Dec 4, 2013

Recipes for the Big Fella

A few days ago, our pal the Chef posted a recipe for a spicy lamb stew.  It was one of those recipes that I
knew I had to make immediately. I remarked that it seemed like more of a chili than a stew, so I made some slight changes to the recipe.
  • I couldn't find the particular chorizo that I wanted, so I went with a lamb merguez sausage instead. Very mild, but with an incredible taste. 
  • Since it "felt" like a chili to me, I couldn't help but add a can of peeled San Marzano tomatoes. 
Besides those small changes, I was pretty faithful to the original. And it came out delicious! The lamb shoulder and sausage offered a much, much different flavor than any chili I have ever made or tasted before. Gia called it her very favorite chili, but she's been known to do that before.

Looking tasty with a dollop of sour cream
By the way, if you aren't reading Chef's blog, fucking should be. Great recipes, great stories, great commenters (if I do say so meeself). You'll be a better soul for having visited, I can assure you.

He mentioned wanting some of my own recipes. So I thought I would go back in the blog logs and post links to all my old recipes. Enjoy or don't at your own risk. Cheers!

Phew! I feel like I'm missing some. I KNOW I'm missing some. And I still have a bunch of recipes and food porn that I haven't gotten around to posting just yet. Seems as if I've been posting my food porn pics on Instagram without sharing the recipes over here. Sinner. It'll happen. One of these days.

By the way, I have 46 (now 47) posts that mention bacon. Is that a lot? Nah....

Nov 18, 2013


Following Dave's lead, I'm jumping on the "Things You Don't Know About Me" meme thingy. And, as Dave did, I'm making no promises that I'm not repeating anything I've shared here before. Because I've been doing this for around eight years now and I can barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday. So here goes:
  1. I seriously considered a career in the military when I was younger. Seems like a total disconnect to the neo-hippie persona that I foster nowadays, especially my disdain of guns. But I was "this close" to signing up for a career in the Navy when I was in High School. Like scary close. My dad was a Navy guy, but not a lifer. I just had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Even did a year of ROTC (Reserve Officer's Training Corps) once I got to college. Backed out right at the point where I was going to have to sign on. I'm sure I made the right choices, but I always wonder were that other path would've led. 
  2. All that being said, military funerals really affect me. Went to one last Friday for a gentlemen that I didn't even know served. Turns out he was a WWII vet, although I don't think he ever saw combat. It all ended while he was still in training, I believe. My father had a military funeral as well. He was in the Navy on a carrier during the Korean War, but he never saw any direct combat either. Good. Kinda ensured that I would be here to fill out this silly meme, ya know?
  3. School and I didn't mix well. I was an awful student even though I managed to get decent grades. If I just applied myself, it would have been a much more awarding exercise. But I knew it wasn't for me. Several years out of college, a friend got me to help her study for the GMATs, which was the test you needed to take at that time to get into Graduate School for your Master's Degree. I helped her out and wound up taking the test with her. Which led me to take several courses at a local university for my MBA. But I felt like I got nothing out of it, so I never finished my degree. Again, I think I made the right choice, but I still wonder.
  4. That disdain for schooling translated in an related inability to teach things to people. It's why I was an awful boss for so many years. I struggled with understanding why my subordinates couldn't just "do the job" without me spending what seemed to be endless time teaching them the job. And when I get frustrated with people for not understanding things that came easily to me, I took it out on them and wound up doing triple the work myself. I probably would be better at it now, but I'm no longer a corporate drone. I hope I would be better at it now.
  5. That friend I helped with the GMATs also wanted me to take scuba lessons with her. We had a modest flirtation that never went anywhere, couldn't go anywhere for many reasons. But she knew I had/have this phobia of the ocean, so she signed us up. On the day of the first lesson, I bailed. Just didn't want to do it. So she goes and is "buddied up" with some guy who was there alone as well. They become involved, he ruins her life and then they get married. Yeah, I got the order correct there. She STILL married him after he fucked her over badly. The pattern continues. I don't regret not going on with the scuba lessons myself, but I often wonder how different HER life would have been. But since I have no idea how her life is now, I try not to think about it all that often.
  6. I like to think about traveling more than I like the actual experience itself. Don't get me wrong, I like being in interesting places that I've never been before. But the process of getting from point A to point B at any given time is something I've come to despise. So much so that it definitely affects my desire to experience new places and things. Maybe I'm just bitter that personal transporter devices haven't been invented yet. Yup...definitely bitter. 
  7. In my heart, I've always wised that I worked with my hands for a living rather than pushing a pencil or tapping on a keyboard. I'm not handy around the house at all, but I occasionally break down and get something done on my own. A ceiling fan installed, a light fixture replaced (kind of the same thing), some minor plumbing. And when I do those things, I feel more pride than anything I've done for my actual job all week long. It's not something I can really change. I've tried some wood-working and metal-working in the past, but I just don't have it in me.
  8. There are, however, several things I can do better than anyone else I've ever met. I'll just leave it at that.
  9. I have no idea how many things I should come up with for this list.
  10. I turned 47 today. But some of you already knew that. :)

Oct 31, 2013

Day 31: The Conjuring (2013)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

Edit: This review is going to be old by then, but it's a part of Stacie Ponder's Final Girl Film Club. So...yay!?! Deal with it, kids. 


I DID IT! I DID IT! I DID IT! And I'm not talking about making a poopie. I watched and reviewed 31 new (to me) horror flicks in 31 days. Actually, I started watching and reviewing them in the last week of September to give myself a head-start. Needed it too. Phew!

I saved the biggest horror flick of the year for last. James Wan's The Conjuring, rented on Amazon Instant in HD.  Based on the occult investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren into the haunting of the Perron family by a witch in the early 1970's.

Guys, I just love the 1970's. Everything about the decade. The clothes, the cars, the music (well, Death Before Disco), the sideburns and, of course, all the kooky satanic stuff. Have you noticed that the 1970's had more "based on a true story" demonic possession crap going on than any decade since? Even this film, which was released just this year, takes place in the funky demonic 1970's. One of the biggest reasons why the 1970's rocks my glitter socks off.

Truck-driving man Ron Livingstone (huh?) moves his wife (Lili Taylor) and their five daughters to a run-down old farmhouse in New England. Five fucking daughters!!! Jesus Christ, man! That's a whole lotta estrogen going on right there. Maybe a demonic possession wouldn't be such a bad thing, if you think about it. And wouldn't you know it...that's one of the added perks to this joint that they just got at auction. Ghosts, demons, witches, hidden rooms. Better than a two-car garage or a third bathroom, if you ask me. 

Back In 1976, my family packed up and moved to an old scary house in a new scary town. Seriously, it looked like the Marsten House from 'Salem's Lot. That big old thing had a hidden bookcase passageway, a tower (a fucking tower!) and the scariest cellar ever seen by mankind. You couldn't pay me to go down into that cellar. We were only there for about a year and a half, and I think I went down in that cellar once. Just once. The general upkeep and taxes on the house were enormous and my folks just couldn't afford it. But man, oh was like living in the creepiest haunted house ever right during my formative years. Except that we didn't have one rotten incident of paranormal spookiness. Not a peep or poop. Which is a good thing, I guess.

Because if I had to have dealt with even a fraction of what the family in this film went through in their first two days in their home...well, I'd probably be dead right now. Holy fuck! This is one scary flick, kids. I'm going to leave my review vague on purpose. This is one of those films that you're better off knowing as little as possible going in. But I can say that it brought the horror. Well done all around.

The only thing that is keeping me from giving The Conjuring 5 full pumpkins was the ending. Don't get me wrong, it was fine. But everything that led up to the ending was balls to the wall. Whereas the ending was merely balls to about three feet from the wall. Just didn't seem thorough or final enough. And in the day and age when popular horror flicks get sequels approved before the opening weekend is even over...well, I guess I'm not surprised. But when compared to some classic films like The Exorcist, the climax just left me wanting more. Which we'll get in The Conjuring 2: Annabella Boogaloo*. I'm just spit-balling at a title here.

*Although I would enjoy a full movie on the Annabella doll. Fucking creepy dolls...

Verdant Dude rating: 4 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 30, 2013

Day 30: The Road (2011)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

It's the penultimate day of October 2013, and we are reviewing our 30th film of the month. That's the royal "we". I just love the word "penultimate", it always makes me think of this. OK, in that clip Simon and Hecubus were in the Pit of Ultimate Darkness, but trust me...there was one episode that came from the Pit of Penultimate Darkness. Apparently there was a pit that was just slightly darker than that one. Where were we, the royal "we"? Ah, yes...

