Tourist Trap (1979) Review

The iconic Chuck Connors stars as an isolated lunatic in the somewhat surreal Tourist Trap, in which a group of young friends are terrorized by his telekinetic ability to animate mannequins and other found objects. While the mannequins receive a little too much attention when they come to life and continuously pile on to victims, their movements and voice controls are completely eerie. Though some scenes are rather goofy and Connors’ character has the uncanny power to appear wherever his victims might end up, Tourist Trap still stands as a worthwhile curiosity. [Rating: $6] -Kenyon

Similar: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Magic, Puppet Master

Green Room (2016) Review

green room

The Ain’t Rights, the band that “stars” in Green Room, has been struggling to receive enough money for food and gas. At the film’s opener, they are in their tour van which turned off the road into a corn field. After a connection leads them to the middle of nowhere, Oregon, the band awkwardly finds themselves on stage at a neo-Nazi compound. Being the punks that they are, and since one of the band members is already wearing a shirt representing the Dead Kennedys (a cornerstone of punk), the band decides at the last minute to start the set with a song by the Dead Kennedys titled “Nazi punks f*ck off.” They do this in spite of already knowing they are in a room filled with belligerent Nazi punks, in the middle of nowhere, Oregon. Bottles are thrown on stage, but luckily it’s a short song and apparently these neo-Nazis have a short memory because the minute the next song starts they are all dancing. It seems that all is forgiven.

It’s just after this clumsy scene that Green Room loses its way in becoming a suspenseful horror film. Really, this actually isn’t even horror. This is a drama-thriller with some minor gore. Throughout the “suspense” of the dull, chatty-filled last 45 minutes, dogs chew up people, an arm is slashed (off screen, though we see the results), gun shots are fired and someone for no reason at all slices a guy’s abdomen while he’s in a sleeper hold, about to pass out (when he’s not held in an arm lock to show off some wrestling skills, that is). Not that any of the gore is very convincing or is delivered with finesse.

Just when they were ready to leave the venue, the Ain’t Rights stumble upon a murder in the “green” room (where the band hangs out before going on stage). A girl is laying dead on the floor, knife in the side of her head, blood spilling on floor. Why that method of killing is chosen is just ridiculous. Now, the group is held hostage by people who are attempting to cover up the murder and presumably hide other crimes of the past.

Eventually the protagonists make their way through some floor boards and into a basement where there could have been something down there to help them escape, fight back, or blow up the place. But alas, there’s nothing down there. Complete waste of time for the movie. But at least they got out of the green room for a few minutes, right? Problem is, there are never any interesting ideas for fighting back. Maybe that makes things more realistic, but certainly does not make for an exciting film.

Meanwhile, we wait for some kind of larger revelation of crime the villains are hiding. Or even why a knife was put into a girl’s head. Some or all of this might have been mumbled along the way. But the dialogue is so muddled that it’s difficult to follow. This can partially be blamed on the performance by Patrick Stewart, who completely lacks personality here. Wait, what!? Yes, Patrick Stewart is here to manage the dozens of inconsistent, uninteresting characters who either disappear, have a sudden change of heart or follow orders to finish this monotonous, never-ending job.

Had there been more focus, more cunning ideas of survival tactics and less characters of which to keep track, then Green Room might have pulled off something special. Instead, it only seems to battle itself with wasted scenes and tedious dialogue, of which there is a staggering amount.

Before the melee, we get to know the characters partially via a cliche interview. [Not verbatim] Why no social media? “It’s about the moment of playing the music.” Desert island band? “Black Sabbath. No no, wait, Misfits.” Something like that. But it doesn’t really matter. Oh wait. It’s referenced at the very end of the movie. One of the two surviving characters asks the other, who wasn’t even present at that interview, if she wants to know his desert island band (why?). “Ask someone who gives a shit,” is her deflated response. Scene ends, movie over. Not clever. [rating: $2] –Kenyon

Dead Snow (2009)

dead snow

Supernatural nazi zombies rise from the snow when awakened by a group of vacationers in a secluded cabin. Dead Snow‘s self-awareness is blatant, as it clearly references classic horror, presents obvious foreshadowing and finds new uses for intestines. The comedic foreign horror work is happily unrealistic, as it should be. The victims believe they’ll be safe in an area ripe with avalances, while an oldtimer warns them about the impending Nazi threat but then goes against his own advice by pitching a tent nearby. None of them are prepared for the army of zombies, the suspense and outrageous, wicked gore. [rating: $9] –Kenyon

