Now Watching: CRAWL OR DIE (2014) via Roku’s Amazon Prime VOD Channel

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CRAWL OR DIE – Mixing part ALIEN, part DESCENT, part TANK GIRL and sporting committed performances by its cast, particularly Nicole Alonso as Tank, who carries the bulk of the movie, CRAWL OR DIE manages to be more than its influences. Written and Directed by the fantastically named Oklahoma Ward and co-produced and conceived by star and producer Nicole Alonso CRAWL OR DIE manages to, transcend its inspirations, to feel fresh and be a surprisingly compelling 91 minutes of film.

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Ostensibly a monster movie it becomes for star and audience something of an endurance test, filled as it is with moments of repetition, belly-gazing, and frustration,,, but mostly it is about the will of Man or in this case Woman… to survive. An addictive tale of endurance, and the will to go on, and it doesn’t hurt that you have the fine form of Nicole Alonso to follow through those tunnels (while unlikely someone would strip down to their underwear to crawl through a tunnel, having watched the movie, I for one am quite supportive of the decision :) ).

Add to that a well done creature design, a definite call to the designs of HR Giger, immersive sound design, and an unusual and frenetic title/credit sequence and you have a movie deserving of being far more well known and well seen than it is.

This is the type of film that is a great reason for DVDs and Blurays to still exist in the age of streaming, because yes I saw it for free on Amazon Prime, but I immediately wanted to own this in the best quality available, complete with Director’s and cast commentary, and special features; because for me, and others, documenting the the process can be as interesting (and sometimes moreso) as the movie.

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Unfortunately CRAWL AND DIE currently has no such DVD/Blu-Ray version, and it is indicative of a failing of the industry, companies releasing these bare-bone DVDs without special features. As a rule I do not buy DVDs unless they have director’s commentary and special features.

I think these small independent film productions (such as this or FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY, BLOOD GLACIER, THE ARROYO, CUT TO BLACK, PRAYER TO A VENGEFUL GOD, THE VALDEMAR LEGACY, AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR, THE FORBIDDEN GIRL) are doing themselves a disservice by not mining the, if not large, passionate and influential DVD/Blu-Ray aficionado market, as well as providing for posterity a little bit of documentation of the process and promotion/aggrandizement of their cast and crew.

That aside CRAWL OR DIE (far better than the other, more offensive, title that early on was bandied about for it), potentially the first in a trilogy… comes strongly Recommended. Grade: B+.

For those of you who want to try before you buy go here:

Crawl or Die Streaming

For those of you like me who like the permanence of physical media (not needing access to the cloud to view a given film, or being at the mercy of data throttling) go here:
Crawl Or Die DVD

Movie Original vs Remake : THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976) VS THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (2014)

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I recently watched the original THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN FROM 1976 and to my surprise rather than a simple exploitation film, I found a compelling, harrowing, and somehow (despite it’s matter of fact “pseudo documentary” style) eminently watchable film. An unexpected examination into the American heart of darkness that manages to linger and haunt long after the credits role.

I really had no interest in the 2014 ‘remake’, largely because I saw it incapable of transcending that original film’s “of its time” power. Thankfully the filmmakers had the same respect for the original and rather than attempting to remake it, they created an unexpected sequel to it that manages to speak to a 21st century audience, while invoking the unyielding ghost of that 20th century nightmare.

However, the true saving grace and the the true validation of this sequel lies in its director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who creates one of the most stylish and inventively directed thrillers of recent years.

And even though the film falters a bit at the end (you get the feeling the scriptwriters didn’t really know how to end the film, as the reveal and conclusion stumble a bit, in a way the original film didn’t), still the momentum that Alfonso delivers is enough to leave you impressed and satisfied.

Final Grade: Both films are available for streaming [The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)] and both are worthy of owning, but the one that I am personally excited about adding to my Blu-Ray collection (when it hopefully quickly becomes available) is the Alfonso Gomez-Rejon version, simply because of some of the superlative direction and cinematography involved. It is the calling card of a filmmaker to watch.

Scratch that. Having seen the specs on the Shout! Factory Blu-ray version of the original THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, and its load of special features, I now proudly proclaim it as a must own Blu-Ray. For all the dazzle that the newer film offers, there are moments of pure horror in the first film that it does not come close to touching. One attack in particular, in the original film, will stick with you, about a woman and a cornfield and its unbelievable outcome, that is simply jaw dropping in its true life power, and makes pale in comparison some of the cinematic histrionics of the newer film. Decide for yourself here: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (BluRay/DVD Combo) [Blu-ray]

VOD Amazon Prime Movie of the Day! LIFE TRACKER (2013) – Surprisingly Effective Found Footage Films!


