Monthly Archives: January 2014

Maniac (2012)

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I put off watching this for a while. How could this possibly live up to the original? If you’re not familiar with it, it’s about a psychotic man with mommy issues who scalps young women. The scalps on then placed on mannequins in his home. He also seems to think the mannequins are alive, and talks to them. Sounds pretty sick, doesn’t it? To this day, it is still one of the most controversial films. When I heard about the remake, I wasn’t too sure about it. My faith in it quickly disappeared when I found out Elijah Wood would have the starring role of Frank, the troubled killer. I’m not saying Wood can’t portray a crazed killer. I personally think he was successfully creepy in Sin City, but I digress.

What made me finally watch it? As I’ve said before, I try to give any horror film a chance, even when I think it might be terrible. After watching it, I realized it lives up to the hype. Wood is terrifying, and he seems to bring even more of a sinister overtone to the character than Joe Spinell. Add to that the fact that most of the movie is seen through his eyes, and we’re treated to being trapped in the mind of a deeply disturbed man for 90 minutes.

It’s so chilling, and seems to add something that the original wasn’t able to do. Wood manages to bring the character of Frank to a level that’s almost unbelievable to see. It might be a remake, but it’s strong enough to be recognized as a brilliant horror movie on its own. I give it 5/5. I’m kicking myself for not giving it more of a chance. It’s currently streaming on Netflix, but this is another one I would recommend buying. Give it a shot. It will surprise you.

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Chobits (2003)

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I have to mention it took me 5 years to finish this. The problem is the first 8-10 episodes are saturated with fan service, and I just couldn’t get past that. For those that don’t know, fan service is just meant to entice the viewer. It could range from fights to explosions, but more often than not it’s panty shots, shower scenes and a lot of cleavage. In other words, there’s really no plot or story.

But at the request of one of my readers, I had to finish it. I’m really glad I did. It starts off slow and irritating at times, but it manages to redeem itself halfway through. We follow Hideki, a high strung guy who has to study at a cram school in order to get to college. He’s a horrible student, and is plagued by a lack of funds. His luck seems to change when he finds a persacom that has been left on top of garbage. Persacoms are personal robots that can serve all kinds of functions.

The fact the one is just lying in trash is odd because they’re super expensive. What follows is an interesting take on robots, and if they could become close to human. The voice acting is pretty good, but everyone sounds confused every time they speak. Each line has a unsure or quizzical tone, and I’m not sure why.

Other than that, it’s a solid show. It’s painfully slow for the first couple episodes, but once the action starts it’s nonstop. There’s also quite a bit of romance and mystery peppered in, but thankfully the elements blend together very well. I give it 4 out of 5. The acting is a little questionable at times, and the terms used for technology show just how old this really is. That being said, it is still a very sweet story. It’s currently streaming on Netflix, and I highly recommend giving it a chance.

Alyce Kills (2011)

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I came across this in an issue of Fangoria, although after watching it I wouldn’t classify it as horror. I think it’s more of a very gory psychological thriller. I have to say it was pretty well done, given the subject matter. Alyce (Jade Dornfeld) is a meek woman who works a mind numbing job that barely pays the bills. She accepts an invitation from old friend Carroll (Tamara Feldman) for night out. After a lot of wine and Ecstasy, they end up on a roof, where Alyce accidently pushes Carroll off a ledge.

The thing is Alyce doesn’t call for help, and lies to police about any involvement. She continues with life, until she discovers Carroll actually survived. What follows is 90 minutes of an emotional and mental downward spiral. We’re lead to believe Alyce was never all that stable to begin with, especially after Carroll freaks out when she realizes Alyce has the same ringtone as her. She also calls her “Single White Female”, and constantly makes remarks about her lack of sanity.

It was interesting to how Alyce went from quiet and ignored to strung out, murderous femme fatale. What makes this so chilling is how calm she is while all of the madness is happening in her life. You’re watching it, but you’re not sure how much of it is reality, or one of her drugged delusions. I have to applaud Dornfeld for bringing Alyce to life. The things she says and does are unbelievable, but she owns the part.

The supporting cast deserves recognition, as well. What happens to Alyce is somewhat by her own hands, but the argument could be made that her acquaintances helped push her to the breaking point. While it’s a solid film, it lost its punch toward the end. It went from a real character study to gorefest. This is one time where implied gore would’ve worked better.

I still give it 3 out of 5. It’s a different story, the acting was believable, and it was just a fascinating take on someone going through a mental breakdown. It loses points when it suddenly turned into a bloody massacre. Given how things progressed, having such graphic violence takes away from it. I’m all for gore, but this is one of the few times it doesn’t work. It’s still worth owning. It’s only $10 at Wal-Mart, but it’s worth it.

