I’ve often considered getting a tattoo but for the longest time was never able to decide what I’d get done. There were some ideas I liked but they didn’t rock my world sufficiently to endure the pain or cost of getting it done. When I settled on the avatar I use (as can be seen here) it occurred to me that it would make for a great tat. But, after some careful consideration, I came to the conclusion that, regardless of which way he intended to lean, it would probably be best not to show up in front of St. Peter sometime in the future with a big fuck-off tattoo of Satan down my back.
At a tattoo expo in Singapore Jake Sayer (Jason Behr) is The Tattooist (2007) with an interest in the healing power of certain patterns and designs associated with native cultures around the world. His deep interest in ink came from a nasty incident when he was younger when his father, a deeply religious man, took a knife to Jake’s arm to remove a tattoo of a pentagram he’d had done. Now grown, Jake has developed a reputation for his ideas on tattoo healing, though it’s not entirely clear if he truly believes or whether it’s just an angle he’s playing though he does apply a tattoo to a sick young boy whose father believes.
While in Singapore, Jake encounters a young woman he’s attracted to who’s part of a group of New Zealand based Samoans, one of which is a tattooist and is currently working on the pe’a, a large tattoo that some young Samoan men receive to mark the passage into manhood. Jake is fascinated by the designs and curious if there’s a healing side to the whole thing (which is odd because it’s really painful), and keen to incorporate the Samoan material into his gig he steals a traditional tattooing tool that was in a display case by the Samoan’s stall at the expo.
As he leaves the expo, the distraught father of the young lad Jake had tattooed arrives to tell him that the boy died and that he was now interested in helping Jake meet the same fate sooner rather than later. Flustered by this, Jake drops his gear and as he struggles to gather up his belongings he cuts his hand on the tool he’d lifted from the Samoans.
Under a little pressure in Singapore, Jake decides to travel to New Zealand, which is one of the places in the world where he learned his trade, and while there he can find out a bit more about the Samoan tradition, and maybe get off with yer one but only after returning the stolen tool as his conscious is playing up since he nicked it, giving him nightmares and not letting his hand heal properly. Once he gets to Auckland, Jake hooks up with one of his old mentors who loans him a place to stay and the use of a car and he sets about finding the Samoans while paying his way as a tattoo artist.
Jake manages to find the Samoans and gets the tool back to them via the girl he encountered in Singapore. She brings him to a ceremony to mark the completion of one of the giant tattoos that the lads get and there he meets her uncle, a high up mucky muck in the Samoan community. After leaving the Samoans, Jake is dragged to a party being held for one of his customers. Jake isn’t comfortable so he leaves, right before the guy he’d drawn on dies mysteriously in a swimming pool, apparently coughing up ink and other nasty stuff. When Jake finds out about the death he’s more than a little shocked as the tattoo he gave seems to be the root cause of the death, and the other people he inked are suffering from an ailment where their tattoos are spreading painfully across their bodies before killing them horrifically. Jake slowly wakes up to the fact that the contents of his nightmares, the strange spread of his tattoos, and the deaths are all liked to the tool he stole, and that it has unleashed something far worse than a nasty infection…
Jake dies a little bit inside as he applies his 1000th tramp stamp
The Tattooist is at its heart a simple vengeful spirit type movie that has drawn inspiration not only from the traditions of the Samoan people living in New Zealand but also other films that are based on a similar idea. The Tattooist has elements of The Ring present in the storyline, particularly with regards to a piece of technology unleashing a naughty ghost with that has badness in mind. However, the culture of the New Zealand Samoans provides that backdrop and therefore context for the story is the real influence at play in this film, which reminds me very much of how The Serpent and the Rainbow put the culture of Haiti front and centre. Just like Serpent, The Tattooist focuses on the cultural aspects of the people in the film and, just like in Serpent, uses an American outsider someone audiences can relate to as they find out about the natives at the same time as he does.
The strength of The Tattooist is also its single greatest weakness. As fascinating as the cultural aspects of tattooing are they cannot cover the fact that the story is pretty weak and has been done lots of times before. The originality of the tattoo bits are in direct opposition to the unoriginality of the vengeful ghost. It’s as if the film-makers were sitting around one day (somewhere in New Zealand) after they’d come into some lucky funding (most likely from the New Zealand national lottery or whatever) and were kicking around ideas for a film and one of them had just gotten a tattoo of a Samoan dude, so he (or she) said “how about making a film about Samoan tattoos?” and all the rest of them said “Yeah! Great idea! We can get all sorts of cool ethnic stuff into it!” and that was a far as they got with their idea for a film until they actually had to sit down and write a script and one of them threw in a bit about a ghost who was pissed off about their death.
In terms of performances Jason Sawyer is a perfectly competent lead in a small film like this but whether he’d be able for a bigger production is questionable. For me, the really impressive performance came from Mia Blake as Sina, the girl Jake fancies. The other actors and actresses were all functional and there were a couple of faces you might recognise from TV shows that need someone from New Zealand from time to time.
The Tattooist is, to be fair, a weak film. But while it’s filled with conveniences (like open doors and kids who can channel spirits at the right time) which are symptoms of a story in need of much deeper development, I can’t bring myself to dislike the film. The Tattooist is a movie very much in the same vein as The Serpent and the Rainbow but that’s fine, because Serpent managed to tap into that sense of the unknown in order to build a horror story, the big difference being that Serpent used Voodoo which is a lot scarier than inky ghosts, as fun and all as they are. The main fright in The Tattooist is that when people go in to get ink from Jake, they’re not asked what they want, he just drew whatever he fucking pleased…
Playing soldier is something a lot of kids like to do and increasingly a number of adults enjoy to play too. As kids, little war games can teach important lessons about team work and conflict resolution. As adults, running about playing war games in a couple of acres of plantation can teach important lessons about dealing with a fucker of a hangover when on a stag weekend.
In deepest, darkest Eastern Europe, in some country that’s a bit on the war-torn side, a representative of a company that’s bought some real estate in the area kicks of Outpost (2008) by recruiting a mercenary to put together a squad of hard chaws to provide some security as he goes about his business. Hunt (Julian Wadham) hires DC (Ray Stevenson) who gathers up some tough nuts who are well up for the job. Hunt seems to be a man of the world and has experience dealing with mercenary types and some of the squad suspect that he’s not telling the whole truth about their little mission.
The lads all set off towards a particular location in the middle of nowhere. Upon arrival the squad discovers a German World War 2 bunker that seems to be the focus of Hunt’s interest. As they take a look around the place they make the horrific discovery of a stack of bodies piled up in one of the rooms of the bunker. The bodies look fresh and sure enough one of them turns out to still be alive, though the poor sod is severely traumatized and unable or unwilling to speak.
The squad secures the bunker for the night but is attacked by unseen assailants who manage to wound one of the soldiers. This changes the dynamics of the mission quite severely and the problems for the soldiers grow as one of them is captured and killed in a torturous manner that puts the wind up the rest of them. DC confronts Hunt demanding an explanation of what’s really going on with the bunker and Hunt reveals that it had been used by the Nazi’s as part of a twisted super-soldier creation program that used a large machine to jimmy around with the laws of physics. Hunt shows the remaining squad members a film he found that documents some of the experiments and the extreme lengths the researchers had gone to. Hunt and DC realise that their unseen attackers are closely related to the experiments that took place in the bunker and might still be fighting a war…
Paintball in the Irish midlands is a serious fucking business! (that’s me on the right)
For some strange reason films about soldiers set in modern times and located in Eastern Europe do not feel like “real” war movies, but that is how Outpost presents itself at the start, though mostly as a way to lull you into a false sense of what the film will be about. What Outpost is about on the surface is very simple. Nazi Zombies (of sorts). For all the times I’ve heard Nazi zombies mentioned I haven’t really seen too many so it’s nice to finally run into a few in a movie.
However, the Nazi’s that feature in Outpost are not actually zombies, in fact they seem to have more in common with Dr. Manhattan from Watchmenthen they do with anything from The Walking Dead as the core of the story is the machine in the bunker and what it can do. As a plot device (if you’ll pardon the pun) it’s not the worst way to conjure up some baddies that are suitable for the type of goodies that were available, in other words it was nice and handy that a bunch of armed to the teeth soldiers were the ones who discovered the bunker as opposed to some teenage hikers as it’s unlikely that the hikers would have been as able for the situation.
Outpost is an unusual little movie that takes a swing at a bigger story then it’s really able for. The theme of soldiers being laid siege to by supernatural entities has been done a few times and there are a few common threads to these stories that you can expect, particularly things like each of the soldiers having their own quirky personalities which in Outpost is presented well as each of the squad are of a different nationality, but while good at the small stuff delivering on the idea of the Nazi’s working on advanced technology and the consequences of that work is a tall order and sadly Outpost wasn’t really able to do it.
Once an excuse had been presented to get the Nazi’s into the picture the film descends into a standard slaughter-fest with the soldiers simply fighting for survival over the course of a day or so. This is very standard fare and it happens in a very standard way. Ray Stevenson and Julian Wadham as DC and Hunt respectively are the best thing in Outpost because in a sense they’re the only thing in it. The other characters are only in the film so as to be victims and are in no way developed beyond displaying whatever traits they were assigned so that you could tell them apart as they’re murdered.
Outpost is a low budget British horror film but the lack of budget isn’t why the film feels lacking. What it’s really missing are better characters, if they’d been there then they might have told the story better and gotten across the real horror, the notion that World War 2 could have had a different outcome if some of those terrifying experiments had worked…
Horror loves the field of medicine. Ever since the likes of Dr. Frankenstein made it cool to go to medical school and then dabble in un-natural and highly unethical experiments, horror has always had time for a good doctor, but the preference has always really been for a bad one! Medicine is kinda scary in its own right, dealing as it does with skeletons and blood and guts, so there’s a lot of material in this particular area that works well for horror. Of course, the really important thing that horror dwells on a lot and that medicine somewhat specialises in is the bit at the end, death.
Flatliners (1990) is set in the world’s best looking medical school where five students are rising to the top of their class in their own ways. Nelson (Keifer Sutherland) is poncing around with a head full of weird ideas, Rachel (Julia Roberts) is a moody sort who’s interested in her patients tales of near death experiences, Joe (William Baldwin) appears to be interested in a career in gynaecology, Randall (Oliver Platt) has his heart set on surgery, and David (Kevin Bacon) is something of a whizz in the ER until he oversteps the boundaries laid down for students as he helps a patient and gets suspended from school. This prompts Nelson to seek him out with some urgency as he’s planning on implementing one of his nuttier ideas and he needs David’s help.
Nelson is somewhat of an outside the box type thinker and he’s come up with the idea to kill himself in controlled medical circumstances and then be revived with the use of electrical do-hickeys and a variety of drugs in order to experience the afterlife, if there is one. Nelson manages to convince the others to give him a hand and they meet up one night to get down to the serious business of bumping him off. Using some gas and drugs the other four manage to get Nelson to flatline, that is they successfully induce a state of clinical death upon their classmate.
After the pre-arranged time has elapsed they set about resuscitating Nelson and manage to bring him back. Slightly euphoric from their success they quickly begin to argue among themselves as to who will go next and for how long and a bidding war breaks out as each of them threatens to “go” for longer than the others and therefore run the risk of coming back with brain damage or not coming back at all. A short time after his resuscitation Nelson begins to see visions of a little boy he bullied when he was a nipper himself, but he keeps this to himself as he’s not sure what he’s experiencing. As the others die and return they too are haunted by things from their past and an interesting side effect turns more serious as visions turn violent…
With one of the Baldwin’s lying dead on the table, the rest of the gang discuss why they should bother their arses to save him?
Firstly I’ve got to say this as it’s been on my mind from during my watching of Flatliners: the sets and locations are fucking amazing! The building where the group conduct their experiments with death is being renovated and looks fantastic, with murals on the walls and high windows and plenty of room, in fact the entire medical school is made up of rooms that look like they belong in art galleries or museums and while these must be great places to go to college it must be fiercely impractical as, for example, the room where anatomy class is held doesn’t seem to have any actual equipment for dissecting cadavers, though it does look pretty. This valuing style over function permeates the film like the stink of a medical student. From the medical school to Nelson’s apartment, to David’s truck, to Julia Roberts, things look good but don’t make a whole pile of sense. Except, they do make the film wonderfully atmospheric and actually kind of cool in a retro way.
Nelson’s apartment is right out of a 1989 music video, all bare white walls and fuck all furniture and lots of lights casting interesting shadows; David owns what appears to be an ex-military truck that’s full of stuff but has only a canvass flap for a rear door, and at one point he absails from a window to get to the ground floor as opposed to taking the stairs; Joe’s apartment (wasn’t there a film called that?*) is a split level thing with exposed rafters where he can hide video cameras for the purpose of filming his sexual exploits as he cheats on his fiancée; and Julia Roberts is the girl of the group. All these things are the trademark of the visual style of director, Joel Shumacher, the man behind The Lost Boys, and while they do make for excellent viewing just like Lost Boys they cause the film to be sadly forever stuck in 1990 which, again like Lost Boys, is a crying shame as Flatliners is brilliant!
The atmospherics coupled with the calibre of the cast would be enough for Flatliners to be well on it’s way to a place among the decent movies of the early nineties anyway, but add in an interesting story and some top notch character development and it should have been guaranteed a much higher regard then it currently manages. The characters are interesting from the point of view of audiences now very well used to the idea of driven doctors who are more than a little bit full of themselves. Flatliners uses this God-complex years before ER hit our TV’s and made this type of person seem normal. All of the group selected by Nelson are chosen because they are allegedly so good at what they do, and the archetypes used became staples of character development for shows just like ER. There’s the egotist, the slightly disturbed one, the maverick, the genius, and the philanderer; all people we now know a lot better then we did when Flatliners used them. Having characters like this allowed for such a deep an meaningful subject as death and the existence of an afterlife to be plausibly dealt with under the auspices of an experiment designed by a fame-hungry young man who wanted to be known for his breakthrough research into the human condition (though it seems the nickname “Dr. Death” never crossed his mind until it was said to him in the film). What happens to those characters and the developments of their relationships as a result makes for great viewing even though as a film with a supernatural slant there are very few chills and no scares to speak of. While this absence of fright might be considered a drawback for a spooky movie and seems to be a waste of a well developed atmosphere, I think adding in anything overly designed to get a reaction from the viewer would have cheapened the film and I’m glad it’s as subtle as it is.
Over the years I’ve had many items of clothing ruined by money burning holes in the pockets. While this is not a major complaint (hardly a complaint at all really) it did lead to many fine items of body-covering having to be pegged out dues to all the stuff I lost from out of those holey pockets. As I’ve gotten older and found more diverse ways to throw money away as quickly as possible, the problem with the pockets has been significantly reduced. Now I find that the things I purchased with that cash are burning holes of their own as they lie idle and begging for use. Strangely though, the DVD of last night’s movie did not suffer from that problem. Don’t get me wrong, it sat on a shelf for ages before I ever watched it, it’s just that I didn’t buy it – I stole it off a friend of mine…
The action in Angel Heart (1987) takes place in 1955 and starts off in New York city, where Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) is a private detective who normally works small cases like cheating spouses for divorces and the like. He is approached one day by a lawyer who wants to engage Heart’s services for a client of his, the enigmatic Loius Cyphre (Robert DeNiro).Cypher is trying to locate a singer with the stage name Johnny Favourite who apparently ran out on a contract of some sort he’d entered into with Cypher.
