Hot Summer Reads! Horrendous Sunglasses!

Desperate for some creepy reading for when you’re at the beach? I’ve come up with a list of five (it’s actually seven, but don’t tell anyone) novels and audiobooks. You can check that out over on my YouTube channel. If you haven’t hit that subscribe button, I’d love it if you did.

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Are movies more your thing? Well I was lucky enough to get the chance to check out the upcoming 68 Kill at a special screening during Wizard World last month. The movie was directed by Trent Haaga, stars Matthew Gray Gubler and AnnaLynne McCord, and was based on a novel by Bryan Smith. I’ve got a video review of that where I discuss other recent novel-to-film adaptations.

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If you’ve no interest in watching me talk, and would rather read my take on a giant monster story: Exponential is now out in paperback from Black T-Shirt Books. This new edition sports a dope new cover and a brand new afterword. If you already own the old edition: this is the same book, don’t double-dip unless you’re really sure you need to own the new cover. If you’d prefer to save paper: there’s always the ebook, also available for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

EXPONENTIAL - AMAZON + FLAT

If you’ve already got that, or monsters aren’t your thing: Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume Two is now out in ebook, paperback, and audiobook narrated by Joe Hempel.  There are great authors like Tim Waggoner, Michael Arnzen, and Bryan Smith in there. Along with one by me.

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That’s all for today! Happy reading, stay cool!

In Every Dream Home a Heartache: Dream Home (2010)


I’ve always been interested in the way different governments codify and deal with “extreme” media. Like most horror fans this means that I have a fascination with (and healthy fear of) censorship. Although many enjoy griping about America’s film certification board, the MPAA, it’s important to remember that it is an independent, not governmental body. In many countries this is not the case, and though there are many problems with the MPAA, it does not have the power to ban a film outright.

This stuff is not ancient history (the Thatcher-era “Video Recordings Act” was during the late 80s, and even this year the UK banned Human Centipede II claiming no amount of cuts would get the film certified) nor is it restricted to the Brits (see Australia’s recent crack down on violent video games) but I would argue that no area of the world has a more interesting ratings system in place than Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s certification system (established in the late 1980s, before which there were no ratings but harsh restrictions on what could appear onscreen) is a series of categories capped off with the highly permissive Category III rating (Cat III). Cat III films require the viewer to be over 18, and although pornography is not permitted in HK (on the black market, such content is referred to as “Cat IV”) Cat III films are allowed to have a level of sex and violence (and often times a combination of the two) that would make any other ratings board balk.

Unlike the MPAA’s restrictive (and seldom used) NC-17, many films are produced specifically to carry the label of Cat III. Although many varieties of films find themselves carrying the label, within the HK horror genre, the certification led to the formation of a loose subgenre of cheaply produced HK splatter films. Films like Ebola Syndrome, Dr. Lamb and Daughter of Darkness consistently smash the boundaries of good taste, but have probably never been anyone’s idea of cerebral, highbrow international cinema. Ho-Cheung Pang’s Dream Home (2010) is not one of those films. It may be a Cat III horror film, it may contain stomach churning scenes of violence and brutality, but where the goal of the films mentioned above is taboo-breaking, Dream Home has satiric, intelligent and artistic aspirations…

But if that’s not your thing it also has a woman being suffocated using a vacuum cleaner, a plastic bag and a zip-tie. Yikes.

In fact, the violence in Dream Home is so extreme that cuts had to be made in Hong Kong just so it could be a Cat III film. If this doesn’t pique your interest, then you’ve probably haven’t seen some of these movies. I have no facts to back this up, but I have a feeling that the reason the HK ratings board was so hard on Dream Home was how GOOD the film looks.

This is one of the slickest horror movies you’ve ever seen, and the gorgeous photography only serves to enhance the unsettlingly well-executed gore effects. Speaking of gore, the FX are mostly practical with slight digital embellishments. Dream Home could be used as a good counteragument to those diehards who naysay digital gore. As with any tool, it just has to be used correctly.

The plot is simple: Cheng (the quite fetching Josie Ho) is a middle class gal with aspirations of being an upper-middle class gal. She’s going to get there by securing the apartment of her dreams (hence the title), but given HK’s economy and impenetrable housing market that’s easier said than done. In many ways this is the world’s first “real estate horror” movie, and to make it a lot less boring than it sounds the narrative is fractured. We jump back and forth in Cheng’s life, from her childhood to the point where she decides to take up arms (a box cutter, some zip-ties and her grandfather’s toolbelt) against the tenants of a luxury high-rise. This temporal hopscotch ensures that a splatter set-piece is delivered about once every ten minutes, keeping our attention.

