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Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, January 31, 2020

Black Sheep (2006)

Time to check out some crazy Australian killer sheep movie. Like there isn’t enough stuff down under that wants to kill you already. They have spiders big enough to eat birds and snakes that bite you and you die almost immediately. That apparently isn’t good enough for some people, so someone decides to genetically modify sheep with horrific and hilarious results. God, I love horror movies.

Things get rolling with a pair of brothers named Angus and Henry. We see them when they are younger as they lose their father when he chases sheep off a cliff. Years later Henry returns to sell his half of the farm to Angus who has stayed on and become a bigshot in the farming business. Henry has a phobia about sheep, as we see early on, so when he gets stuck on a tour of the farm before leaving he isn’t too happy about it.

Things get much worse for him after he gets caught up in his brother’s evil plans. Angus has modified the sheep with twisted genetic experiments that produce both perfect livestock as well as horribly mutated sheep fetuses, one of which gets out due to some hippy save the animals intervention. This genetic abomination infects the other sheep making them bloodthirsty, as well as turning the people who are bitten and survive into homicidal sheep people hybrids! Much blood is spilled, and Henry has to get over his phobia if the farm, and world are to be saved.

Creature effects are cool
Sometimes a movie’s plot is so absurd that it works. Think about the idea of killer sheep rampaging around the countryside. How would that even work as a horror movie? But when we get the shots of the massive flock running over a hill towards an unsuspecting crowd of people it is actually frightening! Of course by then we have seen the mayhem that the sheep can create. Plenty of throats have been torn out and ears chewed off. The following scenes of sheep violence after the flock hits the mob is satisfyingly twisted. Arms and legs get come off, blood is spraying everywhere and those that survive but are bitten start to change. Again, this is such a silly idea but is executed so well that it is a heck of a lot of fun.

They don't skimp on the gore!
There are some CGI shots in the movie, but they tend to be used to add sheep to the flock at a distance and is mostly used to give “volume” to the infected swarm. The attacks and creature effects, basically everything up close, are all practical. Again, here is a newer movie that uses old school effects work to bring the monsters to the screen. From the rubber half-human half-sheep hybrids to the evil sheep fetus it is glorious. These are puppets being manipulated and interacting with the cast members as it should be in a proper monster movie. Black Sheep also has some very gross moments like the offal pit that our heroes fall into trying to escape the sheep. If you don’t know what an offal pit is think a giant pile of guts. There is also a bit with a hippy vegan who gets infected and eats a rabbit. Very gooey and right in your face. As an added bonus it is also really funny.

I could go on, but I think you might already know that I dig Black Sheep. This is a must watch and a recommendation from me. It can be found easily and cheaply online and is well worth your time and money.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Cold Skin (2017)

Right before the outbreak of World War I a young officer is assigned to a remote lighthouse to serve as the weather officer. He finds that his predecessor has died and that the keeper of the lighthouse is a surly man who wants nothing to do with him. The first night on the island the officer is attacked by these fish creatures that crawl out of the sea. He manages to fight them off and also notices that the lighthouse is fortified like a castle. Yeah, the keeper knew that they were coming and left him to die.

Eventually the two men become reluctant allies as they work together to defend the lighthouse from the attacks. Early on we find out that the keeper also has made a pet out of a female of the creatures that sticks around despite being treated poorly by him. And um she is more than a pet as I guess he got very lonely… Yeah it gets weird. So, the two men and the lady creature prepare during the day and stand guard every night ready to kill the enemy when they approach. As the story progresses, we do get some interesting ideas presented about the need for fighting and in the end question who the real monsters are.

This is a very interesting movie. The story is well written and has a couple nice touches that I thought while subtle are very important. This is the first time that I can remember where the main character never gets a name or even a nickname. The weather officer is listed in the credits as friend. The more I thought about it the more that it made sense. The keeper does have a name, Gruner, but he neither cares to nor does he ever really acknowledge anyone around him. We get hints of his past and that he came to the island so that he could ignore the rest of the world and the human race. So, he neither cares nor bothers to learn the other man’s name and because of that the audience never gets it either. That was a nice touch.

For the most part the movie is paced well with several great action sequences including an underwater recovery of dynamite and the subsequent battle where it is used to wipe a lot of attackers out. We do have a lot of character development and quite a bit of voiceover work that can slow things down at times. But I was so into the story that it didn’t bother me much at all. Though I’m not sure how well that would hold up on repeated viewings and I will be watching this again, so I’ll let you know.

The creature design is fantastic
The makeup and designs are stellar. We get several different looks to the creatures as they are presented as individuals and not just a mass of cookie cutter threats. The female, who is named Aneris by the officer, gets the most screen time and looks amazing. There is some CGI used to bring the creatures to life, but that takes nothing away from the look of and execution of some of the best practical work I’ve seen in a while. I’m not kidding when I say that. Cold Skin compares favorably to anything that I’ve watched in the last ten to fifteen years when it comes to design and appearance of the creatures.

I loved Cold Skin. I totally get that some fans might not feel the same as I do. This is a very different kind of movie that might not appeal to everyone. But I found it to be engaging and enjoyed watching a monster movie with its own story to tell and take on the genre. Not everything needs to be a “bug hunt” or siege. I recommend everyone give it a chance.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer