Monday, August 30, 2010

Don't Look Up




Don’t Look Up 2009
Director: Fruit Chan
Writers: Brian Cox and Hiroshi Takahashi
Starring Racheal Murphy, Reshad Strik, Eli Roth, Henry Thomas, Carmen Chaplin, Ben DiGregorio, Kevin Corrigan, Alyssa Sutherland, Luthaire Blouateau and Daniela Sea
This is the latest in a long line of Japanese horror film remakes and this film succeeds in some parts but fails in some others. The premise is good and at first is executed well until it takes a 360 degree turn at the end that totally kills the feel of the film. It has a unique feel, a very cool gothic atmosphere that really works and they just do not use that enough. The film is quite gory too and with a story like this you shouldn’t need gore to push the story ahead but this one does. It has a sotry that reminds me a lot of The Hills Run Red which was a far superior film. The cast was good though, with a nice cameo role by Eli Roth. I also really enjoyed Henry Thomas I the piece. The director is a great Japanese horror director, who did the excellent segment in 3 Extremes called Dumplings, but none of that genius is on display here. This is a film that probably looked good on paper but was a wash when it was filmed.
The plot basics are this, the film opens in Romania where a horror film is being filmed but something bizarre happens and the film is never finished. Flash forward to the present and we meet Marcus Reed (Strik) a director with some personal problems with a ailing ex girlfriend. It seems Marcus sees apparitions and is having mental issues but he receives a phone call from a movie producer (Thomas) to film a new version of this film that was never finished in the 20’s. He heads to Romania and the location is a run down farmhouse and soon strange accidents begin happening. It seems there was some old gypsy curse that plagued the girl the story is based on and it seems to be in full effect here. This leads to a confrontation with the vengeful spirit and Marcus that just ends strangely.
This is just a bizarre film that does not make a lot of sense. Chan’s direction is good, he has a good sense of what works in a gothic horror film. It just seems the film is far too bloody for the type of story it is, its like two halves that just do not fit. The script is not much better, it jumps all over the place and you never get much depth into Marcus’ character which really would have helped the story. The cast is good though. Strik is a good lead who makes you feel his anxiety throughout the film. Thomas is a good counterpoint in the film. I really enjoyed Roth’s bit role in the film. Sea as Tami was very alluring and had a femme fatale feeling to her which I really liked. The SFX and make up effects were great if I feel very unnecessary for a film like this. The score had a very ambient gothic feel that would feel right at home in a Corman Poe film, but just did not work here. This is just a film that failed on many levels as it tried to be like The Grudge but just did not have the right feeling to it.
This one gets 2 out of 5


Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Flashbacks: Body Bags




Body Bags 1993
Directors: John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper and Larry Sulkis
Writers: Billy Brown and Dan Angel
Starring John Carpenter, Tom Arnold, Tobe Hooper, Robert Carradine, Alex Datcher, Peter Jason, David Naughton, Stacy Keach, David Warner, Sheena Easton, Deborah Harry, Mark Hamill, Twiggy and John Agar
Horror anthology films are always fun to watch and Body Bags is no exception. A film that I think was setup to give Showtime its own chance at a show like Tales From the Crypt but it never came to fruition. It is a shame as this is a great vehicle for short horror stories and has a great resume of directors and cast. The film has a light E.C. comics feel to it until the grim and final story in the film. It also has a great narrator and host in the persona of Carpenter. He is really the highlight of the film. All 3 stories are solid, though the middle one “Hair” is the standout. This is one of those films it is just great to put on when nothings going on and you want some good horror entertainment. I would have definitely watched this every week if it had been picked up as a series.
The plot basics are this, in a morgue we mett someone who seems to be a coroner there (Carpenter) and he goes over the bodies and begins to tell stories of what happened to the ones lying there. The first story is about a woman (Datcher) stuck at a secluded gas station while a serial killer is running amok. The 2nd tale is about a man (Keach) who is losing his hair and will do anything to keep from going bald. The final story is about a baseball player (Hamill) who loses his eye and gets a transplant from a unlikely source and how it begins to affect him. This all leads to a ending when you find the Coroner is not who he appears to be.
This is a solid and entertaining anthology. Carpenter’s direction is tight. “The Gas Station” is a solid slasher piece that would fit into any horror comic from the 50’s. While “Hair” is out and out dark comedy that works on every level. Hooper’s segment “The Eye” on the other hand is very dark, grim and unrelenting. The script is very good, the banter that it gives the Coroner is very funny and the writing in “Hair” is golden. While “The Eye” is very dark and depressing, and yet it still somehow works. The film has a solid cast. I especially liked Keach who I think gave one of his best performances as the man who cannot live without his hair. Hamill was good too as the brain addled baseball player who feels he is being taken over by a murderer. Carpenter was really great though as the macabre host and I wanted to see more of him. The SFX and makeup effects in the film are top notch. I especially liked the prosthetics in “Hair”, they were quite bizarre and creepy. The score by Carpenter and Jon Lang has a very creepy and campy feel and is in tone with the film. This is a great anthology film and definitely worth checking out.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thirst



