The Coroner’s Report

The Coroner's ReportThe Coroner’s Report slices through the chest of horror and spreads the rib cage of gore to reach inside and pull out the vital organs of scary movies, both past and present. Discarding the useless husks of ordinary reviews, the Coroner focuses on what horror fans really care about through the KILLeR Score Card: Kills, Ills, Lust, Learning, and Review. There’s no need to scan and skim to find out how many people die, what kills break the mold, or how many breasts get bared. Serving up only the rawest and most disgusting horror reviews on a bloody platter, The Coroner’s Report is your one chop stop for all things terrifying.

Updated Every: Thursday

cr come out and play

Horror remakes get a bad rap, often sight unseen, and while the premature concern is usually proved correct it’s not entirely uncommon for a good one to slip on through. Okay fine, it’s pretty damn uncommon, but it does happen once in a while and you need look no further than… the upcoming Evil Dead reboot to see a solid example of a film that takes the (very) basic story from the original and then makes it into something new. But that’s the exception as usually the remakes capture plot details while forgetting to infuse their film with life of its own. Come Out and Play falls into this latter category as it remakes (the far better titled) Who Can Kill a Child? but replaces that film’s grimy charm with somewhat slick and by-the-numbers thrills.

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cr prison

Remember Renny Harlin? Because he remembers you… And more importantly, he remembers the support you used to give to his films. Die Hard 2! Cliffhanger! The Long Kiss Goodnight! But it was his 1999 masterpiece, Deep Blue Sea, that marked the last time audiences would love (even ironically) a film of his. Would it surprise you to learn that he’s made seven features since then? But two years before he took over the reins on John McClane’s slow descent into redundancy, Harlin birthed two horror films unto the world. One featured Freddy Krueger’s fourth foray into malleable teenage minds, and the other was an original supernatural tale from the writer of not one, but two entries in the Trancers series! Welcome to Prison.

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cr would you rather

Iris (Brittany Snow) has returned home to take care of her sick younger brother after the death of their parents, but while her heart is in the right place it’s a place without a bank balance. When she’s introduced to a businessman named Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) who offers to solve all of their financial concerns if she comes to a special dinner party, plays a little game and walks away the winner, she’s forced to wonder how far she’ll go to salvage and save what’s left of her family. That’s how most charitable foundations work right?

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cr resolution2

Resolution has been making the festival rounds for a short while now, and it’s left a strong mark as a smart horror film. Comparisons to the higher profile Cabin In the Woods are frequent, but the two actually share little in common aside from their desire to break away from the genre template. Granted, most of the action here does take place in a cabin in the woods… But the events that transpire differ wildly. Instead of the expected archetypes, our leads are simply two old friends reunited by loyalty, compassion and something that oozes evil from every possible pore (or whatever the evil equivalent of pores are).

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cr_i didnt come here to die

I believe it was John F. Kennedy who famously said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but who you can kill for your country.” That might be a misquote, but the point is volunteering should be the duty of every young American. There are trails to be blazed, streets to be cleaned and naive young do-gooding ladies to be plowed. A couple of those are the motivating factors behind the poor souls in this week’s horror flick… I Didn’t Come Here to Die. A group of six youths head into the woods to do their part for society, but they discover the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished. Oh, and tree branches can be a real bitch.

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The Coroner

Once upon a time Australia was a hotbed of genre filmmaking bringing horror, action, sci-fi and more to the screen with an unparalleled sense of enthusiasm and energy. The high point ran through the ’70s and ’80s (covered affectionately in the entertaining as hell documentary, Not Quite Hollywood), but since then it’s been a fairly slow trickle of releases. Recent years have seen a step up in frequency and quality of crime films, thanks in large part to the Edgerton brothers’ Blue Tongue Films, and straight up horror, thanks in large part to large crocodiles, but what about the dark nuggets of sci-fi weirdness? Enter the Crawlspace. A military research facility in Australia goes silent so an elite squad of soldiers is sent in to investigate. As is prone to happen in top secret military labs doing god knows what with their experiments… things go a wee bit awry.

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Editors’ Note: The Coroner’s Report and Foreign Objects are distinct columns covering horror and foreign films respectively, but a mash-up of the two feels more appropriate on the rare occasion when we cover a foreign language horror film. You wouldn’t know it from Italy’s film output these days, but there was a time when the country was home to filmmakers keeping the horror genre alive and well for the rest of us. That time was a roughly three decade span from the 60s through the 80s when filmmakers like Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Lamberto Bava delivered movies that paired violence and sexuality with style and atmosphere. The result was a list of movies that continue to excite fans to this day including A Bay of Blood, Suspiria, The Beyond, Demons and more. Giorgio Ferroni and his 1972 film, La Notte dei Diavoli (aka The Night of the Devils) aren’t nearly as well known, but both he and the movie truly deserve to be. It’s bloody, sexy and atmospheric horror that manages to be both graphic and frightening on its way towards a surprisingly strong finale.

