All Cheerleaders Die from Mine Games

All Cheerleaders Die is currently available on instant Netflix.

All Cheerleaders Die

 

All Cheerleaders Die (2013) – Not rated

When a high school outsider joins the pep squad to carry out a vendetta, supernatural forces intervene — and a ghoulish battle of the sexes ensues.

There’s only one outcome when people play games with me, Maddy. They lose.” – “Play time’s over”

“Tracy that was like a week ago. I didn’t know you then.”

All Cheerleaders Die starts off as a somewhat typical cheerleader story, albeit one where the lead cheerleader dies tragically a few minutes in. The football players are dogs and the cheerleaders are bitches (no, really, that’s what they call themselves). Maddy is trying to fit in (or is she?) and forgets about her old friend, Leena, who happens to practice witchcraft.

Then, one night before school, an incident gets wildly out of hand. There is a huge fight between the cheerleaders and football players. A car chase and an unexpected supernatural event close out the first act. The film then turns into a very entertaining black horror comedy.

The special effects throughout are very low rent but usually serviceable. Performances, while not great, are actually pretty good for this type of low-budget fare. Yes, most of the ‘kids’ look quite a bit older than high school age but that’s not unexpected.

If you like your horror movies with a feminist slant then this will fit the bill. Writer/director Lucky McKee’s other film on Netflix, The Woman, is an extremely difficult watch and I don’t recommend it.

Mine Games

 

Mine Games (2012) – Not rated

When a group of friends find a remote abandoned mine and decide to explore, their excitement turns to fear as they’re hunted by a mysterious force.

The beginning of Mine Games is not at all promising. Almost every teen slasher cliche in the book occurs within the first fifteen minutes. The title opens as “The Evil Within”, not Mine Games. The Mine Games title is very clever whereas The Evil Within is terribly generic.

We start with what appears to be a dead body lying in a creepy mine. We then travel to another part of the mine where a woman is held captive behind a barred door. Cut to the usual group of twenty-something victims buying snacks on their way to a camping adventure. A headline on a newspaper reports a couple of recent murders. One of the young people is a medium and another is on medication that they may or may not have remembered to take.

They drink. They realize they might be lost then they may or may not have hit someone that they abandon. The vehicle breaks down. Obviously there is no cell phone reception. This is just six minutes in – kudos for the speed run. Shortly after that we hit the young couple having sex, the abandoned cabin in the woods, the exploration of the creepy mine, the splitting up of the group, and the guy who brought psychedelic shrooms tropes.

While this is completely eye-rolling, once the movie gets them out of the way, it turns into a fairly interesting mystery. I will say that while none of them are a standout, the young actors acquit themselves well. This is another pretty good low-budget horror movie to take a look at.

 

The Woman – Bloody Disgusting Selects

So far Bloody Disgusting Selects has turned out much the same as After Dark – a mix of independent and foreign horror films that are different but not necessarily good. The Woman is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Woman (2011) – Rated R

“When hunter and backwoods lawyer Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) brings home a feral woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) he found lurking in the woods, he locks her in the shed and orders his family to actively participate in her “civilization.” But they take to the task with varying enthusiasm. And the more the Woman resists their attempts to make her human, the farther away the family gets from true humanity.”

First a note: this is based on a Jack Ketchum novel. For those who haven’t read one of his novels or watched his movies, Ketchum is a horror author who specializes in the realistic. His stories do not involve the supernatural, monsters, or aliens. Instead the horror comes from people who have no conscience, murderers, rapists, cannibals, etc.

I have not read any of his books but so far I’ve found his movies to range from unpleasant to very, very unpleasant. I understand this is by design and there is certainly an audience out there who wish to be disturbed by what they are seeing/reading (at least one hopes others are disturbed by these).

The Woman is a sequel (of sorts) to Offspring. Offspring was interesting and disturbing. The subject matter here is just as disturbing. The Woman is Rated R for strong bloody violence, torture, a rape, disturbing behavior, some graphic nudity, and language.

Wow. I’ve enjoyed director and co-writer Lucky McKee’s work before. I’ve enjoyed all three of the movies he has directed. His film May was a very quirky story, The Woods was an offbeat horror movie starring Bruce Campbell, and Red was a good Jack Ketchum adaptation.

The wow was because parts of this movie are just awful and I’m not talking about the subject matter. This film has positively the most amateurish fight scenes, montages, and flashbacks that I have ever seen and a rather poor and haphazard use of music.

Another problem was that the plot didn’t match the character reactions. It was obvious from early on (i.e. not a spoiler) that the husband Chris controlled the family yet their reactions betrayed no fear of him. I’m guessing that Lucky McKee has never actually seen this dynamic in play.

Yet still another problem was that the film plays out EXACTLY like you think it would with the exception of one ridiculous out-of-left-field revelation that comes out of nowhere and has no rational explanation. I can only assume it played better in the book.

That said the acting was just fine. Angela Bettis was particularly good as the mousy wife and Sean Bridgers was particularly creepy as the controlling husband.

I would recommend just staying away from this unpleasant film as things seen cannot be unseen.

If you want to watch a Jack Ketchum movie that is disturbing, suspenseful and still enjoyable, watch the aforementioned Red starring one of my favorite character actors, Brian Cox, in the lead role.

The Woods – Bruce Campbell week

This is Bruce Campbell week. The Woods is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: The Woods (2005) – Rated R.

