Rorschach: Movie Review

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Hey guys, BadAssGeek here. All movie lovers know what it feels like when you discover a movie that surprises you. You go into it with little-to-no expectations and find yourself blown away. When that movie is over you find yourself excited and can’t wait to tell everyone you know about it, but it’s 2 a.m. and you have to wait. If you’re like me you pace the kitchen replaying all the best scenes in your mind and counting the hours until you can spread the word. For me that movie is Rorschach, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Full disclosure: I can be kind of a dick. It’s true; just ask anyone who knows me. The director of this film, C.A. Smith and I follow each other on twitter and I kept seeing mentions about this film but never bothered to watch it. I heard it was found footage and also heard that it was free to view online (you can view on many sites, the best probably being the director’s YouTube page) and I began to mentally roll my eyes. I was convinced it would be some buddies that grabbed a camera and went out in the backyard to have some fun then called it a movie. I was so wrong , and I owe the director, the actors, the crew and everyone else a big apology.

In this day and age of spoiler-filled trailers and overhyped marketing campaigns, it is hard to go into a movie blind but that is just what I did with Rorschach. I literally knew nothing about this film and boy did it leave me all kinds of giddy. The film is a classic haunted house tale told with assured direction and strong performances and it delivers a level of satisfaction not found in many movies made with much larger budgets.

As I have stated, this movie is found footage. There are basically two camps when it comes to found footage: those who still enjoy it and those who feel it is played out and should just disappear. I feel that found footage, when done right, adds a whole other level of creepy to horror films. There is something about the immediacy and the boots-on-the-ground feeling that pushes all the right buttons for me. Well, Rorschach is found footage done right.

Written and directed with a competent and assured hand by the aforementioned C.A. Smith, Rorschach tells the tale of two paranormal investigators (played by Ross Compton and Ricky Lee Barnes) who are looking into the strange goings on at the home of single mom Jamy (Jamy Gillespie) and her young daughter Ashlynn (Ashlynn Allen). Simple enough right? We’ve seen this a million times. Well-developed characters and strong performances are what separates this movie from the pack.

In my opinion, actors in found footage movies don’t get enough credit.  While other actors get to perform their roles, found footage forces you have to act without performing. As anyone who has had someone point a camera at you and tell you to act natural knows, it is very hard to do. I sometimes forget how to walk. Every one of these actors nails it.

When they arrive at the house our investigators are told of strange noises and things moving by themselves or disappearing altogether. They are also told of strange horrid smells coming from nowhere and ghostly voices whispering from dark corners. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the plot because you should go in as blind as you can. I will say that this is a movie that gets under your skin and stays there. C.A. Smith knows how to build tension and dread with an expert touch most directors need many years to formulate. His timing and pacing is just about perfect. When you find yourself in a tense scene waiting to see if something is truly going to happen he makes you wait just long enough that you think, “okay, it’s not happening this time”. Then it does.

Let me tell you right now, this is not a jump scare movie. If you want jump scares there are a million tweener horror movies out there to scratch that itch.  Feel free to knock yourself out with one of those. This is my favorite kind of horror film; it is quiet and creepy and gives you a total sense of unease. I promise you by the time this movie is over you will be asking yourself if you left that bedroom light on or did it come on by itself. This is the kind of film that makes you jump after it is over, when the sound of the water heater knocking about makes you crap your pants.

Rorschach is also special by today’s horror standards in the way you actually care about these people. These actors never allow their roles to become caricatures. When Ricky and Ross investigate they keep trying to find ways to prove that there is really nothing going on; that Jamy and Ashlynn have just scared themselves into this haunted fantasy. As their explanations become more and more reaching you realize they are not being condescending; they are truly scared and trying to whistle past the graveyard. When it becomes obvious that something is wrong with this house they stay by Jamy and Ashlynn’s side because they are decent guys, even when it is painfully obvious they have no idea what to do.

Little Ashlynn is good in her role as well. Child actors can sometimes make or break a film like this but she gives her character a mix of innocence and world weariness no child should have.

As good as the guys and Ashlynn are, Jamy Gillespie is the glue that holds this whole thing together.  She is great. Never devolving into overacting or histrionics, she reacts how just about all of us probably would. At first she is frazzled but embarrassed to even be talking about it. Later that is replaced my weariness and anger, and finally just an overwhelming hopeless fear. You really feel for her, as you do for all of them.

