Monday, September 26, 2016

"Animal" (2014) d/ Brett Simmons

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When enthusiastic indie filmmakers shop their movie ideas to potential investors with the promise of perks and those familiar huge returns at the box office that inevitably dry up into a Video on Demand run on sites like NetFlix and Hulu before the initial hype has fully evaporated, it reminds me of a delicate balance that goes unquestioned and is maintained within the industry. It is because of this balance, one of copycatted topical familiarity and recognizable face-based drawing power, that nothing truly original or groundbreaking ever sees a decent release. Take Animal (2014), for example.

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Looking for a coherent script? Gonna need stronger flashlights....
After seeing two couples fleeing for their lives through the forest at night, no doubt from an unclassified thingie of unequalled aggression, homicidal to humans and not above snacking on the first bimbo who trips over her own feet and falls (such tropes are easy prey. And delicious.), we're then introduced to a gaggle of self-important, collegiate humps fixing to wander off into the same woods for an all-day hike. Don't get lost looking for an elusive waterfall you visited as kids, whatever you do. Oops. There's the cadaver of Barbara the Clumsy (Eve. Yes, THAT Eve) to stumble upon. Jeff (Parker Young) soon joins her as the latest member of the bodycount, thanks to that aforementioned "animal". The survivors make it to a not-all-that remote cabin that is in the process of being fortified by the three survivors from the initial attack. One, Douglas (Amaury Nolasco), is a cynical prick, only concerned with saving his own miserable hide. One is Joey Lauren Adams, former favorite of that fat comic book nut from New Jersey that dabbles in movies. Has it been that long?

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"Finally free of the patriarchy out here, and all I can think about is cooking flapjacks..."
Next comes the heroic escape attempt that Douglas nearly puts the kibosh on, getting him tied to the stairs for all his worst efforts, and then the late Jeff's squeeze, Mandy (Elizabeth Gillies) reveals that she's been carrying his unborn baby. Sean follows that up with the revelation that he and Jeff had also been buttcheek buddies together. At least the "animal" isn't playing with it's food (Matt) directly below them, in the cellar. Oh wait, it has. The group manages to spring Matt from the jaws of the beast,  while Carl eats heroic death running interference for them as they escape upstairs. Doug puts out the suggestion that they all escape while it finishes off Matt, then breaks loose and beats him to death himself when they refuse. Whatta guy. He's next. The remaining yobs plot to trap the "animal" while they raze the place to the ground, which is effective until the second one appears and further thins the herd until Mandy drives over it's dome, a la Phil Leotardo, to safety. At least there aren't any more...

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"No, Ike, any damned thang but those reptile loafahs of yoahs!", pled a hysterical Tina Turner.
Tonight's effort was produced by no less than the delectable Drew Barrymore herself,  and still scores significantly lower than "marrying Tom Green" on the Bad Idea-O-Meter for the sultry celeb, no stranger to genre flicks, having lent her image to such films as Cujo, Cat's Eye, Firestarter, and Scream, throughout her career. The movie is brief, with a running time of less than ninety minutes (leaving out elements like plot and character development will do that for you), but fails ultimately in delivering anything at all that horrorhounds won't have encountered better examples of,  hundreds of times already ("Feast" comes to mind, instantaneously). O solo Woppo.

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"Heeeey youuuuuuu guuuuuuuuuuys!" That was an Electric Company/ Rita Moreno reference, if you're keeping score at home.
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R.I.P. Herschell Gordon Lewis

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                               06/15/29 - 09/26/16

Friday, September 23, 2016

"3 Headed Shark Attack" (2015) d/ Christopher Olen Ray

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Tonight's review goes out to those of you out there who'll watch anything, without whom such a movie (a sequel, actually, to 2012's Two Headed Shark Attack, of course) could be slung together by the man whose familiarity to direct-to-SyFy shlock extends to the aforementioned original as well as high brow genre gold titles like 2010's Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus and Megaconda, etc. ad infinitum. You could maybe forgive one credit like this on a guy's resume, but Christopher Olen Ray should probably be ashamed of himself at this point. Your total lack of discretion concerning what you watch allows bowel-busters like tonight's movie to be scattered with faces like B-movie hero, Danny "Machete" Trejo, celebrity stylist Karrueche Tran, and  pro wrassler extraordinaire, Rob Van Dam, thus, keeping them off of the soup lines, so there's that, too.

