Monday, September 29, 2008

Dellamorte, Dellamore (1994; Michele Soavi)

Wow, as a way to piss on my own parade, I am reviewing a horror movie. I didn't really mean to play it out that way, but I think of it as a way to express my power over this site. I am the all powerful one here, and I can break any rules I set for myself.

Francesco Dellamorte runs the cemetery in a town. He is such a private person, that when the dead start to rise, he chooses to keep it between him and his mentally ill companion, then to tell the world and get help.

This just so happens to be one of my favorite zombie films ever created. While still a zombie film, it has it's own branch of originality in it's story telling. This is not a zombie outbreak, but a zombie containment scenario. As a horror-comedy, it has the feel of a classic zombie film, with the environment beautifully constructed and plenty of gratuitous violence and nudity, while at the same time it has the comedy blended into the dialogue and scenarios so perfectly it never feels forced into the movie. The dark tone of the humor makes sure that it never needs to reconstruct it's tense nature whenever they want to throw some more zombies into the mix.

The cinematography, while obviously inspired by the countless other successful zombie films before it, makes a mark of it's own with "natural" shake in many of the walking shots and several sweeping shots and "uniquely" placed still shots. I say "unique" because while obviously all of these ideas have been done before (for the most part), it is mastering the timing of when to use all the shots. This applies to all of my reviews. I have to spell it out now because some people felt confused, as if all I wanted in my movies were ridiculous camera moves and anything else was simply too boring.

The small complaint I have with this film is simply that for some reason or another, Francesco feels somewhat absent. I can't help but feel slightly disconnected from his motivations and actions. You do love the character, but it feels as if we are missing a small dimension to make him a complete person.

Score: 4.5/5

Notes: Zombie Love, Zombie Children, and Zombie Boobs

The Ladykillers (2004; Joel & Ethan Coen)

Ah, how I do love the Coen Brothers. I am sure it won't take me long to get most of their movies up, so to at least bring a flimsy curtain of variation in my reviews, I am going to simply scramble the order in which they are reviewed as to keep you guessing which Coen film is next. How exciting.

A widely different group of people are brought together by a "ring leader" of sorts (Tom Hanks with an obnoxiously funny laugh) to try and rob a casino in a small Mississippi town. I know I have been shying from horror lately, but that is just to prevent this site from being bogged down in it and nothing else. I have a feeling an influx of horror reviews will come soon after as I will feel that I have neglected the genre, but whatever. It's my site.

In this venture into cinema, the Coen's managed to once again take "bad" people and make them lovable. Everyone will find at least one of the gentlemen they can bond with and enjoy. Each one is frequently making the best (for us) of each situation as we laugh at what they will do for money. It even includes my favorite Coen trademark; the repeated lines of dialogue.

The camera feels a tad bit uninspired for a Coen film, but only a tad. Not like moving from a $600,000 home to a $100,000 home, more of a $600,000 to a $550,000 (you lose your added garage space or a few extra outlets in the basement). The score fits wonderfully with the setting and never out stays it's welcome.

As for criticisms, the ending was sort of seen from a mile away, and while not always a bad thing, it just seemed too generic, like as if you see a pretty blonde girl, only to approach her and find out her shirt says "I'm a princess". Sure, she is still pretty, but having that worn down attitude makes it a little less attractive.

And no, it isn't just you. I did use two long winded analogies in one review.

Score: 4/5

Notes: Yes, he did bring his bitch to the Waffle Hut.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

TV Shows Pt. II

I have been exceedingly lazy lately, so I thought I would at least try to contribute something to this blog before this month ends. So now I will show you three more television shows you need to watch.

1. Shark (2006; Ian Biederman): This seems like your basic law show, except for the fact that it is amazing. I feel there is a lot more dimension added to "Shark" as a character then what most law shows put into theirs, as well as the fact that this show puts a lot of stress on the many loopholes and flaws in our current system.

2. The Big Bang Theory (2007; Chuck Lorre & Bill Prady): While this is a relatively new show, it has shown that it is loaded to the brim with potential. Every episode is full of original humor with some very memorable characters.

