Tag Torture Porn

Live Feed (2006)

Live Feed (2006)

They will all pay the price…

Five friends on a trip in China decide to visit a seedy porno theatre after a night out drinking. One of the couples in the group heads off to a private room for some quality alone time whilst the other three friends explore the theatre. However, the night soon turns sour when the couple are locked in their room and realise that they’re being filmed. It turns out that the theatre is a front for a Chinese businessman who loves watching people being tortured and killed and the Americans are now next on the list.

 

It was only a matter of time before people started jumping aboard the Hostel bandwagon and here we have one of the most blatant and pointless knock-offs doing the rounds in the aftermath. Live Feed is a badly acted, laughably shot and weakly executed excuse for a horror flick. The sweet cover box with the rather large chap in surgeon’s attire hides a multitude of sins which are evident from the get go and despite a mildly entertaining ‘all hell breaks loose’ couple of minutes in the middle, the film is a drawn-out drag of boredom. Though director/writer Ryan Nicholson apparently wrote this before Eli Roth’s Hostel came out, the fact that this is sold in the manner it is and was released shortly afterwards clearly tells me that the studio were cashing in, even if Nicholson wasn’t. Sorry to say it Mr Nicholson but someone beat you to the chase.

I’m trying to not to be too harsh on Live Feed because everyone has obviously got decent intentions to make a good flick and I’ll applaud that. It’s just that the outcome is like sitting through the painful efforts of a media college student putting together their first major project. The script is dire and already within the opening ten minutes, not only are you reaching for the mute button but you’re hoping that all of the cast meet their demises at the hands of the big guy on the front cover….sooner rather than later I might add. Living up to the obnoxious American tourist stereotype has never been easier! The actors are bad. The characters they are playing are obnoxious. So give me a reason why I should care about any of them? They disengage the audience from the film within the first few minutes of being on screen, meaning the wait until their demise is long and arduous.

The porno theatre setting is decent. It already looks like the cesspit of humanity when the tourists enter with filthy bathrooms and disgusting bedrooms – dimly lit, sparsely furnished and a wizened old guy hiding in the booth at the door. It’s certainly not the place you want to be at the best of times, let alone having some big guy butchering you and your friends. But the setting is rather wasted when the tourists are confined to the same one or two rooms for most of the film.

Production values aren’t this film’s strong point. From the cinematography (everything seems so grainy and dark) to the sets themselves and the make-up effects, it’s clear that the budget was blown on getting someone to design a kick-ass DVD cover. They certainly didn’t blow the cash on the cast, no doubt friends of the director he roped in to helping him on the sly. The copious use of neon lights to backlight the sets adds to the garish nature of the film – this was filmed inside a legitimate pornographic cinema after it closed every night.

Being torture porn central, Live Feed’s clear selling point is going to be how far it can push the boundaries of Hostel and Saw. The gore is plentiful, if totally over-used at times. I love bloodbaths in films but when the subject matter is really about torture, I’d rather see a bit of torturing and pain – things that Hostel managed to do well (the cutting of the Achilles tendons for example). Some form of suffering that you could associate yourself with the victim. You can’t associate with someone getting their head chopped off but I bet you could feel the pain yourself if you watched someone on film be stabbed in the leg or chest. Here, there is blood spurting out from everywhere and at all times. Great streams of blood spurt out at high-pressure. When gore is this plentiful, the film should have been a comedy or spoof. But it’s all played out straight which is the sad thing and the weak practical effects are only good for laughs rather than scares. There’s also a scene in this film involving a snake and a glass tube which is clearly added for shock value and little else (body physics alone would have seen the snake die a horrible death in the victim’s stomach but hey, it looked good, didn’t it?)

 

If you want some really low budget, sleazy gore then Live Feed will be right up your street. But it’s all hollow, meaningless and uninspired torture porn with no real substance to it – these films only work if you can empathise with at least one of the victims and feel what they’re going through. In my opinion, this is one live feed that should have been pulled.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Vacancy 2: The First Cut (2008)

Vacancy 2: The First Cut (2008)

If the camera is on, you’re dead

Gordon and Reece, the owners of the Meadow View motel, have an illicit operation of secretly filming young couples having sex and then selling the tapes. This is thrown into chaos when they tape a serial killer murdering a prostitute in one of their rooms. Knocking him out, they debate what to do next but their only evidence lies on their illegal tapes and handing him over to the police would incriminate them. The killer persuades the duo to allow him to continue his work, filming his murders and then selling it on as snuff footage. This is unfortunate for a trio of young friends who arrive at the motel.

 

Vacancy was a passable entry into an overcrowded torture porn market, perhaps a little more well known that it should be due to the casting of A-listers Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale as a middle-aged married couple. Shock of horrors – no teenagers in sight! This was about the only thing which made it stand out from a slew of Saw and Hostel wannabes as the promising start quickly descended into a never-ending routine of chase and hide sequences. Inevitably, a follow up was bound to happen and even more inevitably the strongest point of the original, having older characters and decent actors playing them, was to be replaced by bickering teenagers. You knew it was coming.

