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Review: THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES (1974)

91R2u84-EFL._SL1500_THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES (1974, DVD/Blu-Ray Combo)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

I actually bought this movie on DVD way back in 2000 when Image Entertainment had the rights to it. At that time I had never heard of the movie and was only made aware of it, I believe, through some mentioning of it in Fangoria. That mentioning is what got me to buy it. But, it was another matter altogether when I settled down to watch it. I think I got about a half hour in when the tedium of the plot finally destroyed any and all interest I had in it.

Just this past Halloween TCM aired it one late night. I recorded it and again tried to watch it. This time it wasn’t the storyline that derailed my desire but the god-awful transfer and audio. Still determined to see this movie through to the end, I finally managed to score a review copy of it from Severin and this time managed to see it through to the end. I wasn’t totally put off by the tedium of the story this time, but the ending was a headscratcher.

Okay, so, the story goes like this, horror movie director, Eric Hartman (John Ireland), whom I will always remember as the local sheriff in The Incubus (1982), takes a film crew to this haunted mansion to make a horror movie. Among the cast members of the movie within the movie is Gayle Dorian (Faith Domergue), whom I will always equate with It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), and the mansion’s caretaker, Edgar Price, played by horror icon, John Carradine.

About 90% of this movie is focused on Hartman’s making of his horror movie with for the first hour at least smidgens of supernatural activity mixed in between. Those smidgens focuses on one of Hartman’s actors, David (Jerry Strickler) who finds a shelf full of “forbidden tomes,” one of which is the Tibetan Book Of The Dead, and I think we all know by now what happens when unsuspecting people read and/or recite passages from these kinds of books. And that’s exactly what David does at the behest of Hartman who wants to add some of the passages to his movie.

In that first hour we get the unexplained death of Gayle’s cat; David and his actress girlfriend spotting Price going behind a tombstone, lifting something up and disappearing into the ground; and the history of the Beal mansion which involved the inexplicable murders/suicide of the family. Nothing that goes on in the movie is ever explained. We never find out why or how Gayle’s cat was cut in half, where the hell Carradine went when he went into the ground, or why David goes mad and tries to push Hartman into an open grave as they’re out in the cemetery getting exterior shots for the movie.
Even more inexplicable is when Hartman flips him into the grave and two pairs of desiccated undead arms appear seconds later and tries to grab Hartman. Did David turn into this corpse? Unknown. But before that event even happens, a corpse comes out of that same open grave, staggers into the mansion and kills everyone there. So, there were two corpses? Unknown, we never see them together, or why the corpse carries a dead, naked actress back into the open grave with it as the credits roll.

As of this writing I have yet to listen to the commentary, which I’m thankful there is one. And I’ll be checking it out tonight for some kind of explanation.

Putting all other releases to shame Severin Films released this movie back in August in a DVD/Blu-ray combo with a transfer that’s ten times better than the one TCM ran. It’s not perfect, it still shows some minor print damage in places, but the colors and the dark levels are striking.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen—DTS-HD Master Audio Mono—No subtitles.

The audio commentary with Associate Producer Gary Kent, moderated by Lars Nilsen was a great one full of information about the location, the actors, low-budget filmmaking in general but it didn’t shed much light on the plot. In my second viewing, though, I finally noticed the connection between the murders of the original family members seen in the prologue and the murders of the film crew at the end and how they mimicked one another, and then had that fact backed up by Kent in the closing moments of the movie.

Along with the movie’s theatrical trailer the main extra here is the newly discovered interview with John Carradine that runs 28:03. It was a very enlightening one, too. It’s obvious from the start Carradine was never a horror movie fan. He clearly states he’s made over 400 movies, with only 25 of them being in the horror genre and towards the end he states he’s never understood people’s fascination with them. He reveals theater is his first love and anything that took him out of it was only a job. He was also grateful for those “jobs” for they allowed him to see a lot of the world.

This film reminds me of Jim Wynorski’s remake of Not Of This Earth (1988) in that I had vague memories of seeing it on cable but was unsure if the eventual DVD I had ordered would be a keeper. After finally seeing it after all those years I didn’t think it was all that great, then I listened to the new commentary included with Wynorski and Traci Lords and I suddenly found myself actually appreciating the movie. The House Of Seven Corpses is exactly like that. The commentary was so insightful I now like the movie and deem it a keeper.

