Friday, August 31, 2012

Welcome To Animals Doing Human Stuff Month!

What’s that? Did I hear a slide whistle?

Or a monkey farting?

Or a sasquatch dribbling?

Or a cat ghosting?

Could it be?....

It could! 

When we were children, September was a dark time. Sure, we could look forward to new episodes of Perfect Strangers and Herman’s Head, but only if we finished our homework before the dinner bell. Because remember, dear adult friends, when summer used to MEAN something? Freedom, swimming pools, air conditioned movie theaters, and ice cream trucks? 

As working adults, ‘freedom’ gets restricted to weekends now needed for rest, swimming pools make us wonder who peed in them, air conditioned movie theaters include droves of texters, and ice cream trucks offer nothing but empty calories and the reminder that in OUR day, Mr. Softee wasn’t $97.25. 

But he was never not creepy

We are old.

But you know what? There’s beauty in the month of September, and I’m not just saying that because it means an end to the fear of stepping on a subway car swarming with an army of summer campers in matching t-shirts and competitive screams. That’s right, as these whipper snappers bemoan the return to school hallways and math class, we grownups can appreciate the good that comes with it. Nicer weather, Labor Day, the nearness of October…um…nicer weather…

Okay fine! It’s not THAT great a month. And that’s why it’s going to the dogs.

The Karate Dogs.

And Cop Dogs.

And Chilly Dogs.

And Ghost Cats.

Talking koala bears.

Baseball playing chimpanzees.

Baseball playing golden retrievers.

And so on.

In case you haven’t figured it out, September 2012 is the 1st Maybe Annual Animals Doing Human Stuff Month here at the Doll’s House. Why? Mostly because I have this 4-dog movie pack from the self-proclaimed Cinemasochist himself, Justin Oberholtzer—whose awesome book Movienalia you can now get in hard copy or virtual form over yonder---and it would be a DOGGONE shame not to juice it for all its drool. 

We’ll be visited by a wide range of celebrities, including Jon Voight, Ellen Page, Joan Collins, Jeremy Piven AND Jeremy Sisto, Disney’s The Kid, Matt LeBlanc, Simon Rex, Billy Zane, Air Bud, Michelle Rodriquez, Richard Karn, and two-term U.S. president, Ronald Reagan!

Expect a lot of fart jokes, single parent households, lonely children, and montages. See, most Animals Doing Human Stuff films follow a pretty strict formula, all of which I’ll be looking for in the Standard Trope Checklist. We can’t have a talking koala bear movie without bully comeuppance now, can we?

As with February’s Attack of the Shorties, I openly invite all bloggers to join in on these 30 days of anthropomorphic attractions. If you plan on reviewing anything animal-centric in September, shoot me an email at deadlydollshouse at with a message and link so I can share it for all the world—or at least those who read this site—to see.

While I realize this subgenre doesn’t quite meet the standard definition of ‘horrors,’ please be assured that the films I’ve already watched all share some sort of terror, be it terrible performances by child actors, dead unblinking eyes of something that was designed to be cute, or A-list actors trapped in a hell of their own career choice making.

So break out the hand sanitizer and lint roller! It’s going to be a furry ride.

Um, not like that...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Just Skip the Hospital & Hit the Morgue

No intro today. Just nurses. That are sick. And Thai. And in a lot of trouble.

Quick Plot: This won't be easy. Somewhere in Thailand, the worst run hospital in Asia hosts an underground corpse trading business, where a handsome and horny young doctor enlists the aid of seven sexy nurses to help sell some bodies. Within the very first scene of the film, we learn that Dr. Taa has been cheating on his marriage-obsessed fiancée Tawan with her little sister. She's mad as hell and won't take it anymore, especially after her sister nurses body slam her onto the operating table as the next item of dead sale.

What follows is a sort of grownup 20something form of Hausu, as Tawan's evil angry spirit hunts her murderesses one night in the, as horror movie tradition dictates, complete empty hospital. Tossed in is a truly shocking twist that doesn't *quite* make sense, but is sure fun to see. Especially since it’s followed by an even campier one.