The Road is not the film based on the Cormac McCarthy novel that you are all thinking of. Nope, this is an independent horror film out of the Philippines. My very first Filipino horror flick, I believe. The story of the film is told in three parts. In Part I, which takes place in 2008, we see a police officer receive a commendation even though his commander thinks he takes too many chances. A woman approaches him and asks him to look into the 12-year old cold case of her missing daughters. They went missing in 1998, so unless they do math differently in the Philippines the current year should be 2010. Hmm...

Warning: if you plan on watching this on Netflix, as I am doing, you may find yourself too annoyed at the subtitles to even continue on with the film at this point. Despite some of it being in heavily-accented English, there are basically two sets of subtitles going on along the bottom of the screen. Sometimes saying two slightly different things. I'm a subtitle freak, so I actually didn't mind it. But I can see how someone would. Fair warning.

Remaining in present time, the action moves to a teenaged girl who sneaks out at night with her cousin and her cousin's boyfriend. They borrow her aunt's car so that the boy can teach the girls how to drive for their upcoming driving exams. They find an isolated stretch of road, and we all know that nothing bad ever happens on isolated stretches of road. They keep getting passed by a red car that appears to have no driver. Bad supernatural shit happens.

Our police officer from the beginning of the film is a part of the crew investigating what happened. He finds a connection to the missing girls from 12 (or 10) years ago. And the film now moves to 1998 to tell their story as their disappearance occurred on the same isolated stretch of road. Then it winds up in 1988 to tell the first/last part of the tale.

This a dark and brutal film. And more than a little confusing, especially with the language and subtitle issues. The second act, in particular, was difficult to slog through. Seemed...pointless at the time. And long. Only to be sorta explained by the third act. But it was atmospheric and well-made, for the most part. Just feels like they could have tightened things up a little bit as it felt like it ran long. Recommended, but only if you have patience for this kind of thing. Or if you make some kind of promise to review 31 never-before-seen horror films in a month like I did. Ultimately, I found the ending to be rewarding. But I don't think many of you will make it that far.

Verdant Dude rating: 3 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 29, 2013

Day 29: V/H/S/2 (2013)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

I don't get it. I really don't. I was going to begin this review (V/H/S/2 is streaming on Netflix, be tee dubs) with a link to my review of the first V/H/S film from 2012. I know I wrote it. I mean, I just know it. I remember sitting down and telling y'all how much y'all were gonna love it. How much I loved it. Well, most of it. Or half of it. I forget. I know I loved several of the segments while several others were just meh. But I've checked and re-checked...and that review just doesn't exist. Or maybe it's a Halloween mystery disappearance thing. Yeah...maybe some evil force deleted my review and replaced it with a post about my cats, or baseball, or food or bourbon. I'm going with that.

Speaking of bourbon, let me go pour myself a big one before I start this bad boy.

There. Much better.

Like the first film, V/H/S/2 is a horror anthology film. A series of non-related (?) short films captured on grainy VHS film. Each segment is written and directed by a different person, none of whom you've probably heard of besides Eduardo Sánchez of The Blair Witch Project fame. I'm a big fan of horror anthologies. I could point you to my review of the first film in this series as proof, but...let's stop talking about that. Instead, I'll do a mini-review of each segment. One quick paragraph each. Yay!

Tape 49 - This segment frames the entire film from the beginning through the conclusion. Following two private investigators who are searching for a missing college student. They break into his apartment and find a bank of television sets and VHS tapes. They begin to watch the tapes (each subsequent segment), and we are off to the races. A necessary conceit to the nature of horror anthology films, but the final portion of the segment has some genuine scares.

Verdant Dude rating: 2.5 out of 5 pumpkins

Phase I: Clinical Trials - A man is a test subject for an artificial eye implant after losing it in a car accident. Since this is a clinical trial, the doctor has set the artificial eye to record everything. The man begins to witness some paranormal shit almost immediately. It seems that this cyborg technology can enhance a person's senses when it comes to that sixth one. Kind of a cool concept, especially when a like-implanted busty young thing comes to visit him and explain the visions. Boobs.

Verdant Dude rating: 3 out of 5 pumpkins

A Ride in the Park - A man sets out for a ride on his mountain bike through the woods with cameras attached to the bike and his helmet to record the experience. He encounters a woman in distress and a shambling zombie horde. She turns and gets all bitey-bitey with him. Which, in turn, makes him all bitey-bitey. First person zombie action! A real interesting take on supposed zombie behavior. Loved it!

Verdant Dude rating: 4 out of 5 pumpkins

Safe Haven - An Indonesian news crew is investigating a local cult whose leader/Father has allegedly been sleeping with the children of the cult members as a part of its purity rituals. The woman in the news crew is engaged to one of the other members of the crew and pregnant with the child of another. Ruh-row. That baby and the news crew have something to do with fulfilling the cult's ultimate prophecy. Well-done and stylish, with several of the most brutal on-screen deaths I've ever seen filmed. The second half of this segment was bat-shit insane!

Verdant Dude rating: 5 out of 5 pumpkins

Slumber Party Alien Abduction - Filmed from the perspective of some young teenagers playing practical jokes on their older sister and her friends at a weekend sleepover at an isolated lake house. The hi-jinx are interrupted by an attack from some grey-skinned aliens with all the action being recorded by camera attached to the collar of the family terrier. And they are not of the friendly ET variety. Fox Mulder would have a field day with this footage. The truth is out there, but it's a bit more goofy than scary. Easily the weakest (and loudest) of the segments.

Verdant Dude rating: 2 out of 5 pumpkins

Overall, I'd say it was a slight upgrade to the first film. Both had their great and not-so-great segments. For me, the weakest segments in each film had to do with aliens. So let's leave those out of the third film okay directors? So let's see, if my math is correct, we are left with this:

Aggregate Verdant Dude rating: 3.3 out of 5 pumpkins

Update: A second viewing of the first film has made me realize that I kind of hated it. Extremely misogynistic and hateful. Too much with rapey-rapey guys and awful people you would never root for. Same can't be said of the second film. The idiot teens in the alien segment were bad, but not rape bad. So I would say BIG improvement over the first film. 

Oct 28, 2013

Day 28: Salvage (2009)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

I'm saving the one good horror flick available for rent on Amazon Instant for Day 31, so I'm back to the freebie (with subscription) offerings on Netflix. As a real low-budget British horror flick, Salvage got some decent reviews back when it first came out in 2009.

The action takes place around Liverpool where a shipping container has washed ashore leaving three dead bodies in it's wake causing speculation and fear within the community. What's in the box? What's in the boxxxxxxx?!? Ahem. A man is taking his 14-year old daughter to his ex-wife's home for the Christmas Holiday. She lives in a soon-to-be-isolated cul-de-sac. Lots of dashes right there for you. The angry young lady walks in on her mother having a shag and stomps off even angrier. Can't say I blame her, but nice body on the mum. I said it.

Soon we see military helicopters and special forces soldiers invade the neighborhood where they shoot a raving foreigner wielding a meat cleaver. Something is most definitely afoot in the cul-de-sac. And the mobile phone signals are all out. The street's residents are thinking terrorist attack or something, but none of it makes sense. What was in the the shipping container? Is it a virus, or maybe some kind of monster? We shall see.

I loved the homes with the connected attics in the film. That right there is some scary shit. Your next-door neighbor could literally kill you in your sleep by sneaking through your attic. Poor security feature.

All in all, a taut little horror film that ran by quickly at just 75 minutes. Great, if not original ending too. And fierce acting job all-around by Neve McIntosh as the mother. Dig,

Verdant Dude rating: 3 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 27, 2013

Day 27: Jug Face (2012)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

Back to the well with Amazon Prime Instant. But only because this is a new release, and because it's named Jug Face. C'mon...that's awesome! I don't even have a clue as to what it's about, and it's awesome. It's so awesome that I'm naming my first-born Jug Face. "C'mon little Juggy, time for dinner!"'s a good thing I decided never to have kids a long fucking time ago. Poor, little Jug Face would have gotten his ass kicked in recess every single day.

By the way, Jug Face is in no way associated with Juggalos. Juggalos are much, much more frightening.

Ah, backwoods country America...I love ya! Where young women are unwillingly joined in marriage to the awkward neighbor boy. Where local town-folk pray to the thing in the pit in the middle of the forest. Where personal hygiene is just as important as that high school diploma that you're never gonna get. Wouldn't want to live there, but boy-oh-chef-boyardee are they fun settings for horror flicks.