Review: THE ALIEN WITHIN (1990)

802993215603THE ALIEN WITHIN (1990)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

What’s not obvious from Retromedia’s new The Alien Within DVD, front cover and back, is that it’s a double feature. Paired with Evil Spawn (1987), Alien Within is the remake of that flick. I’ve heard of Evil Spawn but had never seen it until now.

It stars Bobbie Bresee as Lynn Roman, an over the hill starlet who wants to be anything but. Just when things seem to be at their worst, a strange woman pays her visit and tells Roman she works, or had worked, for skin specialist, Dr. Zeitman (John Carradine from an earlier scene) and that these routine injections can give her back the youth she’s been sorely missing. As predicted she starts injecting herself with this untested serum, gets her young again, but also transforms into this monstrous insect-like creature when she gets enraged. This results in a few deaths, two of which are her assistant and her cheating boyfriend.

One of these people deserved it, one didn’t; can you guess which is which?
I knew you could.

The movie is told from the flashback of this guy writing Roman’s biography, or autobiography? I always get them confused. I guess it doesn’t matter for things don’t work out so well for him in the end and that (auto)biography never sees the light of day.

This movie reminded heavily of The Wasp Woman (1959) and it almost feels like an unofficial remake. Carradine’s performance in the film, I believe, is the last thing he ever acted in before his death. It’s filmed with generic dialogue so it could be reused for other films but was initially intended to be used in a Frankenstein movie thus making Carradine the notorious doctor himself but that movie never materialized.

The monster FX was very good. Of course this was back in the heyday of movie making when CGI was nothing but a Hollywood nerd’s wet dream and the main monster was a man-in-a-suit with animatronic mouthparts.

The transfer is widescreen, but not anamorphic. You’ll need to do some pix shape adjusting to get the picture to fill the screen. None needed if you’re still using a tube television though. Though zooming in gives it more of a VHS quality.

The Alien Within version ports over the main story of Roman, her plight with wanting to be younger and the monster she turns into, while implanting a “B plot” that for the most part is integrated fairly well into the existing footage. The Evil Spawn version makes mention of a movie being filmed, ‘Savage Goddess’ and the name of the director and the starlet being used in it are mentioned but never seen, in Alien Within, they are now played by Richard Harrison and Melissa Moore, while Gordon Mitchell takes up the role of the movie’s producer. Recruited to investigate Zeitman and his unsavory skin care procedures is private detective, Jay Richardson and his female assistant, Suzanne Agar.

Forrest Ackerman, who played the pool cleaner in the first film, is the only actor to make a second appearance, playing the same character, but with new lines, to link his old scene and his new scene together.

SOTA FX contributed two new monsters, a mutant dog and a lizard creature that Harrison turns into in the end..
The aspect ratio of Alien Within is 1.33:1 windowboxed.

Extras you’ll find on this disc is an Evil Spawn trailer, Roughly four minutes of outtakes by John Carradine, a general Behind The Scenes (2:26) featurette, photographic evidence (1:16) of The Missing Monster that was originally used in the movie but scrapped for a more elaborate and better looking creation. The first monster was clearly and admittedly in the vein of The Wasp Woman. Those photographs are the only existing proof it was used. No footage exists any longer. And finally you get a pretty damn good and informative commentary by Fred Olen Ray and Ted Newsom that covers varied topics about the movie, Evil Spawn, filmmaking, dating actresses/marrying them, friendships lost but not forgotten, and other sundry anecdotes which I loved hearing about.

Aside from the commentary, the well-executed monster FX and the well-photographed nudity (partial and full frontal) nothing else, unfortunately, about these movies worked for me. However, Ray does tease that he should do a proper remake of Evil Spawn/Alien Within and I actually hope he does one day.

Review: The Avengers (2012)

MV5BMTk2NTI1MTU4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODg0OTY0Nw@@._V1._SX640_SY947_Directed by: Joss Whedon
Written By: Joss Whedon (screenplay) & Zak Penn (story)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Alexis Denisof.