I love the ideas that fuel the film, I love parts of the film, but I do not love Dream Home.

Like the best genre works, Dream Home is a movie that engages the world around it. It is a movie that not only offers entertainment (of a pitch-dark variety) but also societal commentary. Although it is steeped in localisms, you don’t have to know a bunch about the history of Hong Kong to enjoy it (in fact, there is a brief text primer on the Chinese “handover” and Hong Kong’s political and economic situation at the beginning of the film). If anything, it helps looking at the movie with American eyes: these desires and economic woes are universal.

Dream Home is a difficult movie to discuss, because I think I enjoy it a whole lot more in theory than I do in execution. It’s got problems. And chief among them is pacing. The movie starts with its best sequences, by the middle the audience can predict the ending (down to the final shot), and in the end the crescendo it tries to build to is the only action sequence that rings hollow.

So do I recommend you seek it out? Yes. With enough blood spillage to appeal to gorehounds and enough thought behind it that it will appeal to pseudo-academics like myself, the film is worth it although I doubt it will 100% satisfy either camp.

Dream House is on Netflix Instant in HD (which is probably as good/slightly better than the DVD if you have a fast enough connection). If you’re a Netflix ex-pat, there’s always Amazon.

It was released uncut stateside by IFC, so kudos to them (they also gave a release to the excellent Pontypool. It seems that as they decline as a network, they’re growing as a distribution channel). I don’t speak Cantonese, but I do have to say that the subtitles seem a little hinky. Then again, maybe that’s how the dialog sounds in it’s original language. Sadly there seems to be no blu-ray in any country, that’s a shame because the film is very nice looking.

The Value of Shock

Disclaimer: Yeah, there are like fifteen hundred other reviews of this book bouncing around the internet. I know. But I went to a store and bought this last week, so you’re gonna have to indulge me while I put down some thoughts.

There are very few nonfiction books written about horror films that aren’t either: a) breezy, fan-written overviews of the genre, which are generally full of hyperbole and geek-bias or b) so overly academic that they preclude enjoyment. In Shock Value, Jason Zinoman solves this problem by approaching his chosen material as both an intelligent fan (the guy wrote for the New York Times and Vanity Fair) and by focusing the majority of his attention on the interesting—and often untold—human stories behind the production of these films.

Zinoman’s area of interest is the dawn of “New Horror” in the 1970s. As you probably know, there’s not a whole lot left to say about Halloween, The Exorcist, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, or Rosemary’s Baby. These films have been poked and prodded, reconstructed and deconstructed under every possible critical and academic lens. Wisely, Zinoman chooses to take a closer look at the creators of these films over in-depth analysis of the films themselves. He examines both the cultural climate of the time in which these men were working and their relationships to each other (relationships which range from playful thematic discourse to professional symbiosis to downright adversarial). Through extensive and candid interviews with filmmakers like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper and a host of their collaborators Zinoman creates intriguing miniature portraits of the men themselves, but also to tell the larger story of the movement they forged. These are men we don’t hear from a lot (promo material for DVDs barely counts, and that’s not the kind of engagement they give Zinoman). Many of their stories are quite fascinating and will often offer deeper insights into their work.

Worthy of special mention is the large swath of time Zinoman takes discussing the life and work of the late Dan O’Bannon. It’s great that this lesser-respected, semi-kooky, but very important figure in genre cinema gets to tell his side of the story one last time in the pages of Shock Value. For me, this alone was worth the price of the book.

How much enjoyment you yourself will derive from Shock Value, probably depends on your level of open-mindedness and readiness to interact with a text that you may not agree with at all times. The hardest of the hardcore horror fans will probably find much of the ground covered to be familiar, and even if they don’t they will possibly take offense to Zinoman’s frank appraisal of horror post-the advent of New Horror. The author approaches the men he’s studying in a very smart way, and is very quick to point out how well-read his subjects were as young men. By the time he reaches his conclusion he makes two fairly controversial assertions. First he points out the unfortunate trend that many of these filmmakers were never able to top their early (and in most cases, first) works. This is unpleasant, but it’s also pretty objectively the truth. Zinoman then implies that the reason there has never been another boom in horror comparable with the 1970s, is because once the conventions of the genre were established, the genre fed on itself (and only on itself) until stagnation. Zinoman attributes this decline to the fact that while Craven and Carpenter took their ideas of what was frightening from the works of Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett, younger filmmakers were getting their same conceptions exclusively from Craven and Carpenter.

If that last sentence raised your ire—if you’re ready to hurl lame insults like “elitist” and “portentous” at Zinoman—then maybe you won’t enjoy Shock Value. But you also might be the person who needs to read it the most.

All those “time outs” coming back to haunt you: Bloody Birthday


Two years ago, I did a post about some of my favorite “killer kid” horror films, the only reason 1981’s Bloody Birthday wasn’t on that list is because I hadn’t seen it. In fact, I didn’t even know it was an entry in the esteemed “murderous child” sub-genre. But the fine folks at Severin films have allowed me to set my facts straight. While the label has been courting classier and more high-profile projects as of late(The Stunt Man and Alejandro Jodorwsky’s avant-garde art-cult masterpiece Santa Sangre), their most recent crop of releases aims to explain to viewers that Severin has not gotten out of the cult horror re-release game.

Three children (two boys, one girl), born at the same time, under the same evil astrological convergence, start killing on the eve of their tenth birthday. Classic. The strongest aspect of writer/director Ed Hunt’s Bloody Birthday, is that it quickly dispenses with the pretense that you are watching a proper film. Right away the malevolent tots are offing people, and the film’s breakneck pace only slows during its somewhat anti-climactic final moments. The film follows the prototypical (at the time) slasher formula of, if not upping the ante, at least varying the mode of death for each victim, leaving the viewer in awe of the trio of kids and their resourcefulness.

Where the weighty and European Who Can Kill a Child? exploits its pint-size antagonists for maximum dread value, Bloody Birthday takes the more American (i.e. instant-gratification) route and frontloads the film’s more shocking moments, leaning on the “oh no, the child is pointing a gun at me” effect one too many times, until the result is camp. The final product is far more guilty fun than it should be and, as usual, Severin gives the movie an HD transfer befitting a film 10x its notoriety and merit.

The protagonists never feel truly imperiled, but the gruesome fun of the first two acts (which include the dispatching of not one, but two pairs of young lovers, an 80s slasher staple) make up for the film’s shortcomings.

Rounding out the disc is a lively interview with the film’s final girl Lori Lethin, a lengthy but rambling audio interview with Ed Hunt (interesting, but is also prime background noise for when you’re doing something else) and a “Brief History of Slasher Films” featurette, which is enjoyable but won’t tell you anything new if you’re already an aficionado.

This is a recommended release, I can’t wait to pick up Severin’s other recent discs.

Giveaway: Invest in Horror and Win Valuable Prizes!


Followers of my twitter know that I’ve been (politely!) spamming John Skipp’s Kickstarter project Rose: The 3D Zombie Puppet Musical. Well, with about 20 days to go, the film needs some more support if it’s going to get made.

Skipp describes the film as “Pee Wee’s Playhouse meets Night of the Living Dead.” For those leery of donating: check out the Kickstarter page, watch the video, read the literature and see that Skipp and the rest of the production have a game-plan and that this film has a great chance of kicking serious booty.

The production is offering some very cool incentives for all the different levels of pledges (from $1 to 5K) but I figured I’d try and do my part to sweeten the deal.

Anyone who pledges on the site (even a dollar) and leaves their name (the one you used to pledge, please) and email in the comments section on this blog will be entered to win the paperback version of John Skipp & Craig Spector’s splatter-punk classic The Bridge. Not only is this a great book, but because of the troubles of publisher Leisure Books this may be one of your last opportunities to own this edition.

As a bonus, if the contest receives more than 30 entries I will add a second prize: The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction #4, which is guest edited by Skipp. This is a weird wild issue that includes stories from frequent Skipp collaborator Cody Goodfellow, D. Harlan Wilson and others.

This is a community-based fundraiser, so I’m giving you one more way to increase your odds of winning. Anyone who copys and pastes the message below into their twitter will receive one additional entry:

Support smart indie horror! #zombiemusical #rose3d http://kck.st/fTth0y

One last thing, Kickstarter will only charge your credit card if the production team raise all the funds by Feb 24th. But, you will be eligible to win my contest regardless of the team reaching their goal or not. You, literally, have nothing to lose.