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Is your intelligence insulted by this screenshot? Of course not.
So, this giant, inexplicably mutated, three-headed Great White Shark has come to exist by feeding off a floating garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean. The predatory, improbably animated beast is fond of both ninja-style attacks in mid leg-high shallows and magnificent hundred foot Warner Brothers cartoon-style surface breeches on top of its screaming, helpless victims, and it isn't long before it has thoroughly terrorized an island based research facility, headed by an Asian dip named Dr. Laura Thomas (Karrueche Tran) who likes to nod repetitively after loudly shouting orders and directions at people (this would be where the dialog would be, in a conventional release, by the way), and makes no qualms about it, either. There's a few "we've gotta swim to the other side of that there, to survive" 's, and everybody's willing to sacrifice themselves for their friends a little too frequently during this lifeless struggle to escape the facility as the monster follows the trail of aquatic pollution towards death and dismemberment. Laura nods approvingly.

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Throw spatial reasoning to the wind. Flat or hologram? You decide.
A few set-dressing mannequins manage to climb aboard a boat in the nick of time, and what are the odds that there's a spiffy riverboat packed with partying primadonnas and palookas alike in the direct path of our monstruous triple threat, in desparate need of a lunkheaded improbable rescue. Why, there's even a motorboat full of hardcore, tattooed bait n' reel commandos, as led by an embarrassed-looking Danny Trejo (as well he should be, dammit), on the way and willing to lend a hand...or a machete, if need be. Be careful, Vato, as I've heard many a grizzled old sea faring man relate to those that dare, if you chop off one computer generated head, three more are liable to instantly pop up in it's place, and that's a five headed shark attack waiting to happen, but that's another movie in and of itself, and David Hasselhoff, Danny Bonaduce, and Corey Feldman haven't even signed on for it yet. They will. You know they will. Flush.

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"How about a leg my way, you greedy bastard..."
What a fucking mutt. This is surely the lowest common denominator in today's horror genre, just below those dime a dozen direct-to-video poltergeist/possession pics all over Netflix and Amazon Video these days. Take the crappiest of a long line of Italian Jaws rip-offs you can find, Mattei or D'Amato, your culprit of choice, and it looks like the Spielberg original in comparison to this, most likely. In the same vein, more than one of you out there will probably stand for an hour in single file line to pay hardcore bucks for the opportunity to get a photo op with one or more of the "stars" at the five hundred-fifty-sixth horror convention this year somewhere, and be glad of it. More power to you, though I've got to be first to tell you, you're on your own there. I've got some very guilty pleasures among my historically specific tastes in rotten cinema, admittedly very guilty indeed, but sludge like this could never be among them. Not ever. Zero Wops.

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As if enormous mutated three-headed Great Whites weren't bad enough, there's the power of multi-head regeneration, as well. #Science
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Saturday, September 17, 2016

"10 Cloverfield Lane" (2016) d/ Dan Trachtenberg

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I was under the impression that I reviewed 2008's Cloverfield somewhere along the way, even if only through a brief one take. Apparently not. Where is my mind, like Black Francis used to croon. Still, that missing entry will not halt production here on tonight's review, the 2016 follow up, 10 Cloverfield Lane, a sequel in name only which Dean of Detonation, J.J. Abrams, who produced here, calls a mere "blood relative" to the original movie. Speaking of the original, the hulking, colossal beast is back for this entry, only now he's none other than John Goodman, a genre favorite since we first saw him in 1984's C.H.U.D., and he's supported by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who fright fans might recognize from her appearance in the Black X-mas (2006) reboot, though most, like myself, will have long put that calamity out of their consciousness by now, I'd hope.