Vacancy 2: The First Cut is a prequel to the events that happen in the original and it tells the story of how the snuff operation came into being. It is somewhat interesting to see how everything fell into place and at least this part of the story is a little bit different and makes a lot of sense too. But there’s not a whole lot of back story to tell in all honesty and after skipping through it quite quickly, the film shifts into simply being an inferior remake of the original where a few people are terrorised in the motel. No attempt is made to explain why two of the three conspirators are different to those who featured in the original. Maybe they got caught out and the other guy went into business for himself? Who knows? Certainly not the script.

The trouble with this prequel is that the killers have no aura about them. They’re not a mystery to the audience anymore because we’ve seen them before. In the original, we had no idea who these people were or why they were trying to kill. Now, they’re introduced at the start of the film so once they don those rather eerie Perspex masks and get about their business, it’s a little late for the audience to pretend that they’re shocked at the revelations in the finale when they take the masks off. Shocking for the new teenage characters who don’t realise they’ve stopped at a motel run by psychos, not so the audience who know who is behind the killing from the first few scenes.

Once this back story has been skimmed over, the film quickly moves to cover the necessary bases of having more people stay in the motel and end up being chased and killed (actually with this being a prequel, they become the first ones to end up the victims of the new scheme). Vacancy 2: The First Cut then just runs like an inferior remake of the original, producing the same sort of set pieces only without any of the tension or suspense that was present before hand. With the addition of the back story, there’s not even as much time to run through the necessary bases in a steady manner and everything gets rushed along so that the film can finish within a comfortable running time. It’s not like any of it is remotely exciting or scary, in fact just the opposite. Vacancy 2: The First Cut manages to be extremely dull and boring, aimlessly going from room to room or location to location without any real sense of urgency or excitement. There’s some violence and blood on show but it’s all perfunctory and does what it needs to do to tick a couple of boxes.

As I’ve stated, I found it pleasantly surprising that the original chose to focus on a married couple as opposed to some teenage lovers as few horror films showcase older actors in that type of role (I say ‘older’ actors though both Beckinsale and Wilson were in their 30s when Vacancy was made – still elderly as far as horror films go!). So it really grinded on me to find out that the new victims would purposely cater to the younger market like every other slasher and torture porn film out there. I’m probably being too harsh on the teenagers here because it’s not their fault. They try their best and do alright in their roles, it’s just that their roles are one-dimensional and we’ve seen them a million times before. Not least there is the fact that the trio of killers tend to get more screen time than they do. Are we supposed to care for the victims when we know little about them? Is the reason that the killers are given so much screen time is that they’re supposed to be anti-heroes? I don’t get it.

Vacancy 2: The First Cut is kind of a pointless prequel. Apart from a little bit of expansion to the original story, it is too content with rehashing the same routine to be effective. It’s clear that the sole reason for its existence is to make a bit of money upon the name the original. I’m sure teenagers who haven’t seen the first one will no doubt have a blast but anyone with half a horror brain can see the well-worn path that Vacancy 2: The First Cut takes.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Hike, The (2011)

The Hike (2011)

It’s all about survival

After returning from a tour in Afghanistan, a young female soldier heads off with four of her friends for a camping weekend in a remote area of British countryside. But when one of the girls goes missing, the remaining girls are plunged into a nightmarish world of violence in which survival is their only goal.

 

It isn’t very often that the Brits go down the survival horror route so beaten to death by their counterparts across The Pond but judging the ‘merits’ of The Hike, it’s a good job that this is the case. Not worried about breaking new ground and sticking to the genre script to the letter, The Hike might as well have ‘Made in America’ stuck all over it. It’s a bit sad to see the limited number of horror films that we make in the UK end up as generic and one-note as this. You’d hope that they’d come out all guns blazing and make the most of their situation. Not with The Hike.

The Hike starts off promisingly with a pre-credits sequence that is arguably better than the rest of the film put together but then quickly degenerates into a routine survival horror film where the attractive young female cast head out for a spot of bonding in natural surroundings (in many ways this film reminded me of Neil Marshal’s The Descent) only to fall foul of something nasty. Whilst the opening scenes serve as an introduction to the various characters, most of whom receive some minor development to at least flesh out their characters, they do go on for a while and outstay their welcome very early on. Red herrings are introduced. Some plot threads are set up for later in the film. And the scenery is very nice so credit to the cinematographer for some great shots of the British countryside.

