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Hell Ride Review

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 1 - 2008

Well, Halloween Horrors are unfortunately all gone away. I know, a bummer. I didn’t get to as many reviews as I had originally hoped, but overall I think we picked up a few classics this time out. Hopefully everyone had a good time, and now I can post this review I have been sitting on for a month because I didn’t want to post it up with all of the Halloween festivities going on! Hell Ride! Maybe the most hated movie I’ve ever loved, take a trip to the IMDB to find out just what I mean. So be warned, I am apparently one of approximately nine people on this planet who really enjoyed this film apparently.

The Review: From the look of things, you’re about to read one of the few overtly positive reviews for Hell Ride out there. This is something that has come as a shock to me. After watching Hell Ride for the first time, I sprang up from my seat and hit the IMDB to learn as much about the film as I possibly could – only to stumble upon a wealth of anger from nearly ever user review I read. Where does this anger come from? Well, Hell Ride is a love it or hate it kind of film I suppose. Your enjoyment of the film is all relative to how forgiving a viewer you are as well as the circumstances involving your watching the film. I learned this the hard way when trying to watch the movie with my brother, who is far from a film geek himself. Hell Ride is a dialogue heavy film, and works in much the same style as Quentin Tarantino’s recent work – which is to say it is pretty over the top in that old “exploitation” film manner, but instead of scenes being punctuated with a line or two of “cool” dialogue like in the old days; every word out of every character’s mouth is either equally over the top and hip or an elongated monologue of hip dialogue. Around the time Pistolero’s spy girlfriend gives her monolauge to him about how he needs to, well, “eff” her (hey man, I try to keep it clean as a manner of professionalism) because he’ll never be able to get it up again once he hears the news – my brother had heard enough. He begged me to find something else to watch. His reason? The dialogue sounds like a theatrical play rather than something you would expect to hear real people say. This is a valid criticism, and unfortunately my brother wasn’t that eloquent with his opinion – but that was his point. He’s right in the fact that Hell Ride sounds nothing like anything you would hear in real life but I also think this is where the film is going to find its audience. Hell Ride is a movie’s movie and although it infuses some things from older exploitation classics, it is an entirely new and different kind of beast. A beast that owes a great debt to the vision of Tarantino and his Kill Bill films. My brother, who is far from a film expert of any sort even asked within the opening minutes of the film if it was actually directed by Tarantino – no doubt due to the black and white crisp photography of the opening as well as the witty banter between characters. It isn’t exactly a good thing when your film is so closely similar to another director’s particular style – but much like all of the shortcomings within Hell Ride your ability to forgive this will determine just how much you are able to enjoy the film.

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Hell Ride

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 1 - 2008
The Plot: This is the story of three men, The Gent (Michael Madsen), Pistolero (Larry Bishop) and Commanche (Eric Balfour). All members of a bike gang called The Victors. Commanche is the newest member, but has quickly made his way up the ranks to stand right next to Pistolero, the leader. Things are calm in their lives, as it’s all about booze, bikes and plenty of booty – but things change shortly when the opposing gang The Six-Six-Six’ers re-form and a certain bit of unfinished business comes back to haunt all three heads of The Victors. Something having to do with 1979, and a beautiful woman who’s life was cut down.



