Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Review: Brokeback Mountain (2005) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Ang Lee
Written by: Annie Proulx (short story) Larry McMurtry (screenplay) & Diana Ossana (screenplay)
Genre: Drama / Romance / Western
MPAA: Rated R for sexuality, nudity, language and some violence.
Released: 16 December 2005 (USA)
Starring: Heat Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Linda Cardellini, Kate Mara, and Randy Quaid.

Plot: Brokeback Mountain is the story of ranch hand Ennis del Mar (Ledger) and rodeo cowboy Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal), two young men who meet and fall in love on the fictional Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming in 1963. The film documents their complex relationship over the next twenty years.

Review: 9/10

My Thoughts: “Love Is A Force Of Nature” I believe much of what true love really is can be summed up to that very quote, love is indeed a force of nature, some will say that you find love, and not the other way around, however I disagree, love is not something that can be controlled, or decided upon, it’s what lies in the soul, and if it’s decided then there’s no changing it’s mind, for a long time I’ve been planning to see Brokeback Mountain but have always put it at the back burner of movies to watch, and I guess for some strange reason I keep putting it off for films that were less then worth watching is because as a film critic and an individual I didn’t want to get mixed up in the crossfire of the controversy that surrounded the film during the time of it’s release, among the masses if you’re a straight guy like myself you’d ether get put into one of two categories, one, being branded a “homo” for liking it, or two, a homophobe for hating it, these were certainly not the choices I’d like to have as both a moviegoer and as an individual, as most of you already know, I don’t care what two individuals do behind closed doors, may it be man and woman, man and man, or woman and woman, I’m ok with it, and neither should anyone for that matter should try to get involved in other’s affairs, because after all, when everything is said and done, all that truly matters is the love, and not who is showing that love to who, call it the one rare thing liberal about me if you will (cause I’m a conservative and a republican by heart and mind) but after finally giving this movie a chance I couldn’t help but feel happy and sadden for seeing such a magnificent film, happy because the film is downright genus work, truly a work of art in my opinion, and sadden because, well, like all love stories, it’s filled with so much romance and discovery which is always surrounded by fear, anger and above all, tragedy, first off, if you feel uneven over the idea of two men making love to each other don’t worry, the whole sex thing in the film was highly over exaggerated by the mainstream media, there is only one real love scene in the whole film between Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal’s characters.

Thing is, it’s not even a whole big deal, not much is shown in the scene and it’s not even a little pornographic, it’s (and I will forever regret saying this [laughs]) passionate, the film starts off really slow, introducing both men meeting each other for the first time while looking for work, they both land a job being sheepherder for a ranching company, the two men are stationed near the sheep flock in Brokeback Mountain, at first it’s very slow, not much goes on between the two, they have very little to say to each other and rarely ever look at each other, but as time goes by and the months start to roll in the two begin to feel something between then, here is where things start to pick up, because both men begin to act more loosely among each other, and slowly both can feel there’s something odd going between them and yet they don’t even know it fully yet, well I won’t spoil the scene for you but after the dirty deed does finally happen both men see as a onetime thing that didn’t mean nothing, however even they can’t lie to themselves that it was much more than that, they begin to fall in love with each other, however all things must come to an end, and so does there little thing, after the job was done they go their separate ways, but as the story goes, fate doesn’t allow them to just have this one thing and leave each other for good, the film spans over the course of 20 years and the love that was and could have been so much more.

The plot was phenomenal, nothing short of top notch storytelling if you ask me, the directing was beautifully executed by director Ang Lee, he has made a masterpiece for the new and old era alike to enjoy, and truly deserving the Oscars in won, the film manages to do what others have failed at, and that’s helping those who are uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality, first by introducing our main characters as your usual heterosexual man, at first they act as friends, but over time they get to know each other, and slowly shown as two individuals in a time of extreme prejudice towards gays, slowly fall for each other, yes it may still sound unsettling for some, but trust me when I say on film it’s really not, I’m not saying the film will make you scream out you’re no longer intimidated or afraid of homosexuality, however Brokeback Mountain manages to peel away the unsettling feelings we have on the subject, and show that in a world filled with war, hate, fear, and despair, sometimes love no matter how, who, or where it comes from is the only thing we can truly hold on to and call our own. I really enjoyed myself while seeing this, like I said, at first I didn’t want to be taken in by the controversy, but now I see the controversy was nothing more but mere propaganda to stop those from watching it, but the most intriguing part is the fact that though this film is about two men, the love story behind it is as universal as any other love story ever told, and can be felt by all on some level, that my friends is what I call real movie making.