Heading into this environment, there is the usual mix of stereotypical female characters with baggage of the male variety and tension in the ranks. I’d be hasten to add that these females are some of the worst written characters I’ve had the misfortune of watching. In fact their whole portrayal in the film is something I have issue with. Not wanting to get all feminist about them but it’s clear that they were written by men because everything about them just sets off warning bells. They’re clearly designed on the females from The Descent however unlike the strong female characters there, here they’re just fakes. Trying to buy the fact that one of their number is ex-army is a hard sell when she finds difficulty using a map and compass. Apart from being good-looking, the women also have their obligatory bikini scene when they go bathing. Not having a clue about hiking and spending some time in the woods, these women take all manner of silly things like designer handbags and fancy shoes. It’s cheap and lazy writing designed to portray these women as hopeless and clearly in danger from the minute they leave their car. These women flirt with any man that cross their paths, implying non-too-subtle messages about ‘wanting it’ but then reacting badly when they get ‘it.’ It’s a rather dangerous implication that is being put across here that these women are in some way responsible for their eventual treatment at the hands of the psychos.

If you’re going to go down the ‘rape revenge’ route that will immediately attract criticism then at least have the conviction to go down it fully it. The Hike dabbles in sexual violence and gory exploitation but rarely manages to make itself appear as shocking or brutal as it clearly wants to be. I don’t want to come off as some sex-obsessed schoolboy who giggles at a bit of titillation and lusts after wanton violence but The Hike really needed some more sexiness or nastiness. The draw of these films are those elements so to skimp on them is cheating the target demographic. As it turns out, The Hike is more ‘family friendly’ torture porn (not really, I’m exaggerating – do not show this to children!) where the director is clearly gunning for a certain niche but doesn’t have the convictions to fully go through with it.

Once the film takes its nastier turn, it becomes a mess of mildly gory set pieces, gaping wide holes in the script and random plot twists. There’s lots of running and wrestling in the woods and on the floor as various characters encounter each other in the dark. There are no thrills here, no excitement and, despite some obligatory slasher-lite stalking moments, there’s no tension or suspense. The finale sees the strongest members of both groups fighting for survival but we know how this will end from the first moment one of the males makes sexual advances earlier on in the film.

There’s a good-looking cast featuring the stunning Barbara Nedeljakova from Hostel, who convinced a generation of teenage boys that Eastern European hostels were filled with horny chicks like her, willing to drop their clothes in a heartbeat. Co-writer Ben Loyd-Holmes also stars as the leader of the psycho group which is a bit odd to discover, given the content of the film and who gets to do what to which character. Is this wishful thinking on his behalf by living out some bizarre fantasy? If I was writing a horror film like this, I’d want nothing to do with starring as people like me would put two and two together and wonder why he was cast (well that and the director was his co-writer). Cockeny rent-a-goon Tamer Hassan also pops up in a small cameo.

 

I do feel like I’m being overly harsh on The Hike because it’s not a total bomb but at the end of the day, it’s a lukewarm horror which is neither full-on torture porn nor outright slasher. It’s like ‘Horror for Dummies’ with some mildly offensive stuff thrown in, softening you up for the main event of Eden Lake or I Spit On Your Grave.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Nazis at the Centre of the Earth (2012)

Nazis at the Centre of the Earth (2012)

Dead…But Not Gone.

A team of researchers at an Antarctica station are abducted by a mysterious squad of masked storm troopers and taken hostage deep into a lost continent at the centre of the Earth. They find that, in the dying days of the Second World War, infamous Auschwitz butcher Dr Joseph Mengele fled Nazi Germany and set up a secret base. Here, they have been planning for the return of the Third Reich, developing highly advanced weapons and prolonging their lives through grotesque skin grafting techniques. With the addition of the knowledge of the research team to perfect the invasion plans, the Nazis hope to conquer the Earth.

 

The Asylum have done it again! With the recent release of Iron Sky, about a secret Nazi colony on the moon which plans to conquer Earth, the studio famous for its ‘mockbusters’ comes up with Nazis at the Centre of the Earth, a $200,000 cheapie about a secret Nazi colony in the centre of the Earth which plans to conquer the planet. Who said creativity in Hollywood was dead?

I’ve been hard on The Asylum for their ridiculous cashing in of higher profile films like Transmorphers and their never-ending slew of truly awful monsters films like Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus. Reality, logic, common sense and physics all get thrown out of the window with a ‘rapidly throw everything at the screen’ motto. They attempt to make their films look big budget but end up doing the exact opposite. But is the tide turning? For the first time, I can honestly say that I enjoyed an Asylum mockbuster better than the film it was supposed to be ripping off. Iron Sky promised a lot and looked fantastic, with some amazing set design for the advanced Nazi moon base and the simple fact that it had Nazis – from the moon! But it was all too daft to fully enjoy and it would have worked far better as a more serious sci-fi-horror film (if you could buy into the premise, which isn’t all as daft as it sounds).

Nazis at the Centre of the Earth takes the idea of a hidden colony of Nazis and runs with the ball like Iron Sky should have done. After a bit of a sluggish start to set characters up, once the group are captured by the Nazis and taken underground the film turns into one of those trashy Nazi Euro-horror sleaze fests of the 70s. In mean-spirited scenes, there are forced abortions, shower gang-rapes and un-anaesthetised surgery to name a few instances of brutality. Its unpleasant stuff, kind of out of character for The Asylum’s usual ‘cheap and cheerful’ approach but completely in synch with the character of the Nazis and what they did in real life. This is exactly the sort of perverse sadism that Iron Sky should have been revelling in: playing upon the Nazis’ reputation instead of turning them into clowns.