The Review: From the look of things, you’re about to read one of the few overtly positive reviews for Hell Ride out there. This is something that has come as a shock to me. After watching Hell Ride for the first time, I sprang up from my seat and hit the IMDB to learn as much about the film as I possibly could – only to stumble upon a wealth of anger from nearly ever user review I read. Where does this anger come from? Well, Hell Ride is a love it or hate it kind of film I suppose. Your enjoyment of the film is all relative to how forgiving a viewer you are as well as the circumstances involving your watching the film. I learned this the hard way when trying to watch the movie with my brother, who is far from a film geek himself. Hell Ride is a dialogue heavy film, and works in much the same style as Quentin Tarantino’s recent work – which is to say it is pretty over the top in that old “exploitation” film manner, but instead of scenes being punctuated with a line or two of “cool” dialogue like in the old days; every word out of every character’s mouth is either equally over the top and hip or an elongated monologue of hip dialogue. Around the time Pistolero’s spy girlfriend gives her monolauge to him about how he needs to, well, “eff” her (hey man, I try to keep it clean as a manner of professionalism) because he’ll never be able to get it up again once he hears the news – my brother had heard enough. He begged me to find something else to watch. His reason? The dialogue sounds like a theatrical play rather than something you would expect to hear real people say. This is a valid criticism, and unfortunately my brother wasn’t that eloquent with his opinion – but that was his point. He’s right in the fact that Hell Ride sounds nothing like anything you would hear in real life but I also think this is where the film is going to find its audience. Hell Ride is a movie’s movie and although it infuses some things from older exploitation classics, it is an entirely new and different kind of beast. A beast that owes a great debt to the vision of Tarantino and his Kill Bill films. My brother, who is far from a film expert of any sort even asked within the opening minutes of the film if it was actually directed by Tarantino – no doubt due to the black and white crisp photography of the opening as well as the witty banter between characters. It isn’t exactly a good thing when your film is so closely similar to another director’s particular style – but much like all of the shortcomings within Hell Ride your ability to forgive this will determine just how much you are able to enjoy the film.

So, why do I forgive these previously mentioned shortcomings? Well, sometimes a film just has to entertain. Sometimes it isn’t all about intense character motivation, learning a moral lesson or being trapped in a three dimensional drama. Sometimes cinema needs a hero, characters who keep to themselves, show us only enough to have us believe in them and we are rewarded with supermen and women who may be flawed but have little to no weakness. Pistolero, Commanche and The Gent are just those kind of heroes. Michael Madsen (The Gent), who I think most would agree is already one of the coolest cats in Hollywood shows the audience that he still has that attitude and rue smile that made him the wildest villain in Reservoir Dogs. Eric Balfour (Comanche) who is unfortunately miscast as far as age goes. The film is established as taking place in 2008 when it is shown that St. Louis died in this year, and yet Comanche is shown as a child in 1976 as being roughly the age of eleven or twelve. Even if he was only eight in these flashbacks, that still makes him fourty years old – which Balfour most certainly is not. However, all this does is make the audience count the years away in their head as I just did in this review and does not count against Balfour’s performance as he is great in the film. Balfour comes into the film having a career mostly made in Television, with his most noteworthy performance coming in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. Balfour, as the new kid on the block with this particular style of film could have been in a lot of trouble, but he seems to take to the role with enthusiasm and is soon chewing scenery right along with all of the other huge roles in the film. Last of the three to mention, but certainly not least is Pistolero (director Larry Bishop). Bishop seems to be getting a lot of flak for casting himself in the lead role here, but I personally am so glad that he did. I seriously don’t see how anyone could look at his character here and not think “wow, that dude is one of the baddest looking guys on the planet”. With his jet black hair, grizzled facial scruff and pitch black sunglasses that block out all emotions aside from his grimace or his smile – Bishop is one of the best things about the film. He delivers his lines with true belief in the words regardless of how over the top they may be. There are so many throwing around the accusation that Bishop wrote the film as a stroking of the ego, but this no doubt comes from the shock so many viewers have with the way the film deals with its sexuality. I warn casual viewers that there’s a decent bit of nudity here, as well as a quick foursome scene with Larry and a few amazingly beautiful girls. However, the scene is not out of place with the rest of the film and if you’re sitting on the sidelines saying “Biker chicks really ain’t that hot man!” then please hit yourself with a brick. Is there any part of Hell Ride that feels like actual events? Of course not. However, The Gent, Pistolero and Comanche all live in a world where women are numerous and absolutely gorgeous. This is established with scenes such as this and integral for the advancement of the plot, showing how important women are to this lifestyle and how characters like The Gent were sucked into it and how those characters are to react to Booty not being as plentiful when constant war is erupting around them. Not to mention, it’s just pretty friggin’ cool to lay down with that many chicks at once I must say.