OH! And weird and bizarre death scenes. LOTS of them. See, all the beautiful nurses are terribly flawed human beings, and most--much like Hausu--have that one character trait (be it bulimia or materialism) that makes them both easy to remember and fun to kill. And yes, such quirks can lead to great death scenes that involve, well, bulimia and materialism.

Sick Nurses is a strange film and all the better for it. It never asks us to invest anything in its shallow characters, a move that could easily turn off some filmgoers who like to, you know, LIKE the people they watch onscreen. Our default heroine is a woman who stole her older sister’s fiancée. Her fellow victims are easy on the eyes but empty in the brain. You know the type: the kind of girl who will squirt shampoo in her hand and not notice that instead of Pantene, she’s now massaging her scalp with a handful of killer hair.

Yes, killer hair. This movie has killer hair. And yes, you should be quite pleased about that.

As Tawan plays with her pretty victims, we get treated to odd, almost Silent Hill-ish transformations of freakery. The chatty lesbian becomes something of Cellphone Face, the clothing obsessed twit, Fancy Pocketbook Head. It’s good stuff.

I was more than surprised by how much I enjoyed Sick Nurses. It’s visually inventive, taking a typical J-horroresque ghostess and giving her plenty of spins. Most importantly, the movie seems to have quite a bit of fun with itself. From the twisty weirdness of the plot to the cheeky death scenes, the viewer gets the feeling that Piraphan Laoyont and Thodsapol Siriwiwat enjoyed the process of making the film. Now THAT’s a refreshing dose of medicine.

High Notes
Initially, I was slightly annoyed by the film’s insistence on rushing past its basic character development and plot to get straight to the killing. You do lose that emotional connection that was never built with its stars, but ultimately, it makes Sick Nurses surprisingly spry. We’re never REALLY going to like any of these people, so the odd setup (plot! Kill kill kill side plot kill kill kill REVELATION kill) actually works weirdly well.

Low Notes
It’s a Doll’s House rule: any film that shows feline abuse must be marked. While the kitten tosser does indeed suffer a gruesome fate, it’s still infuriating

Lessons Learned
In Thailand, it is traditional to not remove any clothing when taking a shower

Virgos shouldn’t work in hospitals 

Pregnancy tests in movies are 5x faster than real life ones

The Most Unsettling Image Ever
Ew ew ew I say! As the bulimic brushes her teeth, she stuffs a Homer Simpson style pink donut into her throat, then brushes over it. I don’t consider myself squeamish, but this sight prompted me to wash out my eyes.

Fans of the bizarre will probably really dig Sick Nurses. It starts quickly and continuously delivers plenty of strange horror and amusing black comedy. The film WAS streaming on Instant Watch, but seems to have expired for the time being. I can't speak to the DVD quality, but it's certainly a film worth keeping on your radar for a breezy yet disturbing watch. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A For Effort. Eh For Execution

I've said it time and time again: setting your genre film in the olden days will automatically make it more interesting. Aside from removing the annoyingly obligatory "No service!"shout-out, a pre-automobile driven society gives way to more tension, more limitations, and an environment even less fit to fight supernatural horrors than the one we all know.

In other words, I added the new Bloody Disgusting release Exit Humanity to my queue because it was a Civil War era zombie film. What could go wrong?

Quick Plot: Narrated by an always welcomed Brian Cox, Exit Humanity is assembled from the diary of Edwin Young (a solid Mark Gibson), a battle-scarred soldier who caught a glimpse of the undead while shooting the other side on the mountains of Tennessee. Six years later, he experiences new horrors when he returns from a hunting trip to find his wife and son zombified, as well as a good portion of the nearby community. Edwin embarks upon his own mission to research and exterminate the new population of flesh-eaters, eventually venturing out to spread his son's ashes at a peaceful waterfall that soothed him during the war. 