Favourite had been suffering from shell-shock caused by his adventures in World War 2 and for the previous twelve years or so had been receiving treatment in a hospital outside the city. Heart takes the case and quickly discovers that Favourite had done a runner from the hospital ages ago and that he, or an associate of his, had paid off a doctor to maintain the pretence thatFavourite was still a patient. Tracking down the doctor, Heart finds him to be a barely coherent morphine addict, and in an effort to get some sense out of him, Heart forces him to go without his drug of choice for a little while. When he checks in on the good doctor Heart finds that the doctor appears to have taken his own life with a bullet to the braincase.
Now fearing he’ll be questioned over the death, Heart confronts Cyphre who ups the fee he’s paying in order to keep Heart on the case. As Heart investigates further he uncovers that Favourite was mixed up in some very shady dealings and seemed to have developed a strong interest in the occult, spending a lot of time with a fortune teller and other occultists.These people were likely the ones who helped him escape from the hospital andHeart follows them to their most likely hiding place of New Orleans.
Jumping on the train to Louisiana, Heart finds himself quickly up to his neck in the local scene, made up of swinging jazz and a bizarre mix of religious and occult practices, all with a funky Creole/French accent. The clues in the case lead Heart around in some circles and more and more people connected to the case wind up dead. While everything points to Favourite being deceased himself, something else is always hinting that what actually happened to him is far worse than that…
Overcome by DeNiro’s powerful, manly presence, Mickey Rourke cops a sneaky feel
The Angel Heart DVD has been kicking around my place forages now (well over a year!) and I’ve been trying to decide if I’ll watch it as part of this seriesor not for over a year. The reason I’ve been so unsure about this film is that,as hard as it can be for other movies, it’s really, really hard to decide ifAngel Heart is in fact a horror at all. I am inclined to think it is, but amore accurate, though not perfect, description might be “Supernatural Thriller”.
Angel Heart features a wealth of occult material from tarot readers to voodoo practitioners but none of these things really come to bear on the story until quite near the end. In fact, while this hocus-pocus is evident from early on, it always feels merely coincidental, like characters that are into voodoo could just as easily have been into gardening or stamp collecting or any other more mundane hobby. The way all this is spun makes Angel Heart quite a clever little film.
DeNiro’s character, Cyphre, is the most blatantly obvious in the film and there’s very little doubt as to his true nature from the moment he appears (manifests, perhaps?) on screen. But even while you know he’s really the baddest of the bad the film still plays out like a regular detective story.Even scenes where DeNiro turns up sporting a cool pentagram ring and long finger nails he still acts in a semi-normal fashion and you forget that there’s bound to be some sort of diabolical ending to the whole thing.
But, as clever and all as Angel Heart is, its lack of clearly defined genre lines means that it’s lacking as a horror film. The dread never builds when the end does come it plays out in the same understated way that the previous hundred minutes did leaving you with more than a bit of an anti-climax on your hands. As a broody detective story Angel Heart is excellent, as a flat out horror it needs some work; I can ‘t help but feel that if the supernatural element had turned out to be something more natural instead the whole thing would have worked much better.
For a real scare, take a good look at Mickey Rourke in Angel Heart (in which he was excellent, by the way) and take a look at the poor bugger now…One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Angel Heart
If you’ve ever had a lucid dream (a dream where you are aware that you’re dreaming and as a result have an element of control) you know what an amazing experience that is. It can also be something of an addictive experience as if you’ve had such a dream and can remember it you’ll want to have another, and another, and so on. There are some techniques that can allegedly induce a lucid dreaming state and I’ve experimented with them once or twice, but to no avail; instead of an immersive dreaming experience where I was master of my environment, all I got was a crick in my neck.
Though it takes a couple of minutes before you realise it, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: Dream Master picks up the story of the children of Elm Street after the events in the third instalment of the series. Now home from the psychiatric hospital where they were being treated for various sleep disorders they are living back in the old neighbourhood and are living more or less normal lives. Kristen still has the power to draw people into her dreams which she tends to do on a semi-regular basis, especially if she’s having a nightmare. Kristen isn’t so sure that they’ve seen the last of Freddy Kruger and when she draws the others into her nightmares she tries to convince them that they’re still in danger.
At school, the Elm Streets have made new friends and settled into the social structures reasonably well. Among their new friends are a brother and sister, Rick and Alice, a geeky kid who’s asthmatic and good at the old book learnin’, and the usual collection of jocks and the like.
Sure enough, good old Freddy does manage to return, his bones joining back together and the flesh growing back (though still terribly disfigured) during one young lads nightmare. He then proceeds to murder all round him, focusing his efforts on the two kids who with Kristen, had defeated him last time out. With these two dispatched, Freddy then attacks Kristen, using her power to draw others into the dream world for him to kill and, in some way that’s not made all that clear, use their souls to grow more powerful.
Kirsten draws her friend Alice into the dream realm and before she’s killed she passes her power to Alice. Now, as Freddy ups the body count, Alice is imbued with the strengths of the person he has killed, which Alice uses to prepare herself to face Freddy…
Hey Freddy, did you go bald when those parents set your ass on fire?
I got a Kru-cut!
Part three of the hugely successful Nightmare on Elm Street franchise set things up nicely for the next movie and I was looking forward to seeing how the story would develop and whether the ghost of Fred’s mum would show up again and curse at people. Part 4 didn’t continue the story as much as it simply carried on the story, by which I mean, unfortunately, that it’s really just more of the same.
The idea behind the Nightmare series is a good one and the previous film had added in a couple of new angles, with the idea that lucid dreamers could do some good in the dream world, that the dream world itself is more than just something in our heads, and that Freddy is a deeper and more complex character then you’d think due to his background and the fact that his mum is a ghost. Most of this was ignored for the fourth film so that Freddy could have some lines that were meant to be funny (but weren’t) and so that the film makers could show off a wide variety of special effects that they had available to them.
The effects in Nightmare 4 are, for the most part, excellent. I really liked the waterbed and the landshark scene sticks in my head too, but nearly all of the effects were well executed (except the bit where Freddy got a hole blown in his chest, the animation for that sucked!) The story is so weak, however, that it’s hardly worth talking about which then leads to good effects being used in places where you just don’t care. A bunch of teens get killed off in this film and none of their deaths really resonate. None of them seem as painful or horrific as those in the earlier films did, and as so many characters are new there’s a strong sense of lambs to the slaughter, so when one of them does bite it you’ve nothing invested. And while the effects are technically well done, they’re not shocking enough to make you sit up and take notice.
There are some things that you can’t help but notice in Nightmare 4. The most obvious one is that Patricia Arquette was replaced as Kristen by, and I swear I’m not making this up, Tuesday Knight (that’s her name, not sure if she’s any relation to Michael or not). One other thing is the way the character of Freddy moves more and more towards comedy as opposed to horror which is a crying shame for a little humour in these films went a long way; in Nightmare 4 the comedy gets in the way of the whole point of the movie.
I love a good comic book.It’s a brilliant way to tell stories and as a medium it has a lot in common with cinema, only without the chance for a load of people to get together and really make a mess of it.Perhaps this close link is why it’s now so common for comic-based movies to hit the picture houses.
Creepshow (1982) is a different kind of film as it’s an anthology of five short stories presented as if they were part of a 1950’s style horror comic book that a young boy was reading before his father took the book away. The whole film is wrapped in the story of the boy and his Dad with the start of the film about how the boy lost the “Creepshow” comic and the end about what happened next. The five stories presented are each quite separate from each other as stories in comics often are.
Story 1: Father’s Day
The first film presented in Creepshow tells of a wealthy family of sorts getting together for dinner with a dear old aunt of theirs. The aunt in question shows up on father’s day every year to visit the grave of her own father and to be a hindrance to her younger relatives. As the time for her arrival approaches, the mother of the family tells of how her aunt had killed her father and now felt a vague sort of remorse about the whole thing. Sure enough, the aunt arrives and head to her father’s grave to sit and get shitfaced with a bottle of Jack. As she contemplates what her father had done and how it affected her life a hand shoots up from the grave and the family experience the second murderous rampage in their history…
Ed Harris hits the bottle (pity it wasn’t Regaine, the now-baldy fuck)
Story 2: The Lonesome Death Of Jody Verrill
The second tale of terror follows an unsophisticated rural gentleman (fucking redneck) called Jody Verrill (Stephen King – yes THAT Stephen King) whose evening is disturbed by a meteorite crashing to Earth near his house (shack). He investigates and dreams of making a bit of cash from his find by selling the rock to a nearby college. The meteorite is too hot to pick up out of its crater (as the simple gobshite discovers by burning his fingers on it) so he throws a bucket of water over it, causing it to split in two and leak some retched looking fluid. Returning to his house (hovel) for the evening to consider his next move, Jody notices that some green mossy looking stuff has sprouted on his fingers and is spreading to anything he touches. Soon, most of the house and surrounding fields are covered in an alien plant and Jody is in danger of being overgrown himself…
The author of The Green Mile reveals his inspiration
Story 3:Something To Tide You Over
Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson) is at home one morning when an older gent Richard (Leslie Neilson) knocks on the door and barges in, telling Harry that he knows he’s having an affair with his wife Rebecca. Richard is incredibly possessive when it comes to his missus so much so that he’s done something terrible to her and if Harry wants to see her again he’s have to go with Richard. Reluctantly agreeing to this Harry sets off with Richard down to the beach where Richard pulls a gun and demands that he jumps into a deep hole in the sand. Now buried up to his neck harry watches as Richard fetches a TV set and about three miles of cable so that he can watch a feed from a camera somewhere else on the beach where Rebecca is buried in similar circumstances, the only difference being that she’s nearer to the incoming tide and is starting to struggle as she’s slowly submerged. Harry realises that he’s about to suffer the same fate and swears revenge on Richard. That night back at his place, Richard is disturbed by two uninvited watery guests…
People tend to forget just how fucked up the last episode of Cheers really was!
Story 4:The Crate
Set in a college town two professors, Henry and Stanley, are attending a social gathering during the summer holidays. The two lads are friends but Henry is married to a right old bitch, a woman who gets on everyone’s nerves and is totally different to her husband and his friends. A janitor working at the college contacts Stanley to say he’s found a crate under the stairs. Stanley goes to investigate and discovers to his horror that the crate contains a living Yeti that’s rightly pissed off for having been in a wooden box for over a hundred years.After the creature kills a few people Stanley tells Henry about it and Henry spots a chance to improve everyone’s lives by ending one in particular…
Henry utters the first known instance of “Yeah, you’d better run!” in cinema history
Story 5: They’re Creeping Up On You! A rich old dude living in a high tech apartment hates bugs and he’s killed by them. That’s it.
A rich old dude living in a high tech apartment hates bugs and he’s killed by them
I am seriously conflicted on the subject of Creepshow. I really can’t decide if it’s muck or a masterpiece. It is defeinitely innovative and certainly manages to invoke the idea of those older horror comics that you sometimes see reprints of, where the stories are twisted and genuinely horrifying.
The thing about Creepshow is that there are no big twists and absolutely no scare worth mentioning and all the performances (bar one) were terrible and the comic book animations that kick in at the end of each story are distracting and silly.The only actor worth a damn in the whole thing was Leslie Neilson, who came across as a fucking sinister nutball and was a joy to watch as he pranced about on screen delighting in his murderous game. Even with big name actors, Stephen King writing the material, and George A. Romero directing Creepshow just doesn’t click.
Whatever way you cut it, Creepshow is shit. So why then this indecision? Because, as poorly delivered as it was, Creepshow remains a very clever film. The level of respect it gives to the material it was inspired by is to be commended and in terms of a comic book movie it was way ahead of its time. Creepshow is a film born out of a love of horror and it’s a safe bet that everyone involved in making it had a good time in the process, which is too often missing from film production. Sadly though, this wasn’t enough to prevent the shortcomings in the production from overwhelming the better aspects.
There is a strong tradition of mining in many parts of the world but the places I tend to associate with that industry are the North of England, parts of Wales, and parts of Cornwall. It is purely because of my knowledge of the UK that I think of those places when I think of digging stuff out of the ground on a big scale.Places like Cornwall have so many legends and folklore tales associated with the practice of mining that it comes as no real surprise that a horror movie or two has been made over the years set in and around mines. What is surprising that at least one of them is Canadian!
In a blatant attempt to cash in on day-themed movies like Friday 13th and Halloween, My Bloody Valentine (1981) is set in a small mining town called Valentine Bluffs somewhere in deepest darkest Canada where, in 1960 during that year’s Valentine’s Day dance, an accident occurred in the mine that was caused by two supervisors who were in a hurry to get to the dance and left five men in unsafe conditions. The rescue attempt took six weeks and by the time they got to where the miners were only one was still alive and he had apparently only survived by letting his diet go to hell and feasting on the remains of his co-workers (whether or not they died in the accident or if he killed them is unclear).
The survivor, Harry Warden, was institutionalised for his trauma but the following year, having learned of the cause of the accident, he returned home and murdered the supervisors responsible and a few others, leaving a message for the town that no Valentine’s Day dances or other celebrations are ever be held there again. Every year since, Harry has busted out of the puzzle factory around the 14th of February and nipped home to make sure no one’s getting their groove on.
Twenty years have passed since the accident and most of the towns inhabitants have either forgotten the story of Harry Warden or now think the whole thing is just some local legend. Deciding to resurrect the towns Valentine’s festival, the centre piece of which in the dance, the towns organisers led by the mayor and the local Laundromat owner, prepare the place for the festival with decorations and sweets in heart-shaped boxes (in an apparent homage to Nirvana about ten years before that band dominated the Seattle music scene!).
The mayor is the recipient of one of those boxes but is horrified to discover that it doesn’t contain novelty chocolates but instead a human heart, recently forcibly removed from its owner’s chest. As the mayor is of the right vintage to remember Harry Warden he put’s two and two together and pisses himself as he cops what’s about to go down in Valentine Bluffs, just in time for Valentine’s Day…
Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, and Kurt Cobain before they turned their backs on mining for good
My Bloody Valentine is a low budget, no names, no hope, heap of crap that got thrown together and puked up onto a screen. While I can appreciate the desire to cash in on a trend in movies like those that used keys days in the year as their main reason for butchering teenagers, the shoddy way that this film was made is almost certainly one of the main reasons films like Halloween are looked upon so kindly as, despite their glaring faults, they all look like Oscar worthy masterpieces in comparison to My Bloody Valentine.
There are two main failings with My Bloody Valentine: what it’s about and the people in it.
The “acting” is fucking shit. Holy Jesus, you’d think someone on the crew, sitting down to watch the dailies or maybe in the editing suite later on would have looked at the footage and thought to themselves “Shit! We’ve made a terrible film and it’s mainly because no-one in it can act!” I’m stunned that no one intervened to stop this thing getting loose, it’s not like they had You Tube in 1981 and couldn’t have stopped some of it leaking out. All someone had to do was burn the master copy and we’d b rid of this monstrosity, I mean they lost chunks of the original print of The Wicker Man for crying out loud, why couldn’t that happen to a bad film?!
