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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Ooga-shaka, I’m hooked on a Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise and it keeps getting better. Owen Hughes reviews James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

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2016: A Year in Review, A Challenge Failed

“These timelines are so confusing.”  

2016 has been a real arse of a year, hasn’t it? With only a few days until this awful, awful year is behind us, I thought I would take a few words – OK, a lot of words – to share with you not only my challenge of the last twelve months, but my 365 day long journey towards failure.

I’ve been writing regularly for Failed Critics for more than a year now; closer to two, in fact. Between forcing Owen to constantly edit my pointless rants into something readable (sometimes two or three times a week) and being lucky enough to be invited to appear on the podcast every few weeks, I’m always watching something. But I got to the end of last year and thought that, considering what was becoming start a large part of my life, I wasn’t watching nearly enough. So I set myself simple enough challenge…

A film a day throughout 2016. That’s at least 365 unique films by the time we hit New Year’s Day 2017. They didn’t need to be brand new films, although of course some would have to be, but the list just needed to have 365 films on it.

Sadly, I failed. Miserably.

I started so well too. All those award season films we didn’t get until the new year and all those blu-rays I got for Christmas padded my numbers out nicely early on. With me making a real effort to watch everything in time for the Oscars podcasts in February, everything was looking peachy. The start of my year was looking great.

An early guest spot on fellow Failed Critic Tony Black’s Pick-a-Flick podcast in time for The Hateful Eight meant I banged through three Quentin Tarantino films in one night as preparation, not only filling in my spreadsheet super quick, but giving me the chance to have a night off. Similar super-fast binges followed for specials on South Korean cinema, Shane Black’s filmography and Batman Vs. Superman. It was all going so well.

Then, Deadpool happened.

Within our little echo chamber of people, there are a couple of things I’ve become a bit notorious for this year. The second of these was my explosion of hate and abuse that was my Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie review. A few hundred words of such utter contempt for a film that saw some of the worst things I’ve ever written put to paper for all to see. Everyone seemed to love it.

But the first was the fact that in its short theatrical run, I managed to see Deadpool ten times in the various cinemas local to me that, even with various Unlimited cards to my name, I still paid to see several times. It became the first movie this year that I pre-ordered on American iTunes to ensure I could watch it again as soon as possible, as well as buying a lovely looking steelbook blu-ray when it came out in the U.K.

As of right now, 2016 has seen me watch The Merc with the Mouth an insane sixteen times. But as great as that is, it had a pretty detrimental effect on my list of watched films. Filling out numbers with multiple viewings is great – more on that in a bit – but I wanted a unique film every day; and it was starting to look like it’d be a tough one to pull off now.

Months pass and, while I’m certain I’m going to fall short, I’m kept pretty busy. Between watching entire series’ within franchises before their latest instalments come out (*cough* The Purge: Election Year *cough*) and enjoying Suicide Squad enough to fit in multiple screenings, my numbers aren’t looking too bad. This might even be doable. Especially by the time August came around.

Baby’s first FrightFest!

I’m a long time horror fan. It’s usually my genre of choice and going to Fright Fest has been a dream of mine for years. This writing nonsense was the perfect (extra) excuse to spend a couple of hundred quid and get my arse to London. Sadly, work commitments (namely: hating my job), meant that my trip was kind of gimped and I could only manage three of the five days. But I saw some amazing stuff, including Rob Zombie’s latest gorefest, 31. It broke into my top ten instantly and is another film that I’ve paid to watch at least three times since I first saw it – including a trip to the hallowed grounds of the Prince Charles Cinema to see it on the big screen again.

Three days of non-stop horror added something like twenty films to my list in a short space of time. A welcome boost to my spreadsheet. The introduction of “Netflix of Horror” service Shudder to the UK certainly didn’t hurt either.

One of the reasons I set myself this challenge was because there was so much stuff taking up film watching time that I wanted to make space for more. But I also wanted to share it with the family. Obviously, my three year old can’t be watching Ringu, Suburra or Pet Sematary – all films that are on the list – but there’s a huge amount of children’s films that we can watch together. I could kill two birds with one stone; I can show Nikita a variety of films, avoiding the dross that is kid’s TV, and pad out my numbers during the day.

