Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Frozen




Frozen 2010
Director: Adam Green
Writer: Adam Green
Starring Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore and Kevin Zegers
Frozen is one of those man against nature films and in a lot of ways it reminds me of Open Water. Though I think this film delves into characterization far more than that film does. Some of the conversation scenes remind me of a scene from a Kevin Smith film. The suspense and the tension the film evokes is quite palatable and it leaves an impression on you after you finish viewing the film. The story is very tight and the cast does an excellent job with the material. You do not think a film about 3 people stuck in a ski lift would be so dramatic and exciting but it is. The film has some excellent moments of peril and there are no easy solutions for the characters. This is what makes the film so interesting. This is a taut and suspenseful film that will definitely rank on my list of the top horror films I have seen in 2010.
The plot basics are this, 3 college friends are on a skiing trip for the weekend and cannot pay the full price for ski lift tickets, so they bribe the operator to let them up at a under the table rate. It goes well for awhile but on their last trip up they are forgotten about and are stuck over the ski lane. They soon discover they will be stuck up there for a week and they now panic and try to come up with a way to save themselves. But other than being stuck on the lift they also have to worry about the roaming wolves looking for dinner.
This is a tense and suspenseful film. Green’s direction is captivating and mesmerizing. He really makes you feel for the characters and makes you sympathize with their plight. He films the suspense scenes very well. I especially loved it when the first guy tries to escape and what slowly befalls him. The script is very tight. The ongoing dramatic conversations between the 3 characters are very compelling and makes you stick with the film. You really want to see them succeed. The cast does a superb job. Bell does a great job and really grows as a character throughout the film. Ashmore is really top notch too and you really expect him to save the day somehow. Zegers does a decent job too. He sort of has a thankless role and pulls it off well. The SFX and make up effects are realistic and rather grisly. It helps keep the films sense of realism. The score by Andy Garfield is quite melancholic and suits the piece well. This is a small and intense film that is well worth viewing.
This one gets 5 out of 5


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Saw 3D




Saw 3D 2010
Director: Kevin Greutert
Writers: Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan
Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsey Russell, Cary Elwes, Sean Patrick Holden, Chad Donella and Gina Holden
It has taken 7 films to get us to this point and what a ride it has been. I know there are a lot of horror film fans that do not like the Saw franchise, but I have to say from beginning to end I did not see a film that I did not enjoy or was entertained by. I cannot say that for many other horror franchises. S this is the supposed final film in the series they set about resolving everything and I think they do a good job. I think if they bring it back someone else with no ties to John Kramer will have to be the killer. This film has some of the most gruesome traps and is by far the goriest in the series. The 3D effects are done very well and unlike most 3D films I never had a headache while watching it. The plot as always is intricate and the cast does a great job. The only thing I would warn against is this is not a film for the casual viewer, this is a film for the Saw fan and anyone not up to date on the films will probably be lost. But for the Saw fans this is a great way to end the series.
The plot basics are this, Hoffman (Mandylor) has escaped the trap John (Bell) had left for his wife, Jill (Russell) to complete and now he wants revenge. She goes to the police for protection and she gives them all the dirt on Hoffman they need. But he is coming after Jill. Meanwhile, self guru Bobby Dagan (Flannery) who is said to have survived a Jigsaw trap is pulled into a trap to save his wife (Holden). While Hoffman begins his intricate plan to dispose of Jill, Dagan has to traverse many traps to save his beloved wife.
This is a fantastic film. Greutert who directed the last installment does a great job with the traps. The opening public trap is a great example of this. He also ratchets up the tension between Jill and Hoffman to the nth degree and that suspense carries the film. The script is tight as well, it juggles many plotlines left from the last film and ties them all together so there are no loose ends as the film ends. The cast does an excellent job. Bell is only in it very briefly but as always he does a great job. Mandylor who has carried the franchise lately does a good job as well. Russell as Jill plays the part very manic which ratchets up the suspense. Flannery plays the douche self help guru with aplomb so you cannot help but root for the traps. Elwes return is brief but really ties the film together. The SFX and makeup effects are at there gooiest in this film and if you are a fan of the red stuff you will love it. The score as with all the Saw films is intense and beats down on you just like the film does. This is a great ending to the series and makes it one of the most solid and dependable horror franchises out there.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Animals



