Tag Archives: Movie Review

Rare Exports (2010)

DIRECTOR Jalmari Halander
STARRING Tommi Korpela, Per Christian Ellefsen, Jorma Tommila, Jonathan Hutchings, Onni Tommila, Risto Salmi, Peeter Jakobi
RELEASE DATE September 24th, 2010
RUNTIME 82 Minutes

A young boy named Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his friend Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää) think a secret mountain drilling project near their home in northern Finland has uncovered the tomb of Santa Claus. However, this a monstrous, evil Santa, much unlike the cheery St. Nick of legend. When Pietari’s father (Jorma Tommila) captures a feral old man (Peeter Jakobi) in his wolf trap, the man may hold the key to why reindeer are being slaughtered and children are disappearing.

I am often asked what my favorite Christmas movie is. The answer—surprisingly—is It’s a Wonderful Life. I know, I know, it’s unfathomable that my favorite is not a horror movie. I can save this though, there are in fact only two films I have watched every Christmas break for the last few years. One is It’s a Wonderful Life, the other is Rare Exports. This little slice of Amblin-esque goodness is an all time great Christmas flick and an just an all time favorite of mine in general.

So there you have it, an intriguing synopsis that offers basically nothing! Here is my take, this is one of the most unique Christmas horror film—maybe ever!—because it doesn’t take you by the hand. It leaves a lot left to the imagination, from filling the backstory of the town where our protagonist, young Pietari, to the true nature of the beast trapped inside that mountain. It tells an emotionally charged story that feels lived in and real. It’s also completely foreign, hailing from Finland. I suppose I could have led with that. Yes, this is a foreign film replete with subtitles and all that jazz. After 10 viewings I can say that it is emotionally complex with beautifully created characters-a film about brave mach men learning how to be softer and children growing up in a hard and unforgiving world learning how to be brave.

The story follows Pietari and his father, a widower who is scrounging out a living wrangling reindeer once a year with his fellow townsfolk. Meanwhile, a crew is excavating a nearby mountain. It becomes clear that they have found something when a series of disasters plague the town, first something kills the reindeer and then a number of children go missing, vanishing without a trace. Whatever took the kids left twisted wooden replicas in their place. Things get truly strange when Pietari and his father find an old naked man impaled on a stake in a deadfall trap built to catch wolves. The man looks like Santa Claus, but as we soon learn there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye.

Still here? Good. So if you’re still here you want to know what makes Rare Exports so damn good it’s worth watching every year alongside a Frank Capra masterpiece? It’s a lot of things, I guess. It’s the originality and imagination of the film. It’s the childlike wonder that it exudes from every frame. It captures my mind in a way that few movies can, and with every viewing I find more to love about the film, a detail here and there or perhaps something I forgot and am delighted to remember. There are very few films that do this for me, and I will always revisit the ones that do. It’s the characters. Tough as nails, but sweet as can be. They band together when the going gets tough and it is a joy to watch them attempt to save their town and their livelihoods by returning Santa to the mountain where they are certain he came from and claim a reward from the men who dug him up. The only problem is that the thing they found in the woods isn’t Santa, but one of its helpers.

It’s that plot twist that might make this movie absolutely sublime. The pure Lovecraftian presentation of Santa Claus in this film is astounding. We never see him, just his towering form trapped in the ice. His servants are frantically trying to wake him from the ice, gathering all the lights and heating units they can find, and are prepping for his arrival by stocking the larder full of children to eat. Here we have an ancient god of sorts, a beast so fierce and terrifying and insatiable it had be lured into a volcano and frozen deep inside of it just to contain it. I love this and I love the film’s assertion of the place of man in the face of the supernatural. The men from the village who help to rescue the children and save the day? They cut the horns off the head of the great beast and blow him up using an excessive amount of blasting materials. The film shows that—in contrast to other films or stories dealing with these large god-type beings returning to life—the men have control over the situation, that they are allowed to be brave in the face of horror and that they can overcome said horror if they work hard enough. I like that a lot. 

In the end, that message—the one that says no matter how bad things get, all is not lost—is a perfect way to end the film. There are eleven other months in which to be bleak and sad and to exist in perpetual state of existential innue, but for this month maybe try something a little more uplifting. To that end, I hope you give Rare Exports a shot or a revisit. It’s worth it. 