I Spit on Your Grave 2 (2013)

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After I picked this up, I realized I never saw the 2010 remake. I absolutely loved it. It still captured the brutal tone of the original, and managed to add its own spin on things. I couldn’t help but think part two would be just as good, even though it’s a new character. I was so very wrong. The biggest problem is the transformation of Katie (Jemma Dallendar). If you’re not familiar with I Spit on Your Grave, I have to give a bit of back story.

The original 1978 is one of the founding rape-revenge films. In that sub-genre, women are horribly assaulted and sometimes left for dead. They survive, and then launch a full campaign to torture/kill her attackers. On the one hand, these movies are never, ever easy to watch. However, it’s hard to deny the satisfaction you get when the woman gets her revenge. One key part is how the actress can portray a victim in the beginning, and then portray the strong, unmerciful force of nature for the middle and end.

And here’s where part two falls apart. Dallender is great at being emotionally and physically vulnerable. However, her attempts at rage and maliciousness are campy and very overdone. Her anger comes out as the equivalent of Hulk Smash. Also, her face contorts in odd ways when she screams during her acts of revenge. The rest of the movie isn’t all bad, but our main actress just couldn’t pull it off.

I give it 2/5. It falls into the same type of storytelling as the 2010 remake. But unfortunately it loses steam because of some pretty bad acting, and also it attempts to outdo its predecessors. That would’ve been fine if they had done it in a better way. It looks like they added more violence against the victim to prove a point, except there is no point. I still give it credit for staying true to the overall plot. I just wish they could’ve cast someone that was up to the task.

Grotesque (2009)

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I found out about this through a list of banned films. To my surprise, it’s available through Netflix, and they actually had the unrated version. After watching it, I’m not sure if I’m completely desensitized to graphic violence, or if this was a poor man’s attempt at shock value/torture porn. From what I gathered, there’s a sadist doctor that gets his rocks off by torturing people to death. That’s pretty much it.

It’s only 73 minutes long, so that should tell you how much time went to the actual story and character progression. I timed it to around 10 minutes. The rest is sexual humiliation, genital mutilation, dismemberment, disemboweling, and finally decapitation. Call me crazy, but I can’t see why it was banned. Yes, it’s pretty damn gross at times. However, I know for a fact I’ve seen much, much worse in theaters that are released on the big screen

This is just Japan’s take on “splatter” porn, but I was just bored. There’s nothing here except just gore and blood, and even that still doesn’t add any excitement. If you’re going for torture porn, you still need a plot. Why did the doctor decide that this was the best way to spend his free time? How has he been able to get away with it for so long? I really just wanted to know could people not notice a dirty white van that smells like rotting flesh.

From what little acting there is, it’s still bad. Considering people got various bits chopped off, they were relatively calm. Non torture scenes are awkwardly forced, and there’s this weird static whenever someone speaks. This gets a 0. I love Japan and their bizarre film-making, but it didn’t work this time. This is yet another one meant for gorehounds or fans of the torture sub-genre. Never thought I would ever say this, but Hostel is a bit better. It’s still kind of bad, but I appreciate Eli Roth for at least trying. I can’t say the same for Grotesque. However, like most things that come from Japan, this will make you say: What the hell did I just see? If you want gory Japanese weirdness, this is right up your alley. The rest of you should just watch Saw.

Shiki (2010)

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I don’t know much about this one. It’s on Hulu, and it’s the first anime I started watching after my accident. Only took me 7 months to finish it. It’s not plagued by fan service like Chobits, but the pacing is a little off. It takes a very long time for things to get going. This is an anime that relies heavily on atmosphere and character development, and storytelling takes a backseat.

However, this is really good. It’s about a very small village that suddenly has a rise in deaths after outsiders move into a huge mansion on the hill. Is it just a freak occurrence? Or is there something more sinister at work? I loved how the culprit was slowly revealed. It doesn’t explain everything in the first episode, and it even goes out of its way to throw you off. And to my surprise this was actually pretty creepy at times. I don’t get scared by shows easily, but I’ll admit I jumped a couple times.

The acting is amazing, but considering I believe we have the whole Funimation crew, it’s not that surprising. However, I think this is their best work yet. It’s a very emotional show, but it’s still believable. Everything seemed to fit together perfectly, and it was a lot of fun to watch. I give it 5 out of 5. It’s a different take on an old legend, and the various characters add some extra flair. Go out and buy it. This should be in every anime fan’s collection.