Psycho Beach Party Review

Psycho Beach Party (2000)

Starring: Lauren Ambrose,Thomas Gibson, Nicholas Brendon 
Directed by: Robert Lee King

The Premise

Florence "Chicklet" Forrest has a problem; specifically, dissociative identity disorder. With the help of the occasional stimuli, Chicklet becomes her alter ego, Ann Bowman, the promiscuous, foul-mouthed, take-no-shit, bad girl dominatrix. When her friends and acquaintances begin to turn up dead, suddenly she begins to wonder if her other self is responsible for the murders.

The First Stitches

The movie begins in black and white. A leather jacket clad man pulls into a pizzeria on his motorcycle. He storms in, looking for a woman named "Diane". After a bit of resistance from some guy in a smock, he finds her, behind at the counter? The pour their feelings out to each other, he demands she kiss him. Smock guy pleads for the young man to leave, but catches a haymaker like he gave out the wrong change. Jacket guy tears down the box to find -- she has three heads!? He flees the pizzeria, screaming, just in time for the camera to pan away, showing it was only a movie at the drive-in theatre.

In common drive-in fashion, the first car depicts a couple making out. Next it pans to Florence and friend, Berdine (Lauren Ambrose and Danni Wheeler, respectively), as they discuss the social undertones of the movie, which has now somehow turned into a one-headed, 50-foot pizza waitress monster flick. Florence leaves to get them a hot dog when she runs into Swedish exchange student, Lars (Matt Keeslar) and snide, hateful Rhonda (Kathleen Robertson). Soon, Florence finally makes it to the hotdog stand and in the midst of of ordering, another woman walks up and immediately takes the clerk's attention. Suddenly, a flash of the "Snacks" sign causes Florence to blank out. Enter Ann Bowman...

"You talking about me, shit-for-brains?? Cut it."
Mending the Seams

Plot: The buffoonery that is this movie's script was nothing short of entertaining. In perfect 60's fashion, the characters beach jargon their way through a ridiculous whodunit-type adventure, complete with surfing, dancing and murder. Sweet, delicious murder. What makes the storyline to this movie so much fun is instead of relying purely on crude jokes and absurd amounts of blood, the humour is provided through a peppering of both subtle and blatant in-jokes, including a very awkward beach wrestling scene, gender juxtaposition and also there's that previously mentioned Rhonda...she's so hateful, it's actually kinda funny.
As the story progresses, the twists and turns common in any mystery movie definitely lead you in a direction that's about as brilliantly and subtly misleading as the plot to Sinister (I'm actually not joking about that, the climax to this movie was pretty good), yet still amusing.
Characters: Ultimately, I found all the characters likeable in their own jacked up ways, but some were pretty forgettable. There's no immediate antagonist in the film (I won't be spoiling this character's identity, either, if you've not seen it, you're safe), so we get to learn more about each character from Florence and her "issues" to Starcat (Nicholas Brendan) and his First World Problems. While not particularly joke-crackingly funny, Police Captain Monica Stark (writer Charles Busch) was also rather enjoyable, given the role of the character.

"We're not done here...keep reading."

Setting/Atmosphere: California beaches? Check. Lots of sun, waves and tiki torches? Check. Overly-entitled, beachcombing white kids with too much time on their hands? Check plus 1. The locale of this movie definitely screams the 50's down to the clothing, the diners and the groovy beach jargon. Seeing that the movie more plays into the comedy/mystery aspects of the story, there is little that actually makes the film scary in the classic horror sense.
Special Effects: There are a few scenes throughout the movie that display both practical and CG effects that reflect the 50's by way of plastic dismemberments and in-your-face 3D moments, which used to be rather common. There aren't a lot of special effects in this flick, but when they occur, they fit very well. No issues here.
Music/Audio: The soundtrack to this movie was definitely appropriate, down to a live surfer band at one point. There was even a feel of classic film in some of the tracks that harkened back to the days of movies like Psycho while keeping with the lighthearted motif.

