New Releases for Tuesday, October 15, 2019

December 20, 2019

3 from Hell

Genre: Horror/Sequel

Directed by: Rob Zombie

Run time: 111 minutes

Rating: Unrated

Format: Blu-Ray


The Lowdown: There’s been a lot written and said about Rob Zombie’s decision to return to the well of the Firefly Clan, especially since he clearly killed off his beloved trio of Otis, Baby and Spaulding at the end of The Devil’s Rejects.

 

A lot of vitriol. A ton of misplaced anger. And way too many people immediately writing off 3 from Hell as the dying gasp of a hack filmmaker whose creative peak came 14 years ago.

 

Zombie is no hack. He has a clear artistic vision that might not appeal to, or appease, every genre fan’s pallet, but that alone should not be used as justification to simply write him off.

 

And it’s clear that he truly loves these characters that he created, as do a whole lot of horror fans around the globe. And why not?

 

Bill Moseley has never been better than when he’s playing Otis. He completely transforms to the point that you believe that’s just him. And Sherry Moon Zombie has genuinely grown as an actor. Yes, she will forever be remembered for Baby, but that’s not a bad thing.

 

I don’t care that Zombie goes to great pains to resurrect his killer trio with this threequel. He’s not the first filmmaker who has brought a beloved character back from certain death. But there has to be a good reason, a point, a goal for doing so that fans can rally behind.

 

With 3 from Hell, it’s clear that Zombie has a reason, and it is two-fold.

 

On the one hand, he’s using this opportunity to offer an alternative reality, a what if scenario, to explore what might have happened immediately following The Devil’s Rejects if his cadre of evil had somehow survived the blaze of bullets they endured.

 

To put it another way, basically, 3 from Hell is Zombie’s deep-fried, southern-gothic stab at Natural Born Killers.

 

But that’s not all.

 

Zombie also uses 3 from Hell to try his hand on a host of other genres that he’s never dabbled in, primarily the women’s prison exploitation, the spaghetti western and the gonzo Asian action genres.

 

And guess what? It fucking works.

 

If The Devil’s Rejects is considered to be Zombie’s masterpiece, then I would argue that 3 from Hell represents his best, most complete film by far.  

 

Each section of 3 from Hell is shot in a different style. Each section comes with its own noticeable visual flourishes and specific camera angles. And there’s a crackling vibe of menace that courses through the film.

 

After House of a 1000 Corpses and Rejects, Zombie had already established that Otis and Baby are literal bombs that can go off without warning.

 

But in 3 from Hell, he actually shows some restraint, allowing certain sequences to begin like a dance of anticipation that slowly whips into a frenzy of over-the-top action and gore.

 

It’s in these moments that you can see just how much he’s actually grown as a filmmaker.

 

In fact, nowhere is that more evident than during the film’s thrilling third act, which leans heavily on Baby battling a horde of masked assassins with a bow and a quiver full of arrows. Inside a cramped hotel room.

 

The way Zombie frames these sequences – his artistic decisions, the placement of the cameras, the actual choreography of the fights – it all combines to form what I would consider to be some of the best work he’s ever shot as a director.

 

Call me crazy, but know this – I am not a devout devotee. I’d much rather watch Lords of Salem on repeat than ever suffer through Zombie’s take on Halloween again. I critique them as I see them, and for me, 3 from Hell is not Zombie’s nadir as a visual artist. Far from it. 

 

If anything, I would argue that this movie will be remembered as the sandbox that allowed him to experiment with different styles before launching into the second phase of his filmmaking career.

 

The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Sheri Moon Zombie remains smoking hot.

Nudity – Yes.
Gore – Considerable.

Drug use – Yes.

Bad Guys/Killers – Otis, Baby and newly introduced Foxy.

Buy/Rent – Buy it.

 

Portal (Vertical Entertainment, 75 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Portal, the latest from director Dean Alito, is a surprisingly entertaining, unexpectedly impressive take on paranormal investigators and their hopes to capture verifiable evidence of hauntings on camera.