The young woman in question has been having sex with her brother (backwoods America!) prior to her unwanted betrothal. And remember that pit I was telling you about? Well, this slow-witted dude makes whiskey jugs from clay (backwoods America!) featuring the face of one of the town-folk. And if it's your face on that jug you get sacrificed to the pit-thing. Guess who's face wound up on that whiskey jug? Nothing is going well for this young lady. So she hides her brotherly lust along with the jug.

But the pit-thing must be appeased. Without it's sacrifice, it awakens and it starts a'killing. The slow-witted jug maker apparently makes them in a state of ecstasy, so he has no idea whose face is on the jug or if he even made one. It's quite the conundrum for these simple, pit-fearing folk. And that's when the fun begins.

One big problem I had with the film was the awful special effects that high-lighted the "shunned people". The shadowy light that surrounded them looked like something out of Star Trek. From the 1960's. Yeah, it was bad and unnecessary. Besides that it was okay. I mean, it started off strong. Real strong. Country strong. But it just didn't sustain that strong start over the second and third acts. Interesting concept and well-acted, but ultimately disappointing.

Yet, something has stuck with me with this film. I went back and watched several scenes over again after my first viewing. It really was such a great concept. Maybe I'll like it more on subsequent viewings.

Verdant Dude rating: 2.5 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 26, 2013

Day 26: Sinister (2012)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

I feel a little like Randal from Clerks at this point in the month. Tired of all the crappy offerings at my own video store (aka HBO Go, Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant). "I work in a shitty video store! I wanna go to a good video store so I can get a good movie!" That's how I feel. So I've resorted to possibly paying for my movies for these last five days of the month. Tonight, rented in HD from Amazon Instant, we have last year's Sinister. A film I've heard good things about. Fingers and other body parts crossed...

LOVED the pre-title card scene. Some ghostly Super-8 footage of ghostly shenanigans involving a family of four getting hung from an old tree. Very well done. Flash-forward to the present, we see a new family moving into the home of the murdered family. The new family consisting of a disgraced crime writer with his wife and two kids. Senator Fred Thompson, playing the local sheriff, stops by to be all disapproving Fred Thompson on the writer's ass. The small town doesn't need any further publicity about those old murders. Whatever.

And we find out that his wife has no idea about the home's past. Apparently, he has moved his family in the past to houses a few doors down from other crime scenes. She asks if he has done it again (you would think she would ask BEFORE moving), and he replies that he hasn't. Technically true...they aren't a few houses away from a crime scene. This is most definitely a bad idea.

The writer, a Speaker for the Dead (look it up), has found a box of old Super-8 films in the attic. Murdered families doing murdered family things. A handful of families going back decades. They include the scene we saw before the title-card of the family being hung. And there is something...sinister about them. Too soon? We discover that the writer wants to find out the whereabouts of the missing fifth member of the murdered family. A 10-year old girl named Stephanie. That's what his book is going to be about.

Lots of creepy shit happens. The writer's daughter is an aspiring artist and she begins to draw creepy shit. The writer's son starts experiencing night-terrors right after moving into the house. Night-terrors about creepy shit. That first one is crazy as fuck too! Great scene. And then there are those films. Just filled to the brim with creepy shit. All seemingly normal family stuff at first. Then they turn into the stuff of nightmares straight outta Hell. A man could go insane seeing evil like that.

A half-hour in, it feels a whole lot like an update of The Shining. Alcoholic disgraced writer father, unsuspecting mother, kids with "gifts", an evil house and/or presence. It has all the earmarks. Jack Torrance had his typewriter, this guy has his MacBook Pro with all kinds of film editing tools. Is he going mad, or is there real evil afoot?

The film was genuinely frightening at times. And the mythology behind the story was pretty cool. Things are ramping up here toward the end of the month. Do it to it.

Verdant Dude rating: 3.5 out of 5 pumpkins (honestly this time)

Oct 25, 2013

Day 25: House (2007)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

I was getting tired of the offerings on HBO Go, Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant so I decided to see what Crackle had available for streaming. The answer: not much. But I've seen this film available at various times over the years, and I've always assumed it was the comedy/horror from the 1980's featuring William Katt and one of the gang from Cheers. Or maybe that show on FOX with the dickhead doctor. On further inspection, it seems to be a part of the Michael Madsen Does Anything for a Buck Tourtm. This came out in 2007 and it's the 101st title on his IMDB page. Meaning he's done 100 titles SINCE he did this 6-7 years ago. This guy must have some huge drug habit to feed. Kids...I meant huge kids. Don't hurt me, Mr. Madsen!

My first bit of commentary is with Crackle itself. The movies are uncut, unedited (isn't that the same thing?) and FREE. They also feature a couple of minutes of commercials every 10 minutes or so. Booooring! This will most likely be my last Crackle experience. It's exactly why I hate Hulu Plus. Commercials are the devil!

This movie is gonna be bad. I know it's gonna be bad. And I'm going to hate the commercials. BUT, it's got Michael Madsen chewing up scenery AND the triumphant return of the pairing of Leslie Easterbrook and Bill Mosely from The Devil's Rejects! The cast alone is B-movie gold. I'm in. So let me just go pour myself a huge bourbon and we'll continue.

Two couples arrive by suspicious circumstances at an isolated farmhouse inn run by the creepiest family this side of the aforementioned Fireflys. They obviously come from a world in which "crazy serial killer family" movies don't exist, because there is literally NO WAY that anyone from this dimension would ever spend more than 20 seconds in that house. And the "crazy serial killer family" isn't all that these kids have to worry about. They are also being stalked by a local serial killer/urban legend named The Tin Man who may or may not be a part of the family. Who may or may not be undead of some variety. Who may or may not be part of some satanic cult.

There is A LOT going on in this kooky funhouse of a movie! And one of the commercials that just played was a PSA featuring two parents talking about their daughter that died from meningitis. She became sick on Tuesday and was gone on Wednesday. Holy fuck! Does that really happen? Way scarier than anything this movie could throw at us!

OK, so I really can't recommend this film. I just know you are going to hate it. But, in some sick and twisted way...I kinda loved it. It was a ridiculous smorgasbord of horror film tropes and it didn't really work, but I kinda loved it. Maybe that huge glass of bourbon helped.

Verdant Dude rating: 3.5 out of 5 utterly ridiculous pumpkins

Oct 24, 2013

Day 24: Mama (2013)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

Streaming on HBO Go. Got a big ole thumbs up recommendation on this one from a friend of mine. And Guillermo del Toro is involved as Executive Producer. So are actors Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones!!!). I'm stoked!

During the financial crisis of 2008, a man murders his wife and his business partners before escaping with his two young daughters. He crashes their vehicle on an isolated, icy road and they wind up in what appears to be an abandoned Cabin in the Woodstm. The distraught man plans on killing his girls and then taking his own life (fucking coward!), but he's stopped and killed by some unseen force (Mama!). An unseen force (Mama!) that begins to take care of the young girls in his absence. Roll opening credits. Strong beginning.

After the credits roll, we see that five years have passed and the man's identical twin brother is leading the search for his missing brother and nieces. Some members of the search party finally find the girls in the cabin, but they are more feral beasts at this point than little girls. Some really creepy moments with them as these wild beast-things.

Their psychiatrist reveals his belief that the two girls created some make-believe mother figure (Mama!) to take care of them those five years that they were lost in the cabin. And that it is going to take years of therapy and love for them to finally move on with their young lives. He makes a recommendation to the court that they live with their uncle in rent-free home provided by his institute so that he can continue to study them and monitor their progress.

What is it about creepy kids that makes them so creepy? The younger one, in this case, is especially creepy. Her older sister still retains the ability to speak and remembers life before the cabin, but the younger one is not so lucky. She eats on the floor with her hands and sleeps under the bed and just generally does a bunch of fucked-up creepy kid shit. I was almost more creeped out by her than by Mama, almost. Mama is pretty fucking creepy.

Overall, an extremely solid and satisfying horror flick with some good performances. After you watch it, you may find yourself Googling something called Marfan Syndrome. I did, and I'm not really happy knowing that this is something that exists. Creeeee-P! See the [Rec] franchise for further enlightenment. Let's just say that there is not as much CGI going on with Mama as you would like to believe.

And for those of you fellas just interested in some eye-candy (or you ladies who are into that kind of thing) , Jessica Chastain as a tattooed punk rock hottie is a glory to behold. I'm a fan.