The finale of Rorschach is understated and the film is made all the scarier because of it. If the director had tried to tack on some overly produced BIG SHOT at the end, I feel it would have lessened the impact. Instead we get a satisfying ending – rare in found footage – that is just as creepy and effective as the rest of the film. When Rorschach was over I felt like I had just been told a great ghost story while sitting round a campfire. I can’t think of a better compliment than that. To C.A. Smith I say this: I will never roll my eyes at you again.

You can watch Rorschach right here:

Daylight’s End: Movie Review

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Do you know Johnny Strong? If not you should. Johnny is a ripped-up, tattooed badass who, along with being an actor, is also a martial artist and founder of the rock band Operator. The guy even makes his own knives.  Go to his website and maybe he can make you some too. After small parts in Fast and the Furious and Black Hawk Down, Strong showed up on action movie lover’s radars with his lead role in Sinners and Saints, a cops and gangsters cult hit which left me eager for his next role. His latest role is the lead in Daylight’s End, a post-apocalyptic action-horror hybrid from director William Kaufman. Think I am Legend with a much smaller budget but a much tougher protagonist.

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A virus has spread worldwide, turning 99 percent of the population into vampire-like creatures who roam in fast-moving swarms every night looking to gnaw on people. Rourke is a loner making his way through this world when he meets and saves the life of a female survivor (Sam).  She then talks him into escorting her back to her group with the promise of food and ammo. I know what you’re thinking: none of this sounds very original.  You would be correct in having that thought. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen in any Mad Max or Walking Dead knockoff before it. The difference here is the quality of the cast and the production values.

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Strong is supported by a good turn from Chelsea Edmundson as Sam, and none other than Lance Freakin’ Henriksen as the leader of the survivors, turning in his best role in a decade. If Henriksen doesn’t get your horror lovin’ heart pitter-pattering, I can’t help you. Strong brings a real physicality to his role that makes him a believable and effective man-of-few-words hero. The action is shot and executed well and the supporting performances are good across the board.

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This movie is not high art.  It checks the box for every action horror cliche you can think of, and falls into predictable traps as a result. Despite those traps, good direction by Kaufman and good performances elevate the material above some of it’s VOD brethren.

I will end simply with this: if post-apocalyptic action-horror is your thing, you will have a good time with Daylight’s End.

The Killer Robots! Crash & Burn: Movie Review

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BadAssGeek here. The rock and roll fable holds a small but well-loved place in film. The 70s brought us movies like Tommy and Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. The 80s and 90s brought us films like Pink Floyd The Wall and the bombastic costumed carnage of Gwar. Seriously, if you’ve never seen Gwar quit reading now and look em up.  I’ll be here when you get back.

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Now we have a new entrant into the rock movie pantheon. Ladies and gentlemen I present to you The Killer Robots: Crash and Burn starring, you guessed it, The Killer Robots, a theatrical rock band based out of Orlando. This kinda movie is critic proof, as well it should be. If you are watching this film with a highly critical eye you are missing the whole point. This film is a true labor of love made by people having a lot of fun and wanting you to join the party.
That’s not to say the quality of this movie should be overlooked because there is a lot of quality to be found here.  Directed by Sam Gaffin, this movie has an infectious good humor that should make you smile.

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Our story starts with our four android heroes – Auto, Max, Strobo and Trog –  played by the band members themselves, fighting and being destoyed in a mechanized all-robot gladiator arena. The guys are subsequently revived and sent on a mission by what amounts to cyber-God to stop cyber-Satan from unleashing a virus which could destroy their cyber world.  I think. Honestly, the plot doesn’t matter.

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What does matter is the really cool visual style that Gaffin, who also did visual effects, brings to the table. This thing brought to mind all kinds of retro goodness. Take The Wall, Monty Python, Heavy Metal: The Movie and The Ice Pirates, throw in some 1980s Flash Gordon and a touch of Japanese anime, smother it with geek love and bake for too long at too high a temperature, and you get the picture. The costume design is inventive, mostly created by recycled water bottles and discarded toys, and the computer generated early 80s post-apocalyptic setting is spot-on. The performances by our four leads is reliable and funny with the band members giving these big lugs individuality and likability as they battle one mechanized weirdo after another.

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Are there things I could criticize? Sure. Is it too long? Oh hell yeah.  At over an hour and forty minutes, it’s like they are daring you to finish. I’m sure this would have worked much better as an extended short. Could it have used a stronger narrative? OK. But you know what?  It just doesn’t matter. This movie had one goal in mind: to be fun and cause smiling. Mission accomplished.