The Binding Stitch

In my honest opinion, this movie is a pretty decent blend of comedy, horror and mystery. I'm not saying it's top notch in either category, but it definitely gives enough of each to be considered sufficient in staying all around entertaining. I recommend this flick as a good, light-hearted summertime horror when you're not in the mood for copious amounts of blood and gore or want something on the other side of the horror spoof spectrum that's not quite as in-your-face, much like the cult classics Scary Movie and Dead Alive.

The Purge Review

The Purge (2013)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Rhys Wakefield
Directed by: James DeMonaco

The Premise

In 2022, the United States has now sanctioned murder legal for 12 hours out of the year. No police. No firefighters. No ambulances. Are your doors locked?

The First Stitches

The movie opens with scene after scene of chaos through the eyes of various security cameras. Video evidence of past Purges. The scene then cuts to security system salesman, James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), reassuring a client they've purchased the best system, the same system he uses. Eventually, he makes it home as his wife is preparing dinner. Shortly into the meal they realize it's almost time for The Purge to commence. They arm the security system and are ready to wait out the chaos until young Charlie (Max Burkholder) notices a wounded man (Edwin Hodge) running through the streets screaming for help. Before anyone realizes he disarms the system and calls to the man, offering a safe haven. After the system is rearmed, a group of Purgers emerge from the shadows.

Led by a rather personable psycho (Rhys Wakefield), the Sandins are informed the man they are harboring is one of their targets that fought back and killed one of their own. They are given a short timeframe to present the man, alive, or noone is safe.

Mending the Seams

Plot: The thing I like about The Purge is thinking "what if this really happened"? As the security footage plays in the beginning, it give a bit of depth to the situation as it feels a bit more real. From there, unfortunately, it becomes pretty predictable. Based on the dialogue of the film, you can pretty much tell who's dangerous and who's not. There's really not much of a twist in that regard until towards the end...but even then, everything is predictable due to a conversation between Mary (Lena Headey) and a neighbor.
Characters: I honestly wasn't very motivated by many of the characters in this movie. I did enjoy Edwin Hodge's character as his performance was pretty believable. He was a cornered fox who needed to do what he could to survive. Overall, the best characters were the Target, James Sandin and the charismatic stranger, who ultimately took the top spot for me. Honorable mention for Lena Headey for being hot in an upper class suburban mom sort of way.
Setting/Atmosphere: My complaint about the atmosphere of this movie is that it really wasn't scary or all that tense, and part of that is because of the aforementioned predictability. With the almost inescapable darkness that takes over the movie part way, I was expecting more intensity in the scenes following, but more so it equated to some kill-happy psychos turning the movie into a big game of "Look out behind you, jackass!!"
Special Effects: Not surprisingly, this was one of the best parts of the movie (produced by Michael Bay...surprise!) and even that doesn't say all that much considering the most you get in visual effects are some gunshots and a lot of broken windows.
Music/Audio: Those gunshots and broken windows I mentioned just now pretty much make up the majority of the sound effects in this film. Other than that, the soundtrack wasn't bad at all.

The Binding Stitch

Being the first horror I've seen in a theatre in quite some time, I was hoping for something much better. Especially considering the trailer for this film really sells it. The sad truth is while the premise for The Purge is really very tight, the film itself falls apart easily due to poorly written characters and overall poor writing. The few saving graces were easily the main antagonist and an ending that was bittersweet as well as humourous. This movie had a lot of potential, but sadly I feel it fell flat and was not worth the price of admission. Perhaps at a later time (I won't be paying full blu-ray/dvd price for this, neither should you) when there is a price drop on this title, I could suggest it as a movie to add to a themed horror marathon (Intruders, chaos, etc), but as it stands, this one wasn't really worth it, except for the villain.

The Wasp Factory (In Memory of Mr. Banks)

The Wasp Factory

By: Iain Banks

The Premise

Frank Cauldhame is your average 16 year old. Well, not really, as he has killed 3 people (all within his own family) in his earlier years. Frank's brother, Eric, has escaped from a mental hospital and while preparing for his inevitable return, Frank reflects on his life up to this point. Soon, though, he learns something about himself that turns his already messed up life upside down.