Verdant Dude rating: 4 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 23, 2013

Day 23: Devil (2010)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

Streaming on Netflix Instant.

I actually wrote about the trailer for this movie over three years ago. I promised that I would one day watch it, and here I am. Something something about being late to the game or something. You know the drill. I remember thinking that the trailer (which I haven't seen in 3+ years) was atmospheric and creepy. And thinking that doesn't mean jack squat most times. I mean, they're not going to work hard to make the trailer look crappier than the finished product, right? We've all been burned before. See that scar? That's from all the Star Wars prequels. Sigh...

Back to Devil. A group of seemingly random folks wind up on the same elevator in some tall office building in Philadelphia. It's Philadelphia ya see because the story was written by M. Night Shyamalan, and Mr. Shyamalan is very loyal to his hometown. Honestly, it doesn't really matter what city the building and elevator are in. All that's important is that the group of people aren't just in the elevator together. They're STUCK in the elevator together.

A recovering alcoholic detective is investigating a probable suicide. A jumper from the 35th floor of the building with our group of stranded elevator riders. There's an older woman, a douche-bag salesman, a security guard, a well-dressed younger woman and a mysterious stranger. And  in a classic horror flick twist, one of them isn't what they appear to be.

It looks as if one of our random group of strangers is, in fact, the Devil. Not "a devil" or "devilish" or a "lucky devil", but the real deal. The ultimate boogeyman. The Prince of Lies and/or Darkness. He's a baaaad mutha-fuc...shut yo mouth! That was my attempt at elevator Shaft humor. Get it? At this point there is only one person involved who suspects anything satanic going down. Another security guard who believes he saw something, er, satanic on the elevator video feed. He also did the voice-over during the film. Something he heard from his very religious grandmother. That the Devil will appear after someone commits suicide, fuck around with some folks and all Hell will break loose. Literally.

It's seems the Devil is playing a little morality game with our group of sinners. Everyone is hiding something, everyone is guilty and everyone is lying to themselves about...themselves. The almost-one location film works better as a mystery than I thought it would. All of the pieces fit together in the end, and it was worth the wait. Overall...pretty darn good. I mean EVIL!!!!

"Don't worry. If the Devil is real, then God must be real too."

***SPOILERS in the have been warned.***

Verdant Dude rating: 3 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 22, 2013

Day 22: The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (2012)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

Added bonus: This blog post is a part of Final Girl's Film Club. Check our Stacie Ponder's blog for other reviews of this film, and for cutting edge commentary on world politics. Or, ya know, other things.

Available on both Amazon Prime Instant and Netflix Instant. It's Instantly available, this instant! Go, go, GO!!!

I went into this flick having no freakin' idea what it was about. I was thinking ghosts or demonic possession, but I really had no clue. I did know that Vanessa Redgrave did the voice-over work, so I'm already horny. I said it.

An antiques dealer has inherited an old house from his recently deceased mother. The house is filled with all kinds of creepy and cool artifacts, something an antiques dealer should just adore. But it's the creepy factor that makes him uneasy. He soon discovers that his mother had turned her home into some kind of shrine for some kind of religious cult. And she is trying to reach out to him through some of the creepy items in the house to give him some kind of urgent message. We are off to the fucking races, folks.

I have a hard time disassociating myself with an actor that I've only seen in one other role. Aaron Poole stars in this one, and the only thing I've ever seen him in is the excellent series Copper from BBC America. He played a Confederate spy in that at the end of the American Civil War who conspired to burn down New York City. So I kept on thinking of him as that openly villainous type of character while I was watching this. It was a little distracting, for me. Maybe I just wanted him to die. Oops...

There are all these creepy angel statues all over the house and grounds. And I kept expecting them to all of a sudden open up their creepy statue eyes or something. Guess what happens? Spoiler alert: creepy statue eyes open. You see it coming from a mile away, and it's still creepy. Because creepy statue eyes are fucking creepy. I am hereby banned from using the word "creepy" any more in this review.

I don't know. The film seemed really short and without any kind of important ending or high point, but you can feel free to disagree. It was certainly well-made, but I'm not sure what the point of it really was. I was honestly expecting and hoping for more. As it is, it just left me...wanting. I think I get what really happened, or didn't happen. Didn't happen is the most likely theory, but you can decide that for yourself.

Best way to watch the film is in a dark house with a glass of good whiskey. Because you know the whiskey is gonna be good. The movie...well, I guess that's up to you.

Verdant Dude rating: 2 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 21, 2013

Day 21: Last Kind Words (2012)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

Streaming on Netflix Instant.

There's something about the backwoods of Kentucky, or Tennessee, or West Virginia, or really any place that has backwoods. They creep me the fuck out. I have this theory that there are all kinds of crazy shit that goes on in the backwoods. Like the deepest parts of the ocean, man hasn't fully explored these areas yet. Perfect setting for a horror movie. This one takes place in Kentucky, where a young man and his family have moved to work on a farm.

Brad Dourif plays the man who owns the farm, and if you are familiar with his work than you know that he brings the creep factor up to around eleven. But he's not the main character. That's the shy, abused boy who works the farm with his father and mother. He meets a young woman in the woods who knows a little too much about the hardships he's been through with his abusive father. Oh, and she likes to skinny-dip. Which is nice.

But she's as ghost, which sucks if you're a teenaged boy trying to get your freak on. Ghosts are notoriously hard to get. And fairly insubstantial once you do get them. Pretty much a zero-sum gain. We find out she was the sister of Brad Dourif, and the former childhood crush of the young man's father. I'm counting about four corners in that particular love triangle. Squares and triangles...they don't fit.

I'm getting a little tired of scary movies that aren't scary. This one is definitely not scary. It's atmospheric and kinda well-done, but not scary at all. Ultimately, it really wasn't worth watching.

Verdant Dude rating: 1.5 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 20, 2013

Day 20: Fingerprints (2006)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

Found on Amazon Prime Instant. It had a creepy no-eyes kid on the film poster, and that was enough for me. The film is based on an actual urban legend (or is that an oxymoron?) centered around San Antonio, Texas. The legend goes a little something like this: A school bus filled with children is killed in a collision with a train. Residents claim that if a driver stops their car in neutral on that same set of tracks, the ghosts of the children would push the vehicle to safety. Some even claim to have found tiny fingerprints on the their vehicles after it happened. I dunno. Seems like some pretty freaking benevolent ghosts. How are they going to make a horror movie out of that?

Call me skeptical.

I'm pretty sure they are using comic sans as the font for the opening credits. Looks more like the beginning of "Too Close For Comfort" or some other bad 80's sit-com than a top-notch horror film. Or a Lifetime Movie of the Week. Strike one and we are barely three minutes into the film. Not good.

Melanie is coming back home after a stint at rehab. She appears to have had exactly one bad experience with heroin which necessitated her trip to rehab. I guess one is all you need with heroin. I've got no idea, and I'm not going to find out. But she doesn't appear to be an addict of any kind.

Oh, no way...Geoffrey Lewis is in this as an old bum! Man, I actually met Geoffrey Lewis once back in the early 1980's. My best friend's cousin was his agent or publicist or something, and they both were at some party at my friend's parent's house. No one really knew who he was except me. He was Mike Ryerson from Salem's Lot fer crissakes! I can't believe he's playing bums in movies that look like they were made for basic cable. Strike two.

Melanie keeps on seeing one of the ghost kids from the bus crash legend. And there's a dicky guy with a faux-hawk who is clearly going to be the first one to die. And another guy who is just so dreamy that he only moves in slow-motion whenever Melanie sees him. He's probably a secret bad guy. And a bitchy cheerleader who was incredibly wasted when we get introduced to her, but it doesn't stop her from tormenting Melanie for her drug rehab stint by calling her a...freak. Shut yo mouth! She is going to die second. I may get the order of her and faux-hawk wrong*. Doesn't matter as I plan on drinking heavily through the rest of this crap-fest.

Fun facts: Lou Diamond Phillips was nominated for a Golden Globe for Stand and Deliver. Sally Kirkland won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Anna. What does this have to do with anything? Not much. Except that they are both in this piece of shit. A veritable case study in what happens on the downswing of so many Hollywood careers. Lesson learned. I think.

Oh...there's an actual killer someplace in this mess. And he or she is dressed up in what appears to be Revolutionary War garb. Or a train conductor. It's difficult to tell...but this bourbon sure tastes good. Might be time for bed.

Strike three. I'm out.

*I wasn't wrong in the order. You're welcome.