There are a boat load of characters in My Bloody Valentine and they’re all portrayed by useless plebs. The mayor, the woman who owns the laundry, the Sheriff, the geezer who runs the bar, the mayor’s young lad, the other “men” who work the mine, and their girlfriends, are all equally shite. I kid you not, there’s not one of them who was able to put in even a reasonable performance. Even if they were all part of the same amateur dramatics society you’d imagine one of them would have gotten lucky and been able to deliver their lines without sounding like an eight year old forced to read in front of the class. Even the girls, whose main function in the film was to scream at the appropriate moments, couldn’t get that right. How do you mess up screaming? I don’t know either, but sure enough at least two of the women in My Bloody Valentinewere unable to scream in a convincing manner.
My Bloody Valentine’s Harry Warden in happier times
With the bar set so low by those on screen it’s a little hard to see past them to the story they were trying to tell. Which is no loss really as that was crap too. The need for revenge by one crazed dude is a staple of the slasher flick, but in the case of My Bloody Valentine, there’s nothing supernatural going on, and the baddie, Harry Warden, is batshit crazy and has, apparently, been visiting town every year for the last twenty. Hang on. He’s been able to skip out from the asylum, travel home, make sure no-one’s throwing a Valentine’s bash, and then… goes back to the asylum? There’s a lot wrong with this idea. As we’ve learned from other horror films of the seventies and eighties, the level of psychiatric care available to those with murderous tendencies as was very poor, so it’s no big surprise that a straightforward trauma like that caused by six weeks in the dark with only co-workers to eat wasn’t effectively dealt with. That Harry is able to escape every year like clockwork is a bit of a stretch, that he goes back to the “hospital” is fairly improbable (because if you’re crazy do you know you’re crazy, if not why go back, and if so Harry must have realised he wasn’t getting any help where he was, why didn’t he break out of one loony bin and check himself in somewhere better?). The most unlikely thing though is that the audience is expected to believe that Harry goes home every year to mess up Valentine’s Day, and no-one busted a cap in his ass! I would have thought Hallmark would have hired someone.
My dislike of films made from the first person, that is as if they were entirely recorded on a regular video camera, is by now well documented. I don’t like the idea, not because it always results in poor movies, but because it’s a gimmick so flawed that there’s never a really good excuse to use this method of film production. Every time it gets trotted out new and even more outlandish reasons for the filming to be taking place have to be concocted and these reasons inevitably become less and less plausible and therefore more and more insulting to the audience. When you look back at how often this style has featured in horror you’re forced to ask why did it become so popular in the first place? I think it’s partly down to the notion of how anyone could make one of these movies (which is total nonsense really as there’s increasingly a decent sized budget and crew behind the whole thing(though to be fair, not in the case of last nights movie)), but it’s mostly about attempting to inject a heavy dose of realism into the films. If the things you’re seeing on screen were filmed on someone’s Dad’s Handycam, then they might really have happened, and that adds to the scare factor. The worst miss-step of too many first person films is that the element of reality provided by the video camera approach is wasted by the events that then take place in the film.
Set in San Diego in 2006, Paranormal Activity (2007) is the film of the material recorded on the video camera of Micha Sloat (Micah Sloat) as he filmed21 days and nights during September and October of that year in an effort to figure out and deal with what was happening to his girlfriend Katie Featherston (Katie Featherston – no I haven’t flipped my lid or hit ‘paste’ twice by accident, they play themselves in the movie). For most of her life Katie had suffered from a number of unusual problems that appeared to be related to a haunting that occurred when she was a little girl. Unlike a traditional haunting the entity involved was haunting her and not the house she grew up in. This became apparent when the strangeness returned to her new home with Micha.
Unimpressed with the situation, made up of strange noises and moving objects during the night, Micha bought himself a good quality camera and all the gear he’d need to capture footage of whatever it is, as at the back of it all he really suspects the neighbours kids are playing an elaborate prank. The first few nights footage do show some minor unusual happenings, like lights turning on and doors opening by themselves. No longer suspecting those pesky kids, Micha begins to get excited and interested in the possible explanations. Katy is less impressed with things and is far more inclined to be terrified by them. She calls in a psychic to offer some advice and after an awkward meeting the psychic reveals that whatever is after Katy it’s not a ghost in the traditional sense, in that it’s not the spirit of a human, and he gives her the number of a local demonologist who might be able to help.
As time passes, and possibly due to Micha’s interference, the phenomena get progressively worse and Katy is affected by them directly. More physical manifestations occur and it slowly dawns on Micha and Katy that what was once a bit of a nuisance might actually be a very real danger to them both…
Micah’s “busy” hand puts the shits up Katie
Paranormal Activity did not fare well at the cinema. I don’t mean in terms of money or box office figures or anything like that, what I mean is that audiences weren’t kind to the film. When I saw it at the picture house the audience were particularly cruel, especially for the scenes where things happen over time at night so the footage is sped up for you to see events that might be hours apart or take place slowly over a couple of hours. This kind of thing didn’t scare people, it made them laugh. The thing is Paranormal Activity had no business being in the cinema in the first place. This is very definitely a film to watch at home on a TV as it adds to the idea of watching footage from a video camera that anyone could own. In the cinema, it was a Hollywood movie offered up for your approval or otherwise. On TV, it’s a dread delivery system and quite an effective one.
Paranormal Activity works by slowly building up the tension by showing practically nothing and mixing in a very real sense of terror on Katie’s part mixed with a sense of excitement on Micah’s. As the events progress everyone is left wondering how things will turn out, even though there’s a hint at the beginning when thanks are offered to the San Diego Police Department that there isn’t a happy ending coming. A clever use of sound effects manages to ratchet up the tension at the right moment, and when something does happen you’re left feeling a little silly that you were so worried and also a little relieved. This excellent dread development does not however work all the way through the film and things do start to go awry as the story moves along.
After a while you start to wonder why Micah and Katie don’t take more drastic action to deal with their worsening problems. As far as Micah is concerned, seeing as how he does so much research on the Internet on the subject of the paranormal you’d expect him to have come up with something more action-orientated then simply filming their bedroom at night.While he seems reluctant to get outside help, it’s weird that he didn’t download a do-it-yourself exorcism kit or some such. As for Katie, the focus of all the trouble, I’m shocked that she didn’t just leave Micah as he’s quite the dickhead! The really odd thing though is that neither of them turned to God-bothering (AKA: religion) for a little help, though Katie does get a little cross at one point (you would too if you were shacked up with that gobshite Micah), but if demons and ghosts and psychics had become a regular part of your day I don’t see how an actual exorcist would have hurt.
Technically, Paranormal Activity is quite an achievement as it was made on a teeny-tiny budget. The two principle actors are very good, effectively playing themselves, but putting some effort into it. There’s no music to speak of and the only set is a house, which is fine. There are some effects and they work well considering the low budget, though the final shot’s in the film aren’t spectacular in that regard.
The most important aspect of Paranormal Activity is, like any film, the story. The one presented here works for a “recovered footage” style movie and manages to make you concerned for those involved. It’s not a terrifying movie, but it is creepy, and that’s better than nothing.
One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Paranormal Activity.
Whether or not you’ll enjoy a film depends largely on your mood. If you’re not in the humor for a comedy, you’ll likely find them silly if you’re made to sit through one.If you’re really not in the form for a horror then you might struggle to see the highlights in such a film if it’s forced on you. Knowing this, unless you’re absolutely sure a film is crap, it might actually be worth giving a movie you weren’t in the mood for another go if the opportunity should arise.
Jennifer’s Body (2009) is set in the wonderfully named town of Devil’s Kettle somewhere slightly off the mainstream in America. Two girls, Jennifer and her friend Anita, AKA: “Needy”, attend high school there and are BFF’s (which = Best Friends Forever! Just in case you’re not keeping up with all the hip young talk like I am) and have been friends since they were tiny tots, which goes some way to explain why Jennifer, who’s kind of a cheerleader and good looking, is such good friends with a girl who would normally reside at the other end of the social spectrum. Life in Devil’s Kettle is perfectly ordinary with the girls and the boys associated with them doing all the usual things, including visiting bars while still too young to legally drink in order to see a band, as Jennifer and Needy do one night.
The band in question, “Low Shoulder”, are visiting from the city to play a gig in a dive bar because they think it’s necessary to connect with fans everywhere, even the shitty places. Jennifer is smitten with the lead singer while Needy is unimpressed with the lot of them (and she has a boyfriend) and her opinion of them drops further when she overhears them discussing whether or not Jennifer is a virgin. Needy confronts the band and tells them that yes, Jennifer is a virgin and they should leave her alone. In fact, Jennifer is not completely unversed in the way of the boudoir; in fact it’s not unfair to say she’s a bit of a slut.
As the gig gets underway, the bands equipment causes a small fire to break out which quickly turns to a raging inferno that burns down the bar and kills a few people. Jennifer and Needy escape, thanks to Needy’s quick thinking and outside they meet the band who also escaped unharmed. Spotting his chance, the lead singer convinces Jennifer, who appears to be in shock, to go with the band in their van. Needy stays where she is and pleads with Jennifer not to go, but to no avail.
Later that night, Jennifer turns up at Needy’s house in a bit of state and looks for all the world like a girl who’d been attacked. Needy thinks the band is responsible until Jennifer starts acting very strangely, throwing up some sort of evil material over the floor, eating a whole chicken, and attacking Needy before leaving. The next time the girls meet is in school where everyone is shaken up by the deaths at the bar. Everyone except Jennifer who’s acting like a right bitch and treats Needy very badly. Needy slowly realises that there’s something very wrong with Jennifer, and that she’s not the same girl who got into that van that night. After her experiences with the band, Jennifer might not be a girl at all anymore…
I picked out Jennifer’s Body for reviewing as part of this series with the express intention of ripping it apart as I’d seen it before and didn’t enjoy it that much. Last night, as I watched it again, I was surprised as I found it to be more than just entertaining, I thought it was good! This threw me, I mean how come I didn’t think much of it the first time but did the second? What had changed? What was different between the two viewings? And then it hit me. This time… I was sober!
Booze had severely impeded my judgement the last time, or rather it had magnified my feelings about a particular problem with Jennifer’s Body, and that’s Jennifer’s Body. More specifically, the actress behind it, Megan Fox. I do not like Megan Fox that much. I understand the attraction with her, she is relatively good looking, I’ve seen some of the Transformers movies, I’ve even seen the stills from Jennifer’s Body where she’s swimming naked in the lake (it was a camera trick, she wasn’t nekkid at all) but she’s nowhere near good looking enough for her looks to be able to distract from how bad an actress she is. Megan Fox can only play Megan Fox, she has no range at all and as a character actress, if she’s not playing the character of a vapid young woman, she’s fucked. The first time I sat through this movie all I could do (thanks to much imbibing) was shout abuse at the screen every time Fox appeared. This time however, I was able to get beyond my blinding hatred of shite acting and was able to see Jennifer’s Body for what it is, and that’s a good laugh with a bit of depth to it.
Jennifer’s Body is a horror comedy and it works very well. There are some good laugh out loud moments, and some great lines delivered well (i.e. not by Megan Fox). The script is punchy and well written and the story moves along at a nice pace. Despite their young age the characters are well developed, have back stories (thanks to flashbacks), and you do get drawn into that alien world of the relationships between teenage girls and how they operate. One of the strengths of the film is in how it examines the way the relationship between Jennifer and Needy works and how external influences come to bear on that, not just the events that happen to Jennifer as a result of getting into the van but also things like the girl who’s always digging at Needy, a girl who’s obviously blinded with jealousy over how well Needy gets on with someone like Jennifer (though I’m not sure if she actually wanted to be Needy’s friend or Jennifer’s – if anyone could shed some light on that I’d appreciate it).
Jennifer’s Body is well directed and Karyn Kusama manages to get a great performance from Amanda Seyfried as Needy despite her having to work with a plank like Fox. Effects wise there are some clever subtle moments that are delivered well, and some that are just CGI, but that’s kept to a minimum. There’s a nice splash of blood about the movie and one or two nicely gory moments. There’s more than one good makeup effect and the pyrotechnics used in the bar scene are excellent.
Jennifer’s Body is aimed at a younger audience and therefore music is used extensively to portray that fact. The Low Shoulder tune that dominates the soundtrack is perfect – just good enough and really annoying so that you can see how it would be a hit. The other tracks, including songs from Florence and the Machine and Panic! at the Disco, that feature are well used and not too distracting.
Having now seen Jennifer’s Body both drunk and sober I find myself torn between two radically opposed views on the film. Drunk: it’s a pile of dirt vehicle for that no-hope Megan Fox who’ll no doubt follow in the footsteps of other actresses just as great as her, big name stars like Denise Richards, and someday in the future after some fun with drink and drugs and a breakdown, she’ll probably get her very own reality show. Sober: it’s a clever, subtle comedy that’s really about the interactions and relationships between women that uses the metaphor of a “man-eater” to explain one aspect of those difficult aspects of life while all the time using surrounding characters to flesh out all the other problems that face two people regardless of the nature of their relationship that features that no-hope Megan Fox who’ll no doubt follow in the footsteps of other actresses just as great as her, big name stars like Denise Richards, and someday in the future after some fun with drink and drugs and a breakdown , she’ll probably get her very own reality show.
There are roughly three types of film that end up getting reviewed as part of this little series. There are those movies that are excellent, those that are woeful rubbish, and those in the middle. The good ones are easy to review becuae they’re so good I just want to bang on about them in a gushing fanboy way. The bad films are also easy to write about as it’s entertaining to tear a poor movie asunder. The hardest films to talk about are the ones in the middle, one’s that are so dull there’s just nothing much to say about them.
Continuing the events from the first film, TheDescent Part 2 shows Sarah emerging from the cave system and meeting a passingmotorist. At the same time as she’s being rescued, a team of people frommountain rescue are searching for her and the other missing girls who went intothe caves with her. However, Juno, the organiser of their trip, filed the wrong“flight plan” so the rescue team are looking in the wrong place.
When word gets out that Sarah has beenfound and taken to hospital, the local Sheriff goes to see her immediately, asit turns out that Juno is related to a Senator making the Sheriff highlymotivated to find her. Sarah is badly traumatised by the events in the cave andhas developed a form of short-term memory loss as a psychological protection.Unable to tell the Sheriff anything about the whereabouts of the others, heinsists that Sarah leads them into the caves to find the others.
Sarah is haunted by images of the creaturesthat she and the others encountered in the caves but she can’t remember enoughto be able to object and so she goes with the Sheriff, his deputy, and three ofthe mountain rescue team back into the caves. Once inside, Sarah is easilyspooked and her nervousness puts everyone on edge. This gets worse as theyprogress deeper into the cave system and finally discover the mutilated corpseof one of the missing girls. Suspicion quickly falls on Sarah, even though theextreme wounds on the body don’t look like something she’d be capable of.Moving on, Sarah begins to remember what happened and she attacks the Sheriffand the others in order to get away from them. Forced to split up, the group goafter Sarah and encounter all sorts of things they weren’t expecting to finddown in the caves…
Bloody woman, alway screaming all the time…
The original Descent was a bit of anunderground hit (if you’ll pardon the pun) due largely to some of theboundaries it was prepared to push relating to gore and girls, as well as thequite high production values present throughout. The second outing is reallyjust a cashing in exercise, making it a classic horror film sequel, and aboutas shite as that label indicates.