3. The Universe (2007; Discovery Channel): Yeah, there is no creator listed, so I just put the channel. I thought I would stray off the beaten path and list a very interesting (and sometimes annoyingly dumbed down) show about what we are constantly learning about the Universe we live in. If you are a fan of science, give it a whirl.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dnevnoy Dozor (2006; Timur Bekmambetov)

Yes, I have very obvious trends to where most of my reviews go. Which brings me to, yes, I know I skipped Alien, but there is a reason for that. The reason is unimportant, just showing you that I am in fact, aware.

The Great Ones have come, so who will win the battle of light and dark? That really is as deep as I need to go about it. Sure, I could explain who does what and when they do it, but that is what watching the movie is for. It's like I am trying to tell you about a pie, and I convince you that it is a delicious pie. I then proceed to eat the pie, leaving you nothing to experience for yourself. I don't want to be the guy who steals your pie. That is just wrong.

Most of what applies about the cinematography and special effects from the Nochnoy Dozor review applies to this film as well, just toned down a slight degree.

However, this film picks up what the first left off and improves upon it. This film drops the clutter that apparently left a lot of people leaving the first with a bad taste in their mouth. This helps the film flow more smoothly for most, and leaves plenty of space in the movie for something very important. The development of character. We get a much deeper look into a lot of the characters from the first movie, adding another dimension to the enjoyment of the film.

The streamlining of this film, plus the added emotional dimension, knocks this film up to...

Score: 4.5/5

Notes: Sex Change, Transsexual

Nochnoy Dozor (2004; Timur Bekmambetov)

Why do I use the original Russian title? Because that is the first title I heard when I first learned about this movie, and I believe it sounds a lot better then "Night Watch". There is nothing wrong with the English title, I just think Nochnoy Dozor steps up the bad ass..ness? (ity?) one more notch.

So the supernatural world in split into two halves, the bad guys and the good guys. In order to end the constant war they fought, they decided to reach an agreement. The bad guys would set up the Day Watch, which would regulate the good guys, and the good guys would set up the Night Watch, which would regulate the bad guys. I use the terms "good guys" and "bad guys" loosely, because a main theme... oh wait... I am supposed to save this for later. I am too impatient with this step, time to speed it up. Modern day, fighting, something, movie ends.

Alright, now, I use those terms loosely because a portion of the film feels dedicated to showing that just because their titles might try to imply their motives, you can never be too sure.

The entirety of this film has a very fresh and unique feel. Aspects of certain mythical creatures (Vampires, for example) are created to add a new depth. A new world for the supernatural is created (with it's own cinematography) to explain the movies own mythology. The construction of the supernaturals entering and exiting the natural world feels smooth and understandable. The characters are not dressed up all pretty (sorry, no mall goth heart throb vampires) as to the point of being ridiculous.

The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. We trace through the wires of a doorbell as it rings, we follow a bolt as it falls from an airplane and ends it's trip inside an apartment of one of the important characters. The camera shifts between steady mid-range dialogue shots, to shaky, almost natural, face shots.

One part of this movie that is very uncharacteristic of me is the fact that I enjoy the computer animations used in the film. Computer animations play a large role (due to the subject matter) but the effects never kill the mood and tone that is already set.

If I had to find a weak point in the film, it might be that while genuinely enjoyable, most people would find the cluster of new ideas to be a little too chaotic. Chaotic to the degree that some aspects of the film lose a lot of the impact that was intended. While this flaw depends largely on the person and can be corrected with a second or third viewing, a movie deserving a ten should not have to defend itself with more then one sitting.

Score: 4/5

Notes: Naked Owls, Supernatural Abortion

Friday, September 19, 2008

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975; Milos Forman)

I figured I would throw in some more old movies for you to enjoy. Keep up a little variety on here.

A criminal convinces the system he is mentally ill and get into an asylum. He then slowly bonds with the real mentally ill as he plans his escape out.

I am going to try and be hip again by changing my style up a little. The first part I am going to comment on is the performances by all the actors. Absolutely superb. They are all completely flawless and believable, and never feel like they are pushing their part too far. On a character study such as this, it really was essential to believe the bonds of the people in the hospital.

The camera is pretty plain, but at the same time well executed plain. While sticking with pretty generic angles, the shots have a wonderful sense of balance to almost (but not quite) make up for it. The score is a lot of fun, and seems to lend a lot to the tone of each scene as they play out.