Verdant Dude rating: 0 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 19, 2013

Day 19: Howling (2012)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

Another South Korean horror flick! Yay! I don't know why I've passed this one up so many times when I've seen the title on Netflix Instant. And it stars the always amazing Kang-ho Song (The Host, The Good The Bad The Weird, Thirst)! I really couldn't be more psyched right now. Billed as a hybrid horror movie...something between a werewolf story and a serial killer story. That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!!!

Detective Sang-gil Jo is a cynical loner detective working on a mysterious case of a man who suddenly burned to death in his car. He's assigned a new partner, a young woman just off of her tour as a motorcycle patrol cop. He is none too happy with this situation. I'm sensing a little Lethal Weapon "I'm gettin' too old for this shit" drama coming on. Except the roles are reversed with the older detective being the hot-head.

The coroner on the case finds what appears to be a deep dog bite on the thigh of the burned victim. And traces of a new street drug called Hama in his urine. The detective's new partner doesn't believe that it was suicide, but rather a homicide. This is confirmed by the unit's CSI team. The man was wearing a belt laced with an accelerant with some kind of timer in the buckle. They also find out the he is involved in a prostitution ring, possibly involving minors. And from there, the game is afoot.

There are some shocking scenes of inter-personal violence that probably wouldn't fly with American audiences strewn through the film. The detective beats his teenaged son on the city streets when he finds him playing hooky from school. The new lead detective slaps the young woman detective in the face after it is revealed that she and her partner haven't reported new findings in their case of the burned victim yet. That one was particularly shocking, at least for me. The crap that the male detectives throw her way is truly awful to watch. Just for being an attractive woman in a man's world. It's unsettling to say the least. That's the point, of course. Still...hard to watch.

As for the "werewolf" portion of the movie...well, it wasn't a werewolf. But it was extremely well done and unique in the way that it was handled. The animal was a wolf/dog hybrid, and the attack scenes were truly difficult to watch and extremely realistic, with the animal viciously tearing its victim's throats. I honestly don't know how they were able to film them. Impressive animal actor there.

After sitting through it, I don't think there is any way that you could classify this film as horror, as there were no supernatural elements and the serial killer wasn't a serial killer. More of a revenge mystery type of film. Upsetting at times, heartbreaking at others. It was an extremely well done thriller.

Korean with English subtitles.

Verdant Dude rating: 4 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 18, 2013

Day 18: Lobos de Arga/Game of Werewolves (2011)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

I've seen this film in the horror section of HBO Go for quite some time now. Frankly, it looked ridiculous. Well, the screen-shot that they used for the film looked ridiculous. Then I started watching other films on HBO Go and I realized that they almost never use a screen-shot that is NOT ridiculous. So kudos to whatever sarcastic psycho is doing that for them. It doesn't say so in the brief description of the film on HBO, but it is billed as a horror-comedy in other places. OK, let's get down to it, boppers.

In a pre-credit bit o' comic-book-style exposition, we find out about what happened in the small town of Arga in rural Spain all those many moons ago. A desperate and blood-thirsty noblewoman, after failing in many attempts to get pregnant, becomes enamored with a traveling gypsy man who is in town with his crew putting on a show of some kind. He rebuffs her advances so she has him kidnapped and she takes his seed by force. She then leads her men in the murder of the entire gypsy camp, including the man's wife. But with her last breath, she curses the noblewoman and her offspring. Her son has a normal childhood, but at the age of ten the curse reveals itself and he becomes...da da DUM...a werewolf!!!

Fast-forward to present times, we see a young man traveling to his birthplace of Arga. He is an author of some sorts, and he believes the town has invited him back to celebrate him as a favorite son. But what they really want is to sacrifice him to the werewolf that has been terrorizing the town for 100 years. They believe that if the last male heir of the line is eaten by the wolf, the curse will end. If that doesn't happen, then the town will be cursed once more. This time something much, much worse.

But it's all shits and giggles, really. The townfolk aren't really up to the task, so to speak. And the man's bumbling friends and dog help him escape again and again. Even his grandmother gets into the act. Listen, it's no Shaun of the Dead. But it's not half-bad. I like how they went old-school with the werewolves. No CGI here, kids. Just a dude in a suit kinda looking like a modernized version of Michael Landon in I Was a Teenaged Werewolf. Without the super keen letterman jacket.

Lots of gags. Some of them work, some of them don't. In the end, it didn't really matter. It was a whole heap of fun wrapped up in a silly, little horror movie. Just don't expect it to make any sense at all. I mean, c''s a werewolf movie.

Be warned: it's in Spanish with English subtitles, and that might not be your bag.

Verdant Dude rating: 3 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 17, 2013

Day 17: Don't Look Now (1973)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

How is it possible that I haven't seen this film yet? I love 1970's horror with a capital LUV, and I have to admit to having seen at least one important scene is some collection of the greatest Horror Scenes of all-time someplace. But I've never sat down and watched it. Something I decided to correct when I saw it available on Amazon Prime Instant. The film was directed by Nicolas Roeg (The Man Who Fell to Earth) and based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier (The Birds), so it's got some serious semi-pretentious/artsy weight behind it as well. I'm stoked to see this.

Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie (1970's!!!) are a married couple dealing with the tragic accidental death of their young daughter. Sutherland's character has accepted a commission in Venice to restore an ancient church. They encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom is blind and claims to be clairvoyant. She tells Christie that she's seen her daughter and that she's happy. This naturally upsets the already distraught mother, causing her to faint. And Sutherland has been "seeing" his daughter as well. Or at least a small figure in a red rain slicker in a photo of the church he is restoring. In fact, he "saw" her there even right before her tragic accident. A bit of foreshadowing that came just a moment too late to save his daughter's life.

They keep seeing the creepy psychic sisters all over Venice. They claim that Sutherland has a bit of a psychic gift himself. Maybe that's why he knew their daughter was in trouble right before her death. He is skeptical, even as his wife feels the need to work out her grief with the sisters. They warn her that the couple needs to leave Venice. That something awful is going to happen. Again, Sutherland meets this prediction with skepticism. There's also a killer on the loose in the canals and streets of Venice. You know...just for kicks.

What follows is a psychological exercise of the affects of grief on those who have recently lost a loved one, especially a young child. There are supernatural elements to it, of course. It IS a horror film. But instead of over-the-top frights, we are given a slow and often confusing glimpse in the lives of thee characters. Confusing because of the inconsistencies of spatial time employed by Nicolas Roeg. They are used to throw the viewer off-kilter and to mimic the confusion associated with psychic precognition.

I guess I should mention the famous and infamous sex scene between Sutherland and Christie. Graphic and a bit artsy, cutting between shots of the the couple having sex and later getting dressed for a night out. Roeg had to cut several frames out of the scene to avoid an X-rating. And there were persistent rumors that that two actors actually had real sex on camera, rumors that Sutherland and others later denied adamantly. But it was skillfully done and something you don't see in movies of that era very often. Or any era, for that matter.

It's atmospheric, entertaining and creepy as all hell. Exactly what I was hoping it would be. I don't think it's for everyone, but if you dig psychological horror, Venice or the 1970's then you may enjoy it as much as I did.

Verdant Dude rating: 4 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 16, 2013

Day 16: House at the End of the Street (2012)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

For some reason, I thought this was a remake of a horror film from the 1970s. Turns out I was thinking of Last House on the Left, which was Wes Craven's first film that was remade in 2009. Nope...this is an original (hmmm?) horror film starring Jennifer Lawrence. I had no idea. It's been sitting there on my Netflix Instant queue, waiting for me for months. Let's remedy this situation right now!

Newly divorced Elizabeth Shue and her daughter, Lawrence, move to a beautiful new home in a wooded area that just happens to be right next door to a house where a double-murder occurred several years before. And the killer was never caught. Just ran off into the woods where the town assumed she died in a river or something. That's why the house is so inexpensive. I'm sure this is going to turn out okay for them. Things like that usually do in horror films.

It's not too long before our young heroine is walking home in the rain in the dark and she accepts a ride home from the killer's brother who is supposedly living alone in his family's home. Because, sure...not creepy at all. And right after nearly getting raped by the supposed "nice guy" in town. She's an entire smorgasbord of great decisions at this point.

As it turns out, the young woman who we think killed her parents is locked in the basement of her home being cared for by her oh-so-not-creepy brother. He makes her chicken soup and shoots her up with sedatives. Not so bad if you ask me. He explains that she suffered some brain damage when she was very young while he was playing with her and their parents were getting high on crack or something inside. Lots of ways this film can go from here, right?

