Something about Shrooms…?

one way trip 3d 2011

ONE WAY TRIP

2 Stars  2011/86m

“They wanted the ultimate kick – they got it.”

Director: Markus Welter / Writers: Matthias Bauer & Bastian Zach / Cast: Sabrina Reiter, Matthias Britschgi, Simon Kaser, Harry Lampl, Melanie Winiger, Herbert Lesier, Isabelle Barth, Tanja Raunig, Aaron Hitz, Martin Loos.

Body Count: 7


Bluntly, if you’ve seen Shrooms, you’ve seen this. But this one has 3D. And is all in German.

Yeah, that’s right… despite the title (no regional title) and all the credits being in English, since its production in 2011, nobody has bothered cobbling together a subtitle track for One Way Trip, so I had to fall back on my remedial German skills to try and follow the plot. Not too difficult as it turned out. Beware spoilers

Six young adults drive their gorgeous VW T2 – for the first time ever, the same colour scheme as mine!!! – into the Swiss forests to look for a seasonal mushroom with hallucinogenic properties. On route they encounter a particularly unpleasant farmer, shooting wildlife, and his starey daughter, get a flat, and pick up a stranded couple at the garage. Why they were stranded I don’t know, my translation skills failed me.

one way trip 2011

Tents up, shrooms located, the group enjoy their respective trips until Timo is attacked or injured (hard to tell) and needs medical attention. Oh look, a storm is coming in too! Evidently phones don’t work and the drive back to help is further than the farm they locate on their map, so they trek through the rain there.

Nobody is home, so the group sets up in the creepy old house until the nasty old farmer from before pops up. Meanwhile, the usual reasons to go outside crop up and it’s not long before people start dying at the hands of the scarred daughter: One guy is suspended upside down by chains, gagged, has hosiery pulled over his face and then knifed in the eye, there’s a decapitation, a fall on to an iron fence, burning, blades in the back…

Obvious final girl Valerie appears to be the last dame standing, although a couple of the others have just vanished, and she fights with Psycho Farmer in some outside pit.

one way trip 2011

Then we get the twist. Pretty much the same twist as Shrooms, albeit involving more folks. Perhaps some dialogue would’ve made things more obvious, but I was pretty sure that about half the party tripped out to the extent they decided to kill everyone and, well, that’s all folks.

Well made – though the obv. 3D shots are infrequent – with some nice scenery early on, above average production merits and a good chase scene, but it seemed to reach its climax so suddenly I half expected a twenty minute in-hospital epilogue. Perhaps I should re-learn German and watch it again. The most common criticism in other reviews is that the cast all speak the ‘generic’ form of German, rather than dialects more common to the area where the characters are supposed to hail from.

Blurb-of-interest: Sabrina Reiter was also the lead in Dead in 3 Days.

“Come to Brazil!!!1!11!!”

turistas 2006

TURISTAS

3 Stars  2006/18/90m

“Go home.”

A.k.a. Paradise Lost

Director: John Stockwell / Writer: Michael Arlen Ross / Cast: Josh Duhumel, Melissa George, Olivia Wilde, Desmond Askew, Max Brown, Beau Garrett, Agles Steib, Miguel Lunardi.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “Hello mate, here’s your dead nephew and, by the way, you’re out of Scotch.”


I went off backpacking the year Turistas came out, five months starting in Bangkok, into Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, India, Nepal, Malaysia, and Indonesia. I picked up this film at one of those DVD outlets in Kathmandu and before I got chance to watch it, had a conversation with some Australian girls who’d just watched Hostel before coming away on their gap year trip. A few spoilers follow.

This tamer, xenophobic rip-off of Hostel is, at least, notable for its beautiful scenery, and was filmed entirely on location in Brazil, where teen backpacking gal-pals Bea and Amy are chaperoned by Bea’s tightly-wound older brother Alex on their trip.

On a particularly frantic bus ride to their next destination, Alex’s concern for the welfare of all aboard is proven right when the vehicle skids off the road and teeters of the side of a steep drop. Everyone flees just in time as the bus rolls down. It’s almost Final Destination worthy. Recovering their luggage etc., the trio befriend solo Australian backpacker Pru, who speaks enough Portuguese to glean that the replacement bus is 10 hours away, and British buddies Finn and Liam.

turistas 2006

The group find their way to a beautiful beach bar, lark around in the ocean, try new drinks, play soccer with the kids, and party the night away, waking in the morning to find all of their stuff has been stolen, including shoes, and the Swedish couple they’d been chatting to are also gone. We already know the barmaid called a mystery number and told the person at the other end she had eight gringos in. We also know the Swedes are dead, taken away by a group of hired guns.

