Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Last House On the Left 2009

The Last House On the Left 2009
Director: Dennis Iliadis
Writers: Adam Elleca and Carl Ellsworth
Starring Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Garret Dillahunt, Aaron Paul, Spencer Treat Clark, Riki Lindhome, Martha MacIsaac, Sarah Paxton and Michael Bowen

The original Last House on the Left is one of the most disturbing and shocking horror films of all time, so when I heard it was getting remade I was hesitant. But the film does enough things differently to make it a valid remake. It is tense and disturbing and the rape scene is just as uncomfortable as the original. If their is one complaint I would make with the film is Dillahunt is not as creepy or as sleazy as David Hess was in the original. This is a film that is beautifully shot and the director gets every ounce of feeling he can from every tense filled scene in the film. This is not a easy film to watch as none of the kills are very cut and dried, they are all messy and ugly. It gives the film a scenes of realism, which it keeps up with till the somewhat ludicrous ending. That being said, this is a tense and cruel horror film that definitely deserves to stand next to the original.
The plot basics are this, Krug (Dillahunt) is a convicted murderer on his way to state prison when he is rescued by his gang and then flees into the dark. Meanwhile, Mari (Paxton) along with her Mom (Potter) and Dad (Goldwyn) are off to a idyllic summer vacation in a secluded area of the forest, where they are staying at the last house on the left. Emma takes their car out to visit a friend (MacIsaac) and they meet up with a strange young boy (Clark), who has some pot for sale and so they head back to his hotel room and soon Krug and his gang barge in and take the girls hostage. Krug takes Mari's car and proceeds to go on the run until Mari tricks them into having an accident and it totals the car. This pisses Krug off and he stabs Mari's friend and violates Mari. Mari tries to escape but is shot while swimming away. Krug and his gang then come up to the house to ask for help which is the same house Mari's parents are staying at. Not long after this Mari's parents discover that they have done horrible things to their daughter and no proceed to enact their own bloody revenge on the gang.
This is a tense and disturbing film. Iliadis' direction is very visceral. It is especially profound during the rape scene. It is shocking and painful to watch, which a rape scene should be. It is one of those scenes where you have to keep looking away before you get too disgusted. The script is very solid, it really solidifies the characters of Mari's parents, as they are the main viewpoint of the story and you really feel their anguish over what has happened to Mari. The villains are done well too, though I think the best realized one is Sadie she seems to be more in control than Krug is. The cast is excellent. Dillahunt makes a decent Krug, he just isn't as overpowering as Hess is in the original. Goldwyn and Potter as the grieving and vengeful parents are great and you really feel their pain and rage. Paxton as Mari is very good too and you really sympathize and feel for her. The SFX and effects are outstanding. It is very bloody and messy. Especially with the microwave scene and the scene with the garbage disposal. The score by John Murphy really ads to the ambience to the film. Especially during the swimming sequences. This is a solid remake and one well worth seeing.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Flashbacks: Prince of Darkness

Prince of Darkness 1987
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: John Carpenter
Starring Jameson Parker, Donald Pleasance, Victor Wong, Lisa Blount, Dennis Dun, Susan Blanchard, Anne Marie Howard, Ann Yen, Ken Wright, Dirk Blocker, Peter Jason and Alice Cooper

