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Capsule Reviews, August 2014 (new)

Inkubus (Glenn Ciano, 2011)

Robert Englund taps his eye with a red knife on the DVD case.

This devil is out of the details. Way out.
photo credit: Ebay

Glenn Ciano’s debut film, Inkubus, is not all that great, though in hindsight it is leagues better than his followup, Infected. But then he’s starting from a pretty good place: casting Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm St.) as a demon who walks into a police station during the night shift and starts confessing to almost seven hundred years’ worth of crimes. Why this station? You’ll find out eventually, if you stick around long enough. Whether you will want to or not depends entirely how you feel about Robert Englund; this is his movie entirely, and if you feel he’s good enough to carry it, then you’ll probably like it. I was less impressed. * ½


Trailer.

* * *

Dawning (Gregg Holtgrewe, 2009)

A child, in yellow, translucent, with a forst behind her, adorns the movie poster.

The poster for this movie is the best thing about it.
photo credit: horrorphilia.com

An attempt at a home-invasion thriller with a possibly-supernatural bent that fails on both counts. Calling it slow would imply that it had a pace at all. The characters are shallow, which actually makes them a pretty good fit for the actors. But the real failing here is the plot, which meanders like a naked mole rat on acid before finally deciding, far too late, where it wants to go (not that it ever gets there). This is one you can safely avoid. *


Trailer.

* * *

The Hunter (Daniel Nettheim, 2011)

Willem Dafoe, gun cradled in arms, adorns the movie poster.

Some things just need killin’.
photo credit: IMDB

Clive Barker’s Sacrament is one of my favorite novels. Among Barker’s best creations is the Killer of Last Things, a man whose destiny is to travel the world finding the final examples of species on the planet and driving them to extinction. Jacob, the Killer of Last Things, is an egalitarian; animal, vegetable, or mineral, he will wipe it out. On the other hand, there is Martin David, the protagonist of Julia Leigh’s novel The Hunter. Martin, if that is his real name, is a specialist, a killer for hire who has been sent to Tasmania by a biotech corporation to hunt the legendary, possibly mythical, Tasmanian tiger. If it does exist, it is the last of its kind in the world.

The Tasmanian tiger is in fact extinct (though the last one ended its days in captivity; footage of it is shown during the film’s title sequence). That does tend to cast a pall over things if you know it going in, and there’s some crazy-conspiracist-theory stuff going on in this movie that truly stretches credibility (the corporation that hires Martin acts more like a shadow government than a multinational), but Willem Dafoe’s performance, as is often the case, brings something to this movie it would not have otherwise had. While it’s not in the same league as his should-have-gotten-an-Oscar turns in movies like To Live and Die in L.A. and Shadow of the Vampire, he does a very good job with a character who, to be successful, needed to be played very close to the vest. The supporting cast around him for the most part does a very good job as well, but Dafoe is the centerpiece here and the movie makes no bones about that. It is not without flaws, but is worth watching if you like your thrillers to deliver the goods over time. ***


Trailer.

* * *

Goth (Gen Takahashi, 2008)

The would-be detectives of the film are in various poses on the movie poster.

An obsession with the darkness.
photo credit: asianwiki.com

Interesting, if overlong, mystery that might have worked better as two separate films—a character study of its two would-be detectives (the goths of the title) would have fit the movie’s pedestrian pace, while the mystery aspect could have been a separate, faster-paced film. That said, it is impossible to argue with the film’s aesthetic decisions; this movie is beautifully shot from front to back, and full of the kind of eye candy that will leave you looking up the names of the cinematographer and camera crew in order to track down other movies they’ve made. Those aspects are not enough to carry the movie, but they’re enough to give it a watch. ** ½


Unsubbed trailer.

* * *

Fyre (Richard Grand, 1979)

Fyre, skimpily dressed, strikes a pose ont he VHS cover.

A little modeling never hurt anyone…
photo credit: connect.collectorz.com

Fyre was one of the first movies I added to my Netflix queue when we re-subscribed in 2011 after deciding to cut the cord. I no longer remember how I ran across it. Then I didn’t get round to actually watching it until I got the little notification on my queue that it was going away in a week. Not watching turned out to be the right choice. Fyre was the only film Richard Grand ever directed on his own; he has not worked in Hollywood since 1979, at least not according to IMDB. Easy to see why. Fyre is relentlessly depressing, badly-acted, badly-shot, and plotless, a character study that is warranted neither by the actress portraying the character (Lynn Theel, too, would have an abbreviated Hollywood career) nor the character herself. While it’s not as bad as some movies I’ve seen along these lines—unlike, for example, the godawful Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, at least Fyre never attempts to pass itself off as a comedy—but it’s still pretty dire. * ½

 Trailer? Why, no!