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"maybe you could take the next selfie out of three point stance? Sincerely, Brett Favre."
After a spat with her fiance spoils her generally cheery disposition, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) takes an angry, late night drive through rural Loose-uh-anna, where the radio confirms a recent blackout phenomenon occurring in major cities. To further compound matters, some reckless fuck suddenly head on slams her car off the road, and she wakes up in a leg brace, shackled to a wall in some concrete cellar. Hate when that happens, don't you? Her captor/saviour is a curious fellow named Howard (John Goodman), who graciously explains to the groggy accident victim that the country has come under attack from a threat of unknown origin, and that she is currently housed in a bunker from which she is unable to leave, due to the toxicity of the outside air. Validating Howard's tall tale to a certain degree, is Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), a fellow who's helped construct the very bunker that the trio has been subsisting in. He claims to have witnessed the attack in question, and subsequently fought his way into the quarters. Still, Howard confesses that he may have run Michelle off the road on purpose on that fateful night. Awww, somebody's got a crush.

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The mashed potatoes in this vat belong to me. No one is allowed nary a spoonful unless overseen by me."
During one of Michelle's many mad scrambles toward freedom, after jacking Howard's bunker keys, she encounters a hysterical woman outside the main door and decked out in open sores and lesions, who frantically tries to break in, but Michelle seals her fate by taking Howard's side on this one and returning to the group after she brains herself repeatedly on the reinforced door. Time passes, revealing that Howard  may be concealing a dark secret or two of his own, showing photographs of what he claims is his daughter, Megan, except that the pictures show a girl named Brittany, a high school friend of Emmett's younger sister, who disappeared a few years back. Maybe you and Emmett should go ahead and fashion that makeshift biohazard suit, and keep it on the d-l from Howie, just in case he decides to put that fifty-five gallon drum of chloric acid he's got sitting around down there, to good use. Naturally things come to a tension-packed boil, guns are fired, acid gets spilled, and the bunker's entrance is finally breached, but what barely passes for a finale in this instance feels completely added on and unnecessary; a cuckold's by-the-numbers love letter to political correctness and gender balance. This development stunts the picture's possible growth for me, and designates it to the ever-heaping pile of ordinary big studio fodder. Approach with caution.

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"...on rotation for three and a half minutes and my corn dog still tastes like rubber in the middle!"
Despite the flat, predictable ending, I found myself enjoying Goodman's performance a lot; a pity that it's immersed in such median genre fare, or I'd probably revisit it again soon. Not ruling such an occasion out altogether, mind you, just still feeling gypped by the production's assumptive nod to it's sci-fi-crazy audience, and it's believed limited ability to interpret it's own favorite cinema genre at the movies. On the scale, Lane musters up a deuce, no War of the Worlds (2005) by any means, but far from Nightbeast (1982). Wednesday nights seem like a perfect fit for a screening, if you feel driven to do just that sometime, for whatever reason.

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Remember your first dime store Ben Cooper Halloween costume?
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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Indigenous" (2014) d/ Alastair Orr

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My expectations weren't nearly as high as I was for the screening of tonight's review, a schizophrenic dollar store Descent clone for the impecunious; packed with less flavor than a rice cake, disorganized dialog delivered within the one note range of rank amateurs and with the truth of a reality show. It took me two sittings to get all the way through this mutt of a monster movie, having passed the fuck out on one prior attempt. That's never a good sign, in my experience...

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"Stroke of luck we stumbled upon this discreet, Panamanian fuck-lagoon, eh?"
Five obnoxious twenty-somethings (Four Americans, one Australian) of little virtue and less character have uprooted their "horns up, breeh!" attitude for a vacation in Panama, if by vacation you mean "endless body shots, gay jokes, and ignominious pick up lines", that is. Several uninspired partying montages later, Trevor (Pierson Fode) has made the acquaintance of local honey dip, Carmen (Lauren Penuela) and her amigo, Julio (Juanxo Villaverd), and when she isn't blueballing her new American love interest, she's teasing he and his steak-pussed friends about an alleged breathtaking waterfall and mystic pool combo somewhere in the Darien Gap, off limits to gringos since the last group of teenagers got waxed by chupacabras, who also take  time off from sucking the blood of Texas livestock for some much needed R n' R in Central America, it would seem. After some righteous surfing, Julio again warns the entourage to steer clear of the jungle gap,but Carmen decides to round them up the next morning and drive them there, any old way.

