Feedback – Movie Review

(Breaking Glass Pictures)

Dir. Pedro C. Alonso

Review by Zakary McGaha

Feedback is a thriller that was quite fun, but providing feedback on it is…difficult. It’s not that I didn’t understand its more political aspirations; they’re pretty simple. However, the messages seemed mixed. Discerning exactly what the filmmakers were aiming for is difficult. The themes can be taken many different ways.

First off, it was cool seeing Richard Brake in a ghoulish role reminiscent of his “Foxy” character from Rob Zombie’s 3 From Hell, but his character in Feedback was a bit conflicted. On one hand, he wants to find his missing daughter, but on the other hand he’s just as confused as the viewer and is thus unable to stick to his guns (literally, he gets his gun taken away from him frequently).

The setting of this invasion movie is what drags it down a bit: it concerns a talk-radio host whose lavish studio is broken into while he’s on air. The fact that he is on air means we have to listen to his generic political ramblings which are disgustingly typical despite being presented as rebellious. They also wind up paralleling the mayhem that unfolds.

This wouldn’t be a problem if the story was given enough meat so as to overshadow the politics, but it wasn’t. Oddly, the political verbiage presented at the beginning, as well as throughout, seems to sneakily propel the film forward. Envision the story as a raft with the politics being the river.

Basically, the people who infiltrate the studio represent the “bad” political party full of conspiracy-minded skeptics (who happen to hold a secret grudge against our main protagonist) while the radio peeps are clean-cut, intelligent and oh-so-dangerous in their thought despite being given an uber-fancy, moneyed platform.

The odd thing is that the “bad guys” actually end up being right in many ways, yet they’re still strangely demonized. I’m debating the artistic intentions here. Is there supposed to be an “ah-ha” moment where we start rooting for the villains when we realize they were right? That would make sense, but this is never clearly translated visually.

Said villains are never shown in a positive light while our main character, who is revealed to have some real skeletons in his closet, is consistently eloquent, well-mannered, well-dressed, and in possession of the “correct” political opinions. All of this is quite definitely presented in such a way as to make us root for him, despite it becoming obvious throughout the film that he’s a less-than-noble fella. Is that the point? Are we supposed to see that political opinions, no matter how nice and/or sincere, often mask evil souls?

The very last scene of Feedback makes me think I’m correct in my last theory, but it’s hard to rest on that given the stark, over-simplified “good-guy/bad-guy, black-and-white” presentation that never lets up even when the tables are turned and the plot twists are taken.

The more I mull over this, the more confused I get because no character is likable and no emotion is genuine; it’s hard to get any feeling at all from most of the film.

Perhaps that’s the point? Perhaps we’re supposed to be confused, because every character seems to have good sides and bad sides. But if that were the case, one would assume genuine emotion could show through the murkiness in one direction or the other, but it never happens. The characters simply go through the “home invasion” motions, there’s a bloody fight scene mixed with an explosion, and then an ambivalent epilogue.

With all that gabbing aside, let’s focus on the main reason people will watch this movie. How thrilling is it?

I would say it’s pretty good in that regard. There were some tense, painful moments as well as some cool visuals that seem to permeate Breaking Glass Pictures’ catalog. There are a couple cranium cracks, some finger torture and a lot of chasing. Plus, the masks the “antagonists” wear are genuinely creepy. If I saw tall, lanky weirdos walking toward me wearing such masks, I’d hightail it to the nearest crowd of well-to-do bystanders.

Finally, can I recommend Feedback as an entertaining thriller? Depends on if you mind the semi one-sided political banter that never goes anywhere tangible. I feel there’s more of this story left to be told. Why the ambivalence? Why the continual black-and-white portrayal of good guys and bad guys if the tables are supposed to be turned? Are we not supposed to have sympathy for the baddies given that they’re technically right? Perhaps those are questions a sequel can answer.

3 from Hell – Film Review

by Zakary McGaha

[NOTE: The passing of Sid Haig is quite a loss to the world of horror films. His iconic Captain Spaulding character from the original Firefly movie House of 1000 Corpses…created by Sid just as much as the person who wrote him into existence, Rob Zombie…was an icon. Everyone recognized the face. He was often-times quoted. For the early 2000s, he was basically Freddy Krueger for a short period of time. That being said, this review is not meant to be, in any way, disrespectful to Sid and his beloved character. Rather, it is a review of a film that, as fate would have it, didn’t feature Sid that much, despite the fact that he was originally going to be in it throughout the entire runtime. Health reasons prevented that from happening, and so we got Richard Brake’s new character: Foxy. Although I didn’t like 3 From Hell at all, it was worth it to see Sid in character as the demented, sadistic, business-savvy clown with a country drawl one last time.]