The story is about in the year 1963; two young men are hired on as ranch hands in the Wyoming Mountains. During the long months of isolation, an unusual bond starts to develop between them, one which they are only vaguely aware of--until one night when it raises to the surface in a passionate encounter. When the season ends, they part ways, only to realize the true depth of their feelings. Thus begins a decades-long affair that the two of them desperately try to hide from those around them one which will prove to be simultaneously beautiful and greatly devastating.

As for the acting; well I can tell you that aside from his exhalent performances in films like 2008’s “The Dark Knight” Heat Ledger gives a breath taking performance, without him this film wouldn’t be as great as it was, he breathes life into his character, and pours such power and sincerity behind it that it’s almost as if a part of him was put into the role, it’s sad that such a fine and talented actor such as him is no longer among us. Jake Gyllenhaal was outstanding, he matched dead on for the role, and some could say it’s because the two had already have a friendship outside of the film long before talks for it being made into film came about, I say that’ a loud of BS, he matched the role because he is a fine actor, and proved it in many previous films before this, and I’m confident he’s going to continue to do so as time passes. Michelle Williams was fantastic, her acting was a real sight to see, and what makes it even more interesting is the real life back-story behind making this great film, the fact her and Heat Ledger became an item while making this film could tell you that if it wasn’t for working together on Brokeback Mountain their love for each other would have never happened, meaning Ledger would have left this earth without a symbol of the man he truly was (the daughter with Williams is proof of the good man he was). Anne Hathaway was spot on, her acting has proven to be great as her beauty which is nothing sort of hypnotizing, I’m glad to see her out of the kid flicks and into the real grown up stuff. Linda Cardellini, Kate Mara, and Randy Quaid just to name a few were also a real treat to see in this, and even though their roles are small, it still adds to the overall art of this film and in some way helps add to this already near perfect masterpiece.

Final Say: Brokeback Mountain was a real treat, I must admit that when going into this I had the thought that this would turn out to be a homophobes worst nightmare, but instead what I got was a painfully beautiful love story of a forbidden love that wanted to become more than just what it was and yet could never be, this film is in my top ten films that should come for 2004, and among my all time top favorite films (which should be around 40 to 50 films by now). If you have one ounce of love in you, then I highly recommend this film to you.

Copyright 2008
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Review: Henry Poole Is Here (2008) [Reviewed By Tony-D]

Release: 2008
BOMB out of ****
Director: Mark Pellington
Cast: Luke Wilson, Radha Mitchell, Adriana Barraza

There is always one film that everyone will disagree with me on. It has always happened. I will side away from critics and call some movies that they call great terrible. Two years ago I was the only one who called “The Descent” overrated. Last year, I was the only one that hated “Eastern Promises.” I was looking for the film that I hated but everyone else likes so far this year. I found my answer two nights ago when I watched the latest Luke Wilson drama “Henry Poole Is Here.”

And oh, it’s bad. Oh sweet Jesus Christ, is it terrible. There is not a single redeeming quality about this film. Everything about this movie is so laughably bad – from the actors to the script, from the direction to the overall story. Out of all of the bad movies that I’ve seen this year, which include “The Hottie and the Nottie,” “Witless Protection,” “10,000 B.C.,” ‘Over Her Dead Body,” and even “Meet the Spartans,” this movie is the worst of the year so far, and it will probably stay as the worst.

Luke Wilson plays Henry Poole, a thirty-something year old guy who leaves his fiancée and family to live in a house all by himself for the rest of his life. According to doctors, he has a problem, and he is very sick and is going to die soon. This neighbor of his (Adriana Barraza) comes knocking on his door, and stares at the side of his house. A stain on the wall, which looks like a mix of menstrual blood and tomato soup, is proclaimed the second coming of Christ, and Henry Poole’s house is now bigger than the fucking church.

Now tell me what is wrong about this premise? Almost everything. First off, Henry Poole is one of the worst characters to ever be brought on the silver screen. He looks at everyone and sees nothing worth liking. It’s not that I have a problem with that part, because in all fairness, so do I, but the problem with the character is that he is so cynical that he never really quite fits into the movie. He hates everything and is so convinced that God doesn’t exist because he is sick.

But then comes the clichéd romantic storyline, how the cynical and very tight guy falls in love with nice and cute girl next door, this time played by Radha Mitchell and not Kristen Dunst. Her daughter (Morgan Lily) hasn’t talked for over a year until she goes and stares at the wall. Everyone believes that if this isn’t a miracle, they don’t know what is. You know what would be the better end of the miracle? If our main character died in the first five minutes of the movie.