If you’ve already pledged just comment below and you’ll be entered. Spread the word!

Classics Get Genred: ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Enter The Void’ Reconfigure Cinema’s Past


The most prominent and flattering quote on the promo materials for maverick-Frenchman Gaspar Noe’s latest film, Enter The Void, comes from the New York Times who exclaim: “Exceptional…this is the work of an artist who’s trying to show us something we haven’t seen before.”

I would agree with that statement wholeheartedly, although if I were to write that blurb I’d probably have included an asterisk. You see, from my perspective, Enter The Void fits nicely on the shelf with another of this year’s great films: Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Both are in part an attempt to forge something new and original out of the spirit of an already great film. Sitting in Cambridge’s lovely Brattle Theater and watching Noe’s film I found it nearly impossible to not think of another three-hour headtrip I had previously seen at the same venue, nearly in the same seat: Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

2001 is one of those films that tests the mettle of young film fans. From my experience, it’s the film that you watch first when you’re too naive to handle it and therefore you despise it. The contrarian nature of your younger self condemns it as self-indulgent and boring (both phrases that your younger self has probably not yet acquired). Later, maybe in college, or maybe the summer before: you see it again. This time it clicks. Not just the iconic music and memorable sequences (“I can feel it Dave”) but the little things: i.e. the methodology behind Pan-Am’s future in-flight meals. From then on you’re hooked, you might as well get Hal-9000’s name tattooed on your bicep. I bet that something similar happened to Gaspar Noe, because Enter the Void, for all of its inventiveness (and, believe me, it has that in spades) is just a filmmaker’s thoughtful reconfiguring of the movie he so clearly loves.

A character in Enter the Void remarks that “dying is the ultimate trip” how ironic that “The Ultimate Trip” happens to be the tagline used on one of the posters for 2001. This is not to say that fans of Kubrick’s film will love (0r even recognize the similarities in) Enter the Void, but the film does deliberately make structural, tonal and (in some cases) visual, callbacks to Kubrick’s zonked-out space epic. I’m not the first person to note this (in fact, in the Times article quoted on the poster, Dargis does single-out such similarities) but it does leave me asking questions about what exactly these filmic echoes mean.

In the age of remakes, reimaginings and other requels, Enter the Void stands out as a wonderful, unique exception. A first person film that is actually shot “first-soul” for the bulk of its runtime, you say?

Noe’s inclusion of such obvious parallels to 2001, a seminal film text, are less sophomoric “homage” than they are the result of fully mature “remixing” of classical elements. In short: Enter the Void is NOT a flashy and morally-bankrupt remake akin to LaBute’s The Wicker Man, but is closer in execution to the way Shakespeare borrowed, condensed, and sensationalized many different sources to write his plays.

I know, Kubrick’s film is about a future astronaut’s metaphysical sojourn and Enter the Void is about a dead drug dealer’s journey through his highly-stylized, intensely sexualized, and uber-cinematrick-laden afterlife. Both films carry very different log-lines, but intersect in some amazingly provocative ways, take my word for it and seek out the film if you have not already.

Like any modern day movie geek, I worship at the alter of Darren Aronofsky. The mustachioed virtuoso has yet to strike out in my book. From his esoteric flops like The Fountain to his more straightforward award-bait like The Wrestler, I love (or at least respect) it all. The filmmaker that made himself known with Pi and Requiem for a Dream has sought a middle ground with his latest effort, Black Swan. The movie is accessible enough to fit into the genre of “commercial thriller” but carries enough bizarre flourishes to placate the arthouse crowd (I’m one of the few ‘horror folk’ that rejects the idea of claiming Black Swan as one of our own. I don’t deny its horrific tendencies but I do feel the need to note that it has more in common with the traditional Hollywood thriller than it does with Argento, De Palma, et al.). Aside from plot, structure and visual ques, Black Swan borrows entire shots from The Red Shoes (1948). Sure, Pressburger and Powell’s visually groundbreaking 1940’s musical didn’t have any lesbian sex or a scene of maternally interrupted masturbation, but that stuff is just window dressing anyway. At their core both films are about the high cost of perfection in the pressure-filled world of the Ballet.

What we have here in both films is a remix in ever sense of the word, with the exception of the ubiquitous deep0voice found in contemporary music that shouts the word “Remix!” at every spare moment. The films stand on their own (and are often much more extreme than their predecessors), but offer that little extra something to the viewer that knows his/her history.

What does all this mean? Well, if the 90’s were the dawn of [annoying] self-referentialism and the 2000’s were the age of “homage” and pastiche, then maybe the 2k10’s are going to be the era where filmmakers learn to both embrace and depart from the films that built the canon they love and respect. A geek can dream, can’t he?

One Last Hooray for Hollywood: "The Day Before"


John Skipp & Cody Goodfellow’s novella The Day Before is notable not only for how many genres it touches on (Sci-fi, horror, showbiz satire, Mad Max-style actioner) but also how many emotions it packs into it’s modest page count.

The story concerns a group of Hollywood insiders that are pushed out of their makeshift sanctuary on Catalina Island. Our writer/director protagonist is convinced by a manipulative super-producer(a thinly veiled Harvey Weinstein caricature) to rove across the post-apocalyptic wasteland to make one final blockbuster. It seems impossible that a book with this outlandish a premise could so articulately represent two author’s complex love/hate relationships with Tinsel-Town, but it does just that.

Skipp and Goodfellow know movies. This may seem like an odd requirement for fiction but it’s not only very apparent upon reading it’s also integral to the book’s success. They pack their cast with archetypes only film fans would catch as archetypes: the ultra-professional Russian Cinematographer, the director-jail auteur, the successful hack, the alcoholic “method” actor. They’re all nicely drawn and surprising in the way that they adapt (or don’t) to the end of the world.

The authors could have easily turned the book into a damning but playful indictment of the film industry. Instead they opt to approach the subject matter with enough wit and a wider scope that moves it out of the realm of straight-up satire and into soulful, but critical, fiction.

At 150 pages The Day Before is readable in one joyous, extended sitting. Smart in ways that so few genre novels allow themselves to be: highly recommended. Available in paperback from Bad Moon Books.

Devil Hunting for Fun and Profit


It’s been really dead around here, believe me I know.

Luckily, I do have a new guest blog entry up as part of Severin Film’s “Forgotten Severin Classics” series. It’s a deep philosophical feminist reading of…a Jess Franco cannibal film (I’m dead serious).

I’m very proud of it and I’d love it if you’d take a look. Intimate knowledge of the film’s not required. Even though I spoil a bunch of stuff, it won’t diminish the crazy, sleazy enjoyment if you wanted to go ahead and grab the DVD when you’re done reading. Severin is a great company, support them.

The article can be found right here.

Gimme That Ole Time Religion: [REC] 2


A lot of people don’t seem to take them into account but expectation and screening conditions are two of the most important variables that affect an audience member’s enjoyment of a film. We may try to remain impartial to internet buzz and critical reception, just as we can try to ignore the jackoff checking his iphone in the seat next to us: but these things nevertheless change the way we experience films.

Let me give this idea a bit of context:

A year or so ago, after the genre websites had thoroughly whipped themselves into a tizzy over it, I finally sat down to watch the original [REC] (2007) once it received a legitimate DVD release stateside. I was watching it with my girlfriend. We were watching on her smallish television and I prefaced the film with “I hear this is really great.” To which she replied “what’s it about?” Which caught me a little off guard, because I didn’t know.

I was quite disappointed when [REC] turned out to be “only a zombie movie.” This, the film that had been heralded as the “next big thing” belonged to a genre that had long worn out its welcome. The first film managed to be an above-average mashup of 28 Days Later and Blair Witch Project (the whole movie is “filmed” by a news crew). It had some nice scares and complex setups, but at the end of the night it was still a zombie movie.

Tonight I saw [REC] 2 during its three night stint at the Brattle theater. The experience I had with the film was the exact opposite of its predecessor, leading to one of the best nights of horror cinema I’ve had in years.

The film begins just like the last one, we are introduced to a set of characters (in this case a SWAT team escorting a VIP), they are given some tenuous reason for filming themselves (the team not only has a camera man, but individual cameras on their helmets), they are let loose in a quarantined apartment building and charged with getting to the bottom of the “infection.” I don’t want to spoil things, but the film takes a drastic departure from its “zombie movie” roots by giving a very supernatural reason for the infection visited on the tenants of the building.

The paranormal occurrences are introduced slowly but surely, building to the film’s disturbing denouement. By the end the film is so different that viewers of the first film would have never been able to guess where the series was heading.