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"Let's sync up our flashlights, and show these bastards what they're messing with!"
After a fruitless private liaison in a nearby lagoon, Carmen and Trevor get separated while scoping out weird jungle noises (you know the kind that always preempt sex in movies like this), and before too long Carmen disappears amidst some blood-curdling screams, leaving behind only a pulverized smart phone. Fleeting glimpses of prowling beasts of unknown origin become more frequent as the survivors climb towards ground high enough to provide cell phone service, and as the forest grows darker the vacationers are subtracted in ones from the equation by this pale race of murderers, who are but a cave system away from being a flagrant rip off of Neil Marshall's subterranean sinners in his 2005 effort, The Descent. Is that a cave?? You've gotta be kidding me. Many unremarkable circumstances pack the final reel right up until the end credits, and though I'm not gonna elaborate further upon them here, you can imagine exactly what most of them entail by this point in the piece, I'm sure. Let's wrap it up already.

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" gonna accept my Candy Crush Saga request or what?"
Tonight's movie kind of plays like the aforementioned Descent, if it was tackled by MTV Studios ultra-leftist propaganda machine, and cast from that show where skateboarder Rob Dyrdek entertains an audience of catatonic hipsters with video clips that are readily available to anyone with a Wi-Fi connection that knows how to use a browser. Even America's Funniest Home Videos had more appeal than that, ferchrissakes. These characters are abrasively self-absorbed and shallow as a vomit splash, nobody's rooting for any of them, besides maybe Lauren Penuela's Carmen, who's hot enough to stay tuned long enough to chuckle at her total disregard for common sense while speaking highly of her own virtue at every juncture. Other than that, there's really nothing out of the ordinary here at all, and on the scale, a single Wop is par for this particular, repetitive course. Avoid.

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"Blew it! You shoulda picked the Wet Willie!"
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Friday, September 9, 2016

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Jaws 2" (1978) d/ Jeannot Szwarc

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It struck me funny while I was zoning out the other night and staring at one sheets,  that in the nine plus years we've fielded fright flicks here at the Wop, I've yet to review a single film in the Jaws series, not even the original. Naturally, we've covered all the possible Italian Jaws rip-offs, and even other countries feeble attempts to cash in on Spielberg's 1975 summer blockbuster, but never their inspiration. Well, that gets remedied tonight, when we won't be assessing Steven's two hundred and sixty million dollar box office smash, which I coincidentally saw in the theaters the first time around, in case you were wondering, but the 1978 sequel, as helmed by French-American director, Jeannot Szwarc, the guy who previously directed things like nineteen episodes of Night Gallery and also William Castle's Bug (1975) . Seventy-seven million at the box office for lots of Roy Scheider, no Richard Dreyfuss or Robert Shaw, more mechanical shark, and significantly more groovy seventies parasail-crazy teens that wouldn't look out of place in an episode of Eight is Enough. Who doesn't want any of that, I ask you.

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Down killock, ye nautical nerd (Keith Gordon)!
Some time after the climactic fishing trip that removed the original devil of the deep from the island's equation, Amity has returned to normal, preparing for the grand opening of a new hotel. Meanwhile, two divers photographing the sunken wreckage of Quint's boat, the Orca, are set upon by another huge great white shark. It also attacks a pair of groovy water skiers, horribly scarified by the boat's female driver, who inadvertently dumps gasoline over herself and sets the boat on fire while trying to avoid the monster's fatal bites. There's also a beached killer whale carcass with tell-tale bitten chunks out of it, the radius of which is more than slightly reminiscent of a problem predator the island's citizens once faced. Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) gets more of the same response as last time from Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), ultimately getting himself fired when the city council grows weary of his manic running up and down the shoreline with his sidearm drawn during peak beach hours, and inconclusive underwater photos that may or may not reveal the eye and mouth of a massive great white. Relax, Martin, you'll live longer.

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Don't light the match until you're sure you're standing on all surviving prints of this movie first.
Brody's older son, Mike (Mark Gruner)(who's aged quite a bit considering the time that has passed), like most of the teenage islanders, even the nerds, is obsessed with parasailing while avoiding dragging his younger brother Sean (Marc Gilpin) along during efforts to impress Jackie (Donna Wilkes), the new chick in town. She rocks polyester and screams her fool head off with the best of 'em. Cue: Foolhardy aquatic youth ignoring the flaccid warnings of the local constabulary in favor of crisp waves and the twenty-something foot long devil lurking just beneath them, with a chip on it's massive pectoral fin. With Matt Hooper off studying on the Aurora in the Antarctic, and Quint's half-digested, exploded remains spread for a mile in every direction, Brody is forced to combat the scarred beast, who's eaten a helicopter, mind you, on his own this time around. There also might be the unlikeliest of underwater power lines off of ol' Cable Junction, of course, to turn the odds in favor of our favorite hydrophobic police officer, just saying. So keep an open mind for that, haha.

