Last week, two short films made their way onto the Internet, one in a more conventional way, the other I had to find it in more “unconventional” ways. Basically what I’m trying to say is that for as much as I hate the Internet, I also love it for the scum that it is. Both films are nostalgic trips to say the least, one is more of a traditional fan film, while the other is a sugar-coated PCP trip-out of a film that is all that is 80s and all that is insanity. Let’s start with the more traditional of the two.
Predator: Dark Ages – Lore
It’s been tough times for Predator the past 10 years or so. Sure, we got the underrated “Predators” which injected some life back into the lore and mythology of “Predator” but other than that we’ve gotten crap like “AvP: Requiem.” Like I said, it’s been tough. And like so many lost franchises that have lost their way, it’s usually takes a dedicated group of fans and filmmakers making a short film to show studio executives that people still care about a bastardized franchise. Enter, “Predator: Dark Ages.” Now, I’m not going to come out and say that “Dark Ages” is going to usher in a new era of “Predator” films, but what we have here is a nice little piece of lore.
“Dark Ages” is the story of a group of roughneck knights during The Crusades, including a Templar Knight, a female tracker, two meat sacks, and a Muslim scholar, essentially every character trope of the 80s action film. The church has asked Thomas, a battle-tested Templar, to hunt down a beast that has been killing without a reason. Thomas and his group are teamed with Sied, a Muslim scholar, who knows more than he is letting on to stop the killer.
Needless to say, Thomas’ team is wiped out one at a time leaving only himself and Sied to fight the Predator, which ends in a very interesting way. The End.
Clocking in at just under 30 minutes, “Dark Ages” packs in enough action, story, and sense of dread to keep you engaged for its entire run time. While I would have appreciated a little more back-story on Thomas and Seid, especially Seid who seems like he’s been studying the Predators for a while, dating back to his time in Jerusalem. If you’re a fan of the original “Predator” you will get a kick out of the opening sequence when Thomas and his group show up on horseback, blatant fan service, and of course how can I forget the music; Alan Silvestri would be proud.
This bring me to the second part of this double-header, and this one is a doozy…..
Kung Fury – Bananas
Do you like Kung-Fu? Do you like dinosaurs that talk? Do you like Viking Babes with machine guns? Do you like Hitler doing karate? Do you like ninjas? Do you like synth music? Do you like Nazis being murdered? Do you like giant golden eagles fighting dinosaurs? Do you like Miami? Well, if you don’t; get the F*CK out of here and kill yourself because you’re obviously reading the wrong review from the wrong site.*
So “Kung Fury” where does one start, first, if you haven’t seen it, click HERE and watch it….we’ll wait…..okay, we’ve waited long enough.
In “Kung Fury” the mean streets of Miami are awash with killer arcade machines and the return of Adolf Hitler, who is also a kung-fu master. The only man who can stop his is the baddest cop on the force; Kung Fury. Together with Hackerman, Fury is sent back in time to stop Hilter before he is able to harness the full power of the ancient art of Kung Fury. Along the way Fury meets female Vikings, Thor, a talking T-Rex, and has words with his talking car.
If you were to take “Miami Connection,” “Hobo With a Shotgun,” “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon,” put them in a room and let them all have a three-way, you might get a general idea of how bananas this film is. Of course, this is nothing new, the 80s is enjoying a great resurgence of interest lately, from horror flicks like “The Guest” and “It Follows” to video games like “Hotline Miami” and “Blood Dragon” people still love the 80s, and for good reason; the 80s are awesome.
David Sandberg does his best Michael Biehn impression as the title character, and Jorma Taccone, from Lonely Island fame, hams it up big time as the kung fuhrer – Adolf Hitler. The violence is over-the-top, the 80s references are awesome, and if it wasn’t for a little film called “Back to the Future” I’d say this is the most realistic take on time travel to date.
“Kung Fury” is well worth your time, and why not just double feature it with “Predator: Dark Ages” to get your nostalgia fill in just under an hour.
*We at Simplistic Reviews do not want you to kill yourself, we want you to understand that these films are incredible and not watching them would be a great disservice to yourself. We love you, thnx, byeguys.
The House of the Devil – Fun
Like I mentioned in my review of “The Guest,” I love the 1980s, especially 80s horror, but one genre always kind of eluded me; the devil-worshiping/possession genre. I simply don’t find those types of films very scary or unnerving. This goes double for, get ready for it, “The Exorcist.” I simply don’t get the appeal of what so many people call “the scariest film ever made.” I also think the market has been flooded with these possession/evil house/devil worshiping found footage type films, and while they are low budget, and make a ton of money because we have enough sheep who go to the theater to waste their money with lackluster fare like that. But, every once in a while I’ll take the advice of a friend, or in this case a blog (thanks Slaughter Film) and go out on a limb and watch something I normally wouldn’t, and than I wonder to myself why it took so long to finally get around to this movie. That movie is 2009’s “The House of the Devil.” Directed by Ti West, who has also worked on the anthology series “V/H/S” and directed “The Sacrament” brings to glory of late 1970s and early 80s Gothic horror to life by recreating a film that is suspenseful and a crap ton of fun.