Hell Ride isn’t going to be for everyone, it really isn’t and that is painfully obvious at this point. However, I have faith that the film is here to stay and is finding its main audience even now. Although Bishop might have been trying pretty hard with this effort and it could have been toned down just a bit, I do enjoy his outlandish dialogue and I loved this crazy movie. I wouldn’t recommend watching it with anyone other than true film geeks, and do take my words of warning with you. If you’re up for it, this one should be a blast – if you’re not you’ll simply think it goes too far. Expect lots of nudity, a good bit of blood, some insane dialogue and a good time. I’ve had a really great time watching Hell Ride and just hope to find more fans out there of the film.


Return to Sleepaway Camp

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 22 - 2008

Halloween Horrors are here again, with Varied Celluloid covering the latest in Horror cinema and the greatest of old. This month is a tribute to all things of the macabre, with this front page being taken up by horror reviews and thoughts. Check back daily for new reviews, as the rest of this month will be littered with sessions dealing with the obscure and the grotesque! And today we have the continuation of everyone’s favorite tranny teenage killer movie! It has been quite a while since Angela was last slaying teenagers, but who could be the killer now? Watch the movie and find out!

The Review: The Sleepaway Camp series as a whole is generally listed amongst most horror fans as guilty pleasures. The first movie is most certainly the best remembered, namely due to a brilliant twist performed in the third act – but after revisiting the film a while back I discovered it wasn’t as poorly put together as I had thought during my first viewing of it so long ago. I suppose I wasn’t as used to poor acting back in those days as I have grown to become now. That first film had some pretty atrocious performances to be sure. Robert Hiltzik is the man responsible for the series and the creator of the first film. After that it was all but taken out of his hands and two sequels were produced, directed by Michael Simpson and starring Pamela Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen’s sister) as an older Angela who has come back to the camp as a counselor looking to punish all the bad children. The series quickly moved from the more serious tone of the first film into outright horror comedy as Angela looked to one-up both Freddy and Jason in body count and in puns. These sequels, although not truthful to Hiltzik’s vision, were certainly a ton of fun for most of us horror fans. However, after that train slowed to a crawl one last sequel had began in the Sleepaway Camp series. Unfortunately Sleepaway Camp 4: The Survivor only made it part of the way through production before falling apart and now only about thirty five minutes or so of footage exist of this mini-feature. After that, everyone all but assumed the series was doomed to remain an artifact of the past. However, thanks to the guys over at SleepawayCampFilms.com (official site for sequels 2, 3 and 4) and SleepawayCampMovies.com (official site for 1 and Return) interest for the series was found to be as high as ever and director Hiltzik was actually brought back to the series due to the demand of fans and the persistence of those webmasters. Now, here we are with Sleepaway Camp 5: Return to Sleepaway Camp due to be released shortly, there has been a lot of talk about the film and a lot of folks curious about whether or not the film could possibly live up to all the promise of the predecessors. Well, it all depends on what you might expect. It’s unfortunate that after so many years that the problems that plagued the original film could still remain a problem to this day – but in much the same way the things that were fun and intriguing about that first film are still as fresh and innovative here.

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Return to Sleepaway Camp

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 22 - 2008
The Plot: Alan is a major league jerk. There’s no getting past it, he likes to bully all of his bunkmates at Camp who are defenseless nerds, and he generally dumps on everyone around him. However, once the tables turn and all of the older kids really start letting Alan know how big of a pest he is – he doesn’t like the results so much. As the bigger kids start really letting Alan have it – bad things start to happen. Slowly campers and counselors as well start to come up dead – and a select few begin to suspect a killer from the past who committed very similar atrocities about twenty years ago: Angela, from the original Sleepaway Camp. However, is Angela the culprit despite being locked up in the mental institution for all these years (this film rejects the sequels starring Pamela Springsteen) or is it simply the troubled young boy who has been pushed all too far?




