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Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA)
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The Asylum Tapes
The Asylum Tapes
DVD ~ Sean Stone
Price: CDN$ 23.98
9 used & new from CDN$ 18.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Ultra-creepy and suspenseful, April 11 2013
This review is from: The Asylum Tapes (DVD)
I can see where some people might not like this movie or look down from their pretentious heights at its lack of clarity - but boring? Boring? Good grief, this is one of the most creepy and atmospheric horror films I've seen in quite a while - and this ain't my first horror rodeo. The Asylum Tapes (released as Greystone Park in the US) actually succeeds where other low-budget "let's explore a haunted house" films drop the ball. There's wonderfully subtle imagery, especially early on as dark shadows or amorphous faces briefly appear in flashes and transitions that only the camera reveals. As things progress, everything intensifies, including the sights and sounds the characters do detect. Sometimes, you don't see or understand what they are reacting to, and that only intensifies the deliciously creepy atmosphere oozing to life on the screen. Even the sudden frights designed to really scare the audience work well. Perhaps the best thing about the viewing experience, though, is the fact that much is left up to the audience's imaginations. It's not always clear what the heck is going on, and even the characters are sometimes left wondering if it's all in their minds. More than once, I stopped and rewatched a certain sequence to make sure I saw what I thought I saw. Maybe this aspect of the film is what turns some viewers off, having been programmed by Hollywood to think that horror movies are supposed to be incredibly obvious, paint-by-numbers constructions that require no thought whatsoever.

So what goes on here? Two college students, Sean Stone (son of Oliver Stone) and Antonella Lentini, meet Alexander Wraith at a dinner party (hosted by Oliver Stone) and decide to accompany him on one of his adventures inside the abandoned and reportedly haunted Greystone Park mental asylum. Sean's a skeptic going to face his fears, while Antonella is basically one of those girls with a sexy dark side. Cameras and flashlights in hand, they sneak their way into the vast building and begin exploring. The atmosphere of the vast, dilapidated building could not be creepier, with more than a few eerie dolls scattered here and there alongside the abandoned hospital equipment just for good measure. Even as they begin to see shadows and hear unexplained noises, Alex leads them deeper and deeper into the jungle of rooms and hallways. By the time the more serious stuff starts to go down, finding their way back out of the place is problematic, to say the least. An ambiguous ending isn't really the ultimate payoff I was expecting, but it certainly takes nothing away from all of the wonderful creepiness that preceded it.

Let's talk about the "inspired by true events" label. It's only real in the sense that the filmmakers decided to make their haunted asylum movie by picking up cameras and shooting the film in an actual haunted asylum - which is something they had already been doing on their own. That includes breaking in to Greystone and some other haunted locations on multiple occasions. Obviously, some CGI effects were added later, but I think the film locations could have held their own quite well without any additions. The filmmakers definitely bought in to the reputation of the place. From what I've read, the commentary features several reports of strange things - even brief possessions - experienced by the crew during filming as well as some unwelcome visitors back at their own homes.

I'm totally at a loss as to the overwhelmingly negative reaction to this film, as this horror veteran was very impressed. I actually think The Asylum Tapes breathes vibrant new life into the "found footage" genre (I don't think this film technically belongs in that category, but I know that is how it will be classified). Some viewers complain that they couldn't tell where the characters were at times. Really? What part of "getting lost in the labyrinthine depths of a haunted insane asylum" don't you understand? If the characters knew where they were, they would have gotten the heck out of that place. Getting lost is the whole point. Come on, people. Those who complain the movie was literally too dark to see what was happening need to turn the fricking lights off - that's the way you're supposed to watch horror movies to begin with.

Devil Inside [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
Devil Inside [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
Price: CDN$ 27.94
11 used & new from CDN$ 7.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best exorcism-based horror films in years, Jan. 29 2013
You're darned right I'm going to defend this film because it's the best exorcism film I've seen in a long time. I loved every minute of The Devil Inside, and that includes the "controversial" ending. Did it end the way I would have wanted it to end? No, but neither does Gone With the Wind, so boo hoo. Never have I seen such a crybaby reaction to a movie scene, with scores of people heaping one-star calumny on an entire film - which some will actually admit they liked up until that point - purely because a director actually did something bold (the ending is not a cop-out) and threw viewers a wicked curveball at the very end. Some of the criticism in the media is to be expected because William Brent Bell did not allow those pampered prima donnas to preview the film before it hit theaters, but I would hope that viewers can see fit to give this film a chance. It's not as if the ending doesn't make perfect sense.