I don’t hate this film for any beliefs of religion. Though I do not believe in God, it doesn’t make me hate the movie any more or any less than I do. I hate the movie because it believes that everything happens for a reason. The script goes out of its way to preach to us that our lives have already been written, but we have yet to find the reason for our existence. For everyone in this film, their reason for existence is a fucking wall with blood on it. This wall attracts everyone, including old ladies and George Lopez.

But the most normal person in the entire movie is the one that is the most unlikely – Henry Poole. He is looking at the wall like, “What the fuck are these old bitches talking about?” Everyone else here feels like that they walked out of some church bus. You can believe whatever you want to believe, and I don’t have a problem with you believing in anything, but there is a difference between believing in a religion or something that is just plain ridiculous. Do you know what I call that?



As the movie goes on, we eventually see Poole become the better man that he should be. He’s being nice to people and he’s starting to eat healthy. He grew a pair of gonads and asked Radha out on a date. But just when you think that he was changing for the better, out comes a fucking twist in vein of “The Sixth Sense” that should have been left on the cutting-room floor, for Luke Wilson goes apeshit and starts chopping down his house with an axe like he’s motherfucking Paul Bunyan. This is when the house falls on top of him, and we’re supposed to feel sorry for the guy after he destroyed all of the bible-humpers Christian equipment.

Umm… no fuckhead. It’s actually the opposite.

I don’t understand what these filmmakers were trying to accomplish with this film. If you don’t believe in God, does that mean that a house is going to fall on you? If you look at the world like all it does is shit in your face, can it really shit in your face one day? The question that is begged throughout the movie though is what kind of a sin did you do that your punishment is to watch this crappy movie?

And I’m sure that in the comments section someone is going to say, “You only hated this film because it was religious and you’re just a mean fuck.” First off, you don’t have to remind me that I’m not religious and I’m a mean fuck. I can figure that out for myself, thank you very much.

And secondly, and most importantly, I don’t judge movies whether or not they are religious. To me, religion is just somewhere you can go where you can get away from the world’s troubles. That is why I go to the movie theater. If you like to go to church and attend mass on Sundays, all the more power to you. But just because a movie is religious doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy religious movies. I judge movies on how artistic they are. It just seems like this time around that they misspelled the word “artistic” with “autistic.”

Let the backlash begin.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Review: The Rocker (2008) [Reviewed By Tony-D]

Release: 2008
*** out of ****
Director: Peter Cattaneo
Cast: Rainn Wilson, Teddy Geiger, Emma Stone

In the summer of 2006, I was all about one thing – trying out new types of music. Yes, I was starting to get into movie reviewing at that time too, but you want to know what I was doing while I was writing reviews? Listening to music. Though I can’t really remember what I listened to back then, I can remember one artist that I despised listening to. Teddy Geiger released his single “For You I Will (Confidence),” and it was always that one damn song that never left the radio stations. Like most songs today, this Teddy Geiger song was overplayed, and the one thing that I hate more than an overplayed song is an overplayed bad song. I’ve heard plenty in my day, but not nearly as bad as THAT.

But here’s the funny thing. After a hit like that song and his other single “These Walls” (which received almost no radio airplay near me, surprisingly), Teddy Geiger suddenly vanished. No one talked about him anymore. Teenaged girls didn’t have their MySpaces infected with his songs. At first, I thought that I was alone at last, and I returned listening to The Fratellis, Muse, Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand, and whatever the hell I felt like listening back then.

Unaware that Teddy Geiger has a starring role in “The Rocker” aside “The Office’s” great Rainn Wilson, I went to go see the movie expecting to laugh. I learned after “Meet the Spartans,” “Mad Money,” and “The Love Guru” that I should never pay for a comedy if I didn’t expect to laugh (which is why you haven’t seen a review from me on “Disaster Movie”). And then when the lights shut down, the trailers were over, I was the only one in the theater to watch “The Rocker.” Why wasn’t anyone there?

And then the opening credits began, and I had my answer-

Teddy Geiger.

So THAT was what he was doing the entire time…

I guess it is true that everyone else has a problem with him like me… or maybe “Death Race” or “The House Bunny” was more important… or maybe people were watching “The Dark Knight” for the tenth time that week… god only knows.

And all I thought was, “Oh Christ, this emo-skidmark is REALLY in this movie? I paid SIX FUCKING BUCKS to see this guy try to act in this almost-for-certain rip-off of “School of Rock.”” It surprises me to say this, but not only is this not even close of being a rip-off to the Jack Black comedy, but Teddy Geiger really isn’t… *gulp*… that bad.