Bad Blood: The Movie (2016)

STARRING Mary Malloy, Vikas Adam, Troy Halverson
DISTRIBUTOR Level 33 Entertainment
RELEASE DATE April 1st, 2016
RUNTIME 80 Minutes
COUNTRY United States

A classic werewolf flick with an amphibious twist; it’s a race against time to find the antidote.

Horror fans have been watching the exploits of werewolves on the silver screen for almost 100 years. We’ve experienced them in their earliest screen appearances in films such as Universal’s Werewolf of London and The Wolf Man, and have stayed fascinated by them all the way up to current day lycanthrope-based cinematic excursions such as HowlLate Phases, and Wolfcop. But what about those other human/animal hybrids that are born from the light of a full moon? Surely, they deserve their moment in the celluloid spotlight, right?

That brings us to Bad Blood, the new “were-frog” movie from writer/director Tim Reis, producer of 2013’s The Demon’s Rook and co-producer of 2015’s The Mind’s Eye. Yes, I did say “were-frog”! Half man, half amphibious monstrosity. Well, in this case, a half-woman/half-amphibious creature, capably designed by effects artist James Sizemore.

However, the biggest question regarding Bad Blood isn’t whether or not the effects hold up or if the story makes any sense, but whether or not the film is ultimately ruined by too much being revealed in its trailer. The answer? No. All of it is ruined.

College student Victoria (Mary Malloy) has returned home to stay with her mother after taking a break from pursuing her degree. Unfortunately, the respite may not be as relaxing as she had hoped. Mom has since remarried to Wade (Brian Troxell), an angry, judgmental guy who seems just a little too stereo-typically like your stereotypical jerk of a step-dad. You’ve seen this guy 8,000 times before in other films.

Also added to Victoria’s “new” family is Wade’s young son, Wade Jr.. The name alone tells you that this kid will be just as unlikable as his “old man”, if not more so. To help convey this sentiment, Wade Jr. is portrayed as a pudgy, candy-faced, spoiled, little backstabbing shit. You’ve seen this kid before too, although maybe not as many times as his Dad.

As you might expect, Wade doesn’t buy Victoria’s claim of “needing a break”, and instead believes that Victoria is just too concerned with partying to focus on school. His suspicions prove to be correct when she steals his car to go out with a friend. Adding to her growing list of poor judgement calls, she also stops to buy gas with Wade’s credit card, also presumably taken from him without permission. That said, her offenses won’t really matter much as there are apparently no police anywhere in this town.

Even early on, most of the characters and dialogue feels far too broad and cookie-cutter to be taken very serious. However, Victoria’s poor friend doesn’t get the chance to establish much of a personality before being ripped to shreds by a creature lurking on the gas station’s roof. The creature then turns its attention to Victoria, ripping open her face and throat before being brought down with a chemical-filled syringe fired dart-like into its throat. Victoria is dragged away as she loses consciousness.

The story picks back up one month later, Victoria still missing. A detective (Troy Halverson), hired by her parents, links her disappearance, as well as a string of recent murders, to the gas station. He has also discovered that the shady looking attendant is actually a disgraced scientist, as well as the “coincidence” that all of these murders and disappearances seem to occur on the night of a full moon. Despite all of these connections, he attributes everything to a drug cult and not lycanthropy. Frogcanthropy? However, his failure to spot the obvious is due less to ineptitude than it is his blossoming psychopathic tendencies.

Halverson provides the stand-out performance in the film, displaying the capability of being comedic and threatening in the same scene. His role is also the most developed, which is an odd choice when you consider that he should really be one of the least essential character in a film that has “family drama” as its biggest sub-plot.

Victoria is revealed to be alive and hiding out in the nearby woods. She is fully aware of the attack she suffered… as well as the side-effects of the ordeal. In her absence, she has been secretly meeting with the gas station scientist in order to obtain a serum that helps prevent the transformation process. Her departure is witnessed by the detective, who “retrieves” her at gunpoint and returns her home.

Now convinced that she is nothing more than a junkie, Wade searches Victoria’s belongings and steals her last vial of serum.  This leads to the obligatory confrontation with Wade, in which he briefly displays a totally expected abusive side. He barricades Victoria in her bedroom to sweat out “whatever she is on”.

This, of course, leads to the film’s selling point, as well as its biggest attribute: a full-on monster rampage filled with geysers of blood and more than a few randomly strewn internal organs. The transformation sequence is nice and gooey, which compliments the finished creature design. The fountains of blood and (acceptably hokey looking) body parts help make up for the deficiencies in character development and dialog, as well as plot holes big enough to lead Rubber Duck and the rest of the convoy through.

