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19.7.14

Ragdoll (1999)



Director: Ted Nicolaou
Starring: Russell Richardson, Jennia Watson, Tarnell Poindexter, Bill Davis, Danny Wooten, William Johnson, Troy Medley, Frederick D. Tucker, Freda Payne
Rated R   90 minutes

Charles Band strikes again with another of his killer puppets. This time it’s a voodoo-themed revenge story set against a musical backdrop. Kwame (Russell Richardson) and his friends are in an up-and-coming hip-hop group. They are approached by ruthless gangster named Pere who makes them an offer they can’t refuse: let him become their manager, or else. Frustrated and angry, Kwame publicly refuses the offer and insults Pere in the process. To show that he means business, Pere sends his thugs over to beat up Kwame’s voodoo priestess grandma (Freda Payne). Despite his grandma’s warning that placing a curse on a person always has unintended consequences, Kwame performs a ritual to get revenge on Pere and his henchmen. He winds up summoning the mysterious Shadow Man, who brings a creepy-looking ragdoll to life and unleashes it on Kwame’s enemies.




 If you’ve ever seen a Full Moon production before, then you already know what to expect. RAGDOLL is no exception. It is technically well-made with passable acting and and a fluff storyline that ultimately serves as a vehicle for some sort of puppet or creature. This time it’s the pretty wild-looking ragdoll (created by Shaun Smith and David Barton). Imagine Aunt Jemima crossed with the Zuni fetish doll from TRILOGY OF TERROR, and that will give you some idea about what this thing looks like. The doll has the power to appear and disappear at any time and in any place, which leads to several very funny attack scenes.






 Director Ted Nicolaou does a good job of not showing too much of the (obvious) puppet, and actually manages to keep the element of surprise working in the film’s favor. The rest of the movie is fairly ho-hum. The cast is unremarkable, with the exception of William Stanford Davis as the gangster Pere and James Black as Lil’ Mikey. At least, I think it’s James Black. The credits give the name “Tarnell Poindexter,” while other sources say James Black. In any case, he gives a very fun, standout performance as the flamboyant and fabulous gang enforcer, Lil’ Mikey. There are also lots of musical performances to pad out the running time, but you’ll probably just fast forward through them to get to the ragdoll attack scenes. Not the worst Full Moon movie out there, but far from the best, as well.


17.7.14

Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror (2006)


Director: Stacy Title
Starring: Snoop Dogg, Anson Mount, Danny Trejo, Billy Dee Williams, Ernie Hudson
Rated R

Here we have an horror anthology with an urban twist, that originally ran as part of the After Dark “Eight Films to Die For” series. Our host is Snoop Dogg, who stars as a demonic pimp in a flashy suit. Surrounded by a group of provocatively dressed "hell hoes" and a  demon midget, Mr. Dogg provides the introduction for a trio of stories that all feature a revenge theme.

In the first story, a young woman is haunted by the murder of her parents. One day she meets an evil hobo (Danny Trejo) who gives her a tattoo that grants the woman a magical power: she can vanquish her enemies by painting over their graffiti. Yes, it’s a weird power. There are a couple gory kills in this one, including a character killed with a 40 oz. bottle rammed through the head. This one was probably the most entertaining on account of some great practical make-up effects by Vincent Guastini.

The second story takes place in a rest home occupied by a group of elderly black war vets. All of them served under a white soldier, who later struck it rich and made sure that his black war buddies lived in comfort for the rest of their days. He dies, and decides to teach a lesson to his no-good, racist son. In order to collect on his inheritance, the son (Anson Mount) must live with the old black vets for one year. Things don’t go very well. Anson Mount stars as the ridiculously over-the-top racist son. Mount's performance is second only to William Sanderson's character in FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE in the movie racist hall of fame. Along with his sexy redneck girlfriend (Brande Roderick), they drive the old vets to their breaking point. When one of the old soldiers dies, the vets exact a bloody revenge. This very silly and annoying segment was written by Tim Sullivan (DRIFTWOOD, 2000 MANIACS remake).