This backfired horribly. Instead of getting a ton of extra films on my list, I ended up watching thirteen films 83 times. EIGHTY THREE! This included sixteen views of Big Hero 6. We watched Zootropolis eight times, all of them at the cinema; and one ‘movies for juniors’ trip to see Kubo and the Two Strings, not at all influenced by the bollocking I took from Callum Petch for having not watched it yet. (Excellent little film, by the way). But, you know, she’s also squeezed in multiple watches of Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book and the much hated Ghostbusters reboot, so I’m not going to complain too hard, even if the little git did ruin my numbers!

Of course it’s all well and good me blaming everyone else for me failing this ridiculous challenge. Once October rolled around, I had no one but myself to blame. It turned out that convincing Failed Critics head honcho Owen to give up his feed to me and my mate to chat bollocks about video games once a fortnight was the easy part to starting the Character Unlock podcast. Losing a night to record and a night (sometimes two) to editing eats away at your valuable film watching time. More than that, if you wanna talk about games, it helps if you’ve played them first! There goes more hours that could have been spent with my hands down my pants watching films. Damn, whatever was I thinking?

And that brings us to today. Where I’m sitting in the house on my own watching Scuzz TV and writing this instead of adding more films to my list. It’s no wonder I failed at this challenge this year. Hitting a little over half of the intended 365 unique films, I managed a measly 213. Once I tallied up the films I’d watched multiple times, whether it be with the little one or because I was weirdly obsessed with Ryan Reynolds’ spandex covered arse, my total is a slightly more respectable 344. Still not good enough, but I’m getting there.

So what does 2017 hold? Well, I’m looking to try the same challenge again once January kicks in, but I’ll be happy if I can beat this year’s numbers. I’ll be leaving Letterboxd aside and sticking to my Numbers spreadsheet and hoping for the best. With several long running franchises getting sequels this year, I’ll be binging through collections like Alien, Saw and The Fast and the Furious early on. I have every intention of hitting FrightFest stronger this year and getting to a few shows at the London Film Festival after having to skip it this year.

This time around though, I’m dragging you lot along with me. To try and force me to keep better track of what I’m doing, and hopefully to embarrass me enough to actually work at it, I’ll be putting together a monthly article covering the best and worst of what I’ve seen that month and hopefully start a bit of a running tally. I might not make it to 365, but I’m damn sure going to have fun trying. See you in January.

FrightFest 2016 – Day Four

“In hell, everybody loves popcorn.”

And so begins day four. Sadly, my last day at the festival. I don’t care if it’s the London Film or Download, as is the way with all festivals, the last day means a sea of tired bodies, struggling to get to the first act of the day, let alone make it to the end. And the bogs fucking reek!

That aside, this is an interesting day. Besides the evening’s closer, I don’t know anything about any of these films. I’m going in completely blind and hoping for a surprise or two. So for the last time this year, won’t you come join me?


Downhill

“Come outside. There’s nowhere to hide.”

Hopefully not starting the day as we mean to go on, the UK premiere of Downhill promised us that “Evil Awaits”. Unfortunately, the only thing that awaited the audience in the Horror Channel screen was a mosh-mash of genres that didn’t seem to be able to decide what it wanted to be.

Set up like a scary stuff in the woods flick, we are forced to watch an awful lot of GoPro footage of bikes on dirt tracks before our main characters, a pair of bike racers, stumble across a man in a jeep bleeding. Insanity ensues as we are treated to a dude with a weird infection that seems to be zombifying him, a bizarre cult, completely unexplained bags of meat hanging from trees and a bunch of hunters that, although the film is set in South America, suddenly seem to have menacing south London accents. Oh yeah, and there’s angry people having angry sex around confused and angry looking goats. For fuck’s sake.

A couple of half decent tense scenes can’t rescue this pretty bland mess of a film.


Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word

“Maybe God shouldn’t have played God.”

Upping the quality for the second film of the day. Red, White and Blue director Simon Rumley takes on an eerie true story of a convicted rapist and murderer who to his last breath pronounced his innocence and cursed everyone involved in his death sentence.

This genuinely chilling story of a ghost exacting his revenge from beyond the grave isn’t just a great horror film, but it’s a magnifying glass on some very real issues that affect the United States to this day. As our characters start dropping like flies and begin investigating the situation they find themselves in, it asks a lot of questions about the finality of capital punishment.