Geren: Action / Fantasy

Reviewed by: Mike Huntley (The Dark Knight)

Grade: A+

When Marvel decided to form their own studio and started building solo superhero movies that existed in the same universe, fans were pumped for the inevitable Avengers team up movie that would be the icing and cherry atop an already delicious cake. Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in summer 2008. Iron Man 2 in summer 2010, which was basically a prelude to The Avengers. Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in summer 2011. And now the moment fans old and new had been waiting for: The Avengers in an already packed superhero movie summer in 2012. Going up against both Batman (The Dark Knight Rises) and Spider-Man (The Amazing Spider-man) is never an easy task to pull off, but The Avengers was probably the highest grossing film that summer and even sorta beat out The Dark Knight, which before Avengers was considered the best superhero movie of all time. Now, fans are kinda divided on which one deserves that mantle. While I do love The Avengers and it is the best Marvel Studios movie aside from Thor and Iron Man 3, I still prefer The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel, and The Amazing Spider-Man for personal reasons. I didn’t grow up with The Avengers the way I’m sure many kids who loved superheroes did. Yes, I had heard of Iron Man and Captain America, but aside from the outfits and names, I didn’t know shit about them. Yes, I knew who The Incredible Hulk was, mainly due to the short animated series. But all the others? Nope. Growing up, Batman and Spider-Man were and still are my top two favorites in the costumed hero department. Superman was popular on TV. The X-Men were a hit in animation. So, while I still love The Avengers and am a new fan, I will always have Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman closer to my heart. But that’s not to say that I wasn’t super excited to see Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye take on aliens and the God of Mischief!

Loki survived his fall into a black hole and has come to Earth to steal the source of power that S.H.I.E.L.D has in their possession. First, Loki puts a spell on Dr. Selvig and Hawkeye to help him open a portal that could damn our world. This causes S.H.I.L.D’s director Nick Fury to take action by assembling a team of the most powerful people on this planet. Those powerful people are Tony Stark/Iron Man, Steve Rogers/Captain America, Thor, and Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk. Together they form a super fighting force to stop Loki from letting aliens destroy New York City.

I will never forget my theatrical experience with The Avengers. I went with my Dad opening night and the showing we were going to see was already sold out so we went ahead and bought tickets for the next show. We sat around in the van for a little bit till it was close to time for the movie to start. Just about every damn row from the very front to the very back was jam packed full of everybody from the elderly to parents taking their children. I remember getting the distinct pleasure of sitting next to some big guy who had serious B.O. and having some boys sitting in front of me giggling and texting during the show. But, once the lights dimmed and the movie began, I forgot all about those annoying little boys or my nose begging me for Oxygen. You know why? Because I was having a total blast watching Iron Man and Captain America stand side by side, Thor knocking Iron Man across a forest, and who can forget Hulk giving Loki a professional ass whoopin’? Yep, that was The Avengers. A total blast of fun, excitement, amazing visual and special FX, Hulk/Bruce Banner finally done to perfection, aliens crashing through a city, explosions, Scarlett Johansson giving me a nice boner, Tony Stark making me laugh my ass off, and just being the definition of a summer blockbuster. It’s that roller coaster that you want to catch the thrill again and again. Yes, I am not as attached as I am a Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man, but it doesn’t matter. I had a great time at the movies despite the unpleasant theater conditions.

When I first heard that Joss Whedon was set to write and direct The Avengers, I was more than happy. This is the same man who gave me two kickass TV shows during my childhood with Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. Sure, he had not had much movie making experience outside Serenity, which was the movie version of his short lived TV series Firefly. But, I always knew that Whedon had the potential to make it huge beyond the small screen and 2012 was the year of Joss Whedon with The Avengers and the horror film that he co-wrote and produced, The Cabin In The Woods. Whedon directs The Avengers with honor, respect, and love for these characters. The film never misses a beat and Whedon’s outerspace stuff looks frickin’ phenomenal. If he hadn’t already played in Marvel’s toychest, I would have said that he would have been the perfect filmmaker to bring that Justice League film to life. Still curious who gets that gig unless Zack Snyder jumps up and decides to or maybe Ben Affleck although I have a feeling he will get to direct the solo Batman films. Whedon also handles the screenplay well. We get that classic Whedon humor like when Stark tells Banner that he loves it when he turns into a giant green rage monster. And Hulk kicking Loki’s ass certainly made me cheer and giggle in my seat even though I had to hold the breathing part thanks to B.O. guy. Nick Fury making a flying monkies reference and Captain America picking up on it made me chuckle. Speaking of Captain America, I LOVE his new suit. It’s very classic Captain America whereas the suit in his solo film was more a military war suit. And that finale in New York City has gotta be one of the single greatest scenes in superhero cinema history. Words can’t describe how awesome it was seeing all these characters come together as a team.