The big problem facing a follow-up to thefirst Descent movie would be how to escalate things above what happened in theoriginal. Rather than even trying to do this, the makers of the sequel insteadopted to try and convince the audience that the whole story was really splitinto two parts and that the second film is in fact just the second half of thesame tale. If that’s the case, then The Decent Saga is a woefully boringmisadventure with far too many coincidences and conveniences.
Once again, the film makers decided toallow fate to do their explaining for them, principally in giving the maincharacter Sarah a dose of amnesia in order to explain why the hell she’d goback into the caves. It’s this type of thing that puts the entire film on theback foot as the dependence on tricks to get characters into play makes youcall bullshit every time something happens. And the only reason some of the people even feature in the film is to bekilled off and while that’s true of loads of films it’s really apparent in TheDescent Part 2.
The production level is roughly the same as the first though for some reason some of the caves seem a little more fake than they did in the first movie. I don’t think the fist set of caves were all that realistic, it’s just that this time the film is so boring that you tend to pay closer attention to things like sets as there’s fuck all else to do. All is not lost in Part 2, the outside cinematography is great and the soundtrack is excellent, with just the right sort of music kicking in at the right time. But music alone is not enough to save this wreck of a film, a film so dull it deserves this low score:
This is the image I sometimes use as an avatar on websites and such, it’s a copy of an engraving done by Gustav Dore for an early edition of John Milton’s Paradise Lost and it shows Satan wigging the fuck out.
Where do bad folks go when they die? They don’t go to Heaven where the angels fly…
Over the years El Diablo has appeared in many guises and in many places, but none as weird as where the bugger popped up in last nights movie.
With a disorientating set of opening credits, Devil (2010) brings us to Philadelphia where we meet a police detective Bowden meeting with his AA sponsor who’s advising him to believe in something bigger than himself and to try to change his anger over the recent hit-and-run death of his family into something more positive. Not happy with this advice Bowden heads off to his day at work.
Which begins with the body of a suicide victim that jumped from a skyscraper window that then landed on a truck which rolled down the street. While Bowden is investigates this, fate conspires to put five people together on an elevator heading up the skyscraper. The five, a mattress salesman, an older woman, a man, a woman, and one of the buildings security guards, are heading to different floors on different business. As the lift climbs it suddenly gets stuck somewhere above the twentieth floor and the occupants start hitting buttons to try to get help.
Two security guards are monitoring the towers CCTV system and spot the elevator that’s stuck and send the maintenance man to check it out. In the close proximity of the elevator the five passengers quickly begin to get on each other’s nerves. The salesman is a bit too chatty, the security guard appears to be claustrophobic, the old woman is scared and loud, the man is a bit edgy, and the woman has all the hallmarks of being a bitch. While the maintenance man struggles to find anything wrong with the lift an assault apparently takes place inside the lift with the woman getting a bloody wound on her back that gets blames on the salesman.
The security guards watching on the monitors call in the police and Bowden responds as he’s right outside. Playing back the video shows that the girl seemed to get the wound out of nowhere. It also shows the image of a demonic face when paused at just the right spot, which one of the more religious guards puts down as being the face of the Devil himself. Setting this notion aside Bowden watches with horror as, when the lights in the lift go out as they sometimes do as maintenance struggle to get to those trapped inside, the salesman is murdered. This causes the rescue effort to escalate and the fire department get involved. But as the rescue proceeds someone else in the lift is killed and everyone, those inside and those watching, realise that no-one is safe as all the key players are somehow linked…
While attending a Coldplay concert these fans encounter the Devil… obviously
I first became aware of this film as I roamed the isles of a local DVD Rental shop and spotted it for rent. I didn’t hire it but I made a mental note to keep an eye out for it when it appeared on TV, as it did this week, so I was looking forward to giving Devil a viewing. As a horror film Devil succeeds in terrifying the audience right from the opening credits as a name appeared there that strikes fear into the heart of any rational movie audience member: M. Night Shyamalan. I saw that name and I blessed myself, for I instantly knew in my now fearful heart that this film was going to be shite and have a silly twist at the end.
I was half right. Well, more like quarter right.
Thankfully, M. Night didn’t direct Devil, so there was a small glimmer of hope from that. Secondly, he didn’t write the screenplay, so things were really starting to look up though he did write the original story, so the chances of a twisty ending were strong.
The story told in Devil is an interesting one and more than hints at a religious subtext. The second security guard who’s watching the monitors serves as narrator for the film but also, seeing as he’s Hispanic and therefore (in the wonderful world of cinema stereotypes) raised in a religious family, he provides a level of expertise and advice as to what might actually be happening with those trapped in the elevator. Though his narration and nuggets of advice we learn that a suicide can prompt the Devil to walk the earth and torment some of the dammed before they get to Hell, which will be soon as he’ll torment them to death. This is not a bad plot device and like so many horrors it will appeal to those with at least a passing understanding of all things Christian, but the suicide part bothers me for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, Devil perpetuates a rather old fashioned notion of how certain western religions handle the subject of suicide and the flippant way in which it’s stated that a suicide will invite Satan to Earth is playing just a little too fast and loose with a difficult subject. The really big problem with it though is that the suicide is pretty quickly forgotten once the main event kicks off even though there’s at least one big hint that it was related to what’s taking place in the elevator. The story never comes back to the person who jumped out of the window once the suicide note is read out, even though that note references all things unholy and the victim was clutching Rosary beads when they took the plunge.
That aside the rest of the tale is intriguing enough despite every cliche in the horror-film handbook getting a look in. The way in which the rescue unfolds is believable and grounds the film nicely as supernatural events occur. As those events take place in the elevator, it’s a little hard for the sense of tension to be portrayed in a way that the audience can appreciate as you’re in on what’s really happening while those on the inside think they’re just in the presence of a murderer. The lack of palpable tension is a shame and betrays the more run of the mill approach taken when Devil was being made.
That approach does result in a slick looking film that plays out well. The character of Bowden is one of the few with any sort of explained background and he’s ably played by Chris Messina. We’re supposed to see much of the action in the film through his eyes and for the most part we do, though the audience has a slightly better notion of what’s going on before he does.
M. Night Shyama-lama-ding-dong-ding may have written the original story but once it was out of his hands Devil was turned into a more mainstream and highly entertaining film, and while not all that frightening, a little disrespectful to religion, and ever so slightly racist, it is shockingly entertaining. Devil is movie that tries to make Satan the baddie but in doing so highlights how absurd any ultimate evil would have to be considering what people are capable of doing themselves. This poke in the eye for Old Nick makes Devil more of a film then it probably wanted to be. It also makes it good.
The absence of Irish horror is something that concerns me greatly. There are loads of reasons why an Irish horror should be good but equally there are far too many reasons why no-one in Ireland should attempt it. But anyway, it’s been a while since the last disappointment on the Irish horror scene so another crack at it was long overdue….
Don’t fuck this up now, Donnelly!
Wake Wood (2011) opens somewhere in urban Ireland where Patrick Daly (good Irish name (played by Aidan Gillen)), is a veterinarian with a happy home life with wife Louise (Eva Birthistle) and daughter Alice (some kid). On Alice’s birthday, the day the film starts, life is great for all three of them. Sadly that is ruined when, as she leaves the house for school, Alice stops to say hello to one of the dogs her father is looking after which then attacks and severely mauls her. Alice sadly dies from her wounds despite the best efforts of her parents.
Nearly a year later Pat and Louise have moved to a small town called Wake Wood somewhere in rural Ireland (that looks a lot like Donegal). Louise has a small pharmacy and Paddy is working with a local vet Arthur (Timothy Spall) who is stepping back from the practice and letting Patsy get on with things. Life is far from good as Louise is openly mourning Alice’s death, a process made all the worse by Louise not being able to have any more children due to complications with Alice’s birth. Pádraig is also not in a happy place, but he seems to be working through them, focusing on the new type of veterinary medicine he’s practicing with larger farm animals as well as trying to keep his marriage together as Louise just wants to run off and be alone with her grief.
Louise manages to talk Patrick into taking her to the train station so she can just go away but en route their car breaks down. Luckily they’re near Paddy’s bosses place so they cut across the fields to get there to look for help. At Arthur’s house, Louise witnesses a group of people, with Arthur at their head, performing a strange ritual at the end of which a person emerges from a cocoon in something that looks like a birth. Shocked by all this Louise and Podge run home, where they find Arthur, who’d let himself in, asking if everything is alright.
Shortly after this and after an accident on a local farm kills a man while Patrick was looking after a bull and Louise was assisting, they tell Arthur that they’re leaving Wake Wood as it’s not working out for them. Arthur seems to understand their underlying pain relating to Alice’s death and he explains to them why they should stay. He tells them how the Wake Wood community maintain a strange set of pagan beliefs around the dead and the ritual Louise saw is one to bring a dead person back to life for three days in order for the family to have a little more time with them and to say their goodbyes properly.
This is of great interest to the distraught Louise and Patsy spots his chance at a little happiness and maybe some closure. They readily agree to have the ritual performed but Arthur warns that there are some very strict rules that, if not obeyed completely, can have some dire consequences; the dead person can’t be in the ground for more than one year and one risen they can’t go outside the town boundaries. Paddy and Louise proceed with the ritual even though they’re lying to Arthur about something to do with Alice…
As the contestants on The X Factor get younger, the sob stories get more extreme
Wake Wood is a proper Irish horror film and one that’s long overdue. Irish actors make up the bulk of the cast (with the exception of Timothy Spall), the locations are in Ireland and the details are largely correct, like the registration plates on the cars and such. The only detail missing is that the town signs are all only in English but I guess this was done so that the film could travel outside Ireland without too much effort.
The movie is one of those Irish Film Board/RTE/Other EU country film board collaborations that seem to be the only way to get a non-Hollywood film made in Ireland these days and it was distributed by the newly re-activated Hammer Films (the original company being bahind the Hammer Horror films) which gives this little indy movie from Ireland an unexpected pedigree without much effort. As it’s a low budget film the use of cheaper, modern film making techniques permiates the production giving Wake Wood a made for TV feel, though some of the cinematography is also to blame for this.
Aiden Gillen (you may know him as little finger from Game of Thrones) as Patrick is excellent, nicely understated as a man who’s suffered a loss and really doesn’t want to suffer much more. Eva Birthistle was good as Louise too but hers was perhaps an easier character to play. Timpthy Spall as the older vet Arthur was flat out brilliatn as he did his Englishman in Ireland/Seigfried Farnam style older vet performance. (For those among you who don’t know who Seigfried Farnam is might I recommend a read of the early James Herriott novels about his time as a vet, or a viewing of the TV series All Creatures Great and Small)
The script left a little to be desired as, like the road signs, I suspect it was cleaned up in order for the film to travel. There aren’t as many slang terms or colloquialisms as you’d expect to hear in the Irish countryside and the accents have been toned down as well. Unfortunately this lets a certain amount of blandness and stuffiness to creep in, particularly in scenes featuring the Daly’s at home or work. This has the effect of dragging out parts of the film and the transitions between parts that move the story along feel longer then they should. You’re also left guessing about the secret Patrick and Louise are keeping, perhaps for a little too long as you’re left to wonder why the resurrected Alice is behaving the way she is and where the story is going, though in fact it actually goes to a decent horror ending.The story is where the real strength lies in Wake Wood as the primary subject matter is so horrific that it features in the genre quite a lot, but is rarely handled so well. The loss of a child is enough of a horror, but only for those directly involved, namely the parents and other close relatives. The things Patrick and Louise go through show how much they’ve lost but it seems beyond imagining that they’d actually go through the steps required of the resurrection ritual as on a human level you expect something in the backs of their minds to have stopped them. Perhaps trying to understand this allows the audience to glimpse the horror and the motivations driving the main characters in the film.
There are some very strong parallels between Wake Wood and The Wicker Man; the isolated community, the pagan beliefs, the strong community leader with all the knowledge, the distrust of outsiders, and the issues around the death of a child all mirror the events in The Wicker Man. Wake Wood manages to stand on its own however as the rituals and other aspects of the towns beliefs are toned down and instead of playing on the fears of the outsiders the film works on their deepest desires instead, however human they may be.
Regardless of the problems in the film, the cast and crew of Wake Wood deserve credit for taking the risks they did with the story, and for making an enjoyable Irish horror film to be proud of.
I used to love chatting when I was in school, and by that I mean talking in class. I spent several years talking about TV programmes, films, and other bullshit when I should have been paying attention to the teacher. This resulted in my taking home many a report card that informed my parents that I had plenty of potential (like every kid I suppose) but that I wasn’t living up to it as I was unable to shut my gob. Now, years later, I lament that wasted potential, especially early in the morning when I’m getting up to drag my arse to work, like a pleb…
Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus: Two Plebs
Julianne Moore takes the lead in Shelter (2010) as Cara Harding, a psychiatrist who, at the start of the film, is offering some last minute testimony to a review panel of sorts before a man is executed. As part of her testimony she lets it be known that modern psychiatry, herself included, no longer believes in the idea of true multiple personality disorder and thus undermines the last hope for the prisoner on death row. Once the bad man has been shuffled off, Cara returns to work, stopping only briefly to get herself drunk so as to put the events of the execution behind her.
Psychiatry runs in Cara’s family and she followed her Dad into the family business. He’s come across an interesting case and he asks his daughter to have a look. The patient in question, David, is a young man in a wheelchair who appears to come from a sheltered background in the mountains where life is simple and quite religious. Stepping out of the room to ask her Dad what’s up with the dude, she is stunned to find that a simple phone call made by her father to the man in the other room can trigger the emergence of another completely different personality. Wanting to call bullshit on this Cara investigates the case and comes to a rather nasty conclusion.
The second personality, Adam, actually appears to be the man’s true self and David is really the personality of a murder victim. Dr. Harding decides that Adam, traumatised as a child, heard the story of David’s rather gruesome murder and is actually impersonating him as part of a psychotic episode and isn’t really suffering from multiple personalities, as that’s all hogwash! With this theory in the bag, Cara makes the bold announcement that she’s going to cure Adam. She kicks off the treatment by roping David’s grieving mother into a visit. David’s dear old mum is a strange woman, coming from a very remote mountain community, she’s deeply religious and not keen on the whole science thing at all. When she visit’s Adam/David she’s initially shocked by the things David seems to know but then she walks out on the whole thing, declaring it to be an evil trick.
Dr. Harding then takes Adam back to the scene of David’s murder to see if her recognises the place. This sets off a nasty turn in Adam who manifests a new personality, one that Harding’s father was aware of but said nothing about.Copping onto the fact that her old man has been manipulating her into pursuing the case, Cara confronts him and is forced to look at the case in a radically different way then she’s used to, a non-scientific approach that entertains the idea that maybe Adam isn’t suffering from multiple personalities at all but something more akin to possession.