Robert “Fish” Fishman (Rainn Wilson) was the drummer of the band Vesuvius while the band was then unknown. When his bandmates (including Will Arnett) kick him out of the band once they finally get a recording deal to make way for a producer’s nephew or something like that, he tells them that he will prove that he will be in a great band one day. Twenty years later, Fish is stuck in an office job while Vesuvius is being entered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When he gets fired after attacking one of his co-workers that brings in a Vesuvius CD, he winds up staying with his sister, (Jane Lynch) her husband, (Jeff Garlin) her daughter, (Samantha Weinstein) and her son Matt. (Josh Gad)

What Fish doesn’t know is that Matt has a band called A.D.D., and since their drummer has dropped out from the band, Matt asks his Fish if he would like to play for the prom. Along with Matt, Amelia (Emma Stone) and Curtis (Teddy Geiger) become upset when Fish tries to show off at the prom, but they offer to give him a second chance when Fish promises that he can get them to play at a few gigs around their area. After one gig, they meet up with a producer (Jason Sudeikis) who signs them to some deal that includes them touring around different venues and performing for a few crowds.
While their band is still a bit too small for anyone to really notice, Fish steals his sister’s car to get to a gig and it ends up having all of them being punished. Matt comes up with an idea to practice over the internet using webcams, and you would think that everything works out right… until a video of Fish practicing naked ends up on YouTube. The video has been seen millions of times and the band is known throughout the country. When their producer asks them to play before Vesuvius when they get inducted into the Hall of Fame, Curtis feels like this would be the perfect way to get the band’s name out there, but Fish says that he refuses.

And you can guess where it goes from there. “The Rocker” is a surprisingly funny comedy, yet clichéd and predictable. The laughs don’t come nonstop like they do in “Tropic Thunder,” “Hamlet 2,” or “Get Smart,” but they come at a nice speed. While it is never crude sexual humor (aside from Rainn Wilson’s bare white ass), the movie has a few gut laughs and a few chuckles, but there are also a few times where jokes fall flat on their face.

Tons and tons of critics have been comparing it to “School of Rock,” but the movies have nothing in common really. You can say that the whole idea that he was a washed-up rock star could be a comparison, but Jack Black’s character was only out of the band for a few hours, at the most a day, until he started subbing. Rainn Wilson’s character hasn’t rocked out for over twenty years. So to compare the two films are really unfair, especially when “School of Rock” is the much better one.

A major problem with this film is how Fish goes from a heavy metal band in the 80s to an Emo-alternative rock band in the 00s. It seems to me that the change from a headbanger to a guy who is a drummer for a group that sings about depression and love really isn’t very believable. He goes out that looking like he is performing for a heavy metal band. I don’t know if that is the joke of the film, but if it is it isn’t very funny. Or maybe it is just the way how we call Emo music rock. But that might just be me throwing random ideas off of the top of my head.

The acting really isn’t all too impressive, but it is alright to say the least. Rainn Wilson is definitely one of the funniest guys out there working now, and while the character isn’t quite on par with Dwight Schrute, it kicks the shit out of his character in “The Last Mimzy.” Emma Stone is decent as the bass-guitarist, and Josh Gad is pretty funny as the piano player. I could have done without Christina Applegate, but there is always one that I can do without.

But I haven’t even brought up Teddy Geiger yet, and I will be the first one to admit that I was really surprised by this guy’s performance. “The Rocker” definitely showed me that he had a bit of acting talent, but he showed me something else – that he could sing and not break glass. His character is the lead singer in the band, and this would usually be the part where I would say something like, “Yeah, his singing was so bad that my ass can make better sounds.” I just can’t find the heart to say something like that this time around. Could it be my taste in music changing?

Or am I just getting fucking softer?

Must be the first one.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Review: Brutal Massacre: A Comedy (2007) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: David Naughton, Brian O’Halloran, Ken Foree, Gunnar Hansen
Written & Directed By: Stevan Mena
Released: 2008
Grade: B

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy is a mockumentary film that shows the making of a horror film that has continuous disasters in just about every part of the making of the film and even before and after the makers are at this point. It pokes fun at cheesy horror slashers in particular. While the movie is funny, in most parts it is not quite in a laugh out loud way, but more through the critiques of the horror industry and Hollywood.

