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Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories

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Holy fuck! Who’s that creepy motherfucker and what is he doing here?? Something tells me he wants to strangle me with my own intestines…which is VERY unhygienic, so EW. Or he could just be that guy from VOLUMES OF BLOOD: HORROR STORIES, the sequel to the kickawesome VOLUMES OF BLOOD. Remember that one? An anthology, but a super fun one with lots of gory good times? (Just click the link if you need a refresher!) But we all know that the killer always comes back, no matter what, and we also know how it tends to go with the art of the sequel. So does VOLUMES OF BLOOD II hold up to the first? Hmmm…let’s take a look….

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“I knew filling those balloons with blood instead of water would be awesome!”

Our story starts with a heist. One that’s set in the middle of nowhere (maybe a farm?), which is the perfect place to die. It starts out well enough with three amigos heisting, shooting the shit, and telling spooky stories about the old place they’re stealing from (because one ALWAYS does that during a heist, duh). At least half of our opening story was filmed in apparent complete dark, however, so you’re going to have to rely on your ears big time here. BUT the kill scenes are nicely lit and so long as you get to see people die, I guess it’s all cool, right? (Huh. That last sentence doesn’t make me sound unbalanced at all. ;))

But WAIT, no, omg, guess what?? That whole time we were watching a movie!! I mean, obviously I was watching a movie but then I was watching people watching a movie! Ah, the old movie within a movie trick. (Thank you, CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI) Boy, did you get me. Then we’re off to…watch another movie? But first we need to time jump to the past? And then 20 minutes past the past? Then come back to here to watch the movie? (I think I got that order correct.) There were lots of random images being flashed about, so I wasn’t sure if we were going back to the library and following the immediate aftermath of the first film or if we were jumping into a, um, jumping into movies anthology. It turned out to be neither.

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“Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee…”

What happened next was an anthology wrapped around a house and the holidays – different holidays and a single house as the centerpiece. We get to experience Father’s Day, Christmas, birthdays, Halloween, and so on and so forth. (We also get to experience the joys of house browsing!) As with most anthologies, certain pieces were better than others. My favorite story featured the girl above, a salesman, and Thanksgiving. It was incredibly atmospheric which helped lift it from the “oh yeah, I have a pretty good idea of how this ends” doldrums. The Christmas piece ended up being fairly good as well with its fun ending and an actress who was able to carry ~10 minutes of screentime alone (and mostly in silence). The downside was that this piece was much too long. I understand the time needed to build tension, to make the audience realize that something isn’t quite right, but it can be done in less time than this. (Also, my god, the freaking carols and Christmas music!!! BLEHCK. I hate this holiday so much.)

Overall though? First and foremost, VOLUMES OF BLOOD: HORROR STORIES reminded me WAY too much of THE PERFECT HOUSE, which is also an anthology tied around a house in which a real estate agent is showing a young couple around. Secondly, it was much less cohesive than the first. This story didn’t flow as smoothly as the first did; didn’t tie together as well; didn’t make as much sense. Especially the ending. I still don’t know who the killer is or where he’s from or why he suddenly popped up and decided to kill every citizen of Owensboro. I also am unsure why there are now unseen forces (or people) seemingly commanding him to kill (not like voices in his head but legit “hey that’s an order!” commanding way). Maybe it’s all just meant to entice in case there’s a third film? I dunno, but I was not impressed. Thirdly, this sequel just wasn’t as much FUN as the first was. This film was really lacking the joy of the first (I know that sounds weird – joy in a horror flick? – but hear me out). The first film was clearly such a product of love and devotion and people were so obviously having a blast that it made the energy of the film into that too (despite the blood and gore ;)).

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“It’s jelly, I swear!”

VOLUMES OF BLOOD II was definitely better LOOKING than the first – it looks like they had a larger budget this time around – but it was lacking. It was missing that joie de vivre and indie spirit, for whatever reason. It also didn’t stick together as well as the original – this one very much showed us that it had been stirred with several hands in the mixing bowl and it made for some lumpy spots.

Is it ultimately worth a watch? Yes. There are the couple of stories that are really enjoyable; there’s a nod to TRICK’R’TREAT (my favoritest anthology series EVER); and there are lots of gooey messes and intestinal effects that are all practical and not CGI. (Big props for the makeup team and fx guys! You guys are wicked awesome!) And, of course, if you’re a fan of the slasher genre, you may totally dig on this. Check out the trailer on the Facebook page and let me know what you think!

Messiah

*Sorry guys, I’m trying, I promise!! I’ll be ’round to visit soon!*

Messiah

You guys remember how much I love well made short films that truly hit their mark, right? (I’m only mentioning it every single time I watch a short so how could you forget? Ha!) Here we have MESSIAH, which tells the story of Courtney, who comes home on a seemingly normal day. Upon returning, she has a mysterious visitor peddling a religious organization. Courtney’s day turns on end when she involuntarily finds herself in the middle of a dark and sinister secret. Sounds kinda cool, huh? Yeah…no…

MESSIAH, unfortunately, is not one of those shorts I adore so much. Coming in at just under 10 minutes, nothing happens till halfway through (an attempt to set the atmosphere, I’m sure, but one shouldn’t need 3-5 minutes to do so). The last half moves quickly but makes no damn sense. Okay, girl being stalked by weird, random religious people makes sense because horror (no actual reason needed there). But the girl’s boyfriend is introduced and THAT’S what doesn’t make sense. He’s apparently off in Spain or something gallivanting about and just after Courtney has let mystery religious visitor into her home, he FaceTimes her or whatever. Flash to him tied up in a chair with someone holding his phone in front of him, forcing him to stick to a script – someone with a religious tattoo. Oh no! They got him too! But wait! He’s being brave and telling Courtney to run and get out of the house in the hopes of saving her. Yay! And then comes the end, when BF here – who’s still on the phone and still tied to a chair – apologizes to Courtney for what’s happening. WAIT? WHAT? HE’S part of this? Did he set this up? But if he set this up, then why the hell is he freaking tied to a chair and being forced to talk to her while some scary person stands over him? Why did he tell her to run and then go “oops, sorry, Courts”. WTF? What is he apologizing for and why does this short play it like he’s part of this whole religious kidnapping scheme when nothing else in the entire thing goes along with that? Ugh. Bored now. This seems more like a trailer than anything else and if this was the aforementioned secret then, well, I’m just disappointed.

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Another thing is the “messiah” of the title. Titles don’t necessarily have to fit in with the theme of the movie but with the religious overtures here, it seems at first glance as though MESSIAH would be a good name – except who/what/when/where is this messiah? Is Courtney the messiah? Is her BF the messiah? Do they need Courtney to bring forth a messiah? Or maybe an Antichrist figure? Just why the hell do they need Courtney?? Is mysterious visitor the messiah since she’s going around kidnapping people and somehow this is going to save this religious organization? SO MANY QUESTIONS!! This is the type of film where I don’t actually consider it to be leaving an open ending so much as leaving it up to the watcher to tell themselves the ENTIRE story after having been given what amounts to a one sentence summation. Plots can leave questions and be open-ended and all of that and I’ll love them. But just do…THIS…and it comes across as lazy.

Things I DID enjoy: 1) the music was fun. Totes melodramatic in that over the top, cheesy kind of way but it fit and THAT set the atmosphere. 2) Rachel Langdon as the “Mysterious Visitor” – she creeped me the hell out so props to her! 3) the dog – yay puppies!…Yes, I do realize this is a short list.

MESSIAH very much comes off as a beginner’s first film (and according to the website it is kind of that as it’s director/producer Mark Grabianowski’s first step into the horror genre, and writer Justin McCoy’s writing debut). Go back and add to the story and make it, well, a STORY and I think this could be something worth watching, I do. Until then though, this girl at least doesn’t understand what the goal of this was meant to be. However, if YOU’D like to check out MESSIAH for yourself or learn more about it, visit them on Facebook or the MESSIAH website!

No More Nightmares

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Horror maven Wes Craven died today, age 76, from his battle with brain cancer. Normally I don’t post things like this but I think we all know how influential NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET has been in my life (I’ve only mentioned it a time or two…). It’s my favorite horror series; I own 2 documentaries about it (if there are more, PLEASE let me know because I need them!); have a sweet NOES shirt that I was gifted a couple of years ago; used to fall asleep to the theme song that I would play on repeat on my phone (what? It was soothing!) and had my proudest “parent” moment ever just the other day when my ex-bf’s kid sent me a story to read that he’d written for Creepypasta that had a Krueger homage in it. *wipes away happy tears* I am proud of the horror education I instilled in my kiddo.

