The Bleak Reel Review

Hey, have you watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Cannibal Holocaust? How about Audition or Martyrs? Oh, oh, you’ve watched 2 Girls 1 Cup and Mr. Hands. Right? I got another one for you. Have you watched The Bleak? Nope, forget I said anything. I didn’t mean to bring it up. Then again, maybe you’re curious. Maybe now you can’t get The Bleak out of your head. This guy is telling me that I can’t handle The Bleak? I’ll show him. I’ll watch it. Just remember, what’s been seen cannot be unseen.

The Bleak is an extreme horror experience directed by James Bell. Set up as an anthology the viewer goes on a journey through multiple horrific and violent set pieces. From otherworldly monsters to serial murderers nothing is off-limits when it comes to The Bleak. The special effects, done by James Bell and Mae Bell, are noteworthy because they are truly incredible. Anyone interested in practical gore is going to love the miles of intestines splayed and gallons of blood sprayed in every frame of The Bleak. Another positive would be the soundtrack composed by Kids Kill Kids. The beeps, blips, and constant droning of electronic noise really heightens the shocking scenes that are playing before the viewers eyes. 

Beyond shock value and whispered about curiosity The Bleak doesn’t have much more to offer. The story is basically nonexistent as none of the vignettes are related as far as plot. The way they connect is creative, however, as characters often show up in each other’s scenarios. Character development is lacking as most of the individuals spend their time killing or running away from being killed. The dealbreaker when it comes to reviewing The Bleak is the content. I cannot express this enough, if you do not wish to view extreme scenes of violence, rape, torture, and murder do not watch The Bleak under any circumstance.

That being said curiosity is a weird thing. The Bleak is a challenge to find and a challenge to watch. Everybody enjoys a challenge, right? Just like a child reaching out to touch the top of the stove burner for the first time, you might find yourself in a similar situation. Sitting in front of your television with a DVD copy of The Bleak in your PS2, finger hovering over the play button. Ready to be burned.

I give The Bleak 2 out of 6 reels.

Ghost Burger Reel Review

John Tooley(Lee Hardcastle) is a survivor. He experienced a traumatic toilet training incident as a young child. John was left scarred by the event but he also gained an incredible gift, the ability to see ghosts. Later, as a young adult, John goes to visit his uncle, Benedict Tooley(Dominic Brunt), and cousin, Ritchie Tooley(Tim Atkins), for the summer. He is going to work at his uncle’s burger restaurant, Benedict Burgers, to earn some extra spending money. Everything is going well until John learns of the haunting in his bedroom. After killing the spirit he and Ritchie put the ghost through the restaurant’s meat grinder to hide the evidence. What they fail to realize is they’ve started a series of horrific and hilarious events. Events that will bring them, their family, and the surrounding community to their knees.

Ghost Burger is a claymation horror/comedy written and directed by Lee Hardcastle. The film is a sequel to the claymation short T is for Toilet that is featured in the 2012 horror anthology The ABCs of Death. The areas that Ghost Burger shine are in its unpredictable story and unique style. The story is bat shit crazy and this, along with the comedic writing, keeps the pacing frenetic and fun. You never know what is next but it’s usually something hilarious and gross. The style of claymation is also fantastic in that it has a low-budget feel that doesn’t compromise the overall experience. You understand that in this alternate universe the characters and the locations would look exactly like this, a deformed and grotesque version of our own world.

Although I did enjoy the inventiveness and unpredictability of Ghost Burger’s story, I would have liked some further explanation in certain areas. A few things could have been more fleshed out which would have boosted my investment in the plot. For example, in the beginning of Ghost Burger we are given no reason for why John can see ghosts. In the end the story is admittedly absurd but I do feel a bit more clarification could have helped.

Overall, Ghost Burger is one hell a good time. The story is consistently captivating and the claymation gives the film a style all its own. Some parts are vague, offering little reason for why things are happening. This is infrequent, however, and it excusable all things considered. I give Ghost Burger a big recommendation for fans of claymation and comedic horror alike. T is for Toilet and Ghost Burger a both available to view on YouTube.

I give Ghost Burger 5 out of 6 reels.