A great story, some very scary and chilling scenes that will leave you with goosebumps. An excellent film.


Broken

“Are you sure you’re cut out for this?”

Martyrs‘ Morjana Alaoui stars in the latest world premiere of the day. This psychological horror takes a slightly slower pace for the day and sees two main characters fighting disabilities in their own way.

One man, a tetraplegic former rock star, bound to a wheel chair for life is fighting with the day-to-day horrors of not being able to live his life. Having all of his freedom taken away has become his own personal hell. Fighting his present and future, he needs help 24/7. That help comes from an agency carer who is fighting the demons of her past that just won’t let her be. Together the pair struggle with each others differences as the film culminates in a bloody mess of inevitability.

A great film that’s going to be playing on my mind for some time.


Realive

“I was able to live, because I chose to die.”

Ok, so the guys really pulled one out of left field for this. Being a horror film festival, I expected even films labelled as sci-fi to have a scary element to them. After all, Alien and Event Horizon sit firmly in both genres. But nothing like that here.

A conventional sci-fi flick, Realive is a futuristic Frankenstein story with healthy doses of films like Moon added in for good effect. A decent outing, it’s the story of a man brought back to life in the 22nd century after freezing himself Walt Disney-style in the early 21st. An interesting premise for a film as we watch the newly resurrected Marc Jarvis essentially go from being a newborn to a fully fledged adult in a matter of months. Quickly learning to ask questions about where he’s from and why he’s here, the answers he find really aren’t the ones he wanted to hear.

Probably the biggest budget film of the day, but not really the right setting for its European Premiere.


31

“Murder school. Is now in session.”

Rob Zombies latest exploitation, grindhouse, hillbilly horror has finally hit these shores. The film that I came to FrightFest for has finally come around.

It’s just another Zombie film. He doesn’t do anything new or original, but those that came to this party know the dance – and that dance is exactly why I’m here. The seventies-set film about a family of carnies grabbed on the roadside and thrown into a deadly maze where nasty people with nasty names like Sexhead and Deathhead are coming at you with some really fucking dodgy weapons. I mean, there’s a Nazi clown midget who speaks Spanish. Need I say more?

Crazy deaths, a mental soundtrack – whether album or scoring, I love listening to Rob Zombie and John 5 working together – and an hour and forty minutes of carnage. I loved every blood soaked second of it.


And so ends FrightFest 2016

That’s it for my first FrightFest. And that’s it for your first FrightFest with me. Tomorrow actually sees the festival end and the booze addled shut in begin. With films like Found Footage 3D and Train to Bursan headlining the screens, it’s sure to be a good one.

Sadly though, this is my last day here. But it’s been a blast. Great films, shit films and a ton of cool people. I genuinely can’t and won’t ask for more than that. I’ll definitely be back next year. I will probably put together a bit of a round up in the next few days after I’ve scoured VOD for a few films I missed; but until then, it’s another day where I’m getting home at stupid o’clock in the morning. I need my bed guys.

Later.

A Decade In Horror: Halloween Special – The Noughties

It’s October! The leaves on the trees are turning brown, it’s getting darker earlier in the evening and folks are rummaging through their DVD collections, looking for their favourite horror films to watch in time for Halloween. As such, every week this month has seen us expand on our Decade In Film series with a spin off article focussing on five horror films from the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties and the noughties! The format is much the same as our regular series, but with a slight twist.

We’ve made it! Today is officially the spookiest day of the year, Halloween! It also sees us publish our final entry to the Decade In Horror series. Andrew, Liam, MikeOwen and Paul are back together for one last time to reveal what exactly is their favourite horror film of the noughties.

Following the technological apocalypse that occurred after Y2K, as predicted would happen by crazy sane people with ready access to billboards in the 1990s, only a few of the human race survived. Those of us who were smart enough to build shelters and hide in underground bunkers emerged in early 2000 to find a desolate landscape, occupied only by gruesome, fierce mutants and rogue machines hell-bent on destruction. It was up to us to rebuild humanity. And we did, one step at a time. First we tamed the machines, then we wiped out the mutants, leaving only a few of them to run our football clubs or become politicians (satire) leaving no trace of the worst fate to befall our kind in human history. Once we’d tidied up a bit, we got on with what we do best; i.e. making horror films. We created a whole new subgenre known today as “torture porn”, mainly thanks to the splat-pack; a group of directors who were raised on a diet of exploitation films and grotesque horrors. Films like Saw, Hostel and Wolf Creek defined the 00s’. Saw particularly so by really bringing the torture porn concept into the mainstream. Who didn’t at least know of Jigsaw and the infamous “I want to play a game” quote? But that wasn’t all that our new millennium had to offer. What actually were our favourites of this brand new era? First up picking his favourite is Liam, with something a bit different…


Ferpect Crime (2004)

ferpect crimeDon Antonio, this is not right at all. You are dead, you can’t chat with me.

This Spanish black comedy may appear an odd addition to a Halloween list but when you have a plot that contains; murder, dismemberment, psychotic obsession, arson, several attempted murders, blackmail and a belligerent ghost it’s pretty safe to say it belongs here. The title is a play on the Hitchcock classic Dial M For Murder released in Spain as “Perfect Crime”.

A revoltingly slick Super Salesman type has his perfect life smashed to pieces when he is left completely beholden to a woman he can’t stand the sight of.

There are a couple of problems with it. The first fifteen minutes are a bit worrying. It’s horribly mid 80s style American cheesiness. It even has Yello’s “Oh Yeah” playing in the background. But it does successfully show the man as a total moral vacuum and a sleazy, womanising jerk. The last fifteen minutes seem as though they were written by someone else, they don’t really fit and leave you wondering if he simply didn’t know how to end it. The middle hour makes it all worthwhile. His realisation that he is totally trapped, by this demented woman and her deranged family, starts a decline which only increases as he plots to find a way out. His paranoia and visions of a ghost are not helping.

This is an Oreo type of film. Don’t worry too much about the top & bottom, just enjoy the great middle bit.

by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)


The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

TDRBoy, the next word that comes out of your mouth better be some brilliant fuckin’ Mark Twain shit. ‘Cause it’s definitely getting chiselled on your tombstone.

Choosing a film for this decade was tough. There wasn’t much in the way of traditional horror to choose from. Rather, my favourites from the 00’s all kind of boiled down to ultra gory slasher style films or the newly founded “Torture Porn” sub-genre. With that in mind, my final choice is less a horror movie and more an ultra-violent thriller in the guise of a horror film.

The Devil’s Rejects is the sequel to Rob Zombie’s cult horror House of 1000 Corpses. But it’s a sequel with a twist, of sorts. The remaining members of the Firefly Clan (Sid Haig, Bill Mosely and Sherri Moon Zombie) are on the run from a maniacal sheriff hell bent on avenging the death of his brother in the first film. More of a road movie than a horror, the chase is on to bring the crazy hillbillies to justice.

The twist is that you aren’t siding with the cops in this film. Whether you want to or not, you’re going to end up rooting for the Rejects and you’re going to want them to come out on top. As they tear-arse their way across the county leaving an insane amount of carnage behind them, you still want them to get the better of William Forsythe’s sheriff.

The hillbilly horror has been around since a certain massacre in Texas shocked the world. But with brilliantly written characters; one of the scariest clowns in film history and some of the goriest deaths in quite some time, Rob Zombie’s darkly funny horror sequel stands as one of my favourites. Not just of the noughties, but of all time.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)


Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

trick r treatWhat in God’s name are you doing down there Wilkins? Hiding Bodies?

One of the hardest decisions of this project was the 00’s; so many great horror films to pick from! It helps that I’ve attended FrightFest for most of this decade. I’ve witnessed films on the big screen that many never have or will ever see again. It’s from FrightFest that my choice comes and one I was extremely excited to see when it was announced. Since that year, Trick ‘r Treat has become my Halloween film of choice.

I do like a good anthology film and horrors tend to work extremely well in this format. It’s rare to come across one where all the stories are rubbish as most work on some level. This one works on every level for me.

Trick ‘r Treat is a true Halloween horror; it’s not scary, it’s quite funny but it epitomises everything about the infamous holiday. The fun of dressing up, carving jack-o-lanterns, eating candy, urban legends and of course the real legends of that day. Then there is Sam, the spirit of Halloween, and the force of this film, taking his own story at the end, but always present as each of the previous stories unfold. Whilst his origins are never really explained, it’s fair to say that he maintains some sort of balance between the forces of evil and the human world. Those who disrespect Halloween – the dead and even the living – will feel the true force of Sam; and it very rarely ends well.