The cast was spot on in their respective roles. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark/Iron Man. The dude has enormous humor and tons of charisma that you just love. He’s the kinda dude you just want to chill with. Chris Evans was a great pick for Steve Rogers/Captain America. Finally, that 1990 movie is wiped away from the character’s identity. Chris Hemsworth is still thunderously awesome as Thor. The man is the definition of a superhero. Mark Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton, but ended up giving us the best portrayal of Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk applied to film. Ruffalo was a nice surprise. I hope he eventually gets that Hulk movie that he deserves. Scarlett Johansson is smokin’ fuckin’ hot as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow. Plus, she can kick a lot of ass. My kinda woman! Samuel L. Jackson is great as the slick and cool eye patched Nick Fury. Clark Gregg is great as always as Agent Phil Coulson who is most likely not dead and is sadly on that God awful Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D television series that failed to capture the awesomeness of these movies in every way. Jeremy Renner is really good as Agent Barton/Hawkeye. But, Tom Hiddleston just about steals the show in his reprisal role as Loki. I love Hiddleston’s menace as a villain. You can tell that the guy is having a major blast playing this character and us audiences are therefore having a blast watching him having fun. Hell, the man even came to Comic Con in character and talked to the fans as Loki. So awesome, this guy.

Overall, The Avengers is the best Marvel Studios movie to date. Love it and look forward to Phase Two going forward and leading up to summer 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. The team will be expanding and the universe getting even more fascinating than it already is!

Review: Body Bags (1993)

BodyBagsBlu-610x767JOHN CARPENTER PRESENTS BODY BAGS (1993)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

I remember Body Bags. I remember reading about it in Fangoria and then seeing it on Showtime. I liked the second story the best but overall didn’t care for it. Haven’t seen it since then. I just watched it for a second time last night and now I like it. I had a feeling this would be the case after all these years.

Body Bags is an anthology movie comprised of 3 stories (The Gas Station, Hair and Eye) that was specifically made for Showtime by John Carpenter. The wraparound tale is about a dead “coroner” played by Carpenter himself who’s hosting shtick is similar to what The Cryptkeeper did on HBO’s long running Tales From The Crypt series. He clowns around with jet black humor and then introduces each tale:
“The Gas Station”—Haddonfield, 1993, Annie (Alex Datcher), a collegian, is starting her new job on the graveyard shift at a gas station. Over the radio as she’s being dropped off by her friend we learn a serial killer is stalking the town killing women. Christ, that poor town simply cannot catch a break ever since Micheal Myers cut a swath of carnage through it back in the late 70s. She quickly introduces herself to her departing co-working, Bill (Robert Carradine), and gets to work. Through out the night she serves various patrons, some are creepier than others but most are played by recognize stars. Wes Craven buys some cigarettes; David Naughton forgets his credit card; transient, and Carpenter regular, Buck Flower, needs to use the rest room; Peter Jason (another Carpenter regular) and wife show up to get gas, and Sam Raimi puts in two cameos: one in an Employee Of The Month photo and one as a dead body that falls out of a locker.

One of these men she’s recently met this night is the killer and it isn’t long before he reveals himself and the machete he plans to kill her with. The music, the pacing, the terror is classic Carpenter. I think this is my second favorite tale now. I even saw a couple of scenes Carpenter recreated from Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981).

“Hair”—Stacey Keach plays Richard Coberts (IMDB says his last name is Coberts but in the actual movie it sounds like they say Kobritz, which is the last name of the ill-fated babysitter in Carpenter’s The Fog) losing his hair and simply cannot stand it. Megan (Sheena Easton), his girlfriend, is constantly frustrated as well by his desperation for a solution. Richard comes across a commercial where a Dr. Lock (David Warner) claims he has the perfect solution. Richard pays him a visit, gets his head treated and wakes the next morning with incredibly long hair. There’s a catch, though, and its one that has already sealed his fate.

This was always my favorite of the three tales. It’s kind of similar to Carpenter’s own They Live (1988) where the aliens are already here on earth. In “Hair” they come in the form of the hair itself, which when inspected up close with a magnifying glass look like snakes brought to glorious life by Jim Danforth’s (Equinox) stop motion animation. This animation was so smooth for a minute I thought I was looking at some really early CGI.