After too long in Hollywood, Julianne Moore makes a balls of hanging out the washing
Shelter is one of those little known movies that has a couple of reasonable actors in that you occasionally encounter late at night on some obscure TV channel that is surprising because it’s so much better than you expect. The film starts off quietly enough, building the idea of Cara Harding being a doctor with a very strong set of beliefs, whose very good at her job. Things move on into the story of Adam and his potential issues. Once he’s introduced a couple of obvious plot points are thrown in your face a little, like the multiple personalities and it does take a little while to get past that and into the juicer supernatural elements. Once things get a little more sinister Shelter develops into a nice little horror movie.
Julianne Moore is perfectly believable in the lead as the strait-laced psychiatrist who has gotten into a professional rut of sorts by being good at what she does by conforming with the accepted ideas in her field. A chunk of the film is given over to how Cara Harding is good, but not brilliant, and her character serves as a metaphor for the entire film as it is surprisingly better than you’d think, but still had room to be more.
Jonathan Rhys Myers puts in a performance that’s far better than you’d expect from him, but that’s only because he’s usually so shit in films (as anyone who saw him in Mission Impossible 3 can tell you). His efforts do wobble when he has to put on accents and mannerisms he’s not totally comfortable with and I can only imagine that directors around the world must hate his natural accent as they always seem to prefer to hear him putting on a dodgy American one, even though he’s brutal at it. Once you get used to the noise emanating from him in Shelter however he’s not that bad.
The pacing of the first half of the film is a little slow but this is made up for the second bit, where witches and strange mountain folk are introduced properly. The supernatural elements are handled well, and the only really big disappointment is the scene where everything is explained using a film allegedly made in the later part of the nineteenth century that just looks too damn modern to be that old.
Shelter is a surprising film, but sadly it left a big chunk of its potential unfulfilled.
When you take a set against something it can be very hard to see past that and to give something, or someone, a second chance.Once bitten, twice shy as they occasionally say. Which is why, when I saw The Thing come up on the Sky TV guide, I thought to myself “look Murt, he was the worst character in the first Fantastic Four film and no better in the second, does he really deserve a movie of his own?”
The Thing… Not Great
The Thing (1982) is actually John Carpenter’s cold-weather creature feature horror movie and stars Kurt Russell as MacReady, a bad-ass, boozing helicopter pilot assigned to an American research station near the South Pole along with an eclectic bunch of researchers and weirdos. One day, their icy peace is shattered when a Norwegian helicopter appears with its two occupants chasing a dog across the ice and taking pot-shots at anyone and anything as they try to get to the poor pooch.
Not happy with this the American lads start shooting back once the chopper has landed and in the resultant firefight the two invaders are killed and their whirlybird destroyed. Puzzled by this unusual event, the American’s dispatch a few of the boys to the Norwegian research station a few miles away to find out just what the fuck is going on. When they get there, MacReady and Dr. Copper discover the place in ruins, with charred corpses and signs of general mayhem all over the place.
The boys return to base with two of the corpses, chosen because the bodies are fused together in a very twisted fashion. While still concerned by what had happened the lads settle down for the winter, safe in the knowledge that they can’t leave until spring even if they wanted to. The dog that the Norwegian’s were trying to kill is put in with the other sled-dogs the station keeps but almost straight away something isn’t right. The dog’s presence in the kennel causes a ruckus and shortly after he’s put in there he begins to twist and transform into a rotten looking creature that attacks the other dogs.
Alerted by the racket the poodles are making, the lads pile down to the kennels, tooled up with guns and flamethrowers which they use to kill off anything that moves. After inspecting the remains of the creature, they figure out that they’re not alone, as whatever the dog really was it definitely wasn’t originally from Earth. As they chew over this notion, it slowly dawns on the boys at the research station that the creature had the ability to transform itself into any living creature and that not all of the men might be men at all…
Honestly, who gave this lad dynamite?
I sat down to watch The Thing will a little trepidation it must be admitted, not because I thought it would be super-scary or anything, but because it’s a John Carpenter film, and he and I haven’t really got along since Halloween. It turns out that Mr. Carpenter was able to redeem himself as The Thing is not a bit like Halloween, in that it’s good.
Carpenter and Russell had a bit of a bromance going on for a while and that paid off nicely as Russell is pretty good in The Thing, but then almost everything about the film is top class. I really like scary films set in cold weather as the contrasts offered up tend to work well for horror. Clean white snow always shows up blood really well, far better then the dirty walls of a dungeon ever could, and there’s always an added element of danger when being stalked by something when the mere act of going outside without the right coat on could kill you. Knowing what to do with such a setting is the trick to getting a film like The Thing right and thankfully this time Carpenter knew what he was at.
The vast empty expanses of Antarctica allow for pretty much anything to be dwelling there and it makes for an ideal location to crash an alien spaceship. The remoteness means that no-one is coming to help, even if you could raise them on the radio which you can’t due to the bad weather. I reckon that for those with an active imagination a real-life posting to a research station like that featured in the film must be quite an ordeal as the darkness sets in and the wind howls. Add in the chance that there’s a metamorphosing alien creature out there hell-bent on murder and you’re pretty much buggered!
The Thing features an ensemble cast of people you will recognise from various films and TV programs, but I challenge you to name the actors without the aid of Google. They all turn in decent performances and play their individual traits well. Russell is the main man in the film but he’s seriously overshadowed by the special effects.
One of these people may not be human… can you spot which one?
Various gory, twisted, nightmare creatures find their way into The Thing and while constrained by the effects technology of the time they still manage to make for disturbing viewing. The effects department let their imaginations run away with themselves and the results make for some seriously fucked up creatures, like the human head that sprouts spider legs and scuttles off. One excellent side effect of these creatures are the funny comments that the cast make upon encountering them.
Sadly though, as most of the film is made up of a bunch of lads running around the place wondering which one is a monster in a bloody good disguise while the audience wonders which one will die next, there isn’t a whole lot really going on and therefore The Thing relies just a little too heavily on the creature effects to hold your attention.That aside, The Thing is an enjoyable, if gross in spots, creature feature.
Reviewing a film is all about perspective; one man’s pleasure is another man’s poison and all that, and horror can be really divisive. I’m aware of this and I hope I understand it too. When watching a film I try to go in with as neutral a point of view as possible, unless of course the film features people who are on my shit list, like Michael Rooker or Juliette Lewis, but even then their films might not be total disasters. Knowing that an opinion can be skewed before you’ve even watched a film is an important consideration and one that I was hyper aware of when it came time to watch last night’s film, as I was really looking forward to it.
Hellraiser (1987) kicks off with something akin to a scene from Gremlins where an idiot buys something mysterious from an oriental gentleman that gets him into a shed load of trouble. In this case the purchase is of a small puzzle box (as opposed to a miniature monkey-creature) that the man was very keen to get his hands on dropping quite a bit of cash for the little box. Getting it home, the man in question seemed to know what he was at as he setup a little ritual for playing with the box. One the puzzle has been completed a bunch of hooks shoot into the man’s skin and promptly tear him apart into itsy bitsy pieces that some strange creature in some parallel world has a bit of a play with.
Sometime later and back in the real world (well, what passes for real in the UK anyway) a man and woman, Larry and Julia are looking around the house where the ritual took place. The place apparently belongs to Larry’s family and he’s arrived back from New York with his second wife to take possession of the gaff as his brother Frank has done another of his regular disappearing acts. Looking around the place it becomes clear that the house needs some work as does Larry and Julia’s marriage. Jumping into a flashback, we see that Julia had cheated on Larry with his dear brother Frank not long after they’d gotten married, and that she’s is really in love with Frank.
Larry gets down to sorting out the house while Julia mopes about and Larry’s daughter from his first marriage, Kirsty, arrives to check the place out. While moving a bed upstairs Larry cuts his hand quite badly on a nail and reveals his weakness for the sight of blood, alternating wildly between wanting to faint or throw up as he bleeds all over the floor. As Larry is taken to the hospital for stitches, the blood he dripped on the floor reacts with something that had stained the floorboards and up from the stain rises a foul creature that slowly takes shape into something almost human.
Julia discovers the creature in the spare room that reveals itself to be Frank, returned from God knows where by the drops of blood on the floor. Frank is, to put it mildly, in rough shape. He’s basically a skeleton with a little bit of flesh and gore on it that is able to see, hear, and talk and kinda shuffle around the floor. Frank demands that Julia helps him by getting more blood to complete the healing process. Julia then sets about picking up men in bars during the day (quite eagerly it must be said) to bring home for Frank to consume. As Frank returns to his old self he mentions that he escaped from some demons that had shown him all sorts of fun times on both ends of the experiences spectrum from amazing delights to terrible pain. Now Frank’s worried that the demons are after him, but they’re not the only ones concerned with what’s in the same room…
I have this wicked stabbing pain, like, all over my head!
I was really looking forward to Hellraiser. I didn’t know that much about the movie before I saw it, only that it was written by Clive Barker and featured a baddie called Pinhead (due to the large number of pins driven into his, well, head obviously). Clive Barker has such a reputation in horror circles that I was sure that Hellraiser was going to be brilliant. I was completely, entirely, utterly, fucking wrong.
Hellraiser, and I don’t care who or what you are, is shite. And that’s hard for me to say as some people whose work I really do like are heavily inspired by Hellraiser.
Clive Barker’s writing talents are a little dubious. Candyman was great but Hellraiser is a bullshit story about a bloke wants to experience all sorts of nice and nasty things so he pays over the odds for a little box that enables him to meet demons who fulfil his wishes, that he then “escapes” from by hiding in the spare room, and then tries to avoid contact with people while at the same time needs to kill a bunch of people in order to heal. Not exactly the horror classic I was expecting but the basis for something more than what ended up vomited onto celluloid and fucked at a screen to be watched.
The characters barely deserve to the called that as they are so one dimensional you can hardly see them. I’ve seen planets feature on Star Trek that only have one geographic feature (like desert or water or whatever) that are more developed and had more imagination put into them then the people who appear in Hellraiser. Larry is a wimp; Julia is a bitch (and a bit of a whore); Frank is a nutter; and Kirsty is the innocent teen destined to win through in the end. These simple character designs lead to all sorts of plot problems. Frank is radically different to Larry which is fair enough, and Julia is such a bitch that it’s easy to see how she’d be attracted to him, but then how the hell did she hook up with Larry in the first place never mind marry and then move country with him?
Whatever about the writing there’s no doubt about Clive Barker’s directing talents as displayed in Hellraiser, he doesn’t have any, the direction was awful! The shitty direction coupled with the piss-poor characters went on to bring out the worst in the actors who feature with nearly all of them putting in substandard performances, which goes some way to explain why Pinhead gets more credit than his screen time would suggest he deserves. Frank is really supposed to be the villain as Pinhead and his bunch of demons are hardly in the movie enough to warrant everyone banging on about them so much, though there is the inescapable fact that Pinhead is the best thing in the film by far!
Pinhead’s brilliance is down to Doug Bradley, the man behind all the pins. Bradley knew Clive Barker which is how he ended up in the movie but regardless of how he got there he’s absolutely rocks as Pinhead and then went on to star in a bunch of Cradle of Filth songs and their videos, often providing the narration or other spoken word bits, like the intro for the classic Her Ghost in the Fog, which features a part of quote from the film: “Oh, no tears please” (it’s a waste of good suffering!)
“The Moon she hangs like a cruel portrait…” Pinhead gets all beardy
The second biggest mystery surrounding Hellraiser is where exactly is the fucking film set? It seemed to be England but there’s loads of American actors in it, which would be fine for Larry’s family, but why were so many passersby in the streets also U.S ex-pats? Also, how come Larry was American, Julia was English, but Frank (Larry’s brother) was also English. But only sometimes. Some other times he seemed to be American. Maybe it’s because he was played by two different actors, one pre-gore and one all gory and horrific.I suspect that a lot of Hellraiser was cobbled together out of whatever Clive Barker managed to get his hands on, much like a dodgy Halloween costume. To be fair, what really appears to have happened is that Hellraiser is actually a British film that got Americanised during production, which has to be one of the reasons for the pieced together feel.
The biggest mystery surrounding Hellraiser is how come this piece of shit is so popular that it spawned EIGHT sequels and has a remake on the way? Was Britain, home of the Hammer Horror and so many ghost and folk tales, that hard up for a fright?
Technology can be delightfully scary. I say delightfully because, as someone with the bare bones of an eduction in science coupled with several years of pretending to work while actually acting the goat with computers, I don’t find technology at all frightening. I tend to find it a bit of a dodge actually; I’m the man who doesn’t really do anything because I got a nice shiny computer to do the work for me! There are people who are terrified of computers and other gadgets and we as a species have a long history of being afraid of things like that, particularly cameras and their weird ability to steal your soul, which is something that must have crossed the minds of the makers of last night’s movie.
The Ring (2002) stars Naomi Watts as Rachel Keller, a journalist in Seattle whose teenage niece dies in mysterious circumstances. Rachel’s sister asks her to look into the causes of her daughters death and as she investigates Rachel comes across an urban legend that may have had something to do with her niece popping her cloggs. The legend, that some of the dead girls friends put some stock in, states that a mysterious video tape exists that shows a series of creepy images and that immediately after watching the tape the viewer will receive a phone call and the voice on the other end of the line will simply state that in seven days time the poor sap who watched the video will die.
Rachel is a little bit skeptical of this story and instead pokes into the girls life in a more conventional manner, including snooping in her room and picking up some photographs she was having developed before she went to meet her maker. Most of the pictures, of the girl and her friends staying in a log cabin, are just your regular run of the mill teenage snaps, but a few of them from the end of the roll of film have a weird distortion over the faces of those in the pictures. Rachel visits the cabin in the pictures and there she finds a mysterious video tape.
Of course, the dozy cow watches the video (which puts the shits up her) and then promptly receives a phone call that tells her she’s got seven days. Returning to the city she shows the video to an ex of hers (and the father of her little boy Aidan) who happens to be a bit of a whizz at photography and videos and such. He’s not as bothered by the whole thing but Rachel gets more and more worried as the days pass and she begins to experience a series of mighty strange occurrences, including having her own face distort in photographs. Deciding that she has to act as there’s a distinct chance that something will kill her within the week, Rachel begins to investigate the images on the tape and pieces together a tragic tale of one families suffering, a terrible secret, and the supernatural events surrounding the tape. While all this is going on, the days quickly pass and more people close to Rachel end up watching the video…
At last, a decent 3D TV!
The Ring ushered in brief period in the early to mid 2000’s when Hollywood fell in love with Japanese horror films… which it raped for ideas and then left for dead when it was all finished. The Ring was based on a Japanese movie Ringu, which was based on a book, which was based on an old Japanese story (so everyone nicked the idea from someone else). What made The Ring so exceptional and therefore such a trailblazer, is that it’s really good.
From the opening scene with the two girls discussing the tape which was filmed with a green filter to make the whole thing look like it belongs on TV, through to the subtle special effects, the creepy images on the cursed video, and the decidedly modern setting, everything about The Ring screams quality. This is a film I thoroughly enjoyed in 2002 when I caught it at the cinema and, despite the aging technology the story depends on, thoroughly enjoyed again on TV in 2011.