Harry (Naughton) is a horror writer and director who has quite a few films under his belt. However, only one of them was really successful. All of the others did horribly in the U.S., although some had a following overseas. Still, many of them were thought to be too trashy to even get made in to films, including a children’s horror film he made with his partner, Jay (O’Halloran), that tried to moralize itself by making only the bad kids who didn’t eat their vegetables die. Most people don’t take him very seriously even more, especially those in the industry, making it harder for him to get investors to support him. Most of the people who are working with him are either amateurs or have been working with Harry for so long and feel that they must stay loyal to him. He eventually does find a studio to back his newest film, Brutal Massacre. From the start the producer wants to make changes to Harry’s original idea. Cranking up the nudity is a must or there will be no film. This conflicts with the story since Harry really wanted this to be a film concentrating on the premise, story, and characters, even feeling that nudity might seem random and out of place. He is forced to alter his vision a bit if he wants Brutal Massacre to even have a chance.

Finding a location gives them a lot of trouble especially since they don’t have a lot of money to pay for it. After quite some trouble, Jay finds a house that is absolutely perfect. Even better the old crazy drunk, Krenshaw (Hansen) tells them, “fuck if I care” about them using the house and they can do whatever they want to it, since he is planning on destroying it and creating a new one right after. Even after they start filming the problems still keep arising. They seem to be in the middle of nowhere yet there are still plenty of neighborhood teenagers who are getting a kick out of stirring up trouble and making it more difficult for the crew to get the shots that they need. Even when they do get a lot of things that they need it turns out that the sound didn’t match the images, because the sound guy is new at this and really doesn’t have too much of a grasp on what he is doing. Some of the actresses have problems that Harry and his crew have to work them through like hesitancy to shoot nude scenes, fear off blood, and overacting. Things get even worse as they get robbed, their dead corpses end up looking extremely fake, and it is Harry’s belief that his curse is coming back through the spirit’s that haunt him as one of the crew members, Carl (Foree), ends up dead on the set. Others leave for better opportunities else where while some just give up as they feel that they are working on a doomed to fail film. Even once Harry manages to get through everything it turns out that he can’t even have an ending to the film due to complications and hopes this will pass as an artistic decision rather than a mistake.

David Naughton made a very convincing horror writer/director and the struggles and desperation of this man was very evident in his performance. Naughton seemed very in tune with horror as his character claimed to even be haunted by ghosts. It was great seeing Brian O’Halloran in this and although he is playing a completely different character it brought me back to his performance in Clerks. His character, Jay, has a pretty creative mind and has real ambitions of his own that are campy but in good fun. Ken Foree gave us a more reluctant crew member who had a computer job waiting for him. This was his last film he was working on and wanted to get back to a more normal life, with normal working hours that would let him have a bit more of a life. Gunnar Hansen gave us Krenshaw, surely one of the funniest characters in the film. He was an old drunk that Hansen was able to perfect by using an almost angered and strong personality yet clearly off the wall.

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy concentrates on some of the flaws in the Hollywood system. For example, Harry is considered to be out of the horror genre for putting out too many cheesy and out there horror films. However, when he tries to put out a film that is focused on the story and has some serious elements and real purpose to it, the only producer that will actually listen to him immediately tries to dumb it down. The element of nudity trying to be shoved in to everything especially horror is shown here even in the case where it might not fit at all. This is actually an unfortunate fault of the core audiences. The reason that a lot of mainstream horror films are trash are because the audiences only responds to this trash rather than craving or demanding something that shows a bit more intellect or thought. The film also showed the opposite example of this, while a simple part of his film, which is really a shortcoming on his part is mistaken for an innovative statement by a critic who wants to see more than what is really there.

The film within the film has complication after complication, expressing the notion that often times everything that can go wrong does. When Harry is pitching his ideas, once most people hear that it is a horror movie they want nothing to do with it, as if horror has no potential to it and is something not even worth bothering with. Those who will look at it, assume that it is this low genre and try to exploit it as such. This represents a very real, but unfortunate opinion by the majority of the movie industry. Horror is only a respected genre for the fans and some bigger filmmakers committed to creating horror in creative ways to the masses, but more commonly with independent horror filmmakers who have the passion and drive that will not be skewed or toyed with by major studios. I really liked how committed Harry was to the film and that he seemed to have horror embedded in him and wanted to use his film for an outlet on it. In an interview he also talks about horror films being his creative medium to react to the world he sees around him. This is true of the greatest filmmakers and their movies, which is something most cynics aren’t able to understand.

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy isn’t really a comedy in my eyes. It is mildly funny and is an entertaining film. However, what you take away from the movie is not laughs. Maybe this would have happened if stereotypes and clichés would have been targeted more or if some of the characters would have been molded to be a bit more crazy personalities to make an example of this. The one really crazy character, Krenshaw, is by far the funniest, which just proves this. Perhaps, a more appropriate name would be Brutal Massacre: a horror industry examination. The film is not perfect and could have done more, but what it does well it does subtly, but still with intellect and craft. The examination is really Brutal Massacre: A Comedy’s concentration and although it may seem light and fun at times, overall it really leaves us with some insight, questioning, and depth in to horror films and the system they are built around.