The Devil Inside is presented as a documentary of twenty-something Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) and her attempt to find closure regarding her mother's possible possession. Some twenty years earlier, Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) murdered two priests and a nun as they were performing the rite of exorcism upon her. Isabella hopes to learn whether her mother was really possessed or if she just went insane. This takes her and her film crew to Rome, where Maria Rossi was mysteriously transferred after her acquittal of murder by reason of insanity. It's definitely not normal for an insane murderer in America to be shipped off to a Roman Catholic mental institution just outside the shadow of the Vatican. Isabella also takes the opportunity to visit the newly established Vatican school for exorcism, which leads her to two young exorcists who do not agree with the Church's policy of ignoring so many cases featuring all the hallmarks of actual demonic possession.

The exorcism scenes on display here are extraordinarily impressive - short and powerful. A female contortionist who can twist her body into unimaginable positions makes for a much more realistic possession visual than a head-spinning, spider-walking Linda Blair. These are some intense scenes with a pretty convincing vessel of unholy malevolence spewing out untold evil, and the supernaturally dangerous consequences of any exorcism attempt play out most dramatically as the film works its way toward what I consider its pretty bold and courageous ending. The fact that our exorcists are Church-trained priests operating outside the narrow confines of Vatican policy only raises the thrill factor up a notch.

I know the whole documentary-style horror movie is in the process of being done to death, but I think The Devil Inside is an example of the genre done right. The fact that the demon-spawned horrors and the exorcisms are presented so well gives the film a necessary dose of realism, and that is why The Devil Inside may inspire chills, creeps, obviously so boos at the end - but not laughter or ridicule. It's definitely one of my new favorite horror films.

Dreamland
Dreamland
DVD ~ Jackie Kreisler
Offered by moviemars-canada
Price: CDN$ 10.36
21 used & new from CDN$ 6.97

2.0 out of 5 stars You're not dreaming -- the movie really is this bad, Jan. 29 2013
This review is from: Dreamland (DVD)
In simple terms, Dreamland is a confused mess of a movie. Some people will tell you it is actually brilliant and outside-the-box storytelling, especially if you're familiar with quantum theory, but even then you have to watch it a second time to really appreciate it. I'm not one of those people, and there's no way I'm sitting through this plodding storyline a second time. I understand the premise just fine; I just found the whole viewing experience quite tedious and unenjoyable.

The plot summary featured on a certain well-known movie streaming site described a film about two impetuous young people setting off to infiltrate Area 51. That is a grossly inaccurate description of the plot. Our two main characters, Dylan (Shane Elliott) and Megan (Jackie Kreisler) are in reality two dysfunctional adults who stumble into Rachel, Nevada and the outskirts of Area 51 (having no knowledge of the secret military site, by the way) on their way to Megan's family's house for Thanksgiving. Dylan suffers periodic seizures, and Megan can't function without her meds (apparently anti-psychotics). Eventually, the two stop to eat at the "Little A'Le'Inn," hear some strange stories from the bartender, and then head back out across the desert. That's where really weird and increasingly frightening (to Megan - certainly not to the audience) things start happening, which leads to a lot of screaming and running around in the desert. What's real? Who cares?

Alongside the weak and convoluted storyline, Dreamland also suffers from some technical deficiencies. The dialogue audio is frequently too low; I wouldn't know more than two-thirds of what was said if I hadn't been able to turn on closed captioning. The scenes out in the desert are too dark, as well, so you get a double whammy of frustration just trying to follow the story. That's not a formula for cinematic success.

Hidden
Hidden
Price: CDN$ 23.60
8 used & new from CDN$ 4.50

2.0 out of 5 stars Stupid and boring, Dec 22 2012
This review is from: Hidden (DVD)
I knew I was in trouble when I saw "Directed by M.R." in the opening credits - it's never a good thing when your director only identifies himself with two initials, especially when those initials aren't even his real ones. It's even worse when the writers are identified as Alan and Alana Smithee. (According to the writers, the producers made so many arbitrary changes to the story that they didn't recognize it as their own anymore.) An hour and a half later, of course, I knew very well why these people didn't want to associate their real names with this film. Even the title stinks. Hidden (originally Hidden 3D) - seriously? You couldn't come up with something better than that, maybe a title that hasn't already been used multiple times already?