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ah, Rob Zombie. I have a love-hate relationship with his movies and music. The gist of it is: I think he’s okay, and sometimes pretty awesome…when he doesn’t have his filthy mitts on the Halloween franchise. See, he has his own style; his own flare. He’s a distinctive creator, and his music branches into his movies. It’s all one, cohesive whole. However, if you take said distinctive flare and mix it in a witch’s cauldron with the already-established, and much beloved, Halloween franchise…you get a nasty concoction that shouldn’t be.

Halloween aside, you could call me a Rob Zombie fan. The Devil’s Rejects, in my opinion, is one of the standout horror-films of the 2000s, and it’s probably destined to be remembered as such. In many ways, it was a perfect movie. You had great, interesting, psychopathic characters who were accustomed to having all the power. Various victims never escaped the Firefly family’s brutality. These killers were remorseless, wise-cracking hillbilly-esque folks who were very good at winning. They contrasted usual slasher villains in that they simply didn’t get caught, and when they were confronted by force…such as the police officers in House of 1000 Corpses…they always wound up on top. But The Devil’s Rejects changed that: the whole point of the movie was to see how these characters fared when they were being hunted not just by a crazy, vengeful cop and his deputies, but also by bounty hunters who were just as viscous, if not MORE viscous, than them. The end result was an amazing film that keeps the viewer constantly on the edge of their seat as the plot barrels forward to a super-climactic, ultra-violent, CONCLUSION in the form of a final blaze-of-glory that will forever be known as one of the best endings in horror history…

…At least, that would have been the case had 3 From Hell not come along and completely destroyed everything built in the previous entry.

To call 3 From Hell pointless would be an understatement. It’s a continuation of a story that’s already reached its conclusion and is resting peacefully in the Horror Graveyard. However, Rob Zombie came along, dug up the corpse, and then resurrected it in Frankenstein-like fashion. The end result is a story that’s half-alive, half-dead, with absolutely no sense of direction.

The movie opens in a cool-enough way: news-footage reveals that the Firefly family beat the odds and survived the shootout at the end of Devil’s Rejects, and they’re all ALIVE save for the recently-executed Captain Spaulding.

Also, Otis has escaped prison: while on a chain-gang, his half-brother Foxy…previously unmentioned in the past two films…comes along, shoots up the scene, and frees Otis.

Another familiar face had been on the chain-gang as well: Rondo, played by Danny Trejo. Otis promptly gets revenge and kills the defenseless bounty-hunter…who, strangely, doesn’t even remember who Otis is…before running off into the woods.

This is really where the movie starts going downhill and stops being new. Every plot-point from here on out is ripped from the previous film, down to the minute details.

We get:

  1. A clown, as opposed to the clown-wannabe of DR, unluckily interrupting the Firefly gang as they’re torturing their latest hostages. Like in DR, this clown also gets shot in the head.
  2. As mentioned in the previous entry, hostages…two couples, again…are held in their quarters by the family.
  3. One hostage, as opposed to the two in DR, is sent out to do the Firefly gang’s dirty-work while his loved-ones are held captive.
  4. Every hostage dies. One said hostage’s death even plays homage to both the “run rabbit run” scene from House of 1000 Corpses and the girl with the face-mask from DR who gets hit by the truck.
  5. The Firefly gang is on the lam.
  6. The Firefly gang takes up shelter at a seedy hotel in Mexico, where they party with hookers…which, of course, is a direct rip from DR when they were at Charlie’s bordello.
  7. The Firefly gang gets ambushed by Rondo’s son, who has been looking for them ever since Otis killed his father in the beginning. He is accompanied by his organized-crime outfit, The Black Satans, which run around wearing wrestling masks. Again, this is a direct rip from DR, when Sheriff Wydell, accompanied by his bounty-hunters, ambush the Devils at the bordello.
  8. Instead of killing the Firefly gang, Rondo’s son ties them up and tries to act tough, with heavy talk of justice and family and shit. Again, this is directly ripped from the last part of DR where Sherriff Wydell does the same thing.
  9. The Firefly gang escapes and kills the spurned family-member who’s only trying to avenge his father…which, OF COURSE, is what happened to Sherriff Wydell in DR, although he came closer to killing the Devils. If only he would’ve been privy to Tiny…

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. There are probably some other things I missed. To call this movie a derivative waste of time would be accurate and neither under or overstated. Was it fun? Yeah, but it didn’t have the UMPH of a good story, like in Devil’s Rejects, to accompany it.

1/5 stars. I would’ve given it 2/5 had it not completely tarnished The Devil’s Rejects and negated its importance in the overarching Firefly-family story.

5 Forgotten Gems to Watch This Halloween

By Bob Freville

1. The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds (1965)

Earlier this year, maverick filmmaker and unabashed cinephile Nicolas Winding Refn launched his own free streaming website, The site functions as a platform for serious film fans to discover obscure films of all genres, most notably old exploitation films that have been lost to time.