This is one of Carpenter's most underrated films and one of my personal favorites. Throughout the entire film it has a genuinely creepy tone and stays with you long after you finish watching it. It combines elements of Night of the Living Dead with Assault On Precinct 13 and it feels completely original. The way it use physics as a way of quantifying pure evil is highly original and I have yet to see duplicated in any horror film. The film has a great ensemble cast that utilizes many of the best actors that Carpenter continues to mine such as Donald Pleasance. This is a film that relies a lot on ideas and dialogue more than cheap scares and shocks, though it does utilize those to excellent effect too. This film really reminds you of a modern H.P. Lovecraft story as it is more atmospheric than blood fueled, and I think that is why the film is so powerful and works so well. The dream sequences in the film really accentuate the hyper reality of the horror that the group is facing. The way the dream sequences open and close the film and how they are totally different really makes this a thought provoking horror film.
The plot basics are this, a deep dark secret has been kept under lock and key for years in a in a abandoned church and when the priest safeguarding this secret dies it is brought to the attention of another priest (Pleasance) and he finds in the sub basement of the church a cylinder with a mysterious green liquid and the diary of the dead priest. The priest contacts Professor Howard Birack (Wong) at the local university and he brings a gorup of students to investigate and study what has been found. They soon discover through their studies is that what is in the cylinder is the essence of the Devil and this awakens the son of the Devil and he begins to possess the students one by one. Those possessed begin to infect the tohers and now it is up to the remaining survivors to stop the infection and to prevent the Devil from entering this world and causing Armageddon.
This is a atmospheric and genuinely creepy film. Carpenter's direction is downright claustrophobic and is felt throughout the film. The way the cylinder is filmed is always ominous and the scenes with the burgeoning homeless zombies is quite frightening. Carpenter makes great use of the dilapidated ruins of an abandoned church. It seems that there is dread around every corner. The script is very intelligent. This is really a thinking man's horror movie, as it combines physics with unspeakable evil. The characters are all well rounded. The characters of Brian Marsh and Catherine Danforth are the focal point of the film and you really sympathize with their dilemma. The cast is unifromly excellent. Parker as Marsh is a great protagonist and he also shows a soft side which come through well. Blount as Danforth is a great female lead and the main crux of the story. Pleasance as the priest is as always a strong performer and it is no different in this film. He steals many of the scenes he is in. Wong as the professor is quite good too and does a very credible performance, especially from someone who is better known for comedic roles. Dun is great as the partner to Marsh and has a very comedic role that offsets the terror of the film. The SFX and effects in the film are outstanding. Mark Shostrom does a great job, especially with the zombie like appearance of the infected homeless people led by the always creepy Alice Cooper. As always, the score by John Carpenter is one of the best things about the film it makes all the creepiness of the film really palatable and stays with you long after the film is over. THis is by far one of Carpenter's most creepiest and frightening films.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Perfect Getaway

A Perfect Getaway 2009
Director: David Twohy
Writer: David Twohy
Starring Steve Zahn, Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant, Kiele Sanchez, Marley Shelton, Chris Hemsworth and Dale Dickey

David Twohy is one of the most solid and dependable genre filmmakers working today and whenever he does a film I seek it out. He never fails to make a ripping good film. A Perfect Getaway is his latest film and it is a suspense thriller with a killer twist that could really show something to M. Night Shamayalan. The film has a leisurely pace and takes it's time to set up the conflict in the story and that's what makes the film so gripping, as you actually feel and sympathize with the characters. The film has a solid cast and a beautiful location that Twohy definitely takes advantage of. The film also has some excellent scares and has some really grueling gore scenes. Once the film gets to the twist in the last 20 minutes of the film really grabs a hold of you and does not let go till the gripping finale. The film really has a Hitchcockian feel to it and is definitely one of the best thrillers I have seen in a long time.
The plot basics are this, Cliff (Zahn) and Cydney (Jovovich) are on their honeymoon and go to a very secluded and tropical island paradise for their honeymoon. They run into 2 different couples, Kale (Hemsworth) and Cleo (Shelton) and Nick (Olyphant) and Gina (Sanchez). Kale and Cleo seem to be a angry dysfunctional couple and Nick and Gina , a crazy and unorthodox couple. While they are on their honeymoon they discover that there is a murder spree going on at the island. It seems that honeymooners are being stalked and brutally killed. Cliff and Cydney soon suspect one of the couples is behind the killings and they believe they are being stalked as their next victims. They need to stay aware now and make sure they do not fall prey to the killers.
This was a fantastic film. The direction by Twohy is amazing. The way he sets things up is flawless. He sets up the suspense and follows through expertly. The way he goes back and forth in the final act to show the viewer the hints that they may have missed is brilliant. His use of the beautiful location is done splendidly too. The best use is during the chase at the climax with the waterfalls and the jungle. The script is very smart and witty. All the characters are fully rounded and you sympathize with all of them. The character of Nick really carries the film. This was a story that the twist towards the end you never saw coming and that is what makes the execution of the story work so well. The cast is excellent. Olyphant is great, he is very amiable and personable but with somewhat of a dark side. Jovovich is brilliant too, she is very sexy and also very sly and industrious in the film. Zahn and Sanchez are great supporting actors to these two and really accentuate the tension and suspense of the film. The SFX and effects are amazing. My personal favorite was the brutal hand disfigurement at the end. Also, the big girl fight sequence is another prime example of a great action sequence in this film. This is a film that anyone who likes a film that will keep you guessing should definitely checking out.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Flashbacks: Jaws

Jaws 1975
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
Starring Roy Schieder, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb and Jeffrey Kramer