Animals 2008
Director: Douglas Aarniokoski
Writer: Craig Spector
Starring Marc Blucas. Naveen Andrews, Nicki Aycox, Eva Amurri, Andy Comeau, Bart Johnson and Gillian Shure
This is a film based on a horror novel from the 90’s written by one of my favorite writing teams from the 80’s, John Skipp and Craig Spector. This is their first novel to be adapted and while it is not one of their best pieces of work, it was still a solid story. This film gets the feel of the story well, its only drawback is its shoddy CGI and how it tries to sidestep calling this a werewolf story. The story is solid and really combines a horror tale really well with a down on his luck type of story. The film also has plenty of sex and that keeps the story rolling along well. The cast is good too, both Blucas and Andrews give strong performances in this. It is in the CGI where this film falters and brings it down a bit. It also seems to shy from calling the creatures in the film werewolves and that is another misstep it makes. I think if it had been more confident in being honest on what the film was about it could have and would have succeeded more. I still enjoy the film and do recommend it to other werewolf film fans though.
The plot basics are this, Syd Jarrett (Blucas) is a down on his luck man in a small town just subsisting from day to day. Until the day he meets the gorgeous Nora (Aycox) and he falls immediately in lust with her. She introduces him to a sub culture of animals where he encounters Vic (Andrews) and they do not get along. He finds that Vic is more an animal than human and this causes him to break ties with Nora after he is bitten by her during sex and he starts undergoing changes. Jarrett then discovers his hidden feelings for Jane (Amurri) a woman he sees at his favorite bar every day and discovers that if he is going to survive he needs to master these new found powers and put a stop to Vic and Nora once and for all.
This is a fun film that is not without its problems. The direction by Aarnioskoski has its strengthes. He does the dramatic and sexual sequences very well. But the horror and attack sequences seem rather hollow and without any dramatic effect to them. The script does a decent job of characterizing Jarrett but fails with all the other characters, there is little if no development of anyone else. The cast is quite good though. Blucas is a great heroic lead who always seems to be a step behind everyone else. Andrews is a sleazy and despicable villain and is a character you love to hate. Aycox is mainly there as eye candy and she fills that role very well. The SFX and make up effects are half hearted at best. The blood effects are good, but the monster sequences are so bad they could have been done better by Ed Wood. The score by Alan Brewer is sophomoric and is way too bombastic for a film of this type. This is not the best werewolf film I have seen but it is far from the worst.
This one gets 3 out of 5



