SXSW Review: ‘Sinister’ is the Stuff Bad Dreams Are Made Of

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True crime novelist Ellison (Ethan Hawke) moves into a new home with his wife and two children. After achieving great success with his novel Kentucky Blood ten years prior, Ellison has struggled to recapture both the critical acclaim and financial returns of his nonfiction opus. Desperate for inspiration, and unbeknownst to his family, he purposefully moves into the home wherein an entire family, save one missing daughter, was murdered. While unpacking, he discovers a box of Super 8 films in the attic; the contents of which, once viewed, can never be unseen. That’s all I’m going to say in terms of plot, and I’ll only say that much so that you can make an informed decision about seeing this film, and not be swayed by the promises/portents of what it is not.

Terror Tuesday Forecast: The Howling III: The Marsupials

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First, let me apologize for the lack of Terror Tuesday coverage last week. Due to the madness of SxSW, and the fact that both the theaters at the Alamo Ritz were requisitioned for the festival, there was actually no Terror Tuesday last week. I’m not saying that if there had been I would have been able to attend, and thus the result would have been the same, but it’s nice to have an excuse that absolves me of blame. Last week I briefly mentioned a documentary called Not Quite Hollywood in reference to a misconception I had about last week’s (read week before last’s) film. While Sole Survivor turned out to not be one of the films featured in the aforementioned doc about Australian genre movies, this week’s selection definitely was.

Behold the trailer for The Howling III: The Marsupials. I am confident this film will be subpar in quality but will provide an abundance of cheap laughs; in the end, that’s all I really ask.


TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL Review [SXSW Review Catch Up]

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Directed by Eli Craig, 2010
Written by Eli Craig, Morgan Jurgenson

I like a lot of horror comedies.  They’re obviously not my go-to choice when I think of the genre, but I’m all for horror movies that don’t take themselves too seriously.  I’m not including horror spoofs in this category, of course.  I’m talking about the ZOMBIELANDs and the DEAD & BREAKFASTs of the world, not the STAN HELSINGs.  But even though I’m a not-so-closet fan of horror comedies, I rarely find myself calling them hilarious.

TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL is hilarious.  It was easily the funniest film I saw at SXSW; BARRY MUNDAY, a film where Patrick Wilson plays an everyday office schlub who loses his testicles, coming in second place.  And it’s not hard to pin down why.  Sure, Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson’s script is a clever twist on the College Kids + Cabin in the Woods + Hillbillies = Death formula.  Sure, it’s got a fantastic amount of fake blood ready to splatter all over it’s cast.  But all of that is secondary to the pairing of Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine as Tucker and Dale, respectively.

Everyone should know how great Tudyk is on screen thanks to SERENITY and DEATH AT A FUNERAL, but unless you watched REAPER (and I told you you should have been, so you’ve got no excuse) on the CW, you’re probably not very familiar with Labine.  That’s okay because after T&DVE hits your eyeballs, you’ll be up to speed with why he’s a great comedic talent just waiting in the wings to really have a career take-off.  He and Tudyk have enough chemistry together that their on screen pairing should be traded on the stock market alongside Monsanto and Dow Chemical, which is why I really can’t explain how their first film together has yet been picked up for distribution.  When it does get bought up, though, it could well launch him into the mainstream not unlike THE HANGOVER launched Zach Galifinakis.  But before I turn this into the first official meeting of the unofficial Labine and Tudyk fan club, let’s get back to the story at hand.

MONSTERS Review [SXSW2010 Roundup]

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[In case you haven’t noticed, things are slack at HND these days, so since I realize not everyone follows the other sites I write for, I am now committing myself to cross linking all my genre coverage at Cinematical, Horror Squad and Sci-Fi Squad here.  Operation: Climb Back Up Google Rankings begins with SXSW 2010 films.]

Written and Directed by Gareth Edwards, 2010

Over the last few years the creature feature has undergone a bit of a micro-scale renaissance as filmmakers around the world have broken the mold of the classic monster movie. Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield combined city-wide destruction with the new boom of single-camera, single-POV style filmmaking. Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Big Man Japan was a wry love letter to Japan’s fading fascination with its own Kaiju traditions. Joon-ho Bong put an energetic, fascinating South Korean flavor all over the science-run-amok niche with The Host. And with District 9Neill Blomkamp proved that you can make a blockbuster spectacle without Hollywood’s bloated budgets and fascination with A-list actors.