Directed by Gore Verbinski (of Pirates of the Caribbean directing fame) The Ring works from the very start to build dread, initially depending on a quick shock to make the audience uneasy then turning down the volume a little so as to make the next hour a properly creepy experience. The centrepiece of this is the video tape that was supposed to hold a recorded football game but instead picked up a collection of images that look like something an arty film student would throw together but still manages to be a little disturbing even though there’s nothing actually scary on it. The tape serves as a micro version of the entire film as, like the best horror does, The Ring convinces you that something frightening is always just about to happen, though it rarely does. This nervous anticipation is brilliant, and Gore (great name for a horror director) deserves a lot of credit for getting the film to work in this way.
The cast work well too, with Naomi Watts doing a decent turn in a nice little reversal of the traditional horror heroine. Usually in a film like this the female lead starts off all soft and girly (into flower arranging and dress-making and the like) and by the end of the film is a real tough nut (into army boots and guns and the like). In The Ring, Watt’s character Rachel starts off as a hard-boiled journo, always ready to give her boss the finger while she digs out the facts behind a story (ala April O’Neill or Lois Lane), but as the film progresses she gets the shits put right up her by that video tape and the truth it leads her to. Another one to watch out for in The Ring is Pauley Perrette (Abby from NCIS) as Rachel’s ex’s new girlfriend of sorts.The only disappointing person in the film is the young lad Aidan as the character doesn’t make a whole pile of sense. He seems to have a bit of a supernatural side to him as he’s able to understand the motivations behind what’s going on and is definitely better informed than his mum is but that doesn’t really go anywhere except to help fill in a bit of a blank near the end.
Overall, The Ring is excellent. Perfectly creepy, nicely paced and featuring a good cast and great direction, with only the inevitable move away from video tapes and the technology and quirk’s associated with them holding this film back from the level of praise it deserves.
Death, as most people know, awaits us all (with nasty big pointy teeth) and on a long enough time line everyone’s likelihood of survival drops to zero. This does not mean that we should just accept our inevitable fate, oh no, our very nature forces us to put off the end for as long as we can. Death is pretty scary. But like most things that frighten us we can diminish the fear of dying with a good old laugh, preferably at someone else’s expense, and what could be funnier then a bunch of people straight from Hollywood’s central casting department terrified out of their wits by the quickening approach of death, trying to put off their sticky ends?
One year after the events in Final Destination, in which Flight 180 exploded on take off killing all its passengers except those associated with a young man who had a powerful vision of the aircraft’s destruction and got off the plane, Final Destination 2 (2003) introduces young Kimberly and her friends heading off for a road trip and some good times. As they drive along, a series of unusual hints offered up by songs on the radio and the behaviour of other motorists on the highway indicate that some form of doom may be impending. Sure enough, a truck hauling large tree trunks looses its load that leads to a massive pile-up killing loads of people in a variety of painful and gory ways, including the unlucky Kimberly…
…who then snaps out of the vision she was experiencing and finds herself still behind the wheel of her car with her friends and all still very much alive. Deciding that her vision is too much to ignore, Kimberly blocks the road and prevents anyone from getting onto the highway just as the massive pile-up gets underway, thus saving a whole bunch of people who would otherwise have been splattered all over the place. Except her annoying friends that is, they get killed when Kimberly steps out of the car before it gets sideswiped by a big truck.
Now faced with the realisation that she’s going through the same issues as those who’d escaped Flight 180 the year before, Kimberly and those who’d survived the pile-up but weren’t supposed to struggle to deal with the fact that death is stalking them. Looking to get some help, Kimberly goes to see Clear Rivers, now the only remaining survivor of Flight 180 (as the other dude Alex was killed by a falling brick sometime between the end of the first film and the start of this one… a falling brick! Honestly). Clear has checked herself into an asylum and is living in a nice safe padded room, totally isolated from the world and its potential dangers, convinced that death hasn’t given up on her.
Kimberly manages to convince Clear to help her and the others and they set about figuring out how to wriggle free of death’s plans. Looking for further clarification on the whole thing, they go to visit the mortician who told Alex and Clear all about death in the first movie. The mortician (wonderfully played by Tony Todd of Candyman fame) informs them that only new life can disrupt death and Clear and Kimberly realise that their only hope may lie with one of the other survivors from the highway who’s heavily pregnant… now all they have to do is get to the woman before death does…
Walk it off… it’s only a flesh wound!
Final Destination managed to kick start a very successful franchise by focusing on something that should be present in more horror films but isn’t, and that’s fun. As odd as that might sound, when you consider that a trip to the cinema to watch a scary film is supposed to be an enjoyable event, fun is something often strangely lacking. The Final Destinations, with their “Mousetrap” set-ups of events that finally kill people, and the gory, splattery ways characters kick the bucket, are highly entertaining, and because of the baseline established in the first film coupled with a lighter touch from director David R. Ellis, the sequel is in many ways better than the original.
What makes the second film in the series so enjoyable is how everyone involved ran with the notion that the film was supposed to be good craic and therefore did not take any of it too seriously. Everyone (and I mean everyone) on screen hammed it up to the last, though it actually took a little while to figure out that’s what they were doing; it hit me around about the time Clear comes into the film, though looking back the hints were there from the scene on the highway. Even the scriptwriter and definitely the director were taking the piss out of the very film they were crafting. But this is brilliant, as it allows the deaths to be interesting and outlandish which is exactly as you’d want.
The acting was functional enough with Ali Larter once again turning in the best performance, though it was her over the top bit in the psychiatric hospital that went just a little too far that tipped me off to the self parody present in the film. The others are there for the sole purpose of dying except for A.J. Cook as Kimberly. She bothered me a lot in Final Destination 2 and it wasn’t until near the end when I finally copped on as to why; she seems to be channelling Juliette Lewis throughout her performance and I can’t fucking abide Juliette Lewis!
This woman, I cannot fucking abide!
The star of the show is undoubtedly death and once again the Grim Reaper puts on a fantastic show, bumping off adults and children alike in increasingly imaginative and bloody ways. In FD2 there’s an added twist to some of the deaths in that the elaborate traps and set ups don’t often pay off the way you’d expect, and there are a couple of nice little twists to keep you interested. On top of all that, the final scene is brilliantly funny, despite (or maybe because of) the death of a young lad involved!
The horror genre depends on female characters of all types more than most other types of films. In your average supernatural killer type horror the women that feature usually fall into two main categories, screaming victims and screaming heroines. What is perhaps disturbing is that so many films use these two character types so frequently thus perpetuating the idea that it’s unusual for strong women to win out in the end.
Sorority Row (2009) is set in the frankly baffling world of Sororities, the girly version of the equally weird Fraternity system that operates in colleges in America. One of these Sororities, Theta Pi, is home to the usual bunch of attractive Tommy Hilfiger/Abercrombie & Fitch type women who one particular night are throwing a party and and the same time playing a prank on one of their sorority sisters boyfriends. They plan to have their friend fake her death as the apparent result of the drugs that the boyfriend has given her – drugs the girls have swapped for harmless fakes. The prank goes well and the girls manage to convince the poor sucker, who happens to be the brother of one of the girls, that he’s bumped off his missus.
The joke steps up a notch when, rather then going to the authorities, they manage to convince him to cover up the whole thing and hide the (not dead) body in a lake. Deciding that bodies need to be weighed down due to the air in the lungs, the girls make a show of looking for rocks and such to cut up the (not dead) body and weigh it down. The poor eejit who’s the butt of the joke, who’s not exactly the brains of the outfit and somewhat hysterical at this point, gets a tyre iron and, in a feat of some strength, drives it through the chest of the (not dead yet) girl in order to get the air out of the lungs. Now faced with actually having committed a murder, the girls talk themselves into dumping the (dead now) body and covering up the whole thing.
Nearly a year later, the girls are getting on with things as best as they can. Some are handling their nasty little secret quite well while others are struggling with it. As the end of the college year, and the girls graduation, approaches they get down to the serious business of throwing another massive party and then getting on with their lives. On the last day of term though, things take a turn when someone who seems to know an awful lot about what the girls did turns up looking for deadly revenge…
Yes, the girl on the left isn’t wearing any trousers!
Yes, we’ve seen this stuff before, certainly Sorority Row won’t win any awards for originality but it is, for the most part, an entertaining little film that doesn’t disappoint in the same way that other similar movies have done in the past. That’s not to say that there aren’t some big problems with the film.
The premise of the story is so completely fucking stupid that it’s just about believable, but that doesn’t stop it being so completely fucking stupid. The women were playing a prank on a bloke by trying to convince him that he’d killed his girlfriend. And it works! The thought of checking for a heartbeat never crossed his fucking mind, or ringing for an ambulance. Once the gang get to the location where they were to dump the body they all (bar one girl who seems to have a bit of a brain and some modicum of a conscience though not much) go along with the plan without much thought. The fact that one of them isn’t keen on the whole plan gives the game away from the very start (if you’re thinking that maybe she’s the hero of the piece and the fact that she doesn’t play along is what saves her, then you’re not wrong).
The early part of the film, up to when they dump the (dead now) body goes quite quickly, as if the director Stewart Hendler really wanted to get that bit over as it’s only an excuse for the main bit of the story to happen, that is the bit where the young women and a dude or two get murdered. Once in to the main action, things do pick up a bit, mainly because the pace of the film slows down just a little.
The action definitely improves once the killings start but there’s an odd problem with Sorority Row. The murders do manage to grab your attention but they can’t really hold it. I imagine that the audience are meant to spend their time when watching the film guessing who the killer is, but as most of the characters in the film are vapid sorority girls I certainly didn’t give a shit. The big mystery I struggled with during Sorority Row was why weren’t there more people trying to kill these bitches?
There is another puzzler in this film, and that’s why was Carrie Fisher in it? Don’t get me wrong, she was probably the best thing in it, once she produced the shotgun that is. All told, Sorority Row is a deeply unoriginal film, with poor character development, directed with little regard to telling a complete story. That said, I found it entertaining; I liked the film. It had boobs in it.
Despite getting very familiar with the workings of the movie business over the past few years and how it operates with respect to horror, it still shocked me when I heard that there was an American remake of Let the Right One In, the Swedish vampire movie that has such a cult following regardless of its shortcomings. Upon reflection though it only made sense as the original does have such a following that any remake was going to attract an audience of existing fans and possible a few more as well, financially a remake was going to be a nice little earner and not that costly to make either. All that remained to be seen was how much of a beating the original material was going to take in the process.
Set in a surprisingly chilly New Mexico in 1983, Let Me In (2010) starts with an ambulance transporting a badly injured man to hospital. The man is in big trouble medically as he has been doused in a strong acid and is covered in severe chemical burns as a result. At the hospital a detective attempts to question him but is called away by a nurse, giving the injured man just enough time to disconnect the medical gear he’s hooked up to and to then peg himself out of the window to his death on the ground far below.
The action then switches to a young boy named Owen, two weeks before the incident of the bloke off his face on acid (literally) and the hospital window. Own is a strange young lad, distant in the extreme and sadly the victim of a broken home and a group of bullies at school. Owen lives with his mother, who has a very strong religious faith but is pretty much neglecting her son.Left to fend for himself Owen is picked on routinely and is friendless until he meets his new neighbour Abby who has just moved in to the apartment next door with her Dad.
Abby is a strange fish, happily roaming the apartment complex in her bare feet despite the fact that there’s snow on the ground, but she’s not as odd as her old man who goes out at night and murders people willy-nilly, draining their blood and keeping it for something. The murders continue until one night when Abby’s father makes a balls of it and ends up trapped in a crashed car with his chosen victim. Reluctant to get caught for his killings, the murderer decides to throw acid over himself which disfigures him badly and gets the action up to the point where the film started.
In the hospital, the reason for his header out the window is explained as Abby is revealed to be a vampire and her Dad is going out every night getting blood to keep her fed. Now he’s out of the picture, Abby has to fend for herself and at the same time her friendship with young Owen is developing into something more than the average twelve year old experiences.
Whatever else you do, don’t look now, but I think there’s something behind you!
I found the original Let The Right One In to be a confusing movie largely due to the cultural barriers naturally imposed with foreign films (that’s foreign from my perspective – if you’re from Sweden then Star Wars is a foreign film and Let The Right One In is a triumph of the domestic film industry).
Let Me In is an alarmingly slavish remake, with the majority of scenes an almost direct lift from the original movie simply reenacted in English. This leads to the film suffering from the same pacing issues that plagued the first film in that it’s more than a little slow going. While I was kind of expecting that to be the case what surprised me during the viewing of Let Me In was, despite obvious efforts to streamline this version of the story, it was still painfully slow going with bugger all actually happening.
There are some big improvements that deserved to be acknowledged. The sexual element between the two pre-teen lead characters has been removed which makes watching the film a far more comfortable experience. The fact that the film is in a language I understand was a big help too as it made it much easier to follow what was happening.
The special effects in Let Me In are both a highlight and a low point as they’re a bit patchy to say the least. The CGI of the little girl vampire attacking someone is a fucking joke and should never have made it into the finished movie. However, is direct contrast, the effects used for the scene in the swimming pool are fucking awesome!
The acting was also hit and miss. Kodi Smit-McPhee (I shit you not, that’s his name) as Owen was OK but I just didn’t like him, though this was through absolutely no fault of his, it’s just that Chloë Grace Moretz as Abby utterly outshone him. Moretz’s star turn as the wee vampire should come as no surprise to anyone who saw her amazing performance as Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass, though in Let Me In she doesn’t have the same foul mouth (which is a shame).
As Let Me In is so faithful to its predecessor it was doomed to suffer from the same problems and destined to always be compared to it. Let Me In is not as “beautiful” as Let The Right One In but it’s slightly pacier and definitely easier to follow. The one thing that really struck me was that after seeing the remake, I finally understood the point of the film, now the story makes sense, so that’s worth something.
The events in a story need a reason to be happening. The characters need to have had a reason to find themselves in whatever situation they’re faced with, even if that reason appears to be “wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time” there has to be a reason for them to deal with the situation the way they do. When not enough thought is given to the motivations for the behaviours of characters in films, those films can feel off, like something important is missing but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what. In these cases motivation has most likely been replaced by mere excuses. Some might say that in movies focused on entertainment as opposed to trying to have any depth the loss of character development isn’t that important really. To those who say that I wish to respond with a simple “shut up!” Not giving a toss about people in films is what’s landed us in the awful mess that last night’s movie is an example of.
In an attempt to add some more depth to the idea behind the Saw series of movies the second sordid outing Saw II (2005), properly introduces the villain of the piece John Kramer, the man behind the murderous little clown from his videos, and who became associated with the name Jigsaw. The movie opens with a police informant (as in rat or grass – someone who runs and tells tales to the old bill) called Michael into who’s eye Kramer has semi-surgically inserted a key, a key that unlocks a nasty spring loaded mask Michael’s wearing (much like a portable iron maiden) that’s on a timer and is about to snap shut and drive a series of spikes into his skull. All the hapless victim has to do in order to save his life is gouge out his right eye and retrieve the key, the “logic” behind this being that he has to sacrifice something he’s quite attached to in order to prove he’s worthy of life.
