place to have sex? Why they descend into the pitch-black basement of a house that’s obviously haunted? Split up so they can be picked off one by one? All these questions and just about every other you’ve asked yourself while munching popcorn are answered in The Cabin in the Woods.

Produced and co-written by Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Cabin in the Woods is a tour de force that works as a horror film, workplace comedy and genre-demolishing satire. It’s Westworld meets Wrong Turn meets Evil Dead, to mention just three of the innumerable movies to which it plays loving homage and/or gleefully skewers.

In the movie, five young college students fitting neatly into recognizable types vacation in an isolated cabin where horrific events begin to unfold. Unbeknownst to them, everything is being orchestrated by a cadre of puppet masters in a vast underground complex. The staff includes managers, technicians, accountants, maintenance workers and even geeky interns. (I don’t consider all this a spoiler since it’s revealed within the first three minutes — if you didn’t already figure it out from the trailer).

MONSTERS, INC. Horror is all in a day's work for company guys and gal Richard Jenkins, Amy Acker & Bradley Whitford.

The film derives much of its humor from the high jinks of these Dilbert-type drones. At one point, the bored-out-of-their-skulls staffers organize a betting pool on what horror the hapless vacationers will face first. En route to the cabin, the students ignore the cryptic warnings of a creepy old gas station attendant. When the guy later calls in to report, the staff puts him on speaker phone and giggle as he continues to drone on ominously.

WHO watches the watchers? Holden (Jesse Williams) happens upon a one-way mirror as Dana AKA The Virgin (Kristen Connolly) strips.

The concept is thought-provoking. What we generally think of as stereotypes – the Virgin, the Whore, the Jock, the Brain, the Comic Relief — are elevated to archetypes. It’s the best deconstruction of the horror genre since Scream, on a level that would impress Bruno Bettleheim, the celebrated analyst of fairytales.

RULE No. 3: Never allow yourself to be trapped in a siege situation.

Some critics describe the movie as an allegory for the process of filmmaking itself. How can you argue? The staffers even call their mysterious boss “The Director.” Beneath that layer of meaning, there’s also a wry commentary about our surveillance society. Marty, the wisecracking pothead paranoiac and “The Fool” of the group, points out that “Society isn’t falling apart, it’s coming together.” As he puts it, the “cracks are filling in” as technology devours privacy and living off the grid becomes increasingly impossible.

DUMBED DOWN: Jules (Anna Hutchinson) shows poor judgement after going blonde.

Tropes of the horror genre are simultaneously observed and lampooned. Sexy pre-med student Jules (Anna Hutchison) has just dyed her hair blonde when the story begins and it’s later revealed that a chemical secretly placed in the dye makes Jules, AKA “The Whore” act stupid.

While not likely to make you quiver in fear, the movie meets the basic requirements of a horror film: Suspense, characters you root for, formidable dangers and enough gore to satisfy fans of traditional horror flicks.

POTHEAD Marty (Fran Kranz) wields an unlikely weapon.

Brawny Chris Hemsworth (Thor in The Avengers) delivers a winning performance as Curt, the brave Jock. Fran Kranz earns plenty of chuckles as Marty, the Fool. He fills the position Shaggy did in Scooby Doo and looks the part as well. But the real stars here are Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins as the world-weary managers of the operation. Whitford, best known for his role as White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman on TV’s The West Wing sends up his in-control, seen-it-all image with obvious relish. And Jenkins, looking like a worn-out NASA engineer, is even more droll and cynical than he was as the disembodied dad in HBO’s Six Feet Under.

The climax of the film is in keeping with its blend of humor and horror — way, way over the top, in a good way.

SPEAKING OF JOSS WHEDON…

HORROR and comedy were perfectly blended in Joss Whedon's TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

No one mixes comedy and horror better than Joss Whedon, as I’m learning right now as I watch TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the first time on Netflix. Somehow I managed to miss the series when it debuted in the late ’90s. I’m blown away by how good it is – one of the handful of TV series, along with Highlander, that is far superior to the film that inspired it.