Happy Mother’s Day Reel Review

(Message to readers: Happy Mothers Day is a sequel to Cindy’s Birthday Party. Cindy’s Birthday Party has been previously reviewed and can be found at Cinemaslice.com.)

It’s been many years since Jonas(Martin James) vanished without a trace after attending Cindy’s(Gracie Demski) birthday. Cindy is now a teenager and has invited her friend, Samantha(Maryann Fisher), over for a party. It’s Mother’s Day and it seems like a nice gesture since Samantha has no one to celebrate with. Soon enough Mr. Gremshaw(Dan Busch), the caretaker, shows up and leads Cindy and Samantha to the basement where Cindy’s mother(Donna Madison) is ready to celebrate.

Happy Mother’s Day is a horror short written and directed by August Aguilar. The film is a sequel to Cindy’s Birthday Party, which was also directed by August. Happy Mother’s Day is a horror fest, filled with crazy characters, that has improved in many ways over its predecessor. One criticism I had with Cindy’s Birthday Party was the many unaddressed questions. Many answers are given in Happy Mother’s Day, while also maintaining enough of the mystery that good horror thrives upon. Another fantastic addition was the practical gore effects done by Ryan Smith. They boosted the short’s entertainment value to another level. Also, I have to mention Gracie Demski’s portrayal of Cindy. That blank stare and subtle eye twitch really creeped me out.

One criticism that I have with Happy Mother’s Day is that the plot is familiar. Nostalgia and reverence to earlier film is important, but ultimately too much can lead to predictability. The question mark of Cindy’s family remains, however, and because of the revelations in Happy Mother’s Day I’m excited for more. If another sequel is in the works I hope to see some interesting plot choices added to the other excellent improvements.

Overall, Happy Mother’s Day was a bloody good time. The characters were unique and interesting and the makeup effects exceptional. The story was formulaic but didn’t disrupt the film’s quality. I recommend this film to fans of 1970’s horror, particularly films with sadistic family units.

I give Happy Mothers Day 5 out of 6 reels.

Quarantine Reel Review

Another exciting episode of The Night Shift is ready to begin filming. Tonight reporter Angela Vidal(Jennifer Carpenter) and cameraman Scott Percival(Steve Harris) are shadowing the firemen of the LAFD. Things remain relatively calm until a call comes in from a nearby apartment building. George Fletcher(Johnathon Schaech) and Jake(Jay Hernandez) respond to the incident, with Angela and Scott in tow. A resident of the building, a Ms. Espinoza(Jeannie Epper), is acting very erratically. She’s extremely aggressive toward others and there’s a mysterious thick foam emerging from her mouth . . .

Quarantine is a 2008 found footage horror film directed by John Erick Dowdle. Based on the 2007 Spanish film called REC, Quarantine is excellent at capturing the grimy look and claustrophobic feel of the original. The setting of the century old apartment building lends an authenticity to the creepiness. Old places tend to have an air of mystery which creates apprehension and unease. The makeup and effects work are also exceptional. By the end of the film you’ll be on edge and the creature design has a lot to do with that anxiety. Ms. Espinoza was on my mind for days after my first viewing.

Quarantine isn’t without faults. The main criticism is a classic among the horror genre. Everyone in Quarantine is doing something stupid at every turn. Given our current situation in the real world, this statement may seem to ring true. I, however, am not talking about “that’s not what I would do” stupid. I’m talking about “that’s not what ANYONE would do” stupid. Like backing against a door made mostly of glass when you know a monster is on the other side of that door. Which happens in this movie. Literally.

Despite an over abundance of bad decisions being made by multiple characters, Quarantine isn’t without its merits. The setting and creature designs are high quality and do most of the work when it comes to scares. Quarantine is a visually frightening found footage freak show and I recommend it to anyone who is willing to turn off their brain for a scary good time.

I give Quarantine 3 out of 6 reels.

28 Days Later Reel Review

28 days ago an animal rights activist group broke into a research testing facility. Their intentions were good, wanting to free a large group of caged monkeys. During the release, however, they soon learn that the primates carry a dark secret. 28 days later, Jim(Cillian Murphy) wakes up in an abandoned hospital. The building and surrounding city are in ruins and seemingly every human has vanished. Upon entering a church, Jim slowly begins to realize what has happened when he encounters a horrifying scene. After being saved by survivors Mark(Noah Huntley) and Selena(Naomie Harris) all three must work together to escape the terrors they will encounter.