Winding Refn kicked the series off with 1965’s long lost horror gem The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds, a sweat-drenched slice of surreal Southern noir that was written and directed by prolific character actor Bert Williams (Fort Apache, 10 to Midnight, The Usual Suspects).

Cuckoo Birds is very clearly the work of a first-time director; it is a crude and uneven oddity, but it’s one that recalls the work that legendary character actor Charles Laughton did on his own directorial debut, the infamously foreboding Robert Mitchum vehicle The Night of the Hunter. And like Night of the Hunter, The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds is a flick that uses shadow and warped perspective to instill a sense of unease and dread.

Full of demented hilljacks, violent moonshiners and mysterious maniacs, Cuckoo Birds is the perfect compliment to seasonal mainstays like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Watch it here.

2. Eaten Alive (1976)

Tobe Hooper and TCM screenwriter Kim Henkel reteamed for this swamptacular Louisiana slasher that pitted scream queen Marilyn Burns against a perverted, batshit innkeeper (Neville Brand) and a very hungry crocodile.

At the time, the film was almost unanimously panned for its poor sound quality and weak plot. In retrospect, however, the flick’s often cock-eyed but unforgettably insane results make it more than worthy of being revisited.

If Texas Chain Saw Massacre was an almost avant-garde and atmospheric swan song to Vietnam (and all the baggage that came in its aftermath) then Eaten Alive can be viewed as Henkel and Hooper’s acid-tinged prediction of Eighties excess, one that functioned as a metaphor for consumer consumption a full two years before Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. It also serves as a bloody and sleazy allegory about man versus woman that beat William Lustig’s Maniac to the punch by almost five years.

Come for the symbolism and Argento-esque lighting, stay for Robert Englund’s pre-Freddy Krueger performance as Buck whose idea of romance is declaring, “Name’s Buck…and I’m rarin’ to fuck!” No, Quentin Tarantino doesn’t have his own ideas, but we still love him and his pussy wagon.

3. Crimewave (1985)

Before they put themselves on the map with the brilliant neo-noir Blood Simple, the Coen Brothers were commissioned by pal Sam Raimi to write this positively bugfuck screwball comedy about two hideous contract killers who end up going on a murder spree after bungling a hit.

The film flopped at the box office, taking in a measly $5,100, but thanks to cable television some of us were able to peep this off-the-wall picture and discover the birth of the Raimi-Coen aesthetic (crazy camerawork, bizarre POVs, pitch black humor, et al.). This one pairs nicely with Raimi’s Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn.

Check out a creepy clip here or order it on Blu Ray from Shout! Factory.

4. Murder Party (2007)

Before he wrote and directed the breathtaking punk rockers in trouble picture Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier took the monies he made from shooting corporate videos and teamed with boyhood friend Macon Blair to make this send-up of Hostel-style torture and art community pretension.

Saulnier and his cast/crew pooled their collective resources and produced a movie that feels charmingly homemade and, yet, deftly executed. The plot revolves around a nebbish loser named Christopher who lets his house cat boss him around. Christopher’s life changes forever when he accepts a mysterious invitation to a Halloween party and comes to find that the party is actually a trap set by homicidal art students who intend to make him their latest exhibit.

Although it made a splash at the Slamdance Film Festival, Murder Party didn’t get much mainstream recognition after being acquired by indie distributor Magnet Releasing. The company quietly put the horror-comedy out on DVD where it mostly faded into obscurity.

Luckily for those who are looking for a Halloween-centric movie with colorful characters, inventive gore and some impressive set pieces, this Brooklyn-made beast is now available to stream on Netflix.

5. 31 (2016)

A lot of you are gonna shit on me for putting this much-derided crowdsourced Rob Zombie slasher on this list, but before you pelt me with virtual dung, do yourself a favor and take a less critical view of this one.

While 31 is far from Zombie’s best work (many would argue that his best work was behind him after The Devil’s Rejects), it does feature many of the hallmarks of his best work, whether it’s his knack for filthy dialogue, his fetishization of Seventies fashion or his ear for choosing awesome soundtrack cuts. And did I mention Doomhead?

Horror has been in a bit of a drought when it comes to iconic villains. In fact, I would argue that Zombie’s Firefly Family may be the only truly iconic killers to emerge from modern horror with the possible exception of the Elite Hunting Club’s patrons.

31 remedies this problem by presenting us with Richard Brake’s electric performance as Doomhead, a murder-for-hire man who enjoys his work way more than he should. Doomhead’s opening monologue is worth the price of admission all by its lonesome.

All things considered, 31 is kind of the perfect movie for Halloween as it not only features some of the sickest clowns this side of Spawn (1997) but also boasts a killer location, a killer Rocky Horror homage (be careful what you put in your mouth because let’s just say you are what you eat) and a murderous temptress who looks more like Harley Quinn than Margot Robbie ever could.

Watch it on YouTube with a bowl of candy and a tub of popcorn. You know what they say, kemosabe, in Hell, everybody loves popcorn.

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