Except there's not. You'll see the big twist coming from about a million miles away. At least I hope you will. Or maybe you'll read this review and you won't. God, I hope you read this review and you won't. And there was still like a half-hour of crappy movie left after it was (derp), revealed!

Just think, Jennifer Lawrence did this crap-fest, Silver Linings Playbook and The Hunger Games. All released in 2012. One of these not like the other. One of these things just isn't the same.

This was terrible.

Verdant Dude rating: 0.5 out of 5 pumpkins (half a pumpkin for Jennifer Lawrence, who should have known better)

Oct 15, 2013

Day 15: Boggy Creek (2010)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

When I was just a wee Earl, I remember seeing a flick in the theaters called The Legend of Boggy Creek. That mockumentary about the Bigfoot legend was made in 1972, but I saw it several years later on a Saturday afternoon as part of a double-feature with Day of the Animals or some such nonsense. I remember thinking that both were crap, yet I spent the rest of that summer totally scared shitless of,, gangs of roaming Bigfoots...FUCK! What's a herd of Bigfoots called? I'm thinking an Odor of Bigfoots. Yeah, let's go with that.

So it was with some joy and much sarcasm that I decided to watch Boggy Creek on Amazon Prime this evening. I'm hoping it has something to do with Bigfoot. Or an entire Odor of Bigfoots. Bring me back to my childhood and what-not. Or at least some boobs or something. (Spoiler: no boobs)

These two young women, who appear to live in the middle of nowhere, are off to vacation at this summer house in the middle of nowhere...that appears to be right down the road from the middle of nowhere where they just came from. And one of them invited her stupid family friend/dude who just decides that it's okay to bring his bitchy maybe-hooked-up-with-once girlfriend. AND she invites her asshole boyfriend (played by Texas Battle!!!). She's the worst friend ever!

Have I mentioned the top-notch production value and actin....HAHAHAHAHA! Sorry, I can't even get through that sentence. I've seen late-night infomercials with better production value AND acting. But that's not gonna dissuade me. I knew this was gonna be bad going in. I want to revel in it's awfulness. I want to bathe in it like a rutting pig in shit. What?

Gotta do it. So there's this scene where an, ahem, urban youth goes into the woods at night to take a shit. Of course he's gonna die at the hands of Bigfoot, but when he hears it he shakes his head and says "Probably just a small woodland animal." BWAH-HAHAHAHAHA!!! That alone is worth one pumpkin. Which, I'm sure, is where this turd is gonna wind up. If I'm lucky.

Let me see if I can wrap this movie up in six words: Horny Bigfoot Eats Hearts Like Apples. 

Nailed it!

There's a great Boggy Creek/Bigfoot movie out there. This one, tragically, isn't it. This movie is so bad, it should be in detention.

(This is gold, people. Gold!)

Verdant Dude rating: 1 out of 5 pumpkins

PS - I kinda loved this movie, in a weird way.

Oct 14, 2013

Day 14: [REC]³ Genesis

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

I'm going to go on record here as stating that this is a bad fucking idea.

You see, I've seen [Rec], and I freaking loved it.  If you haven't seen it yet you should absolutely stop whatever you are doing right now, including breathing, and watch that film. It's awesome. It's so awesome that even the American remake of it, Quarantine, is awesome by association. But, sad to say, I haven't seen [Rec] 2 yet. I know, I KNOW!!! So yeah, I'm watching the third film in the series without having seen the second one. I kinda know what happens in the second film, but not totally. But I'm hoping that the "Genesis" tag means this is a prequel or something. We shall see. Like I said...this is a bad fucking idea.

I'm also a little wtf about the naming convention here. The film title is proper case, same with the second. But the third is all capitalized, and it uses superscript to denote the order of the film. I'm a little picky about my naming conventions for film series, people. So right away I'm on edge. Repeat after me...bad fucking idea.

[REC]3 starts out with a cute little gimmick. A introduction to Koldo and Clara via their wedding DVD that  even includes the DVD loading screen, which (I hate to admit) confused me for a second. It's late. But I thought it was a pretty interesting way to introduce us to the cast of characters. And the wedding is actually used as a plot device. We see a bandage on the groom's uncle's he was bitten or something. This is going to be one wacky wedding reception.

The wedding is being filmed by the groom's cousin, Adrián as well as the wedding photographer, Atún. The young cousin has been instructed to film the wedding in a cinema verite style, getting all the behind-the-scenes good stuff. And he finds it. Like his obviously infected uncle vomiting and acting creepy and/or drunk, and a team of scientists in haz-mat suits examining...well, I don't know. The ground? The uncle soon does a back flip from the balcony, bites his wife and we are off to the races, ladies and gentlemen, as a wave of bitey-biteys show up to get their bite on.

In a nod to just about everyone's issue with found-footage films, the groom can't believe his young cousin is filming this massacre. So he promptly wrestles the camera out of his hands and trashes it. A quick title card (22 minutes into the film!), and the film then transitions to traditional cinematography. There are still some security camera and green-hued night-vision shots, but it's mostly traditional. Good job, all around.

*** be some mild spoilers ***

So what's animating these, dare I say it, zombies? The first film led us to believe it was some kind of viral outbreak. But here we find that they can't tread on sanctified ground and they are burned by holy water. So it looks like the devil made them do it. I kinda knew that from reading about the second film, but this confirms it.

And I now see where some of the criticism of this film comes from. Unlike the first film (and the second from what I understand), this one is quite a bit more light-hearted and comic. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Return of the Living Dead managed it just fine, and that was way over-the-top. And this film doesn't nearly go into black comedy as much as that film did.

There's a running gag with a children's performer named SpongeJohn (it's a copyright thing), and characters dress up in medieval armor to fight the demonic horde. Fun stuff, in my opinion. I dig a horror film that doesn't take itself so seriously. All in all, I had a good time with this one. Sure, there was some silly stuff in there, but as it turned out it wasn't such a bad fucking idea after all.

Oh...and the "Genesis" tag didn't mean that it was a prequel. It's a parallel story. So they got me there.

PS - Available on Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant.

Verdant Dude rating: 3.5 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 13, 2013

Day 13: The Reeds (2010)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

Yet ANOTHER entry in the After Dark Horrorfest/8 Films to Die For series that is available through Amazon Prime. I've been enjoying the series thus far, even if I haven't found anything truly great or scary. Just some good indie horror flicks.

Nick Cohen directs this tale about a group of six friends who travel to the English wetlands outside of London (I'm assuming here). It's gotta be wetlands because there are lots of marshlands guessed it...reeds. OK, geography clearly isn't my strong point. I have no idea where this is supposed to be, besides someplace in Great Britain. And even then I'm not 100% sure.

Anyway, these six friends rent a boat for the weekend from some shady character. Of course the boat they wanted was...ahem...indisposed. So they had to settle for another boat. And when they find it, it's got a bunch of creepy silent kids hanging out on it. One of them was a redheaded girl that they almost ran over a bit earlier. After shushing them off, they head out into the reeds on their way to some pub on the water where they have a mooring for the night.

WAIT...I just got it. Cabin Crusier in the Reeds! Cabin in the Woods. It's a take on the classic horror film setting, but on a boat. Get it? No...only me? Moving on...

Things start to go bad when they can't find their way through the marsh in the daytime, and then they run aground of something at night. Something that drives a spike through the bottom of their boat in into the first guy we knew was gonna get killed. Because he was a jackass, ya see. Sorry for the spoiler, but if you made it this far then you deserve a prize. Not because the movie is that awful. It's just this fucking review. I guess 13 isn't a lucky number for a movie review this month, eh?  All I know is that this boat trip is looking like a bad fucking idea right about now. That marsh is like a crazy maze.

Lots of ways this one could go. Creepy kids channeling their inner Children of the Corn terrorize the boaters? Supernatural things that go bump in the night-time reeds? Wild and/or evil animals of some kind out on the prowl? You just don't know...until you watch the movie. And I have to admit, this one did a pretty good job of giving me the creeps, but it was also incredibly uneven. So many different plot angles were thrown in and it really resulted in a mixed bag. Wasn't really awful, but it wasn't really good either.

Verdant Dude rating: 2 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 12, 2013

Day 12: Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

HBO Go added a handful of new horror titles for the month of October, with Chernobyl Diaries being one of them.  Another in the long, dreary line of found-footage horror films that everyone is bored with by now. But they are still a guilty pleasure of mine, for some reason. Most of them suck, but I dig the idea behind them all. And it cracks me up that Slyde thought The Blair Witch Project was real when we saw it in the theater on opening night. Not way. OK, I was about 75% sure it was fake. Stupid mockumentary on the SciFi Channel fucked me up.