After this round of old bollocks sets the moral compass for the film, Saw II introduces a teenage boy called Daniel Matthews and his policeman father Eric Matthews (played by Donnie Wahlberg). Things aren’t great between father and son as Daniel is going through a rebellious phase and Eric is going through a “I got caught beating up suspects, framing people, and generally perverting the course of justice” phase.
Det. Matthews is called in to work the case of the man in the iron mask and when visiting the crime scene he is shown a message written on the ceiling addressed to him. The cops figure this to be the work of Jigsaw and set about locating him, which they do. They discover Jigsaw to be a sick bloke in mind and in body too as he’s suffering from terminal cancer. As he goes about explaining his nonsense little philosophy and therefore his justifications for torturing people to death, John Law uncovers a set of monitors displaying a series of camera feeds from an unknown house where several people have been locked up, including young Daniel.
The house where everyone is trapped is slowly filling with poisonous gas and those inside have a couple of hours to either escape or figure out the clues that will provide an antidote to the gas. Of course, the house is rigged with an assortment of traps and evil puzzles that’re designed to reduce the number of possible survivors as time passes while teaching some sort of lessons based on Jigsaw’s twisted world view.
Hi, I’m John Kramer. Scientology changed my life, now it can change yours!
Considering the success of the first Saw film it was understandable that there’d be more. What is constantly surprising is how much audiences like this stuff and therefore how much of a runaway success the franchise was.
Looking at Saw II from a purely technical standpoint there are a couple of decent aspects to the film. Wahlberg made more out of the script then was asked of him or was even necessary. The dude playing the cops son is OK, and the ex-junkie who’d been through Jigsaw’s games before is functional enough. The rest are pure torture-fodder but in that they may have been playing their roles perfectly as there’s none of them you’d feel sorry for as they go through the process of getting themselves killed. The only real turn up for the books , aside from Wahlberg, was Dina Meyer as the other cop (you may remember her from such films as The Devil’s Advocate and Starship Troopers) as she did a decent turn and would have made an excellent cop on some TV show or other.
Sadly, Tobin Bell as Jigsaw was just boring, though this was the fault of the character not the actor. Jigsaw makes for a very poor baddie really, his motivations are juvenile in the extreme (it would be great to see an episode of Criminal Minds where they profiled this lad) and his background beyond the cancer diagnosis is a mystery; where did he get the skills and more importantly the money to be able to do this stuff? And is this all really another case of someone not having a decent support network to help keep them grounded, in other words, where’s Mrs. Jigsaw? Are there little Jigsaws out there somewhere, really embarrassed by who and what their Dad is? Maybe Jigsaw wouldn’t be so pissed off at the world if he just got laid once in a while!
There isn’t a whole lot to say in terms of the direction or production of Saw II as it’s a classic example of sequel film-making; just, here’s the script, point, shoot, edit, done. Nothing special and nothing more than the material deserved or the audience expected. The big trick with a film like this is to avoid the directors instinct to set things up in advance in order to get a pay-off later in the movie, and for the most part the director Darren Lynn Bousman, achieved this though there are a couple of hints earlier on as to what kind of nasty fate was waiting for some of the victims.
The production quality of Saw II is mediocre. The effects aren’t that great, blood and so on, nothing to get excited about, and surprisingly little gore, except one or two scenes that aren’t all THAT bad.The sets are all the same drab depressing shade of grey/green and everything looks dirty and perhaps splattered with bodily fluids, which sums up the feel of the entire film. Saw II is another drab, torturous outing with little to redeem it which is shocking as so much time goes into trying to convince the audience that redemption was the moral of the story.
Before he tried acting and ended up ruining his career, Dane Cook was a stand-up comedian in the same vein as Denis Leary (that is, he stole his material from others and presented it slightly differently) and one of “his” routines was about everyone having a friend who’s a gobshite. The trick is to look at your friends and identify the one who’s the gobshite; if you can’t it’s because it’s you! This idea almost certainly extends to other character traits both positive and negative and works regardless of the size of your social circle. Consider the handful of people you know well. One of them should be the cool one – if you can’t figure out which it is then congratulations, it’s probably you. Now consider that one of your group is probably deranged…
Fright Night (1985) is set in middle America slap bang in the middle of the 1980’s and features all the delightful trappings of that most wonderful and awful of decades. Charlie (William Ragsdale) is a teenager living with his mother and is going out with girl-next-door type Amy (Amanda Bearse, who played one of the neighbours in Married With Children). Charlie’s favourite TV show is the late night horror movie theatre “Fright Night” presented by self-proclaimed vampire killer Peter Vincent (a nod to both Peter Cushing and Vincent Price played by Roddy McDowall). When Charlie notices one night that his new neighbours are prowling about in the garden moving what appears to be a coffin into the basement, Amy assumes that Charlie has been watching too much TV and isn’t paying her enough attention.
Charlie’s suspicions grow as a spate of murders take place in the area and one of the victims Charlie had seen going into the house next door the day before she turned up dead. Keeping a close eye on the neighbours Charlie spies one of them with a girl one night and notices the fangs, long fingers and nails, and general vampire-ish aspect of the dude before coming to the completely rational conclusion that the lad next door is a creature of the night. The vampire spots Charlie and it quickly becomes clear that Charlie’s life is now in real danger.
Charlie calls on his friend “Evil Ed” (who is properly deranged) for help and some guidance on how best to ward off the vampire next door. Armed with Crucifixes and garlic Charlie prepares to do battle but decides to call in his hero Peter Vincent for some professional help, without realising that just because you play a vampire killer on TV doesn’t really qualify you for doing battle with real nosferatu…
The teenage vampire – arch-enemy of the orthodontist
Fright Night is billed as a comedy-horror and it is to an extent though the comedy in the film is at times subtle enough not to be noticeable so it rather feels like it’s just another silly vampire movie where a young lad fights a Dracula style baddie. While that analysis is certainly reasonable it doesn’t do the film justice. What Fright Night is at its heart is a fun homage to the Hammer Horror Dracula movies and all those monster-killer films and TV shows of the late seventies. This hits home when you see the effect of one of the vampires in the film rising straight up out of a coffin which is direct from Nosferatu but was perfected in loads of Dracula films. That’s when it occurred to me how Fright Night really saluted the films that inspired it.
The key strength of Fright Night and the thing that separates it so dramatically from more recent vampire films is that it’s so loyal to the vampire myth. All the best bits of vampire lore are present and feature as plot points in the film; you have no power over a vampire if you invite them in to your house and they won’t come in unless invited, vampires sleep in coffins, they can transform into creatures like bats and occasionally wolves and while in bat form they can fly, Crucifixes ward them off as long as the operator has faith themselves, Holy Water is bad news regardless of the religious orientation of the person doing the sprinkling, wooden stakes through the heart will kill them, they have fangs and must drink blood to survive, and most importantly in sunlight they don’t fucking sparkle – they die!
When you see this list of vampire necessities it’s easy to recognise a good list of vampire terms and conditions, but what you’re actually seeing is the interpretation of the vampire myth that was codified by all those Hammer Horror films and their ilk. The idea of a vampire with all the trappings, like the Holy water and the coffins is no more traditional than the notion of a daywalking vamp (though the spakling thing is plain old bullshit).
Fright Night makes its rediculous setup work well by leaning on younger actors who seemed to have a good time making the film and perhaps because of this the quality of the acting was raised to a standard slightly higher than necessary. Don’t get me wrong, everyone in this picture is hamming it up as much as they can, but that’s the point and it works well. McDowall as the vampire hunter and Chris Sarandan as Jerry the vampire knock the most craic out of their roles as they have by far the most interesting characters, with the possible exception of Evil Ed played by Stephen Geoffreys. Evil Ed (or just Evil to his friends) is brilliant, a rare character in a film as he’s actually a bit of a character and one who is nicely mental. In an odd twist, Geoffreys went on to have a successful career in hardcore gay porn (I know this from IMDB.com, not from experience!) so he’s either living the dream (his own personal dream that is) or he’s living the cliche.
The special effects used in Fright Night are pretty good and along with the treatment of the source material are a highlight of the film as at the time the option of CGI wasn’t available and animation effects had backfired too often to be really usable leaving only physical models as the best option for creature effects, and they’re used really well. The creatures like the bat-like monster near the end and the vampire skeleton are excellent but some of the make-up effects don’t stand up to scrutiny (or High Definition) as well as they might.
Fright Night has all the silly elements of a film of its day but it also has all the best elements as well. The vampires are what you expect, the characters are likeable, and in the end it all boils down to a good old fashioned fight between good and evil, so you know who to cheer for. Fright Night is a great slice of 80’s Americana; it’s easy to see why there’s a remake.
Two Thumbs Up for Fright Night.
Links to a film about “Trad Vamps” (which would be a cool name for a Ceili band)
When horror moves away from the simple morality of the slasher film, questions about the nature of hope inevitably arise. Situational as well as supernatural horrors present characters with massive challenges that take away hope for the future or for their happiness, and it’s the job of those characters to overcome those challenges. Rarely though does the triumph of the human soul win out in the end despite whatever takes place before the final credits roll. More often, no matter how it’s dressed up, what actually happens is that selfishness and self-preservation get’s the protagonist though things.
Shy photographer Jamie (Jim Sturgess) is out and about one night, prowling the gritty streets of inner city London in the opening scenes of Heartless(2009) looking for cool snaps to take. As he goes about his business he spots an unusual stranger who he follows to some waste ground by an abandoned house. There he hears someone screaming and upon further investigation sees that the stranger and their friends are actually a group of hoodie-wearing monsters who are in the process of brutally killing someone. Jamie gets away after being spotted by one of the creatures and tries to not to let what he’s seen get to him.
He’s massively unsuccessful in this endeavour as the news is filled with terrible details of brutal crimes and the world seems like a nasty hopeless place, even the local corner shop owner offers Jamie guns for sale if he ever wants some extra protection. Family life for Jamie doesn’t help as, loving and all as his mum and brother are, they are all grieving the loss of Jamie’s Dad and all their moments of happiness are tinged with sadness. On top of this Jamie’s nephew is at a difficult age and seems to be mixed up in something bad which adds an extra stress to life. Jamie’s mum is worried for him as he’s had a difficult time growing up and there appears to have been an attempt at suicide in his past. Jamie has a large series of birthmarks covering his face, neck, and one arm and he’s very self-conscious about it, often wearing hoodies to help cover that side of his face.
One night, Jamie and his mother are attacked by the gang of monsters who give Jamie a hiding but murder his mum by throwing a petrol bomb at her and letting her burn to death. After getting out of hospital Jamie swears revenge and picks up a gun for himself at the shop. As well as the shooter, Jamie gets a new neighbour, a young man who’d been a gang-banger himself but is now turning his life around and getting an education. They become friends and Jamie gets some insights into the gangs and the way their territories work.
Of course, as the world is conspiring against Jamie, the neighbour gets murdered too. While dealing with the shock of another loss Jamie starts playing with the gun and gets close to using it on himself until he gets a text message on his neighbours mobile phone that he’d left behind him in Jamie’s place. Surprised at this, Jamie follows the instructions on the phone and goes to visit a mysterious man called Papa B, who offers Jamie a deal. Papa B is a demon who claims to be working to advance mankind by creating enough chaos in the world to force people to develop themselves (much like the neighbour who was improving himself). Papa B offers to remove Jamie’s birthmark in exchange for occasional acts of graffiti and Jamie accepts, but as everyone knows, when you make a deal with the Devil, the Devil lies…
I’m looking at you… from under my big hood!
The making of Heartless was very firmly focused on the photographer character of Jamie (pun very much intended) and in this it paid off. Not often in a horror film do you encounter a character that’s as well developed (pun intended again) as Jamie – his relatively limited life experience has surprising depth that enables him to be a good photographer, he has recognisable personality traits, and he has hopes for the future that he believes are unattainable – like the house and the wife and the kids version of the future he thinks has already been denied to him because of his skin condition. Like all tragic figures he is the architect of his own misery and downfall. Jamie’s shy because he’s so self-conscious so in a very human way it’s his own behaviour that’s denying him the things he wants. When he and the audience are shown what really happened to him after making his deal his tragedy is only compounded by the realisation that the destiny he wanted was his to have if only he changed his point of view.
…but it’s my strong hand, child!
Jamie’s gain in terms of character development is everyone else’s loss. The other characters are totally undeveloped and merely there to fill the empty spaces with people that sound like they might belong there; generic characters like “Mum” and “Brother” and “neighbour” and “Bloke who runs the shop” – speaking of which, he was brutal and his dialogue was a fucking embarrassment. Papa B wasn’t bad, just going through the motions of being a demon in a shitty flat, the little girl was OK too but I admit I expected more from her character as the movie progressed. The best character after Jamie was definitely the “Weapons Man” who was sent by Papa B to assist Jamie fulfil his side of the bargain. Madly over the top and completely foul-mouthed, I liked him. If there’s ever a sequel to Heartless I hope it features the Weapons Man in the lead role, maybe just following him as he goes about his business being vaguely threatening in that East London way.
The special effects in Heartless are reasonable. The CGI demons that feature are the kind of thing to be expected in a film of this vintage and are about as believable as any CGI effect can be (that is utterly unbelievable). I can’t decide if I liked the costume effect of the man who’d been burned with a Molotov cocktail as I’m not sure if it was realistic or not as I’ve thankfully never encountered anybody with third degree burns over 100% of their body so I’ve no frame of reference – from a distance it looked very good. The other burning effects were hit and miss, swinging between very realistic and not. The violent and gory scenes were well handled with one of the murders very well presented (just to be clear I’m talking about effects here and not the quality of a good murder – I have different blog for that!)
On the whole Heartlessisn’t a bad story, just not a great one. The twisting nature of the final act of the film especially left something to be desired as it took a little while to determine what was actually going on in two or three threads of the story as they all got tied up. The bit about the girlfriend was a head scratcher but necessary in order to fill in the blanks left when Jamie realises what really happened to him, the piece about the gangster suffered from the exact same problem and when he turned up near the end I had to work to remember when he’d been introduced and just what the hell was he doing there.
A dark movie,Heartless is filled with tragedy and tells of removing hope from the already hopeless. In the telling of this story it succeeds but, if for no other reason than the nature of the content I would be reluctant to sit through it again. Even the closing scene, supposed to offer some hint at potential redemption is just to heavy handed and saccharine and totally at odds with the ninety minutes that preceded it that it felt like something tacked on to the end as the result of what some test audience said.
Horror can be a thrill ride, or a morality play, or horror can be truly horrific by simply showing the often brutal face of the world to us as it is. Whether Heartless really needed to add in a bunch of demons and a Faustian deal in order to drag this idea out of the realm of drama is open to some debate.