* * *

Jane Werner, The Christmas Story (Golden Press, 1952)

The holy family myth is depicted on the front of the book.

You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!
photo credit: ebay

I was certainly the wrong person to read this one to the Bean—it’s a hand-me-down from my wife’s family—given how antipathetic I am to religion, but then I was relieved when the book simply would have failed to live up to even my barest expectations of pre-lit even if I were a foaming-at-the-mouth young-earth creationist. The obvious flaw in the book, which is listed on the title page as being “told by” Jane Werner, is that she starts off trying to put the story into her own words (i.e., to make it simpler for the pre-lit set), but she abandons that concept roughly a quarter of the way through and simply starts quoting. Going back and revising for one approach or the other might have made it acceptable, at least until you get to the end. For obvious reasons, this being a pre-lit book, it dances around some of the things that would raise uncomfortable questions, but… why bring up Herod at all, you know? And then, well, the story just ends. I know Golden works in a strict 24-page format, but you couldn’t have planned a little better than that awful summary on the last page? Come on, now. This has the stink about it of Golden playing to its bible-belt constituency rather than putting this to the editorial-process screws. *

* * *

Andrea Pelleschi, Deck the House (Landoll, 1999)

photo credit: nogoodcause.blogspot.com

We can’t show it to you because the Internet fails us (have to find it and take a picture if I can).

Another of those Landoll lift-the-flap books where what’s under the flap is a continuation of the text rather than something one can guess at based on what’s outside (unless, of course, one has a very good grasp of rhyme that is likely beyond any two-year-old). That said, I have to take meta into consideration on this one and compare it to Wendell at the Mall, the other Andrea Pelleschi product (I refuse to call it a “book”) we’ve read from Landoll. Compared to that horrific experience, Deck the House is relatively harmless, if entirely ineffective, and because of that I’m ending up giving this a higher rating than I otherwise would. Please do not take that as a recommendation; it’s rated higher in the same way Glen or Glenda? is a “better” movie than Plan 9 from Outer Space. * ½

* * *

Leslie Patricelli, Tubby (Candlewick Press, 2010)

Patricelli's happy baby frolics in the tub on the book cover.

Bubbles!
photo credit: Amazon

Patricelli’s Potty was our favorite potty-related book, so this was a natural. Same ridiculously cute baby going through the joys of tubby time in language that’s easy for the pre-lit crowd to parse. Does it help with fear of the bathtub? I have no idea. Does my kid love it? Yes indeed. This was a library book, but it got pulled out at story time during those three weeks more often than not; considering buying it for the permanent collection. *** ½

* * *

Sandra Boynton, Fifteen Animals (Workman, 2003)

The narrator, surrounded by his animals, graces the book's cover.

Just imagine the compost pile.
photo credit: Workman Press

Fifteen Animals is another of those Boynton books that (as far as I can tell) grew out of a song rather than the other way around. My experience is that those tend to be less—magical, for want of a better word—than the ones that were books first, but there are still some pretty good’uns. This is one. Not sure how much repeated reading it will stand up to (once you get the joke, I’m guessing it will get old after five or six repetitions in a row), but it’s fun and has a good punchline. Check it out at the library before deciding whether to add it to the permanent collection. ***

* * *

Charlie Gardner, Things that Go! (Dorling Kindersley, 2013)

The final page of the book pops open to twice the book's size, revealing a hidden object game.

Where’s Waldo?
photo credit: momvstheboys.com

The Bean liked this one a great deal—a lot more than Daddy does, anyway. Very short find-the-thing type book that will very quickly become repetitive if your kid cottons to it, though there is something to be said for a number of the pages having “find three of [fitb]” with those three things scattered around the page. The last page is a large fold-out that’s easily damaged by gasping toddler fingers, so beware when reading it with your child, but if your child is anything like mine, you’ll be reading it a lot. ** ½

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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