28 Days Later is a 2002 apocalyptic horror film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland. Redefining the genre as we know it the movie popularized one of the most horrifying movie monsters, the fast “zombie”. I put zombie in quotes because in 28 Days Later you don’t see the traditional undead zombie. Instead we get another version, one that is just as chaotic, unpredictable, and constantly hungry for anything that moves. The film revolves around these infected humans and are what provides the brilliant tension, eerie scenery and relatable characters we see throughout the rest of the film.

It’s tough to find a critique during the entire runtime of 28 Days Later. The set design is impeccable. The serenity and loneliness of an abandoned London is perfectly captured. This, along with the haunting soundtrack, is what builds the suspense that is soon broken by the shrieks of the infected. Essentially, it’s a movie full of beautifully crafted and well thought out jump scares. The nuanced relationships between the characters we meet trying to escape the city are emotional. By the end of the film you’re rooting for them to conquer every obstacle they meet.

I cannot praise 28 Days Later enough. A true modern classic in horror cinema, it nails everything it sets to carry out. Do the main characters make some decisions that are questionable? Sure, but considering they are human you see them learn and grow from these choices in a world were decision-making is a deadly game. I solidly recommend 28 Days Later to anyone who enjoys horror or great movies in general.

I give 28 Days Later 6 out of 6 reels.

Claymation Zombies: The Dr. Molder Chronicles – Reel Review

(Message to readers: Claymation Zombies: The Dr. Molder Chronicles is a prequel to Claymation Zombies. In writing these reviews I watched them in chronological order and the opinions in the reviews reflect the order in which I watched them.)

Abigail(Kenna Coy) has a special set of powers. After being brought to Dr. Molder’s(Jim Gloyd) research facility she begins a series of tests. Dr. Molder is a leader in the field of telekinesis and believes that he can help Abigail reach her full potential. Unfortunately for Abigail, Dr. Molders latest experiments haven’t gone as planned and he needs funding to continue his research. Emilio Andswarth(Gabriel Kirk) is now bankrolling Dr. Molder’s work and is especially interested in the Chromatron Conductor, a device that, in theory, should focus an individual’s telekinetic powers. The device’s results have proven disastrous in human trails but Emilio Andswarth isn’t concerned. If left unchecked, Emilio might cause an outbreak of claymation zombies.

Claymation Zombies: The Dr. Molder Chronicles is a comedy/sci-fi horror short directed by Jake Jolley. Wildly inventive and original, CZ: The Dr. Molder Chronicles really shines in being consistently captivating due to Jake Jolley’s imagination. The deadpan comedy is a star of the film as we get combinations of wacky and serious characters that play off of each other beautifully. A scene with a special investigation officer taking long sips off her absurdly large water thermos is a great example of this humor. Gabriel Kirk is a standout in the film and does a fantastic job as the bumbling antagonist Emilio Andswarth. The claymation effects also deserve some recognition as they are hard to pull off and commendable when attempted in any film.

A criticism I have with CZ: The Dr. Molder Chronicles is with the overly complex story. It feels as if to many elements were chaotically packed into the short runtime. During a first watch I had only a vague idea what was going on. I was more interested in the character portrayals then I was in what they were doing. Upon a second and third viewing I started to piece together what was going on, but still was pretty confused. I realize this is a comedy and the plot is purposely wacky on a certain level. However, among the craziness, I would also like clear motivations and reasons for when things happen which I feel the film could have worked on.

Overall, Claymation Zombies: The Dr. Molder Chronicles was a decent comedy/sci-fi horror short. While the plot was confusing I did appreciate the work put into the character development, the comedic performances of each actor, and the claymation animation put into the film. I would recommend CZ: The Dr. Molder Chronicles to anyone who enjoys B movies that have a creative take on the zombie sub genre.

I give Claymation Zombies: The Dr. Molder Chronicles 3 out of 6 reels.

Claymation Zombies – Reel Review

(Message to readers: Claymation Zombies: The Dr. Molder Chronicles is a prequel to Claymation Zombies. In writing these reviews I watched them in chronological order and the opinions in the reviews reflect the order in which I watched them.)

Dr. Molder(Jim Gloyd) wants to expose the dangers of his experiments. While his intentions where good, the negatives far exceeded the positives. During a meeting with local reporter Ted(Bill Jolley) an accident occurs and a claymation zombie outbreak starts to spread. Meanwhile, at a nearby comic shop, Jack(Jake Jolley) is handing out free comics. He runs into his buddy Cassidy(Justin Little) who is running from the zombie hoard. They soon meet up with Sheriff Locke(David Ogrodowski) and his small band of survivors. Together they must travel through the woods to the sheriffs pickup truck and hopefully escape the claymation monstrosities.

Director Jake Jolley is back with another installment of his apocalyptic claymation tale. Claymation Zombies is a survival comedy/horror short that continues the exploits of Dr. Molder and his ill-fated experiments. This short takes everything from CZ: The Dr. Molder Chronicles and shapes it into a more coherent whole. It accomplishes this without losing any of the imagination and creativity of the first film. The comedy is still deadpan and funny, with everyone delivering great lines during the absurd situations they are in. Sheriff Locke, portrayed by David Ogrodowski, is a standout being consistently funny throughout. The claymation effects are back and more prevalent than ever as zombies explode across the screen in showers of blood and clay.

A criticism that I had with CZ: The Dr. Molder Chronicles was the complicated plot that was hard to follow. Claymation Zombies sticks to a simpler story that focuses mostly on the survival of the characters as they make their way to the sheriff’s truck. This plot structure works for me better, as I would rather focus on the comedy and claymation elements of the film. At the end of the day, Claymation Zombies is still a low-budget B movie comedy horror. These types of films are quite polarizing with audiences. Simply put, you either love them or hate them. Claymation Zombies, while being creative and imaginative, doesn’t really break any new ground and is still for a specific type of audience.

Claymation Zombies is a quality entry in the Dr. Molder storyline. It simplifies the plot while maintaining the laughs and absurd moments from the prequel. Claymation Zombies is for a specific type of audience, however, with opinions of the short being divided. I recommend Claymation Zombies for anyone who enjoys a funny apocalyptic zombie flick filled with great clay animation.

I give Claymation Zombies 4 out of 6 reels.

The Unwelcoming House 2 -Reel Review

Joe(Joe Covarrubias), his wife, son Landen(Landen Covarrubias), and family dog Bailey finally escaped the house that terrorized them for weeks. They believed that they had left behind the sadistic Larry Adams and his ever-present walking cane. Unfortunately, Joe slowly began to realize that this wasn’t the case. He saw Larry Adams everywhere he went, continually being haunted by his presence. When Bailey dies under mysterious circumstances Joe decides that he must go back. Deep down, he wants to go back. Joe has to learn more about Larry Adams and the demonic presence that seems to surround him. Once again Joe must enter the Unwelcoming House.

Joe Covarrubias, director of The Unwelcoming House, is back in this superbly creepy sequel, The Unwelcoming House 2. Done in the same found footage/documentary style as the first installment The Unwelcoming House 2 ups the ante in a few key areas. First off, the pacing of this film is better. Joe goes back to his earlier home for a week and the nights are clearly delineated for the viewer. This layout makes the move forward fun for the audience as the tension and scares build throughout the movie at a brisk pace. Secondly, the mystery surrounding the house and Larry Adams is better explained giving the viewer context as to what’s going on. The pacing and detailed back story lead to scares that would impress any fan of the found footage horror genre.

A couple of criticisms I have with The Unwelcoming House 2 are ones similar to that of the previous installment. Once again, the story has plot holes that could have been better explained. One is the fact that an entire house filled with valuable items is abandoned. This is barely addressed and no matter how scared Joe was it’s hard to believe he would never try to retrieve some of these items. Another unfortunate problem is with the ending. A tactic that Joe has previously used throughout the films now seems to get him results, without explanation. Because of this the final confrontation feels anticlimactic to a certain degree.

