Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wait, What? This Movie Kicks Ass? Really?

Chain Reaction aka 
House Of Blood (2006) Germany

I know, I know, this is not a Bava movie nor is it about college students. To be honest, I just wanted a 'junk' horror film just to watch and turn off my brain for a bit. After just a couple of minutes the brain turned on full and I was scribbling notes like crazy... This is a German film, set in Washington state of all places (but filmed in Germany and Austria) and is an English speaking horror film almost - I said almost - in the same caliber of Cabin In The Woods. Yes, it almost compares with the excellent submission from the Whedonverse. I kid you not, I was glued to this movie, even with its flaws because damn - it had imagination, great special effects, an interesting story line and hell, it was just fun to watch. For 101 minutes you are transported to the wonderful world of the absurd with monsters that... well, let's get on with our tale.

Now of course there are flaws - and this movie was not well liked. Everywhere I looked for information and reviews there was a very low interest in this movie. I cannot possibly tell why. Now I am not a big fan of foreign films although they do seem to try harder - I recently tried one about evolving zombies in Germany (which shall remain nameless) because, although it was interesting and a very different kind of angle when it came to zombie lore it turned quickly pornographic and... uh, never mind. So with trepidation, I only watched this for the tag line: ''For the undead, there's no place like home'. Oooh zombie stuff! Hopefully better than the filth... never mind.

We start with a black crow. Just a simple bird. This bird falls dead from the sky, dislodging a rock, which rolls and flies onto a Washington mountain road, hits a car windshield... we see a man, Dr. Doug Madsen get out of bed, a long, old scar down one leg. He keeps a memorial booklet from his parent's funeral when he was a boy - it shows their pictures and their heads suddenly turn and become bloody - and we see them dead in a crashed car, the boy injured but alive. Interesting camera work. He is helped by a mysterious lady who gives him a crucifix. He thinks of her often, but in that dreamy kind of way you do when you're not sure what was dream and what was real.

As he's driving to work along the same Washington mountain road (Washington state is truly a beautiful place, but it was very obvious this wasn't it) we get the same events - bird, rock, windshield, he swerves in the road - in front of a prison bus which crashes on its side. After a particularly violent coup by the surviving inmates (four) they unshackle themselves and grab the doc who isn't badly injured since one of them was shot and they need his help. Okay, small points of whoopsy I have to point out because hey, that's what I do: Although the prisoners are supposed to be transferring from the Seattle Penitentiary, the jumpsuits simply say County Jail. Okay, there is no Seattle Penitentiary, but there is a King County Jail in downtown Seattle. 

The incredible, magical, indestructible guard uniforms.
The surviving inmates get out of their jumpsuits and take the clothes of the guards they killed. Umm, (sucks air through teeth) they murdered these guards pretty violently - shot, bludgeoned, smushed into mud puddles that appeared out of nowhere in a perfectly dry area. Yet when they wear the uniforms, they're clean, pressed, not a single hole to be found. Oh, and a perfect fit for all. Uh yeah. That's what I do. I also noted that they had the magic firearms, you know, the kind where ammo never runs out.

Alice and Dr. Madsen.
They press on north, figuring on getting to the Canadian border and freedom. The five wander through the woods and come upon a bank of fog. While travelling in it they become lost and are sure they are no longer travelling north. One notices smoke going straight up - not a campfire, a chimney. They keep going and come to a stone house with boarded windows and a rough wooden roof, very dilapidated. A girl is outside bleeding a sheep - not to death, just a bit. She goes inside. The inmates figure their luck is fantastic. All go inside and they find... a scene out of the 17th or 18th century - handmade furniture, a Catholic (I'm guessing) type of altar in one corner, and a family eating at the table something that looks very, very red. Oh no, I'm thinking, they're trying to make an M. Night type of movie - ick. Fortunately, I was wrong. 

The 'head' of the family speaks, full of thee and thou and thy, except in a kind of backward way. The whole family sounds like 18th century Yodas, 'Leave mine house must thee.' kind of thing. The convicts of course ignore them, since one is badly wounded and the doc must work on his arm quickly. It has to be amputated. He asks the girl, named Alice to help him. Since his medical bag was lost due to the convicts quick tempers, he's got to do it with primitive stuff they have around the house. It's done. The convicts then decide to wipe out the family. The doc and Alice kind of step aside. And the fun begins. 

Tastes like chicken...
We have a kind of Catholic zombie-werewolf-vampire thing going on here, with decent special effects and makeup. It starts when one convict finds that a family member is gnawing on the now-amputated arm. He of course blasts him in the head. The rest of the family 'transforms' and a bloodbath ensues. Now this is where it gets cool. Just shoot 'em in the head right? Blow it right off and no more monster right? Not in this world. One of the family's head is blown apart - it coalesced itself back together and he jumped up. It only pissed him off. So finally all the convicts are killed, and the doctor is helped out of the house by Alice, who is set upon by her family for her treason.