Jaws is the film that started my love with horror films, as it is the first film I remember seeing as a kid and right away it solidified my love for the horror film. It is a superbly well crafted film and the benchmark of nature run amok horror films. This is a film that really freaked me out, especially during the scene where Hooper is investigating a shipwreck and a head pops up. That scene still give me shivers when I think about it. One of the things that really works about the film is really how little you see of the shark. It is a film that really builds on and plays with tension and suspense and that is why it works so well. Everything about this film came together and created a masterpiece. The cast, the locale, the score and the cinematography all come together to make one of the most perfect horror movies ever made. This was also the first film that started the trend of the summer blockbuster. This killed at the box office and began the trend that still goes to this day of releasing the big tent pole action films for the summer season.
The plot basics are this, in the idyllic summer resort town of Amity Beach something strange and frightening begins to happen. It seems swimmers are being attacked and eaten by a Great White shark, something that is unusual for these waters. The Sheriff, Brody (Schieder) figures it out and plans to close the beach down till it can be stopped but the mayor (Hamilton) doesn't believe him and refuses to let him close the beach down. After a horrible event at the beach the mayor acquiesces and Brody hires a gruff shark hunter, Quint (Shaw) and takes along a marine biologist, Hooper (Dreyfuss) for the hunt. All 3 go in Quint's ship and head out to sea to hunt down the monstrosity. Thus, begins a hard and grueling adventure that not everyone will survive and the mettle of these men will be sorely tested to their extremes.
This is a exceptional film. The direction by Spielberg is outstanding. The use of the ocean works really well. The cinematography is flawless. From the opening scene to the final battle with the Shark the film grabs you and does not let you go till the ending. The shark attacks are pulled off suspense fully and without giving away too much, which what makes the film all that much better. The script is solid and a great improvement over the book. It removes the unneeded subplot of a affair between Hooper and Brody's wife and instead fixates on the shark and what it does to this community. All the characters are fully realized and very lively. Quint is the most memorable character and this is most realized by his recollection of the tragedy U.S. S. Indianapolis. That scene is riveting and one of the finest scenes in the film. The cast is superb. Schieder as Brody is a great flawed hero who really pulls it together at the finale. Dreyfuss as Hooper brings a lot of humor to the role and it really balances the tension you feel throughout the film. Shaw is the true star of the film as Quint. He is gruff and sometimes just plain scary. He really comes alive during the camaraderie scene on the ship right before the shark attacks. Hamilton as the mayor is the dick you love to hate and it is great when you watch him break down and eat his own words. Garry has a thankless role as Brody's wife but does a great job of lending emotional support to Schieder. The SFX and effects of the film are flawless. The shark is not used too much but just enough to make it look authentic and to keep the story going. The effect of the floating head is a scene that still haunts me and proves how effective the SFX in the film is. The score by John Williams is such a focal point of the film and so simple yet effective. You know anytime those chords start something bad is coming and it raises the tension even more. This is a flawless horror film and for me still Spielberg's best film.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Monday, March 15, 2010


Grace 2009
Director: Paul Solet
Writer: Paul Solet
Starring Jordan Ladd, Stephen Park, Gabrielle Rose, Serge Houde, Samantha Ferris, Kate Herriot and Malcolm Stewart

The killer baby genre is a long storied one in the horror film's history, beginning with Rosemary's Baby leading up to The Unborn. Grace is the latest in this sub genre and it really takes the idea and really turns it up on it's head. This is a film that likes to examine and at the same time skewer certain topics of modern life, like vegans, New Age therapy and natural birthing. What is most amazing about this film is that it was written and directed by a man. It is hard to believe that a man could capture the feminine process so well, but he does it expertly. This is a film that isn't really scary, but there are many moments in the film that are creepy as heel and leave you with a genuine feel of unease.
The plot revolves around Madeline (Ladd) and Michael (Park) and they have been trying for a long time to get pregnant. It is all Madeline (Ladd) thinks about. She (Ladd) finally gets pregnant but she does not want to go to a doctor, much to the chagrin of her Mother-in-law (Rose). Instead, she (Ladd) decides to go to a holistic clinic which is operated by a old college friend of hers, Patricia (Ferris). Not long after, they have a pregnancy issue and after it is dealt with, they are in a horrible car wreck on the way home and Michael (Park) is killed and Madeline (Ladd) has a miscarriage but decides to bring the baby to term and birth it. By some miracle the baby is not dead, but she does not like milk and Madeline (Ladd) soon discovers that Grace prefers blood. She (Ladd) does whatever it takes to feed Grace. Soon, Vivian (Rose) wants her (Ladd) to be checked out by her own personal doctor (Stewart) and this leads to some problems for Madeline (Ladd) and Grace.
This as a gripping film from beginning to end. It was really a unsettling scene to watch from the opening scene where Park and Ladd are having sex and he is really into it and she is just staring at something past the act and showing no emotion whatsoever. It really sets the tone for the film, that Madeline (Ladd) all she cares about is Grace and nothing else matters to her but keeping her baby safe. It is the most extreme example of the mother role. Solet's direction is very claustrophobic at times and for much of the film it is like a one person drama. Solet's script is solid as well, it is really cool how satirizes things like vegans and new age processes. All of the characters are fully realized and yo see them with all their strengths and weaknesses. The acting in the film is above board, especially the performances of Jordan Ladd and Gabrielle Rose. Ladd really freaks you out with the lengths she is willing to go to defend her child. Rose is very good as the Mother-in-law, who has issues with Madeline (Ladd) and feels that she needs to save Grace from what she believes is someone who is ill suited to motherhood. Rose does great acting sometimes with just a look here. The most interesting scene is where she is in bed with her husband and has him suckle her breasts like a baby, really quite unsettling. The SFX in the film is excellent, very realistic and hard to watch. This is a film I would highly recommend and I think would be a great film to watch alongside the French film Inside.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II 1987
Director: Bruce Pittman
Writer: Ron Oliver
Starring Michael Ironside, Wendy Lyon, Justin Louis, Lisa Schrage, Richard Monette, Terri Hawkes, Brock Simpson, Beverly Hendry, Wendy Smith and Judy Mahbey

The original Prom Night is one of my most hated horror films as I find it unflinchingly boring. But, Hello Mary Lou is a pleasant surprise. This is a fun and gory little horror film that really works on all cylinders. It is a film that combines elements from Carrie and the Exorcist and does it really well. It creates a really creative and fun horror film with some great gore and some great T and A footage. The film has a great cast that is spearheaded by the always intense Michael Ironside. Lyons is quite good too, as she is able to go from the nice girl to the evil queen bitch at a drop of the hat. She is also very sexual at times and that's what makes her performance really shine and makes the film work. This is also film that was made when the Nightmare On Elm Street series was at the height of it's popularity and it shows in many of the elements of the film, such as the locker attack scene during the middle of the film. You could change just a few things and it would fit easily into one of those films. That is probably another reason the film works so well, it has a great villain that you love to hate.
The plot basics are this, in 1957 at the Hamilton High senior prom Mary Lou Maloney (Schrage) is about to be enshrined as the prom queen when a accident caused by her boyfriend Bill Nordham (Ironside) when he discovers her illicit tryst with another classmate and the accident kills her in a horrible burning accident. We flash forward to 1987 where Bill is now the principal of the high school and Vicki Carpenter (Lyon) is getting ready for the senior prom. She finds some relics from the 1957 prom and they are imbued with the malignant spirit of Mary Lou Maloney. Soon, Vicki becomes possessed by the spirit of Mary Lou and she begins to get ready for the prom and to finally take her crown that was denied her so many years ago. Vicki becomes focused and anyone who gets in her way may not live long if they bother her. It is up to Bill and his son Craig (Louis), who is dating Vicki to stop Mary Lou's reign of terror and somehow save Vicki.
This is a fun little horror film. The direction by Pittman is very well done. He has a self assured feel for what works in a horror film and it shows. The best example of that is the locker scene which uses suspense and terror very well along with some exploitative nudity. It all comes together and makes up the most memorable scene in the film. The script is very good too. It balances vengeful spirits with body possession excellently. The characters are very well balanced too, the character of Bill Mordant is a great character with his own strengths and weaknesses that really come into play during the story. The evil modus operandi of Mary Lou is quite fun and hypnotic to watch too. The cast is excellent. Ironside is magnetic and intense as the troubled principal who is trying to hide what he did in the past to his son. Lyon is great at doing a split personality and she really pulls it off well. While Schrage as Mary Lou is unrepentantly evil and you can tell she enjoys it. The SFX and effects in the film are expertly done. The locker room squish and the death of Mary Lou are 2 of the best examples of the effects that are done so well in the film. The soundtrack of the film really accentuates the film too. I loved how right before Mary Lou showed up you would hear the Buddy Holly song "Hello Mary Lou". This is one of the best 80's horror films and one well worth seeing if you have not seen it yet.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hell of the Living Dead