The First Stitches

The story begins with Frank checking the Sacrifice Poles (which include the heads of mice, a seagull, a rat and some dragonflies). Before he is able to finish, a sudden lift-off of a flock of birds catches his attention. Through binoculars, he is able to see that Officer Diggs, from the mainland, is peddling up from the distance. He stops at the gate in the middle of the swaying bridge and uses the phone to communicate with Frank's father, who allows his entrance. At this point we find the Factory has been warning Frank about something important in  its usual non-specific way.
Instead of going straight home (Father doesn't like Frank to be home when Diggs is around), he decides to continue checking the poles. Afterward, he leaves his sack of heads and bodies in the "Bunker" and finally heads home (the birds have again alerted him, this time of Diggs's departure). Upon arriving home, Frank's father puts out the remaining stump of his cigar, staring at Frank. "I suppose I'd better tell you," he says. "Eric has escaped from the hospital."
"I hate having to sit down in the toilet all the time. With my unfortunate disability I usually have to, as though I was a bloody woman, but I hate it. Sometimes in the Cauldhame Arms I stand up at the urinal, but most of it ends up running down my hands or legs."
Mending the Seams

Plot: Much like in my recent(ish) review of We Need To Talk About Kevin, the narrative of this book is told through a first person perspective, specifically that of Frank. Unlike the aforementioned, though, it is not in a letter format, but simply a first person recalling. It's done in a way that keeps you close to the main character, but does not alienate the rest of the personalities in the story. In my opinion, it also helps to keep Frank's mindset and motivations clear as he relives those awful, yet satisfying moments in his life.
Characters: Speaking of the different personalities, I did enjoy all the characters of this book. From Frank Cauldhame to his diminutive friend, Jamie. Every character in Frank's immediate family has their own sort of "rituals" that seem to personify their being. Frank himself has his Factory, which he routinely turns to for a bit of macabre interpretive "advice". Mr. Cauldhame has his meticulous measurements, which he feels help build character. Eric...well, Eric burns dogs.

I'm sorry, what??

Setting/Atmosphere: What sets the atmosphere in this book is not general imagery of the scenery (it is set in beautiful Scotland; Frank's home being offshore on an island), but the moments leading up to the atrocities Frank has committed, such as the chapter with his younger brother, Paul. Also various moments like the one leading up to the explanation of Eric's current mental state do a great job of setting a complete dip in complacency.
Special Effects: N/A
Music/Audio: N/A

The Binding Stitch

While I admit, this review is partially in response to the recent passing of Iain Banks, coincidentally, this was also the next review I had planned out. That being said, I am not afraid to say that this book was seriously well deserving of being named one of the greatest books of the century. Being 184 pages and Mr. Banks's first published novel, published originally in 1984, I was amazed at how hard it was to put down as it progressed. I haven't read anything else of his (as a matter of fact, this, like We Need To Talk About Kevin, was a recent present from my fiance and the first of either respective authors I've read), but given the opportunity, will be seeking out more. Whether you are a fan of macabre literature or just want a really good book to read, I suggest picking this one up as soon as possible and giving it a nice home on the shelf and in your memory bank. R.I.P. Mr. Banks and thank you for your contribution to modern literature.

Also, the cute doggy above came from here.

Zombie Women of Satan Review

Zombie Woman of Satan (2009)

Starring: Victoria Hopkins, Warren Speed, Seymour Mace
Directed by: Steve O'Brien, Warren Speed

The official Growling Clown trailer is located here.

The Premise

A troupe of alternative performers are invited to an obscure compound for a webcast interview. As it turns out, the compound is also being used by a family cult for zombie research. Things flare up even more when it turns out one of the newly recruited cultists may be the lost sister of one of the troupe's biggest performers.