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The Coroner

Tom (Jason Vail) and Dan (Nicholas Wilder) are best friends. They grew up together and now work at the same office, but while Tom has a wife and kids Dan is seemingly content living in their past. His main hobbies are watching horror films and constantly trying to pry Tom away from his family to join him. Tom’s interest has been waning though, both in his friend and and his family, and as the hours and days of his mundane life tick by his unease with it all grows. And then Dan shows him an apparent snuff film.

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The Coroner

Horror fans often get the short end of the stick when it comes to quality because the genre seems to have a higher percentage of utter dreck than just about any type of movie. Part of the problem is that the genre has a high profit-to-cost ratio, but more recently the issue is that we as fans are a very forgiving bunch. How else to explain the inundation of horror movies that open with some variation of this: “The following footage was an attempt to document that discovery…” That’s right. Found footage films have lowered the bar of quality across the genre. They’re not all bad of course, but for every Rec or Troll Hunter we get ten Apollo 18s or Greystone Parks. So what’s the one ingredient that you think would guarantee a found footage success? Bigfoot, obviously. A group of filmmakers hoping to launch a reality show head into the Northern California woods for evidence that Bigfoot truly does exist. They hire an old hunter to be their guide and to show them evidence in the form of a fresh carcass. Unsurprisingly, things do not go as planned.

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The Coroner

Everyone knows that twins are evil, right? There’s something inherently creepy about the identical variety in particular that should really warrant their immediate incarceration. Sadly, I don’t make the laws in this country so they’re allowed to walk among us as if they were perfectly normal. The only exception to this rule are Playboy centerfold twins who actually use their handicap to help make the world a better place. But what happens when good, blonde Samaritans like the Collinson twins (Mary and Madeleine) cross the line into darkness and are asked to play evil? Hammer Films wondered the same thing in 1971, and the result is the bloody, sexy and surprisingly dramatic Twins of Evil.

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The Coroner

Ah springtime! Is there a better season than spring? Aside from summer I mean. Maybe, maybe not, but when it comes to springtime in horror films there’s one constant. The harvest needs to be watered with the blood of human sacrifice. The harvest in question can be literal or more of a metaphorical inference to the season’s life-giving nature. Children of the Corn, The Wicker Man and even Jeepers Creepers all fall into this category, as does today’s horror film. Of the three examples Rites of Spring most resembles the last as it features a semi-annual slaughter as someone, or some thing, comes out of hiding to kill on the first day of spring. It’s an improvement over Jeepers Creepers in that it’s not directed by a convicted pedophile, but in almost every other regard unfortunately it’s a disappointment.

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The Coroner

Horror films with hauntings and malicious ghosts at their center have been around for ages, but the last couple years have seen an odd trade-off happening onscreen. Movies like Insidious and the Paranormal Activity series have successfully increased the number of scares per minute while losing ground in other areas like narrative or character development. The PA films have some brilliantly executed scares, but none of the characters are memorable in the slightest. And Insidious is scary as hell and loaded with fun moments, but the story takes a giant dump on the audience in the final few minutes. The Pact is a far lower profile release than either of those, and as such it takes a step back from their more bombastic approaches and instead finds a real balance between the scares, the characters and the story. Nicole and Annie (Caity Lotz) are grown siblings whose overbearing and abusive mother has recently died. Annie reluctantly agrees to help her sister go through and clean up their mother’s house, but when she arrives Nicole is nowhere to be found. Their cousin arrives and she too soon disappears leaving Annie alone with a potentially malevolent presence, a mysterious walled-up room and a deadly secret in her family’s past. Oh, and Detective Casper Van Dien is breathing down her neck too…

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The Coroner

It’s fairly rare that a film can come along and generate a lot of attention just based on the premise. The Human Centipede was one such film. It claimed to be “100% Medically Accurate,” was viewed at Fantastic Fest, and took the world by storm by asking the question “What would it be like to sew a bunch of people ass to mouth?” At the time, I was hard on the claim that the flick was medically accurate, despite writer/director Tom Six‘s insistence. I’ve since changed my mind: sure, it’s entirely possible to sew a bunch of people together like that as long as you expect them to choke on feces and die relatively quickly. There is no shared digestion, but hey, he never said it was 100% a good idea! Unfortunately, that flick wasn’t 100% good. For me, I found it to be 52% good, which, as it turns out, is at least 30% better than the follow-up. Hey hey hey hey, listen to me. Spoilers ahead.