Stranded with nothing but the clothes they’re in, the group walks into the local town where they meet up with Kiko, who was asking them personal questions the previous evening. He volunteers to guide them to a house in the jungle where they can get the assistance they need, in lieu of the police station they can’t find.

turistas 2006

On route, they stop for a dip in beautiful water and Kiko shows them some partially submerged caves, which will come in handy later, but he then cracks his head open showing off his diving skills, leaving the group to take him the rest of the way to the house, despite his feeble protests against going.

At the house, they stitch Kiko together and find lots of international medication, passports, and various belongings and eventually bed down before being woken by the arrival of a helicopter in the night. Scary men come in and they’re soon caged up outside, while lead bad guy Zamora takes Amy and Finn away to harvest their organs in ‘payment’ for rich Americans coming to Brazil for years when they can’t be fucked to wait for legitimate donors back home.

Outside, the others manage to free themselves and stage a prison break, killing one of the guards and saving a sedated Finn from the operating table and then making a run for it into the forest with a remorseful Kiko’s help.

turistas 2006

More of the group die (usually by gunfire) and the final few have to recall their sub-aquatic tour to find a way out. The underwater scenes are beautifully shot but the sequence drags on until the predictable showdown with the Big Bad.

Turistas doesn’t have Hostel‘s bloodlust or Wolf Creek‘s unrelenting sense of hopelessness, thanks in part to the singular operating scene being practical rather than stabby or gory, but this also impacts the threat to the other characters. We only see one girl on the table, the one who showed her boobs and had the least lines, and most other people are killed off camera, shot, or, in one case, get a skewer in the eye. Ouch.

Much fuss was made of the representation of Brazil and its citizens, for which lead actor Duhamel apologised on TV (and the film tanked in the US anyway). However, aside from these lazy stereotypes, the backpackers barely do any better: The Swedish couple utter about four lines before they’re killed, the British guys are textbook football hooligan types who only want sex and beer and sound like they work on a Camden market stall, leaving boring siblings Alex and Bea (you know they’ll survive) and Pru, who comes off the best thanks to Melissa George’s appeal, although in the original script she too was to die because, you know, only American lives matter.

turistas 2006

This was the most annoying facet of Turistas, its inherent laziness when it came to characters, almost none of whom elicit any sympathy, just look great in skimpy clothing, but it scrapes a pass for its scenic backdrops, which make for a pleasant diversion from the usual farm or abandoned building. Most importantly, don’t let it put you off travelling, I’ve encountered more dodgy situations in the western nations than I ever have abroad.

Blurbs-of-interest: Desmond Askew was in No Man’s Land: Rise of the Reeker and The Hills Have Eyes remake.

L’ascension et la mauvais tournant

high lane vertige 2009

VERTIGÉ

3.5 Stars  2009/15/81m

A.k.a. High Lane

Director: Abel Ferry / Writers: Johanne Bernard, Louis-Paul Desanges, Ludovic du Clary / Cast: Fanny Valette, Raphael Lenglet, Johan Libereau, Nicolas Giraud, Maud Wyler, Justin Blanckaert.

Body Count: 7


Europe. Vast continent of a gazillion cultures, ever expanding (unless you’ve made a total fucking embarrassment of yourself by voting to leave it), and, for outsiders, possible home to assembly line killer hostels, schizophrenic lesbian maniacs, and invincible mountain men. Spoilers follow.

Vertigé, titled High Lane everywhere but its homeland of France, arrives looking like a combo of Cliffhanger, Wrong TurnWolf Creek, and The Descent. Only these kids climb rather than pot-hole, so technically The Ascent.

Set in the Croatian mountains (but filmed in the French Alps), we meet a quintet of thrill seekers: Fred and his girlfriend Karine, their friend Chloe and her new climbing-virgin boyfriend Loic, and the fifth wheel who turned up at the last minute, Chloe’s hunky ex Guillaume. Tension much?

vertige high lane 2009

They drive out to the Risnjak mountains, singing along to Supergrass, and find the trail is closed for maintenance, but decide to give it a go anyway. Loic’s vertigo almost gets the better of him, much to Guillaume’s amusement, but it’s not long before their problems get serious when the cable bridge they have to cross begins to disintegrate while Karine is still making her way over in some mini-Final Destination way. Once it completely falls away, they’re only choice is to go forward to reach a zip-wire that takes them back down.