“Set in 1965 in the buttoned-up world of an all-girls private boarding school, this horrifying tale features the acting chops of Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson, who appears as the chilly headmistress. Based on the nightmarish visions she has been having since her arrival, new student Heather (Agnes Bruckner) knows that the woods surrounding the school are not normal. And when her classmates begin disappearing, she has no choice but to investigate.”

“We have a certain way of doing things here. And you better find out what that way is or there will be serious consequences.”

I like that Lucky McKee has a distinctive voice in modern horror. I have not seen his first feature, the direct to video All Cheerleaders Die. His second feature May was a wonderfully oddball film inspired by Frankenstein which details the trials of a lonely lady slowly coming unglued.

The Woods is not as good as May, perhaps because it is somewhat more mainstream. Still the David Ross script, being set in an isolated girls school in the 60s, automatically precludes it from real mainstream. I really enjoy the slow burn story it tells.

Bruce Campbell has a rare serious role here and, in spite of the prominent billing, is not in the movie that much. He plays Joe Fasulo, the father of our protagonist Heather.

Agnes Bruckner capably plays our tough girl, Heather. Lauren Birkell shines as wallflower Marcy. Rachel Nichols has fun as the evil schoolgirl Samantha but not as much fun as when she plays the green-skinned Orion cadet on the Star Trek reboot.

Patricia Clarkson steals the show from the young ladies as a wonderfully creepy headmistress.

I love the soundtrack. It features not one, not two, but three Lesley Gore songs – “Young and Foolish”, “You Dont Own Me”, and “He Said Goodbye.” – one of which is done to a nice montage implying schoolgirl lesbianism (no not the titillating exploitative kind – get your mind out of the gutter). My guess is that it would have featured more if there had been a bigger budget.

It turns out that the two things I look for in a horror movie are either a good monster (Alien, Predator, The Host) or a good story (The Sixth Sense, The Descent, Frailty). The Woods has a good story and a lot of good atmosphere. The movie is creepy without being scary (which means I could show it to my wife).

This film is not without faults (the third act is weaker than the first two) but is worth a watch recommendation. I really like a lot of places the story went to and was thankful that it was not a cookie cutter Hollywood movie. I would not want to spoil any of it but I especially liked a scene where Heather pulls back a blanket.

Trivia: The filming of this made M. Night Shyamalan change the name of his film from The Woods to The Village even though this film did not actually get released until two years after The Village.

People Watch: Frequent Lucky McKee star Angela Bettis (May, Sick Girl) is the Voice in the Woods.

Red – Seeing Red week

I am not now nor have I ever been a communist but this is Seeing Red week. Red is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Red (2007) – Rated R for violence and language.

“When it becomes apparent that the three teenage miscreants who murdered his dearly loved dog, Red, wont be held accountable for their senseless deed, the normally reclusive and affable Avery Ludlow (Brian Cox) resolves to take matters into his own hands. Trygve Diesen and Lucky McKee direct this disquieting thriller that also stars Tom Sizemore, Robert Englund, Richard Riehle, Noel Fisher and Amanda Plummer.”

“I learned one thing during the war: that you fight with whatever you have got, whatever you can lay your hands on… and you never stop. The minute you do, that is the minute the world rolls right over you.”

First let me say that I have not read any of the Jack Ketchum novels. From what I have seen of the movie versions of The Lost and The Girl Next Door, Ketchum seems to specialize in all the ugliness of the world. Cannibalism, child abuse, rape – everything that makes me feel uncomfortable.

I can certainly see the market in this. These are topics that are way scarier than the Stephen King stories I love because they can really happen. On the other hand a huge part of why I love horror, fantasy, and science fiction so much is because it is not possible (or not possible yet for science fiction). This is much the same as how you can enjoy a rollercoaster (the illusion of danger without actual danger) but not a runaway car with no brakes.

The advantage of the Ketchum tales is that they seem firmly rooted in realism. Suspension of disbelief is not hard because the background to the stories is true. The Girl Next Door is a good film but it is not a pleasant one.

Lucky McKee was originally hired to film this adaptation but was fired after a few weeks (reason not given) and replaced with Trygve Allister Diesen. At the same time Angela Bettis was replaced as Carrie with Kim Dickens. Both Lucky McKee and Trygve Allister Diesen are given credit as director. Trygve is also a producer on Red.

Red works so well because of Brian Cox. He is a great character actor but almost always only has small parts (X-Men 2, The Ring, The Bourne movies). Here he has to carry the whole film on his shoulders. He does a marvelous job. He has to convey determination, fear, anguish, bravery, and bewilderment and manages all of them.

Robert Englund and Amanda Plummer are excellent in very straight roles. They do a very admirable job of avoiding the camp that is usually present in their roles. It is actually a shame that their roles are so brief.

Tom Sizemore does a fine job as Mr. McCormack but it is his normal role. He can sleepwalk through a sleazy role so well that that seems like all he is given any more. His real life antics often amusingly reflect those of some of his characters.

I recommend this grim little revenge thriller for both the realism and the leading performance by Brian Cox. The climax is a little anti-climactic and rushed but overall the film is well done and the portion of the denouement that is not telegraphed is very well-handled.

People Watch: Mrs. McCormack is played by Ashley Laurence. Ashley was Kirsty in Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and the more recent straight-to-video Hellraiser: Hellseeker.

People Watch 2: Did you know that Brian Cox played Dr. Hannibal Lecter/Lecktor long before Anthony Hopkins? Cox has a supporting role as Lecter in Manhunter.