The First Stitches

The movie begins with a tree shot followed by a redheaded woman in a camo jacket peering through the trunks at an unidentified building. The shot cuts as she inches closer.
The scene then cuts to the opening credits, which play out a bit like a demented Scooby-Doo chase scene, complete with a handful of strangely hot zombie women chasing after Pervo the Clown (writer/director Warren Speed). As the credits end, the next scene bounces between a (very) nice burlesque show and a lone older man working with chemicals near a silent woman on a medical slab. At a point he injects the girl with a strange green substance just as our busty burlesque dancer, Harmony Starr (Kate Soulsby) is finishing her show. As the set ends and our emcee, Johnny Dee Hellfire (Seymour Mace) is introducing the next act, the mysterious man informs a crazed looking woman he will be trying a new mixture.

Meanwhile, at the show...
To the delight of the crowd, Skye Brannigan (Victoria Hopkins), the lead singer of the Acid Chicks, then makes her way to the stage performing her her heavy metal act. She is then followed by Pervo as he displays his perfected art of knife throwing. After a slight twist in the act, the scene cuts back to the girl on the slab as she is beginning to become feral and violent. He quickly dispatches her and provides the psychotic woman with the body to "play with".
In between sets, Johnny informs the crew that their show, Flesh-O-Rama, will be going to do an internet interview later, which, to Pervo's liking, will include gorgeous women with big breasts.

Mending the Seams

Plot: In all honesty, the plot to this movie is a little thin and left me asking many questions. The most prevalent being WHY would you invite people to your compound when you're in the middle of zombie experimentation?? They obviously weren't short on test subjects! There wasn't much in this movie that made sense, but given the context, I don't think a strong storyline is what they were really looking for. Shock and general debauchery seem to be the underlying themes of the narrative...well, that and breasts. Lots and lots of breasts.

Wait, what?
Characters: Speaking of which, I won't deny, the Zombie Women were high on my list of favorite characters. Interestingly enough, this has little to do with the nudity and more for the acting, which was actually pretty humorous at times. The only issue is these characters don't really shine until after the accidental poisoning. Beforehand, they're mostly just eye candy and experimentation fodder. In a related subject, I really liked Pervo the Clown. The hedonistic nature of this character kept him a bit on the one-dimensional side, but his one track mind was also the source of some of the most humorous and oddball moments in the movie. Johnny Dee Hellfire and Zeus were also fun characters that added to the overall enjoyment of the movie.
The antagonists of the film (the Zanders), unfortunately didn't really keep my attention very well. I did like Blue, Mother and Father Zander to an extent, but Tycho and Red seemed too pretentious and air-headed (respectively) for my tastes.
Setting/Atmosphere: My favorite location in this movie would probably be

Perhaps she just needs a hug?
Special Effects: Effect-wise, this movie doesn't set the bar in any way, shape or fashion. The bite effects were definitely on par, but that's really about it. A few of the more graphic scenes (including a chainsaw decapitation) were pretty good, but in all, there was nothing shocking or necessarily stomach turning that happens. On the plus side, all the effects in this film seem to be practicals (non CG), so that helped maintain the enjoyability, but I feel there could have been a few more props used, particularly hand and leg props, as this movie really lacked dismemberments, which are a staple for zombie movies, in my opinion (speaking of which, it's ironic the character named "Damage" caused close to the least amount...just saying...).
Music/Audio: I liked the song at the beginning of the movie, I just didn't like the performance. Musically, this movie did pretty well as every track was actually pretty fitting (ex. Harmony Starr's show in the very beginning). The work in this department was overall solid, not really lacking in any mentionable way. The sound effects were on par as needed, though the only scenes in which I didn't care for them were for the only scene I didn't care for involving Zeus (a long and unnecessarily drawn out poop joke).

The Binding Stitch

Zombie Women of Satan feels more like a niche film for viewers looking to laugh more than enjoy a storyline. More so, if you just want to see a screaming swarm of hot, pasty-white, topless women then this is your movie. And make no doubt about it, this movie is full of sleaze and ridiculous subplots that go nowhere (take the hotel scene for instance), but is it fun? Hell yes!! I say this one definitely worth giving a chance. Pervo the Clown is awesome! And be sure to visit Warren's page occasionally for updates on his band, Sideshow Excentrique (S/Ex)'s debut album set to drop this year (2013, if you haven't been paying attention) as well as news on his upcoming sequel Zombie Women of Satan 2!!