Eat thee now must I.
He runs through the forest, straight into the arms of a SWAT team. Not likely (says the nitpicker). SWAT teams are not sent to run willy nilly through a forest in the hopes of finding escaping inmates. They are for controlled situations. Anywho, he is questioned for hours (Jurgen Prochnow's only appearance, billed as simply 'The Policeman' who is in this movie maybe five minutes although I love him (and his hair), especially the movie In The Mouth Of Madness of 1994) because no one believes for a second his first story, of monsters in a cabin in the woods, or his subsequent stories of being held hostage by the convicts and then let go. 

Something familiar here...
So in their eyes (I sincerely doubt this also but...) he is now a suspect of more murders because they can't find the cabin and he has an awful lot of blood on his shoes that can't be accounted for. Now HE is a convict, headed on the same mountain road on a prison bus... and this is where my perfect movie begins to fray. Now with a title (that I didn't know until after) like Chain Reaction I understand a little better but I was just thinking, what? You're going to do what? Ah man...

A crow falls, a rock rolls - scaring a doe which runs into the road, and is hit by a car. She swerves and stops in the street ON A STRAIGHTAWAY. A prison bus (yes, our doctor is on board) without slowing down mows her down and her car, then flips over. Sigh. Yes, we're gonna see this same movie again. Same tune, different words.

I do TOO look like Anthony Hopkins...
Four convicts survive to kill the guards and escape with our doctor. This time we have a bad Hannibal copy who's constantly spouting philosophy and quotes from poets and such, a real intellectual. Sigh. He likes the doctor because one, he's smart and two, he keeps claiming he saw monsters when this guy knows he's lying and probably killed the convicts himself since the leader of THAT team never let eyewitnesses live. So he's a liar in the eyes of the just and the guilty. Nice. He tries to lead them AWAY from where the others first went but the Hannibal copy senses he's lying and straight to the cabin they go. 

As they scope it out, one convict envisions how it will be - rape the girl, kill the men, do something... horrible with the kid. The doctor tells him how it will really be - all of them dying slowly and horribly. They laugh at him for keeping to his lie (he's even had a 'T' cut into his cheek as a warning for treason) and burst on in. The cabin is empty, clean as a whistle and they scope the place out. In a back room tied to the wall they find Alice and let her go. She again warns this particular batch to get out quick. They ignore her. One of the convicts is wounded (ah come on man) and the doc asks Alice to help him as she did before. Our Hannibal copy is getting suspicious that maybe they DO know each other but it's too late - they hear howling and monstrous shadows outside the windows. Wait a minute. The windows were boarded - oh hell, another continuity error. Shoot.

Chain saw? Uh, I brought this with me...
Soon in through the non-existent windows bursts the family in cool gymnastic fashion (Did I mention they were incredibly agile and fast?) and the bloodbath will now begin. Once again Alice takes the doc aside while the others cry and die. I mean they are being blasted and CUT IN HALF and still bounce right back up. Now during the first cycle the doc faintly remembered when he received the fancy crucifix that he wears from a mysterious girl who helped him when his family died in the car wreck. He had given her a toy of his in return. He sees the toy in the cabin and finally gets it through his skull that Alice is that girl - hasn't aged a day. As the carnage winds down (and for crying out loud one finds a GAS CHAINSAW - I started counting down minutes from that point) Alice and the doc flee the cabin once again, running through the woods, this time she has decided to go with him, away from her 'family'.

Then a crow falls dead. Oh God please no. Sure enough, although there is no rock, there's the two of them who run into the same mountain road and cause the wreck of a passing car. Comprehension finally strikes the doctor as he turns around in time to see the prison bus bearing down on him which hits him, the car and crashes. Sigh. He tells Alice he has to go but he'll wait for her. As she sobs over his body, an escaped convict comes up behind her and puts a bullet in the back of her head. Of course you know... that - means - war. She changes and... the movie ends. Phew. I don't know if I could have taken a third turn.

You know, if I had to be logical and not take movies at face value (or pick them apart even when I like them) I'd note that they should take a different route when transporting prisoners - unless it's a nifty way to cut down on inmate expenses, although it's hard on the security guards. Despite its faults (which seem to grow if I keep looking so I'm gonna stop) it was an inventive and different movie with interesting camera shots, great makeup and neato special effects but - next time guys? Show what you want to show ONCE. This is a movie, not a pop song.