Search this blog and The Mike's favorite blogs!

November 29, 2011

8 Things I Love About... The Devil Rides Out

It seems like ages ago that this was the first Midnight Movie of the Week. Now, on the eve of the 100th MMOTW(!), it deserves some more love.
Christopher Lee not being amused.
Christopher Lee being inventive.
An observatory with interesting flooring.
Folks putting their hands in the air like they just don't care.
The incredibly possessable Sarah Lawson.
The child-eating spider of Satan.
Taking a stand - with the help of chalk, candles, and throw pillows.
Christopher Lee getting a chance to say "I'm the good guy this time, suckas!"

November 28, 2011


I normally shy away from posting "news" stories.  There are about 1,473,984 blogs/websites that can bring you that stuff.  But I caught wind of some news - or at least news to me - about a couple of my favorite movies of the last two years today, and I could not hide my excitement from y'all.  And if the title of this post doesn't show you how happy I am, wait till you hear what I've got to say below.
First up is the most infamous title in the history of FMWL - Dead Hooker in a Trunk.  I don't have to tell you much about the film, because it's exactly what you'd expect from a film called Dead Hooker in a Trunk.  But it's more than you'd expect from a film called Dead Hooker in a Trunk at the same time.  It's gory and violent and crude, but it's also funny and even kind of sweet.  I've pimped it more than enough here at the site, so when I saw a tweet from those devilishly Twisted Twins (BTW, if you don't already know about Jen and Sylvia Soska, don't worry - there's still time to save you!) this morning that stated that IFC Midnight (who are generally awesome) would be releasing the DVD of Dead Hooker in a Trunk on January 31, 2012....I got really excited.

Seriously, does that look like a bundle of awesome or what? (Spoiler alert: IT DOES LOOK LIKE A BUNDLE OF AWESOME.) And best of all, pre-order links are already up at CD Universe and good ol'  So if you've really been craving a movie about a perished prostitute in a portmanteau (OK, that's a different kind of trunk, but when you have a chance to type portmanteau you type portmanteau) that's one of the most deliriously fun movies you'll see next year - you need to check this one out ASAP (Which, again, is January 31, 2012.)
On the other side of the indie DVD release news spectrum, I was equally joyed to find the official Facebook page of Absentia - which is a strong contender for the top spot on my Best of 2011 list that should appear near the end of the year - mentioning today that Phase 4 Films would be releasing their film on March 13, 2012

You might be dissuaded by that DVD cover - I'm a bigger fan of the simpler poster art that accompanies my review of the film RIGHT HERE - but let me assure you that Absentia is one of the most intelligent and well-acted thrillers out there right now.  Great performances by Katie Parker and Courtney Bell are a major part of the film's success, but director Mike Flanagan also frames some of the best scares I've seen in ages.  It's a really remarkable little film, and I challenge anyone out there to check it out and see for themselves.  I'm not much for guarantees on the internet - they're generally not worth the pixels they're printed on - but I will flat out guarantee that Absentia will get you to jump out of your seat at least once. Probably more than that.  Seriously.
As a fan of all things awesome, it absolutely thrills me to see these movies getting their chance to hit video and make their mark in the horror scene.  If you're looking for something fantastic and original during the first few months of 2012, I don't think you can do much better than these two films.  As different as they may be, Dead Hooker in a Trunk and Absentia are two great horror films - and y'all need to be ready for them.

If you're like me, you might find out that they are two films that will make you proud to be a horror fan.

November 26, 2011

FMWL Indie Spotlight - The Hagstone Demon

(2011, Dir. by Jon Springer.)

It's The Sentinel by way of Wes Anderson in The Hagstone Demon, another one of those shockingly interesting indie features to come out of Minnesota over the past few years.  I'm not entirely sure what's in the water up there - I certainly know that it's not helping their football team - but guys like Gregg Holtgrewe, Matt Osterman, Dan Schneidkraut, Todd Cobery, and now Jon Springer should be teaching a course for indie horror filmmakers.  If I were them, I'd call that course "No More Boring Horror Movies 101", because each of the films I've seen from this group stays interesting by bucking the norms we've come to expect from horror films in this day and age. 

