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    “HOUSEBOUND” (SXSW Movie Review)

    Is the New Zealand horror-comedy back? At the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s vampire mock doc WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS was one of the strongest in the lineup. Little over a month later, Gerard Johnstone’s HOUSEBOUND world premieres at SXSW and is almost immediately the surprise of the slate. Both pit the gothic and the modern against each other, and while SHADOWS is a purely silly and unrelentingly hilarious work, HOUSEBOUND manages to balance consistent, fantastic comedy with a properly eerie mystery and what should be a star-making turn from lead Morgana O’Reilly.

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    “AMONG THE LIVING” (SXSW Movie Review)

    The fantastic films of French filmmaking pair Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury are entirely informed by horror cinema. That sentiment and interest in homage is, of course, no stranger to the genre, but coming from the duo who debuted with something like INSIDE, it’s both more sophisticated and more punishing than one might expect from a simple tip of the hat. Within three varied films, the two boast their own singular style, one concerned with stunning aesthetic, disturbing family yarns, specific subgenres and the magic of film, be it something beautiful or utterly horrifying; be it something both.

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    “BATTLE OF THE DAMNED” (Blu-ray/DVD Review)

    I’m sure I’m not the only horror fan who has begun to groan at the sight of the phrase “zombie apocalypse.” Since THE WALKING DEAD completed its gradual climb to media domination, it appears that every filmmaker under the sun has added zombies to their portfolio, and as a result, below-average undead offerings have littered DVD shelves week after week. However, for that very reason, when this writer discovers a secret success hidden amongst the crowd of disappointment, that’s all the more reason to celebrate, and even encourage those who break the mold of Z-grade direct-to-video horror.

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    “STARRY EYES” (SXSW Movie Review)

    Plenty of films would have you believe ambition is sexy. Desperation may reek, but the indefatigable drive forward and up is admirable. STARRY EYES, however ambiguously, seeks to challenge that as directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer cast long and dark shadows over a “nothing to something” Hollywood tale replete with defilement, rot, graphic murder and the occult. Want to achieve something great? Want to show them all? A sacrifice is required. It’s likely your humanity.

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    “HONEYMOON” (SXSW Movie Review)

    “Have you ever killed something?” Bea asks. It’s less an ominous foreshadow—although, there’s plenty of that—and more simply a new wife helping her new husband understand her outdoors-heavy past. When Paul (Harry Treadaway) first arrives at Bea’s (Rose Leslie) family cabin, he’s confronted with the “Bear Room,” that which houses the skin of an enormous black bear, as well as continuous evidence of Bea’s truly handy skills. For the bridegroom, it’s frankly intimidating. When Paul is additionally face-to-face with a summer fling from Bea’s adolescence, a chilling layer of real, very human anxiety forms in Leigh Janiak’s feature debut. Bubbling just underneath the distressing question of, “How well do I know who I married?” is another dreadful prospect: “Am I enough for this stranger?”

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    Fango Flashback: Verhoeven’s “ROBOCOP” (1987)

    Being from the younger generation of today’s cinephiles, there’s a certain pool of veteran filmmakers that I’d love to see deliver one more passion-fueled film before calling it quits. With Hollywood becoming more tentpole-focused however, it’s unlikely to imagine a world where subversive genre filmmakers such as John Carpenter, David Lynch and Paul Verhoeven would get that chance to relive their bloody glory days. Thus is the nature of the business, but still, there’s such an exhilaration from revisiting their work that the absence of new, well-funded films from these filmmakers leaves a hole in the world of imaginative onscreen storytelling. In the case of Paul Verhoeven, who is still working busier than ever outside of the US Hollywood system, that return to the system that brought us classic sci-fi gorefests like TOTAL RECALL, STARSHIP TROOPERS and ROBOCOP always seems to be coasting on the horizon as his films are neutered in mega-budgeted, misguided PG-13 remakes.

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    “RETURN TO NUKE ’EM HIGH VOLUME 1” (Film Review)

    There’s a saying that’s commonly used to negate all consequence of bad behavior in the name of acting upon instinct: “Boys will be boys.” In the world of genre entertainment, that same phrase should be applied to Troma, as Troma has, is and always will be Troma. Transcending limitations of taste and logic, the company has returned to present one of its funniest and craziest films of all time, RETURN TO NUKE ’EM HIGH VOLUME 1.

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    Fango Flashback: “TOTAL RECALL” (1990)

    After making a splash with the ultraviolent sci-fi satire ROBOCOP, it’s not a giant shock that Verhoeven’s next blockbuster venture would be the Philip K. Dick adaptation TOTAL RECALL, which paired the unpredictable director with one of Hollywood’s most reliable action stars, Arnold Schwarzenegger. In a way, the pairing is somewhat perfect, matching two of Hollywood’s most promising imports and vibrant personalities to create a film about a surreal identity crisis. The casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a common construction worker stuck in a world of intergalactic espionage and sabotage was bizarre yet appropriate, and as such, he simultaneously delivers one of his most over-the-top performances, while being somewhat restrained and emotionally conflicted. Somehow, Verhoeven strikes gold with Schwarzenegger, who is brave and grateful enough to dive into another one of the director’s living universes, although this time much more alien in nature.

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    “HAUNT” (Movie Review)

    Sometimes, when telling a story about the afterlife, there’s an inherent understanding that plot and character can fall by the wayside in the name of pure, visceral terror. This particular subgenre is one of the oldest and easiest to execute, and thus there’s only so much in the way of originality and personality one can bring to ghost movies—essentially forcing filmmakers to choose style over substance. But if a horror story devotes itself solely to eliciting fear and subverting expectations, how much or easily can one forgive a lack of novelty or inspiration?

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