Along the way, Edwin befriends Isaac, a fellow zombie hunter looking for his sister, who has been kidnapped by a rogue group of Confederates (led by genre stalwart Bill Mosely) using a tired medic (Pontypool's Stephen McHattie) to work on a cure. Edwin, Isaac, and his sister Emma escape to find solace in a local healer's home (played by Dee Wallace, and yes, the genre cred meter just burst).

Let's examine what we have so far:

-A fascinating and underused time period

-A superb cast of proven horror actors


Mixing these ingredients should yield a pretty delicious pie, right? 


Written and directed by John Geddes, Exit Humanity is an ambitious film, one that clocks in at nearly 110 minutes and feels determined to make you feel each one. With Jeff Graville, Nate Kreiswirth, and Ben Nudds' soaring score and the sometimes pretentious narration, Exit Humanity is certainly aiming for epic status. But unlike something like Stakeland (which FELT big even on a small budget), the elements of this film never quite add up to something as grandiose as it wants to be. Gibson is a strong lead, but too much of the early scenes are devoted to Edwin screaming at God, while later montage-ish sequences that are supposed to show developing relationships never resonate with any true depth. Though we get some strong zombie chases here and there, the undead seem to randomly fade in and out as an actual threat. Part of what makes a historical-set horror film so effective is knowing that antiquated weaponry and technology might not be advanced enough to handle the threat. But in Exit Humanity, rarely do the shuffling hordes of extras even feel that dangerous.

That being said, Exit Humanity has to be admired for some of its more unique touches. Throughout the film, Geddes interjects expressionistic style animation, presumably as drawings from Edwin's journal. The artwork is quite striking, even if its more modern look never quite gels with the 19th century feel of the rest of the film.

Based on its premise and cast, I wanted to like Exit Humanity and by golly, I just, well, kind of didn't. The film looks quite good, with its woodsy setting never tipping its Confederate hat to reveal a low budget. Lots of credit does go to Geddes for taking his time to create something unique to the zombie genre without ever settling for easy gore. Unfortunately, the incredibly labored pacing just never clicked for me. The sentiment was there, but while the landscape and soundtrack worked so hard to establish Edwin's crew's misfortunes, I just never cared enough about them as individuals to stay involved with the molasses moving narrative.

High Points
Dude: it's the 1870s!

Low Points
...a time when movies took themselves far too seriously

Lessons Learned
There ain’t no cure for monstrous behavior

Leather jackets have always been in style, be it 1987 or 1871

As Cold Mountain already taught us, one could not find better healthcare in the 19th century than in the secluded forest cabin of a female hermit

I don't want to discourage anyone from checking out Exit Humanity. I give Geddes a lot of credit for tackling a tired genre with a fresh approach, and between the surprisingly strong production value, reliable cast, interesting artwork, and an extras-loaded DVD, the film offers quite a lot for horror fans with an appreciation for something new. Overall, it didn't quite work for my tastes, but this is a better than average straight-to-DVD horror movie that could certainly please plenty of viewers. I feel bad not being one.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What Big Hooker Boots You Have

Not since Zombie Death House have I sat down for a violent-prisoners-take-out-the-staff horror treat. Something tells me the hair won’t have nearly enough volume in 2010’s Medium Raw

Quick Plot: Some years ago, a serial killer dubbed The Wolf killed a lot of little girls, including our hero Johnny Morgan’s kid sister. Now a surly young detective, Johnny (played by director Andrew Cymek) gets his second chance at catching the elusive killer when his mentor (John Rhys-Davies in non-dwarf form) discovers he has returned.

Meanwhile, Johnny’s new wife Jamie is a psychiatrist at a maximum security asylum for the criminally insane. It’s a darkly lit place with a bad reputation, as its former head doctor was a fan of torturous therapy. Now run by his son Dr. Robert Parker (William B. Davis), the hospital operates under the theory that insanity can be cured and treated with kindness. When that doesn’t work, all patients wear electric shock collars that send a mean jolt if they get too close to the staff.

You see where this is going, right?