Springer's feature, The Hagstone Demon, holds form alongside the films of his indie brethren by balancing oh-so-delicately on the ledge between looking like a studio release and retaining its independent charms.  Shot mostly in black-and-white (with a few color sequences peppered in to make key points more obvious), the film follows the custodian of a condemned property as he deals with strange occurrences like the reappearance of his dead wife, hairless cats, and a string of murders around and/or in the building he presides over.  That building - The Hagstone - appears to have a long and storied history (thanks for that info, random character in the first act!), but the caretaker is an ex-reporter who's more interested in escaping his own demons and keeping his distance from the tenants of the building that's about to expire.

The caretaker is played by Wisconsin born actor Mark Borchardt, who gained some exposure around the turn of the century as the star of hit documentary American Movie.  I haven't seen that film, and thus had little knowledge of Borchardt before the film, but it became easy to see why the former indie filmmaker was a perfect choice for this role.  Borchardt makes the caretaker a realistic hero simply by being the kind of unmotivated young man that we have probably met once or twice in our lives.  But while the character is presented as unkempt and awkward, the film's focus on helping us understand the events that led him to The Hagstone really help flesh out the character well.

The characters and events that surround the caretaker need to be seen to be believed.  I mentioned the wife and the murders already, but The Hagstone is also home to acts of prostitution, naked Satan cults, exhumed corpses, and possibly - as you might have guessed - a demon.  The caretaker does his best to focus on his own issues despite the events around him - at one point he even turns away his attractive and innocent single-mother neighbor because he wants to avoid her problems while dealing with his own - but the film brings things together in unique ways as it moves toward the final act and all the conflicts within it. 

The events of the film's final third seem to borrow a lot from Satanist cinema of the past - we even get a young priest, played by Ghost from the Machine star Sasha Andreev - but everything from the cast to the camerawork is unique enough to make it feel fresh.  A sequence with the building's last remaining resident is full of manic energy that lifts the plot to a new level, and the events that follow are full of appropriate weirdness.  It took me a while to figure out what to expect from the film - which is full of awkward comedy early on and struggles to balance the dark side of its plot at times - but the final turns set a lot of things right.

I really dug The Hagstone Demon, primarily because of how unique it feels in the library of Satan cult films.  It doesn't bring a lot of chills or scares, but there's something to be said for a thoughtful tale of horror that ends with a haunting final image.  Anchored by fine acting from Borchardt and the female leads (I haven't mentioned Nadine Gross or Cyndi Kurtz here, which is a shame considering how much they bring to the film) and an inventive visual presentation, The Hagstone Demon should at least hold the interest of anyone who thought The House of the Devil was a great throwback to horror films gone by.

The Hagstone Demon is now on DVD and Blu-Ray, and I certainly recommend it as a unique tale.  There are story takes some confusing turns as it unfolds, but I think the payoff is worth investigating.  For more information on the film, including purchasing info, make sure to head over to the official site and learn more!