The first SCREAM also made an impact on me as I was 16 when it came out (yes, I’m old, I know) and it was one of my first horror movies. It was so irreverent, so scary (at the time) and so fun. It made me realize movies didn’t have to come in a pre-packaged form and be like all the rest. Important knowledge for a girl who was nothing like anyone else in her small Southern town or her family.

And Mr. Craven knew that change was good such as when he wrote and directed this bit from one of my favorite films, PARIS JE T’AIME:

So goodbye, Wes Craven, and THANK YOU for all the nightmares.

April Rogue is Here!

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The latest issue of Rogue Cinema is here and you KNOW you’re dying to read it…so what are you waiting for? An engraved invitation?? Sorry, I don’t have any of those. I can give you a preview of the issue though! Inside this month, you’ll find great articles on awesome films like these (and TONS more)!

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Volumes of Blood Premiere – Friday the 13th (cue scary music!!!)

Awhile back I did an interview with my friend P.j. about his upcoming horror anthology, Volumes of Blood, and lo and behold the premiere is finally upon us! I, for one, am super excited about this (even if I can’t go to the premiere because distance). I think the anthology is going to be pretty cool though and I’m excited to see it when it gets a wider release. P.j. sent me this teaser short to give you guys a taste of what’s to come, so enjoy!

“Kevin Smith has always been a huge inspiration for me, so I made the decision to create my own universe around Volumes of Blood. This is just the first online short in that mission. The Preylude shows you how one of the characters from the film gets into the situation we find her in, in the film. There’s no real pay off, because the conclusion follows through in the motion picture that releases on Friday the 13th this month at the Owensboro Convention Center. Tickets are only $5 and all proceeds go to a local charity. Doors open at 7 pm. It’s gonna be a great time for a good cause.” ~P.j. Starks

If you want to learn more, check out the Volumes of Blood Facebook page!

February Rogue is Here – You Know You’re Excited!

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It’s that time of month! (Ew no, not THAT time of month…) I only had 3 films this month for Rogue but they were quite possibly the widest range of films I’ve ever had to review at one time – witch hunts to aliens to Lifetime on crack…it was an interesting (and sometimes confusing) time. Stop by and check it all out!

What happens in the life of a single park bench? A LOT, that's what!

What happens in the life of a single park bench? A LOT, that’s what!

 

This one explores the ghosts of the past and involves alcohol, ALL the alcohol.

This one explores the ghosts of the past and involves alcohol, ALL the alcohol.

 

Freaking awesome short film that really packs a punch - chocolate chip cookies are extra.

Freaking awesome short film that really packs a punch – chocolate chip cookies are extra.

Guest Post – Prep for Poker Night

Poker Night

Written and directed by Greg Francis, Poker Night promises to mix the detective and horror genres in a whole new way with a large cast of recognizable names including Ron Perlman, Giancarlo Esposito, and Beau Mirchoff. Francis’s other work is dedicated to the detective and horror genres in various tangential projects, but we’ve seemingly got a lot to expect from his newest venture into a hybrid of the two.

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We’re all familiar with poker scenes in movies. In the good ol’ Wild West, they indefinitely ended in guns blazing and death faces with the iconic tongue-out-of-the-mouth, ultra-cheesy look. But how do you handle a poker game in which the stakes turn out to be life and death? In the case of Poker Night, the protagonist is caught up in a life-or-death situation while matching wits with a sadistic killer who’s bent on ruining the protagonist’s new occupation to settle an old score with one of the protagonist’s colleagues.

In the film, leading man Beau Mirchoff as Stan Jeter has just signed on with Indiana’s Warsaw Police. As a rite of passage into the role, Jeter joins a poker game with the highest-ranking cops around and hears about the ups and downs of their careers.

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Once the game is over, things do not go well for Jeter. He gets abducted by a psychopath, who locks Jeter in a basement. Escaping proves not to be his first priority, though. It turns out that he finds his girlfriend Amy there. Using the tips he received from poker night, Jeter finds himself tasked with not only saving himself but saving Amy and taking in—or taking out—the serial killer in one fell swoop. Hard first day on the job!

