As impossible as it seems, this creepy column contains three picks for my beastly best of the year list (that I will assuredly never write)…
THE VOID (2016)
In a small town in the middle of nowhere, officer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) has the unfortunate experience of discovering a blood soaked figure stumbling from the woods to the road where his police cruiser is parked. Ushering the bloodied bohab to a local ramshackle hospital manned by a skeleton crew; ol’ Dan is ready to call it a night…and then things start to get a lil’ strange. Let’s start with the mysterious robed figures that surround the hospital; strange acolytes armed with deadly blades who never utter a word. Odd, but that has nothing on the fact that patients and staff of the facility begin turning into creatures that would give Lovecraft nightmares. Adding to that heaping helping of bad news are the inclusion of a complicated pregnancy, and two armed and violent roughnecks that know more than a thing or two about what is going on this dreadful night. I could go on about what comes next; but that would be doing this flick a grave disservice; and not to give spoilers for my own damn review; but you just need to see this for yourself…as soon as you F’n can!
Where to begin with The Void? For those of you that need a little point of reference for the vibe this flick lays down I would simply say “Cronenberg does H.P. Lovecraft”. If that alone doesn’t make you all tingly just thinking about it, then I’m not sure we can play together anymore! Just to get the essentials out of the way; everything in this film is outstanding; acting, cinematography, story (not only does this yarn go from creature feature to metaphysical mind f**k, it also has a surprising amount of raw human drama at it’s core)…all of it…but nothing compares to how insanely Grade-A F’n awesome the effects work is. I have no idea what The Void cost, but I’d be willing to wager that the bulk of the clams involved went straight into those glorious, mind bending, practical (read man in suit and puppets) creatures that stalk and slay our heroes with wild abandon!
Normally this is where I would go into the negatives of whatever I have laid my putrid peepers on this go-around, but I honestly have got absolutely nothing bad to say about The Void…I was sad it ended, that’s kind of a negative I guess…
There is nothing left to say; if you love Cronenberg, Lovecraft and jaw dropping, lovingly crafted practical effects work the likes and quality of which hasn’t been seen since John Carpenter’s The Thing; then The Void is going to be your new favorite fright flick!
A bald dude named Adam has a Kong-sized case of OCD (including such fun habits as washing himself with bleach and making himself vomit into a sink daily). He also has the rather unhealthy habit of listening to a voice that tells him to huff drain cleaner fumes until he nearly dies. Well into that picture of sanity thunders a series of strange noises that issue from the sky that haunt our beleaguered protagonist and herald the coming of some arcane visitors including shadows that move of their own accord, a ghostly child, a strange white being, and a knife that keeps ending up in the kitchen sink (trust me, it has more impact than you’d believe). What follows is a desperate search for the meaning behind it all utilizing that bastion of truth; the internet!
I gotta tell ya creeps; ol’ Skyquake took your’s cruelly by complete surprise. Writer/Director/Star (hell, he probably did craft services and grips as well) Sandy Robson has crafted one hell of a disturbing (and genuinely creepy) sci-fi/fright flick with an absolute mind f**k of a plot that you simply will not believe. When I heard the details about this film I expected something a bit low-rent and “SyFy channel-esque”, but I couldn’t have been more wrong as Skyquake delivers a staggering amount of pathos, technical skill, and plenty of good ol; WTF-ery.
If there are negatives to be found with Skyquake it is to be found with the film’s special effects. There is one moment of some of the aforementioned creatures entering a dimensional gate of some kind that looks pretty janky, and speaking of those creatures, they look properly eerie when viewed full on, but there are some scenes within the film where they appear in soft focus that just makes them look even more skin crawling, and made this revoltin’ reviewer wish the technique had been utilized more.
Minor quibbles aside; Skyquake comes with the highest possible recommendation; it’s got classic fright flick thrills handled in an innovative way, and it’s metaphysical, psychological, and overall nihilism easily bring to mind the flavor of ’70’s era supernatural thrillers…in other words it’s a rad ass time in the horror biz!