Review: It's My Party and I'll Die If I Want To (2008) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Adrienne Fischer, Oliver Lucach, Danielle Nortum, Darcy Wood
Written & Directed By: Tony Wash
Released: 2008
Grade: B

Tony Wash, creator of It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To could have took the traditional and seemingly logical approach by purely being a film. Instead, it picks up on the fact that technology is changing. There is more of a market for interactive media. Although watching a film can be thought provoking, emotion, and has the ability to have such an effect on the viewer. A lot of films aren’t able to achieve this from weaknesses in one area or another whether it be the story, characters, dialogue, or just not completely the execution. Not only does It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I want to do well in all of these areas but it dares to use a merging form that is most likely reflective upon what the future of movies may be like soon through a “choose your own adventure game”. The story is set up and you are shown the movie. Then you are able to make a choice between actions the characters take and watch your choice in action in a pivotal moment that could very well lead to someone’s death.

Sara (Fischer) is disappointed that none of her friends have seemed to remember her birthday. Being her 18th birthday she imagined it being a bit more special. After sitting at home for most of the evening, her mom finally gives her an invitation to her own party. It turns out that her friends haven’t forgot about it at all, but are planning quite a night for her. Given Sara’s love for horror movies and her birthday being on Halloween, they decide the perfect party would be at a haunted house. Luckily, her friend, Travis (Lucach) has access to a house that is on the market and the owner’s will be out of town all weekend. So they set up the house with booby traps, gore, and plenty of scares for a creepy night.

To set the mood he even tells the story of the people who owned this house before. One day in the ‘30s a man named Jacob Burkitt painted the windows and locked his wife and all of his kids inside. The only time any of them ever left was once a week when the oldest son was sent to go get groceries. The townspeople got used to their way of life soon enough. However, soon the son wasn’t at the store buying groceries. It took a month before the sheriff checked on the house. When he did, he found the entire family dead. Jacob attacked his wife, as he sawed her to pieces. When his daughter approached him, watching him in this vicious state, he left his wife and brutally beat his daughter with a meat cleaver. One by one he killed every one in his family, including himself. He even took the time to separate and sort the body parts and made piles of them. All of the heads were taken and placed on dinner plates on the table while Jacob’s was at the head of the table, dead surrounded by the family he had just killed.

Sara’s friends don’t appreciate this story very much and get mad at some of the corpses that correlate with the story, even though Travis really didn’t put them there. Travis gets bruised by a paranormal nail and becomes injured. As green puss starts squirting out of his arm he begins to turn in to a demon and soon goes after his friends. When some of them end up dead, most of the girls don’t want to believe this. When Sara finally manages to get inside to her party, her and her friend realize that what is happening is no Halloween prank. Some of their friends have died and if they don’t get out of their immediately than they will be next. Not to mention it is only a matter of time before lots of people will be looking for a party and will only find a massacre.

Adrienne Fischer does an excellent job as the lead, Sara. I was pleasantly surprised since this is really her first role. She is able to give us someone extremely realistic and likeable, which can be very rare in movies period let alone a lot of horror films actresses aren’t always given that much to work with since they are often there for sex appeal and in the end to die. From the beginning we get to know Sara, so we actually care about her. I really appreciated that Tony Wash made her character in particular, along with her friend that she is walking home from school with in the beginning, actually real and smart. Sure, Sara wants to have a good time, but we are shown that she has more to her than that. She talks about school, scholarships, college, and the future with her friend. This does a couple things. First of all, it adds some layers to her character. We see that she has a good head on her shoulders, showing that she deserves to have a good time without the threat of death lingering over her. Secondly, it tells us that she has worked hard and has a real future in front of her, making her possible death all the more terrifying and unfortunate.

Oliver Lucach did pretty well as Travis who was a pretty big horror fan himself. You can tell he had a lot of fun with the role and a lot of his inner fan came out in his performance. Lucach remained creepy and mischievous, thrilled to be setting the mood of the haunted house Halloween party, and was dragged in to truly committing when Travis was taken by the spirits of the house. Some of the girls including Danielle Nortum and Darcy Wood, came off as more ditzy and less well rounded and in comparison to Sara. The better scenes were the ones when they were being attacked as they played the part of the damsels in distress better than when they were just talking and getting mad at Travis. Luckily, these were minor characters and some of the better performances made up for this. Also, there was a fun cameo by Tom Savini as the electrician of the house that unleashed the evil spirits.

