Pandora’s Box: ‘Wolf Town’ (2010)

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Pandora’s Box is an advisory column in which I watch a film based solely on its cover art, or box if you will, and determine whether or not it’s worth your time when you’re perusing the horror section of Instant Netflix. I do no research and watch no trailers, these films are completely and 100% unknown to me. You shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but I intend to do so with these movies. Will I uncover a glimmer of hope for my strange viewing habits or utter despair? We won’t know until I open…Pandora’s Box.


What Grabbed Me

Admittedly, not great cover art, and contrary to the principle of this column, I did know a tiny bit about the film. That tiny bit of information came during a viewing of ATM in which a freind of mine mentioned that this film has a similar plot: a group of people trapped in one place with a predator waiting in the wings on the outside. In this case though, obviously the awaiting predators were wolves, which is pretty damn cool. Judging a book by it’s cover the way I do though, I was tempted to not cover this one because of how shoddy the art is.

WALLED IN Review [Netflix Watch Instantly]

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Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, 2009
Written by Rodolphe Tissot, Olivier Volpi, Sylvain White, Gilles Paquet-Brenner

When I’m feeling lazy, I like hang out on the couch, drink beer, and watch movies. At those times I have no desire to do anything to advance the quality of my life in any way, and my creative juices are certainly not flowing. The difference between me and director Gilles Paquet-Brenner is that when I’m feeling worthless and indolent I don’t decide to make a movie. At least that is the impression I’ve come away from WALLED IN with, because not one frame of the film suggests anybody involved in its making gave a damn.

Mischa Barton “stars” as a recent college graduate who is the youngest in a family of demolition experts. Her first solo assignment for the family company is to plan the demolition of an old apartment complex in the middle of nowhere, due to be destroyed because the “government” has “ordered it.” The building was designed by an eccentric architect, who made it a habit of burying people alive in the foundations of his creations in order to increase structural rigidity. Something about an ancient Egyptian myth, I think.

WALLED IN also features Cameron Bright (Nicole Kidman’s tiny love interest in BIRTH, who, by the way, isn’t getting any less creepy), and Debra Kara Unger (who isn’t getting any less plastically-looking). Although both of them outshine Barton by quite a bit, this is like saying Brett Ratner is a better director than Donald Petrie.

AMERICAN ZOMBIE Review. [Netflix Watch Instantly]

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Directed by Grace Lee, 2007
Written by Grace Lee, Rebecca Sonnenshine

Mockumentaries as anything other than comedy are damn near impossible to get right. A self-serious mockumentary, as with a horror movie without scares, is a recipe for disaster. Alas, AMERICAN ZOMBIE avoids failure on an epic level (something another recent zombiementary, THE ZOMBIE DIARIES cannot claim), but it is too worried about appearing realistic and legitimate to actually entertain. One of most appealing aspects of documentaries is experiencing that which would be unbelievable if it wasn’t true. If a “documentary” is inherently fictional and it doesn’t appeal on a visceral level, the question is begged: What is the point?

I think the “point” is that it’s easier to make a mockumentary than a traditional narrative film. Or at least it’s easier to make it professional-looking. And that is certainly one of AMERICAN ZOMBIE’S strong suits – it looks and sounds like a real documentary. The acting is solid, the cinematography is very documentary-like, and the zombie-infected world it creates is relatively believable. As a genuine documentary it may have been informative and enlightening. As a mockumentary it’s completely and utterly boring.

BLOOD FEAST 2: ALL U CAN EAT Review [Netflix Watch Instantly]

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Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis, 2002
Written by W. Boyd Ford

As a thirteen-year-old there wasn’t much more exciting for me than spending the night at friend’s house and getting to rent whatever the heck we wanted to because his parents didn’t care. I wasn’t overly sheltered as a child when it came to R-rated films, but most hardcore horror movies were off-limits, probably due to the likelihood of both nudity (in the movie) and nightmares (in my head). Therefore, the opportunity to rent whatever I wanted was one of the more exciting times of my young life. Even though this is how I discovered movies like THE SHINING and EVIL DEAD 2, a vast majority were terrible, and worst of all, most were devoid of gore and gratuitous nudity.

What am I going on about? Well, if instead of going to Blockbuster to rent a horror movie I instead was giving a couple hundred thousand dollars to make a movie, the result probably would have been very close to BLOOD FEAST 2: ALL U CAN EAT.