The playfulness is pure joy. In the episode I saw last night, Xander believes Willow has turned into a vampire and thrusts a crucifix in her face. When she fails to recoil, he shakes it like a flashlight that might need its batteries jiggled.

WHEN Angel was good he was good and when he was bad, he was very, very bad.


But drama is equally well handled. The brilliant storytelling is displayed when Buffy loses her virginity to good-guy vampire Angel. Following convention, love might cure him of vampirism. Instead, in an inversion of Beauty and the Beast, he becomes evil, his soul ejected from his body. In the hands of a less talented writer, the next scene would be Angel bursting into Buffy’s room, fangs bared. Instead he simply acts like a jerk, humiliating her by showing her the night of passion meant nothing to him. Far more sadistic. And, since this is an experience many a young woman will recognize, it helps to ground the series in reality, keeping it a coming of age story as well as a butt-kicking action/adventure show. The more you watch Buffy, the worse Twilight looks by comparison.

The intensely dramatic and horrific is always leavened by wit. In the episode in which fellow vampire slayer Kendra dies tragically she first gives Buffy her “lucky stake” — which she has nicknamed “Mr. Pointy.” In the same episode Buffy’s watcher Giles sheepishly admits that he’s been using the crystal orb that can restore Angel’s soul as a paperweight.

BOYFRIEND PROBLEMS weren't the only things Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) had to worry about.

I’m only midway through Season 3 and have already met so many wonderful characters, most memorably Spike, the cockney vampire with the Billy Idol hair and penchant for puppy love. By turns terrifying and laughable, James Marsters is absolutely magnetic in the role. (He won the poll of Sexiest Male Screen Vampire on this site by a landslide). Speaking recently to a publisher who uses Marsters for a lot of audio books, I was surprised to learn the star isn’t even English!

Spike (James Marsters) is the bloodsucking blond British punk you love to hate in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

I love how characters are allowed to evolve. A pitfall of many series is that characters remain exactly as originally written and are unaffected by the events that befall them. Most infamously Dana Scully in X Files, who is skeptical of werewolves even after battling vampires.

DROPPING his English reserve, Giles became a father figure to Buffy.


Buffy’s mentor Rupert Giles (Anthony Head) could have been a thankless role: a character like Bosley in Charlie’s Angels who does little more than provide exposition then step out of the way to let the girls swing into action. Instead, he develops a tender father-daughter relationship with Buffy that is the backbone of the series. He’s allowed to have romances. And the shy British librarian is not above opening a jar of good old English whup ass to save Buffy’s bum from time to time.

ANY role in which you get to wear an eye patch ain't all bad. Nicholas Brendon as Xander.

In fact there are no thankless roles in Whedon’s world. Xander, initially merely a goofball, becomes an increasingly heroic figure, always willing to charge into battle though lacking any special powers. This “geek” eventually gets to kiss almost every girl on the show. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce (Alexis Denisof), who briefly assumes the role of Buffy’s watcher and is even stuffier than Giles, is insufferable. And rich-bitch Cordelia is intractably airheaded. Yet even they get a chance to evolve into heroes themselves in the Buffy spinoff Angel.

ANNOYING Wesley and Cordelia developed into interesting characters in the spin-off series Angel.

Though the show premiered nearly 15 years ago, it doesn’t seem dated – you barely notice that the teens don’t text. Some aspects of high school are universal. You will always have good girls, snobs, class clowns and nerds. As in Cabin in the Woods, there are some archetypes that just don’t die. Or sometimes die violently.

Copyright C. Michael Forsyth

C. Michael Forsyth, the author of this article, has written a critically acclaimed horror novel Hour of the Beast. Plans for a major motion picture are now in the works!

To check out Hour of the Beast visit Amazon.com or save $4 by clicking HERE. The Kindle version is just $7 and the eBook is a mere $5.

Now on DVD: “THE DESCENT: PART 2.” PERFECT FOR HALLOWEEN — OR ABYSMAL?   1 comment

BACK FOR MORE: Spunky Sarah battles a woman-eating subterranean freak.