“Eye”—This particular tale was my least favorite. Directed by Tobe Hooper it fits in nicely with The Hand (1981) and Body Parts (1991), with a basic plot that is pretty much identical to those two movies. A “family man” gets into a car accident, loses an appendage and then gets a new one grafted on to him, but the new one comes from a serial killer and that “evil cell memory” infects the man and influences him to do evil things. In this case that “family man” is Brent Matthews a professional baseball player who loses his right eye one night in a car accident. A couple of doctors played by Roger Corman and the late John Agar (Tarantula, Creature From The Black Lagoon) give him an eye transplant. Said transplant comes off successfully but he’s plagued by horrific visions of being a child abused, dead bodies appearing in the dirt in his backyard, body parts grinding up in the garbage disposal and sex with his pregnant wife that turns into the rape of a corpse.

A confrontation with Agar and research at the library reveals his eye came from a serial killer, but this does nothing to help him. His decent into madness becomes total at the end, with one final act of redemption. If thine eye offends thee pluck it out . . .

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p High Definition 1.78:1 widescreen—5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio—English only subtitles
Body Bags hits DVD and blu-ray in a combo from Shout Factory through their Scream Factory sub-label and the transfer looks real nice. The audio is where I had a problem. It has the same problem as Retromedia’s Octaman (1971) release. I listen to all my movies through cordless headphones and through them I could hear occasional pops and cracks. The overall crispness was not very good either. The 5.1 audio was basically the lesser of the two evils. Listening to it through the TV’s speakers, however, did not reveal any problem, as was also the case for Octaman. They are minor and don’t totally detract from the viewing the experience, but having said that you can’t help but notice them.

Extras include a very good commentary with Carpenter and Robert Carradine on Gas Station, Carpenter and Stacey Keach on Hair and Justine Beahm and producer/Carpenter’s wife, Sandy King on Eye. Augmenting this commentary is a 20:08 doc titled, ‘Unzipping Body Bags.’ Mark Hamill’s two cents, however, was sorely missed on the commentary and the doc.

Highlights of both commentary/doc was that Showtime wanted Body Bags to be a series but they didn’t want to spend the money Carpenter said he would need to make it something of quality; Rick Baker’s hands shake when he has too much coffee; Carpenter enjoyed his acting stint as the “coroner” host, and Sandy King reveals that she and Carpenter are working on a PG-13 version of Darkchyld.
You also get Body Bag’s “theatrical trailer.”

Like Saturn 3, which I just reviewed, and initially didn’t care for until now, Body Bags is a noteworthy entry in Carpenter’s career, coming in between Memoirs Of An Invisible Man (1993) and In The Mouth Of Madness (1995).

One last thing, Scream Factory’s version marks the first time the Uncut version has hit home video. As King states in the commentary it got edited for its overseas release and that release just carried over to the US. But if you saw it on Showtime you already saw the uncut version. Most of the edits were made in the “Eye” segment.

James Tucker and Kelsey Zukowski Terrify Us In “Within These Walls”

By Michael Goth

During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s three low budget horror films redefined the horror genre. The films were George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972) and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

Craven’s film was and remains to this day the most unsettling of the three, which is probably why it didn’t take in nearly as much at the box office as Hooper’s and Romero’s. It’s my guess that until MGM released Last House on video during the summer of 2000 that more people had probably heard about the film then had actually seen it. And that MGM release, like an 80’s release of the film that was banned as a “video nasty”, featured many of the film’s more graphic scenes edited down. It wasn’t until 2003 that MGM put out an uncut version of the film on DVD.

The Last House on the Left starts out rather comical and lightweight before an almost unbearable horror and sense of dread takes over. Even in the early scenes there is a certain intensity and feeling of doom just beneath the surface of the humor.

While recently watching the teaser trailer for a new film currently In production called Within These Walls, I was reminded of my very first time seeing Craven’s classic but unquestionably disturbing classic.

Within These Walls is a psychological horror film written by Kelsey Zukowski and James Tucker, with Tucker directing. The story is about a young woman (Zukowski), who has recently lost her mother. She decides to stay in the house that her mother had lived in. However, the house is home to more than just memories. There is a lurking evil possessing the house that will pray on all of the young woman’s weaknesses and will bring her to the edge of madness like Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Kelsey Zukowski has stated to being an admirer of Wes Craven, which may account for why the scenes in the teaser trailer for Within These Walls feels so much like early Craven such as Last House and 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes. Also, director Tucker seems to have a documentary film like style which Craven also brought to his first two films.