Since it has been coming up in several reviews, I would like to point out that this is a good example of how to craft a longer movie. The pace is kept solid without ever tapering off or speeding up. Twists in the story keep the movie fresh, and it never feels obvious (and at the same time, never feels too spontaneous). That doesn't mean boring thriller twists, just general changes in the direction of the story. If it had a twist such as split personality, I don't think I could give it a score even remotely close to...

Score: 4/5

Notes: Indian Chief, Lobotomy, and Basketball

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dr. Strangelove (1964; Stanley Kubrick)

I guess the only thing I really have to say here is that look how old this movie is, and yet still rings so true.

To the complete basics of it all, this film shows how easy it might be for a nuclear war to break out on accident. Obviously this film, due to it's age, is against the Russian Communists, however the main idea behind it still has a feel of familiarity. By the way, the entire thing is a satire, and is probably one of the greatest comedies ever written.

It almost feels as if every joke or gag in this film is gold. One of Peter Sellers' three characters is most likely the funniest part of the film, while his other two are mainly used to feed the hilarity of others. Every single important person in this film is so uniquely different and three dimensional that it is astounding. This is to such a degree that you almost feel that none of the characters overlap in any manner.

The camera is not shy at all, using one of Kubrick's favorite moves (face shots) quite frequently. The score is optimistically patriotic, which flows perfectly with the satire and chaos as it unfolds before us.

One day I am planning to extend my Top Ten into a Top Twenty, and you can bet your ass that this will find it's way onto that list.

Score: 5/5

Notes: Purity of Essence, Fluoridation of Water, Precious Bodily Fluids

The Pianist (2002; Roman Polanski)

One thing.

1. I am not just going to give points to the movie because it touches a sensitive event. Just because the movie is about a jew in World War II, doesn't mean I am going to treat it like one. That is probably how it got it's Oscars.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way, I can begin. Brody's character (I could never remember how to spell his name, so I won't even try) is one of the most amazing piano players alive, but he is also a jew in Poland. Oh, and Germany has invaded. Oh, and it's during World War II. I am sure I don't have to explain the rest of the movie to you (oh, and there is a lot of it).

It has become apparent to me that people who adore this film bash on younger people like me who didn't enjoy this film because my generation is apparently the "A.D.D." generation, and we need violence, boobs, and short movies or else they aren't good.

Fuck you.

They are defending a movie that was created with racial stereotyping by using stereotyping. I gave "12 Angry Men" a 10/10. "Kingdom of Heaven" is also a 10/10 (three and a half hour movie). Just because I feel Roman Polanski didn't fully weave a masterpiece (and what a task it is to weave a two and a half hour movie like this) doesn't mean I am some hyperactive little joke of a child.

I have commented on long movies before, and let me give all the credit in the world to Polanski for this daring attempt. However, so many characters and so many scenes just feel so... inconsequential to the movie as a whole. You can sit there and film tragedy all day, but that doesn't mean it will be heart wrenching. When you are using these things in a film, you have to know when to put it to an end. Due to this very lengthy string of events, the film itself winds up extremely uncompelling. It could have had so much more power if he would have cut out just a half an hour.

I feel I could go on more about that, but I will cut it short as to prevent this review from taking the same tragic course the film did. The camera was crystal clear, with an effective use of lighting, and a clear eye for what he wants. The effects used are flawless and he never gets too ambitious as to detract from the reality of the subject matter.

So while Polanski clearly still has a keen eye and more talent then most, I feel he grew too ambitious, and felt too attached to the subject (he was in (Poland, I think) when these events took place) to actually cut out what he normally would have gladly done for anything else that wasn't so personal. This not only leads to a lengthy film and lessened impact, it leads to less replay-ability and a score of...

Score: 3/5

Notes: Tin Can of Food, Won Three Oscars (once again, you would be surprised how much that works)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007; Colin Strause & Greg Strause)

Round Two: Let's see if these guys can do a better job.

Same story, different people. Moving on...

I am going to start by addressing my two main issues with the first AVP. The Predator (singular now) has no emotions this time around. It is using any means necessary to make sure nothing knows what is going on. This leads to the Predator killing as many humans as Aliens. That is good.

The second issue was the gore. This problem was also addressed with the sequel. Heads were getting blown off all over the place, and it was glorious. They could have done more, but what they had was sufficient enough to satisfy most fans... including me.