As many critics have noted (I like to look at criticism after the fact, so nothing was spoiled for me on my awesome first viewing) the film borrows heavily from The Exorcist (1973). It’s true, but you would have to be one up-tight idiot if you can’t see the conscious love for the classics that co-directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza are infusing into their film. [REC] 2 is the spookfest too end all spookfests. The first-person perspective and cramped hallways ensure it’s probably the closest thing to a physical haunted house experience that cinema has ever pulled off.

The Brattle presentation did the film justice: pumping up the volume and letting the jump-scares and fake-outs really pop. It’s been years since I’ve felt that giddy “hide behind the couch” adrenaline rush that first captured my heart as a kid, but this film, at this screening, gave me that in spades.

The film has its faults: the “found footage” gag only goes so far, character motivations are hazy (why are the kids in the middle of the film compelled to sneak into the apartment?), and the dialogue (at least in translation) is iffy. But it works. It works wonders. It’s a sequel so good that it has me doubting my appraisal of the first film (the movie syncs up with the original at many points, making the most out of its temporal and physical proximity to the first film) and has me eager for a sequel. Although, I don’t doubt myself that thoroughly, I feel that the first film is like an extended preamble to this superior production (the budget is much higher this time around, as evidenced by the FX). The seed of a religious slant is planted in the last few moments of the original, but it took a whole other movie to get to the really groundbreaking stuff.

[REC] 2 may not be a classic, but it’s a very good film. When you combine this with the highly subjective factors of my own (lowered) expectations and the (superb) screening I attended: the movie completely worked for me. Fun and legitimately scary in ways that few films are anymore, I urge you to seek out [REC] 2.

Hopefully I didn’t raise your expectations too high.

Strength, Muscle and Jungle Work: Predators


Predators isn’t bad. It’s not that great either. I can’t properly articulate it but this “middle-of-the road-ness” is in someways more frustrating than an out-and-out bad installment in a long running franchise. We’ve had crappy Predator movies before, but we’ve never had a “just decent” one.

The film has a great cast, a proven filmmaker (I found director Nimrod Antal’s 2007 film Vacancy to be immensely enjoyable) and it’s shot quite nicely. What hobbles it, and I do mean a vicious Misery-style hobbling, is its generic and bland script.

The premise itself is not the problem. The idea of having a group of multicultural badasses taken from armies and gangs all over earth and having them dropped into a giant game preserve is inspired. Sure it’s goofy, but it’s the good kind of goofy that dispenses with boring exposition and (literally)drops our characters into the middle of the action. Out of the aforementioned badasses Danny Trejo, Walton Goggins (who played Shane on The Shield), Alice Braga (City of God) and Adrian Brody (The Pianist) are the highlights. There’s also a brief scene-stealing turn from Laurence Fishburne.

For those doubtful that the rather bookish looking Brody will be believable as a Black-ops mercenary should be quieted up right quick once the action starts. Brody and the rest of the cast’s awesome ham-fisted performances are easily the best part of the film. The actors (Goggins especially) take the cliche crappy dialogue they’ve been handed and try their damnedest to inject some life into it but it’s too little too late. Their lines are DOA.

One of the best parts about the original Predator was all the great quips given to the characters, they not only looked tough but they talked tough. They weren’t spouting genius, earth-shattering dialogue, but at least it was fresh and entertaining. Strip away their archetypal clothing (i.e. the yakuza in a snazzy suit, the redneck felon in his deathrow jumpsuit) and this new set of “cannon-fodder” characters are all interchangeable. Even when there is an attempt to spice things up with a joke or one-liner, it’s telegraphed and falls flat.

The film also has pacing issues, with a huge chunk of time in the beginning when the titular aliens go unseen and then a silly, clunky and disjointed climax. When it finally looks like the human characters are getting the upper-hand the whole picture stalls out and the “galaxy’s greatest hunter” goes MIA for five or so minutes, allowing everyone time to chat amongst themselves. It has no rhythm or logic to it and, worse yet, no surprises.

It may sound like I’m being too hard on the film, and maybe that’s true because there is a lot to enjoy here, but it’s frustrating to think of what “could have been” had a little more effort been taken on the page. Especially considering the obscene amount of talent both in front of and behind the camera.

For those with lowered expectations Predators is a passable R-rated B-movie and one of the better ways to spend 2 hours in air-conditioning this weekend considering this year’s lack of quality summer movies. So if you’ve already seen Toy Story 3 (yeah I know, big overlap in audience there) and there isn’t a theater playing the fabulous Winter’s Bone in your area, I would say go for it.