Thirst 2008
Director: Jeffery Scott Lando
Writers: Kurt Volkan and Joel Newman
Starring Lacey Chabert, Mercedes McNab, Tygh Runyan and Brandon Quinn
There are many wilderness survival horror films of late with films like Open Water and Thirst is definitely one of those. It has a very small cast of characters and one central location, a very dry and desolate desert. The director uses both the actors and the scenery very well. Films like this hinge usually on the stupidity of the characters and this one is no different, you do not go into a desert location with only 2 bottles of water that is just plain stupid. The main character in the film is characterized very well and the writing really makes you care for her, not so much for the other characters they just seem like fodder for the story. The use of the ghost wolf in the film is a little strange too, as if they were not sold that the situation that these people find them in would be enough to keep the viewer emotionally vested into the film. I think that is a mistake and is one reason why this film while entertaining is not great like a film like Open Water.
The plot basics are this, two couples are on their way to a secluded desert for a photos hoot as one of the women (McNab) is a model and her boyfriend (Quinn) is her photographer. The other couple (Chabert and Runyan) is along for the ride and having some relationship issues. Their car crashes in the desert and the one girl (Mcnab) receives a concussion and their cell phones seem to have no service and they are stuck in the desolate desert. They eventually decide to try to walk back to civilization which is at least 50 miles behind them. They face many obstacles in their trek for survival not the least being their fighting among themselves and their lack of water to keep them alive.
This is a pretty tense film. Lando’s direction is pretty solid. He sets up the character conflicts pretty well and makes it pretty obvious from the beginning that something is up with Noelle’s character from the get go. The scenes with the wolf and the surgery scene on McNab’s character are done very well and that scene in particular is hard to watch. The script is pretty good as well, you have a solid story arc for Noelle’s character and you totally sympathize with her throughout the film. The rest of the characters are pretty much cannon fodder and they feel that way. The cast does a great job. Chabert portrays a good conflicted heroine and you suffer along with her as you watch the film. McNab is good as Atheria and she is the first casualty in the film and pulls that part off well. The 2 male leads are decent but nothing noteworthy. The SFX in the film are minimal but the scene with the cranial surgery is done very well and painful to watch. The score by Chris Nickel is very haunting and spiritual and definitely has a Native American sound to the piece. This is a solid wilderness survival horror film and well worth a peek.
This one gets 3 out of 5



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Collector




The Collector 2009
Director: Marcus Dunstan
Writers: Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan
Starring Josh Stewart, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth, Juan Fernandez, Karley Scott Collins, Daniella Alonso and Madeline Zima
The moniker “torture porn” seems to be bandied around a lot with modern horror movies. Films like the Saw and Hostel films are prime examples of this genre and I think The Collector falls into this category. Though in my opinion a horror film is just a horror film and this film really delivers a good one. This is a film that combines elements from both The People under the Stairs and Saw and does it splendidly. This film creates some unique traps and a great horror villain and I think it is great that you never discover who the collector is and why he is doing this. The film is genuinely bloody and mean and I really appreciate that in my horror films. The suspense in the film is palatable and grueling and the director is able to hold the tenseness throughout the film and the viewer never knows what to expect throughout the entire film. The film also gives us a great sympathetic hero in Arkin. This is definitely a horror film that delivers and one I will definitely revisit; it has the requisite gore, some nice T and A and a great set up.
The plot basics are this, Arkin (Stewart) is hired to fix the windows at the Chase house in a secluded house in the middle of nowhere in Detroit. Arkin has problems his wife owes money to some loan sharks and desperately needs his help. He wants to help but his payment for the week is not enough. So, he decides to rob the safe of Michael Chase (Burke) to pay off these debts. When he arrives at the house he discovers a twisted maniac has captured the family and set grisly traps all over the house. Now Arkin just wants to find a way out of the house in one piece but discovers their daughter (Collins) needs his help, so he will risk his life to save her and to escape from this house of madness.
This is a fantastic horror film. Dunstan’s direction is solid, he sets up the tension of the house filled with traps really well. The cinematography of the film is flawless and I really loved the scene that used the bear traps to bloody effect. The script is solid as well; you really feel for Arkin’s character and want him to succeed. Even though he is a bad guy he has a good side that you cannot help but root for. The Collector is very mysterious and you never know much about him or why he is doing this and I like that. The cast is quite good. Stewart is a great lead and carries the heroic role very well. Fernandez as The Collector is great too; he never utters a line but really conveys his part with his body language. He reminded me a lot of Kane Hodder’s work as Jason. The brief role by Zima is great too; she is very sexy and very charismatic. The SFX and make up effects in the film are outstanding. I especially loved the bear trap scene; it is by far one of my favorite kills in recent horror films. The score by Jerome Dillon is very dark and gothic and really suits the piece. This is a great horror film and definitely going to make my top list of best horror I have seen this year.
This one gets 5 out of 5


Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Stepfather



The Stepfather 2009
Director: Nelson McCormick
Writer: J.S. Cardone
Starring Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward, Penn Badgely, Amber Heard, Sherry Stringfield, Paige Turco, Jon Tenney and Nancy Linehan Charles
This is yet another remake of a 80’s horror classic and while enjoyable it odes not hold a shine next to the original’s impact. While Walsh is a good villain he really goes bonkers when he loses his composure he just does not have the looniness of Terry O’Quinn. The film is pretty much a play by play remake not counting the lackluster ending. The film really needed a better climax and it really should have used that hand saw in a better and bloody way. I think the best thing about the film is Amber Heard, she is enjoyable to watch and is alos a damn good actress. I also think he should have killed more people and the film took a very leisurely pace and then tried to cram everything in at the end and that just does not work. This is just a remake that does not work on too many levels but it still has some enjoyable moments.
The plot basics are this, David Harris (Walsh) is a man with issues. He is trying to find the perfect family and when he does not succeed he kills the family and moves on to the next one. He finds a new potential wife (Ward) and quickly bonds with her and her family and moves in with her. She has a son, Michael (Badgely) who has just come back from a private school after having some issues and he quickly feels that something is not right with David. He begins to investigate along with his girlfriend (Heard) and sees things that do not add up. Soon, David knows things are not working out and makes his plans to wipe out the family. It is now up to Michael to save his family before something tragic happens.
This is a well done film. McCormick’s direction is solid and he builds the suspense really well. Such as the scene when Michael and Kelly are looking through David’s things and he returns. That was very nerve-wracking. The few kills in the film are done very well too and one of the brighter parts of the film. He also pushes the climax too fast and the whole final act of the film just feels rushed. The script has some problems too, characters are not developed real well and it seems there are a lot of things that happen that are there for no reason other than to move the story along and that is weak writing. The cast is good. Walsh makes a very good stepfather and is great when he goes crazy. Heard is also great as Kelly and is the shining point of the movie for me. It also does not hurt that she is in a bikini for most of the film. The rest of the cast is adequate and keeps the story going. The SFX and make up effects in the film are done well, even though this is mostly a bloodless film. The score is mostly forgettable, like most of this film it does not leave an impression on you. This is a film that is good to while away 90 minutes but I would say stick with the original.
This one gets 3 out of 5




