Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Beast's DVD Cave- Lo (2008)

A man sits in a darkened room, painting a pentagram which he sits inside of. He follows instructions from a decidedly evil-looking book (which would fit perfectly next to a copy of the Necronomicon). He also has with him a photo of a pretty woman. He follows the instructions in the book, and summons up a demon from the pits of Hell- the demon Lo ( Jeremiah W. Birkett).
This is the beginning of the movie Lo, directed by Travis Betz. It tells the story of Justin (played by Ward Roberts), the guy in the pentagram. He's summoned Lo because the love of his life, April ( Sarah Lassez), has been taken away by demons, and he wants her back. Things, however, are not as simple as they seem...trying to get a demon to do your bidding is dicey, especially so for a nerdy fellow like Justin, and if he strays from the protecticve circle, he'll be at Lo's mercy. Will Justin get Lo to do his bidding? Will he be able to outsmart the demon's trickery? Will he get his April back?

Lo is a great little film, and calling it 'little' is by no means derogatory in this case. It's a good example for filmmakers(and filmgoers) that shows you can make a fine , entertaining movie with a smaller budget. Lo is by turns creepy, funny, sad, and it illustrates the power of love, and what we'll do in its name.

One of the film's strong points is its actors. Roberts does a good job in the role of Justin, nerdy but determined to get back his love. Lassez also gets a gold star for her portrayal of April, a strange, naive , yet charming gal. The real show stealer in my opinion, however, is Birkett as the titular demon. Lo is scary, but he's also a smartass, and has most of the film's funniest lines. He, in true demon fashion, tries not to fullfill Justin's wishes, but it turns out that there's more to him than meets the eye...

In addition to directing Lo, Betz also wrote and edited the film. There's a lot of cool little touches, such as when Lo pulls memories out of Justin's head to get to know he and April's relationship. Instead of the usual flashback scenes, the memories are played out on a stage like a play, complete with people visible in the wings, and audible audience reactions (there's also a pair of living Comedy/Tragedy masks flanking the stage, which are both humorous and creepy at the same time). There's also a musical number , believe it or not, delivered 50s do-wop style. After seeing Lo, it makes me want to track down Betz's other work, and I'm eagerly awaiting his next film as well.

As I stated earlier, Lo is a great little film. It has more character, creepiness, and charm than just about any big-bugeted film out there...or any size budget, for that matter. If you want to see a film with horror, humor, love, and a dancing rat-demon, look no further. Go track down a copy and check it out (hint: Netflix has it). The Beast gives it his official seal of approval. Go watch it already!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Beast's DVD Cave- Dead Snow

Dead Snow (2009) is just what the doctor ordered. Amidst all the CGI-infested flicks that have come out lately, Norwegian writer/director Tommy Wirkola has delivered a good, fun, splattery zombie movie. And not just any zombies, but Nazi zombies.

The film starts with some one being pursued through the dark, snowy, Norweigian night by...something. She doesn't get far. The next day we see a group of medical students including Vergard (Lasse Vendal), Hanna (Charlotte Frogner), Martin (Vegar Hoel), and Roy (Stig Frode Henriksen), who are on their way to a remote cabin to enjoy some Winter outdoor fun and some indoor partying. A stranger passing by tells them of the evil that remains since the days of WWII; of a group of Nazis and their treasure. The young students of course write the man off as a loony, but when one of their group who was skiing to the cabin doesn't show, a search is made, and discoveries show that the strange man wasn't full of shit, and the group is in danger by the hands of a group of undead Nazi soldiers.

Dead Snow is a film that's very aware of its genre. One of the characters is a film buff, and even wears a t-shirt of Peter Jackson's blood-soaked Braindead(aka Dead Alive), and like Jackson's film,there's a good dose of humor along with the horror. There's the usual young folks partying and trying (and even succeeding) to get laid. There's an Evil Dead-esque scene when two of the students go to a tool shed and arm themselves for the inevitable zombie battle. However, Dead Snow isn't just a rip-off, or a simple love-letter to the genre. It stands on it's own, and though it may owe much to those that have gone before it, it has its own feel and style.

One of the elements that sets Dead Snow apart from other zombie films is the setting. There's quite a few shots of the beautiful snow-covered surroundings, which make an interesting counterpoint to the horror lurking just over the sonw-capped hills. It also reminds me of another Norwegian export, that being the musical genre known as Black Metal. Norwegian bands such as Emperor sing songs about the Norwegian night sky and the majesty of it, but the message is delivered in a brutal fashion. Maybe being in such a cold, beautiful place inspires artists in differing media. At any rate , it does make a nice change from the usual urban, pastoral farmhouse. and island settings usually seen in the zombie genre.

Nazi zombies have lumbered across the screen before Dead Snow. The 1977 film Shock Waves gave us some creepy aquatic Nazi zombies, along with veteran actor Peter Cushing. There was also the 1966 feature The Frozen Dead, which had Nazi scientists keeping parts of soldiers alive for nefarious reasons. The undead soldiers of Dead Snow are appropriatley scary, especially their leader, whom has a great scene towards the end of the film when our heroes think that the laeder is the only remaining zombie(hint: they're very wrong).

Another nice difference is that the protagonists are characters I actually felt for...I cared about their survival, unlike the idiots populating most horror films. I usually find myself rooting for the 'villian'. There is one scene in particular (which I won't divulge) that is tragic, and it happens on the heels of a run of fun, zombie-killing antics, which makes it all the more horrifying, and brings home the fact that these poor folks aren't playing a game; they're fighting for survival, and death is a very real outcome for them all.

All in all, Dead Snow is a damn good film. It's referential without ripping off , it's funny , tragic, bloody, and ridiculous at times. Simply put, it's a great little horror film, and it's just what we horror fans need, not more damn remakes. I tell you, the U.S. horror film product is getting its collective ass kicked by our foriegn friends. Go see it, already.

Now's when a chainsaw would come in handy...