June 29, 2014

Jug Face

Jug Face (2013) is a very disturbing horror movie about a bunch of hillbilly cultists who worship a pit in the woods near where they live. They offer human sacrifices to it, and the way they decide the victims is how the movie got its name. You'll have to watch it to get the full explanation.

The movie starts out with a teenage boy and girl chasing each other through the woods and eventually going off together for some you-know-what. We later find out that the two are brother and sister. Not too long after that, the girl finds out she is to be the next sacrifice, but she manages to hide this news from the rest of the group. This causes some very bad things to happen, as if the place wasn't hellish enough already.

While I did think this story was heavily inspired by The Lottery, there were some weird supernatural elements that helped make it stand out. This is a low budget movie from a first time filmmaker who does an excellent job of creating tension. Nearly everything about this movie is preposterous to an almost comic level, but it all still manages to work.

In the end, I really enjoyed this one because it was so creepy and unlike most anything I've seen lately. You need to check this little indie gem out as soon as you get a chance. It's only about 80 minutes long.

June 25, 2014


Escape (2012) is a subtitled medieval thriller from Norway. It's a little over an hour long, including credits, so there's not a lot of content here but I still found it to be entertaining. Think of it as sort of like a D&D encounter without any monsters.

The movie opens with a family traveling through the mountains when suddenly mom gets hit with an arrow. Two kids hide inside a wagon while dad tries to fight off a gang of vicious Viking-like marauders, and he gets cut down as well. When little brother tries to run, they put him down with another arrow. The only surviving member is a pre-teen girl who they capture for the purposes of impregnating so another little girl with the group can have a younger sister. These are very bad people.

Some pretty horrible things happen here, especially at the beginning when the family is slain and the girl gets captured. She eventually escapes and the rest of the movie has her being chased by the group, which is led by a psychotic blonde (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) who loves shooting people with her crossbow. There's plenty of blood and gore, a couple of good stunts, and not many dull moments given how short the movie was.

In the end, I liked Escape for its costumes and props as well as great use of the scenery. There are no big castle or village scenes so the whole thing is just a handful of actors chasing each other around some rather beautiful landscapes while trying to do horrible things to each other. If you like medieval type action movies, you may want to check this one out.

June 24, 2014

Tiny: A Story About Living Small

Tiny: A Story About Living Small (2013) is an hour-long documentary about a growing movement in the United States where people choose to live in very small houses - some less than 200 square feet. It features interviews with people building them as well as those who are already living in them, and follows one man through the entire build process.

This is a fascinating subject where it forces you to ask just how much "stuff" do you really need? The economic benefits of this kind of living are pretty obvious: less electricity and water, less insurance, less overhead, and so on. Of course the trade-off is less space. Most of those interviewed were either single or married couples though it did briefly show one family with small children.

I suppose you could compare this type living to staying in a small camper or RV. Most of the houses shown here appear to be in environments where air conditioning is not as needed during the summer. The interior layouts of the homes are neat to see how they maximize space so well. All of the homeowners talk about how their low cost of living affords them more money to travel and buy other things, and I suppose with such a small space you'd want to get away quite often.

If you're interested in small living, you should definitely check this out. Don't bother if you're claustrophobic!

June 21, 2014

Devil's Knot

Devil's Knot (2013) stars Reese Witherspoon as the mother of a young boy who was tortured and murdered along with two other boys, and it follows the investigation leading to the arrest of three local teenagers. This movie is based on the true story of the West Memphis Three. Colin Firth has a supporting role as a lawyer who doesn't think the teens committed the crime.

Note: This review contains major spoilers so if you don't know about this case you probably need to stop reading here.

If you aren't familiar with the case of the West Memphis Three, you'll probably find this movie infuriating because it's so inconclusive. If you do already know about the case, you won't learn anything new here. It does do a decent job of showing how badly the local police botched the investigation, ignored key details, and basically went on a witch hunt. The movie does make some implications as to what may have really happened, but nobody really knows.