Monday, August 16, 2010

Sorority Row




Sorority Row 2009
Director: Stewart Hendler
Writers: Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger and Mark Rosman
Starring Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Audrina Patridge, Julian Morris, Margo Harshman, Carrie Fisher and Matt O’Leary
This is the latest in the perpetual lines of horror remakes. Now the original House on Sorority Row is one I have not seen, so I cannot compare this to the original, I can just judge it on its own merits, and I think it really succeeds as a solid slasher film. Though it does seem to crib a lot of its plot points from Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, it does it creatively enough that I was pleasantly surprised and entertained with this film. The use of a tire iron as a murder weapon is quite ingenious and is something I had not seen before. The kills were quite creative and bloody too, which I always appreciate. It has a solid cast of beautiful women that really carry the film well, not to mention a great supporting turn by Carrie Fisher that makes the film. This is a fun slasher film that most fans will enjoy, I will just say don’t think about it too much or it may cause your brain to rot. It is just a silly slasher film after all.
The plot basics are this, during a party at the Theta Phi sorority house Megan (Patridge) plays a prank on her cheating boyfriend Garrett (O’Leary). This prank goes awry and Megan’s boyfriend and friends end up killing her and dumping her body in a mine shaft vowing to keep this heinous crime a secret. Flash forward a year later and all the girls are getting ready to graduate and they receive a creepy message via their cell phones that someone knows about what they did with Megan. Soon one by one the girls are getting killed off and now they have to put aside their petty differences and team up if they are going to survive the night and find out who is killing their sisters.
This is a fun and suspenseful slasher film. Hendler’s direction is taut and suspenseful and he keeps the secret of who the killer is well hidden till the very end. He stages the kill sequences very well; I especially liked the scene where Chugs is killed, my personal favorite kill in the film. The script is pretty simple and straight forward with maybe a little too much leaning on the plot tropes of Scream, but it still somehow works. All the characters are all pretty stereotypical and that works in the films favor. The cast is quite good; Evigan is a good lead and very charismatic. Willis as the brainy girl was also quite good. Pipes as the bitchy one was quite believable and you really hated her and could not wait for her to die. My favorite performance though, has to be Carrie Fisher with a shotgun that was a delight to see. The SFX and make up effects were done very well. The film was very bloody and graphic. The blood really flew and that is always a pleasure to see. The score by Lucian Pane was perfect for a slasher film and fit the film really well. It really amped up the tension and suspense in the film. This is not the greatest slasher film ever made, but a damn fun one.
This one gets 4 out of 5



Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Flashbacks: They Live




They Live 1988
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: John Carpenter
Starring Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, Buck Flowers, Peter Jason and Raymond St. Jaques
This is one of Carpenter’s most enjoyable films, with a lead that really relishes the role like his work with Kurt Russell. It is a film that takes a sharp jab at the 80’s Reagan era of “me” and it can still be applied to viewers watching it today. This is a film that moves at a rapid click and never slows down. It is a action film at its heart that plays with some social commentary very knowing. The cast is excellent; Piper is the perfect choice for this film. He has a great chemistry with David and their fight in the alley is legendary and one of my favorite fight scenes in all of films. This is a smart film that makes you think as well as make you jump with all the fun this film entails.
The plot basics are this, John Nada (Piper) is a drifter who lost his job in his hometown and is drifting along looking for work. He finds a job and things are going well till one day he finds a pair of sunglasses. He puts them on and it changes his world. It seems a alien race is using subliminal messages to subvert the human race into doing what they want. Nada finds a underground group of people that know of this uprising and joins them in their plan to topple the aliens. The aliens are 2 steps ahead of them every step of the way. It is up to Nada to find a way to beat his alien oppressors.
This is a awesome film. Carpenter’s direction is tight. The fight sequence in the alley is amazing as well as the finale on the rooftop. The film also has a wicked sense of humor that really plays up the social commentary very well. The script is smart and witty. It really plays up the elitist sense of the aliens and the plight of the down trodden workers. For instance, the mane Nada brings forth connotations of being a nobody. The cast is excellent. Piper is a hard edged and funny hero and has some great line delivery in the film. David is a great foil to him as well, especially during the alley fight. Foster is a nice heroine and romantic lead, and she is very stunning with those green eyes of hers. The SFX and make up in the film is done very well. I especially like the prosthetic look of the aliens with their skull like visage. Carpenter does the score as usual and hits it out of the park. It has a droning effect and kind of beats you down sort of like the alien oppressors in the film. This is a great sf action film and a must see film.
This one gets 5 out of 5