Another trait that the team of Zukowski and Tucker share with Craven is the desire to take an audience on a psychological trip that will test their endurance. When Craven made The Last House on the Left there were cases of grown men crying while watching the film as it presented an intensity and realism in its portrayal of violence that no one had ever seen before.

In an era when many horror movies rely too much on CGI effects and bloodletting to get a reaction from an audience, Within These Walls represents a return to old style movie making when horror was a way to address cultural and psychological issues. James Tucker and Kelsey Zukowski are using horror today very much the way Wes Craven did in the 1970’s.

Review: Snow White & The Huntsman (2012)

Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Written by: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini, and Evan Daugherty (screen story)
Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama
MPAA: Rated PG13
Released: 1 June 2012 (USA)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Sam Claflin, Sam Spruell, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, Brian Gleeson, Vincent Regan, Noah Huntley, Liberty Ross

Synopsis: In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.

Review: 8/10

My Thoughts: For generations many have watched the Disney kid-friendly classic Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, however few have ever heard the dark Grimm’s’ version it’s originally based on. While Snow White & The Huntsman isn’t exactly the dark version some might have hoped for, it’s the closest thing to date. In Snow White & The Huntsman, we’re told a different, more mature version of the classic tale with a dark twist. In short; this is not your daddy’s Snow White!

Before I go forward with my breakdown on the film, I must make a confession: I was biasedly rooting against this film from the get-go. Yes, yes you’re probably asking yourself; Oh how a critic can hold a moral high ground and hold a biased opinion against a film!?! Well it’s easy.. I’ll let you in on a little secret; we’re all biased to some extent, especially the ones who claim they are not! Now with that being said, I rooted against the film for a number of reasons, more than I can remember on hand, but two sole reasons I was against it are: 1. I am not at all a fan of Kristen Stewart. I’ve always considered her an actress with wasted talent. She has the presence in her and the skill to be great (Panic Room was proof of that) but she wastes it all on terrible film choices like “Twilight.” It’s a role that always leaves her with a blank stare of zero emotion and total boredom, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, those films are sucking the dear life out of her!

The 2nd being; I was not at all pleased with some of the choices made by the production during filming. Like mirrored designs that were quite similar to other known franchises (the crest on Snow’s shield looks painfully a lot like the crest of Gondor from the LOTR series) or the fact this was going to be the second Snow White related film being released within just months of each other (the first being Mirror, Mirror). Which between the two would be the true film and which the pretender was yet to be seen. So yeah I was rooting against it to say the least.  Despite my low expectations and thoughts about it from the beginning, above all else, I waked in with an open mind.

To my surprise Snow White & the Huntsman turned out to be a very enjoyable film. I walked in expecting your typical “tween” flick since the Twihard fandom was obviously the targeted audience here, but I found SWATH surprisingly jammed packed with enough action and maturity in the storyline to appeal to a general movie going audience. The story is really nothing like any other Snow White film made to date; it’s dark, twisted and quite grim.  Like in past Snow White retellings, much of the evil queen’s agenda is left unknown to us.  Especially why she wants Snow dead so badly, other than the obvious, her birthright. Much like, but not entirely similar to the ABC show “Once Upon a Time,” in SWATH we’ve given a layered back story on why the queen must be the “fairest of them all” and what her true intentions are towards Snow White and how their fates, as well as the fate of the land itself, are linked to one and the other. As I stated earlier this is not your daddy’s Snow White; here we’re given a more harden Snow, one who has known nothing but pain and misery most of her childhood while locked away in the castle tower since the queen took over the kingdom. While a part of her still clings to her innocence, she is prepared to stand up and become the leader she was born to be and lead the remnant of those still loyal to the king ,who continue to fight on in hope of one day restoring the true hair to the throne.

Introducing the huntsman into the fold was interesting, but also worrisome. The huntsman is indeed a part of the classic Grimm’s tale and quite frankly this film would not be complete without him. However, I feared his part in the film may result in a love triangle with Snow and her childhood friend William, the Duke’s son, whom she may one day marry. The good guy and bad boy fighting over the same girl angle is such an overly used and tiresome cliché story point the studios like to work these days, and I personally have had enough of it with within the last 4 years with the Twilight films and Red Riding Hood to last a lifetime. Interestingly enough, while there is a romance developing between certain characters in the film, it doesn’t dwell too much on it however and plays a very minimal part in the film. Snow White isn’t fighting for love or a boyfriend; she’s fighting for her people and to avenge her father’s death.