Imagine you were a vampire, with all the advantages of immortality and the intrinsic beauty that comes with being a nasty little goblin of the underworld. With all that power at your disposal, would you spend your days being a miserable bastard in some shitty small town in chilly northern America with a girl who looks like a horse hanging out of you the whole time? Of course not, it wasn’t believable in one film so I was curious as to how you’d get another go at the cinema out of this bullshit…
As her eighteenth birthday approaches, New Moon opens with Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) struggling to deal with one of the practicalities of loving a vampire. She dreams of her dear old Granny meeting Edward (Robert Pattinson) in a field one day but she realises that it’s not her Gran but actually herself as an old woman having aged naturally while Eddie stayed his youthful immortal self. With this on her mind, Bella tries to go about the normal business of girls her age which basically consists of going to school and looking moody.
Edward’s family, the Cullen’s (a group of adopted vampire kids looked after by Dr. And Mrs. Cullen) throw a little party for Bella’s birthday at their house and during the giving of the presents Bella gets a paper cut which sets off one of the vampires who isn’t fully house trained. This gets Edward thinking about just how wise it is keeping a human about the place when he and his kind have such murderous instincts. About this time Carlisle Cullen decides that he has to move on as he looks a lot younger than he’s supposed to be and people around him are starting to notice. Edward decides that he’s going to go as well and put some distance between him and Bella as he feels she should have a normal life and not have to worry about the technicalities of going out with a disgusting bloodsucker like himself. Eddie has also been thinking about their situation and he’s come to the conclusion that the only way it could work is to make Bella a vampire and that’s something he can’t do as it would damn her soul.
With Edward out of the picture, Bella gets down to doing some serious moping about and manages to sit in the same chair looking out the window for about four months without ever changing her clothes. When she’s not busy being a moody drink of piss, she’s flat out screaming her head off in her sleep as she’s haunted with terrible nightmares of her lost love. Her days at school are filled with avoiding her friends which only serves to demonstrate just how useless a bunch they are when things get tough. She finally manages to get a grip on herself and slowly tries to deal with her plight by hanging out with Jacob, a local native American boy she knows from when she was much younger. She picks up two wrecked motorbikes and gets Jacob to restore them while she sits and watches for a few weeks in an example of exploitation of the red man not seen in America since some Europeans purchased the continent for a handful of beads and a dose of smallpox.
Bella begins to experience hallucinations of Edward whenever she might be in danger, like going down the wrong street in a bad part of town or riding a restored motorbike without a crash helmet. Bella puts herself in increasingly dangerous situations in an effort to see more of Edward instead of doing the rational thing of seeing a psychiatrist or other mental health professional to help her with the fact that she’s seeing things and hearing voices. Her friend Jacob also turns out to be in need of some medical help as he develops a bad fever one night and disappears for a while, though Bella thinks that Jacob is in fact just avoiding her as she rejected his romantic advances. Bella goes to find Jacob down on the reservation (apparently the only reservation in the US without a casino) and finds that he’s a changed man, with his hair cut short, sporting a tattoo, and running with the wrong sort of people all the while not wearing much clothes. After a bit of back and forth it turns out that Jacob is a werewolf and so are his mates and that they’ve been hunting some vampires (left over from the first film) who’ve been knocking about with plans to kill Bella.
Off in exile Edward has gotten wind of Bella’s daredevil antics and believes that one of her little vision-inducing activities has actually killed her and so he decides to top himself as immortality isn’t worth enduring if the girl he dumped, who was probably going to snuff it sometime in the next seventy or eighty years anyway, has died – as long as no-one stops him in the nick of time…
A cinema-goer reacts to the news that they made a few more of these fucking Twilight films!
I shall cut to the inevitable chase; New Moon is an overly long and deeply unoriginal piece of shit film. It’s two desperately boring hours of a mopey bitch pining for a creepy girly boy who you know will turn up again before the film is over and very little else. Edward just pisses off as soon as he could at the start of the wretched movie, in fact he ran away so fast I half expected him to have knocked Bella up or something. Edward’s departure is too much of a convenience and is only offered up so that Jacob could be properly introduced as a character. Jacob is actually not that bad a character but he seems to unfortunately suffer from the same problem as everyone else in the small town of Forks – he seems to think Bella is the only woman in the entire world worth a damn and that is frankly too unbelievable even for a movie where vampires sparkle and werewolves prowl around whether there’s a full moon or not.
Kristen Stewart’s Bella is too unattractive and uninteresting a person for it to be realistic that everyone in town is chasing after her. The Cullen’s are fawning over her from the start (though to be fair one of them openly wants to eat her), the kids in school are obsessed with her, and now the werewolves are all into Bella-mania. Love triangles are the staple of many’s a fine story but the apex of this one is a droopy faced misery – the lads in Forks must have been really hard up.
Speaking of the love aspect leads me to the real horror of New Moon. The film rips off one major source and that’s Mr. William Shakespeare and his tragic play Romeo and Juliet.What makes this crime so heinous is that New Moon flaunts the fact from early on that it’s lifting it’s central theme from that play, the only twist being that Edward’s already dead. What I want to know is, seeing as Romeo and Juliet is a short play, why did it take two long fucking hours to re-tell that story? And why even pretend that the poor teen wolf Jacob was ever in with a chance with a go on Bella?
Just like the fist Twilight film there is very little to redeem New Moon. Sadly, the decent music from the first movie is absent, replaced with a succession of radio-friendly but easily forgotten tunes that no doubt sold well on iTunes, easily forgotten except for the song “Meet Me on the Equinox” by Death Cab For Cutie – I really like that song and it’s a shame it only featured on the end credits. The film is slightly better made than its predecessor, the lighting is better, the effects have been given some thought, and the locations are well used. The big redemption for me however was the fact that the Cullen’s began to address the whole damnation of the soul thing that bothered me so much about the first Twilight. New Moon doesn’t really resolve this problem but it at least admits that it’s there.
Documentaries are not boring. Many of them involve killing and lately loads of them are about big scary aliens!
The Fourth Kind (2009) presents itself as a documentary that has certain scenes dramatised for the purposes of telling the story of events that occurred in Nome, in northern Alaska in the year 2000. The Film begins with Mila Jovovich addressing the audience directly and outlining what they are about to see.
Jovovich plays the part of Dr. Abigail Tyler, a psychologist who, while treating a group of patients in Nome, herself got mixed up the events that took place there. She explains that all of the events in the film are backed up with documented proof in the forms of video and audio recordings and interviews with those involved, particularly Dr. Tyler herself. The director of the film, Olatunde Osunsanmi, interviews the real Dr. Tyler who tells the story of what happened to her and her family and patients in Alaska.
In 2000, Dr. Tyler and her husband were practicing psychologists who were involved in research in Alaska. Abigail’s husband Will is murdered one night while they both slept in bed and Tyler and her family were grieving his loss, with the Tyler children badly affected by the trauma. Two months after the murder, Dr. Tyler is working with a group of patients who all begin reporting the exact same problem. They all wake up in the middle of the night, every night, and notice a large white owl outside their window staring at them that won’t go away no matter what. One of the patients agrees to a form of hypnotherapy and while under reveals that the owl is in his bedroom standing over him and that it’s not an owl at all. The patient gets violent, obviously terrified, so Tyler wakes up from the hypnotic state and he goes home.
That night, Dr. Tyler is called to the patient’s house which is surrounded by cops as the man has pulled a gun on his family and is screaming for Dr. Tyler’s help. She gets there and talks to the man briefly before he shoots and kills his wife and children before quickly turning the gun on himself. Disturbed by this turn of events some of Tyler’s other patients go under hypnosis and reveal similar disturbing details of their nocturnal visitors that leads Tyler to the inevitable conclusion that the people of Nome are the victims of a series of on-going alien abductions. Tyler herself seems to be troubled by something visiting her as she accidentally leaves her dictaphone on one night in her bedroom and it records sounds of her screaming and an unusual voice speaking a strange language…
….and then I’m gonna show her my ‘O’ face… giggity!
The Fourth Kind is normally classified as a pure Sci Fi film, though some reviewers like to call it “spooky” or “creepy”. The reason I included it on the list of 30 Days of Fright movies is because the first time I saw it, it really gave me the creeps. Actually, that’s not true, it scared the piss out of me! Trust me Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a horror film!
The concept behind The Fourth Kind is that of the faux documentary. In order to have the audience accept that what they’re seeing is real, the entire film is dressed up in the way those re-enactment documentaries are that you see on the Discovery channel or the National Geographic channel, only this time they managed to get a known actress involved to play the lead. There’s a strong reliance on video footage allegedly recorded by Tyler and by the Nome police department as well as excerpts from taped recordings of Tyler’s sessions with her patients. The interview itself is really only used to hold the narrative together and to keep things progressing in the order they should. Of course, the whole thing is bullshit, every bit of the story is fiction and everyone is an actor, but that’s to be expected otherwise you’d have heard about all this years ago.
The way the film is presented is very clever. The way the screen splits to show how the actors are acting out the real footage is an exceptionally smart device, especially as the acted scenes aren’t perfect copies and allow for small amounts of artistic license. When characters are introduced the name of the actor playing them is flashed up on screen and the character name is either real or marked as an alias in order to protect the real person. All these tricks get you into a place where you do start to believe what you’re seeing, but it’s the supposedly real footage that packs the biggest punch and is also the biggest let down.
There are only a handful of scenes that Dr. Tyler recorded that are shown to the audience, and there are two or three recoded by the police. Tyler’s material focuses on her patients and herself going through hypnotherapy and show, albeit in a heavily distorted fashion, what happens in those sessions. The one scene where the dude in the bed freaks out is by far the best scene in the whole film and rightly put the shits up me the first time I viewed it. The two cop recordings, taken from dashboard cameras in their cars, which stick in my head are the weakest parts of the film as they are the most unbelievable, with one showing the murder/suicide and the other meant to be showing an alien spacecraft.
The first time I watched The Fourth Kind I wasn’t sure about it. Yes it was scary as a horror film should be but was it any good? The second time (last night) was a less frightening experience but I enjoyed the film more. There are some really smart bits in it – I really liked the hints that the Tyler’s were in Nome looking for aliens or whatever was causing the towns high missing persons rate, and there are other details that are just excellent (I won’t divulge them as they’d be spoilers). However, I’m not sure how well the film would work on an urban audience. If you live in a rural area then you can relate to the isolation that permeates the film and that’s needed to build the fear of being snatched away without anyone noticing.
The Fourth Kind has its weaknesses (like Jovovich rehashing her performance from Joan of Arc) but it also its strengths, and it’s scary enough to deserve its place on my list.
Two Thumbs Up for The Fourth Kind
A Guide to Internet Links:
The First Kind: Links to email
The Second Kind: Links to news sites
The Third Kind: Porn, of course!
The Fourth Kind: Links to details of last nights film
High-concept horror is a rare thing. Most horror films focus on building dread over time and then reaching a scary and/or action packed ending, or they go for the jump out of your seat type of fright where things happen suddenly giving the audience a shock; those types of film are more like roller coasters despite whatever artistic content they may contain. There are a few thinking man’s horror films out there but the majority of studios, film-makers, and audiences find that intelligence and horror don’t tend to make good bedfellows. Of course, there are clever horror films but rarely does the genre go beyond that, perhaps because if the story deals with horrific situations then it can be better dealt with in a more traditional drama, or if the story is going for a supernatural slant then too much has to be accepted on faith for any highbrow thought to be able to accept what’s going on.
The Broken (2008) follows Gina McVey (played by Lena Headey; Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones), a radiologist working in central London as she goes about her business in her seemingly perfect life. She’s beautiful, well-dressed, has a boyfriend who’s a successful architect, she’s doing well enough at work to be able to afford a nice flat in London, her father works for the American ambassador (so I guess she has dual-citizenship lurking in a drawer somewhere, though with a name like McVey (regardless of the spelling) I’m not sure how welcome the family are back in the good old US of A), she has a brother who’s an artist who is living with a girl he loves, and all is right with the world. The only tragedy that seems to have befallen McVey is the death of her mother when Gina was about thirteen.
Gina’s Dad comes home one night to his empty house, as is his custom, and he attacks the decanter of whiskey as it’s his birthday and he’s all alone. Except he’s not. There’s someone else in the house prowling about, but it turns out to be his family setting him up for a scare as part of a surprise party they’re throwing for him. This little fright turns into a happy dinner spent with Daddy McVey’s kids and their partners, happy that is until a mirror that had been hit against during the “SURPRISE!” bit finally falls off the wall and shatters all over the gaff.
The next day, Gina gets a funny feeling at work, a feeling that is heighted when a colleague swears he just saw her leave the building for the night. Heading out herself to use a payphone outside the hospital, Gina gets the shock of her life when she sees herself drive by in her own car. Following the car into an underground car park she pursues the driver into an apartment where she finds a picture of herself and her Dad.
Gina drives away from the apartment in her Jeep after something apparently traumatic happened. She’s distracted, looking around her and in the rear view mirror to the point of distraction, right up to the moment when she has a head-on collision with a taxi. McVey is rushed to hospital but none of her injuries are serious, just bumps and bruises; the only thing worrying her doctors are the gaps in her memory right before the accident – from the time she encountered the look-alike up to going to the hospital. She remembers bits but nothing makes sense.
Once discharged from the hospital Gina goes to stay with her boyfriend but he seems like a changed man, radically different from the man she loved before her accident. He’s cold, distant, and slightly threatening to her and she confides this to a counsellor she’s seeing for her memory problems. He diagnoses a deeper trauma in her brain and recommends more tests. Unsure if what’s occurring is in her head or not, Gina’s fears grow as she investigates some strange occurrences around her boyfriend’s apartment and in the wider world. Finally she begins to remember what happened in her doppelgangers apartment, and so remembers the terrifying truth that’s threatening her whole family…
It’ll never heal if you don’t stop picking at it!
The Broken is an attempt at really serious horror. The concept behind the film is way out there and not something that you see too often outside of leftfield episodes of Star Trek. On top of this, The Broken also tries to be a clever movie, and there are times when this works but not enough to save the film from itself.
Gina McVey is the most neutral horror film character out there. Not once did I give a shit what was happening to her. In The Exorcist when the little girl Regan is going through the medical tests you feel sorry for her as it all seems to frighten her. On the other hand, in The Broken McVey gets her melon scanned and she’s told it’s possible that she’s got some rare brain disorder and I was all like “Good! Serves the snooty cow right!” Out of all the characters in the film, her Dad is the only sympathetic one on screen as he’s obviously still grieving the death of his wife after all these years and he loves his kids, so he’s OK. McVey’s brother and his girlfriend seem OK too, but they’re underdeveloped so it’s hard to give too much of shit about them.
As the “horror” unfolds the attempts at building dread don’t work as they nearly always go nowhere and are accompanied by repeating images and rehashes of scenes that have already been and gone more than once. When what’s happening is revealed to the audience the whole jig is up and there’s little point watching all the way to the end as what happened in the apartment before the crash is so obvious it’s funny. The biggest flaw with The Broken is not in trying to tell its little horror story but in trying to put in a twist as well. In fact, the film opens with a big Edgar Allan Poe quote on screen and from then on I jokingly threw out a raft of possible twists that were going to feature in the film (much like the scene in The IT Crowd where Douglas Reynholm tries to guess the twist at the end of a DVD he’s watching), sadly one of my guesses was bang on the mark – and this was ninety minutes before it was revealed.
Two Thumbs Down for The Broken.
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