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"Jeeezus, watch out for those hydraulics!"
At six, I was traumatized seeing the original in the theater, but by the time this sequel rolled around, I had matured into a nine yr old in Cheryl Ladd t-shirt and flip flops that regularly went swimming downtown at the Y. Mechanical sharks had been toppled from my scary shit list by zombies and indestructible serial killers by then. Besides the infamous on set dust-ups between Scheider and Szwarc, who opted to show the shark a helluva lot more than his predecessor Spielberg ever did, the film suffers greatly from a lack of dramatic flair that Shaw (and to a lesser degree, Dreyfuss) provided in the original, instead choosing the mainstream path of make out-mad teens and succumbing to phoned in sequel-driven hokum, as so many second efforts did in the decade to come. So, no U.S.S. Indianapolis speeches here. Hey, even if it was perfect, living up to Jaws (1975) is a near impossible order, when you think about it. On the scale, 2 earns just that, and stands as worthy Wednesday-fodder for killer fish fanatics everywhere. Worth a look.

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Lay back, Holmes. I wasn't lookin' at your neck, man.
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Monday, September 5, 2016

"Troll Hunter" (2010) d/ Andre Ovredal

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This is more fucking like it. Tonight, we'll delve into the old Norwegian mythology when a troll wasn't necessarily a thirty-something guy living in his basement starting flame wars on message board regs,  as envisioned by Norse writer/director Andre Ovredal, and acted out by his one time commie comedian/countryman, Otto Jespersen, Hans Morten Hansen, another comedian, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Morck, and Tomas Alf Larsen. You're into peculiarly named actors, this flick is a treasure trove, indeed. Oh, and don't forget to stay tuned past the end credits...

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Somebody found a full Budweiser in the forest.
Volda University sends off three of it's brightest students in audio/visual production to get to the bottom of the recent rash of bear attacks and subsequent bagged bears turning up all over Norway. Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Johanna (Johanna Morck), and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) answer the tele-journalistic call under the belief that a poacher is behind the bear deaths, but it's not long before they realize their main suspect, a Land Rover-driving goon in a foppish hat named Hans (Otto Jespersen), is no common poacher. Instead, after much paparazzi-style pestering, Hans reveals that he the country's lone hunter and slayer of mythical trolls. After allowing the team to fully document his dispatching of a massive three-headed rascal by turning him into stone, he offers the crew a free ride while he makes his rounds, whacking different species of woodland trolls, and even the much larger mountain variety, as he's become jaded on the job ever since he was forced to wipe out entire troll families (pregnant females, children, uhhhrvrybodah) that one time. Boy, he hated doing that.

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"Come live your secret dream!," beckons the King of the Nighttime World.
As we watch the found footage (sigh...), we learn much of the physiology of these mysterious beasts; They can stand two hundred feet tall, older males grow head-like protuberances on their shoulders as they get older, they eat rocks or anything they can get their massive mitts on, really, and sunlight can either turn them into stone or explode them on the spot. You've gotta rub yourself all over with their signature slime to avoid scent detection, and Jesus Christ help you if you happen to be a Christian, as they can smell your blood if you're of the faith. Hans' liaison is an older bird named Hilde, a kind-hearted veterinarian who he's thrown around naked once or twice, it would seem. Officials maintain that said trolls do not exist, and go to J Edgar lengths to keep this untruth at the forefront of the national consciousness, as the team will later find out. In the end, they replace a squashed, Christian cameraman with a Muslim and square off not against your common Ringlefinch or mere Tosserlad, but a two hundred foot tall Jotnar, the largest of all trolls. What goes down I'll leave for you to discover on your own...