After Johnny collars The Wolf (real name: Harold Grierson), justice takes a turn when lawyer Mercedes McNab (better known to Sunnydale citizens as Harmony) gets Grierson a softer sentence to, you guessed it, the same asylum Jamie (now separated from Johnny) does her rounds. Once a nurse’s granddaughter comes to visit wearing a red cloak on Christmas Eve, you can bet a steak dinner that the power will go out and the tables will turn.

Medium Raw is an unusual film in both good ways and bad. It’s hard to dislike any inmates-take-it-back film, simply because such a Marat/Sade premise will always yield something fun. In this case, we get a cheerfully mad nudist in a Santa hat, a brutal giant with a soft spot for Jamie’s singing and a hard spot for the color red, a god-loving psycho who talks like Macho Man, and a deceptively grandmotherly patient named Mabel who just so happens to be a cannibal with specific cooking techniques. All that stuff? Super.

Unfortunately, we also get their victims. Cymek looks the part of a young distressed detective, but he never really seems to be weighted by the horrors he’s experienced. Brigitte Kingsley (also the producer) is dreadfully miscast (and mis-styled) as a brilliant doctor who looks and acts more like a centerfold. Their scenes together lack any real chemistry, which wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t drawn out in the worst possible way.

I’m being very specific when I say “drawn out in the worst possible way” because it’s quite literal. At one point, Jamie is trapped in a James Bond-ish slow death drowning apparatus. She knows her time is short—like, really really really really short—and so she urges Johnny to go save someone else and get back to her if he can. Considering the fact that every second counts, you’d think he would make up his mind then launch into action and return with equal speed. Instead, Cymek uses this scene to show how sad he is by the whole thing, i.e., standing there looking torn, vowing not to leave, then deciding to leave but continuously turning around before trotting away. Take your time dude. No rush.

Except yes rush, because tick tock. You’d think Johnny would learn his lesson when he returns to find Jamie’s cage underwater. Rather than immediately SPRINTING towards it, he takes the moment to stop, shout “Jamie!,” and then run to her aide. I know it’s the kind of detail that works for dramatic effect, but when time being of the essence has been DRILLED into this subplot, it’s impossible for an audience member to ignore how stupid his actions seem.

I realize I’m harping on small things, but there are a lot of those kinds of poor choices that keeps Medium Raw from ever being as effective as it could be. We even have two assumedly ace detectives investigating an extremely violent criminal without calling backup, as if everything they learned about police work came from Danny Glover’s incompetence in Saw.

These things aside, Medium Raw does have plenty to enjoy. The oddly black humored impromptu cannibal cooking lesson is twisted fun, and a lot of the fairy tale imagery (when not obvious) creates an artistically unsettling tone. Of course, it would help if we could actually SEE the details, something Cymek seems loathe to do based on the pitch black lighting choices. I suppose it’s meant to heighten the mood or show us the darkness of the asylum but really, it just means I squinted a lot.

Not. Pleasant.

High Notes
The actual design of The Wolf’s chainmail garb is wonderfully weird

The Juggernaut-ish big guy who hates red is wonderfully used as a sort of tool of the good and bad. We see from his interactions with Jamie that he’s psychologically unbalanced, not naturally evil. It’s an interesting touch that works well when Johnny enlists him as his own sort of weapon against The Woodcutter

Low Notes
Dear Lighting Department: It’s nice to see things now and then. Yours, Emily

Lessons Learned
Lawyers’ personal files always include a sexy headshot

All toes are important

Acceptable workwear for a psychiatrist in a home for the criminally insane includes skin-tight t-shirts, miniskirts, and knee-high leather boots with heels sharp enough to cut through arteries

When someone cooks your staff for dinner, that person is not your friend

When it comes to most of the newer genre films on Instant Watch, Medium Raw is something different. So long as you can get by the fact that everybody onscreen acts like an idiot (and that the lead two act rather terribly), it’s not an awful way to waste away 90 minutes. And hey, it gives us a double shot of holiday AND mental asylum horror. For that, I can be thankful with a mediocre product.