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Crazies



The Crazies 2010
Director: Brock Eisner
Writers: Scott Kosar and Ray Wright
Starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, Christie Lynn Smith, Brett Rickaby, Preston Bailey and John Aylward
Romero is a benchmark name in horror films so it is always with trepidation I see a remake of one of his films. Luckily, The Crazies is one of his lesser known works that could have benefited by an updating, as the original is a sluggish and very leisurely paced film. With Eisner directing I was not sure how it would turn out though since his last film Sahara was not the greatest film I had seen. But after watching The Crazies it seems he has a really deft hand when it comes to making horror and suspense films. This is a film that combines 2 types of films, the horror film with the road picture and does it effortlessly well. This is a film that knows where it is going and it has a sense of what it takes to scare and unnerve the viewers. It has some great scares and a excellent cast that propels the film at a rapid click. This definitely is a good horror film that uses the topic of viral outbreaks really well.
The plot basics are this, in a small town a plane crashes with a viral agent that infects the water. This viral agent is a hybrid form of rabies that causes anyone to ingest it to go mad dog insane. The sheriff (Olyphant) of this small town investigates and soon the whole town is under quarantine and his wife (Mitchell) is taken into custody. So, along with his deputy (Anderson) he goes and breaks her out and tries to get to a safe point out of the town away from the outbreak. Along the way they have to deal with dangers springing up all around them and within each other if they hope to survive in one piece.
This is a taut and suspenseful film. The direction by Eisner is tight. I especially liked the scene in the car wash that was both creepy and suspenseful. He also elevated the tension and the suspense during the diner scene at the end of the film. He has a very good feel for what works in a horror film and shoots it beautifully. The script is simple and fluid. The story takes no time in getting started and once the action begins to fly it does not let up till the climax. The cast is superb too, Olyphant is a great heroic protagonist and you are always pulling for him. Mitchell is a great co lead and one of my favorite genre actresses today. Anderson as the deputy is quite good too and I like how he slowly but surely unravels. He plays a unhinged personality very well. The SFX and make up effects in the film are quite good and bloody. The scene with the knife in the throat is done very well. The score and music used in the film really plays up the sense of desolation and despair in the film. It really makes you feel that there is little or no hope for the characters. This is a superior remake and far better than Romero’s original film.
This one gets 4 out of 5



Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Wolfman (Unrated Cut)