Further along their route, they find the safety line has snapped and so Fred and Karine free-climb to the top to secure a rope, while Loic takes a tumble and has to be rescued by his nemesis. This is further thwarted when Fred walks into a bear trap and is dragged away by a mysterious off-screen figure.

vertige high lane 2009

As the daylight fades and Fred cannot be found, it becomes clear that they’re not alone when Chloe falls down a hole filled with stakes, and then Karine is shot with an arrow and dragged off into the night. The love triangle are forced to work together to find their missing friends and stumble upon a cabin where naked Fred is laid out on a table and some rare frontal male nudity is fleetingly thrown in – hey, this is France, home of the nude beach!

As all manner of backwoods films have taught us, entering ‘the terrible place’ only succeeds in meeting the killer close up: Brutal fights and double-crossings ensue, cowardice rears its ugly head, and people are tied up ready to be butchered, clued in by the number of decapitated heads found in the cellar.

vertige high lane 2009

Vertigé distinguishes itself by toying with character motivations as it goes on – nobody can be completely trusted and the predictable showdown between Chloe and the woodsman is satisfyingly raw as they beat the crap out each other vying for survival. Unfortunately, the intermittent flashbacks to the-bad-thing-that-haunts-her result in a twist you can see coming as soon as she hobbles away from the scene. It’s kinda amusing in a dark way, but undermines the quality of the film until this point by clunking in that ol’ devil that forever plagues the genre – stupid decision making.

Euro-slashers tend to impress me due to the general extra effort that appears to go into the art of the filmmaking itself: Beautiful scenery, characters not so cut n’ dried that you’re able to assign numbers as to their probable order of demise, and clichés that appear more innocent beyond American shores, because the genre is not as culturally ingrained.

vertige high lane 2009

Vertigé is no exception to this: It’s a tour of everything we’ve seen before over and over, but comes with a cultural freshness often absent in cynical US box-ticking exports (where self-proclaimed genre fans cry like babies if there’s not enough T&A), possibly due to that mountain air.

Valley of the Mid-Range Franchises: HOLLOW MAN

hollow man 2000HOLLOW MAN

4 Stars  2000/18/112m

“Think you’re alone? Think again.”

Director: Paul Verhoeven / Writers: Gary Scott Thompson & Andrew W. Marlowe / Cast: Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, William Devane, Kim Dickens, Greg Grunberg, Mary Randle, Joey Slotnick.

Body Count: 6


It’s doubtful the director of Total Recall and RoboCop would approve of anybody dubbing Hollow Man a slasher flick and most reviews at the time seemed oblivious to the pretty by-the-number stalk n’ slash opus that takes up the final act of a very ambitious movie.

Kevin Bacon is at centre-stage (sort of) as self-worshipping scientist Sebastian Caine, pioneer of a government project that turns living things absolutely invisible thanks to your go-to miracle serum. After initial and successful tests on animals, Caine volunteers to be the first human guinea pig in a scene that – at the time at least – was amazing enough to earn the movie an Academy nomination for best FX work (it lost to Gladiator).

He uses his new invisibility to do what most narcissistic heterosexual guys would do – he spies on his female co-workers, plays pranks on the other team members and is generally an ass.

However, when neither he nor the team can crack the restorative process, the consequences of having no reflection, no eyelids to enable sleep, and little conscience to begin with, Caine begins sliding down the rabbit hole. The latex masked made so he can be seen by the others is later removed and he discovers that former squeeze Linda (Shue) is now involved with other co-worker Matt (Brolin). Their lack of progress and Caine’s changing personality prompts a plan to confess all to the Pentagon and take their punishment for the deception.

hollow man 2000 kevin bacon

Predictably, Caine won’t have it and resolves to locking the rest of the team in their underground laboratory and killing them one by one. How’s that for a masked killer?

Gory stuff but not in the usual slashed throat / decapitated head way – the transformations in and out of invisibility are graphic as we’re given explicit glances at the interiors of the body, which isn’t so pretty – and Bacon happily goes full frontal again, levelling the objectification-by-gender table.

The FX work is the star here, and the film straddles its hybrid sensibilities between sci-fi, action and horror comfortably, almost as if it’s been concocted in a lab itself, with elements of Scream married to The Invisible Man and coated in Verhoeven’s clinical style of direction and Shue makes for a spunky heroine.

Listen out for the awesome Wonder Woman joke.

*

HOLLOW MAN II hollow man 2 2006

3 Stars  2006/15/92m

“There’s more to terror than meets the eye.”