The final tale is a fairly routine gangsta-betrays-his-homies-for-rap-success story. It’s pretty boring, and features some zombie gangstas, lots of rapping, and a weird cameo by Jason Alexander. Thankfully, it’s also the shortest of the three stories, and kind of feels like it was thrown in to pad out the running time. Diamond Dallas Page also has a small part as "Jersey." This is (thankfully) the shortest segment in the movie.

 

 I generally like horror anthologies, even though they are usually wildly inconsistent. HOOD OF HORROR, sadly, doesn’t have much good to talk about. I appreciated the old school blood and latex effects, and I thought the animated intro was a nice touch. As a horror host, Snoop Dogg is no Crypt Keeper, and his pimp shtick doesn’t exactly enhance the overall experience. This is one of those movies where they would have benefited by making it as gory and outrageous as possible, but they went a more mundane route instead. You’ve got demon pimps, hell hoes, and a solid special effects guy. What went wrong?


16.7.14

Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief (2014)


Directed by Pablo D'Stair
Starring Carlyle Edwards, Helen Bonaparte, Goodloe Byron, Laura Anne Walling, Adam Grayson, Toby Jacobs, Carlos Gonzalez-Fernandez
Running time: 60 minutes
http://pdstairfilms.wordpress.com/

Leo (Carlyle Edwards) and Lana (Helen Bonaparte) are a couple whose troubled relationship experiences a new complication when a stranger (Goodloe Byron) claiming to be Lana's first husband appears. This kicks off a chain of events which ends with Lana missing, and Leo being forced to reveal a few secrets of his own.

DOCTOR, LAWYER, INDIAN CHIEF is writer/director Pablo D'Stair's second movie released in 2014. Like its predecessor, A PUBLIC RANSOM, the story is a slow building mystery with characters who get themselves into dark situations by their own actions. What's most interesting here is how much D'Stair has grown as a filmmaker. DOCTOR is a much stronger film than his debut. The story is tighter, the camera is more active, and the performance of Carlyle Edwards is a bit more restrained. There are some wonderfully composed shots here that make the movie interesting to look at, particularly in the scene where Leo confronts his two-time mistress, Fiona (Laura Anne Walling).

There's also some D'Stair trademarks beginning to emerge: great music (this time by Bellflur and The Sad Little Stars), lots of smoking, and Goodloe Byron playing a mysterious troublemaker. D'Stair is becoming more and more adept at this brand of  "minimalist" film making, and his troop of actors are evolving along with the material. It will be interesting to see what they can pull off with more resources at their disposal.

Check it out for free here:

 http://pdstairfilms.wordpress.com/



The Maid (2005)


Director: Kelvin Tong
Starring: Alessandra de Rossi, Huifang Hong, Shucheng Chen, Benny Soh
Running time: 93 min.
Released by Tartan Video

A young woman named Rosa (Alessandra de Rossi) leaves her family in the Philippines to take a job as a maid for a family in Singapore. Mr. and Mrs. Teo, her new employers, greet her warmly and explain to her that she has arrived during "Hungry Ghost Month". According to superstition, this is the month that the gates of hell are opened, allowing the dead to walk among the living. The Teo's leave offerings for the dead, and warn their new maid to be aware during the month, the ghosts are all around and need to be respected. Being a foreigner in a new culture, it is not long before Rosa has done something to upset the ghosts. She is menaced by frightening apparitions, and begins to suspect that her seemingly benevolent hosts may be hiding something.

 THE MAID was touted as “Singapore’s first horror movie,” and was a huge hit in that country. It certainly is a good movie from a technical point-of-view. It’s a great looking production, with several eerie moments and some well-executed jolts. Unfortunately, the movie feels like one we’ve seen many times before. THE MAID is content to emulate the many Asian horror outings that came before it. It lacks any unique quality to set it apart from its peers. That’s too bad, because the film has the potential to be so much more.