Tamara, directed by Jeremy Haft, 2005

It's always cool whenever you find a flick that you hadn't really heard of before and then discover that it's good. Such was the case with Jeremy Haft's Tamara, which our own Scott Weinberg recommended to me one night via Twitter.

Jenna Dewan plays the title character, a mousy girl who's the butt of pranks and not-so-secretly in love with her English teacher (Matthew Marsden). When her school paper article about the school's jocks using steroids causes some guys to get suspended from the team, the athletes plan their cruel revenge. They lure Tamara to a hotel under the pretense of meeting the man of her dreams and then burst in and videotape her while she's undressed in bed. Naturally, she flips out, and winds up dead. Or does she?

The teens decide to cover up the death and bury Tamara, but come Monday, she's back in class and looking like an entirely different girl in low cut tops and short skirts. Before you can say "supernatural revenge", she's knocking off everyone who tried to cover up her death in suitably gory ways.

Tamara reminded me of several films -- mostly Carrie and Hello, Mary Lou: Prom Night II. It's not a particularly original film, but it's fun despite its familiarity.

Laid to Rest, directed by Rob Hall, 2009

The horror community seems pretty divided over Rob Hall's 2009 slasher flick Laid to Rest -- and after finally seeing it, I can sort of understand why. The movie does some things that are good, but it then seems intent on countering each of those elements with something incredibly boneheaded. This leads to a viewing experience that's often more frustrating than fun.

The film centers on Bobbi Sue Luther -- simply known as The Girl -- a young woman who wakes up in a coffin. She escapes, but is then pursued relentlessly by a guy in a chrome mask who kills anyone who gets in his way as he chases her down. She meets up with Kevin Gage, and the two try to survive the night. Really, that's basically the whole plot.

The best things about Laid to Rest are the gore -- which is gruesome and ever-present -- and Kevin Gage. Gage took a lot of flack for appearing in the awful Chaos, but he redeems himself here. He's a likable character, and you start to really root for the guy to survive til the end credits as the film progresses.

The film's biggest problems are the script and Bobbi Sue Luther. Luther's performance seems to mostly center on her heaving chest, as if her breasts hold the power to make any scene better. Some guys would argue that they do, but Luther's just not believable in the film. I don't buy that she'd last five minutes with this Chrome Skull weirdo on her tail. Meanwhile, the script leaves tons of unanswered questions, and doesn't seem particularly bothered that it doesn't even attempt to answer most of them.

Laid to Rest isn't awful, but it's a tough film to recommend unless you're really into slashers. I had high hopes for this one, but wound up feeling letdown.

Mario Bava: Maestro of the Macabre, directed by Garry S. Grant, 2000

I love horror movies and I love Mario Bava, so this documentary from Image Entertainment about the late, great Italian filmmaker was something I'd been meaning to see since I first heard about it a few years ago.

Bava has become popular in the past decade or so, mostly thanks to the advent of DVD, and how it's made many of his films available for a new generation of audiences. While he was alive, many thought of the filmmaker as just another hired gun, but his work said otherwise. Forced to make films with tiny budgets, Bava was one of the most creative technical filmmakers around. Drawing on his art background allowed him to create stunning images that are still striking in their composition even in the age of CGI.

The nearly hour-long piece is an average documentary -- Image tends to only really cover the films they had the rights to -- but it does feature some great interviews, including Bava's son Lamberto and grandson Roy, as well as appearances from filmmakers like Joe Dante, Tim Burton, and John Carpenter. If you're at all interested in the history of Italian genre cinema or just wondering why people go so crazy over Bava, this is a good introduction.
CATEGORIES Features, Reviews, Horror