November 25, 2011

Midnight Movie of the Week #99 - The Fog

John Carpenter and I have always been pretty much best buds when it comes to genre cinema.  Halloween opened my mind, Assault on Precinct 13 thrilled me, Prince of Darkness made me realize critics could be the wrongest people ever....I could go on and on.  Heck, dude's previously had 5 movies named Midnight Movie of the Week here - with The Fog presently becoming number 6 - and this is about the 25th of my 500+ posts that will get tagged with Carpenter's name.  But what some might find hard to believe is that The Fog - which many horror fans regard as one of Carpenter's best films - and I didn't get along extremely well for a long, long time.  There's a story that explains my resistance to Carpenter's seaside ghost story - which, to be fair, I've always LIKED, just haven't always LOVED - and, since this is my blog, I'm gonna tell you that story now.
From the start, Carpenter's tale of the supernatural has the feel of something special.  The opening, in which an old man played by veteran actor John Houseman (who I've always thought was kind of another version of the great Donald Pleasence) tells a group of kids a scary story around a campfire at five til' midnight just reeks of awesomeness.  And when you combine this ominous scene with the Edgar Allan Poe quote that opens the film - "Is all that we see or seem just a dream with in a dream?" - and the strange paranormal events that occur throughout the fascinating seaside villa of Antonio Bay while the film's opening credits are rolling, you have to think there's something deeply supernatural that's gonna happen in this movie.
I was probably 15 or 16 years old when I first met The Fog - which had been strongly recommended by my mother while I begged for horror movies in our country home - and I was still a long way from becoming The Mike that I am today.  But these setting events seemed to represent everything I wanted to love about horror movies - particularly tales of hauntings - and my mind started racing pretty quickly as the film went on.  And that's when I became hyperfocused on a detail that derailed my enjoyment of the movie for more than a decade.
If you don't know, The Fog settles in around the story of the Elizabeth Dane after its opening.  In the film, a priest (played by one of my favorite dudes, Hal Holbrook) discovers that the church he presides over and much of Antonio Bay itself was founded after his ancestors deceived the crew of the Elizabeth Dane - a ship full of rich leper colonists - into crashing into nearby rocks, allowing the "conspirators" to pillage the gold from the ship and bolster their own leper-less community.  And that these events just happened to occur 100 years ago that day.
Father Malone's revelation comes shortly after midnight on that anniversary - which is precisely the same time that several other events in the film occur.  Inanimate objects all over town, mostly electrical devices, malfunction or act out for no good reason; leaving the town confused by the likes of repetitive car horns or self-moving armchairs.  More relevant to the title, a fog bank appears and dooms a ship that's out to sea, setting up the connection to the foggy night when the lepers were sacrificed in the name of fear and greed.  But there's also a third event that occurs at that time, and that's the one that I became convinced meant more than the film thought it meant.
At the same time the town was freaking out and three seamen were doomed by what have been mistakenly called "pirate ghosts", a simple man played by Tom Atkins picks up a young hitchhiker named Elizabeth played by Jamie Lee Curtis.  And that's where my imagination began to get the best of me and makes me mad at John Carpenter (and co-writer Debra Hill).  They introduce a character named Elizabeth at the same time as the fate of a ship named the Elizabeth Dane was discovered, and then had her jump right into bed with Tom Atkins, who didn't seem to have his Night of the Creeps charm yet. Seriously?
So, to sum up, we've got a character named Elizabeth showing up in a town exactly 100 years after a ship named Elizabeth was doomed by the founders of said town.  And I was absolutely positively convinced that that coincidence meant something. (SPOILER ALERT: It did not mean something.)  So, for the rest of the film, I kept expecting this nice young girl who seems like an average Jamie Lee Curtis character and is squeamish around corpses and whose only sin is jumping into bed with Tom Atkins within minutes of meeting him to turn into an undead leper.  In the end, I actually convinced myself that she did turn in to undead leper for several years.  It took many viewings of the film before I looked at myself and went "Hey, The Mike, that girl didn't turn into Fog and come out from under a door, you made that up because of her name."  And when I did call myself out, and really realized that the film didn't intend to have Elizabeth as part of the evil....well, then I got mad at Carpenter and his movie.
This seems like a random enough moment for me to say that I love that Assault on Precinct 13 star Darwin Joston appears in The Fog as a coroner named Dr. Phibes. LOVE IT.
I convinced myself that I liked my ending of the film better than Carpenter and Hill's, because who wouldn't want to see Jamie Lee Curtis turn heel at the end of a movie?  Heck, she was already in full scream queen/good girl mode at this point, it would have been amazing to look back and see her as a nicer version of the bathtub ghost from The Shining or something like that. Alas, my ending to The Fog was completely created by my overactive mind, and after probably a dozen viewings of Carpenter's film I can finally feel safe saying that I was a fool to condemn Elizabeth as a leper ghost just because her name was Elizabeth.
Besides always being mad at the movie for not perfecting a plot twist that I invented in my stupid teenage brain, there's not much else I don't love about The Fog.  I think it might be Carpenter's most well shot film - props to cinematographer Dean Cundey, who went on to get some Oscar nominations and work on hits like Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, and Apollo 13 - and it's incredibly interesting.  So interesting that it made a teenager create his own ghost story, actually.  That has to mean something.
Now that I've grown out of my overactive teenage mindset - at least in some ways - The Fog gets better and better each time I see it.  And the more I see it, the more I remember that I should have never doubted John Carpenter while he was on his perfect run from 1976-1988.  I've occasionally criticized filmgoers who have - in my mind again - misread Carpenter films that I consider classics, and I have to admit my own mistake in once misreading The Fog.  It's an effective and well-done horror tale that deserves better than I once gave it.
(One more random note - The 2005 remake of the film, which is truly horrible, actually used a plot twist similar to the one my teenage mind invented which tied its Elizabeth to the events of 100 years ago. I honestly yelled at the screen and start blabbering like Kevin McCarthy at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers when I saw it unfold.  And yes, I was in a public theater.  I regret nothing.)

