New Releases for Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Genre: Horror Directed by: Daniel Robbins Run time: 95 minutes Rating: Unrated Format: DVD The Lowdown: Uncaged, the second unexpectedly strong, consistently solid werewolf film to be
released in less than a month, won’t make you forget the genre classics that define the best lycanthrope movies ever made.
But what it will do is make you appreciate every staple that defines the best B-grade, drive-in, throw everything plus the kitchen sink into the mix movies that defy classification and exist outside of normal film conventions.
In short, Uncaged should have been called “Unhinged” for all the twists and turns, surreal subplots, bizarre character details and downright loopy choices that director and co-writer Daniel Robbins makes in crafting what might possibly be the first ever werewolf origin/blacksploitation/coming-of-age drama/teen sex comedy of its kind.
Seriously, this movie is nuts. Plain and simple. And god love it for that fact.
It defies explanation how Robbins, in just his second feature film, manages to connect the dots in a plausible way between the following subplots:
1 – Jack, on his 18th birthday, learns the truth about his family lineage, and suffice to say, it’s a hairy ordeal.
2 – Turner, one of Jack’s friends, who becomes more like Jack’s arch-nemesis, who also likes to Go- Pro film his sexual escapades with vapid blondes he meets online, commits cold-blooded murder and somehow believes himself to be the righteous judge of Jack’s newfound heritage.
3 – Brandon, the requisite geeky buddy, explores his sexuality in a series of hilarious vignettes whereby he over-shares his confounding feelings, all while consumed with losing his virginity.
4 – Rose, the wife of a low-level crime boss, witnesses a brutal attack while leaving a tryst, and is forced to confront the unexpected consequences of her affair.
5 – Gonzo, the low-level crime boss with a penchant for top-shelf scotch, who comes off like a modern-day interpretation of Dolemite,as performed by Keith David, embarks on a bloody mission to learn the truth about the attack his wife witnessed.
6 – Jack’s mom, Jenny, and his uncle Mike, who are possibly part of a shadowy underground werewolf organization, try to help Jack preparefor his first transformation by leaving well-placed clues and assistance until an ill-fated meeting with Turner and his shotgun.
Like I said, Uncaged has no right to be as linear as it is with so much going on and so many ridiculously convoluted plot threads to somehow tie together in a tight knot.
But it does, and it is. And as a result, viewers are treated to some absolutely bonkers moments, such as a taunt dinner party where Gonzo treats his crime crew, his wife, Jack, Turner and Brandon, to his family’s secret recipe for tapenade, while Rose tries to convince Jack to kill Gonzo with a butcher knife and Brandon flirts with one of Gonzo’s henchmen.
Or the torture-gone-wrong interrogation of Jack by Gonzo and his henchmen that inadvertently summons the beast within.
Or the white-knuckle meeting between Jack and Turner in front of Rose who is strapped to a chair with a Go-Pro camera set to record Turner exposing his former friend for being a monster.
Uncaged might be a shaggy dog when it comes to the filmmaking fundamentals that typically identify a well-made movie, but it’s exactly those frayed edges and weird flourishes that set it apart.
It’s such a pleasant surprise to find yourself completely floored by a filmmaker’s bravado and hubris in trying to jam-pack every possible genre staple into one movie.
Sure, you may find yourself shouting at the screen throughout as more and more plot details appear abandoned and unresolved for too-long stretches of time, but rest assured, everything is resolved in the end, and in a way that actually propels the narrative on an organic journey to “Uncaged 2,” should the sequel ever be made.
Here’s hoping it does get made because I’m betting there’s a lot more backstory to several of these characters than even Robbins couldn't find the screen time this go-round to explore.
The Stuff You Care About: Hot Chicks – Yes. Nudity – Yes.
Gore – Yes. Drug use – Yes. Bad Guys/Killers – Werewolves, man, werewolves! Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Martyrs (Anchor Bay, 86 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): In 2009, I absently placed a new French import titled “Martyrs,” by director Pascal Laugier, into my DVD player. Within minutes, I was hooked. It was brilliant, violent and unrelenting, with a stunningly powerful conclusion open to interpretation that stuck with me for days. To remake such a movie would be a Herculean challenge, and directors Kevin and Michael Goetz, with writer Mark L. Smith, have given their best to this faithful American update. While it lacks the sensory-shocking verve of the original, that rapturous joy of discovery and surprise, it’s not a quickie knockoff designed solely to make money. The Goetz brothers sincerely try to extract the religious and moral undertones of the story in a way that doesn’t pander to its audience. There are no easy answers provided, despite the addition of more back story for the captors and zealots seeking the highest form of knowledge possible. It’s a laudable effort, even if it fails to reach the same dizzying heights. In fairness, nothing could match the original. I recommend people watch both this remake and the original to form their own opinion.
Hellions (Shout! Factory, 80 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): If not for the fact that director Bruce McDonald made “Pontypool,” the brilliantly restrained 2008 zombie thriller told from the tight
confines of a radio soundbooth, I might be more inclined to thoroughly trounce this weird and incoherent ramble about demon spawn and a pregnant teenage girl. But I’m giving McDonald apass, in part, because Hellions is so firmly fixed on its visual aesthetics that even when the action onscreen is nearly indecipherable, it’s still captivating to watch with its sepia-tinged color palette, rapid-fire editing cuts and blurred dissolves. That doesn’t mean it makes a lick of sense. Not one iota. Not even the great genre veteran Robert Patrick can salvage the mish-mash of a story that seems better suited as a 20-minute vignette in a Halloween anthology than a bloated 80- minute feature that sadly runs out of steam long before its credits roll.
The World of Kanako (Cinedigm/Drafthouse, 119 minutes, Unrated,Blu-Ray): The World of Kanako is a massive head-screw of blood-soaked, epic familial revelations. This is seriously one of the best thrillers to parachute into the U.S. in years. It’s near non-stop smorgasbord of uberviolence and surrealistic imagery will keep you reeling until its sucker-punch finale hits you straight in the chest, removing all air from your lungs and the room. Go, now, and watch.
All Hallow’s Eve 2 (Image Entertainment/RLJ, 91 minutes,Unrated, DVD): I’m all for horror anthologies, especially ones that use Halloween as a jumping off point, but this low-budget, wannabe “Trick ‘r Treat” spends too much time unspooling half-baked stories about killer pumpkins and shadowy demons and not enough time trying to be original and, you know, scary.
The Piper (CJ Entertainment, 119 minutes, PG-13, DVD): This eerie import owes a large debt to the works of Guillermo Del Toro with its creepy, slow-burn story about a traveling piper and his sickly son who stumble upon an isolated village that believes the rest of humanity has been vaporized by war.
Zombie Fight Club (Shout! Factory, 95 minutes, Unrated,Blu-Ray): Imagine “The Raid: Redemption” with zombies, and you’ve basically got Zombie Fight Club, a nothing-new zombie apocalypse thriller that presumes the end of humanity will come from a batch of tainted bath salts. Here’s the problem I had – for a movie that promises a “Zombie Fight Club,” a literal battle royale between the living and the undead, why in the hell did the creators wait nearly 80 minutes to finally make the premise reality?
Bridge of Spies The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Second Season Estranged Big Stone Gap Freeheld Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet Suffragette
The Lizzie Borden Chronicles Our Brand is Crisis The Rise of the Krays Fight to the Finish Ladrones Born to Win The Last Witch Hunter Man Up Truth From Dusk Till Dawn: Season Two The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave Home Invasion Extraordinary Tales My Boyfriends’ Dogs For Better or For Worse Noah’s Ark Take Me to the River Meadowland Rock the Kasbah