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Psychotica (2010)

Director: Jonathan Wright
Starring: Megan Hutchings, Mike Webster, Aimee Feler, Christian Bako
Not Rated, 79 minutes

After witnessing one of their friends commit a very gory suicide, a group of heroin addicts decide to get clean. They agree to venture out to a secluded house in the country where they will be unable to access any more drugs, but only after making one last score to enjoy opium bliss for the final time. Their sleazy dealer gives them a freebie -- a little baggie of blue heroin that's just hit the streets. What they don't know is this is no ordinary heroin -- it is a government-engineered super smack intended to end the War on Drugs once and for all by causing users to kill themselves. Problem is, it turns them into homicidal maniacs instead. While the junkies are settling down for their last ride on the horse, a murderous doctor with government ties is looking for the group, and killing anyone who happens to be in his way.

It's hard to point to a single element that dooms PSYCHOTICA (aka NOSTRUM). It's a dark and ugly looking movie filled with unsympathetic characters acting out a dumb story. Aside from a visually interesting moment or tow, it's predictable, and worst of all, incredibly dull.

1.5 out of 5.


Carrie (2013)

Director: Kimberly Peirce
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday
Rated R, 100 minutes

 With remakes coming each decade, Stephen King's classic novel CARRIE is moving into folk lore territory. It's not hard to see why; the twisted coming-of-age/revenge tale has universal appeal because we've all known a Carrie White, and we've all witnessed some degree of the high school cruelty she was subjected to.

With the exception of a bloody birthing scene as the prologue, the 2013 remake remains fairly true to the source material, in both the King novel and the 1976 Brian de Palma film. Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz, LET ME IN) is a socially awkward and shy girl being raised by her religious fanatic mother (Julianne Moore). After suffering a dehumanizing and humiliating experience in the locker room showers, Carrie earns the sympathies of her gym teacher Miss Desjardin (Judy Greer), who comes to Carrie's defense and punishes the girls involved,by demanding they go through a boot camp-style after school detention. Mean girl Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) refuses and is kicked out of school, while her co-conspirator Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) begins to regret her participation and tries to make amends by convincing her boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom.  Through all of this, Carrie has been coming to terms with the telekinetic powers she possesses, powers which have led her mother to believing her daughter is a witch. As the fateful night nears, Chris and her equally unlikable boyfriend, Billy, conspire to set Carrie up for the ultimate prom night humiliation.

Despite being faithful, there are a number of huge problems with this newest incarnation of CARRIE. The first being the star: Chloe Grace Moretz. Woefully miscast as the troubled and emotional scarred teen outcast, Moretz lacks the weirdness and the vulnerability needed to portray Carrie White. In her defense there aren't many who could touch Sissy Spacek's role-defining performance in the 1976 film. Whereas Spacek brought a naivete and all-around oddness that sold the movie, Moretz doesn't have the edge or the fragility needed to be to a convincing Carrie. Julianne Moore and the rest of the cast are fine, but without a strong central performance, none of it amounts to much.

Even worse, the film's legendary climax, in which Carrie launches all-out psychic warfare against the bastards who mocked her, is made laughable by some ridiculous choices by director Kimberly Peirce. In order to avoid spoilers, I won't reveal them here, but I will say that Peirce demonstrates that she is utterly clueless in handling this material. Top it off with some very unfortunate CGI, and you have a finale that's more likely to provoke laughter than thrills.

This version of CARRIE plays more like a business decision than an organic project. While it attempts to update the clothing, the music, and the special effects, it fails completely at imbuing any of it with the feeling and shocks of the original. In the end, like most of the contemporary horror remakes, it's completely pointless.

2 out of 5.


XTRO (1982)

Director: Harry Bromley Davenport
Starring: Philip Sayer, Bernice Stegers, Danny Brainin, Maryam d'Abo, Simon Nash
Rated R, 84 minutes

The success of ALIEN spawned a slew of knockoffs, but perhaps none were as bonkers as this. XTRO is about a boy who witnesses his father being kidnapped by aliens. Of course, his mother doesn't believe him, and prefers to think that her husband simply abandoned the family. Several years pass, Mom (Bernice Stegers, MACABRE) has taken up with a live-in boyfriend (Philip Brianin), hired a sexy and hot-to-trot French nanny (Maryam d'Abo). Yet son Tony (Simon Nash) still believes his dad is living in the stars, and will one day return.

And he does, in grand fashion. An alien creature lands on earth and attaches a face hugger-style tentacle to a woman's face, and badda bing, badda boom, Dad is reborn in perhaps the screen's most painful, and bloodiest, birth sequence. From there, the film just gets crazier. Dad returns home and seriously disrupts life for all involved, and before its over, the son will be slowly turned into an alien, Maryam d'Abo will get naked, and toys will come to life and kill.

No plot description could ever capture the sheer lunacy on display here. Writer/director Harry Bromley Davenport apparently decided if he couldn't compete with ALIEN in terms of style and execution, he would just go nuts instead. As a result, XTRO is a complete mess of half-baked ideas and non-sequitirs. It feels like ideas for several movies hodge podged into one, and ends up playing like a long weird dream. While there's no known measurement that could qualify it as a "good" movie, it's definitely not a boring one. XTRO's kitchen sink approach to space weirdness must be seen to be believed.

2.5 out of 5.