The Wolfman (The Unrated Cut) 2010
Director: Joe Johnston
Writers: Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self
Starring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Michael Cronin, David Sterne and Jessica Manley
I am a big werewolf fan and I was really looking forward to this new take on a seminal horror classic. This one did not disappoint, I liked how it stayed true to its Victorian era and did not try to update it. With a film like this you expect them to tone it down too and they did not do that. This is quite a bloody affair and it suits the tone of the tale, This is by far the best werewolf film I have seen since Dog Soldiers. The film is shot beautifully and I truly loved the transformation sequences that combined practical effects with CGI seamlessly. Another great thing about the film was that it had genuine actors in the film and they all brought their A game to the material. I never saw the theatrical cut and I have heard it had problems but in the unrated cut I saw I did not see any problems with the film. In fact, what I saw was a flawlessly tracing horror film that really does hearken back to the classic days of Universal horror films. This is a film that takes its time to develop the story and you do not actually see the first transformation to well almost an hour into the film and this time it takes is a nice change from most modern horror films. This is what makes this film such a pleasure to watch it really takes its time and lets you enjoy the characters before the horror begins to envelop them, so you actually sympathize with them.
The plot basics are this, it is 1891 and Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro) is a famed actor in America when his brother’s fiancée Gwen (Blunt) comes to seek his help as his brother has vanished. So, he returns to his ancestral home in England to find his brother has been killed by some kind of wild beast. Lawrence is reunited with his estranged father and hunts down the beast who attacked his brother and is himself attacked. He soon discovers that he has been attacked by a werewolf and when the full moon comes he will also transform and attack people with a bloodthirsty ferocity. He will soon find the dark secret his father is hiding and Lawrence will have to fight his dark urges and try to put a stop once and for all the monstrosity that is laying siege upon his homeland.
This is a dark and gritty and atmospheric horror film. Johnston’s direction of the piece is very intense and really suits the tone of the film. The visuals of the film are amazing and suits the film well. The chase scenes of the Wolfman are phenomenal and I love how he bounded from building to building while the Inspector chased him. The script is very masterfully done too. The viewer really delves into the characters of Lawrence and his father and you really sympathize with Lawrence and his dilemma and you also feel the budding relationship between him and Gwen. The cast is phenomenal. Del Toro really inhabits the role of Lawrence and I especially loved the scene where he was on display for all the doctors to witness. Hopkins plays oily evil as splendidly as he always does and is a delight to watch. Blunt is a great romantic interest and carries her role with weight. Weaving as Inspector Aberdline is a great foil to the werewolf and is a delight to watch as well. The SFX and make up effects in the film are amazing. The transformation sequences by Rick Baker are amazing to watch and the Wolfman is terrifying to look upon. The score by Danny Elfman is very dark and gothic and suits the material well. His music during the chase sequences is very operatic and fitting. This is destined to be a classic werewolf film and stands impressively next to the original Wolfman film as a true epic horror film.
This one gets 5 out of 5


Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Flashbacks: Hellraiser




Hellraiser 1987
Director: Clive barker
Writer: Clive Barker
Starring Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman, Oliver Smith, Robert Hines, Doug Bradley and Grae Kirby
When you think masters of modern horror two names immediately spring to mind, Stephen King and Clive Barker. Hellraiser is Barker’s most famous and still the best of all his cinematic creations. It is still a sick and depraved film to this day and that is why it has stood the test of time and spawned so many sequels. This is a film that uses the philosophy sex equals death to the nth degree. Everything that happens in this film has horrendous actions and nothing good ever comes out of any of it. This is a pulpy and blood drenched film that is a delight to watch on all levels. From the direction, the visuals, the acting and the fantastic gore effects. What is really astonishing is with so very few scenes Pinhead just owns this film. Sometimes the adage “less is more” is the way to go. It is a film that really plays with the S/M motif and it works quite well. This is a film that does not shy away from the naughty bits; in fact it makes you leer at them like you are looking at a passing car wreck.
The plot basics are this, a man (Robinson) and his wife (Higgins) move into a old house. The wife finds a hideous creature upstairs who it is reveled to be her husband’s brother who she had a illicit affair with. It seems he lost his body to a trio of demons but has found a way back and he needs her to bring peole so he can kill them and rebuild his body. The daughter, Kirsty (Laurence) of the husband does not trust her and soon discovers what she has been doing and discovers this puzzle box that started the whole nightmare. She opens the box and makes a deal with the demons that appear that she will help them get Frank back if she leaves her and her father alone. Kirsty will need all of her wits if she is going to survive both her demonic uncle and the demons on her heel.
This is a groundbreaking horror film. The direction by Barker is visually arresting. The scene where Frank first appears and reassembles himself is disgusting but you are forced to watch it. He really creates a dark tone for the film and really plays with the dysfunctional family dynamic. The script is dark and smart. Kirsty is a smart heroine that you cannot help but root for and Pinhead is one of the most original horror creations created in the last 20 years. The cast is superb. Robinson is a great lead and is especially great when he makes the turn to the dark side. Higgins is great too; she is somehow menacing, sexy and repulsive at the same time, a hard act to pull off. Laurence is a great heroine and the one character you sympathize throughout in the film. Bradley as Pinhead though really steals the show with the brief scenes he is in. When you think back on the film you think he is involved far more than he actually is. The SFX and make up effects are phenomenal. I especially like it when Frank is torn apart at the film’ climax. That is a scene I can replay again and again. The score by Christopher Young is both haunting and sexy, 2 things this film accomplishes very well. This is not a film for everyone, but those who love the dark side of horror will have a real treat on their hands when they seek it out.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Legion