By C. Michael Forsyth

I’m not ashamed to admit that the 2005 British movie “The Descent” scared the living daylights out of me. In fact, I’d have to count it among the most frightening flicks I’ve ever seen. The predicament of the six female spelunkers trapped in the bowels of an Appalachian cave and stalked by cannibalistic mutants is plenty harrowing even BEFORE the monsters show up. The heroines must combat claustrophobia, cave-ins, narrow tunnels that trap victims like rats, perilous drops and more. Of course, when the naked, drooling “crawlers” begin to pick them off, the situation gets worse in a hurry.

Now, the premise was not especially original. ‘The Cave,” which was released the same year, introduced a more novel concept: a germ that causes every living thing it infects to become vampire-like. In contrast, creepy underground races have been haunting our imagination at least as far back as “Superman and the Mole Men.” (And let’s not forget the old Weekly World News mascot Batboy, who looks like a benign version of the crawlers.) But the realism of the cave sequences (although filmed on a set) gave the movie a powerful impact. And while the crawlers are not all that tough as movie monsters go (a fit woman can beat one in a fair fight and their heads cave in easily), the slimy, maggot-colored critters really do make your skin crawl. Plus, forgive me if this sounds sexist, but the fact that the unlucky cave explorers were all women – with no male “protectors” — heightened the terror level.

Still, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to a sequel. We all know the vast majority are gratuitous, a naked ploy by money-grubbing producers to squeeze every last dime out of an idea. And since in most cases, the creators have gone onto bigger and better things and the follow-ups are turned over to young hacks with no loyalty to the original, the result is almost always disappointing. In this instance, although the original’s writer/director Neil Marshall stepped aside for director Jon Harris and writer J. Blakeson, he remained on board as producer. The creative team stays true to the themes of the original and manages to recapture the tension and claustrophobic horror.

Instead of doing the obvious and mimicking the original’s successful formula – say, by sending down a fresh crop of all-girl adventurers — the filmmakers pick up the story where the last one left off. Sole survivor Sarah (Shauna McDonald) has somehow made it to the surface and stumbles out of the woods. Traumatized and bloodied, she is unable to recall anything about her ordeal. Accompanying a mixed-gender rescue party, Sarah reluctantly returns to the cave in search of her companions.

Early on, I thought I’d pegged the movie as a turkey. The sheriff (Gavan O’Herlihy) makes some absurdly stupid decisions that strain the audience’s ability to suspend disbelief. For starters, he drags Sarah from her hospital bed to return to the cave, supposedly to help the rescuers negotiate their way through the maze of tunnels – although she clearly has amnesia! And HANDCUFFING himself to another person while fleeing the carnivorous sub-humanoids isn’t exactly prudent either.

Sarah’s abrupt switch from shell-shocked victim to monster-killing superwoman – ala Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in “Aliens” – is also a bit hard to swallow. And, at first, it seems like the characters, who quickly get separated due to a cave-in, are going to be bumped off in fairly predictable order. But the encounters with the crawlers are truly terrifying and exciting, each one a well-executed set-piece. The outcome of these battles rarely seem predetermined; I defy you to guess correctly who will die and when. As in the original, the intensity of the relationships gives the movie some dramatic heft. And the themes of revenge and self-sacrifice are revisited here.

In one aspect, this movie is actually an improvement over the original. The characters look different and are distinctly drawn. In the original “Descent,” the women looked and sounded so much alike, other than the exotic, indomitable Juno (Hong Kong- born Natalie Mendoza), I had difficulty telling the women apart and was even unsure of how many of them there were! Here it’s easier to root for particular characters to survive.

Like the original, the movie has a downbeat and rather puzzling ending. Maybe some kind reader will explain it to me in a comment. Or perhaps all will be made clear in the inevitable “Descent 3.”

So, as sequels go, I have to give this one a solid B+. Maybe not as fresh and shocking as the original, but spooky enough to merit a place on your Netflix queue.

TERROR STALKS THE WOODS in this video promoting "Hour of the Beast." To watch it, click below.

To see the book trailer for C. Michael Forsyth’s critically acclaimed horror novel Hour of the Beast, and hear Chapter One read by the author, CLICK HERE.

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