Covering cinema from the highest of the highbrow to the lowest of the low-grade.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
New on Netflix streaming: UNDOCUMENTED (2011), DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND (2010), SAINT NICK (2010)
It was only a matter of time before the subject of right-wing extremism became the basis for a horror film, and UNDOCUMENTED has some intriguing ideas but doesn't really do much with them. A documentary filmmaker (Scott Mechlowicz) and his crew tag along with a group of Mexicans illegally crossing the border into the US. Once they're across and in New Mexico, they're abducted by a far-right militia group and taken to a compound, where the leader, X (Peter Stormare, relying on his distinctive voice as his face is obscured by a mesh hood for 99% of his screen time), makes Mechlowicz change the focus of his film to what goes on at the compound. Fed up with illegal immigration and the perceived disrespect of America, X and his followers, many of whom are naturalized citizens, proceed to torture and kill the illegals, using some of them for organ harvesting for rich American clients (that plot again?). There's a potentially interesting story here, but director/co-writer Chris Peckover too often focuses instead on the past-its-sell-by-date torture porn angle, making UNDOCUMENTED come off less like a topical horror film with a message and more like what might happen if Eli Roth remade EL NORTE. (Unrated, 96 mins)
DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND (2010/UK)
Absolutely dreadful, shamelessly derivative British zombie outing may as well be titled 28 RIPOFFS LATER. Here, its sprinting dead are the result of a company called N-Gen testing an over-the-counter energy booster on 30,000 volunteers. 29,999 turn into flesh-eating ghouls with the sudden ability to engage in agile parkour and free-running. No, really. Maybe this was supposed to be a spoof and they forgot the jokes? "Hey, it's like DISTRICT B13, but with zombies!" is the kind of idea that sounds awesome until your high wears off. One volunteer (THE DESCENT's MyAnna Buring) is immune and the unscrupulous N-Gen CEO (Colin Salmon) sends hard-bitten (and zombie-bitten, but he has a temporary vaccine) mercenary hitman (Craig Fairbrass) to find her. There's also Buring's sprung con brother (Danny Dyer, trying to sound badass but sounding more like Bob Hoskins after oral surgery), his pal (DOOMSDAY's Craig Conway), and a few others who, courtesy of the screenwriters at Plot Convenience Playhouse, all end up in the outskirts of London, barricaded in a garage to stave off the hordes of the infected. Filled with ludicrous contrivances (amazing how Fairbrass literally stumbles upon, in the middle of nowhere, the very place Buring is hiding), ugly digital video cinematography, headache-inducing shaky-cam and fast cutting that renders most of the action incomprehensible, numerous characters that director Mark McQueen forgets about for long stretches (plus a pointless comic relief cameo by DOG SOLDIERS' Sean Pertwee), and a bored cast that looks like they're waiting around for Neil Marshall to put them in a better movie, DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND is the absolute pits. Forget it. (Unrated, 97 mins)
SAINT NICK aka SAINT (2010/The Netherlands)
This yuletide fright flick from Dutch horror master Dick Maas (THE LIFT, AMSTERDAMNED) no doubt plays much better on DVD where you can choose the original Dutch audio track. The version streaming on Netflix is the badly-dubbed English track, and it's distracting, to say the least. Maas explores the darker side of the holiday season in a 1492 prologue where evil bishop Niklas (Maas regular Huub Stapel) and his evil minions the Black Petes regularly rape and pillage their way through the village until they're all burned alive by the fed-up townspeople. Now, every 32 years (or 23...the dubbers can't keep it straight, and the years referenced don't add up either way) on December 5, St. Nick returns to exact his vengeance. Cut to 2010 Amsterdam, as St. Nick returns for his killing spree. In spite of all the gory killings, most regard St. Nick as a myth, except for high-strung detective Goert (Bert Luppes), who gets suspended from duty while the clueless cops blame the killings on local teen Frank (Egbert Jan Weeber). So, of course, the two of them have to reluctantly join forces to defeat the ghost of the evil St. Nick. If you can get by the abysmal dubbing, SAINT NICK is a pretty good time, depending on your tolerance for splatter and general bad taste. A lot of the killings are played for laughs and done in the over-the-top style of early Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson. You can get the general plot and enjoy the dark-humored, blood-soaked mayhem, but Netflix really should look into streaming the Dutch audio with English subtitles instead of the slapdash and extremely awkward English dub, where none of the voices seem to fit the actors. Good fun as long as no one's talking. (Unrated, 88 mins).