Similar: Cabin in the Woods, Shaun of the Dead, Hatchet, Black Sheep

Deadline (1984)

A wealthy, phony douchebag who ignores the needs of his wife and three kids is under pressure to write his next controversial macabre horror screenplay. Deadline is essentially a drama at its core, while unconnected grisly deaths representing the writer’s ideas for that next script are interspersed. These scenes include two young children setting their grandma on fire, a cult of nuns who disembowel a man and a godawful gothic-glam-punk rock band performing while three homeless alcoholics have seizures. Yes you read correctly, and this is priceless. Eventually the writer realizes that his own life turned into a better story than anything else but by then one of his children have already succumbed to his neglect. A so-so warning to be more damn responsible. [rating: $5] –Kenyon

Demon Witch Child (1975)

(Spain, aka the Possessed) Reading up on Demon Witch Child leads to it being called a rip of the Exorcist. Really, this strange supernatural work only has one thing in common with the Exorcist. This would be the possession of a young girl. Besides that, it’s a completely different trip. First of all, the girl is possessed by a witch…AND a demon (!?). That detail is confusing. The child is not in a bed waiting for the priest to enter. This girl is roaming around normally while making the rudest–and often humorous–comments under the spell of the demon/witch. What she says to the detective searching for a baby killed by a satanic cult deserves applause. And then she chops a guy’s balls off! NOTHING like the Exorcist. Very little time is even spent on an exorcism.

A crude picture quality allows an authentic look for Demon Witch. This could be immediately improved, however, by removing the soundtrack and dismissing or skipping the melodramatic scenes of a priest and his ex-lover. Then it would be eerie as hell. Oh hell, just remake the damn thing. [rating: $6] –Kenyon

Trollhunter (Norway, 2010)

The trouble with many of these found footages (Grave Encounters, et al) is caused by lack of believability. Found footage relies on that to be convincing. Convincing that it’s REAL. Otherwise, there’s really no point in making a found footage film. This requires a very natural feeling from the “actors” and, with any kind of film, LOGIC.

The opening of Trollhunter proclaims blah blah blah…and “they determined this to be authentic”. What the? Yea, an authentic COMEDY. Take for example this phone call by the trollhunter, who is knowingly overheard by a young film crew following him: “a blood sample? Hmmm, that’s going to be tough”. Later, he pulls out an oversized, comical syringe. Then there is the three-headed troll which trollhunter explains uses its extra heads to scare away other trolls. Still determined to get all the dirt on the trolls, the eager documentary trio show little concern about their own well-being. This catches up to them when they go in a cave found to be a troll “lair”.

While the trolls range from impressive to hokey to video game style, the trollhunter himself is the stand-out character (as it turns out, the actor playing him is a controversial comedian). From when he tells the film crew to cover themselves with troll stench to when he is actually battling the trolls with a giant flash bulb, the hunter is a curious character. A third-person filming perspective and deeper insight would have given Trollhunter–the character and film itself–the depth it deserves. [rating: $5] –Kenyon

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007) While the original Wrong Turn was a routine backwoods slasher, Dead End–featuring outspoken rock icon Henry Rollins–is actual a step up. And by a step up, i mean buckets of guts. And by guts i mainly mean intestines. Although it’s not for the squemish, Dead End IS a lot of fun, especially since several of the characters butchered by inbred cannibals are a$$holes. Turn 2 also improves the story by showing more about the inbred’s “personal” life and how they got that way. It’s actually rather sad, allowing sympathy for the freaks rather than for the stereotypical victims who are parodied by a survival reality show. Surprisingly, this is a satisfying sequel. It’s no Evil Dead 2 by any means, though it’s a few notches above The Hills Have Eyes 2 remake. [rating: $7] –Kenyon

Troll 2 (1990)

Troll 2 (1990) Much has been said about this poorly acted, poorly written non-sequel. Happily, there’s just never enough to say because there are so many standout moments. From the goofy troll heads that look nothing like the creatures at the left to whenever grandpa Seth’s apparition appears, Troll 2 is a curiosity from start to finish. As a result, this genuinely naive effort earns its recognition as one of the best worst movies in history.

What would have drastically improved Troll 2 is if the creatures–who live in the town of Nilbog which is Goblin backwards–were shown transforming from human and back again. Half the time they are shown as human but usually when doing their “bidding” or eating they are trolls or goblins or whatever. At least Troll 2 could afford to include a girl melting into green goo which is then eaten by the…troblins? golls? See, they make the humans eat green hamburgers or funky cakes with green frosting. This changes the victim into a green vegetable mass which the trobs can now eat. This is because the environmentally conscious troblins are VEGETARIANS. [rating: $9] –Kenyon

Faces of DEPTH

Interview with director Edward Payson. by Kenyon Hopkin.