The look and style to It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To is impressive for a film with such a low budget. The credits roll with a comic book style, introducing everyone involved with the film and in between the comic strips we are shown parts of the story, automatically giving us some back story and setting us up for the film in an artistic way. This comic style continues between scenes, bringing us to the next shot. Through out a lot of moments in the film, particularly in the transitions between the shots, we are given a great soundtrack. It is very energetic, playing wonderfully with the comic style and overall fun of the entire film. Even aside from these shots, there are some bright and neon flashes particularly in green. This sparks some of the transformations and unleashing evil that is coming out.

There are a lot of mentions of popular horror films. Sara is given a life size cardboard Jason Voorhees saying ‘Happy Birthday Sara‘. Her mother mentions her preference for Freddy Krueger. Sara’s room is filled with horror movies and posters including The Shining. Sara’s friends are planning to set up a prank in reference to the blood scene at the end of Carrie, mentioning that it is her favorite film. Sara dresses up like Elvira for the party. It is clear that both her and Travis have horror pumping through their blood and their love for it never dies. This adds to the fun and also makes us able to relate to them more. Also, it added smarts to it especially since Sara has seen so many horror movies and knew all of the clichés and things that the victims always did wrong and how the villains were thinking.

It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To’s story reminded me a lot of Stupid Teenagers Must Die. They both take place having a party in an old haunted house where a man murdered his whole family and then himself. In both cases the created images of Halloween tricks and the real evil spirits that are bringing evil to the teens in the house get blurred. However, It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To took this simple story and made a far better film around it. This is because it actually gives us some good main characters and actors who are equipped to play them. Not to mention that Stupid Teenagers must Die tried to pose as an intelligent film making fun of clichés, but in the process became even more stupid and clichéd than the films it was attempting to critique.

Wash was very smart about the script and overall look and feel for It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To. He gave us a good back story, although it was simple. It could have been more horrific if the story would come back to it, elaborated on it, and revealed more about Jacob who brutally killed his family. What made him do this could have brought out some powerful themes. Tony Wash took a different approach than this and that is fine since it is not a suspense or mystery. It is clear that more than anything Wash just wanted to have fun with the movie. The back story in the movie did all that it needed to do: it gave a reason for ghosts to be haunting the house so a safe horror atmosphere could turn to real horrors. It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To has some great gore and death scenes especially for the budget it has to work with. From the very beginning of the movie we are shown brutal death scenes. There is a ton of blood and we are shown detached hands held by the killer, eye balls stringed out of the sockets, saws, knives, nails, and people dragged to their death. Many of the deaths are shown slowly stabbing the victims doubled with the music, made it seem drawn out and therefore made us feel more of the pain inducement that the character is experiencing. At another point we are shown someone’s skin completely burning and deteriorating as they scream in pain.

In It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To we are given a movie that we can care for and be engaged in especially by making us part of it particularly through the game feature that enhances the fun. It is obvious this film was made for the horror fans and by horror fans. It is not a film to think of too seriously or put too much thought in to it. It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To looks better than a lot of high budgeted films, yet it remains to be simple and just has fun with itself, giving us characters we care about who are realistic, some very gruesome gore, and involves us in this horror adventure film.

Review: Resurrection Mary (2008) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Kevin Schmidt, Pamela Noble, Sally Kirkland, Sean Marquette, Dustin Schuetter, Kristin Herrera
Directed By: Sean Michael Beyer
Written By: Sean Michael Beyer, Ryan Lamastar
Released (DVD): August 26, 2008
Grade: B

Resurrection Mary is based on the most famous ghost story in Chicago’s history. The movie sticks to the most basic elements of the tale. Mary, a young Polish girl, was killed in the early 1930’s. She was coming from a dance at the Oh Henry with a date she wanted to get far away from. Mary was then hit by a car and the driver left her there to die on Archer avenue. Mary’s parents buried her in Resurrection Cemetery in the white gown and dancing shoes she wore that night. There have been sightings of Mary since then on Archer Avenue, some claiming to see her on the road and others saying they had her sit in their car upon her quickly disappearing without so much as a door closing. She has even been mistaken for other girl’s named Mary who fell victim to a similar situation around the same time, although many of these have proven to not be Resurrection Mary. The movie made a few changes such as Mary dying in 1938 rather than the early 1930’s and made her date drunk and abusive the night of the accident.