November 21, 2011

8 Things I Love About... Night of the Creeps

This cute little fella and his trusty canister.
Corman University 1959, in glorious black & white.
Unibrow Jock Dude.
Everything about Tom Atkins, naturally.
Rooms with dark lighting and shiny buttons always rule.
The thing from Detective Cameron's past.
JC's ominous final message.
But, mostly, Jill Whitlow with a flamethrower.  SWOON.
In fact, everything Jill Whitlow does in this movie is gorgeous. What happened to her? THE MIKE MUST KNOW!

November 20, 2011

Midnight Top Five - The "All-Time Horror Underdogs" Edition

It's been a slow month for FMWL, because The Mike's being beaten severely on a regular basis by his place of work these days.  I thought about coming home and hanging out with FMWL Friday night after a long day at said place of work, but I went against what I thought were my smarter thoughts and decided I'd spend an evening sitting outside in the cold to see my alma mater play a football game against the second best team in the nation. What followed looked a lot like this....
If you squint really hard you might see The Mike in there...
In nothing less than stunning fashion, my beloved Iowa State Cyclones defeated the previously undefeated Cowboys of Oklahoma State, a team loaded with professional prospects that was projected to play for the National Championship.  It sounds big when you put it that way, but believe me when I say that it's so much bigger than you think to us lifelong Iowa Staters.  We, as a collective fan base, have been raised to never expect such a historic victory, have always known that our resources and recruits don't match up with our conference opponents, and sometimes can slip into a bit of disgust - that some of my friends would call "being a hater" - about our fortunes as a football program.  So for us to be the kings of the world for one night is pretty much the best thing that could ever happen to any of us as fans of such a historically mediocre program.

The thing that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle when juggernauts go down in sports is that the survivors who just fought for their lives despite their deficits are usually normal teams who no one expects anything from.  And sometimes, the same thing happens in horror movies.  Thus, I present to you a new Midnight Top Five, in which I'm gonna look at five of my favorite underdogs in horror history.  Let's do this!