Nazis at the Centre of the Earth is still dogged by The Asylum’s usual cheap special effects. Outdoor scenes in the snow are in fact shot in studios in front of green screens which will convince no one watching of their authenticity. Vehicles, planes, spaceships and buildings look like computer game effects. Think of how much CGI George Lucas used in the Star Wars prequels and multiply that by ten (but subtract loads of points for the quality) and you’ll get the gist of how overworked the special effects guys must have been for this film. Pretty much everything you see except the human actors is computer-generated. Usually these effects have been to the detriment of the film but because everything that happens here is so completely off-beat and insane, there’s little time to even stop and think about how terrible everything looks.

The worst special effect is saved for one very special moment which happens two-thirds of the way in. I honestly can’t reveal anything else here except that this part comes out of nowhere and its one of the most brilliantly bonkers things I’ve ever seen. Words alone can’t explain how ridiculously amazing this moment is. It’s so crazy that it’s worth watching the film for on its own. It’s at this point where the film jumps the shark. Up until this point, it had all been dark and depressing but the gear shift around thirty-five minutes from the end is just totally out of the blue. Laser beams, robots that look like Autobots and Decepticons, flying Nazi spaceships and more all going hurtling around the screen.

Out of the cast, Jake Busey is the only real notable star and he looks almost bewildered as to what is going on, like he wondered in off another set. It’s the performance of Christopher Karl Johnson as Joseph Mengele which really menaces the screen. Though it seems like everything else around him is turning into a nightmarish acid trip, Johnson keeps the genuine fear factor throughout as the chilling Auschwitz butcher. Don’t get too attached to the rest of the cast either – the Nazis take good care of the majority of them.

 

Nazis at the Centre of the Earth is arguably The Asylum’s best film to date. By any criteria, it’s one of the worst films ever made. Ultra-camp, ultra-silly, utterly insane and completely unmissable. The last thirty-five minutes feature some of the most mind-bending low budget movie moments of all time. Stop reading and go and watch it. Love it or hate it, you’ll never forget it!

 

Saw VI (2009)

Saw VI (2009)

The Game Comes Full Circle

With Agent Strahm dead, Detective Hoffman is able to continue to carry out Jigsaw’s master plan and see it through to the end with the assistance of Jigsaw’s wife, Jill. His next targets are the employees of a health insurance company who rejected Jigsaw’s claim and effectively condemned him to death. Hoffman must also cover his tracks as a new pair of FBI agents, who originally suspected Strahm, have switched their attention to him. Meanwhile, Jill also has an agenda of her own to carry out.

 

I’ll admit that I’m a fan of the Saw films although that’s now mainly down to watching how much more brutal and savage the traps can become as opposed to watching them for any sort of coherent story. Like the Friday the 13th series or even the pre-Daniel Craig James Bond films, Saw has now become such an established franchise that each instalment is as predictable as the last because of it’s reluctance to change the winning formula – lots of gruesome deaths strung together by one of the most ridiculously confused plots in movie history and lots of preachy dialogue from Jigsaw thrown in for good measure.

I’ve got to give credit to the writers for at least trying to make sense of everything and string a story together which links this film in with all of the others. I’ve kind of lost track of all of the characters, the plot twists, the reveals, the suggestions and absurd contrivances that each instalment in this series manages to grab hold of from the previous films and turn them into something relevant. This series is searching out every single loose end from the previous films and wrapping them up in a neat little package. Characters who seemed to be little more than extras in the earlier films are now some of the main players. It sounds cliché but the series really is putting together the pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle piece-by-piece until the eventual final instalment will hopefully complete it.

Unfortunately this is also a double-edged sword in that there’s little left to shock us now – the wow factor has gone. There are few surprises left to spring upon the audience and when there are, it’s a case of been there, done that. The twists and revelations seem forced purely because a Saw film can’t end without a big twist and the token wrap-up flashback along to the strains of the series’ signature theme music. Above all, the thing is just so damned complicated now! Each film links in with past events from other films so, unless you’ve recently seen Saw II or Saw III, you won’t have a clue what they’re on about when the film references back to events or characters from earlier films.

The traps are as gory and inventive as ever before. In fact this time they seem to be a lot more sadistic because there’s more of an emotional connection. William faces moral choices about who to save and who to leave to die and is confronted with the victims before he has to make a decision. They have certainly raised the stakes when it comes to gore though and they keep pushing the boundaries as far as they can go. The first one looks tame compared to some of the traps in here. I’m sure everyone’s particular favourite is the shotgun merry-go-round but mine is the one before that where William is forced to choose between an older employee with a family or younger employee with his entire life ahead of him. The look of anger, disgust and pure fright from the unlucky victim right before they hang to their death is hilarious. The characters are a little more fleshed out this time around so the choices that William makes seem to have more impact than those of the previous films’ protagonists.

Despite the fact that he was killed off a couple of films earlier, Tobin Bell reprises his role as Jigsaw for use in lots of flashback scenes. Why did they kill him off if they were going to keep using him over and over again? It wouldn’t be a Saw film without him, that’s why. No one else would be able to replicate his chilling voice as he preaches his morality to his victims. I’m not particularly taken with Costas Mandylor as the Jigsaw-wannabe but the character serves a purpose. Jigsaw has become somewhat of anti-hero already with his moral preaching (and let’s face it, most of the people who’ve been put into his traps have deserved it in some way or another!) so Hoffman provides the pure evil character we’re all ready to hate on. Betsy Russell gets her role as Jigsaw’s wife fleshed out more in this sequel than the previous couple of films combined.

 

Saw VI is just more of the same. It’s so indistinguishable from the rest of the sequels that you’ll have a harder time trying to remember which films contained which traps than trying to piece together the story which seems to be made up on the spot from sequel to sequel. Satisfying for gore hounds, one of the better sequels for fans of the series and containing enough to keep even jaded viewers happy, Saw VI at least offers some promise of closure by cutting off loose ends and setting things up nicely for one last hurrah.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Paradise Lost (2006)

Paradise Lost (2006)

Go Home.

A group of young travellers are marooned in a remote Brazilian beach town when their coach is involved in a crash. After a wild night of partying leaves them without their belongings, a local teenager, Kiko, tells them that he will take them to his uncle’s house in the jungle so that they can regroup and get in touch with the authorities. It is only when they arrive at the house that the group realise the intentions of Kiko and his uncle all along – they are to be harvested so that their organs can be sold on the black market.

 

The torture porn or ‘gorenography’ fad of horror has quickly outstayed its welcome, if it ever had one originally. Horror films are no longer about generating tension, creating atmosphere and truly scaring people, they are simply about showing as much gore and nastiness as possible! I could pinpoint the likes of Hostel and Saw for bringing the sheer unpleasant nature of torture, suffering and splatter to the mainstream but it was already creeping in before hand. Now what we get is that pretty much every mainstream horror (that doesn’t involve ghosts or supernatural events) has gone down the route of blood, torture, suffering, pain, sickness and perversion. Directors are showing what was always suggested in these films – like people having body parts ripped off, their Achilles tendons being sliced off or being raped by mutants for the sake of entertainment. As a fan, there is only so much you can take before it just gets repetitive. After a while, it’s not a case of seeing whether the next horror film can out-do the last one in the nastiness stakes but seeing how far it will take it. Paradise Lost comes along at precisely the wrong moment for me to be able to look at it in anything other than being a tepid cash-in on the current fad.

At least it’s short and to the point and doesn’t try and over stay its welcome. It knows its characters are never going to get past its audience thinking “she’s fit” or “he’s buff” so they hired young actors to fit the bills of the cardboard cut outs on display. That’s all I’m going to say about the cast because they’re not worth mentioning anymore. The film seemingly knows no one is watching it to study screenwriting or understand the English language. But at least make a damn effort to give a bit of life to the dialogue. You could cut out the opening half an hour from here and paste it into pretty much any recent horror film and it wouldn’t be too far off. A group of good-looking teenagers begin drinking, drugging up and shagging everything in sight before being dumped into a situation they don’t understand with a maniac after them. They do the most stupid things, are given ridiculous situations to deal with that would never happen in real life and meet some of the most blatant local stereotypes going.

It’s the turn of some Brazilians to get the ‘poor backwards third world country’ tag here. Public transport not even fit for scrap metal (look at that bus!). Horny bikini-clad Samba honeys willing to put out for any strangers. And villages full of mud and disease in the middle of the jungle. Come on guys, at least keep it real. After all that happens to the main characters in the first twenty minutes, you would think they least would want to do is follow some Brazilian guy they just met into the jungle to crash at his uncle’s house whilst they sort out their passport situation. Ever heard of a consulate or embassy? Might I also add that by this point you’ve totally forgotten that this is supposed to be a horror film. There has been absolutely nothing to class it as horror so far, more like teenage drama. It’s got the pace of a sloth and nothing interesting has happened.

Things do pick up a little bit when the big reveal hits and the group realise that they’re in trouble but it’s a little too late to save the film. The big payoff for gore fans is supposed to be the scene where one unlucky teenager has her internal organs removed one at a time. But you know, after seeing numerous hospital and doctor programmes on TV, this scene did little to gross me out. And the most stupid thing is that we know what the villain wants after the first ten minutes courtesy of a scene with one of his minions discussing his plans. So all along we know that he wants to harvest the travellers for their organs. Wouldn’t it have been so much more interesting if we didn’t know what he wanted until he started operating? Now that would have had more impact. Instead you spend most of the film bracing yourself for the eventual harvesting scene and it’s absolutely crap and has no shock value whatsoever. It’s not even that bloody and the front cover with it’s splattering of blood would have you believe that this is a gore-fest. There’s hardly a scare to be had throughout the rest of the film so it really beats me as to what this film is trying to be? A thriller with horror elements or a horror with no horror elements?