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Joe McClean’s LIFE TRACKER from 2013, in a sea of Video On Demand disappointments is that rarest of things… worth your time.

More than that, this tale of a ‘man on the street’ view of a new technology that potentially has staggering implications for human existence, is one of the strongest of an often derided genre, the found footage film.

I personally am not a fan of Found Footage Films, I think most of the Paranormal Activity’s are awful, and I found BLAIR WITCH and CLOVERFIELD and APOLLO 18 worthless, and SACRAMENT a disappointment. However, LIFE TRACKER thankfully joins the list of movies that get it right, films like the first REC, TROLLHUNTER, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3, 1st GRAVE ENCOUNTERS, EUROPA REPORT and FRANKENSTEIN THEORY.

Intelligent and original, well acted and well directed, and using the camera conceit effectively (not always keeping subjects in frame, pointing the camera at the ground. Realistic touches without the shaky cam, or other nonsense, that gets in the way of telling a coherent story) LIFE TRACKER is currently showing on Amazon Prime, but this is a film definitely deserving of a full blown DVD or BLu-Ray release with Director’s and cast commentary.

Grade: Strongly Recommended

Movie of the Day : THE ARROYO (2014)

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THE ARROYO (2014)- It took a couple attempts for me to make it through this one, I’m glad I did. While the beginning may not quite grab you (both the title and the description of it is a bit ambiguous if you come across it like I did on Amazon Prime), I would urge you to stick with it. Writer, Producer, and first time Director Jeremy Boreing has created a film that starts humbly and builds into something that is not only worthy of your time… but will demand it.

The Western is an oft eulogized genre, yet for all these premature burials, yet does it rise. The West and the western is as much a state of mind as a locale, and it lives deep and long in Boreing’s THE ARROYO.

If you are a fan of television’s LONGMIRE or film’s NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MAN you’ll find yourself in welcome company with the ARROYO’s Jim Weatherford, played with a laconic grace by Kenny Maines; but make no mistake Boreing’s THE ARROYO is very much its own animal, exploring darker questions of the lawlessness at our borders and perhaps the culpability of the American political process, and the measure of courage.

A riveting watch, and strongly recommended. This is one I want to purchase the Blu-Ray for, with director’s commentary. And that’s the compliment of a great film, that despite getting to see it for free (courtesy of Amazon Prime) you are still inspired to own it on Blu-Ray!

Give it a watch, you may feel the same.

INSANE (2010) – Amazon Prime Streaming VOD Movie Review

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INSANE- A 2010 film by directors Anders Jacobsson & Tomas Sandquist, INSANE makes the most of its single location setting, wringing for the most part passioned performances from its nubile young actresses and quirky actors and marrying that to some effective and creepy camera work and one of the more demented boogie men since Hitchcock’s Norman Bates.

However I have no interest in seeing women butchered, I’m not a slasher fan, I’m a mystery/thriller fan… so around the 2nd butchered girl, I’m losing interest in this film. I want to fast forward to the comeuppance of the villain. But thankfully the pattern breaks slightly with the third girl which keeps me watching to the end.

Unfortunately it is a distasteful ending, to a distasteful movie. The movie is better directed and performed than most slashers, unfortunately it succumbs to the slasher rule of super-powered killer, and moronic brain dead victims. This movie goes so far as to try to make the bad guy ‘relate-able’ by given him the worn back-story, ‘I was traumatized as a child’. As if that is ever an excuse for being a detestable adult yourself.

I despise these movies where the slasher is made the hero, some franchise character; which is why I was never a fan of the Halloween or Friday the 13th Films, The first Halloween is great, but they should have stopped there.

Another failing of INSANE is its over reliance on gore. I think the filmmaker is very effective at creating a creepy atmosphere, and effective stalk and chase scenes, but I feel this all goes out the window when he needs to play to the bloodhounds by giving us ever more egregious examples of the destroyed human form.

As someone who thinks the human form is beautiful and a work of art and a fragile achievement, I don’t relate to seeing people destroyed or dead rather than alive. That’s not the draw of a roller coaster, mangled bodies and twisted piles of steel after a crash; the draw of a roller-coaster is the chase, and the momentum, and the perilous high of the unknown and slightly out of control. And that’s the same draw of a good thriller/horror movie.