Legion 2010
Director: Scott Charles Stewart
Writers: Peter Schink and Scott Charles Stewart
Starring Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson, Adrianne Palicki, Willa Holland, Kate Walsh, Kevin Durand, Charles S. Dutton, Dennis Quaid and Jon Tenney
Christian themed horror films are a hard thing to pull off very well, the best examples of good ones are The Exorcist, The Prophecy and The Omen. There is a long list of failed ones though like the remake of the Wicker Man. I am sad to say that Legion falls into the latter category. This film stole so many ideas from better films but did not bother to add anything to make these ideas their own. It borrowed from The Prophecy, Night of the Living Dead and The Terminator and it does it haphazardly. The film has a strong opening act but ultimately falls apart the deepr it tries to explain the story. The only thing that saves this from being a miserable viewing experience is the acting chops of Bettany, Dutton and Quaid. They are at least a pleasure to watch. I think the worst offense this film makes is by over simplifying everything and thinking that all the viewers are idiots. Most viewers have intelligence and it never pays off to insult that intelligence and this film is just a slap in your face to your brain and that is why it fails.
The plot basics are this, a diner in the middle of the desert becomes the final battleground between humanity and God. It seems God has decided to purge the earth of humanity once again like he did with the flood because he does not like what he sees. The archangel Michael (Bettany) disobeys God’s command and decides to help the ragtag group of human survivors left at this diner because he believes that one pregnant girl (Palicki) is carrying the answer to humanity’s problems. All of these people must band together to fight the Angels that are coming to wipe them out, but they will have to deal with their own insecurities if they have any chance for survival.
This is just a badly done film. Stewart does fine with the horror and action sequences; it is with the character scenes he fails miserably. There is no depth of feeling to the characters so you really do not care what happens to anyone. The script is just as bad, it just steals from other films blatantly. The worst example is the ending which is a tell tale copy of the ending of The Terminator, it is just sloppy filmmaking. The cast is not much better Palicki is a horrible actress and you never feel for her plight. The only saving grace is the acting of Bettany he acts like he is in a Shakespearean production and it does elevate the material somewhat. Quaid and Dutton are great in their small parts too, but it is not enough to save the film. The SFX and make up effects in the film are quite good. The best sequence was the one in the first act with the crab crawling old lady that was quite creepy. It was just a shame that they couldn’t keep up the façade of a good film after that. The score did not help much either, it was just forgettable. So, if you want to see a good end of the world Christianity horror film see The Prophecy instead.
This one gets 2 out of 5

