When I start out my column with a review of a SyFy flick starring Tom F’n Sizemore you just know things are going to be extra special in the ol’ Crypt o’ XIII this week my creeps…
In the far off future year of who the f**k knows; a corporation is solving the world’s energy crisis by turning radioactive waste into efficient fuel (as explained by an opening sequence that looks for all the world like it was created completely from stealing pics from Getty Images). Well, said company’s communications go off line on Christmas, so it’s up to a young engineer named Abby to enter the red zone (just sounds dangerous, doesn’t it kiddos?) where the facility resides and attempt to fix the problem. Upon arrival she meets the facility caretaker and eventually (and I do mean eventually) the chief science officer (played by Dominic Monaghan and Tom Sizemore respectively), both of whom are crazier than a shit house rat (professional medical term). Aw snap,you know it’s on now, as ol’ Abs must determine who she can trust as the facility teeters on the verge of total shutdown and the expansion of that pesky red zone.
Well let’s start with some nice things to say before I lay the bad shit upside your head. First off; Atomica looks freakin’ beautiful. The factory where this is set is suitably rusty and decrepit, but contrasting that is cold futuristic lighting and slick cinematography (this overall aesthetic is also aided and abetted by the mix of utilitarian functionality and advanced tech within the story itself), not to mention some solid directing from Dagen Merrill. Speaking of solid, the cast in this all do a bang up job thespiatin’ all over this baby…which when 99% of your film features three friggin people is a relief.
Now for the real star of our show, the negatives. First of all, this film moves at a pace akin to a snail crawling through molasses as the world slowly freezes. Now I don’t mind a slow burn, but dammit this thing was brought to us by the letter “B”; and you can bet your atomic arse that stands for “boring”! This thing is all talk, talk, talk…and none of it is particularly interesting (and most of these elements you’ve seen in plenty of other flicks as well). Additionally there are some digitally enhanced exterior shots and spaceships that have a raging case of the cheaps.
Herein lies the problem with a picture like this; it’s well acted and shot, but the story is fart…so do I recommend or not recommend? Well, I guess I’d say “give Atomica a go” if there was nothing else going on; there’s enough entertainment to be had with the “who to trust” plot to make it not a total loss, just don’t expect to find your new favorite film.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)
The students of Bradford Academy are all leaving to spend winter break with their families…everyone except bizarro Kat and Catholic School Rizzo surrogate Rose; ‘cuz their parents apparently give less than two shits about them and fail to show up to spirit them away. The girls are now left alone at the perpetually grey and dour school where they have an uneventful stay until their parents arrive. The end. Okay, that’s complete nonsense as I forgot to mention, there’s some sort of malevolent force haunting the school, so supernatural shenanigans abound six ways to Sunday. Adding to the goings-on is a mysterious woman named Joan who is hellbent for Bradford; though why she wants to get there is unclear at first…but trust me when you find out it’s a real corker!
Unlike ol’ Atomica above; The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a slow-burn fright flick done right! Dripping with atmosphere, creeptastic tension (those pregnant pauses!), and off-kilter characters, this film is definitely my cup of terror tea! Writer/Director Oz Perkins masterfully weaves a yarn full of unease, sadness, and surreal mystery that is second to none, and the film is so good I would marry that man…if I wasn’t already married…and not attracted to dudes…but I digress; he’s a genius and this flick is grade A F’n rad (put that on your upcoming Blu-ray/DVD release; I dare you)!
Also worth noting is the superb acting on display; not only by the leads Lucy Boynton and Kiernan Shipka (as Rose and Kat respectively), but also from genre vet James Remar, Lauren Holly, and even Emma Roberts (whose work I’ve enjoyed in American Horror Story and loathed in Scream Queens); every one is game to deliver absolutely bizarre performances which only enhance this nightmare made cinematic reality.
This is the part where I’d lay the negatives up on ya; but this flick seriously has none in my opinion…I guess if I absolutely had to say something bad about The Blackcoat’s Daughter it’s that you really have to pay attention to it or you may get lost in the twists n’ turns…but if you are watching a damn movie you should be paying attention to it anyway!
Honestly, I know we are just starting this year off so to speak, but The Blackcoat’s Daughter will definitely be in competition to be my fright flick of the year; it’s slow burn, ’70’s style occultism done to a turn, and it absolutely shouldn’t be missed!
A24 and DirecTV will release THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER in theaters and On Demand March 31, 2017
Drive-In Massacre (1977)
A serial killer stalks the local drive-in (bet you never could have guessed that one) armed with a samurai sword. Thank the hells below that two fat ass cops are on the case; and let’s all hope their crime solving skills are a bit better than their acting ones (which to be honest is non-existent) or every horny teen within sight will be hacked to ribbons. Spoiler: they aren’t…no matter how many suspects they interrogate (or is that intimidate) with their tough talkin’ ways, the killer keeps on truckin’. Unbelievably poor cinematography, storytelling, and (as stated above) acting follow for the next 74 minutes. Oh, and it’s based on a true story ‘natch…
Now with all of that listed above, you’d think this was one dog of a fright flick. Well pal, you’d be dead wrong…Drive-In Massacre is a whole heap of low rent fun! Does nearly every aspect of this film suck worse than a hooker with lockjaw? Oh hell yes it does, but therein lies the entertainment value! Watching our portly protagonists ham-fist their way through the kill spree is a laugh out loud delight, and the whole affair tries so hard to entertain it’s impossible not to get on board with it’s nonsense. Plus there are some delightfully cheesy gore effects (those mannequins may never be the same again) to be had, so there’s another check in the plus column!
Now, as with nearly every flick, there are a few negatives to be had. Firstly, this thing is as padded as a bra on prom night. The extended warehouse chase, the carnival business, and the bits dealing with “Germy” drag on, and it becomes patently obvious that the film makers had about an hour of story that they needed to stretch to (barely) feature length.
As for features, the fine fiends at Severin have packed Drive-In Massacre with some ghoulish goodies including: a commentary With Director Stu Segall, interviews with star / co-writer John F. Goff and Segall, and a retrospective of the film with actor Norm Sheridan. Rounding out the package is the film’s theatrical trailer.
Pre-dating slasher classics Halloween and Friday the 13th, Drive-In Massacre follows the tropes of a police procedural more than the ins and outs of a stalk n’ slay effort, but the end result is immensely entertaining all the same (for all the right and wrong reasons). I’d definitely recommend this for slasher fanatics, or those that just love a sleazy good time!