Hell of the Living Dead 1980
Director: Bruno Mattei
Writers: Bruno Mattei, Jose Maria Caniles, Rosella Drudi and Claudio Fragasso
Starring Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Selan Karay, Jose Gras, Gabriel Renom, Josep Lluis Fonoli and Victor Israel

The sub genre of Italian zombie films is a long one and for every good one there is 10 bad ones, but some of these films are just laughably bad and retain a certain fondness to them. Hell of the Living Dead is one of those films in my book. Though the film is laughably made and a obvious rip off of Romero's Dawn of the Dead, even going so far as using the same Goblin soundtrack. It is a poorly done film, without much thought put into it and yet somehow it is still a fun movie> As far as bad zombie films go it ranks up there with Burial Ground: Nights of Terror. The film also uses stock footage to pad the film and it shows. The cast is laughable, and it really works in the films favor. The female lead is very attractive and doffs her clothes off for the most ludicrous reason and it somehow works. The gore in the film for the most part is pretty cheesy, but it definitely has its moments, such as the tongue ripping and face ripping scene at the end. That scene alone makes this a film worth repeated viewings. This film has some laughably bad scenes that if you were stoned I think you would die from laughter at this film.
The plot basics are this, in Papua, New Guinea there is a chemical spill at the Hope Centre that turns the staff into flesh eating zombies. A 4 man hit squad is sent in led by Mike London (Jose Gras) to contain the problem. They encounter a TV news crew led by celebrity reporter Lea (Newton) and she is investigating what has happened. Soon, it becomes clear that the entire country is overrun with zombies and Lea and the hit squad need to find a way to contain the situation before the human race is eradicated by the ravenous flesh eaters. But will they be able to adapt and survive or will they become tomorrow's lunch.
This is a laughably bad film. The direction by Mattei is pitiful, there is no flow to the scenes of the film. It goes from nature stock footage too films of zombies running amok. This would be bad in any case, but it just makes the viewer scratch his head and wonder what the hell is going on. The zombie attack scenes are one of the better choreographed things in the film and when zombies attack it becomes a really fun film to watch. The script is paper thin. It tries to make some point about 3rd world famine, but the story is so bad that you hardly even notice. There is not much characterization, you just go from scene to scene putting the characters in more outlandish situations as the film progresses. The most idiotic thing is when one of the soldiers decides to pick up a cane and don a top hat and do his own rendition of "Singing in the Rain" while zombies are attacking. The cast is laughably bad as well. Newton as Lea is basically just there for eye candy and it shows. Gras as London is paper thin too, but it works for the film. The SFX and effects are quite cheesy but fun. I really loved the climax of the film with the face demolishing, I still get a thrill every time I see that. Finally, the score lifted right out of Dawn of the Dead is ludicrously funny to witness in this film. With music as superior as that you would think it would ante up the quality of the film, but it just makes the film that much worse. This is a pitifully bad zombie film, but if you are in the right frame of mind it can be a very enlightening experience.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Final Destination

The Final Destination 2009
Director: David R. Ellis
Writer: Eric Bress
Starring Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Nick Zano, Haley Webb, Mykelti Williamson, Krista Allen, Andrew Fiscella, Justin Welborn, Stephanie Honore, Lara Grice and Jackson Walker

The Final Destination franchise has always been one of my favorite horror series of recent years, but they really seemed to drop the ball with this one. Overall the film was just meh. The deaths were rather cheesy and some were just outright copies from the other films. The film was also way too short to be able to give the film the proper suspense that was needed for the elaborate deaths. There was little to no characterization in the films, so when a character died you could have given a rat's ass. Another element that screwed the film is that all the major deaths were given away in the previews and that killed any suspense on what was going to happen. Really the only thing that saved the film from being a total disaster was the excellent 3 D effects. This film by far has the best 3 D effects that I have seen in any 3 D film to this date. This is a film that fans of the series will see, but it is definitely not representative of what is best that the series has to offer, for that I would point them towards Final Destination 2. This film was amateurish at best.
The plot basics are this, Nick (Campos) and his friends are taking a much needed break from studying by hanging out at a NASCAR race. Nick has a premonition of a horrible accident happening and he gets his friends and a few other patrons to leave the race before his prediction becomes reality. They all leave unharmed but it soon becomes apparent that Death has a plan for them and the survivors begin to die in bizarre and mysterious ways. Nick begins to have visions of what is to come next, but in cryptic ways. He tries to figure it out and save the ones who are marked. It seems Death is unstoppable though. If Nick does not find a way to cheat death though, all their numbers will be up, including his own.
This was really a poorly done film. I am surprised it did so well at the box office. Ellis who did a superb job of directing Final Destination 2 really drops the ball here. The suspense is almost non existent due to the fact that you see all the kills coming from a mile away. The kills while pulled off decently, are not very creative and unlike the other films are not memorable at all. The script does not fare much better. There is little to no characterization, so you have no empathy for any of the characters. It seems that the only character that gets any details is George, the security guard and that still is not enough to warrant a memorable character. The cast is mediocre at best. The film is mostly filled with young people who look good in little clothing, and while that may distract you, it does not substitute for genuine acting skill. Williamson as George is really the only decent actor in the bunch. The SFX and effects are done very well, specifically the 3 D effects. The opening car crash carnage is great, but it never reaches that level again. One effect that I thought was done better in another horror film was the escalator death, that was far more well done and suspenseful in the 80's horror film The Kiss. This was just a mediocre horror film that is raised up some by some excellent 3 D effects.
This one gets 3 out of 5