“House” is the tale of Samantha, a struggling college student looking to move out of her dorm room that is constantly being used by her over-sexed roommate. Desperate for money after finding the house of her dreams, Sam calls about a babysitting job the night of a lunar eclipse. After losing hope on the job, she receives a call from Mr. Ulman, the man who placed the babysitting ad. Dragging her friend Megan along, Sam accepts the job and heads to the Ulman residence. Upon arrival, as the viewer, you already have the sense that something isn’t quite right about Mr. Ulman, who is played to creepy perfection by consummate creeper, Tom Noonan. Creeped out, Sam is about to leave, but now desperate, Ulman tells Sam to name her price. She’s seizes the moment knowing that her new house is on the line. The film progresses with Sam exploring the house, hearing noises, and finally learning the secret the Ulmans have been hiding all along. To spoil the third act would be a disservice.
What works so well in “House” is the look of the film. The opening credits are something right out of a Wes Craven film, mixed with Hammer Horror, and a dash of Italian giallo. The hair styles are to the era, the score is reminiscent of something Ric Ocasek. However, even with all of these 80s elements, the film is still very contemporary and can fit into any era.
The one gripe I see that people could have is the pacing of the “House.” There isn’t a whole lot of “action” until about an hour into the film, but just like the films of yore, the build-up is part of the fun of this film. However, in this day and age of instant gratification, jump scares, and found-footage dredge (which is ironic since I actually enjoyed “V/H/S”) it’s refreshing to see a movie like “House” but I”m sure that’s the reason why this film hasn’t gotten much traction outside of die-hard horror fans who have been watching the genre for decades.
Overall, “The House of the Devil” is great and it pains me to think that it took me so long to finally get around to this film. The production design is strong, the acting is believable and likable, and the villains are creepy. It’s everything that you would want in a suspenseful horror film. New school kids beware, this IS your Daddy’s horror film.
Fun Fact: The Church of Satan was founded by Anton LaVey in 1966
Dallas Buyers Club – Breakout
It’s funny when you follow the career of certain actors. Some start strong, and fizzle out. Others start weak, and grow to have a great career. Others decide to confound you for years and suddenly make you open your eyes and realize, “Wow, so that’s what they could do?” Two actors in particular have shown that in recent years. One is Woody Harrelson. Sure, he plays a goofy white guy most of the time, but after an Academy Award nomination a few years ago, and a string of hits at the box office, you can say Harrelson is one of those guys who’s come a long way from where he started. The other actor is Matthew McConaughey, another Texas hick who was mostly known for chick flicks early in his career. But after two straight years of critically acclaimed films, you can say he’s one of those guys that definitely can act. See “Fraility” and “Lone Star” for early proof. Now you have, “Dallas Buyers Club” a breakout for McConaughey, and for one my money, one of the best performances in all of 2013.
“Dallas” is the true story of Ron Woodroof, an electrician and hustler who might come off a bit racist, homophobic, and womanizing. All in all, he’s one of the worst human beings you’d be unlucky enough to meet. Woodroof contracts the HIV virus which eventually turns into AIDS and leads him down a road of not only self-discovery, but also redemption as he fights the FDA while trying to bring in unapproved medicine from out of the country to not only help himself, but an entire sub-community in the Dallas-area suffering from HIV and AIDS.
Within the first 16 minutes of “Dallas” I was drawn in by McConaughey’s performance. I found myself both hating him, and feeling extreme sympathy for his situation. His portrayal of Woodroof was haunting and his dedication to the characters was on the level of Christan Bale’s performance in “The Machinist” which is a parallel that a lot of people are currently making. The difference between Bale and McConaughey’s performances is the characterization. I never felt anything really for Bale’s Trevor Reznor, whereas with Woodroof I found myself hating him, and come the end, complete compassion.
Aside from McConaughey’s standout performance, I’d also go as far as saying this is Jennifer Garner’s best acting since “The Kingdom” and it’s nice to see that Steve Zahn is still getting work. But, you also have a star-making performance by Jared Leto, who plays Rayon; a transgender man with AIDS who befriends Woodroof and helps him open The Dallas Buyers Club. Leto, who also fronts the band “30 Seconds to Mars,” is the perfect foil to Woodroof and his acting really surprised me. I’m left to wonder why he doesn’t try his hand at Hollywood films more often, but I guess band groupies are more lucrative. The relationship between Rayon and Woodroof is the heartbeat of the film and you’ll be crushed by Leto’s performance.
“Dallas” is a film that depends on it’s actors’ performances, and it won’t disappoint. It explores one of the unsung “heroes” during the 1980s AIDS epidemic and casts a light on how there really isn’t any money in the CURE for diseases, only the medicine that is “HELPING” the disease. There is no doubt that McConaughey will be a heavy favorite when the Oscars are announced later this month, along with Leto in a supporting role. Acting doesn’t get much better than in “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Fun Fact: “Dallas” is Jared Leto’s first film in four years, since 2009’s “Mr. Nobody.”