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Daybreakers



Daybreakers 2009
Directors: Michael Spierig and Peter Speirig
Writers: Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Starring Ethan Hawke, Willem DaFoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, Isabel Lucas, Vince Coloismo and Harriet Minto-Day
Vampires are the in thing it seems with product like Twilight and True Blood and a lot of the product seems to go for the soft sell like Twilight and all it’s ilk. Thankfully, Daybreakers puts a new twist on the vampire genre and runs with it well. The idea that vampires have become the dominant species on Earth is a compelling one and makes for an intriguing story. The way the story is set up it seems that vampires have become the elite class of the world. And if they resemble any faction in modern day life it is the Republicans with their way of thinking. Humans are just cattle and that is all they are good for to them. And like any elite group this group has a underground swelling that is trying to unseat them and they do not cotton to that at all. This is a smart film that makes you think at the same time it thrills you. It has a great visual style and a solid cast of actors to bring full life to the characters. The film is also very bloody; it does not shy away from splashing it across the scene. This is a nice change of pace film that is aimed toward real vampire film fans who like to see their vampires ripping people’s throats out.
The plot basics are this, it is the year 2019 and the world is now governed by vampires and only 5% of the human population remains. This is a major thorn in the vampires blood supply, so they have a scientist, Edward Dalton (Hawke) trying to come up with a blood alternative for when they run out of humans. He is running out of time though as it seems that vampires who are not getting enough blood start to mutate and cannibalize their own blood supply. It also seems Edward is sympathetic to the humans’ plight and is soon helping them to find a cure for vampirism and this does not go over well with his boss (Neill). This leads to a dramatic showdown where every ones life will become turned upside down.
This is a visually dynamic film. The direction by the Spierig Brothers is very magnetic. Especially during the prinmal vampires attacks, it brings an intensity to the screen that is unmatched in any other recent vampire film. The script is tight as well. There is just enough depth given to the characters, so much so that you actually sympathize with Sam Neill’s character and his dealings with his daughter. The cast is solid. Hawke as always plays a good sympathetic hero. Neill is a swarthy villain that you still somehow sympathize with. DeFoe as usual steals every scene he is in and really makes the film worthwhile to watch. The SFX and effects in the film are amazing, I especially loved when the one vampire explodes after being subjected to the blood substitute. The score by Christopher Gordon is haunting and melancholy and really works in setting the tone of the up hill battle the heroes face in this universe. This is one of the better vampire films to come out in some time and well worth seeing.
This one gets 4 out of 5




Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Descent Part 2



The Descent Part 2 2009
Director: Jon Harris
Writers: J. Blakeson, James McCarthy and James Watkins
Starring Shauna MacDonald, Natalie Mendoza, Krysten Cummings, Douglas Hodges, MyAnna Buring and Adam Harvey
The original Descent is one of the most original and terrifying horror films of recent years and any sequel would have a lot to live up too. Luckily, The Descent Part 2 delivers on all counts. The film picks up right where the first film left off and the way the story develops follows a lot of the same rhythms of Aliens, but that is not a bad thing. It really works for the flow of the story. The direction by Harris is just as claustrophobic as it was in the original and it has some great gore scenes and genuine scares to make the film the total package. The only thing that hampers the film is the ending, it seemed rather futile and pointless and really the film would have been much better if it had ended 30 seconds earlier. This is a thrill ride of a horror film and is a fine sequel to the original film.
The plot basics are this, Sarah Carter (MacDonald) emerges from the cave almost driven insane. She ends up in a hospital and is unable to logically explain what happened to all her friends, she is forced to go with a rescue team back into the caverns and show them what happened. As they delve deeper into the caverns, Sarah begins to have nightmarish visions of what happened to her and her friends in the cave. At first, the team thinks she killed her friends and is making up some outlandish story, but it soon becomes clear that the deformed and monstrous Crawlers are indeed real and soon everyone is fighting for their own survival. It will take all of Sarah;s courage to survive this 2nd onslaught of the creatures and she will have to become as bloodthirsty as them if she wants to survive the day.
This is a tense film. Harris’ direction is very taut and claustrophobic throughout the entire film. He builds up the tension to a fever pitch for many of the scenes. I especially liked when they had to lop off the Sherriff’s hand in order to save themselves that was really brutal and shocking. The script was tight too, it gave you just enough characterization to get the story going and from there it moved at a break neck speed. The interaction between Juno and Sarah when they met again was intense and one of the finest scenes of the film. The only thing that hurts the film is the nonsensical ending; I am still scratching my head over that. The cast is excellent. MacDonald and Mendoza are great and bring a feverish madness to their performances. Cummings is also great as the new heroine in the film, who also finds her inner rage to combat the Crawlers. The SFX and make up effects in the film are amazing as well. I loved the look of the Crawlers, they were quite grotesque and believable looking. The score by David Julyan is quite good too, it adds too the ambience of the suspense and claustrophobia in the film. The only thing that keeps this from being a perfect film is the ending, which still annoys me. It was like they wanted a twist ending just for no other reason but because they could do it. This is still a hell of a good horror movie, though.
This one gets 4 out of 5