People remember the shower scene in PSYCHO because it’s a beautifully photographed, masterfully directed moment of madness, redeemed from mundaneness by surreal, stylistic direction. We watch films to see the work of filmmakers, and throwing blood and guts at the screen does not a filmmaker make.

There is nothing in INSANE, while definitely inspired by PSYCHO, that will be remembered as vividly or hauntingly as PSYCHO.

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However INSANE has moments of style and perspective that try to elevate it from the usual brain-dead slasher flick but these moments get aborted with the distasteful gore scenes. And the ending is more of this copycat ode to murderers as supermen killers that get away with it.

That concept, ‘villains winning’, never appealed to me. Never will. I know life is filled with examples of villains winning, however art should be better than that. I was raised to believe in Justice, and at the very least Crime and Punishment.

I was raised to believe in Heroes, people who are there to rescue maidens from dragons, which why for me Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER is a far superior movie to Demme’s SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and why I have nothing but distaste for the HANNIBAL tv show.

I think the things we glorify as a society are the things we become. I’ve always believed in glorifying heroes, however in our DEXTER, SHIELD, HANNIBAL, BATES MOTEL, VIKINGS generation we get the opposite of that. And don’t get me started on VIKINGS(they went around murdering, torturing, raping, and stealing, largely from unarmed villages and settlements, yet now we have a show that darts completely around this to portray Vikings as sensitive, women’s lib supporting, misunderstood mariners. Mendacity. The effing Vikings made the Nazis look benign, yet we have a TV show glorifying and whitewashing them).

INSANE is part of that cinema geared to the morality of monsters, and that is its greatest weakness. INSANE has moments of true creativity, but by the end it is in strict formula territory.

By the end of INSANE I wasn’t better for watching it, and if the thing you spend over an hour of your life watching doesn’t in someway elate or enrich you, than what the hell is the point.

Summation [and possible spoilers]: A good cast and some effective camera work, let down by a derivative script and moronic ending. Less concern with making a super powered franchise character and more concern with making a good film would have served this movie well. Yeah when we get the upper-hand over a murdering maniac is the time to worry about our relationship. Really? It is brain dead lapses like this that ultimately makes this a waste rather than a winner. Grade: D.

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Where are they Now: As of this writing the directors have not done another movie. Of the cast, David Lenneman (Fred in the Swedish series REAL HUMANS), Alida Morberg, and Lars Bethke have had sporadic bit parts since, with most of the cast doing nothing since.

Streaming VOD DVD : Director & Movie of the Day — DEFIANCE by Edward Zwick

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Edward Zwick, the master of the sprawling, thrilling, heartfelt epic, continues his home-run streak with 2008’s DEFIANCE. One of Zwick’s older films, it recently made its appearance on Netflix streaming, and only today made my viewing list.

Following in the footsteps of other Zwick masterpieces such as GLORY, COURAGE UNDER FIRE, LEGENDS OF THE FALL, and LAST SAMURAI, the film DEFIANCE follows his pattern of expertly mythologizing moments of our history, thereby creating visual ballads of those places where we stand up. And like those aforementioned movies, DEFIANCE manages to both rouse and move. Highly recommended. Grade: B+/A-.

All of the Edward Zwick movies named are highly recommended. Most are available on streaming so you can try before you buy, but the films are clinics on film-making, and should be owned for the commentaries as well as being able to see the movies in the best quality available.

Movie of the Day : David Twohy’s BELOW!!

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‘Oh what a tale I have to tell
of those who went to heaven
and those who went to hell’
—anon


I love when the beginning of a movie makes me go “who the hell directed this??!” in a good way. The first few seamless shots in this film are incredibly impressive, some really lovely camera movements and use of closeups. A showcase for fantastic camerawork and lighting

Forget HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, this is one of the most impressive and tense submarine movies. I’ve seen my share of submarine movies and I’ve never seen one as visually impressive or stylistically intriguing. And it stars Bruce Greenwood who always gives an excellent performance.

The whole cast is uniformly strong in this unusual and slightly preternatural thriller set upon a submarine during a time of war. Directed brilliantly by David Twohy and written by Twohy as well as, the also acclaimed, Darren Aronofsky. Try it on Netflix for free, and when ready to own it get the 2003 DVD with the sought after audio commentary at the link below. Final grade: Highly Recommended!

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