Regrettably, if you’ve watched the trailer, you no longer have any reason to watch the full film. Everything is in the trailer. EVERYTHING. Every single “moment” is revealed for you, thus leaving the film with nothing in the line of surprises or suspense. The film is then forced to plod along to its conclusion, which doesn’t match the fun or shock of the now-spoiled moments that preceded it.

Don’t come out of this review thinking that Bad Blood is an awful film. It’s not. It’s not a great film by any means, but it undeniably provides a solid dose of bloody monster madness with a healthy touch of camp. It’s fun, which seems to be the filmmaker’s ultimate goal. Unfortunately, there’s just no looking past the fact that most of that “madness” can be contained within a 2 minute trailer.

Evilspeak (1989)

DIRECTOR Eric Weston
STARRING Clint Howard, R.G. Armstrong, Joseph Cortese, Claude Earl Jones
RELEASE DATE February 26, 1982
RUNTIME 89 min.
COUNTRY United States

The clumsy military cadet Stanley Coopersmith is orphan and completely outcast in the West Andover Academy. He is frequently abused and humiliated by four despicable mates, and has a bad treatment from his teachers, the coach, the colonel and even from the local reverend. When Coopersmith finds a book of black mass that belonged to the evil medieval Father Esteban, he uses a computer to conjure Satan and revenge his harassers.

The term “acquired taste” could never apply more appropriately than it does for this film but there is something intriguing about this “video nasty” that separates it from films such as ”Cannibal Holocaust” or “The Driller Killer.” This film is not necessarily concerned with nudity or gore (don’t worry it’s still in there though), but more with grotesque imagery that makes you feel nauseous such as the violent hordes of swine and some vile scenes that hold up to Cronenberg and Fulci. Rather than being concerned with obvious plot incoherence and Clint Howard’s awkward acting, along with his awkward toupee, we must be concerned with the film as a whole as it defines an era of horror that was pushing the limits on censorship.

The film opens with a satanic ritual on the shores of Spain during the dark ages and after our first swift cut decapitation scene, which transitions perfectly to a soccer ball getting kicked at a school game, we are introduced to our main character Stanley Coopersmith. Stanley is a classic archetype of a social outcast and the epitome of “uncool,” not even the instructors like this kid. Stanley is an orphan at a prestigious military academy and is constantly harassed by his classmates. After Stanley is punished for no reason and sent to clean the cellar he uncovers something sinister: the diary of the evil “Estaban!” Estaban was the leader of the satanic cult we see in the opening scene. Once Stanley begins to translate the Latin writings of Estaban to English with the school lab computer he opens a new gate for hell to break loose.

The movie bears a strong resemblance to the plot of Stephen King’s Carrie as Stanley is driven by vengeance for the mistreatment he has endured by his classmates and instructors. Films like this are particularly disturbing because they show us how cruel people can be and how vengeance and retribution can be an even crueler as a consequence, especially if brought on by the dark lord himself. What makes this film interesting is that the goofy hero becomes a powerful agent of what we consider the most exalted form of evil…Satan.

The film contains some really horrific, and at times humorous scenes, such as a man being thrown upward only to be impaled by an iron spike chandelier and Clint Howard flying through a chapel with a medieval sword bearing a pentagram slaughtering all that oppose. There is also a specific scene that is unique for the time period only to be described as a “Satanic Tron” scene. A glitchy sequence with neon colored pentagrams and a pixelated face of Estaban.  Coupled with the 80’s style hard hitting synth bass and chants of a satanic choir reminiscent of “Ave Satani” from the omen we are carried to a very memorable climax makes the whole movie worth the watch. One will come to understand why this film became branded an infamous “video nasty.”

So give yourself credit because if you can sit through this film and enjoy it, you’ve come a long way as a horror fan. Something we need to understand is that we should never take our love of the genre so seriously. These films aren’t looking for Oscars, they are looking to offend, repulse, disgust, and ultimately…create horror! We can all agree that there are films that are defining and groundbreaking, but what about the films that carried the essence of horror through the decades in obscurity, only to continue to keep the foundation alive when censors were trying to shut down the art form altogether. Regardless of all opinion, “Evilspeak.” is eclectic part of the genre and a top “video nasty” that deserves at least one watch in your lifetime. I WILL RETURN!