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blood Creek

Blood Creek 2009
Director: Joel Schumacher
Writer: David Kaiganich
Starring Dominic Purcell, Henry Cavill, Emma Booth, Michael Fassbender, Rainer Winkelvoss, Lazlo Matray, Joy McBrinn, Shea Whigham and Tony Barger

It has been awhile since I have enjoyed a Joel Schumacher film like this. This is by far his best film I have seen since 8 MM. It is a high concept horror film and it almost makes me forgive the travesty that was Batman and Robin. It combines a action film with a scenario much like the Evil Dead and does it tremendously well. Any film that uses a Nazi built monster always piques my interest and the monster in Blood creek is very creative and imaginative. This is a film that builds up the tension with each scene and it has a tremendously well played villain in the persona of Fassbender. He is sleazily evil and somehow, also very charismatic. Purcell as usual brings his A game to the film and it is always a delight to see him kicking ass. This film uses the mythology of Nordic Rune stones and Wampyres to excellent effect and really makes this tale into a rousing horror adventure.
The plot basics are this, in 1936 the Wollner's a German family farming in the rural United States are asked to accommodate a boarder from the homeland. Richard Wirth (Fassbender), who they soon discover is a occult scientist for the Third Reich, and they find they will have a high price to pay for accommodating Wirth. We then flash forward to the modern day, where we meet Evan (Cavill), who has been taking care of his invalid father since his older brother Victor (Purcell) disappeared on a fishing trip over 2 years ago. One night Victor returns looking like a mountain man and asking for weapons and for him to help him hunt down something. They go to the farm where Wirth came to live all those years ago and finds the Wollner family as they were left in the 30's as if frozen in time. Victor wants payback for the torture that was inflicted on him and what he finds is far worse than he ever expected. They have unleashed a unspeakable evil and now this night will test them in ways they cannot possibly fathom.
This is a surprisingly solid action horror film. Schumacher sets the stage well with his direction of the opening scene in the 30's and then flash forwards to the present and does not let go of the throttle of the film till the ending. He stages the action sequences well and they all move at a heartbreak pace. The film has a deliberate claustrophobic fell that really works in it's faver. The script is quite good. The use of Nordic mythology and Wampyres really makes the film an original piece, in this day and age of remakes and PG-13 horror films. The cast is quite good. Cavill makes a excellent hero, who has no idea what kind of night he is entering into. Purcell, as always is a excellent action hero who really brings a intensity to his performance. Fassbender as the demonic Wirth, is a great charismatic villain that I never got enough of. Booth as Liese, the girl that begins the tale is very good, she is mysterious and very sympathetic. The SFX and effects of the film are quite outstanding. Ken Neiderbaumer does excellent work, especially during the transformation scene to Wirth's final metamorphosis. THis is a film that is a treasure trove of fun elements for the horror film fan and well worth seeking out.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Haunting 1963

The Haunting 1963
Director: Robert Wise
Writer: Nelson Gidding
Starring Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, Fay Compton, Rosalie Crutchley, Lois Maxwell and Valentine Dyall

