30 Days of Fright – 05: Final Destination 3

People who know me know that I know comedy. I like a good joke but, as anyone can tell you, a joke has a lifespan. There is a very limited number of times you can hear a joke and have it still be funny. This is true for other concepts too, and when you try to extend the lifetime of an idea or concept you need to work hard to keep it fresh, otherwise you end up as that guy who always tells the same tired old joke and wonders why no one laughs anymore.

Breaking away from the events in the first two movies (FD1 and FD2), Final Destination 3 (2006) introduces a whole new batch of teenage victims who are all out at an amusement park one night. Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is the one this time who freaks out after she has a terrifying vision of a roller coaster crash killing all her friends, several of her classmates, and herself. Her panicked screams get her and some of the gang removed from the coaster right before it crashes exactly as she saw in her vision.

The story then unfolds as predictably as you’d imagine with each of those who were supposed to be on the roller coaster getting killed off in the sequence they would have died had they remained on the ride in funny and convoluted ways. Wendy figures out quite quickly what’s happening to the survivors but has a hard time convincing them that they’re in any danger, with the exception of Kevin (Ryan Merriman) who learns of the crash of Flight 180 (as featured in the first film) and works with Wendy to save the others.

As they work through the list of people who weren’t killed in the crash they discover that the photographs Wendy was taking that night for the class yearbook indicate how death is going to get those who dodged their fate on the coaster. Each of the pictures contains a subtle hint as to how the kids are going to die so Wendy and Kevin try to use that information to protect their friends, but not everyone is convinced that Wendy is actually trying to help…

Everyone in town wanted to nail Erin…

The first couple of films in the Final Destination series were fun little horror films that presented just the right amount of gory deaths of annoying teenagers in ways that were highly entertaining to watch, sadly though the third outing fails to live up to the standard set by it’s predecessors.

The best way to describe Final Destination 3 is to compare it to a joke that was hilarious the first time you heard it, was still pretty funny when you heard it again, and was then just flat out irritating every time you heard it after that, to the point where if you were down the pub and someone started telling that joke you’d be forced to punch them in the face in order to stop them uttering another fucking word. For a film where American teenagers are killed one after the other for ninety minutes, it’s actually really boring.

The main reason for this seems to be that the film-makers ran out of ideas for the methods of death. In the first two films the ways the victims were dispatched involved quite long and intricate set ups all of which could be spotted long before they hit, but were fun because they could go any which way and the victim was not always obvious. In Final Destination 3, the deaths are nothing special. A couple of people get crushed, a girl gets a nailgun to the head, there’s a car crash, all in all nothing highly original or particularly funny. There is an exception to this that comes early on in the film where a couple of bimbo types are killed in tanning booths that required the long lead in style that was present in the earlier films but it’s inclusion only serves to highlight how lacking the rest of the movie is.

The effects in Final Destination 3 are lacking too and seem to have been the victim of a reduced budget, which is nothing unusual for a second sequel. The performances aren’t great though Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Wendy did a good job and managed to carry a lot more of the film then she really had to.

Final Destination 3 was always going to struggle to be as good as parts one and two but it could have been saved if only it’s makers had bigged up the core element of the franchises premise, that of how the deaths work. After that, they could have upped the comedy or the frights, neither of which they did, making Final Destination 3 a poor addition to the series.

Two Thumbs Down for Final Destination 3.

Final Destilinktion:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_Destination_3
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0414982/

30 Days of Fright – 04: A Nightmare on Elm St. Pt5: The Dream Child

I’m often curious about the people on the edges of the stories in horror films. The low level cops working the cases of all those baby-sitter murderers. The ambulance crews who scoop up the survivors and the bits of those that didn’t survive. The dry-cleaners dealing with all those blood stained clothes. There is however a job in horror much worse than all of those put together and that’s the poor estate agent who has to try to sell a house on Elm Street.

A Nightmare on Elm St. Pt5: The Dream Child (1989) once again continues the tale of the children of Elm Street as they now reach the end of their high school careers. Getting ready to face the real world, Alice (left over from the last movie) and Dan (also a survivor from the previous flick) are now a couple and have been doing the thing that young couples do (i.e. hiding the pork steeple in the ham locker). After one of their marathon sessions, Alice enters the dreamworld and experiences a vision of drowning in her shower right before she encounters a nun from the 1940’s – obviously same nun who’s mother to Freddy Kruger as introduced in Part 3).

Alice is worried that her latest dream experience is an indication that Freddy is planning another of his returns and she tries to warn the rest of the gang who pay no heed to her or her bullshit. The kids graduate from school and set about partying like it was 1989 (which it was), all except for poor Alice who has to go to work.

While walking through the park on her way to her job Alice enters the dream world for several hours indicating that there’s a new way to get into that world other than by falling asleep – at least for Alice. While in the world of dreams Alice sees that Freddy is, as she suspected, reborn through a vision of his original birth in the puzzle factory where his mother worked. Emerging from the dream world,Alice calls Dan, who leaves the party to go to her. En route, he apparently falls asleep at the wheel and Freddy kills him.

Severely traumatised by Dan’s death and terrified by Freddy’s reappearance, Alice is admitted to hospital where it’s discovered that she is pregnant. She soon realises that the baby sleeping in her womb is behind the unexpected trips into the dreamworld, and that Freddy is very interested in her offspring…

Supernanny places another helpless victim onto the naughty spot

As a series like the Nightmare’s on Elm Street, made as they were during the 80’s, progressed they were inevitably doomed to get worse and worse, so when sitting down to watch part 5 of the franchise it was with less than high expectations. Oddly, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child is excellent!

The central concept of the film, of the baby dreaming in it’s mother and accessing the dream world that way, is a great idea and it gives the story a nice edge. On top of that, Alice’s predicament as both the principal victim and heroine is interesting, what with worrying about the baby and her future coupled with the threat posed by Freddy and by her extended family, all putting a lot of strain on her. The additional angle provided by Fred’s mum being the key to whole Elm Street mess is excellent; her soul not being seems to be the reason why Freddy’s been able to do the things he has for five films and keep coming back.

On a more subtle level Nightmare 5 features some fantastic imagery – like the character of Gretta, the budding model, represented as a porcelain doll in a way reflective of the way her mother treated her, and even though she’s not exactly a leading character, the parts of the film and story about her work very well because of those deeper elements. Sadly, not every attempt at this kind of thing works as well.

Effects wise there’s one or two decent bits, but nothing great and in terms of “acting” what was done for Nightmare 5 barely deserves the term, but none of that mattered as the story was just so good.

I’m forced to wonder if with the fifth film the Elm Street franchise was trying to grow up along with its audience. Those who would have been in their late teens when the first film came out would have been about the right age to be starting families when Part 5 made it to theatres and so would have been well able to relate to the story (the baby part that is, not the homicidal monster from well beyond the grave spawned by the unnatural coupling of 100 lunatics and a nun part). Whatever caused it, Part 5 is a worthy addition to the story of the poor gobshites with an address on Elm Street.

Two Thumbs Up for A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child

Dream Links:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Nightmare_on_Elm_Street_5:_The_Dream_Child
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097981/

30 Days of Fright – 03: The Hills Have Eyes

There are no super powered mutants and their absence from the world is as equally upsetting and simultaneously reassuring as the absence of flying cars, as both the mutants and the cars would probably kill a bunch of us. I count myself among that number of people who would meet their end at the hands of super-powered mutants or at the controls of a flying car. In the case of the mutants, I’d probably try collaborating if they were evil, even though it never ends well for those who try to join in; if, heaven forbid, they were using their powers for good, then I’d probably try going down the Lex Luthor route or some other type of arch-criminality, driven by my feelings of inadequacy caused by comparing myself to those super-powered do-gooders.

In the case of the flying car, I’d almost certainly crash it in an ironic way, like into a pillow factory or similar; something that would get a chuckle when the story was retold, though many people would have been killed in the tragedy (including the factory’s health and safety officer, ha!).

The Moller Skycar: Utter bollocks, it doesn’t work. Thank God!

Opening with a couple of lines of text that inform the viewer about nuclear tests in the 40’s 50’s and 60’s and how the government deny knowledge of any side effects, The Hills Have Eyes (2006) gets right into the action with a small group of government workers researching the effects of radiation on the New Mexico desert, presumably near one of those test sites. As they go about their task they’re attacked by someone who brutally murders the lot of them with a pick axe and then drags their bodies off for some unseen and unholy purpose.

Next we meet a family made up of a couple, their children, and their children’s child who are on a road trip through the desert on their way to California as part of the couple’s silver anniversary celebrations. The old couple are a set of die-hard right-wingers, with dad, Bob, a gun-toting ex-cop and mom, Ethel, a God-botherer type. The kids are made up of their teenage son Bobby, two daughters, Brenda and Lynn, and Lynn’s husband Doug and their infant daughter, Catherine.

On route, they stop for petrol (that’s “gas” to those from the US and “motion-lotion” to those who are truckers). The bloke who runs the petrol station, who appears to be mixed up in something altogether unwholesome, helpfully suggests a short cut that would reduce the journey by a couple of hours.

As they travel down the dirt road shortcut, someone throws a set of spikes across the road blowing out the tyres and making the family’s SUV crash, stranding them all in the middle of nowhere. The family make camp using the caravan (“trailer” to our transatlantic cousins, “home” to those of you of a pikey persuasion) they were dragging with them and as soon as they get settled, Bob and Doug go in search of help, each heading in an opposite direction along the road.

Doug’s wonderings bring him to a crater full of cars and SUVs filled with holiday related gear like fishing rods and camping equipment, but while interesting it’s of little help and the road dead-ends with the crater. Bob, meanwhile goes back to the petrol station and finds the bloke who gave them the bum directions in a state of hysteria right before he commits suicide. Bob figures out that the short-cut was part of a deliberate plan to attack his family, like several others had been in the past, so he makes to head back to his brood. However, poor old Bob runs into some of the locals – a bunch of hideously deformed mutants – who have some nasty dinner plans for Bob and his family…

 It’s not everyday you come across a little American flag sticking out of the head of your father-in-law’s charred corpse, but when you do…

Based upon the 1977 film by Wes Craven, who returned as a producer for this outing and provided the production company also, The 2006 Hills Have Eyes is a mightily entertaining film considering how little there is to it. Like films that fit into the pro-torture genre there are a handful of potential victims and a handful of potential torturers and the scene is set for the sole purpose of putting the two groups together as messily as possible. However, The Hills Have Eyes doesn’t feel like a torture porn movie. There’s a fair amount of bloody violence and even a rape and a half (don’t ask) but it’s not as mean spirited as some other efforts.

The Hills Have Eyes doesn’t develop the characters any more than absolutely necessary leaving them not quite one-dimensional but not far off, so that everyone’s back story can be explained in as few words as possible. Dad is a tough ex-cop. Mom is religious. The eldest daughter is a mother. The youngest daughter is a slut. The son is a skater. The son-in law is a liberal. The baby is a baby.

Not much more thought is put into the villains but the mutant’s back story is still pretty good, making them local miners who eventually resurfaced after those cold war nuclear bomb tests and went to live in one of the abandoned towns where the testing was done. Those places are remote and at the same time attract a trickle of tourists who would keep the mutants both entertained and fed. The anger felt by the mutants towards the norms who destroyed their homes and caused their disfigurements feels justified; for a moment after you hear the mutant explain their story you almost feel sorry for them, it works that well.

Doug, the lilly-livered liberal pussy son-in-law, is the hero of the piece (there’s so little to the tale that this sort of detail doesn’t really amount to a spoiler) which I found to be a nice change from movies of this kind where it’s usually one of the daughters who has to step up and become a badass. The cause of Doug’s transformation from pansy into no-holds-barred fucking murderer is both understandable and believable.

The Hills Have Eyes is well made with the desert setting doing it’s job brilliantly. This is a time where I’m glad the director decided not to show off the beauty of the desert with gratuitous shots of sunsets and other bullshit like that. The whole production has a slick well-made feel to it with the effects completely over the top but well done at the same time. While computer effects must have featured (unless there’s a bunch of terribly deformed Screen Actors Guild members out there (Sarah Jessica Parker excluded, obviously) ) those effects were well done and not overly noticeable. Even the pretty disturbing opening credits are well constructed and set the tone perfectly from the outset.

The acting is more than functional and there are some very well played scenes. I liked Ted Levine as Bob – you may remember him as Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs or as the general in Evolution. Kathleen Quinlan as Ethel was pretty decent too (her horror experience includes a good turn as Momma Bear in Event Horizon), but the stars of the show were Aaron Stanford as Doug and all the freaks who played the mutants, of whom there were too many to mention.

At first glance The Hills Have Eyes is a slasher flick that borders of torture porn, but to categorize it that way is to do the film a great disservice as it’s much more entertaining then you’d expect either of those two types of film to be.

Two Thumbs Up for The Hills Have Eyes

The Hills Have Links:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hills_Have_Eyes_%282006_film%29
IMBD: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454841/

30 Days of Fright – 02: Don't Look Up

I’ve never been a fan of the idea of excessively high taxes on the rich. This perhaps slightly controversial opinion on the subject of progressive taxation stems from my no doubt delusional belief that someday I will be rich myself and when that day comes I don’t want to be taxed to the hilt.

After last night’s film I’m now prepared to change my opinion on the whole tax thing.

An example of a well-heeled gentleman
Don’t Look Up (2009) opens by telling the audience the story of how donkeys years ago, some chick called Matya was murdered in Romania (the Transylvania part of Romania, of course) basically because she was born with a birthmark on her face and the superstitious locals believed it was a sign of the devil. Turns out that the pitchfork wielding bumpkins were right for a change as the birthmark was actually the result of Matya’s dear old mum having made a pact with the devil where she got herself a top-notch lover (cash, looks, horror-movie review writing ability, you know the sort) and in return was to spawn a child for Satan.
The story moves forward in time to the late 1920’s where a film of Matya’s tragic story is being made by visionary director Béla Olt (played by real-life director Eli Roth – yes, that Eli Roth, the man behind films like Hostel). One night on the set of the movie the actress playing Matya is frightened by something and Béla tries his damnedest to catch whatever it is on film, thinking it to be the ghost of the real Matya. Béla chases after the spectre but instead of filming a phantom he manages to get himself killed.

Spinning forward to the present, we meet Marcus Reed, a budding young director who is cursed with terrible visions. He’s been trying to turn this affliction into an asset by using his visions as inspiration for his films but with only some success – his first film did well but his last attempt was never finished. As well as the problem with the visions, Marcus is troubled by his ex-girlfriend who is suffering from cancer and is very ill. Despite his worry for her, Marcus decides to avail of the chance to restart his career by travelling to Romania (the Transylvania part of Romania, of course) in order to make a film. The film in question is the big-screen adaptation of the story of the gypsy woman and her daughter and it just so happens that Marcus is a big fan of Béla Olt so he jumps at the chance to travel to Europe to use the same sets that still remain from that earlier production.

Upon their arrival, Marcus and his producers are told by the local fixer, Gregore, that the studio they are using is “bad”, alluding to curses and hauntings and what-not. The lads do get an uneasy feelings and Marcus’ visions go into overdrive. As production gets under way, the cast and crew of Marcus’ film discover that there is something very wrong with their studio and that someone, or something, doesn’t want a certain story told…

Great at giving direction but utterly incapable of following any, Marcus does the exact opposite of what he’s told… and looks up!

Having watched this film I now no longer think that the rich should be free to spend their money any way they like, because when given that level of freedom they will only go off and make a film like Don’t Look Up. Some idle rich prick with a desire to make a movie is the only possible explanation for the travesty that is Don’t Look Up making it to the screen. I reckon that someone with cash simply bankrolled the whole thing as that’s the only plausible way it got made at all. Within the studio/production company system someone along the way would have pointed out that the film is shit, if not someone on the crew, then at least someone in the test audience.

Don’t Look Up is another one of those remakes of a Japanese horror film along the lines of the The Ring only this time scaled up from video tape to film stock. Without having seen the original it’s impossible to comment on how faithful a version of the story Don’t Look Up contains but regardless of where the story came from, it has problems.

There’s a gypsy who made a deal with the devil and had a daughter. The daughter was tortured to death. Several years later someone tries to make a film of this story. The production is cursed and the director dies. Some more time passes. Someone else tries to make the same film. That production is also cursed and there are some deaths and the director has weird visions. There’s a twist at the end, quickly followed by another twist.

At first glance, that’s not too bad a story, but you can spot where the film-makers got carried away. If they hadn’t given Marcus the visions and didn’t bother with the two (count ’em), two twists at the end they might have been onto something. But rather than keep it subtle and interesting, they added in too much crap and the whole film ended up stinking of it!

Don’t Look Up seems to have been made on the cheap (fitting with the notion that one person paid for the whole thing), but rather then using some imagination to deal with that limitation like some classic low-budget films have done in the past, the entire production reeks of it’s bargain basement price tag. The bulk of the effects are just plain shit, with far too much really bad CGI utilised, most noticeably where flies attack people. Eli Roth’s less than gentle hand can be felt in some of the make-up effects and for some reason there’s an emphasis on scenes where there’s a mutilation of the eye. This is pretty gross and there’s one scene where it’s used very well but mostly it’s heavy handed and boring. The other recurring effects revolve around flies attacking people and overly graphic and therefore comical scenes of childbirth.

As Don’t Look Up feels so cheap and tacky, the more I think about it the more I believe that my “rich guy paid for the film” theory is right. If you were minted and planned to make a movie wouldn’t you put the actors you wanted into it? Of course you would, but no self respecting actor is going to go near a project like that out of the justified fear that it’ll turn out shite. So, if Tom Cruise or Christian Bale or Bill Pullman (I think he’s good), won’t play along what do you do? You go down the list a bit and find someone interesting who’ll turn up for the cash. In the case of Don’t Look Up the interesting person they got was Henry Thomas. “Who?” I hear you ask…. here’s a hint:

Henry Thomas in E.T. (he’s the one on the left)

Thomas’s appearance answers the question “Whatever happened to the kid from E.T. that wasn’t Drew Barrymore?” but that’s all it does. Like everyone else in the film, and I mean everyone, he was crap. Acting, Directing, Story, Effects, and even the Music were all terrible. Not even Eli Roth and Elliot could save this mess.

Two Thumbs Firmly Down for Don’t Look Up

Don’t Link Up:
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1034305/

30 Days of Fright – 01: Beetlejuice

The director and all-round weirdo Tim Burton has a lot in common with the musician and all-round weirdo Marilyn Manson. Both men have looked to the darker side of life for inspiration, and a love of all things Gothic and romantically sinister permeates their respective works. However, in recent years both have suffered from ever increasing levels of irrelevancy. Tim Burton was once a respected movie-maker who was given the monumental task of creating a decent screen image for Batman, a job he did so well that the film he made back in 1989 still exerts massive influence on comic book movies to this day particularly in terms of atmospherics, costume design, musical style, and so on. Marilyn Manson’s music and stage shows were considered so shocking that he was accused of all sorts of terrible things from devil worship to inspiring the Columbine shootings. In recent years, Manson’s music has struggled to shock and his shows have struggled to fill the venues and surprise the audiences in the way they used to. Despite this, there is still a place in my heart for Marilyn Manson, but the same cannot be said for Tim Burton.

Burton’s career includes the magnificent 80’s reboot of Batman, the excellent Sleepy Hollow, and the downright weird Edward Scissorhands, but whenever I think of him lately all I can focus on is Sweeney Todd, and the love triangle of Tim Burton, Jonny Depp, and Helena Bonham-Carter. This makes it hard to remember the unbridled joy that came from my first viewing of the subtly-edgy (if there can be such a thing) Beetlejuice all those years ago.

 Tim Burton and Marilyn Manson
Set in the idyllic slice of Americana that is rural Connecticut, Beetlejuice (1988) tells the tragic tale of Adam and Barbara Maitland (performed by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis respectively) who are forced into a terrifying round of DIY as they stay at home for their two-week summer vacation. One morning, as they set about their evil task, they are visited by their friend and local real estate agent Jane, who tells them they have yet another over-the-odds offer on their sprawling colonial style home from some wealthy mucky muck in New York City. Jane, ever the sensitive type, manages to say the absolute wrong thing to Barbara by mentioning that the house is far too large for a couple without children, like Babs and Adam.
Deciding to put Jane’s rather callous remarks behind them, the Maitland’s head into town to pick up some material for a model of the town that Adam is building in the attic. On the way home from town and while struggling to avoid a dog on a bridge, the Maitland’s car swerves off the road and into the river, killing Adam and Barbara (though with her at the wheel it’s surprising that they survived as long as they did).
Being killed in a car accident doesn’t actually stop the couple from getting home where, after a couple of odd events, they quickly come to the conclusion that they’re dead and are now ghosts haunting their own home. Adam and Barbara struggle to adapt to their new afterlife and things take another bad turn when their house is sold and a family from New York moves in.

The new (living) occupants of the house are Charles Deetz (Jeffrey Jones), who is a reasonably sane though greedy property developer who’s had some sort of nervous breakdown and needs to escape to the country for a while to get his mojo back, and his missus, Delia Deetz (Catherine O’Hara), who is on the other hand fully bat shit crazy in the way that only wannabe artists from New York can be. Charles has a daughter from a previous marriage (though we never find out what happened to the previous Mrs. Deetz) Lydia (played by the notoriously light-fingered Wynona Ryder) who is going through the darkly moody, goth period of her teenage years, wearing lots of black and thinking about funerals all the time. The Deetz’s soon begin to make the house into their home which involves Delia and her friend Otto demolishing half the place and fitting out the remainder with what passes for their idea of contemporary art. This extensive remodelling disturbs the Maitland’s quite a bit so they set about trying to scare the Deetz’s out.

Due to Lydia’s predisposition towards death and such things, she is the only one who can see the Maitlands and she develops a friendship of sorts with them as they go about trying to get their home back. However, despite their best efforts, including the use of sheets and much moaning, the ghostly Maitland’s are unable to get their way and finally turn to the last resort for those in their situation, a sleezy bio-exorcist by the name of Betelegeuse…

Coming Soon to Channel 4 – My Big Fat Gypsy Funeral
Beetlejuice is a film from the time when Tim Burton actually had something to say with his work other than “I’m creepy, where’s my cheque?”. As one of those “artist” types who dwelt a lot on the afterlife he actually had a few things to say about current life (or pre-after-life if you will) and he was prepared to take some risks with his films in order to say what was on his mind. As a result, on the surface Beetlejuice is a fine late-eighties comedy, complete with decent actors, a great soundtrack, and a brilliant central character. But dig a little deeper and there’s more to be gained from this film, or rather, there should have been.

The main plot of the film, about the dead Maitland’s wanting to get the living Deetz’s out of their house, is a fun reversal of the traditional haunted house story where the details of the haunting are viewed from the perspective of the ghosts. The next level down looks at relationships; the almost perfect love between Adam and Barbara (almost perfect except for her shoddy driving having killed them), the less then perfect, worn down relationship between Charles and Deelia, and the substitute parental relationship the Maitland’s wish they could have with Lydia. This aspect of Beetlejuice puts a little flesh on the bones of the film but is nowhere near as interesting as how the film looks at death.

One of the principal jokes of the film is the one where people who have committed suicide end up as civil servants in the afterlife. This is a deliciously insensitive concept and a major part of the film in some ways and pretty risky when you think of someone watching the film who may have lost a loved one that way now confronted with the idea that in the next world their dearly departed are barely working 20 hours a week and spend a lot of time bitching about their pension. On the other side of that coin, image if you were a civil servant (or if you are a civil servant, don’t) and you see Beetlejuice and you realise that on the other side your job is some kind of purgatorial punishment.

And there’s the rub.

In a Tim Burton comedy, much loved and enjoyed, and eventually turned into a cartoon series for children, people who commit suicide are punished for it.