Jeff (Schmidt) has been wanting the girl who just seems to be out of his reach, Karen (Herrera), for quite some time now. With the homecoming dance right around the corner, he thinks this might be his chance. Unfortunately, she is already going with her boyfriend, Kevin (Schuetter), the school’s jock and all around jerk. Worse, his best friend, Curtis (Marquette), will be there with his girlfriend, Erica, and they have all been invited to Kevin’s party after the dance. Jeff really doesn’t want to go alone, but doesn’t know what else to do. While driving his car at night, he runs in to a blonde girl dressed in a white gown. She says she was at the Oh Henry dancing with a date that she just wanted to get away from. Jeff gives her a ride home, but she only lets him get as far as Resurrection Cemetery and insists on walking the rest of the way. He does see her again and she agrees to go to homecoming with Jeff and says she will meet him there. Everyone is impressed by Mary, especially Kevin. While at his party, he is extremely drunk and continuously hits on her, causing Jeff to fight Kevin.

The next day, the police show up at Jeff’s house, accusing him for the murder of Kevin. His grandmother, Lois (Kirkland), tries to protect him in every way that she can. As more people in Jeff’s life start dying off, including the best friend he has ever known, he becomes the primary suspect and the police are determined to lock him up and prove him guilty, even before they really have all of the evidence. Lois believes that Jeff’s Mary is Resurrection Mary. There are definite similarities between what Jeff knows about her and the legends of the ghost. Jeff is still hesitant although there is definitely something very strange about Mary. He sees her again and Mary insists that she hasn’t killed anyone. Of course, when he tells the police a legendary ghost is the real murderer not him, he is merely laughed at. Mary may have had just as much to do with his past as she does with his present. His parents were killed in a car accident on Archer avenue, just as Mary was. The mystery is that out of everyone Jeff is the one who made it through without so much as a scratch. If Jeff can’t find out and prove the truth that happened to his family and what is happening to his world now. he will end up in jail while everyone else continues to die, possibly including Jeff himself.

The acting was pretty good for an independent horror film. Kevin Schmidt was easy enough to relate to and feel for as our protagonist. Pamela Noble does very well as Mary. She is beautiful, charming, yet shy and very mysterious. She gives us just the right presence, we are not really sure whether she is the right girl for Jeff or if she is a complete monster. Even if she is a monster, it isn’t beyond us to see things her way. Kevin ends up dead and Mary said everyone gets what’s coming to them in the end. Kevin was drunk and tried to take advantage of her just like her repulsive date did the night of her murder. Kevin hurt Jeff too so if Mary is the one responsible for killing him, it is to protect someone who was good to her or an attempt to defeat her own demons. Noble does a terrific job of creating suspense and mystery by the contradictions she gives us. She makes Mary both seemingly innocent and sweet, chilling, and scared at the same time.

Of course, Sally Kirkland, the veteran actress that she is, did wonderfully. She seems to be able to do a lot with her roles especially in the horror genre. Here her true belief in Resurrection Mary adds horrifying suspense as well as having much more faith and belief than most in the movie. I was glad to see Sean Marquette in a role where he had more to work with and offer. Seeing him here as opposed to Remember the Daze, he delivers us with a higher standard. His personality was really able to surface in the film as he gave us some great comedic relief. Richard Riehle and Charlie Schlatter did very well as the small minded, arrogant cops.

One thing in particular that bothered me was that they didn’t even touch on why Karen stayed with Kevin. This confrontation seemed natural when Kevin had gotten drunk and aggressively hit on another girl all night long, continuing to pursue her. Obviously, if he isn’t already cheating on her, which he probably is, he just showed her that as soon as Mary would give in, he would willingly cheat on Karen. Rather than really being mad at Kevin or even bringing up her feelings of what happened, she seems more loving towards him than ever, right before learning of his death. Even after this, it could have worked in to the script easily. I know there are a lot of girls who don’t have common sense when it comes to mistreated relationships, but not even touching on this made me look down on her and she just seemed like an unrealistic character because of it.

Don’t be looking for bloody or gruesome deaths here, because you aren’t going to find them. We don’t see any of the deaths while they are happening, only after they occur. There is some blood, but it is pretty tame. It is obvious that this is more of a take on a paranormal story than a horror film. Resurrection Mary could have been better with better dialogue since sometimes things sound a bit too familiar and forced rather than true to the characters. The film could have gone further, but I am able to accept it for what it is. Resurrection Mary is obviously a fictional account of, as of now, what is still an urban legend. There have been witnesses and it is a highly documented case, but nothing has truly been proven on it. It is clear that the filmmakers didn’t want to stray to far from some of the generally known elements of the story of Resurrection Mary. Resurrection Mary stays true to the legend while telling it’s own version of the tale and giving us a suspenseful and intriguing ghost story.