Monday, October 18, 2010

Boy Eats Girl



Boy Eats Girl 2005
Director: Stephen Bradley
Writer: Derek Landy
Starring Samantha Mumba, David Leon, Tadhg Murphy, Laurence Kinlan, Sara James, Mark Huberman, Sarah Burke and Paul Reid
This is yet another zombie comedy and I think it falls in with Dance of the Dead. IT has some cute scenes and is generally pretty funny but it does not stand toe to toe with a film like Shaun of the Dead. It is a Scottish film and everyone involved does a splendid job on the film. The story is pretty smart and funny and I think will easily appeal to the youth generation. The cast is quite good and Mumba is really quite fetching. The film has a good amount of gore and spreads it around quite liberally. This is a fun and bit raunchy zombie comedy and is well worth the zombie connoisseur effort and time.
The plot basics are this, a young man (Leon) in high school professes his love to the girl of his dreams (Mumba) and she shoots him down and he is dejected. So, he kills himself but his mother finds a book in the church she works in and brings him back to life. There is a problem though, she has brought him back as a flesh craving zombie. He bites the local jock and that starts a chain reaction of zombie attacks and before he fully succumbs to the need for flesh he vows to save the girl and his buddies.
This is a fun and raunchy zombie film. The direction by Bradley is solid and the pace of the film is brisk. He films the zombie sequences very well. I especially loved the blowjob zombie attack scene that was hilarious. The script is very good and really brings all the characters to life. Even secondary characters like the school slut Cheryl have a story arc. It is what makes the film work so well. The cast is excellent all around. Mumba is very enticing and does a good job of making you care about her. Leon as Nathan is very sympathetic and you are always rooting for him and hoping that he will survive this ordeal. I really think Sara James as Cheryl really steals the movie though. She is a delight to wath and very sexy to boot. The SFX and make up effects in the film were quite good and would easily hold up with a company like KNB. When Nathan bites the jock on the football field that is done very well. The score by Hugh Gramm and Stephen Rennicks has a hip feel to it and suits the film very well. This is a solid piece of zombie filmmaking and well worth seeking out.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday Flashbacks Village of the Damned 1995



Village of the Damned 1995
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: David Himmelstein
Starring Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Pare, Meredith Salinger, Mark Hamill, Peter Jason and George “Buck” Flowers
John Carpenter has doen a few remakes of classic horror films and Village of the damned is the latest one he did and compared to his other remake, The Thing it is a slight film by comparison. Now, I have never seen the original film this is based on, but the way Carpenter structures the story and uses that acting talent it is a solid and dependable horror film. It is one of his lesser films but is still quite good. He ratchets up the suspense masterfully and he adds quite a bit of violence and explicit gore to it as well. He picked an excellent cast; both Reeves and Alley carry the film solidly on their shoulders. The eerie soulless stares of the children do the job of creeping you out and really makes the film work well. This is a solid if not ground breaking horror film.
The plot basics are this, an American village is visited upon by some alien life form that makes all the women of the village pregnant. Nine months later all the children are born and at first seem normal. It does not take long for the parents to notice that there is something werid and strange about these children. Also, that tye do not seem to be quite human or even humane. Soon the government senda a team into the village led by Dr. Susan Verner (Alley) to figure out what these alien children want and if they are malevolent. She asks for the help of local town doctor Alan Chaffee (Reeves) to assist her. They soon discover these children have their own plan and now they must come up with a strategy to stop them or the world may be doomed.
This is a suspenseful and tense film. Carpenter’s direction as always is flawless. The way he shoots the children is compelling and eerie and when they attack the local priest and the school janitor it is unnerving and frightening. The character interactions between Chaffee and Verner are done quite well too, you really sympathize with Chaffee. The script is well polished and delivers a solid horror story with some nice twists in it and you really ar on the side of Chaffee throughout the movie and how he wants to save the children but doesn’t know if he can. The cast is solid. This is one of my favorite performances by Reeve other than his role as Superman. Alley as the government doctor is deceptive and conniving and really pulls it off well. I also liked the small role of Hamill as the manic priest who goes to far. The SFX and make up effects in the film are lurid and work very well. The score by John Carpenter and Dave Davies has a somber and melancholy mood to it and suits the film very well. This is one of Carpenter’s lesser films but compared to other directors it is quite good and I think it is well worth a look again.
This one gets 3 out of 5