Deputy/Sheriff Dewey Riley - The Scream Series
Dewey Riley was the most immediate thing that came to my mind when I tried to think of horror characters who remind me of my alma mater's football team.  Everyone underestimates Dewey, and most of the time he proves them right.  He's often in the wrong place at the wrong time - sort of like his whole relationship with that awful Gale Weathers, but that's a different story - he doesn't carry himself like a winner, and he is left for dead pretty much all the time.
Dewey's the forgotten man in the first two Scream films (most have said that he only survived the original because test audiences wanted him to), and his rise to power as Sheriff in the latest installment of the series had me fist pumping in joy.  He's still awkward - he's got the theme from Beverly Hills Cop as his ringtone in 2011! - and puts himself in some bad spots, but we love him anyway.  And he's shown that he's gonna keep surviving, and he makes me think that one of these days he could even pull the big upset and do something really right.
Something like winning the WCW Championship!
Suzy Bannion - Suspiria
You get the feeling that, in her homeland of America, Suzy Bannion is really good at what she does.  But when we get to see her dance in the Germanic setting of Suspiria, we realize pretty quickly that she's out of her element and up against forces that are a lot bigger than she is.  She doesn't fit in with the other dancers, she doesn't know what she's up against.  Like some of the biggest underdogs you'll find in sports, she's away from home and on the ropes.
Despite her surroundings, Suzy does her best to keep her head on straight.  Like any underdog who wants to survive the game, she sets out to first understand her opponent.  Her physical limitations are a secondary concern to her, because she needs information on how to defeat the evil forces around her before she can even compete with the dark forces of her academy.  And sometimes a smart opponent that's somewhat capable can take down something that's bigger and badder than them. It's what a lot of great upsets are made of.
Benjamin Franklin Fischer - The Legend of Hell House
A lot of times, people talk about college sports like they exist solely to make money.  According to some - mostly the advertisers who own the Bowl system and the administrators who get all the money from tens to hundreds of thousands flocking to their campuses - that's kind of true.  Here at ISU, we recently were terrified beyond belief that we were going to be without a conference in the near future - which would mean no money to pay for all the upgrades to our facilities that we'd already started to build.  Then again, there's another point that some of us argued - that our program would have a better chance of surviving if we weren't in this big money conference.
Enter Benjamin Fischer, played by Roddy McDowall, in The Legend of Hell House.  A meek and kind of terrified fellow, Benjamin is spending time in the titular house mostly because a) he survived it once before and b) he's being paid.  As such, you don't really expect him to give a strong showing, and when he does open himself up to the house he is abused badly.  But as the game between investigators and spirits continues through this haunted house classic, McDowall starts to reveal a chip on Fischer's shoulder. That makes him a dangerous man in the final act, and places the ghosts of Hell House on upset alert.

The Dream Warriors - A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
If we were making a list of people who are underestimated, both "teenagers" and "folks in loony bins" would probably show up on that list.  So when you put a bunch of teenagers in a loony bin (Is that not the PC term for it? OOPS.) up against a bully (who also kills people with knifey glove in their dreams), the oddsmakers are gonna be in favor of the bully.
Speaking of, it's worth noting how often us fans of underdogs feel like the favorites are bullies that are pushing us around.  In some cases it's true - any time Nebraska ever came to town I felt like I was being whipped with towels after gym class again - and that's a time when it's pretty hard for the underdogs to really feel like they can do anything right.  But when you can stand up and fend off that bully - whether it's shaped like Cornhuskers or Fred Kreuger - that's a time when you should be proud.  And that's why us horror fans should be proud of the Dream Warriors, because they at least fought back. They might not have all survived, but it's a win that some of them did.
Valentine McKee & Earl Bassett - Tremors
Like most good underdogs, we know from the start that no one expects much out of Val and Earl, two handymen whose handiness might be overshadowed by their carefree behavior and....well, for lack of a better term....redneck tendencies.  But it's quickly established that these two dudes are smarter than most people think, even if they don't present themselves as winners in that department.
And if you're wondering what the number one thing that can push an underdog to an upset over a dominating team or a trio of graboids, I have one word for you: teamwork.  It sounds like a cliche, and sometimes it is, but being on the same mental wavelength as the person you are forced to trust in a crisis situation is a recipe for unexpected success.  When something freaky happens and people think they have to adapt, it's often the people who can communicate effortlessly and who know each others' limitations that get the breaks that most observers would call "lucky".  Val and Earl win mega bonus points for how well they understand each other, which makes their heroism - which seems improbable to most onlookers - easy to understand.

As you can see, the traits that can make an underdog a winner - things like perseverance, intelligence, determination, and communication - can work just as well in horror films as they do in athletics.  Maybe there's not thousands of people storming to congratulate the characters who survive against all odds...but I think there should be.

Got your own favorite underdogs in horror?  Join the comments section below and give them the respect they deserve!  Like my beloved Cyclones' coach after their upset victory, I am so proud of all the great horror underdogs out there.
(Yeah, I'm posting that just because I'm still geeking out over this all. Deal with it.)

