HUMAN CENTIPEDE Review. [Fantastic Fest 2009]

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Written and Directed by Tom Six, 2009

There’s no reason you should know this, but the only dedicated THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE) post ever on has been one of the most trafficked posts on this site.  Apparently people enjoy reading about a mad scientist that kidnaps three people, cuts the muscle tissue connecting their kneecaps so as to disable leg extension, and then sews the poor souls together in an ass-to-mouth chain in order to create the world’s first Siamese Twins connected by a single digestive tract.  And why shouldn’t it have gotten as many hits as it did?  The plot description of HUMAN CENTIPEDE is, unquestionably, certifiably, smear-it-on-padded-walls, bat-shit insane.  No one may want to see that visual come to life, but they certainly love doing a double-take when reading about it for the first time*.

And that’s appropriate, since reading the plot description is the best thing about writer/director Tom Six’ attempt at making a shocking horror film.  Because without having the advantage of knowing what this movie, hypothetically, has in store, most horror fans would lose interest within the first 10 minutes.  This gateway to the film is dominated by two annoying, spoiled-brat American girls who get lost deep in the woods of Germany.  The acting in this introduction is grating at best, deal-breaking at worst, and unfortunately it takes another third of the film to pass before things begin to get even remotely interesting.

For a movie about turning a trio of people into an ass-to-mouth-to-ass-to-mouth affront to evolution that can’t walk, it’s pretty damned tame at doing what little it can with that glass-ceiling premise.  It’s a pointless movie that has a weak opening, a weak middle, and an even weaker ending that will have you yearning, along with the film’s saving grace mad doctor, halfway through the experiment to kill the ailing abomination and start all over again.

TRICK ‘R TREAT Review. [Fantastic Fest ’09]

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Written and Directed by Michael Dougherty, 2007

Trick ‘r Treat is the holy grail of Halloween themed horror films. Not because of the notoriously long path writer-director Michael Dougherty’s film has had to take to finally get released (a refresher: TrT was finished and first shown back in 2007 and, despite an overwhelming reaction to its first public exhibition, proceeded to be locked away in a vault at Warner Brothers for unspecified reasons), though that did turn it into a rare find to be coveted. No, Dougherty’s film is such a treasure because it is Halloween. It just had the misfortune of being born a decade too late, of being born into a time when studios only care about remakes or sequels and certainly not about anthology films. Dougherty had, as far as a studio is concerned, the audacity to finely craft, gasp, an original, American horror film.

Wrong-decade misfortune that may be, however, it’s great to be able to say that Trick ‘r Treat will still be watched on Halloween for decades to come. Those who love it, like I, will still be watching it with great devotion. Those who merely liked it will not be able to help themselves from putting it on as background to their Halloween parties. And those who hated it, well, those who hated it don’t exist. They can’t exist. To hate Trick ‘r Treat would be to hate the entire spirit of Halloween, a spirit Dougherty apparently has complete domain over.

Read the rest of my TRICK ‘R TREAT review at HorrorSquad.

VAN DIEMEN’S LAND Review. [Fantastic Fest ’09]

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Directed by Jonathan Auf Der Heide, 2009
Written by Jonathan Auf Der Heide and Oscar Redding

Set a film in Tasmania in 1822 with prisoners on the run as characters and, as far as my frame of reference for the story is concerned, you may as well be making a movie on a different planet. And yet with nearly 200 years and half a globe of separation between myself and this true story of cannibalism among escaped convicts, Van Diemen’s Land still clawed its way under my skin. There’s one particularly haunting moment that I found nearly unbearable to watch; what’s amazing about that, however, is that Van Diemen’s Land is not a gory horror show, and the particular moment in question arrives without a single drop of blood.

Despite the integral plot element of cannibalism, there’s no abundance of body parts or organs floating about in Van Diemen’s Land. In fact, the film is remarkably light on the red, and yet there are nerve-crushing moments in which all semblance of humanity goes out the window. That loss of moral compass in the face of survival is the cornerstone of this fact-based story about a prison break that went horribly wrong: Eight prisoners in a Tasmanian penal colony overthrow their sole guard only to learn that the coast isn’t as clear as they thought, that their only true course of action is to either wait to be recaptured (and almost certainly executed) or flee aimlessly into the wilderness.

Read the rest of my VAN DIEMEN’S LAND review at HorrorSquad.

Who Are All These New People at HND?

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As you’ve no doubt noticed, over the past month or so HND has undergone a dramatic change without really changing at all.  People other than me have been contributing reviews and editorials, which may seem frightening to you.  And that’s okay, because it frightens me too.  I don’t know who these people are or how they got access to my site, but I figured I might as well accept their presence like a rapist in the night.

Er…Truth is I invited them all.  In the scope of that last sentence above, that makes me a huge slut, but my plan for HND was to always turn it into a hub of valuable opinion on horror movies, games, TV shows and books.  I’ve never cared much about breaking news or doing interviews, but I’ve always envisioned HND as a barometer for what’s good and bad in horror today (and yesterday).

So I figured I should give you a rundown of who is who and what you can expect from them.  In no particular order:

A Scene From HAUSU, “the craziest goddamn movie Japan has ever unleashed”.

Fantastic Fest ’09 Announces First Wave of Titles, HND Geekgasms.

Bear Traps, Masks, Home Invasion: THE COLLECTOR Trailer.

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I didn’t realize a trend of calling Green Band trailers Red Band trailers would catch on this quickly, but here we have the first look at Marcus Dunstan’s directorial debut THE COLLECTOR.  The flick so far has been shrouded in mystery, but the trailer finally reveals the twist of a burglar who unknowingly breaks into a home whilst it is under siege by Jigsaw’s apprentice (though not really, since that last bit would be problematic with licensing and all).

I’m game for Dunstan keeping their SAW sequel tuned house of traps so long as they lose the SAW franchise trope of spinning the camera like a crack addict on a merry-go-round.  I don’t get that impression from the trailer, which looks like a promising time could be had, jagged bear trap packed rooms and all.

THE COLLECTOR opens on July 31st, with a Fantastic Fest/Horror Squad presentation of it on July 22nd in Austin with a Dunstan/Melton Q&A following the premiere.

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