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January 20th, 2017

THE CABINING (2014) **

Bruce (Bo Keister) and Todd (writer/director Mike Kopera) are two friends who are collaborating on a horror screenplay. Well, maybe collaborating isn’t the right word since Bruce perpetually slacks off while the nice guy Todd does all the work. They present their screenplay to their screenwriting group and are bummed when they receive negative feedback. The duo then decides to go to a remote resort to work on their script together, hoping that inspiration will strike. When one of the guests is found murdered, it freaks Todd out, but Bruce finds it inspirational to his creative juices. They decide to stick around and predictably, more bodies start piling up.

Usually with a low budget horror comedy, the acting, character development, and humor are the worst parts. That’s not the case with The Cabining. Both leading men are pretty funny and have a decent amount of chemistry together.

The beginning rings true, especially for anyone who’s ever tried to write a screenplay. The film’s weak spot is the actual the horror elements. It takes a while before the bodies start hitting the floor and when they do, we more or less only see the aftermath, and even then, it’s ever so brief. If Kopera was a bit freer with the gore, it might’ve made up for some of the third act shortcomings. (The twist ending is predictable.)

Still, there’s enough potential here to suggest Kopera might be someone to watch. The dialogue is often funny and he shows a knack for working with unknown actors. If only he wrote himself a better ending, The Cabining could’ve been a minor gem.

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EYES OF FIRE (1983) **

I had always seen the box for Eyes of Fire at the video store back in the day, but I never bothered to rent it. When I saw the awesome trailer for it on Trailer Trauma 3, I knew I had to track it down. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m pretty disappointed. Nearly all the money shots are in the trailer. If you want to save yourself eighty-five minutes, check out the cool trailer instead.

In mid-18th century America, an adulterous preacher is saved from a hanging by a young witch. The preacher then takes his extended family and leaves town. When their raft is attacked by Indians, they head off into the woods where they find an abandoned cabin. Strange things start to happen and pretty soon, they are attacked by the lost souls of Indians who live in the trees (or something like that).

Eyes of Fire reminded me a lot of The VVitch. I’m not saying that because of the all the pilgrims and witches and shit, but because of the long and dull sequences that you have to sit through in order to get to the WTF weirdness. Frankly, the wait is just too long in between the good stuff.

The film is full of trippy visuals, but writer/director Avery Crounse is far too reliant on the negative camera effects. As a result, the freak-out scenes eventually get tiresome. The shots of the faces in the trees are pretty freaky, as is the creepy kid with a charred face and glowing eyes. There’s also a cool nature woman monster that looks like the airplane monster from Twilight Zone: The Movie rolled around in a bunch of leafs.

Because there are flashes of genuinely disturbing stuff here, it makes the whole thing that much more frustrating and uneven. The ending also doesn't make much sense, but the final twist is predictable. The budget was obviously low, so all the pilgrim drama more or less looks like one of those filmstrips you’d watch in history class. Ultimately, there’s just way too much padding with the pilgrims that get in the way of the weirdness. I still liked it better than The VVitch though.

Crounse later went on to direct The Invisible Kid, a movie I DID rent a lot as a kid.

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THE BLIND WARRIOR (1987) ***

An evil warlord who has a penchant for wearing outrageous looking costumes demands that he should be feared and worshipped by the neighboring villagers. To ensure he gets his way, he orders his army to senselessly slaughter anyone who refuses to bow down before him. Meanwhile, a blind warrior travels around with a monkey on his back (literally) and stumbles upon a group villagers being terrorized. He rescues them and the villagers take him into their home. After a lot of back and forth, the blind warrior eventually decides to square off against the evil warlord.

The Blind Warrior is sort of an Indonesian version of Zatoichi as he uses his cane to fight off various henchmen and evildoers. There’s also a bit of Conan and Temple of Doom in there as well as our villain has a flair for the dramatic. (He likes to hold court in front of a giant stone skeleton where he performs all sorts of rituals and sacrifices before his loyal subjects.) Then there are the moments that you can’t even wrap your head around. In one odd scene, a woman is thrown into a pit and made love to a barbarian on a bed of what looks like pink aquarium gravel. There’s also a neat sequence in which the blind warrior fights against a flying fire monster that feature simple, but impressive special effects.

The action is a bit slow to start. Stick with it though because the movie gets more action-packed as it goes along. It gets crazier and crazier too. Gorier too. By the time the villagers join forces with the blind warrior and dress up like Ninjas to storm the castle, the bodies really start piling up. We get multiple spears, arrows, axes, and even shovels being shoved through people’s torsos. There are spurting neck wounds, decapitated heads, guys being cut in half, and exploding bodies.

Sure, there are some slow stretches in between the good stuff. (There’s at least one needlessly long dance sequence that pads out the running time.) You also have to deal with a lame subplot that makes the blind warrior look like a total dick. For a long time, he turns his back on the village, which results in a bunch of people dying and a hot chick being kidnapped. Thankfully, he comes to his senses and does the right thing in the end, but it’s a long time coming.

Overall, The Blind Warrior is a nutty Indonesian action flick. Despite its flaws, it has just enough crazy moments and gory action to make it fun. Heck, the villain’s jaw-dropping death alone is worth the price of admission.

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