Brian Carter (Sean Clement) has spent most of his life trying to forget his mad scientist mother, so he isn't exactly torn up inside when she dies. He is surprised when he learns he has inherited the Divine Sanctuary of Hope, though, as the infamous addiction therapy clinic was supposedly torn down a decade earlier after charges of torture and all-around quackery were directed at his mother. One of his buddies (who dreams of turning the place of suffering into a ritzy resort) convinces him to at least go and have a look at the place. It doesn't take long for Brian to stumble upon a super-secret passageway, which leads underground into his mother's real research lab, the one where she conducted her most gruesome experiments. Hidden features one of the dumbest premises you're likely to find in a horror movie. The late Dr. Carter's work involved the transformation of addictions into distinct cellular bodies, which could then be excised like cancer cells. Poof - no more addiction. Unfortunately, her tests on human subjects didn't stop there.

The whole basis of this story is laughable, and there's absolutely no suspense or tension as the utterly predictable events play out. There's also no blood or gore to speak of. Next to no character development also means you won't really care what happens to any of these people. It all adds up to a formula for banality, which will have you thinking that the one thing that should have stayed hidden was Hidden itself.

Dark Tower [Import]
Dark Tower [Import]
VHS

2.0 out of 5 stars As boring and utterly predictable as they come, Dec 22 2012
This review is from: Dark Tower [Import] (VHS Tape)
Don't look for the Gunslinger here because this Dark Tower has nothing to do with Stephen King. No, what you have here is a boring film with a clichéd premise playing out exactly as you knew it would from the start. I would swear the filmmakers produced this thing using a do it yourself movie kit; that's how canned and predictable the whole thing is. We're talking about a skyscraper haunted by an obvious ghost for an obvious reason. You could probably figure out this whole plot without even watching any of the movie.

I'm not too sure why they're having the windows washed when work on the building hasn't even been completed yet, but they are - or at least they were, until said window cleaner dude fell to his death from outside the 29th floor. Building architect Carolyn Page (Jenny Agutter) saw it happen through her window and says it looked like the guy was thrown off. The authorities, of course, write it off as an accident. Then another accident takes place, and then a regular Joe loses it and starts shooting people. I would have been out of there by this point, but I guess the Italians (just ignore the obvious Spanish location because the movie is supposedly set in Italy) aren't as superstitious as I am because everyone there just keeps on keeping on. Well, all except security consultant Dennis Randall (Michael Moriarty), who has "hunches" and brings in a parapsychologist to try and explain why this building can't go more than a couple of days without someone dying in it. Dr. Max Gold (Theodore Bikel), the only decent character in the whole movie, spends a lot of time and effort trying to figure out who is behind it all and what he wants - and, unfortunately, we the audience can't tell him what we've figured out early on.

I kept hoping this movie would throw some kind of twist in at the end, sure that things couldn't possibly play out in such a blatantly obvious manner. Sadly, that hope was never fulfilled. Apparently, the original director of the film left at some point during production, which is never a good sign. I like to think he realized just how bad this film was and wisely bailed, but I'm afraid he and everyone else associated with this film deserves some of the blame for making one of the most pedantic, time-wasting "thrillers" I've ever seen.

Cracking the GRE, 2013 Edition
Cracking the GRE, 2013 Edition
by Princeton Review
Edition: Paperback
60 used & new from CDN$ 2.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A GRE prep guide like no other, Dec 17 2012
If you only get one GRE prep book, this is the one to get. Other books will tell you how to solve the kinds of problems you are likely to find on the test itself, but this book shows you how to figure out the correct answers to questions you'll face. As the authors make special note of, "The GRE assesses how well you take the GRE." Hey, it's great if you can solve every math question the Educational Testing Service throws at you, but doing so can take more time than you have to spare. It's much more efficient to tackle those hard problems by eliminating all but one of the answers to figure out the correct choice. This strategy goes beyond your basic process of elimination, but the Princeton Review gives you all of the strategies you'll want to have at your disposal, gives you numerous "Here's how to crack it" examples, and even helps pump you up to do your best when test day comes.