 

Paradise Lost targets its audience pretty well with the attractive cast, nudity and potential for nasty shenanigans so dumb teenagers who have never seen a horror film may love it. But for me, it’s simply a stale leftover from Hostel reworked into a full blown feature film. This is one paradise you would want to remain lost forever.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Final, The (2010)

The Final (2010)

Consequences. None of us are free from them.

A group of student outcasts plot to avenge their years of bullying and humiliation at the hands of their more popular school peers. At an abandoned house where the class are throwing a party, the outcasts plan a night of torture and abuse which will leave their tormentors scarred both physically and emotionally.

 

A rather puzzling affair which drifts from Hostel mode to something a little more traditionally slasher like Prom Night, The Final takes your standard high school bullying story to new gross-out levels. Teen audiences across the world would be able to associate somewhat with these kids as everyone would surely know of someone who was victim to bullying during their school years. What if those outcasts and misfits had been plotting their revenge? It’s happened in real life with the likes of the Columbine shootings but now it’s time for an inevitable torture porn spin on the story.

The set up itself is nothing new and borrows its main story not just from high school horror film lore but almost any film set inside an American high school or college. The geeks, the misfits and the perennial underdogs manage to endure suffering at the hands of intellectually inferior individuals who treat them with contempt and jealousy because they’re ‘different.’ It doesn’t matter whether its Massacre at Central High, an episode of Saved By The Bell or Revenge of the Nerds – the outcasts always manage to get one over in some form. It’s just that in the horror genre, ‘getting one over’ usually means beheading, disembowelling or in this film’s case, death by cattle prod or acidic face cream. Like its fellow high school horror brothers, The Final spends a little time in presenting the bullies as a truly despicable lot although it goes down the easier route of having them do generic ‘high school hi-jinks’ to the nerds. It’s hardly deep emotional drama when someone gets a milk carton thrown at them but it gets the job done effectively in the short time frame.

The morality speeches that the outcasts deliver with their deep, sinister and profoundly Shakespearian delivery is more akin to Jigsaw’s monotonous rants in the Saw series. Voice changers aside, the rants are a little long-winded at times and you’d wish they’d just shut up and start torturing someone. Put up or shut up! The problem in The Final is that it promises to go far in delivering brutality but it just doesn’t go far enough. I’m sorry to sound so bloodthirsty but the set-up all points towards a frenzied montage of torture and torment and what we get in the end is rather lacklustre and surprisingly blood-free. The camera tends to keep well clear of the close-ups so you’ll see events but from a distance. It’s nothing you won’t have seen done worse in Hostel or Saw or one of the many more ‘adult’ themed torture porn flicks either.

Inevitably, The Final‘s biggest problem is that there’s no one to root for because of the story we’re presented with. We can’t root for the outcasts because they’re committing horrific crimes and are a depressing, miserable bunch of assholes anyway. We can’t root for the jocks and cheerleaders because they’ve been bullying and harassing the outcasts for years without provocation and are equally as detestable. So the audience is just left caught between two worlds, wanting to root for everyone and no one at the same time. At least the costume choices of the avenging bullies are rather sinister and unique as they each dress up like horror characters, in particular the sinister lead teen with his gas mask outfit.

 

It’s rather light on torture, heavy on dull monologues and full of potential which never really gets chance to shine. The Final never really gets going from its Jigsaw-wannabes in training motifs into anything remotely serious or engaging. It’s well made and such but lacks any emotional investment with the characters whatsoever.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Are You Scared? (2006)

Are You Scared? (2006)

After waking up in an abandoned factory, six kidnapped terns realize they are contestants on a reality show called “Are You Scared?”

After waking up in an abandoned factory, six kidnapped teenagers think that they’re taking part in a reality game show called “Are You Scared?” in which each of them must face their worst fear by taking part in games. The only catch is that the games are deadly and if they do not overcome their fears, they will die.

 

The first thing that crossed my mind upon watching the opening scene of the film was “I guess this director has seen Saw.” So derivate and blatant is the plagiarism that the film should be re-titled Are You Being Sued? From the grungy setting, to the stupid victim not realising they have to inflict pain upon themselves to survive to the sinister deep voice giving them instructions and a time limit over the public announce system, this is Saw, only the most lame, pointless version you’re going to see. I’m all for people borrowing ideas from other films if they’re going to make their own film and not just copy the hell out of someone else’s hard work.

So it pains me to see how badly this film wants to be Saw. It’s not like anyone tries to hide the fact – it’s so blatantly obvious. How many films previously had mysterious strangers abducting people and telling them they have a few minutes to solve some puzzle before it kills them? I tried to so hard to write this review without comparing it to Saw but since the filmmakers clearly put so much effort into making you think of Saw, then I have no alternative.

