The Devil’s Candy (8/10)

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NOTE: This review originally appeared on Red River Horror.

Ray Smilie (Pruitt Taylor Vince) is a middle-aged, tracksuit-wearing man living in an old farm-house in Texas with his parents. Tormented by a sinister voice in his head, he tries to drown it out by strumming power chords at high volume on his electric guitar. When his mom makes him stop, he responds by hitting her with the guitar, causing her to fall down the stairs.

Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry) is an aspiring, perspiring artist and metal-head reduced to painting a butterfly mural for a bank to make ends meet. He, along with his demure wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and metal-head daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco), are in the market for a new home. Ray Smilie’s is now up for sale at a bargain price, following the tragic death of his parents. Hellman buys the house, and moves in with his family.

Smilie, now living in a hotel, continues to be haunted by the diabolical voice in his head, but…after a noise complaint, can no longer drown it out without drawing the attention of the local sheriff.

Soon, Hellman is hearing a voice as well, but for him, it becomes the impetus that drives him to create works of art with a quality far beyond anything he has achieved before. After he turns his butterfly painting into a hellscape of tortured children, he earns the praise of a prestigious gallery owner, and the promise of riches and success. With fame and fortune must come sacrifice…

Meanwhile, the voice drives Smilie to acts of destruction, not creation, as he is drawn back to his lost home, forcing Hellman to act to keep his dark muse from becoming the downfall of those he loves most.

While The Devil’s Candy initially appears to follow the standard young-couple-moves-into-a-haunted-house formula, it quickly turns into a much more interesting tale of temptation, deviance, and redemption.

The movie’s emotional core is the relationship between Jesse and his daughter Zooey; neither quite fits the mold that the world wants to cast them with. Their dedication to each other, and love of hard rock, is demonstrated effectively by Ethan Embry and Kiara Glasco’s strong performances.

Mr. Vince, as Ray Smilie, is his usual creepy self. Ms. Appleby provides a quiet but strong performance as the somewhat more straight-laced member of the Hellman clan. Also portrayed well by writer/director Sean Byrne is Texas itself, with Jesse’s painting and the pounding rock soundtrack showing the grungy, sweaty side of the state. That’s in contrast with Zooey’s Polo-preppie classmates at her new suburban school. Featuring a unique style and a fresh take on an old genre trope, The Devil’s Candy is an easy recommend.

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Aaah! Zombies!! (7/10)

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“Aaah! Zombies!!” is a movie that dares to ask the question, are zombies just regular people moving in slow motion? Yeah, I didn’t know that was a question either but, as it turns out, the answer is pretty amusing.

So, more accurately, a bunch of youngsters in the 50s get infected by a failed super-soldier serum that turns them into zombies. But, from their point of view, they’re fine and there’s something wrong with everybody else. Their slowed brain processes cause them to move and speak very slowly, which appears as brainless activity to uninfected people, while the uninfected people appear, to the zombie crew, to be moving extremely quickly. However, they appear fairly normal to drunk people, and are able to communicate with them. Oh, and they’ve also gained super-strength, near invulnerability, and a hunger for human flesh.

The zombie crew meet up with a soldier who is also a zombie-but-doesn’t-know-it who explains the situation (not entirely accurately) and offers to help them get to the bottom of the problem. Much zombie mayhem ensues, leading to a final confrontation between the zombie crew and the uninfected, but drunk, but soon to be sober, denizens of a bowling alley.

So, this was pretty amusing, had some decent gore, and featured the nifty gimmick of showing everything from the uninfected point of view in black and white (keeping with the 50s setting), but switching to color for the zombie POV. Also, you can’t really fault a movie that features a zombie bowling sequence set to “Take the Skinheads Bowling” by Camper Van Beethoven, even though there are no boobs.

Best line: “We’re zombies, not illegal immigrants!”

Sweatshop (6/10)

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A bunch of slutty retarded goth losers are setting up for a rave in an old abandoned warehouse when a masked killer starts dispatching them in increasingly graphic and creative ways. This plot is so simple I don’t even need commas.

Lots of titties and humping. Good stuff.

Fender Bender (5/10)

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Teen Hilary (played by cutie-pie Makenzie Vega, aka Grace Florrick from “The Good Wife”) has just found out her boyfriend is cheating on her with a hot blonde cheerleader. Then she gets into a fender-bender while driving her mom’s new shitty Nissan Sentra. Not a good day for her. She goes home and gets grounded while her bitch-ass parents head out of town to see some stupid show or something that Hilary has been really wanting to see. Then her lame-ass friends show up and surprise her (literally) with pizza and no beer. And it turns out that the guy that rear-ended her (with his car, perv) is a serial killer who is now stalking her. Really not a good day for her.

So, this was well-made and sort of entertaining, but it’s not old-school or new-school enough to be all that interesting. At best, it’s a very bland blend of the two. Throw in some poor decision-making and you’ve got something that’s really not worth your time, unless, like me, your time really isn’t worth all that much. Oh, and one chick takes a bath and Hilary takes a shower, and no boobs in either scene. That, my friends, is unforgivable. If we’d seen some Makenzie boobies, I would have bumped it up to 6, maybe even 7. But “gratuitous nudity” (like that’s a thing) is on the outs these days, so we got nothing, not even a little side-boob. Fuckers.