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Train



Train 2008
Director: Gideon Raff
Writer: Gideon Raff
Starring Thora Birch, Gideon Emery, Kavan Reece, Derek Magyar, Gloria Votsis, Vladimir Vladimirov, Koyna Ruseva, Valentin Ganey, Ivan Barney and Nikolay Mutafchiev
Train was originally supposed to be a remake of the 80’s classic Terror Train but it turned into something else. When you boil this film down to its essence it is basically Hostel meets Turistas on a train. It does this idea admirably well. It definitely goes with the other recent horror films of this type like the Saw films and the Hostel films and it can hold its head up with those films. This is a brutally gory film and the scenes are very hard to watch. But, if you love hard edged gore you will definitely like this film. The script is basically plot over character as it is all meant to get you to the train and to let the carnage ensue. The cast is decent but the film really hinges on Birch’s performance and she does a masterful job with the material. The gore in the film is intense and the camera never flinches or cuts away from it and I found that quite refreshing. This is a solid horror film and on well worth seeing.
The plot basics are this, an American collegiate wrestling team is competing in Eastern Europe. A few of the competitors miss the train they are supposed to travel on for the next event. They find a new train and get on it with their coach, (Jensen) but something is not quite right with this train and some of them begin to disappear. It is soon discovered that this train is used to hijack passengers and to use their body parts and organs for black market surgery. One of the teammates, Alex (Birch) discovers this and now tries to survive and stay one step ahead the evil people aboard this malevolent train.
This is a tense and scary little horror film. The direction by Raff is tight and the film has a very claustrophobic feel with the train sequences. When Birch is running through the train you feel her isolation and her fear. His filming of the blood soaked torture sequences are chilling and makes the viewer want to look away, but he will be unable too. The script does its job but most of the characters are flat and the only character you really feel for is Alex. The story is really one of plot over characterization, and yet it works here. The cast is ok with the exception of Birch. She is the shining example of what is good about the acting. You root for her and want her to achieve victory. The SFX and make up effects in the film are brutal and are done very well. It reminded me of some of the work that was done in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. The score by Michael Wandmacher is tense and brooding and fits the film very well. This is a film that works well and uses the terror of the Eastern European landscape very well.
This one gets 4 out of 5



Monday, October 11, 2010

Dead Snow




Dead Snow 2009
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writers: Stig Frode Henriksen and Tommy Wirkola
Starring Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Rossten, Jeppe Laursen, Jenny Skavlen, Ane Dahl Torp and Bjorn Sundquist
Nazis and zombies seem to be 2 things that go together well, though you do not see these combinations often. The last time I saw it was in the 7-s cult classic Shock Waves. I think it is far too long since it has been done and Dead Snow does an awesome job of combining these things with a great comedic touch. The film has some great homages that remind me a lot of films like The Evil Dead and Dead alive. But do things differently enough that makes it original. It is by far one of the best zombie films I have seen in awhile. The story is quite funny and it has a genuinely likable cast. It is also by far one of the bloodiest films I have seen in awhile and that makes it a breath of fresh air. This is just a fun film and is a real treat for the horror fan.
The plot basics are this, a women is being chased through the snow covered mountains of Norway. She is being stalked by Nazi zombies. She was on her way to meet a bunch of friends for a skiing weekend and due to the attack she never shows up. Her friends still expect her and have fun while they are waiting and then as evening approaches they receive a wandering visitor (Sundquist) who tells them a horror story about what happened to a battalion of Nazis in these mountains during the war and that they should respect and fear these tales. They scoff and send him on their way but soon they are besieged by the zombies who seem to want something. The group must now band together and find a way to survive or become zombie fodder.
This is just a fun movie. The direction by Wirkola is very light and is alos very reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s work on the Evil Dead with the whole cabin in the woods motif. He stages the huge zombie attack scenes very well. The scene where the 2 guys grab anything they can use from the shed as a weapon is a classic scene. The script is very light and witty and really carries the film through all of its absurdities. It throws plenty of curves during the film and always keeps you guessing on who will survive. The cast is quite good. I especially liked Valdal as Vergard, he makes a resourceful protagonist that reminds me a bit of Ash. Frogner as Hannah was another performance I liked. She was resourceful and not too stupid. The SFX and make up effects in the film are amazing. I especially loved the intestinge rope climbing scene. It was so over the top but the gore still looked realistic. The score by Christin Wibe was very campy and frothy and fitted the film very well. This is definitely one of the better zombie films I have seen recently and well worth seeing.
This one gets 4 out of 5