 

I say ‘surprising’ and ‘unexpected’ because Portal is built on the same premise that so many dozens of other found-footage and conventional horror movies are based upon, which is namely a desperate crew of hapless spook hunters who take one last big swing at documenting indisputable proof that ghosts exist and, guess what, they get way more than they can handle.

 

At this point, even making a film like Portal seems redundant because, honestly, if you are the host or star of a ghost-hunting show, then obviously you’ve seen one of the countless movies based on your job where the crew members all die horrible deaths because they actually contacted a demon or summoned an evil spirit or what not. Why would you want that to actually happen?

 

More so, why would you even risk the chance that maybe you could be killed. I mean, that would be the end of your show, right? And the tagline on the inevitable posthumous DVD would read something like, ‘It was a memorable, but very brief, run of just one episode…’

 

So, the fact that Portal is, you know, actually good and thoughtful and unnerving is genuinely surprising given how many of these movies just fucking suck.

 

Portal also benefits from some top-notch casting, including recognizable genre-vets Ryan Merriman and Jamie Tisdale as Steven and Cris, respectively.

 

Steven is the face of the franchise, an ever-hopeful believer who is convinced an experience from his childhood confirmed that ghosts are real. And Cris is his girl Friday, the producer and love interest who is willing to consider augmenting some footage to drum up an audience, much to Steven’s dismay.

 

Portal speeds a good amount of time showing the inherent crisis that such real-time, captured footage explorations can generate by leaving crews frustrated after spending hours hoping to make contact in a supposedly haunted environment.

 

The film then fixes on Steven’s efforts to buy leads from a rival team so his crew can film something transformative, which lands them on the doorstep of the Dalvo house, a property allegedly steeped in violence and unexplained disappearances. Heather Langenkamp of A Nightmare on Elm Street makes a solid cameo as the sole surviving Dalvo descendant.

 

Portal is fast-paced, intelligent and surprising in all the right ways. This one is absolutely deserving of a watch, even if you’ve felt fatigue from watching too many similar films in the past.

 

Crawl (Paramount, 88 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Yes, Crawl is about a young woman in Pasco County, Florida who must rescue her father before a monster hurricane makes landfall and while battling a horde of killer alligators who have invaded her dad’s home through a swamped sewer drain.

 

Yes, it’s a ridiculous premise. Yes, there’s a ton of CGI on display. Yes, you might initially feel a twinge of guilt due to the giant grin plastered across your face.

 

I’m here to tell you it’s okay. I’m here to assure you that you’re not alone. And I’m here to confirm your sneaking suspicion that acclaimed horror director Alexandre Aja has indeed made the greatest SyFy Channel man-versus-nature B-movie ever filmed.

 

Much like its titular apex predators that devour a bunch of unsuspecting folks, Crawl is a lean, mean, perfectly calibrated thrill ride that grabs hold and refuses to let go.

 

Everything works. The scares are rightfully earned. The tension is palpable. The acting is top notch. And the special effects are incredibly solid.

 

There was a time when our multiplexes were routinely packed with movies like Crawl, and I would argue that was a much better time for film fans.

 

Crawl is original, impossible to predict and wholly satisfying.

 

10/31 (Scream Team Releasing, 90 minutes, Unrated, DVD): The last 10 years have proved to be a boon for horror anthologies, and 10/31 continues that streak.

 

The film features five short films from five different horror directors, the best-known of which is likely Justin M. Seaman (The Barn).

 

However, while Seaman’s contribution, titled “The Old Hag,” is solid with some stellar practical effects, it’s Zane Hershberger’s short, titled “Trespassers,” that proves to be the diamond of the bunch.

 

“Trespassers” very well might be one of the best anthology segments I’ve ever seen. No bullshit.

 

It takes two well-trod staples, scarecrows and Halloween night mischief, and transforms them in ways that are thrilling and wholly unexpected.