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The Coroner

Doghouse, which was called Zombie Harlem in Japan (I can’t tell if that’s better or worse), is a British horror-comedy that’s been resting in my Netflix queue for the better part of two years. One of those films that sounds interesting, but has an air of uncertain quality about it. The official synopsis goes a little something like this: a group of men head to a remote village to help their friend get over a divorce, only to find it overrun with women who hunger for flesh. Sounds titillating right? And by titillating, I mean it should have a lot of boobs in it, right? And carnage? And death? Correct! That’s what it sounds like. But that’s not what it is.

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The Coroner

If you’re going to set your horror/thriller in a single building you can do far worse than an insane asylum. The inmates add an automatic degree of creepiness and uncertainty to the proceedings that most other locations can’t match. From Asylum to Shutter Island, from Alone In the Dark to Patch Adams, these are inherently frightening movies made scarier by the wackos roaming the halls. Which brings us to The Incident. But since that title apparently didn’t catch on after its TIFF premiere it’s been renamed to the very literal (yet nonsensical) Asylum Blackout. A trio of friends trying to make it as a band earn their living as cooks at a remote asylum for the criminally insane. They cook and serve meals from beyond a large and secure plexiglass window, but when the power goes out one night the institution’s electronic locks and security system all fail releasing the inmates from their cells. The cooks and a handful of guards are quickly trapped within the bowels of the windowless nuthouse as all hell breaks loose around them.

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The Coroner

Director (/writer/editor/producer) Ti West is one of those low budget, independent filmmakers that has managed to secure a lot of attention for himself and amass a pretty devoted following, both in audiences and in critical circles alike. Having seen the bulk of his films, I was never quite won over. He made waves with The House of the Devil, a slow, slow, slow burn of a film that was cool and creepy, but ultimately just a little too…slow. It came as no surprise when his film The Innkeepers again started garnering praise – after all, even his less than great films got a lot of attention. Now, even at less than great, the films are often watchable if not outright good, just of a much different tempo than I prefer. That said, I pressed play on The Innkeepers knowing little other than Ti West made it and people seemed to love it.

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The Coroner

I don’t try to hide my disdain for found footage films. I think that the people who make them often do so as a shortcut – it provides an excuse to avoid spending money on special effects and laying down tracks and setting up shots, which are all expensive and time consuming. Found footage is often a shortcut, and a cheat, if it’s not done specifically to tell a very unique story. Ghost Encounters almost tells that unique story. The initial concept is pretty cool – a group of reality TV show makers lock themselves into a haunted sanitarium, and stuff goes wrong. The idea is that these guys were the first “ghost hunters” before our cable television has become saturated with them. It opens with a producer telling you this isn’t a movie, but rather culled found footage. Mmhm.

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The Coroner

Nobody tell Robert Fure, but my choice for this week’s Coroner’s Report is a bit lacking in the sticky red stuff. Even worse by his standards there may not even be any real deaths in the entire movie. But it does have mysterious happenings in a big, spooky house along with pain, suffering and one or two vengeful, scorned women. The Hidden Face (aka La cara oculta) is a Spanish thriller about a man whose girlfriend Belén disappears leaving him the number one suspect in the eyes of the police. He takes up with another woman shortly thereafter, but as the new girl, Fabiana, begins to spend time in the house alone she starts hearing noises and experiencing odd events. Could Belén be reaching out from beyond the grave for vengeance? Or is there something even more sinister at play…

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The Coroner

In scouring Netflix Instant for some horror to watch, I flicked past Lucky, a film starring Colin Hanks and Jeffrey Tambor. Normally, a Colin Hanks film is enough reason for me to keep looking, especially when the cover looks like Photoshop vomit with fake bodies, fake props, and money flying everywhere. What is this? After reading the description though, I figured I’d give it a shot. Hanks stars as Ben Keller, an ‘aspiring serial killer’ who runs into a bit of lucky when he unknowingly murders a woman who just purchased a winning lottery ticket. Well, he knowingly murders her. He just didn’t know about the winning lottery ticket she had. With his new found fortune, Keller wrestles with his desire to kill while courting his long-time crush, a money hungry hottie he grew up with.

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The Coroner

When you hear that a movie called Camel Spiders is coming out, you can’t help but think “Wait that doesn’t already exist?” Camel Spiders, aka wind scorpions, aka solifuges, made the front page of your nightmares during the Iraq war when images of these seemingly gigantic monstrosities were e-mailed around the world. The arachnids, which are not actually spiders, were rumored to run at speeds surpassing 30 miles per hour, regularly chasing down military Humvees, and said to be capable of leaping great distances, say, from the ground to your face. Their bite was rumored to be fatal and their size seemingly ranged up to two feet. Much of this is wildly inaccurate and stems from a photograph of two solifuges which were stuck to each other and held in the foreground of the photo, making them appear huge. In actuality, this nightmare fuel only measures six inches for the head and body sections, which is five and a half god damn too many inches. Anyway, Jim Wynorski made a movie about these things, and it’s not good.

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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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