There are four main stories; The Principal, The School Bus Massacre Revisited, Surprise Party and Sam. It’s hard for me to choose a favourite, but pushed I would say it is Sam. It’s his look, dressed in an orange pyjama suit, wearing a burlap sack over his head and dragging his sack of candy and other feline treats behind him. He is one of my all-time favourite horror monsters. The way he appears through each story is rather creepy and retaining his mystery until his actual story just adds to his appeal.

Michael Dougherty has crafted a wonderful homage to Halloween. He has a great “monster” in the form of Sam, four excellent stories and the intelligence to interlink each story either by visuals or characters, giving a nice flow to the film’s timeline. Dylan Baker in The Principal and Brian Cox in Sam provide the stand out performances, whilst Anna Pacquin also has a decent role in Surprise Party. The rest of the supporting cast are fine, the script is great and the look of the film is outstanding due to Glen MacPherson’s brilliant cinematography. It never fails to entertain me and I really do look forward to watching it each year on Halloween.

by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)


The House of the Devil (2009)

house of the devil titlesDuring the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satanic Cults… Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups… The following is based on true unexplained events…

The 2000’s was the first decade that I was actually old enough to go to the cinema and watch horror films. Of course, like a lot of people, I grew up watching them regardless of their recommended age certificates. However, the thrill of being allowed in to see films such as Thir13en Ghosts or Jeepers Creepers made up for the guff quality of a few of them. These were gory, horrible films that I could no longer be turned away from by uppity cinema staff.

Nevertheless, my personal relationship with horror films did dwindle slightly through the 00’s. My wife (then girlfriend) had no interest in them whatsoever, so we hardly ever watched them together. Arguably, it was Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake that, watching on DVD sometime around 2006, rekindled my love for horror. If I dug deep enough, I could probably name 10 or so horrors from this decade alone that would be in my all time favourites for this genre.

Perhaps none more so than Ti West’s occult movie, The House of the Devil. Released in the US in 2009, it’s actually set in the 1980’s. Student Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is desperate for cash and applies for a job as a babysitter on the night of a lunar eclipse. It’s revealed the work is not exactly as described in the flyer, and against the better judgement of her friend (Greta Gerwig), takes on the job anyway. Far from the torture porn movies of earlier in the decade, or even some of  the absurd goofy comedy horrors of the 80’s, this is actually an incredibly atmospheric movie, rich in tension, mystery and psychological drama. It builds itself steadily towards an unforgettable final few scenes with an almighty killer blow for a finale. It established West as one of the directors I get most excited about whenever I hear he’s making a new movie and holds up well on every rewatch. A staple for my annual Halloween diet!

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)


The Last House on the Left (2009)

last house on the leftJustin, you gotta start putting other people’s needs ahead of your own. You knew not to bring anybody back here, but you did it anyway, didn’t you?

The Last House on the Left is a notorious 70’s offering, that still shocks today, the BBFC shit bricks and banned it. This remake passed me by at first, but kept seeing it on ‘under-appreciated’ lists and decided to give it a poke. .John Murphy’s instantly recognisable score makes you realise this isn’t just another horror movie made by film company accountants and shit out like a hundred Lionsgate turds.

In this version the deranged escapees are led by Garret Dillahunt, and his performance is eerie, brutal and chilling and the utterly deranged Sadie is admirably portrayed by Riki Lindhome. Even Aaron Paul puts in his only decent turn outside of Breaking Bad.

It’s a simple premise, two girls fall into the clutches of the dangerous gang. They’re then subjected to a horrific and sustained attack and ultimately end up facing a final and brutal assault near their remote home. Their attackers end up staying in the home of one of the girl’s parents…

Then shit gets real. Cold, realistic, horrifying and emotionless. This is nasty film, but it all pans out in a way that just about keeps you in the realm of, ‘this could happen…..’, and that’s why it’s so terrifying. This is the film to see on Halloween for proper chills.

by Paul Field (@pafster)


…and that just about wraps up our Decade In Horror series! Thanks to everyone for reading and who knows, maybe we’ll be back in six years time to do the same thing again? You can find the rest of our Decade In Horror series (or even our main Decade In Film articles) by clicking the respective hyperlinks.