Overall, The Unwelcoming House 2 is a successful sequel in The Unwelcoming House saga. It’s better paced, delivering well crafted scares that range from unnerving to horrifying. Some plot holes still remain but are fewer than there were in the original. For these reasons I recommend The Unwelcoming House 2 for fans of the original film wondering what ever became of Joe and his son Landen.

I give The Unwelcoming House 2 5 out of 6 reels.

The Unwelcoming House – Reel Review

Joe (Joe Covarrubias) is a typical, run of the mill family man. He lives in Mount Pleasant, MI with his wife, son Landon (Landon Covarrubias), and Bailey the family dog. There’s only one problem plaguing this idyllic family. Something or someone has started to haunt their home. What started as harmless noises, such as footsteps and eerie creaking, has escalating into something much more sinister. Joe now has to protect his family by diving into the houses history. A history that has the potential to violently harm not only Joe but also the ones that he loves the most.

Directed by Joe Covarrubias, The Unwelcoming House is an intensely creepy and unnerving found footage horror film. Some notable aspects of this movie are the methods of filming and the superbly scary scenes that arise from this style. Found footage is the coined term for this type of movie, but it would be better described as a fictional documentary. Joe is shooting footage to document his ghostly findings and nobody is really “finding” his work. Due to this you get a more steady and deft hand guiding the camera. This gets rid of the distracting and sometimes annoying “shaky cam” style. Another appreciated aspect of this film is the way the delivery of the script. A natural way of speaking lends to more believable dialogue in found footage films and Joe really nails this performance. 

One criticism of The Unwelcoming House is the strict adherence to the found footage horror formula. The film stays true to this blueprint and, in doing so, makes things a bit stale in terms of plot. Characters get explained away in convenient ways, a MacGuffin explains the demons ties to the home, and a few other elements echo popular found footage horror movies. None of these are deal breakers, however, as the film overall is impressive and technically well made.

The Unwelcoming House is a horrific and terrifying look into one chapter of a family’s struggle with a demonic entity. The story is an homage to found footage horror films of the past almost to a fault, but is technically proficient and the dialogue is expertly delivered. The Unwelcoming House is definitely a welcomed edition into the pantheon of found footage horror. 

I give The Unwelcoming House 4 out of 6 reels.

Cindy’s Birthday Party Reel Review

Cindy’s(Maddie Giorgio) big day has finally arrived. She is excited about her birthday and her mother(Merri Field Giorgio) has a special event planned. It’s a birthday party and the guests are starting to arrive. Jonas(Dylan Busch), one of the guests, gets out of the chauffeured limo and Cindy greets him at her front door. Jonas soon notices that no other guests are at the party. His suspicions further arise when Cindy tells him to go down to where the party is being held. Down into the basement.

Cindy’s Birthday Party, directed by August Aguilar, is a technically proficient and incredibly well acted horror short. The direction and writing are noteworthy due to the use of child actors in the film. It’s clear that Maddie Giorgio and Dylan Busch knew exactly what they were performing and that they had a full understanding of the story being told. The planning, along with some improvisation mixed in, seemed to work well as the children moved and talked very naturally in the environment. This fine acting along with an excellent buildup of tension and suspense in the plot are clear strong points in Cindy’s Birthday Party.

Some criticisms of Cindy’s Birthday Party are a lack of originality in the premise of the film and some unanswered questions which left a few holes in the plot. The celebratory atmosphere of the birthday party counteracted nicely with the ever-present creepiness of the story. Unfortunately, it also felt like a fancy dress being put on a basic “lambs being led to the slaughter” scenario. Perhaps if some questions were partly answered, like where are the birthday guest’s parents and who is the chauffeur bringing them, this may have livened things up. The mystery behind the thing in the basement, however, was fantastic and correctly was left to the imagination.

Cindy’s Birthday Party is a suspenseful and wonderfully acted horror short. It maintains the creepiness throughout and rarely relies on cheap jump scares. The plot is a tad basic which a few answered questions could have fixed, but the overall product is only slightly effected. A big recommendation to anyone who enjoys horror that slowly chills you to the bone.

I give Cindy’s Birthday Party 4 out of 6 reels.