The Princeton Review strategy was particularly helpful to me. I aced the GRE back in 1991, but that was a long time ago. I had forgotten more than I'd like to admit about the Math section, the Verbal section had changed quite a bit (no more antonyms - boo), and the challenging yet super fun Analytical section had been eliminated and replaced with an Analytical Writing section. Heck, even the test experience itself had changed drastically. Not giving myself as much time as I should have, I had to do some cramming. I started with a Barron's book, and it was quite helpful - but not nearly as helpful as this one. These guys have done their best to get inside the minds of the test creators. Other books teach you how to solve problems, but this book shows you how to take the test. Did I still encounter a few problems on the real test that weren't in this book? Of course. Were my scores as high as they were over twenty years ago? No, to be honest, but I was still happy with them, especially considering I had been out of school for eighteen years.

Obviously, Cracking the GRE, 2013 Edition covers the new revised version of the GRE, so you're good to go until ETS shakes things up yet again. You're still going to need to work to prepare for test day, though. If all of these strategies were obvious, there would be no reason for any GRE prep book. The book is probably most helpful in terms of the Math section, but there's no shortage of tips and tricks for any of the test sections. I know I would have been less prepared than I was for the actual test if I had not worked my way through this book.

Christmas with Mahalia
Christmas with Mahalia
Price: CDN$ 14.89
15 used & new from CDN$ 9.92

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful and deeply spiritual Christmas album, Dec 17 2012
This review is from: Christmas with Mahalia (Audio CD)
If you prefer your Christmas songs performed with reverence and tradition, you know Mahalia Jackson will deliver on both counts. The true meaning of the season truly reverberates in each and every word that comes from this gospel legend's lips in this collection of ten Christmas favorites. Nowhere is that more true than on Oh Holy Night, a song which - when it's done right, as it is here - delivers more spiritual power than any other Christmas song. What Child is This? is another of my favorite Christmas songs, and Mahalia performs it with beauty and true grace.

I must admit I had never heard No Room at the Inn, but it's a beautiful, almost dirgeful tribute to the humble nature of Christ's birth. Of course, this album is really about the joy of Christmas, so Mahalia immediately follows that song up with the nonreligious but perennial Christmas favorite Silver Bells. Mainstream songs such as this and White Christmas are actually my least favorite songs on the album, however. For me, it's as if Mahalia's voice is so spiritual that she gives these songs more power than they inherently possess. Don't get me wrong - these songs are wonderfully sung, but Mahalia Jackson was born to sing praises to Our Lord, and it is in the traditional religious hymns (such as It Came Upon the Midnight Clear and The First Noel) that her spiritual prowess shines the brightest.

Monster Brawl
Monster Brawl
DVD ~ Dave Foley
Price: CDN$ 14.97
3 used & new from CDN$ 10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Are you ready to rumbleeeeee?, Dec 17 2012
This review is from: Monster Brawl (DVD)
It doesn't get any cheesier than this: a wrestling pay-per-view featuring eight of the world's most terrifying (albeit generic) monsters: Frankenstein, The Mummy, Lady Vampire, the Werewolf, Swamp Gut, Cyclops, Zombie Man, and, of course, Witch Bitch. There's no Michael Booker asking fans "Are You Ready to Rumbleeeeee?" but that's just as well since there aren't any fans there. The monsters are sort of shy around crowds, and the last thing promoters want is for some fans to get their arms torn off, so the ring is set up in a creepy old graveyard - a cursed, creepy old graveyard - in Michigan. But hey, Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart is there, and Kevin Nash joins in the fun as Colonel Crookshanks, the man who's been secretly training Zombie Man for the past decade. Providing the funniest play-by-play since Celebrity Deathmatch are Sasquatch Sid Tucker (Art Hindle) and Buzz Chambers (Dave Foley). Is it stupid? Of course, it's stupid - but what glorious stupidity.