The Review: The Sleepaway Camp series as a whole is generally listed amongst most horror fans as guilty pleasures. The first movie is most certainly the best remembered, namely due to a brilliant twist performed in the third act – but after revisiting the film a while back I discovered it wasn’t as poorly put together as I had thought during my first viewing of it so long ago. I suppose I wasn’t as used to poor acting back in those days as I have grown to become now. That first film had some pretty atrocious performances to be sure. Robert Hiltzik is the man responsible for the series and the creator of the first film. After that it was all but taken out of his hands and two sequels were produced, directed by Michael Simpson and starring Pamela Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen’s sister) as an older Angela who has come back to the camp as a counselor looking to punish all the bad children. The series quickly moved from the more serious tone of the first film into outright horror comedy as Angela looked to one-up both Freddy and Jason in body count and in puns. These sequels, although not truthful to Hiltzik’s vision, were certainly a ton of fun for most of us horror fans. However, after that train slowed to a crawl one last sequel had began in the Sleepaway Camp series. Unfortunately Sleepaway Camp 4: The Survivor only made it part of the way through production before falling apart and now only about thirty five minutes or so of footage exist of this mini-feature. After that, everyone all but assumed the series was doomed to remain an artifact of the past. However, thanks to the guys over at SleepawayCampFilms.com (official site for sequels 2, 3 and 4) and SleepawayCampMovies.com (official site for 1 and Return) interest for the series was found to be as high as ever and director Hiltzik was actually brought back to the series due to the demand of fans and the persistence of those webmasters. Now, here we are with Sleepaway Camp 5: Return to Sleepaway Camp due to be released shortly, there has been a lot of talk about the film and a lot of folks curious about whether or not the film could possibly live up to all the promise of the predecessors. Well, it all depends on what you might expect. It’s unfortunate that after so many years that the problems that plagued the original film could still remain a problem to this day – but in much the same way the things that were fun and intriguing about that first film are still as fresh and innovative here.

You remember all the cheesy dialogue of the original Sleepaway Camp? Well, if you’re like me and you thought that was simply a byproduct of 80′s cinematic cheese – well, think again. Unfortunately, that same naive dialogue and the silly childish taunts are back in full force with a cast that seems noticeably older. Essentially, the wit of the dialogue can be summed up in terms like “fat, fatty, fatty” or our leading sociopath Alan’s personal catchphrase “Hey… your ass… STINKS!”. It’s enough to make you throw your hands up in the air and say good grief. At times the film is like an afterschool special about the dangers of bullying, but after about thirty minutes into the film everything starts to sort of fall into place. Return to Sleepaway Camp is not what you would expect a very good film to be. It’s hard to even consider it a “so bad it’s good” sort of affair, since the over the top manner of the film isn’t even all that goofy. Return to Sleepaway Camp tries very hard to be that same sort of film that the first movie was – and how much you’re going to enjoy this film can be best summarized by how much you enjoyed the original. Everything I have said so far about this film, could easily be found in a review for the original Sleepaway Camp. Both films are pretty atrocious in the acting department, both feature some awful dialogue but both flicks also do feature some highly innovative kill scenes and very engaging plots. The kills in Return, although not terribly gory (neither was the original), are pretty freakin’ cool I must say. [SLIGHT SPOILERS]With characters being forced to stand upside down over vats of boiling grease before being dunked headfirst, one character having his stomach pumped full of gasoline before having his mouth taped up and a lit-up joint being shoved through the tape and promptly causing a full body explosion – these are great enough reasons to see the film but[/SLIGHT SPOILERS] then there’s the epic final half hour when the bodies start to really pile up. If there’s a real reason to see Return to Sleepaway Camp, that has to be it. As mentioned, it’s a film full of tremendous death scenes and when they finally start to get rolling you can’t turn away. Then there’s the twist! I can’t go into it, but you can’t go wrong when keeping with a successful formula, especially when horror fans are your target audience. Although there’s absolutely no way possible to top the original.