Wow, two super cool , five skull fright flicks in a row; I feel like my luck has finally changed! Let’s dive into our next class act…oh, for shit’s sake…
Teenage Ghost Punk (2014)
A single mom and her two teenage kids, brainiac Adam and his huffy/”whatever” sister Amanda, move into a Victorian house where before long those tried and true supernatural shenanigans™ begin to occur. Pictures get turned around, messes get well and truly made, punk rock albums (oh shizzle…I sense some foreshadowing afoot) vanish…what’s a family to do? Well hire a group of zany ass paranormal investigators (whose near cataclysmic levels of antics manage to both annoy and pad the runtime) of course! After that nonsense, Amanda discovers that there is indeed a ghost living in the house…a ghost that digs playing guitar on a roof in the rain like some sort of god damned adolescent Eric Draven. Any F’n way; Amanda gets to know the ghost (who goes by the fear inducing name of Brian) as well as his spectral chums, romance blooms (just don’t think too hard about the implications of that one), and family based conflict ensues!
Let me just make one thing abundantly clear; Teenage Ghost Punk is aimed squarely at the tween crowd…so for most of you ghouls laying your eerie eyeballs on these wicked words, this flick will not be for you (and it wasn’t really for me either). But that being said, for what it is, it’s entertaining enough. The cast is likable, the story is fun (if a bit disjointed…more on that below) and sweet (what the F am I even typing???), and while low budget it doesn’t look like it has a terminal case of the cheaps.
With those positives being said, there are definitely a few things “off” about Teenage Ghost Punk. Firstly, as mentioned above, the story to this flick takes a few unnecessary detours; there is a villain that becomes important very late into the third act, there are waaay too many characters in the narrative, and the hijinks with the ghost hunters bring the proceedings to a grinding halt.
If you have any tweens in the house, Teenage Ghost Punk gets a recommendation from your’s cruelly; it’s fun, innocuous, and has some rather emotionally touching moments here and there (unlike most of the shit that I review which has touching of another sort), and it’s all presented with heart by cast and crew and that’s a big plus!
Chicago Rot (2015)
After being wrongfully locked up for years, a bad ass (giant bullet holes in his chest don’t even slow him down) with a violent streak a mile long named The Ghoul is a free man once more. No one is particularly thrilled about this fact, and soon G-man finds himself B.D. in a mad search for the ones that F’d up his life six ways to Sunday. What follows is a Grand Guignol bacchanal of bloodsoaked revenge as The Ghoul descends deep into the underworld of Chicago…which seems rather cut and dried until strange beings begin speaking to our hero from within a mirror. Oh, and The Ghoul apparently has lost his soul and he’s on a journey to get it back. Along his journey we experience a multitude of surreal dimensions which characters can traverse with ease (and each time their appearance changes drastically…for example dig; this is a film where a street thug can hop through a portal in an elevator, and after a few jaunts end up in a hubcap strewn arena (where he now appears as a punk rock barbarian) fighting an elephant man whose head he rips clean off as blood sprays willy-nilly. That is not the strangest thing in this film. Want a few more examples? How about the mob boss who is stabbed with a rather large knife and then has the wound repeatedly penetrated by a large black dildo (at least The Ghoul lubed it up with chicken grease from a rotisserie chicken first) as blood showers a bevy of half naked women? Still with me? Good, because I will say no more except that the climax of this film is one of the greatest things I have ever seen; seriously, it feels like my brain was in an orgy with Tron at a power metal concert. That is a huge compliment.
I can’t even begin to tell you how breathtaking Chicago Rot is in it’s sheer of-the-wall lunacy. I can guarantee you have never seen anything like it, and that is a wonderful thing. If I had to describe the experience of watching this film I would explain it thus; picture if Terry Gilliam, Takashi Miike, and Lloyd Kaufman melded together into one being and then made a fumetti of what they erroneously imagined The Punisher to be about for Heavy Metal magazine…like that? You bet your ever-loving ass you do! I do have to mention, as eye meltingly, brain blisteringly weird this flick gets, the entire thing is infinitely watchable and gorgeously realized.
The only things negative I am going to say about Chicago Rot is that it takes a bit to get to the off-kilter outrgeousness; I was so in love with how manic this film gets that I wanted more of it…but the fact that it takes a half hour to really get cooking is a minor complaint (and only relevant in light of the absolute magnificence that follows).
I adore Chicago Rot; it’s a fully realized comic book freak show brought kicking and screaming to brutal, beautiful life and it comes with my highest possible recommendation! I’m calling it now; Writer/Director Dorian Weinzimmer (along with co-writer/star Brant McCrea) are flat out Grade-A F’n cinematic geniuses and I love them for bringing this feature into my life! Now, let’s see what these maniacal mad men bring us next!
Before I slither on out of here; I just want to mention a fellow horror scribe, and all around great friend (of nearly thirty years!!!) is facing some dark days and could really use a helping hand. Please give a little if you can right here!