Witherspoon, Firth, and the rest of the cast all do wonderful jobs with the material. The southern accents weren't too mangled, either. I did like how director Atom Egoyan kept the obvious prejudices subtle and the actors playing the accused boys all did great jobs with showing how their own looks and personalities didn't do them any favors with the case.

The biggest problem I had with this movie was that it doesn't really serve a purpose being that it's based on a true story. To date, nobody knows for sure who really killed those boys. That means the audience is left hanging at the end and there have already been numerous documentaries about this case so that a dramatized movie wasn't necessary. Maybe one day the truth will finally be revealed and then this whole thing may be worth revisiting.

Devil's Knot @ IMDb.com


Aftershock (2012) is about some tourists in Chile who endure a horrific earthquake and the human chaos that erupts in the aftermath. It's a very comical horror movie, and not all that good. Eli Roth (the "Jew bear" from Inglorious Bastards) stars alongside several European actors I've never seen before.

This movie runs about 90 minutes, and nothing really happens for the first half hour. All we see are these goofy guys trying to hook up with a bunch of gorgeous South American women at a series of clubs and parties. The dialogue sounds like something you'd overhear teenagers saying at their first party. After the first half hour is over, the earthquake hits, a bunch of people die, and this group goes off running for their lives.

What sort of makes this movie interesting is that the natural disaster isn't the real villain. Instead, it's the roving bands of looters and other miscreants that come out after the quake hits. While this group of people is just trying to get to higher ground and find a safe place, they end up being chased by a bunch of thugs who are taking advantage of the situation to rob and kill people. It doesn't make a lot of sense but results in quite a bit of gore.

In the end, I didn't much care for Aftershock. It tries to be a horror comedy but most of the jokes fall flat and the scary parts are too over the top. Don't waste your time on this obscure title - there's a reason why you've never heard of it.

Aftershock @ IMDb.com

The Returned

The Returned (2013) is a Canadian horror movie that puts a new twist on the zombie genre while still sticking to the same themes about selfish human behavior during a crisis. It doesn't star anyone I recognized, so I didn't know what to expect from the characters.

This movie takes place in the aftermath of a zombie holocaust where a cure was actually found that can keep the zombie conversion at bay. The only problem is that cure is quickly running out and scientists are scrambling to create a synthetic version. For those infected, finding the medicine they need creates a cutthroat level of demand because once you go off them, there's no turning back. This story follows a man struggling to keep from turning into a zombie while his doctor wife tries to help him.

I liked the original setting of this story but it's not your typical zombie movie in that there isn't much action. In fact, it only shows a few zombies. There were some interesting plot elements like people protesting for and against the rights of the infected, the way people are ostracized like AIDS patients, and so on. I will give this extra credit for being original, though the story itself could have used a little more excitement.

If you like zombie movies and are tired of all the crappy cheap knock-offs, this one might be worth your time. It's very low key but still works on some level even though I didn't care for the way it ended.

The Returned @ IMDb.com


Evidence (2013) stars Stephen Moyer (vampire Bill from True Blood) as a crime scene investigator who must go through a bunch of video footage in the aftermath of a mass murder. It's a new take on the "found footage" style of film making.

The story here involves a bunch of people on a bus trip who go off road to pick up a passenger and get into a wreck that flips their bus. They all have to hike out to this remote set of buildings that may have been some kind of garage at one time. As night falls, the group realizes they are not alone when a crazed killer with a welding mask and blow torch starts taking them out one at a time.

Moyer's character and some fellow detectives must then go through the footage found on individual cell phone videos as well as some handheld video camera to piece together what happened and try to determine if there were any survivors. He's not sure if the killer was a fellow passenger or someone else. Because there were multiple cameras, you get to see some of the same events from different perspectives so there are some twists that help keep things interesting.

Overall, I liked this movie even though it was a bit far fetched. It tries to mix genres in such a way that it's a mystery as well as a slasher flick. I thought some of the characters added an unnecessary amount of drama that, in hindsight, didn't make much sense. It still had enough originality to make it worth checking out, though I didn't find it to be all that scary.

Evidence @ IMDB.com