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"C'mon, just two-handed touch, up to guys'll murder us."
Most of the main cast is comprised of high level Norwegian comedians, if you hadn't noticed in our opening paragraph. It works. Despite the well-exhausted found footage mockumentary approach, I rather dug this one for its cinematic flair, originality, inventive, effective use of cg (which I normally hate), and clever script. The lush natural shooting locations are equally impressive, and you might find yourself drinking them in yourselves while waiting for the next giant big nosed oaf to come crashing through the trees. Overall, I give it three out of four Wops, a worthwhile watch for any horror fans with a decent sense of humor that might be looking for something new and different to get into. Check it out, for sure.

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"...Posting it on Facebook and taggin' you in it, too!"
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Saturday, September 3, 2016

"When Animals Dream" (2015) d/ Jonas Alexander Arnby

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September already? Time flies when you're sick as a beast. At least flight jacket weather is upon us, and I can look phenomenal while I'm doing it. A generous bowl of Monster cereal over here, please. I'd seen several trailers for this, the Danish horror debut of Jonas Alexander Arnby, and the foreign artsy-fartsiness on display, which normally never discourages me when I'm sitting down to a new horror film, was a big red light, in this case.Vampires translate well into arthouse as we've seen over the years, but werewolves? Too feral, too wild a subject to be handled with such flair, perhaps. Regardless, I gave it a look, and here's what I came up with...

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"...still better than Kirsten Dunst."
Marie (Sonia Suhl) is a sixteen year old girl living on an island in Denmark with her folks, Thor (Lars Mikkelsen) and her mother (Sonja Richter), who's seemingly catatonic and wheelchair-bound. Marie spoon feeds her slop daily and tries to make a living at a nearby fish processing plant, where the other employees get their jollies by shoving her face first into a dumpster full of fish waste. Oh, you guys. Meanwhile, Marie is noticing some strange physiological changes to her growing body, most noticeably patches of fur, rashes, and bleeding fingernail beds. She begins to draw parallels to her mother's current condition, and begins an investigation of her own towards answers to all of her burning questions. She soon discovers that she may have inherited her mother's inexplicable malady, and her own father may be in cahoots with the local doctor in efforts to keep the family's monstrous medical history off of the minds of locals, who may or may not have the propensity to gather in posses under such circumstances, and hunt said monsters, of which Marie's family may have two card carrying members, to extinction, no less...

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There's always one bald bully at the fish processing plant. Ever notice that?
After hijacking her mother's medical files and exploring a nearby rusty Russian sea vessel with obligatory old Eastern lycanthropy-style graffiti below in the shadows, Marie gets an idea of what she's in for, as a werewolf-to-be, that refuses the massive doses of sedatives that her mother requires to keep from sprouting fangs and tearing out throats, like she'd fancy, if she had her way. She decides she'd like to have some human sex, being ravaged by a handsome young villager before she's finally ravaged by fleas, and the lucky dong-donor is Daniel (Jakob Osterbro), a sympathetic shoulder who's blood-rager isn't diminished by suddenly feeling patches of hair on a chick's back, which would be a deal breaker for me, just saying. Daniel even takes Marie's back when the other townsfolk show their lycanthropophobia, and try to wack her out much later, when she's only achieved about thirty-five percent transformation, or so it looks. It takes a long time to become a werewolf, say this film's producers. A long time. Don't let that eighty-four minute run time fool you out there.

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James Brown says you're "letting your backbone slide" all wrong.
In the end, the wanton artsiness on display here prohibited the film in my opinion from ripping the lid off in the final reel, for a Beast Within-esque, chunk blowing, genre finale, like most fans would have probably preferred, in favor of the nuance of artful subtlety. There's more werewolf in La lupa mannara (1976), ferchrissakes (Italoween III next month, by the way, so keep that in mind). What worked in Låt den rätte komma in (2008)  came up short here. This one's a horror movie for the handlebar mustache and hipster scarf crowd. The cinematography is excellent, and an effective, creepy tone is maintained throughout, but there's nothing that could be mistaken for a scare in here to anybody that doesn't listen to David Byrne solo albums on purpose. Two wops isn't necessarily a bad score for most movies, but when you consider the unrealized potential of this production, it sort of doubles as one in this case. Pass.

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The snout and the Wile E. Coyote ears would've killed you guys? C'maaaaahhhhn.
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