When it comes to haunted house films there are few that rival the Haunting. The way it uses mood and atmosphere to ratchet up the horror is palatable. This is a film that works on 2 levels, as a fearful ghost story or a tense psychological thriller. The question every viewer must ask is are the hauntings real or is it all just in Eleanor's head? That is what makes the film such a classic of mood and fear and why it is the benchmark for all ghost stories. While the film is a classic, the remake is a prime example on how to screw everything up. That is why if you even mention the 1999 version I would be surprised if you are not pelted by tomatoes by the fans of the classic original. There are also not so hidden themes of lesbianism with the burgeoning relationship in the film between Eleanor and Theodora. IT is very well though out and it is never too pronounced to turn off viewers, but there is enough of it to make viewers think that something is going on between these two. The character of Eleanor causes the viewer to bounce between feelings of empathy for her to feelings of pitifulness on how wishy washy she is and how she never seems to make a solid conscious decision. Also, the neuroticism of Eleanor makes one think that all the eerie happenstance's of the film are all in her head. That is what makes the film so brilliant is it all real or just a fevered figment of this crazed girl's mind?
The plot basics are this, in a remote area of New England, cut off from all of civilization is Hill House. A house with a long history of strange violence and deaths. Dr. John Markway (Johnson) is going to stay there with some specialists to discover or not if it is truly a haunted house. He brings with him 3 other people, Luke (Tamblyn), Eleanor (Harris) and Theodora (Bloom). Eleanor is there due to her past history with ESP and not soon after, she begins to experience horrifying ordeals within the house. IT becomes unclear if it is all actually happening or if it is all in Eleanor's head. It would seem that Eleanor with her repressed feelings of her deceased mother, who she had been caring for has opened the gateways for the malevolent spirits to taunt and oppress her. It also seems that they want her to stay within Hill House, and the question is will Eleanor be able to withstand them and escape or is she doomed to become another lost soul that is trapped within it's evil walls?
This is a fearful and atmospheric film. Wise's direction is unnerving and you always feel that something dreadful is waiting around the corner to strike at any moment. His direction of Harris and her character's Neuroticism is very tense and you really feel that there is something not quite right with this girl. The script balances the feeling of the story being supernatural or psychological very well throughout. The way the film is seen is all subjective to the psyche of who is viewing it at the time. The character interactions between Eleanor and Theodora has a undercurrent of lesbianism that cannot be denied and make the film all that more gripping to watch. The cast is excellent. Harris really carries the film and makes you feel for Eleanor at times and then others become exasperated with her. Bloom as Theodora is very good too and really forces you to see the flaws of Eleanor. Johnson and Tamblyn are great in what really becomes secondary roles after the bravura performances of the ladies. They bring up the exposition needed to tell the story of the house very well and never do it in a boring way. There is little or no SFX in the film, as everything relies on mood and atmosphere and that is better for a genre film such as this. The score by Humphrey Searle is haunting and very eerie and really accentuates the experience of the film. If you only see one haunted house film this is the one to see.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Grudge 2

The Grudge 2 2006
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Writer: Stephen Susco
Starring Amber Tamblyn, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Arielle Kebbel, Takako Fuji, Edison Chen, Sarah Roemer, Jennifer Beals, Matthew Knight, Misako Uno, Teresa Palmer, Ohga Tanaka, Yuya Ozeki and Christopher Cousins

The genre of Japanese horror remakes is a short but long one in the horror genre and most of these transitions are mind numbingly bad with a few exceptions. Those being the Ring series, Pule and The Grudge series. These are all series that I think work far better in the Americanized versions than they do in the original Japanese versions. I really do not know what it is about the American versions that are better, but I do think they are better paced and flow thematically much better than their Japanese counterparts. I personally find the original versions of the Ring and the Grudge very boring and very hard to sit through. They take way too long to set up the story and it makes the proceedings very boring. The U.S. versions flow much more smoothly and you actually get a feel for the characters that are missing in the original versions. The Grudge 2 is on one those sequels that I feel is equal to what the fist film set out to do. It is just as creepy and eerie as the first one and I liked how it used 3 different storylines and joined them together by the end of the film. It also has a much more American horror film ending, as everything that can end badly does, and I appreciate that. The best horror films work well with a sense of dread and the Grudge 2 uses this very well.
The plot basics are this, it follows immediately from the ending of the first film. In Pasadena Mrs. Davis sends her daughter Aubrey Davis (Tamblyn) to Tokyo to bring back her other daughter Karen Davis (Gellar) back home. She is in isolation at a hospital after burning down a house. After meeting with Karen, she unexpectedly dies and this sets Aubrey on investigating what happened to Karen in Japan. She finds herself being chased by the same vengeful ghost that Karen was pursued by. Elsewhere, in Tokyo 3 high school students are now being chased by the ghost as well, due to a prank 2 of them set on the 3rd one. Meanwhile in Chicago, Trish (Beals) has moved in with her boyfriend Bill (Cousins) and they soon witness strange goings on's within their apartment building, that may be related to the goings on's in Tokyo. As the story progresses it will become clear that all these stories are connected and they will all soon come together.
This is a very creepy and evocative film. The direction by Shimizu is very even handed. He sets up the claustrophobic and fear filled scenes with a deft hand and there is always a sense of dread and sadness tinged into every scene. IT is definitely a film that feels unsettling and it is a feeling you feel long after witnessing the film. The script is quite tight and suspenseful too. It gives you just enough details on what happened in the previous film that a newcomer does not feel lost and a fan of the previous film feels that they have touched on what has gone on before. There are many characters that are juggled throughout the film and the best one has to be Aubrey, as she is given the most development and you care about what happens to her far more than any of the other characters. The cast does a great job too. Tamblyn is very good as Aubrey, she is sympathetic and also very strong willed. Gellar does fine in her limited role in the film, and really serves a purpose with her addition to the film. Beals also does a good job, though her role seems really transitory and rather pointless. The SFX and effects in the film are very ethereal but also very fluid. They work well within the parameters of the film. A film that works more with mood and atmosphere than with blood and guts. The score by Christopher Young also really amplifies the mood of the film and really makes the viewer feels like they are on the edge of their seat throughout the film. This is a great sequel and also one of the best Japanese horror films remade for American audiences out there.
This film gets 4 out of 5