The Monster (5/10)

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Super-shitty mother Kathy is driving her daughter Lizzy to see Lizzy’s dad, who she wants to live with instead of her loser alcoholic skanky-ass mom for some reason. As they are driving late that night on a desolate road through dense woods, they hit something and crash the car. They investigate and find a dead wolf, but not all of the wounds seem to be from the crash, and a huge tooth is found in one of the gashes. Once the tow-truck arrives, the driver is attacked and they realize they have bigger problems than just dysfunctional family dynamics.

So, I thought this was going to be really good. And it was, for a while. The first act did well at setting up the mother and daughter characters, and the performances were quite good. The second act was atmospheric and the monster itself was very well realized, though by this point the mother/daughter weepy flashbacks were getting a bit heavy-handed. And then the third act hits, and everyone in the movie immediately becomes a total idiot and makes the worst possible choices. Unfortunately, pathos and bathos bring down what could have been a very fine monster flick. Is it really asking too much to have a kick-ass monster wreaking havoc these days without having a heaping helping of domestic issues thrown in? Apparently, yes.

The Mad (6/10)

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Billy Zane, with his obnoxious daughter, her boyfriend, and Billy’s annoying new girlfriend, go to a horrible country-themed bed and breakfast where they’re all having a lousy time, when people start turning into zombies from eating bad burgers and their lousy time gets even worse. Billy’s girlfriend gets killed and Billy, being a doctor, autopsies her. The daughter’s boyfriend gets his foot eaten, then he gets shot, then attacked by a CGI mutant burger patty, and then decapitated (spoiler alert). The restaurant’s cook and waitress team up with Billy and daughter to try to escape by distracting the burger-fed zombies with swag, which proves not entirely successful.

So, you as you might have guessed, this is aiming for horror-comedy territory. And it succeeds, for the most part. Billy Zane is very good with deadpan humor, and the scenes of him and his daughter working through their family issues while fighting off burgered zombies are pretty amusing. I mean, we’re not talking Shaun of the Dead here, but it’s a fun watch. Sadly no boobs, which sucks because the daughter is a hottie.

Best line: “Has your beef been acting strangely?”

Devil’s Tower (8/10)

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A couple go up to the roof of a council high-rise to make out. Mid-snog, they suddenly start attacking each other for no apparent reason, and they both end up dead. The next day a new tenant, cutie-pie Sarah, arrives. Of course the building is shitty and full of squatters, because socialism. Sarah finds out from some friendly neighbors that she’s moving into the “murder flat”, and that the building is, of course, haunted. Soon, tenants start showing up on the antique TVs that are scattered throughout the building and start behaving very strangely and the whole building turns into a big zombie death- and fuck-fest. And then things get weird.

As you may have guessed from the word choices, this is British. That’s not terribly relevant, but I thought I’d mention it. Anywho, this starts out fairly serious, and then transitions to an almost slapstick comedy as it progresses and things go silly buggers (that’s a Britishism; I know this because I’m very cosmopolitan). This was a peculiar hybrid of family drama, ghost story, world-gone-mad, zombies, and it was quite a bit of fun. Also, there was a fair number of boobies, so that’s a point in its favor. Overall, quite worth a watch, and another good entry in the UK horror catalog. In fact, it was so good, I accidentally watched it twice.

RWD (8/10)

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Two doofuses (doofi?) with a YouTube ghost-hunting show go to investigate a family’s haunted house out in the woods, but they got the date wrong and the family is out of town. So, instead, they wander around the woods and find an old silo with a creepy underground complex below it. They investigate the complex and decide to make their latest episode about it instead of the haunted house. While wandering, weird things begin to happen, they catch glimpses of people that look surprisingly familiar, and then some sort of weird sparkly stuff comes out of a laptop monitor and sends them… back…

This was an interesting take on the usual found footage ghost-hunter shows that are ubiquitous right now, mixing in some mind-bending sci-fi concepts that I shouldn’t talk about too much for fear of spoiling the fun. The actors are also rather amusing in their doofusness (doofosity?), and the tonal shift late in the movie from deadly silliness to deadly seriousness is handled quite well. Definitely worth a watch.

Old 37 (2/10)

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“Disguised as paramedics, two psychopaths intercept 911 calls and hunt down unsuspecting teenage accident victims in a stolen ambulance known as Old 37.”

Or at least that’s what the description says. All I saw were a bunch of random events that seemed disconnected and nonsensical. This was directed by Alan Smithee, who I’m not all that familiar with, but apparently he’s made a LOT of movies over a long period of time, and they’re pretty much all bad. He must be like a hundred or something by now. Anyway, add another one to his “winning” streak!

The only good part was this one chick getting stabbed in her fake boob. And they were brand new too! That’s gotta suck. Also, Kane Hodder and Bill Moseley are in this, but unfortunately even they couldn’t save it from Smithee’s shaky hands.

Chopping Block (8/10)

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A group of incompetents just laid off from their cubicle jobs decide, after many drinks, to kidnap and ransom their ex-boss’s daughter. They actually end up saving her from a huge, deranged woman that’s been trying to kill her for years, and the killer now comes after all of them. Many more drinks and inept decisions follow.

This low-budget horror-comedy was freakin’ hilarious. Think “Office Space” with more kidnapping and murdering. Good performances all around make this one a quality effort, and the depth of idiocy of the protagonists is impressive. Very silly, but highly recommended.