Following his award-winning music documentary Unsigned (2011), director Edward Payson’s latest film The Cohasset Snuff Film is a “found footage” story regarding a teenager who murdered three classmates in a quiet town. The title alone suggests something shocking, as Payson strives to show the dark side of life. He has already accomplished this with works such as the gory-dramedy The Itch. On the horizon is the action-comic revenge film Fury: The Tales of Ronan Pierce, co-directed with Kevin McCarthy and featuring Kane Hodder, known for his role as Jason Vorhees. Payson, a native of New Hampshire, discusses his work, Hodder and why he chooses his own film content to be free of boundaries.

MLFD: Are you psyched to be working with Kane Hodder? How’d that happen?
Payson: Working with Kane on Fury was great. This is a person I had looked up to for a very long time. It was very surreal. A year ago I was having Kane sign my Jason Goes to Hell poster and this year I  was able to have him act in our film. It was an incredible feeling. He was a true professional, easy going and had a great sense of humor.

Are some people automatically ignoring The Cohasset Snuff Film because they are afraid of the word “snuff”? Judging by the trailer and what I’ve read, is it more on the sensitive and serious side?
We really haven’t begun the actual marketing on The Cohasset Snuff Film but I think so far people are generally excited. There are fake downloads for the film on Youtube already that random people posted. We are being called by Cohasset officials talking about how people are in a panic in the small town. I don’t really think  the word “snuff” caused us a problem. I think the true horror fans are who we are going for with this and a simple word won’t keep them away unless that word is “Twilight.”

“I love the Evil Dead. Do I want a remake, NO”

What did you think of the original snuff film from the 1970s?
I love 70’s snuff movies. I don’t think the original Snuff film was that great. Some films I look at from that era that really were perceived as “snuff” were Cannibal Holocaust and Faces of Death. These films changed the game. They made people sick. People didn’t know how to deal with what they were seeing. It was pure shock factor. This is what I am going for.

Your favorite/most influential horror films ever?
I have a rather long list of favorite or influential horror films but I will keep it to a few. I really the work of George Romero. The Dead Series is my favorite classic trilogy. I remember sitting in my dad’s basement workshop watching Night of the Living Dead on a small 2″ by 5″ black and white television with my brother at 10 years old. My father was a huge horror fan and really introduced me to the genre. I was seeing R-rated horror films in theaters more than I would see Disney Films. As far as modern horror films with the exception of “The Splat Pack” namely Eli Roth, Adam Green, James Wan and Rob Zombie, I really haven’t been into mainstream horror of the last 10 years besides films coming from Korea. I Saw the Devil was one of the best films I have ever seen.  It was masterful in story, acting and execution. These amazing films are coming from Korea and all we get in America are horrible remakes.

What do you think about the Evil Dead getting remade?
I love the Evil Dead. Do I want a remake, NO. I think it all has to do with money. These movies are not made to be good. They are made to bank off the name recognition from the first film. I am totally against remakes and re-imagining classic films. It is getting out of control. Soon I think every ten years a film will get rebooted if it makes money. It is sad original ideas are looked down upon and go unmade.

“I don’t cut away when I think the audience will be squeamish”

What are the projected dates for your two upcoming films? 
As of now we are releasing The Cohasset Snuff Film on Halloween 2012 and Fury we don’t have a specific release date because the film is still in post [production] and we have animation and effects which are going to take a very long time, but you will see it in 2013.

Is this your full time job? Are you able to make a living off this? What else do you spend time on?
Right now this is all I do. I had a full time job before editing and making how-to videos. Unfortunately the company downsized and I ended up getting laid off. Now I am just like any other independent artist trying to get by on side gigs and small videos here and there between features.

What’s it like in Los Angeles, as far as the indie horror film industry goes?
Los Angeles is the place to be for Independent Film. Places like Cinefamily in Hollywood will show independent films all the time, sometimes for free. There are always special screenings in and around L.A. and plenty of people to talk film with.  I love it.

As a director, what makes your vision unique?
I believe in not compromising your vision no matter what. Most of my films are not just about the characters. They are also about the cruel world in which they live. I want people to experience the ugliness in the world so I don’t cut away when I think the audience will be squeamish. I let them experience every agonizing second. The world is not pretty and that is the picture I like to paint.

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