Poker is a popular catalyst in films that follow the trend of a life-or-death gamble. Perhaps we can attribute this trope to the woes of gambling addiction and those Wild West killing sprees linked to the extreme stakes placed on any given game.

However, poker is hardly the only gambling-related game that stars in the movies, and bets come in all sizes. 21 featured counting cards in blackjack, The Gambler (based on a Dostoevsky novel) is really just about a guy who gambles in all games possible, and Vegas Vacation is loaded with more fallout from bets and vested interest.

Poker Night has an interesting take on those topics, in its weaving knowledge and understanding on a darker level into the inner workings of the game. It will be interesting to see if we can match card hands and physical moves by Mirchoff and the killer in the film. For example, will they play per the basics of Texas Hold’em? Or will they throw caution to the wind, so to speak, and take on something like Omaha?

It’s likely they’ll go the way of Texas Hold’em, if not only for its popularity but also for its action. Betfair’s poker site highlights the latter quality by noting here that Hold’em is “one of the simplest, most action-packed and prestigious of all the poker variants.” It’s also described as being one of the “best poker experiences available,” which leads me to believe it could make for some great cinema.  Either way, it should please both horror and poker fans alike.

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There is no secure distribution for the film just yet, so don’t expect to see it on the silver screen just yet. Yet, there seems to be hope with names like Mirchoff, Perlman, and Esposito attached. To that end, you can be sure that even if the film hits as a B-crime flick, the movie will surely be worth your time.

This is a guest post by Ron Johnson, a freelance movie writer with a special place in his heart for old Westerns along with the work of Mel Brooks. As you can probably guess, Blazing Saddles is his favorite film of all time.

Octoberfest

It’s that time of year again, y’all.  OCTOBER!!!  Pumpkins and fall and leaves and corn mazes but most important of all HORROR MOVIES!!!  YAY!!!  I think I’m going to be a follower and do a horror themed October month’o’movies (even though it’s almost always horror movies round these here parts).  Unlike the norm though, not all will be under the radar – I plan on delving into some classics like “Nightmare on Elm Street” (what?  It’s a classic!).  I’m super excited for this and super excited to see what you guys have planned!  YAY HORROR MONTH!!!  wOOt!

Zombie Strippers

Zombie Strippers (Unrated Special Edition) is one of those unbelievably “so bad it’s good” horror/comedies that really, really does try hard to be serious.  It gives it’s all to entertain AND teach a lesson.  *shrugs*  Well, it accomplishes half of that at least.

Zombie Strippers, starring Jenna Jameson and Robert Englund, tells the story of a futuristic world where George Bush has won his 4th term to presidency (scared yet??) and the terror alert is at a whole new record high.  There are wars not just in the Middle East but Europe too.  Nudity has been banned and the government has started a project in which they hope to devise a way to re-animate dead soldiers.  Because zombies + war = awesome?  Anyway, since the government has this ridiculously bad idea and it IS a horror movie, they of course come up with a virus that leads to zombie-dom. The zombie testing goes awry (duh), leading an escaped and bitten soldier to a quaint little strip club run by Robert Englund, where Jenna Jameson is the star stripper.  There’s dissension amongst the ranks as one stripper is highly jealous of Jenna and Robert Englund is a fastidious, creepy hypochondriac who’s also bordering on the sadistic side.  Enter the new girl at the club, a sweet Christian girl who’s only trying her hand at this so she can afford her Nana’s operation.  (There really aren’t better ways to do this, sweet Christian girl, than to be an illegal stripper??)  Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse in this little slice of heaven, Mr. “I’m About to be a Zombie” shows up.  Next thing you know, he’s attacked Jenna, who in turn becomes a zombie.  BUT…..wait for it……a zombie with a goal:  to be the best damn stripper there is.  And apparently being a zombie turns you into one hell of a stripper.

After this point the movie consists of stripping….really cool special effects stripping….dancing….more stripping….nakedness (due to the stripping)…..and occasionally the eating of human flesh, since you know, it’s a zombie movie and all.

Big laughs, small scares and a perfect waste of your time if you’re a fan of cheesy horror.