Making death fun for all the family… Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beeltejuice!

Now, I’m not entirely sure who or what Burton was digging at with that joke but it does indicate that there could have been a lot more depth to Beetlejuice and I wonder if there was a more biting version of the script that got toned down before the finished story made it to the cinema, thus leaving a few unanswered questions. A couple of  other Beetlejuice moments reinforce this idea for me, including the scene where a model satanic whorehouse appears to keep the little bugger busy for a while (something I don’t remember seeing referenced in the cartoon) as well as the name of the character being Betelegeuse (like the real life star) while the movie is called Beetlejuice (like the pronunciation of said star); things that hint at another layer of humour that must have been left on the cutting room floor.

Technically, the movie is well made and very well acted. Before he became obsessed with Jonny Depp, Burton was in love with Michael Keaton which shows how good an eye for acting talent Burton may once have had. Keaton is utterly brilliant in the title role and somehow manages to dominate the film, over act beyond belief in every scene, and at the same time create a great example of an iconic film character who proves that less is more, as despite his seriously outlandish antics, it’s surprising how little screen time Betelegeuse actually gets in the film.

There are one or two scenes where either the editing or directing slipped slightly in terms of timing; I can think of one scene in particular where Deelia Deetz suddenly says something that seems to have come out of nowhere and it feels like a few seconds of dialogue were cut out for some reason (I wonder why), but on the surface this didn’t take from the enjoyment of the film. Neither does the quality of the effects which merely reflect what could be done at the time with the type of budget available to the production. 

Beetlejuice focuses a lot on death, which it kinda had to do seeing as how the majority of the characters are ghosts, but it wrapped quite a morbid theme in some decent comedy, with good jokes and well delivered performances. Because of the comedy, and some of the other undertones, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that, at its heart, Beetlejuice is a sweet movie that’s mostly about love, the kind of love that transcends death and gobshites from New York.

Two Thumbs Up for Beetlejuice.


30 Days of Fright – Prologue

Sometimes life moves at an incredibly slow pace, the hours creeping by at a painful rate. At other times life moves at breakneck speed and you barely have time to notice that the last time a year went by slowly you were probably still in school. Once again, from where I’m standing anyway, another year has shot past and we find ourselves staring down the barrel of another set of the most amazing horror film reviews the world has ever seen – it’s year 5 of the 30 Days of Fright!

For the last four years I’ve taken the opportunity that the month of October brings as it slides towards Hallowe’en to watch a load of horror films and then write reviews, with some pointing out the better elements of those films, though most just making snide put-downs of other people’s work. In the best tradition of film critics and hipsters everywhere I let my own conceited notion that I know best about these things run riot and take apart some much loved gems of the genre while elevating unheard of indie movies much higher then they could ever deserve, working on the simple notion that if a film’s popular then it’s probably shite.

The previous bunch of reviews are available for your consideration here: 2008, here: 2009, here: 2010, and here: 2011,and hopefully like the last few outings you’ll find year five to be entertaining, a bit of a laugh, and maybe, just maybe a little bit interesting.

As the actual reviews do take a bit of effort, and because I’m a naturally lazy person, the scoring system hasn’t changed a bit over the years and each film still gets rated on its merits (but mostly lack thereof) and assigned a final score on my rather unusual thumb-based scale:

Two Thumbs Firmly Down = One of the worst films ever, never mention this film to anyone nevermind actually watching it!

Two Thumbs Down = Utter Scutter

One Thumb Up, One Thumb Down = Meh, don’t go out of your way for it but there’s no need to avoid it either

Two Thumbs Up = A brilliant movie, well worth a look

Two Thumbs Firmly Up = A must see, a truly excellent motion picture you should make it your business to see as soon as you can

There is another score that is only used in the most extreme of cases: No Thumbs = no rating as the film is beneath contempt due to the handling of its subject matter – when you consider that these are horror films then that’s a pretty extreme rating to get and has so far, only been applied to one nasty little film.

As is tradition, the first film gets its showing tonight, so here we go again… let the 30 Days of Fright begin!