Director: Claudio Faeh / Writers: Gary Scott Thompson & Joel Soisson / Cast: Peter Facinelli, Laura Regan, Christian Slater, David McIlwraith, William MacDonald, Sarah Deakins, Jessica Harmon, John Shaw, Bruce Dawson.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “You’ve really outdone yourself this time, usually when you people make a mess at least you can see it.”


Verhoeven returned as executive producer for this efficient enough straight-to-DVD sequel, in which the last of three invisible assassins from the DoD’s ‘Silent Knight’ operation is desperately trying to track down Laura Regan’s biologist, the only person with the knowledge to prevent his body deteriorating the same way as his predecessors.

In the meantime, he’s happy to eliminate anybody who gets in his way as well as various government high-ups responsible for his condition. For the most part, this is a chase-flick with biologist and the cop assigned to protect her on the run from Mr Invisible.

While clearly made for a helluva lot less than the first film, it’s still a handsomely put together and what visual FX are in play are done well enough, if not as CG-centric as before. Where a bit more investment could’ve helped is in the script itself, which, although armed by a good enough story built around the future of the project (events from HM1 are briefly referenced), there doesn’t seem to be very far to go with it. Perhaps it would’ve worked better as a TV show?

hollow man 2 2006

No more or less slashy than before; there’s a naked teen tryst in an early scene where, of course, when it’s time for the guy’s clothes to come off, the girl gets spooked so we only see her boobs and nothing of him. Yawn.

Blurbs-of-interest: Kevin Bacon was an early victim of Mama Voorhees in Friday the 13th; Christian Slater was in both Mindhunters and Playback; Laura Regan was the heroine in My Little Eye; Jessica Harmon was in Fear Island.

Kincaid lives!!! …for a few minutes

the back lot murders 2002

THE BACK LOT MURDERS

2.5 Stars  2002/91m

“The stage is set…”

Director/Writer: David DeFalco / Writers: Paul Arensburg, Steven Jay Bernheim / Cast: Priscilla Barnes, Charles Fleischer, Jaime Anstead, Brian Gaskill, Corey Haim, Lisa Brucker, Carrie Stevens, Heather Tindell, Dayton Knoll, Lori Dawn Messuri, Ken Sagoes, Alejandro Escos, Tom Hallick, Angela Little, Nancy O’Brien, David Solomini.

Body Count: 17

Laughter Lines: “You have assets: Use your ass and your sets.”


This production is a mess, but it’s an occasionally entertaining mess with some amusing lines – largely courtesy of Charles Fleischer as the put-upon director – and an interesting backdrop for the carnage to take place against. Mild spoilers ensue.

Your off-the-shelf horror movie rock band are about to hit it big and are shooting their debut video on a Hollywood studio back lot where The Lost World: Jurassic Park was filmed. Six months earlier, they fired their temperamental songwriter after he smashed a bottle over a barmaid’s head – will that have any bearing on what’s to come?

Also on set is the lead singer’s bimbo girlfriend Janey, whose father runs the label they’ve signed to, and bitchy PR woman Stephanie, who wants the video to be cutting edge – so much that she’s willing to cut a few other things in order to see that goal realised?

back lot murders 2002 ken sagoes

Well somebody seems hell bent on making it a video to remember, starting with a couple of special effects folks (this is one slasher flick where the black guy – Sagoes who was Kincaid in two mid-Elm Street sequels – does die first – ironically he first to die in The Dream Master as well!), and filming each slaying by camcorder.

As numbers dwindle, highly-strung, campy director Henry deals with an endless parade of morons trying to get on screen: “Wow you’re an actress? In Los Angeles? How unusual.” But the rest of the film is expanded by long dull scenes of couples exploring buildings and the Elvis-masked killer not showing up soon enough. As usual, the scantily clad babes all flash their boobs before being chased away after their boyfriend is stabbed in the back.

Dim-witted Janey is somehow nominated to be the heroine, despite the film offering up a couple of other viable options earlier on (Henry’s assistant, who I think survives by leaving, and Wendy the fog lady), leaving us without a strong heroine figure to root for, just about the only remaining girl not to take her top off.

back lot murders 2002

The late Corey Haim’s comparable bit-part would go unnoticed if you – like me – didn’t recognise him. Barnes, however, is great in her sub-Betsy Palmer turn. Despite the curiosity of the Psycho house and a few other set pieces, this is one production probably better left in the lot – especially if you happen to watch the DVD featurette where the director claims it’s a “thinking man’s horror movie”. Right.

Blurbs-of-interest: Barnes was in Stepfather III; Fleischer was the dream doctor in the original Elm Street and was also in Chain Letter.

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