These are death matches, folks. Two monsters step in the ring, and only one leaves alive. The only rule is that there are no rules. You just know all of those tombstones around the ring are going to be put to good use. I don't know why the two middle-weight winners don't wrestle for a championship but, let's face it, we're all really here to crown a heavyweight champ. That's right, the winners of Werewolf vs. Swamp Gut and Frankenstein vs. Zombie Man must return to battle it out for the Monster Brawl Heavyweight Championship. And what a glorious fight it is, with both men - ahem - monsters showing remarkable resilience and unbelievable heart in a monster fight for the ages.

If you think monsters can't wrestle, think again. You'll see a number of actual wrestling moves, including the Figure Four (my favorite, despite the fact that my neighbor used to use that on me every time we wrestled as kids), the Sleeper, multiple clotheslines, and all kinds of good stuff. If you love monsters and wrestling, you're going to love Monster Brawl.

Messiah
Messiah
by Boris Starling
Edition: Paperback
48 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars There's much more to this mystery than simply identifying the killer, Dec 15 2012
This review is from: Messiah (Paperback)
Investigator Red Metcalfe's toughest case begins with two killings in one night. One man hanged, the other beaten to death - but both with their tongues removed and silver spoons inserted into their mouths. By the time a third victim has been found decapitated, Red and his team of investigators are still clutching at made-up straws. As the murders continue to mount, Red can ascertain no patterns and no motive. Besides his trademark calling cards, the killer leaves no clues, and nothing seems to tie the victims together. Red's obsession with the case threatens to destroy his marriage, even as it calls up dark secrets from Red's own past.

While it falls short of living up to its billing as "the most terrifying thriller since The Silence of the Lambs," Messiah certainly makes for a compelling and unforgettable read. The story of this unique killer's murder spree alone makes for a great story, but Starling adds a whole other dimension to it by deftly bringing events of Red's past full circle in the final pages. A little patience on the part of the reader goes a long way, as Red's early investigation features a couple of wild goose chases, but the action and tension really start building by the midpoint of the novel. I must admit, however, that I actually identified the killer less than two-thirds of the way through. This is noteworthy because I almost never figure out a whodunit; the fact that I stumbled onto what turned out to be the correct theory suggests to me that the author gave a little bit too much away too soon - either that, or I finally got lucky and guessed right for once.

Obviously, given the title, there is a religious aspect to the plot - but it's probably not what you're thinking. Fortunately, Starling manages to make even the most twisted of motives make some kind of sense in the end. What makes Messiah better than your run of the mill mystery, though, is the way Starling ties Red's own story to that of the case he's investigating. There's much more to this mystery than just figuring out who did it and why.

Strippers Vs Werewolves
Strippers Vs Werewolves
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 19.94
19 used & new from CDN$ 12.86

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Keep your filthy paws off my strippers, Dec 8 2012
This review is from: Strippers Vs Werewolves (DVD)
As this latest episode in the age-old battle between strippers and werewolves plays out, I think we all know who the good guys are. Things have been quiet since the explosion of the Silvadollaz strip club back in 1984, but that all changes when one dumb brute goes all hairy during a private dance with “Justice” (Adele Silva) inside Vixen’s. One silver fountain pen to the eye later, a werewolf lies dead and Vixen’s owner Jeanette knows that her girls and her club are in danger. There’s not a lot of good you can say about werewolves, but you can’t say they aren’t loyal to their pack. Once they find out how their mate died, it’s on.

When these strippers signed on to dance, they knew they would have to deal with some potentially dangerous – even hairy – guys, but I’m pretty sure that werewolves were not mentioned anywhere in their contracts. Never underestimate a stripper, though – especially Justice, as she’s even able to turn a complicating and potentially disastrous complication to the girls’ own advantage. There are a few subplots that make this movie a little more interesting (strippers are people, too, you know) and there’s a fair share of comedy sprinkled throughout, but in the end it’s exactly what the title says – Strippers vs. Werewolves.

Here’s a list of things to be aware of before watching this film. Robert Englund basically has a cameo scene and that’s it; there’s not much in the way of actual stripping; and the special effects (especially the werewolf makeup) aren’t going to win any awards. There’s some blood and gore, but this isn’t really a horror film. It’s pure camp, and you probably already know whether you’re the type of person who would enjoy it. I thought it was pretty decent.

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