Return to Sleepaway Camp has a whole mess of problems working against it, I can’t lie. This isn’t going to leave a regular run of the mill horror fan fulfilled. I imagine many will watch it and think it looks too cheap (although leaps and bounds better than most indie fare I run across) or that it’s way too corny to enjoy. Valid complaints, but for those who have followed the series and for horror fans looking for a film that really does harken back to the simpler times – I think Return to Sleepaway Camp might just be the ticket for them. Unlike Rob Zombie or other filmmakers who take a stylish approach to trying to mimic and ape those older films, Hiltzik and company were there and still remember the reasons they made these films. Throw in as imaginative a death scene as you can manage, throw in a decent “whodunnit” plot and at the end of the day try your best to scare one or two people and you’ve done your job. That simplistic outlook gets complicated far too often, but in my opinion its what makes flicks like this so special. Not everyone will enjoy it, I can’t say they will, but target audiences should know who they are. I have to give the film a rating, so I’m going with a three out of five. It almost gained a four due to how much fun I had while watching – but I have to be a realist too and say that no; there’s a lot still to hope for from Hiltzik and the level of performances he gets as well as the base dialogue in the script. Regardless, I hope genre fans find that they can rally behind this one because I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I had a good time and I know that they can too.

Philosophy of A Knife Review

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 20 - 2008

Halloween Horrors are here again, with Varied Celluloid covering the latest in Horror cinema and the greatest of old. This month is a tribute to all things of the macabre, with this front page being taken up by horror reviews and thoughts. Check back daily for new reviews, as the rest of this month will be littered with sessions dealing with the obscure and the grotesque! For today’s update we have one of the most talked about “underground” flicks on the market right now, with Andrey Iskanov’s insanely disgusting Philosophy of a Knife which covers the same group of psychopath doctors who experimented on live subjects as documented in Men Behind the Sun. Will it be the definitive film about Unit 731? Read the review and find out!

The Review: Andrey Iskanov is a filmmaker I have heard a lot about, but seen nothing from. His work has all been snatched up by Unearthed Films – and if there’s any company out there that I trust when it comes to horror, it’s Unearthed. They rarely let you down, have a true love for horror and release some incredibly wicked stuff. Iskanov is best known for his previous expressionist works like Nails and Visions of Suffering; films I have not been fortunate enough to see. However, from what I’ve seen in the trailers Philosophy of a Knife carried over a lot of the same visual style from the director’s previous work and falls right in line with his directorial style. Let me go ahead and state the obvious right off the bat, this film is not going to be for most audiences. It really isn’t. There’s so much going on with Philosophy of a Knife I don’t even know where to begin. Some people are going to really appreciate the creativity behind it and the brutality and unflinching manner in which the director tackles this subject matter. Then a lot of people are going to see it as self indulgent exploitation trying to cover it’s exploitative roots with arthouse pap. That’s just the way it is. I imagine both opinions have their merit and are right in a lot of ways. I personally reside somewhere in the middle, whereas I really enjoy Iskanov’s visual direction, love the overbearing sound FX and think it’s a film that is insane with creativity. However, with a running time of four and a half hours – I couldn’t help but watch the film as both an audience member and a film fan and wonder why this film couldn’t have been trimmed down at least an hour or so. This definitely isn’t going to be the sort of flick to walk in uninitiated, and truthfully I doubt anyone is going to make it all the way through in one sitting – so, preperation is the key with Philosophy of a Knife. With the right frame of mind, the decisions the filmmaker commits to are at least understandable – although that doesn’t mean they aren’t debatable. Some controversy with the film that popped up over the summer happened when Dread Central posted up a review for the film that was completely and utterly negative on all counts; receiving a zero out of five rating with that site. Although I understand how the reviewer may feel that way, I personally usually reserve a rating like that for films that have no technical merit nor anything as far as entertainment. Regardless, the review inspired negative responses from both the folks at Unearthed as well as a very spite-filled letter from Mr. Iskinov himself. You can take either side of the argument and agree with one or the other, which speaks as much for the film as well as this particular situation.

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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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