Directed by gore legend Herschell Gordon Lewis and written by the cast driver of BUG and WAITING (no, really, the driver), BF2 is a sequel thirty nine years in the making that was released thirty years after Gordon Lewis’ previous directorial effort. His prior films are unseen by me, and perhaps this is cause for a notch to be taken from my Horror Card, but if it is any consolation I now plan to check out more of his work, because BF2 is delirious fun.

THE HUNT Review. [Netflix Watch Instantly]

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Directed by Fritz Kiersch, 2006
Written by Fritz Kiersch, Danny Martin

Please bear with me, for this review is not like the others. Regardless, it is important for you to continue to reading, because in addition to pointing you in the direction of surprisingly good Instant Watch flicks, it is also my responsibility to sound the siren warning you to get the fuck in your basement or most interior room of your home and to not come out until I say so. THE HUNT is an example of when the latter is appropriate.

From the director of CHILDREN OF THE CORN comes a movie where two and a half men go into the woods for the purpose of filming an instructional hunting video (VHS of course) only to fail at killing any deer and instead discover aliens. Any marginally promising aspects to this storyline are quickly nullified by the first-person camerawork (I use the term “work” generously), horrid acting, and…uh…a complete disregard for the art of filmmaking.

Perhaps in an effort to appear original, THE HUNT takes place in 1999, even though it was made in 2006. It’s as if by claiming it took place the year THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was released these guys are somehow absolved of the crime of being seven years late to the first-person party. Somehow I managed to not be fooled by this tactic.

SCOURGE (2008) Review. [Netflix Watch Instantly]

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Written and Directed by Jonas Quastel, 2008

If a movie exceeds expectations by being exactly what it should be can I call that the TAKEN effect? If so, can I then say that I was TAKEN by SCOURGE? Hopefully that makes grammatical sense, because after being pleasantly surprised by my first two NWI picks, SCOURGE is exactly what I hoped it would be – a mildly amusing, extremely low-budget, and completely harmless creature feature akin to something I would’ve seen on the USA Network’s “Up All Night” fifteen years ago. Some originality would have been nice too, but let’s not get greedy, the movie did magically appear on my television through a videogame system after all.

SCOURGE begins in the late 19th century as a parasitic monster is terrorizing a small Canadian town. The creature is soon trapped by mysterious religious types in a jug of wine (obviously) in the basement of a CGI church. Over a hundred years later the CGI church is destroyed by CGI fire and, as a result, the parasite is set free into a fireman. The creature has a suspiciously similar effect on its hosts as the alien in SLITHER – it causes a hell of an appetite. However, instead of raw meat, the SCOURGE craves dairy products (is mayonnaise a dairy product?), and instead of it being an ongoing theme, it is (inexplicably) only the first victim that experiences this symptom.

THE LOST (2006) Review. [Netflix Watch Instantly]

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Editor’s Note: I’ve asked BrianK to explore the arid wasteland of Netflix’ Watch Instantly section once a week in search of lost treasures, the only important rule being his find cannot be a film anyone has ever told him anything about.  These are his results.

Directed by Chris Sivertson, 2006
Written by Chris Sivertson from Jack Ketchum‘s novel

Make that two for two in terms of likable openings in films I have reviewed thus far for this series. THE LOST gets going energetically with a shot of the main character, Ray (Marc Senter), approaching an outhouse in the middle of woods, where he happens to find an attractive naked woman finishing up her business – all set to the tune of Crispian St. Peters’ absurdly catchy 1966 hit “The Pied Piper.” You had me at naked girl in outhouse and ‘60s pop.

It isn’t all crimson and clovers, however. Shortly after their meet, Ray coldly decides to kill the girl and her friend with the reluctant help of his delinquent associates, Jennifer (Shay Astar) and Tim (Alex Frost). When the story picks up again four years later, the case remains unsolved, Jennifer and Tim are attempting to deal with their guilt, and Ray is constantly trying to get laid. As you probably guessed, Ray has decidedly mixed results with women, and it is this quality that serves as the driving force for the remainder of the film.

Other than wearing copious amounts of eyeliner, Ray dresses just like a greaser.  It is actually difficult to determine the story does not take place in the 1950s for the first several minutes (as you might imagine, the naked girl isn’t much help in pin-pointing a time period). In fact, other than a few stylistic flourishes (e.g. random shots in 8mm), THE LOST has that bright yet washed-out nostalgic feel of many actual mid-century throwbacks, such as another Ketchum adaptation, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (2007).

BLACKOUT Review. [Netflix Watch Instantly (Mis?)Adventures]

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