 

Sable Griedel and Chad Bruns, who play Stephanie and Jeff, are very believable in their roles as a young couple on their first date.

 

Stephanie wants to do something genuinely scary to celebrate Halloween, especially since the scary movie they just watched totally sucked. She convinces Jeff to accompany her to a murder house tucked off a desolate farm road where she regales him with the story of what happened there.

 

Suffice to say, her wish to be scared comes true I the worst way possible.

 

If you love horror anthologies, 10/31 deserves to be high on your list of must-see titles.

 

One Night in October (Wild Eye Releasing, 89 minutes, Unrated, DVD): One Night in October is a film that has no idea how it wants to tell its particular tale of madness, which means that it just careens about, like a punch drunk driver crisscrossing lanes with reckless abandon.

 

As far as I could tell, there are two distinct storylines. The first involves a lesbian couple and their friends who decide to scour a cornfield for strange, random objects and who run afoul of the redneck owners of said cornfield because of some ancient entity that demands servitude.

 

The second narrative involves a shy woman whose Halloween lawn decorating skills attracts the attention of a weird bald dude and his cabal who begin to stalk her only to discover that…gasp…maybe she’s not as shy or vulnerable as she appears to be.

 

One Night in October is that special kind of horror flick where many of the kills happen off-camera, or you just sit and watch someone swing an axe downward for 30 seconds while another actor screams from out of view.

 

It’s that special kind of horror flick that introduces so many characters early on and then fails to spend equal time on all of them so that you literally forget who’s who and are completely confused when the plot finally returns to a guy who hasn’t been on-camera for more than 45 minutes.

 

I tried mightily, lord knows, I tried, but when I realized there was still an hour to go and I was already past my threshold for frustration, I tapped out. Godspeed if you choose to venture further.

 

Devil’s Revenge (Cleopatra Entertainment, 90 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Shatner! Giant CGI devil creatures! Really bad acting! Tons of overhead establishing footage clearly shot by drones.

 

Deviant Behavior (SGL Entertainment, 74 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Deviant Behavior is essentially every bad Nicolas Cage B-movie where he played a drunken private investigator.

 

Chuck is the PI. Apparently, he was good at finding people when he was a detective. Now he’s an alcoholic with a fixation on Roxie, the proverbial high-end escort with a soft spot for broken men.

 

And then there’s the couple who get off on kidnapping, torturing and dismembering pretty young women. One half of the couple always wears a female Geisha mask with a red wig. No idea of his or her gender.

 

Eventually, these four underdeveloped characters will collide. Will you still be watching when that happens? Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it that far.

 

Deadly Reunion (Wild Eye Releasing, 82 minutes, Unrated, DVD): I won’t go so far as to claim Deadly Reunion is a good movie, but it is 100 percent ambitious as fuck in its effort to throw as many crazy genre elements into what’s essentially a subpar urban revenge thriller.

 

How else to explain how Deadly Reunion can introduce killer nano-bots, necrophilia, telepathic mind control and evil space aliens WHILE deploying a host of grindhouse staple effects like cigarette burns, dissolves, inappropriate unrelated insert reels and a crazy bizarre introductory segment that transforms the old-school concession trailer into a dark-as-fuck Bataan death march to oblivion.

 

This one is worth a watch just because it’s so incredibly ridiculous.

 

Clown of the Dead (Wild Eye Releasing, 87 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Clown of the Dead is an Indonesian import from 2015 that’s finally seeing daylight, and guess what – it’s not actually awful, despite having one of the worst English dub tracks I’ve ever heard.

 

If you love clown horror, you might want to give Clown of the Dead a watch. Just be warned, it takes about 44 minutes until you actually see a killer clown.

 

Also Available:

 

The Omen Collection Deluxe Edition

The Lingering

Killer Nun

Genius Party/Genius Party Beyond

Malevolence

Malevolence 2: Bereavement – Director’s Cut

Malevolence 3: Killer

Night Hunter

 

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