There are a few mildly entertaining moments, specifically centring around the crazy games that this guy has created. You ever wondered how Jigsaw could put together those crazy, stupendously difficult puzzles in the original? Well this guy can top that and more. There’s people with entrails hanging out, a row of shotguns ready to blow off someone’s head at the touch of a tripwire and a nifty two-way drilling machine. There’s some decent gore thrown at the camera here including a face melted by acid and someone blown up in a bad CGI explosion. But the idea of these puzzles is to simply kill their participant. Jigsaw at least gave his victims a chance to escape if they put themselves through hell. Here they are simply no-win situations, designed to kill the victim. Given the killer actually does the dirty deed himself a few times, you wonder why he bothered putting together all of this crap together in the first place and especially why he roped so many innocent people into getting killed. Jigsaw’s victims were all characters with a dark side. Here they seem to be innocent victims, caught up in a simple revenge plot. Message to future killers who want to copy Jigsaw: save ourselves seventy-nine minutes of agony and just killed your victims with a shotgun or knife. It’s quicker, less messy and saves you forking out a loud of your own cash to make the elaborate puzzles and power them for hours upon end.

Despite the fact that there’s a reasonable amount of people waiting to be killed and that it only runs for seventy-nine minutes, you’d expect the film to pick up the pace. But it is so slow and drawn out, having characters clash with each other numerous times about what to do, etc. There’s also a secondary plot here about a detective’s attempt to track down the madman. This takes a hell of a lot of time away from the gruesome proceedings in the factory and given the short running time including credits, it’s a criminal waste of time……in fact it is all a criminal waste of time because I don’t recall the plot going anywhere other than a moment towards the end of the film. All of the build up for that (I don’t want to spoil anything but those who have seen the film will know). Of course the film can’t end with the killer being finished off so we get a false ending followed by a brief sequel-setting scene. I hope they don’t go through with it, for our sake!

 

Are You Scared? is pretty bad. A pointless and shameless rip-off of Saw like you are never going to see. Are You Scared? Are You F’in Joking?

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Hostel (2005)

Hostel (2005)

Welcome To Your Worst Nightmare

Three teenagers on a backpacking trip around Europe head to Slovakia after hearing about a youth hostel where all of their wildest dreams will come true. However one of them goes missing not long after they get there and it’s not long before the trip turns into one that the survivors will never forget.

 

It’s about time that I reviewed Hostel because I saw it a few years ago and it’s been in my ‘to review’ list for ages. But it’s become such an influential film in the recent horror genre that I feel compelled to review it as soon as I can. Between this and Saw, the horror genre has been revived over the last couple of years and taken to a new direction of extreme with more violence and blood than ever before. Dubbed ‘torture porn’ or ‘gorenography.’ there is a new attitude towards horror flowing through the genre. It used to be all about subtlety and creating scares through what you don’t see. Nowadays, it’s all about being as graphic and as violent as possible. Whether you like them or not, Saw and Hostel have turned modern horror into a totally new breed of film. The ultra-violence has been always present in the genre, notably in the banned video nasties from the 80s but now it’s become main stream. Now there is an unquenching desire by filmmakers to keep pushing the boundaries with every new film because if they don’t, their film will look tame compared to the previous one. It’s an upward spiral of depravity that can be traced back to Hostel and Saw.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no doubting that Hostel is grossly overrated. But it’s not a terrible film and I’d certainly class it as one of the ‘must watch’ horror films of the 00s simply for how influential it has become and how far it pushed the mainstream cinematic boundaries. You wouldn’t think anything is amiss from the beginning, in fact totally the opposite. Running more like Eurotrip for the first half, the film introduces us to the three main male characters that are travelling through Europe looking for fun. All of your favourite genre clichés are here. It’s got annoying American teenagers. It’s got gorgeous, naked Eastern European women. It’s got drinking. It’s got partying. It’s got sex. The character development in this section is limited to your usual stereotyping of the three guys (frisky foreign guy, reserved American, etc). They’re all likeable enough if somewhat dumb and too one-dimensional.

So it comes as a bit of surprise when each of them is imprisoned and some are tortured and killed whilst others manage to escape. Who will survive? It’s not as clear cut as you may think. I guess this whole portion of the film is to give the characters some likeability for the inevitable slaughter that is to follow. It doesn’t do the job very well so the latter part of the film loses some of its impact because we don’t emotionally connect with them as much as should. When the film changes gears halfway through and ditches its silly take on American tourists in Europe, it starts to gather steam and a few things begin to make sense. The torture scenes are that nasty that it wouldn’t matter who was on the receiving end of them, they would still gain our sympathies.