Oh, hi Chernobyl Diaries! How you doing? Ah, care-free, young Americans traveling through Europe. Recording the entire trip for posterity. Gee, I hope they are going to be okay. (Note: they aren't going to be okay)

Looks like I may have been wrong about the "found-footage" thing. The film drops that artifice directly after the opening credits. Which is nice, I guess. Except that it is still being filmed like one of the group is running around with camcorder, and that everyone is ignoring him or her. So found-footage-esque, I guess. You know, you can make fun of found-footage films all you want. "Oh, there is no way they would still be filming this right now!" But at least most of them have the balls to stick with it. Whatever.

And now, a conversation that would never ever happen with my friends and I:

Friend 1 - "Hey, how about we all go to Chernobyl with this guy Yuri in his van?"
Friend 2 - "Why not, I mean...we ARE in Europe!"

"You know what else is in Europe? ABOUT A MILLION FUCKING COOL PLACES THAT AREN'T RADIOACTIVE!!! How's about we hop a train to Belgium for some brewskis, eh pal? Oh, and let's not touch that creepy looking dead fish by the side of the river. I'm sure it's not contaminated or anything."

Enough of that rant. On the plus side, the filming locations seemed to be incredibly realistic. It was filmed in Hungary and Serbia in some abandoned building or neighborhoods. It looked really impressive. Kind of how you would imagine the city of Pripyat in the Ukraine would look several decades after the evacuation in 1986. So kudos to the filmmakers on that. Abandoned civilization is the fucking creepiest.

You probably have a good idea what's coming next. Lots of freaky, mutant, radioactive, cannibalistic things. And not one of those words is good. The film had me on the edge of my seat for a good portion of the second and third acts. Which is pretty much all I ask for in a horror film. And just remember kids, if the radiation don't kill ya then the radioactive mutants will.

Verdant Dude rating: 3.5 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 11, 2013

Day 11: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

Let's begin this review with a simple statement on my part. I'm not expecting this film to be any good. In fact, I'm expecting it to be goddamn a horror film. But I am expecting it to be fun. Or at least I'm hoping that it's going to be fun. And at the most, I'm hoping that it is going to be laughable. You see, there are bad films and then there are bad films. I like bad films, but only when they aren't truly bad. Get it? Yeah, I know. Kinda like trying to wrap your brain around the notion that our 16th President could have had his humble beginnings as a vampire hunter. So it's best to leave said brain at said door when it comes to films like this.

Consider my brain checked.

Nope. I can't stop thinking. Was Gerald Ford a zombie killer? How about Grover Cleveland. Did he kill werewolves as a boy? I feel like Ronald Reagan killed my youth, does that count? I ignored US History as a kid, even though I later learned to appreciate it. But a young Earl would have been much, MUCH more interested in what the Presidents were doing in their off-time if it included monster hunting. Where were we? Oh, yes...watching a silly movie.

Hey, I just saw that this one was directed by Timur Bekmambetov. That name may not mean much to you, but he did two exceedingly fun horror/action flicks back in Russia. Night Watch and it's even better sequel, Day Watch. Reminded me that there has been a third film planned for a while, but since Timur is wasting his time making crap like this and Wanted (it had a Loom of Fate!!!), well...

What was I doing again? Oh, yeah...Abe Lincoln killing himself some vampires. After his mother was killed by a vampire when he was a boy, he is introduced to the world of vampire-killing by his mentor, Henry Sturges. Then he's introduced to a fetching young lady named Mary Todd. And he and she are going to have a very bad day at the theater later on in life, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Have I ever mentioned that I hate when movies fuck with long-established horror tropes for no goddamned reason? Like letting vampires walk around in broad daylight? Yeah, unless there's a good reason for that then I'm going to hate it. And I saw no good reason for it in this film. They fuck with a bunch of other well-known vampire superstitions as well, but that one really bothers me. Vampires should be creatures of the night. Not pale dudes wearing sunglasses at a Sunday BBQ.

And I'm not really quite sure why Honest Abe was so adept at killing awesomely powerful supernatural beings. Sure, he hated them because they killed his mother. Hate's a powerful mutha-fuckah, but I'm not sure it's enough to explain how he did the things he did in this film.

But what I really want to know is this: How the hell did Daniel Day-Lewis win an Academy Award for this pile of highly-stylized, low-rent crap?

Verdant Dude rating: 1.5 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 10, 2013

Day 10: The Guard Post (2008)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

One of the things I told myself when I started this series was that I was going to watch as many South Korean horror films as are available to me on the streaming options that I have. The problem is that I've already seen just about every South Korean horror film available to me. I'm a fan. And not just of their horror films. I've seen some really good stuff in many different genres coming out of South Korea. Here's one I had never even heard of before, and the plot summary was enough to grab me by the balls without letting go. 

A band of soldiers assigned to the De-militarized Zone between North and South Korea are called to investigate an incident at one of the many guard posts (GP506, to be exact) in the DMZ. What they find is a horrific pile of dead bodies with one blood-soaked man standing over them holding an axe.  In a panic, shots are fired and the crazed man winds up in a coma. A military investigator and his assistant are brought in to find out exactly what happened. We are about 3 minutes into the movie right now. Holy crap!

The investigator is basically told that he has only this one night to find the truth of what happened at GP506. After that, the government is going to cover it up. If they actually even WANT the truth, that is. Maybe they can't handle the truth. Son, they live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Yoo? They have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Kang, and you curse the Mar...sorry, I seem to have gotten stuck in the wrong movie review there for a little bit. I'll try not to let it happen again. 

But, like that other film, there are political reasons that the government wants this case wrapped up quickly. Another survivor of the massacre is found, and we learn that he was the commanding officer of GP506. He's also the son of one of the big muckety-mucks up the line in the government. Not good. And we also see, through flashbacks, that there was an illegal post shooting at their North Korean counterparts. Yup. But all similarities end there, fortunately.

From there, actually, the film started reminding me of two other films. The Thing and Dog Soldiers. For various reasons, but certainly the atmosphere had a lot to do with it. Trapped in an isolated place. Stalked by an unknown terror or even worse...your comrades. Lots of good stuff here.

One complaint could have something entirely due with the transfer over to digital streaming, but I'm not sure. Every time the camera panned, the motion was all jumpy and it made it difficult to watch. But maybe the filmmakers actually wanted us viewers to squirm. I certainly didn't need it. So I'm going to blame it on Netflix or whomever prepared this streaming HD version. Awful. 

But that's about only real complaint that I have. The film was well-placed and had some excellent acting. I'm the kind of guy that prefers subtitles with my foreign films, but if you prefer to have them dubbed, then you might have an issue with that as well. It made me no never mind. You have to pay attention though. The film jumps back and forth between the present and flashbacks very often. And that can be confusing with foreign-language films.  

Verdant Dude rating: 4 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 9, 2013

Day 9: American Mary (2012)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

I had read a little something about this one and it's sister director team (Jen and Sylvia Soska) last year. Then our good friend Poppy reminded me about it recently, and mentioned it was available on Netflix Instant. Go time!

Mary is a medical school student with a massive pile of debt. To make some quick cash, she gets into the underground body modification game. EXTREME body modifications. As in, I know this movie is gonna make me sick to my stomach. But there are no lengths that I won't go to for my art. You're gonna owe me one after this. Yes, you.

After an impromptu bit of emergency surgery performed in the basement of a strip club, Mary gets approached by a body-mod fetishist who throws some serious cash her way to do some work on a friend of hers. Another fetishist who wants to be de-sexualized by having her nipples removed and her vagina closed up as much as possible. Basically, she wants to look as smooth as a Barbie doll underneath her clothes. Kooky, right?

After the surgery, she gets drugged at a party and is raped by her former teacher and mentor. She gets her revenge by practicing her new art of extreme body modifications on him. The whole affair obviously affects her deeply, so she drops out of medical school and creates a niche for herself as an underground body mod specialist. Makes a big name for herself amongst that community as someone who is willing to things for her clients that no other doctor would do.

Things eventually go bad for Mary, as things do. Besides being investigated by the police for the disappearance of her former professor, she also has the husband of one of her clients after her. He was none-too-thrilled with the work that she did on his wife and he's looking to take it out on her. Wackiness ensues.  

It's interesting to see how the subject matter of men sexualizing women was handled by the Soska sisters rather than your typical male writer/director. It's a brutal film, but they brought a certain deft touch to it. They certainly showed some skill as filmmakers, and I'm looking forward to whatever kind of craziness that they come up with next.