Now indie filmmaker Gareth Edwards has arrived on the scene with Monsters, yet another fresh, unique take on the creature feature. However, unlike all of the aforementioned films, Edwards’ goal was not to make a giant monster movie, it was to make a small scale, intimate, on-the-road movie that happens to have giant monsters in it from time to time. It takes place in an alternate reality where a NASA space probe has crashed to Earth, releasing in the process the eggs of an alien race that soon spread across Central America. As a result, half of the United States is turned into a massive quarantine zone bordered by an enormous wall and military presence.

Six years after the world has become accustomed to the contaminated zone, Andrew (Scoot McNairy), a photographer in Mexico, is asked to escort his bosses’ daughter, Samantha (Whitney Able), back to America. When an arrangement with a ferry back to America falls through, the unlikely pair are forced to hire a guarded escort to bring them through the contaminated zone over land. And so begins a most unique spin on what giant monster movies need to be.

Read the rest of my MONSTERS review at Sci-Fi Squad.

You can also read a few more of my thoughts over at

SUCK Review [SXSW2010 Roundup]

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[In case you haven’t noticed, things are slack at HND these days, so since I realize not everyone follows the other sites I write for, I am now committing myself to cross linking all my genre coverage at Cinematical, Horror Squad and Sci-Fi Squad here.  Operation: Climb Back Up Google Rankings begins with SXSW 2010 films.]

Written and Directed by Rob Stefaniuk, 2010

The horror comedy is a beast easy to break and fickle to tame. When it’s done right, the mixture of laughter and white knuckles can be a blissful, riotous night at the movies. When it’s done wrong, however, well, you end up walking out of the theater with a white-knuckled clenched fist. And as we all know by now, the horror comedy is broken far more often than it’s tamed.

That said, SXSW is batting a thousand this year. Their midnight slate kicked off with the highly amusing and blood-splatter loving Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, kept things going with the note-perfect Australian wunderkind The Loved Ones, and then capped things off rather nicely with Suck, a fun and charming little import from Canada about a struggling band that coincidentally begins to find an audience once one of their band members starts fearing the sunlight and starts living off the blood of groupies and roadies. Now before you let out a justifiable groan at the idea of yet another vampire movie, you should know two things about Rob Stefaniuk’s film.

Read the rest of my SUCK review at Horror Squad.

THE LOVED ONES Review [SXSW 2010’s Midnight Surprise]

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Written and Directed by Sean Byrne, 2009

I’ve been running Horror’s Not Dead for a little over four years now.  If you’ve been reading the site for any decent length of time, you can probably trace how my tastes have cultivated over the years and how from time to time I’ll stumble upon an indie or foreign gem that I love to stamp the HND seal of approval all over.  Well, it’s time to break out the letterhead here at HND; I’m calling that dusty old stamp (which I feel like I haven’t really broken out since J. T. Petty’s THE BURROWERS) back into action for THE LOVED ONES.  I know that most readers out there are not going to be able to rush out and see this criminally good time from Australia, but you’d do well to bump Sean Byrne’s dark and brutal horror comedy to the top of your mental list of titles to keep an eye out for.

It’s about an already-spoken-for senior, Brent, who turns down Lola, a cute and clearly shy girl, when she asks him to be her prom date.  Brent, who is clearly not a popular kid in school, in fact he’s recently become kind of a loner and a pothead after his father died in car accident, is quite kind when turning down the meek lass, but such kindness is lost on little Lola.  Her father then proceeds to kidnap Brent and force him to be Lola’s date to a lovely prom that happens to take place in their kitchen.

That’s basically it, plot-wise, actually.  Indeed it is this lean, uncomplicated plot that is one of first time writer/director Sean Byrne’s greatest strengths.  It’s not bogged down by unnecessary side stories (though we do get periodic glimpses of how Brent’s best friend’s date at the actual prom is going) or weighty exposition surrounding why Brent has become such a loner. No, THE LOVED ONES is a blazing 84 minutes of constant one-upmanship.  Every time you begin to think Byrne couldn’t possibly top how outrageous poor Brent’s night is becoming, he savagely shoves adrenaline needles into the heart of the film scene after scene until it transforms into a ravaged, bold, and bloody as hell beast that will have you laughing and cringing with alarming regularity.

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