Now the film isn’t perfect, far from it truth be told.  It’s got it’s flaws and some questionable aspects that left me a little confused. One in particular is that it’s established at the very beginning that this tale takes place in a mystical realm, as it always was meant to be, but the very first line muttered from Kristen Stewart’s mouth is the Lord’s Prayer. It felt a little awkward hearing it in this film seeing that its’ not taking place in our realm. Furthermore, Christianity plays a role in the overall theme, not shoved down your throat like some films do, but it’s clear they did this to appeal to a Christian fan base since it was diverse with so many different mystical creatures. However, I enjoyed the way they fit in all the classic elements of the classic story, except for the poison apple which I thought felt a tad bit rushed. However, looking upon the film as a whole, I’ll forgive that mishap.

As for the acting: Well this is where it got interesting for me. Why? Because as stated in the beginning of this review, I am NOT a Kristen Stewart fan, she’s played the same role in most of her films without even trying to broaden her horizon a bit performance wise. I blame the role of Bella for this, but she’s gotten too comfortable in the role of the damsel in distress waiting on a man to save her. And I’ve grown tired of this repeat role of hers. Now she’s no Rooney Mara and SWATH is certainly not TGWTDT (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) in comparison of breakout performances go, but Stewart did something here that surprised me greatly, she impressed me in her performance! Yes you read it write, she impressing in her performance. For once that drained emotionless look she normally gives worked and worked with a charm it did. We also see a side of her strength and determination, which is something I haven’t seen in her for a long time, and yes she smiles for a change too. If this is what playing Snow White does to her she ought to play more characters like this in the near future.

Now with that being said, while Stewart is the lead and this is a Snow White tale, Charlize Theron steals the movie with her performance as the evil queen Ravenna. She put emotion and drive into the role, and to some extent, she made you feel sorrow for the queen despite her evil ways. Chris Hemsworth did a great job as the Huntsman, but to be honest, it was incredibly hard seeing him in this, especially after seeing him appear as Thor in The Avengers a few weeks earlier. No matter how much I tried I kept picturing him as the mighty thunder god Thor. Sam Claflin performance as the Duke’s son William was fantastic; he played the part with conviction and was spot on. Sam Spruell’s deserves a special nod for his performance as Finn, right hand to the evil queen and her brother, he embraced the deviousness of the role. You loved to hate him almost from the get-go, yet a part of you can’t help but feel a little sympathy for his character since he only does what his sister wills. Now unlike the classic tale with only seven dwarfs, SWATH has eight dwarfs, who were presented unlike they’ve ever been before being played by: Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, and Brian Gleeson. Yes all full size actors playing dwarfs and CGI’d down to size using top quality special effects that were barely noticeable.

Finale Say: Snow White & the Huntsman may have its flaws and is not a exact adaptation of the Grimm’s tale, it’s dark atmospheric tone help make the most of its PG-13 rating. This twisted retelling of a classic tale proved to be quite enjoying from start to finish. I highly recommend.

C.H.E.W.I.E. Award Winners! [1/4]

Ladies and Gentlemen, readers and fellow movie buffs! Welcome to the 1st annual “Critic’s Honorable Entertainment Winners In Excellence Awards,” AKA The C.H.E.W.I.E. Awards!

Several months ago, our hardworking writing team assembled and began efforts on what would soon be TCW’s very first annual awards show, featuring staff nominated content in multiple categories spanning the entertainment venue, in both mainstream and indie genres. The process of nomination was both anonymous and equally respectful to all aspects of film. And though the process of nomination was strictly handled by our writing staff, the voting process itself was open to all readers and members of our website. And now, after a month of voting; we are proud to deliver to you the results of our awards show in a four-part “Winners Announcement” segment. Thank you for your support and your votes, we hope you enjoy the results of our C.H.E.W.I.E. awards.

PART 1


THE WOMAN

RUNNER UPS:
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Red State
Chillerama
Red, White, & Blue
Insidious


WHAT THEY SAY

RUNNER UPS:
The Secret Friend
Doll Boy
Izak’s Choice


THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

RUNNER UPS:
Straw Dogs
Martha Marcy May Marlene
We Need to Talk About Kevin



DRIVE

RUNNER UPS:
Transformers 3: Dark of The Moon
Fast Five
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows
Hobo With a Shotgun

Part 2 of Our First Annual C.H.E.W.I.E. Awards: Click Here