November 17, 2011

Midnight Movie of the Week #98 - Son of Godzilla

I'm going with a bit of cinematic comfort food once more with this week's Midnight Movie of the Week.  Last week I was worn out and took the apathetic route to comfort via Escape from New York, but this week I felt the need to watch something a little more happy-go-lucky.  And while fans of a certain monster who's occasionally known as "Big G" might think I'm crazy, I can't stop myself from admitting that I take crazy amounts of comfort in the adventures of Minilla/Minya, the Son of Godzilla.
Like many American kids, the 'Zilla I grew up with isn't the Godzilla that was intended for audiences in his native Japan.  Dubbed versions of the giant monster's films were readily available, but it was only in recent years that I learned all about just how badly mutilated these films were.  Though my later travels into kaiju cinema showed me just how good the original Japanese versions of some of these films were compared to their American counterparts - Gojira vs. Godzilla! King of the Monsters is like Ice Cream vs. Herpes - I gotta admit that I still get a BIG kick out of a badly dubbed G-film from the '60s and '70s.  You can blame the fact that the first Godzilla film in my house was Godzilla vs. Megalon (which would have been a MMOTW pick long ago if it just woulda been on DVD EVER!) for that.
The eighth Godzilla film - in a series that is now a whopping 28 films long (not counting Roland Emmerich's American "remake") - is generally recognized as one of the signs that the originally dark series had adapted to child audiences, an argument that is hard to dispute.  Though many would argue that the film series would hold much more intrigue if it had maintained a serious tone and its focus on the dangers of radiation, I'm willing to bet there are a lot of folks out there who were darn happy to fund these light-hearted monster adventures when they were kids.  I know that I count myself among that lot, because I didn't care one bit that Jet Jaguar was a stupid robot or that Megalon was a tree with pincers when I was a kid.  I was in awe of the big monster battles, and Toho's decision to adapt these films to young audiences clearly attributed to my ability to suspend disbelief in the name of giant monsters.
Son of Godzilla occasionally feels like something between King Kong and Gilligan's Island, with a crew of scientists and an intrepid newspaperman (is there any other kind of newspaperman?) studying strange developments on a small island.  These developments primarily involve a bunch of oversized preying mantises - known in the Toho 'verse as Kamacuras and a mysterious bathing beauty, until the 30 minute mark of the film when the angry uberbugs unearth a egg that produces the title character.  The onlooking scientists immediately proclaim that "It looks like a baby Godzilla!", even though the flat faced and pudgy little character doesn't really resemble that iconic monster at all.  Thankfully, Godzilla shows up and fights off two out of three Kamacuras (which ain't bad!), then adopts the little tyke as his own.  I'm not really sure who the real father of the character - now known as Minilla to G-Scholars - is, but if you're a monster and get to call Godzilla your dad, it doesn't matter who your real father is.
Which brings me to the real reason to talk about Son of Godzilla.  Minilla makes me laugh constantly.  He's like the kaiju version of John Belushi.  And the scenes where his papa tries to teach him how to be a big meanie and growl and breathe radioactive fire are about the cutest things ever filmed.  And the film ends with a battle in the snow, which makes it a lot like Kill Bill Vol. 1 - except for the fact that the battle is between a giant lizard and his adopted mini lizard and a giant spider named Kumonga.
OK, I don't have a lot of intelligent or useful things to say about Son of Godzilla right now.  But again, I feel like I have to point out just how ridiculously enjoyable the silly little guy is.  I think it might be genetic.  I still have surprised memories of the time I loaned my dad my copy of Godzilla: Final Wars - which, for now, is the last film in the series - and he called me out of the blue, laughing hysterically, all because Minilla was riding in a truck and wearing a seatbelt.  We love Minilla that much in this family.
This post needs more Asian dudes in peril.
So yeah, maybe I'm not the best G-Fan.  I know that this version of Godzilla looks like a bad puppet version of the original with creepy wonky eyes, and I know that the battles in this film lack a lot of the swagger of other kaiju films.  But this G-rated introduction to the softer side of Godzilla remains something that makes me smile constantly, and I stand proud of my unwavering enjoyment of Minilla's adventures in catching weird fruits that are thrown up to 100 yards in the air by an island lady.  Son of Godzilla rocks my socks, and I'm OK with that.

November 15, 2011

FMWL Indie Spotlight - Jenny Ringo and The Monkey's Paw

(2011, Dir. by Chris Regan.)