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship 2003
Director: Steve Beck
Writers: Mark Hanlon and John Pogue
Starring Julianna Marguiles, Gabriel Byrne, Ron Eldard, Desmond Harrington, Isaiah Washington, Karl Urban, Alex Demitriades, Emily Browning and Francesca Rettondini

Dark Castle to me always does a fine job of making entertaining horror films and until I saw the recent Orphan this one was by far my favorite one. The film grabs you from it's blood soaked opening and does not let you go till the shocking finale. This is a film that really follows the plot idea of the Shining on the high seas and it really goes with that idea. The film has a utter sense of dread throughout and the viewer really feels that most of the characters stuck in the ship will fare about as well as the spectral apportions that inhabit it. The film is graced with a wonderful cast, a great location and a foreboding sense of dread that permeates the entire film and really drenches the viewer into it's atmosphere. The death scenes are blood curdling shocking and a joy for the gore connoisseur to behold. The film really sues the claustrophobic locale of a eerie and lonesome cruise ship very well and you cannot have chosen a better place for a riveting ghost story than that.
The plot basics are this, Canadian Air Force pilot Jack Ferriman (Herrington recruits a salvage ship to investigate a cruise ship he discovered adrift during one of his routine patrols. Once they arrive they discover a long lost and fabled cruise ship, the Antonia Graza. The ship has been lost at sea for over 40 years and it is quite a find for the salvage crew as they discover a cache of gold bars. This seems all great news to the team, until bizarre things begin happening. It seems that the Graza is besieged by horrific evil that is now trying to tempt and envelop the salvage crew. It all boils down to a battle of unspeakable evil and one strong person in Epps (Marguiles) to combat the horrors of the Graza. She has some help in the form of a little girl's spirit, Katie (Browning). It will all depend on how fortified Epp's strength is, if she survives the ordeal or succumbs to temptation like many others have aboard the Graza.
This is a tense and scary film. Beck's direction is taut and tense. He uses the claustrophobic locale of a dilapidated cruise ship very well. He really sets the stage well in the opening scene of the film and once the viewer falls prey to the carnage, they are mesmerized throughout the film. The script is quite good too. Many of the characters like the Captain of the salvage crew and his right hand man have their own strengths and foibles that come into play throughout the story. The twist at the end on who and what is really behind the diabolical happenings is very well hidden and you do not see it till it is too late. The cast is great as well. Marguiles as Epps is a great lead and she has a great chemistry with Browning who portrays Katie the little girl ghost. Byrne as always is a delight and really brings pathos to his portrayal of the alcoholic Captain. Harrington is very good as the Air Force pilot who hides a dark secret that he plays off very well. The supporting cast of Washington, Eldard and Urban are all very good too. The bit part by Rettondini is also very good, she is both sexy and sinister. The SFX and effects are phenomenal. That opening scene of carnage is amazing, though I have a affinity for the hook through the face scene later on in the film. This is a great haunted ship film that I enjoy more with each viewing and I highly recommend it.
This one gets 4 out of 5