Verdant Dude rating: 3.5 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 8, 2013

Day 8: The Ward (2010)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

Still reeling from the toad-licking crapfest that was yesterday's offering, I strolled through my Netflix Instant queue to see if there was anything that might ease my pain, so to speak. There wasn't. I even considered watching an old standy-by and pretending that I hadn't seen it already, just for this 31 in 31 series. But I'm not quite that desperate...not yet. So I went with the one and only John Carpenter film that I have never seen, The Ward. Even though I have NOT heard good things about it.

Oddly, I'm pretty jazzed to watch this. The opening scene of the various halls and rooms of the psychiatric hospital is technically evocative of his earlier work in films like Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing. So I'm in a good place to start with. And I have a gigantic glass of bourbon next to me. That should make things easier. I mean, he didn't use Panavision on this one. So it's not REALLY Carpenter-ish, but it's close enough for wakka-wakka.

In this corner, we have a troubled young woman (Amber Heard) who likes to light fires. In the other corner. The North Bend Psychiatric Hospital which may have a bit of a ghost problem. There was literally no reason for using a boxing reference there. Except that I'm already bored. So forget about that whole "I'm in a good place" thing. Although I will have to say that my favorite inmate in the women's ward so far is played by an interesting-looking actress named Marnie Gummer. She almost looks like a young version of Meryl Streep. Which, yup...she's her daughter. So there's that.

Wait a minute...shower scene! Except without any frontal or buttal nudity. Just a wee bit of side-boob. That's seems hard to do and totally unnecessary. These horror flicks are supposed to be gratuitous, or did John Carpenter forget that. Wait, he never did give us a naked Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau or Kurt Russell now that I think about it. So why am I such a fan of his again? It's escaping me right now. And I may be thinking about Adrienne Barbeau's boobs. So I could be occupied for a while, okay?

Back to the storyline, I guess. There's this dead girl named Alice who is hunting down the other girls in the ward. Through a series of flash-backs, we see that she was tortured and raped by some gigantic sloth of a man. Or was she? And what do the girls have to do with it? And why would Alice hate the new girl? Those questions, mes amis, are something you are going to have to find out for yourself.

Overall, I enjoyed it. It was kinda boring at times, but that's what the bourbon is for. I did dig the way it was shot, but I was slightly disappointed that Carpenter himself didn't write the score. A Carpenter flick without a Carpenter score just isn't complete. Deducting a half a pumpkin for that very reason.

Verdant Dude rating: 2.5 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 7, 2013

Day 7: Shadow (2009)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

I nearly stopped watching this one after five minutes when the protagonist stops into a bar during a biking trip in the mountains and orders a beer. The bartender complies with a hearty "okay" and hands him a generic beer. That's something that would literally never happen in any bar. "Sure, what kind of beer would you like?" or "I'm not a fucking mind-reader!" would be more appropriate responses. Especially since two guys walk in right after him and also order beers...and the bartender gives them different beers! Ugh...fucking lazy!

Sorry, that's just a silly pet peeve of mine when it comes to bar scenes in movies. Like when someone orders a whiskey and the bartender just grabs a random bottle and starts pouring. Doesn't happen. Moving on...

Another odd thing about the film is that it is an Italian production, but everyone is speaking English. And the protagonist is clearly supposed to be American. And his love interest is very French. And the bad guys seem to be Eastern European of some kind. Or Australian. They did a lot of growling, so it was hard to tell. It's just a fucking grab-bag of accents and ethnic groups going on for no apparent reason. Moving on...

An American Iraqi war veteran (clearly fighting in Italy from the look of the flash-backs) goes on a biking trip in the mountains where he meets the love of his life who is also out biking on her own.  They run afoul of some hunters (whom they had already run afoul of back at the bar), and the game is afoot. The game, of course, is being chased around the mountains by homicidal maniacs. I love that game.

Except that they get chased into an area of the mountains where even the bad guy's loyal dog won't go. Because there's something even more sinister than the evil hunters out there. You can tell it's sinister because of all the fog. Oh, the hunters were British and American, by the way. I suck at first impressions. Doesn't matter. They're not the REAL bad guys anyway, if ya dig. Just more fodder for the actual bogeyman. A real creepy-looking skinny dude with a penchant for torture. Yup...looks like this is turning out to be a torture porn flick. Sigh.

Oh, and there's this. The creepy evil dude gets his ya-yas from licking toads.

His interests also include Italian opera, crafting life-sized dioramas using human corpses and watching old filmed footage of war atrocities. He's a keeper, ladies. I read somewhere that this guy, a Swiss singer/dancer (!!!) named Nuot Arquint, spent 5 months preparing for this role. I wonder how many toads he licked during that time. Because he really nailed that scene. 

This film has no redeeming qualities. It cannot be recommended in any way. I want my 77 minutes back, please. Thinking back on it, the bar scene at the beginning was the high point. Gimme a beer...

Verdant Dude rating: 0 out of 5 pumpkins

Oct 6, 2013

Day 6: World War Z (2013)

Can a once-prolific blogger who hasn't written 31 posts all year find it in his soul to review 31 previously unseen horror films in 31 days of October? Let's find out...

What's this? A gigantic Hollywood blockbuster amidst all the low-budget/indie horror that I've been watching so far? That's right. Decided to rent the unrated version of World War Z from Amazon Instant in HD. I've been wanting to see it since it came out, but I don't get to the movies that often anymore. So I splurged a little bit. And I'm glad I did.

I had read the book by Max Brooks a few summers ago, but the film isn't really an adaptation of that. It would be almost impossible to properly adapt that book to the big screen. But this film took some of the central points, created a storyline surrounding one former U.N. investigator and went from there. It was a good decision too.

I've got a few zombie rules that I like my zombie movies to follow. Let's have a little refresher course.

The Zombie Rules
  1. Zombies are the Undead. They are animated corpses who hunger for human flesh. What animates them? Pure evil? A virus? Electro-magnetic impulses? Who knows. But that is what a zombie is. The living dead. 28 Days Later, while a fantastic film at times, is NOT a zombie film. Those people are still alive. The virus makes them crazy and blood-thirsty, but it doesn't kill them. Eventually they die of starvation when they don't get enough to eat, but that's it. They ain't zombies.
  2. To kill a zombie you have to destroy their brain. Whatever it is that is animating these corpses is controlled in the brain somehow. You can chop off their arms, shoot them in the chest, or piss in their face. That's ain't gonna stop them. The only thing that is gonna stop them is a well placed bullet, arrow, crowbar or knitting needle to the brain. That's it! If they can be killed (?!?) any other way, then they ain't zombies.
  3. A zombie can be slow and lumbering or it can be just as fast as the body of it's previous owner. I really don't care. Just as long as they are scary and they crave human flesh. What a zombie CANNOT have is super-human strength or speed. Why would a zombie be super-strong? I've seen some zombie films in which the zombies can easily rip the head off of a human. Do you know how hard it is to rip somebody's head off? I've had some experience with this and it ain't easy. If your zombie is super-strong or super-fast, then it probably ain't a zombie.
Are we clear? I SAID ARE WE CLEAR? Good. I thought World War Z did pretty well adhering to my zombie rules. The way it treated the spread of the infection was certainly unique when compared to other films. Much faster, in fact the way that the zombie horde acted  was like a rapid infection in the body attacking healthy cells. I thought that was pretty cool. The zombies here were fast, but not super-fast or super-strong. They certainly were super-determined though. Bashing their heads through windshields, jumping off of roofs, impaling themselves on fences...anything to get a bite off of a fresh victim. Anything to spread the infection.

The story arc of the protagonist, played very well by Brad Pitt, was...well, ridiculous. I was reminded of the awful action flick 2012 and how John Cusack and his gang kept escaping cataclysmic event after cataclysmic event just in the nick of time. This was like that. From Philadelphia to South Korea to Jerusalem to an attack on an airliner to surviving the crash of that airliner...well, good thing it's a zombie flick. It's not supposed to be believable, kids. Ridiculous as it was, it sure was exciting and fun. I didn't even have a problem with Pitt's "solution" to surviving the zombies that so many viewers had. It made about as much sense as a zombie outbreak, so cool your jets folks.

The film had some fairly substantial production problems, including re-working the entire third act. But the eventual success at the box office ensured that the sequel (and it's sequel) would happen. And that's pretty cool. Because this was a big-budget zombie flick done right, in my opinion.

Verdant Dude rating: 4 out of 5 pumpkins