The Monkey's Paw is one of those stories that just warms a horror lover's heart.  It's become more of an ideal than a story and - despite my vivid memories of reading/discussing the story in a 5th grade English class - I had to look up the fact that it was originally a short story by W.W. Jacobs.  The basic theme behind the story - which warns us that wishes can't always overpower fate - has been molded into plenty of horror tales throughout the years. The adaptation/homage that jumps to the forefront of my mind is a segment from Freddie Francis' 1972 Tales From the Crypt film - but the story has also been spoofed plenty of times by folks like The Simpsons and The Monkees.  To me the story has always been one of the great horror mysteries, because you can go almost anywhere from a "what if you had three wishes but couldn't control the results?" set-up.

So when Chris Regan, a blogger and reader of FMWL, contacted me regarding a comedy-horror short film that he'd just completed - Jenny Ringo and The Monkey's Paw - I noticed the words "The Monkey's Paw" in the title...and I got real curious real quick.  I didn't know who Jenny Ringo was at the time, but I'm darn glad I watched this short and met her.

Jenny Ringo and The Monkey's Paw - a blatantly British production, FYI - seems to have taken a bit of inspiration from the work of Edgar Wright on Shaun of the Dead and Spaced.  The story focuses on two best buds - Jenny and Gavin - who share a flat and try to coexist through Gavin's slothful attitude and Jenny's attempts to grow-up and pay the bills.  When Jenny tries to escape the apartment for a couple of weeks, Gavin is forced to leave the flat, which allows him to come across a magician who possesses a magical monkey's paw.

I think it's safe to say that Gavin is about as bad at coming up with three wishes as anyone in the history of Monkey's Paw tales, but he still manages to do sufficient damage to the lives of himself and his flatmate.  When Jenny returns and finds the results of his actions, she has to take action to make things right.
The first thing that anyone will probably take away from this film is Rosie Duncan's turn as the title character, because she instantly makes Jenny Ringo a heroine that we're ready to love.  She brings fantastic energy to the lead, from her initial pleas that what she's telling us might save our lives to her dominating direction to the lifeless Gavin when things rough.  The character could be taken over the top - and one segment of the film shows us what it would look like if Jenny was too happy-go-lucky - but Duncan manages to keep Jenny realistic and entertaining throughout. It was less than 10 minutes before I was ready for a whole slew of Jenny Ringo adventures.

The rest of the film is at a disadvantage when pitted against such a front-and-center character, but there's still a lot that goes right.  There are no obvious liabilities in the cast, and the film provides a lot of fun moments visually.  A sequence in which Jenny and Gavin search for the magician who gave him the paw - a hammy character who is also pretty endearing in his own way - really gave me the impression that the cast and crew were having a lot of fun making this comedic tale.  And a sequence with the magician and some characters that seem to have walked right out of a Herk Harvey film definitely had me smiling.
Regan's film isn't without flaws.  The film sets Jenny up as a narrator and in-film director - kind of like Wayne in Wayne's World - early on, but I didn't feel they did enough to make this a part of the film in all scenes.  And I was kind of left cold by the finale, partially because I was confused trying to put it back together with the opening of the film, and probably partially because I was selfishly wanting more Jenny Ringo adventures.  (According to Regan, a sequel just might be in the works. My fingers are crossed for it!)

Though its tonal changes gave me brief pause, I found Jenny Ringo and The Monkey's Paw to be a fun example of the comedy that can come from classic horror tales.  Regan has put together a neat little homage to the classic tale, and Duncan has created one heckuva memorable comic heroine.  The resulting 25-minute film is well worth seeing, and I think that anyone who enjoys a tongue-in-cheek comedy should get a kick out of Jenny's brush with fate.

If you want to know more about Jenny Ringo and The Monkey's Paw - and I think you do - be sure to head over to the official site and sign up for the mailing list, which will keep you up to date on all of the film's adventures.  You can also keep track of the film on Facebook, or follow Chris' blog - Writer by Night - to keep up with his views on film and notes on this film's future!

Who knows? God willing, we'll all meet again in Jenny Ringo 2 - The Search for More Monkey.