It’s the second half of the film that has gained the most notoriety and rightly so. The torture scenes can be a little hard to watch during the first viewing, especially the infamous eyeball scene which is pretty hard to stomach no matter how many times you see it. Eli Roth lets his camera linger on the torture and up close and personal too. If it’s not pneumatic drills to the legs, it’s watching someone slice open the back of someone’s heel to take out their Achilles tendon – the gore is more unnerving and unsettling than out-and-out gory if you see what I mean. One of the more impressive tools that Eli Roth uses to shock us is sound. It’s such an underused instrument and I’m not just talking about being suddenly startled by loud noises on screen. I can still remember the harrowing scene in the Japanese Dark Water which utilized sound at almost heart-attack levels. The sounds of the slicing and dicing and the reactions of the characters in Hostel really add to the impact.

However, after all of the torture scenes, you get left feeling a little empty. There’s all of this sadism on screen but it all amounts to nothing when you analyze it a little closer. The script writes itself into a hole when all of the characters have been captured and there’s only one way out and that’s to feature plenty of contrivances, improbabilities and various plot twists and turns to help our survivors escape that will have you face palming. Once the gore and torture is over and Roth has left the audience gasping for breath, the only way is down unfortunately and the finale and ending are a little too weak and eye-rolling to really do the rest of the film justice.

 

Hostel is good but overrated. I’m not sure whether it’s because Roth is a genius or it’s just because the big sinister plot reveal midway through would work no matter who was at the helm. It’ll stay in your mind for a while after watching, that’s for sure.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

Carver (2008)

Carver (2008)

Life imitating art…Art imitating death

Five teenagers on a camping trip at a remote campground agree to help the local tavern owner in exchange for free drinks. They find themselves in a secluded shack in the woods where they come across a chest of old 8mm slasher films and proceed to watch a few. Unknown to them, they are actually watching snuff movies and soon they all find themselves starring in the next film of a deranged maniac.

 

Carver is yet another low budget ‘fat, retarded hick killer stalks twenty-somethings on a trip’ horror film which clearly just wants to be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meeting up with Hostel. From the killer’s grungy Leatherface-esque overalls to a couple of moments lifted right out of Tobe Hooper’s classic (this killer loves swinging his hammer like Leatherface did in the first shocking attack), director Franklin Guerrero Jr. clearly wants the audience to remember it amidst a very overcrowded genre. Sometimes films that fall into this ‘eager to impress’ category end up failing miserably because they try too hard to stand out. Carver tries to impress but it’s just deep-rooted in its own genre trappings to ever become anything more than ‘just another backwoods slasher.’

Carver runs like your usual slasher/torture flick where the group of victims set off on their trip, arrive in somewhere remote and meet up with some strange and weird locals. Nothing surprises you in this regard because they do exactly what they should do. The film itself looks grainy and very dark most of the time as if you are actually watching a legit snuff movie (I’ll have to keep my eye out to see if anyone in the cast actually makes anything else or whether they just ‘disappeared’ after this). The problem with shooting on video like this is that most of the nasty stuff takes place in the dimly lit shack so you don’t really know what is happening at times. It does help the atmosphere and mood of the film because it looks sleazy and gritty – there’s no polishing up scenes here with extra lighting, gore or space. The film just ploughs ahead with its nasty business with little regard for cinematography as it does most of it’s talking with the violence. Events are shown as they happen and there is little in the way of quick editing and snappy cuts which seem to plague a lot of big budget horrors.

A lot of modern horrors are now claiming to be the nastiest or most brutal horror film ever made and we know that it’s just a ploy to sell tickets. Saw and Hostel, two of the prominent films which kicked off the escalating increase in gore and blood, are like Bambi compared to this. The blood flows freely. Saws to the head. Nails in the legs. And in the most disturbing scene I think I’ve ever seen, an unlucky guy gets his testicles lopped off with a pair of wire cutters whilst handcuffed to a toilet. The popping and splurge that they make are a sight and sound that brought tears to my eyes and made me cross my legs. It’s one of the most graphic things I’ve ever seen and I thought the penis-chomping from Teeth was bad enough for guys to sit through – wait until you see this!

Perhaps the notoriety of this scene will give the film more exposure than it actually deserves but it should be required viewing for any guy wanting to appreciate what they have in their pants! This isn’t meant to sound bad but after years of chick’s getting various womanly parts sliced and diced, it’s about time that guys suffered the same sexually violent fates in film.

It’s not all good though. Carver is undoubtedly slow-going and pretty hard to watch. Despite the average running time, the film drags like hell until the blood starts to flow. Dumb rednecks and annoying teenager characters aren’t really enough to keep it going and you will fidget around waiting for stuff to happen. The main antagonist looks pretty silly with his goggles on and he just shuffles around very slowly so it’s a wonder he ever manages to catch anyone to kill. They must have just sent out a casting call for ‘fat, dim, inbred-looking guys’ and he showed up. Talk about living up to the stereotypes. And I say this in pretty much every slasher film review but – it’s exactly the same film as you’ve seen time and time and time and time again. There’s nothing remotely original about it and the only reason to watch it is to see how the characters get killed off.

 

Carver isn’t a great slasher but it does have its merits and is clearly going to ride on the coattails of that one shocking scene. Whether you should watch it depends on how perverse and anxious to see something pop that should never be popped you really are!

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