Now, even with those problems fixed, a whole new slew of problems arose. This one takes place in a town, which leads to them adding a whole mix of stereotyped humans. These people are found to be an extreme annoyance. A fair amount of our precious time is spent getting us invested in each person, but they are so bland and two dimensional it just feeds your irritation.

Some small complaints are as follows. The Predator is not the hunter it once was. While it is back to being a bad ass, it loses it's hunter instinct. It simply walks right into the Alien hot spots and starts blasting away. There is a political message that is not only felt throughout the movie, they felt the need to drive it home with awkwardly placed dialogue to spell it all out just in case it wasn't obvious enough.

There is one quick positive I want to brush up on before I finish. This film brought a few nice additions to the mythologies of both of the races without adding anything new that might make explaining why it wasn't used in previous films very difficult. There is also a nice touch with the original Predator soundtrack placed briefly in certain spots to add a little something to make us feel comfortable.

Score: 2/5

Notes: Battle of the Pregnancies, Predalien (or Aliator)

Alien vs. Predator (2004; Paul Anderson)

Yeah, that's right. I thought I would stick to a theme, so here it is. I barely remember watching this film way back in 2004. All I can remember clearly is hating it, and watching everyone else hate it. So after watching Predator again, I felt that I should give it another go and see if I would become this movie's knight in shining armor.

There isn't much to tell. The Predators brought the Aliens to Earth as part of a game. It was so they could hunt the ultimate prey on a planet that they could destroy in case they lost.

I just want to say, first off, that I loved that idea. It was almost Hollywood's answer to the people who believe that aliens created the Earth and taught humans, etc. I just really enjoyed the Predator's story as the ultimate hunter, and that we just get caught up in the crossfire.

I am going to take this movie for what it was meant to be, a fan boy movie. Paul Anderson made sure this film was loaded with goodies featured in other movies (a lot of similar camera shots, etc...) and for that, I applaud him. To a purely fan boy approach, I believe Anderson did a... decent job.

The humanization of the Predator is what bugs me the most. The ultimate hunter is not one who has emotions. The Predator is a tactically superb, ruthless killer. This movie pisses all over that, making them to be some creature we are suppose to care for. Hell, I get the idea that these aren't Predators that have passed their test, but come on. The Aliens got a little better treatment, as they are the same disgusting, gooey beasts we have always known them to be. The perfect adaption as a survivor.

The second biggest flaw in this fan boy movie is the gore. Why is it a problem? There is none. I mean, sure, there is some space creature blood, but that is it. When I see these movies I want fountains of human blood everywhere. That is just something that he should have understood.

The score is uninteresting. It carries the film, but is ultimately uninspiring. The camera feels the same way. It carries the film the whole way, but really doesn't make good use of the claustrophobic temple that most of the film is shot in. I get the idea that this movie is supposed to make all of us fan's happy, but that doesn't excuse you from being boring and plain.

So with his heart in the right place, but his vision skewed, I leave you with a (somewhat forgiving)...

Score: 2/5

Notes: Aliens, Predators, and No Fucking Blood

P.S. Feels good to have a low score again.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Predator (1987; John McTiernan)

Okay, I have to get this off my chest. This movie is simply the epitome of a man's movie. You have huge explosions. You have men walking through the middle of battlefields without any cover. You have completely unnecessary weapons the size of the men themselves. Witty one-liners while killing people. Every part of this movie screams manly.

Group of hard ass rescue soldiers right out of body builders weekly are called in to rescue a diplomat. The rescue mission goes wrong, and the "forest comes alive".

Everyone who has been consciously aware of life around them pretty much knows this film, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't review it anyway. People who have trouble with the fact that this is a very exaggerated, manly movie might want to just stop reading the review here.

The film, for what the stereotypes are worth, are in fact well acted, and do give personalities to what seem like pretty two dimensional characters. The soundtrack and score are pretty much right on with it's generation. The camera is pretty basic; sitting still with dialogue and sweeping with gun fights. However, it does have a few moments (running in front of one of the men) and due to what the film calls for (pretty much a monster flick), it doesn't need to be anything more then that.

The effects are, while not quite up to date, plenty to carry the story along, and by no means bad enough to distract from the tension and claustrophobia. Speaking of claustrophobia, the films environment is very well constructed. Even though the entire film is shot in a wide open jungle, we can't help but feel trapped with the manly men as they find themselves cornered in the open. They have everywhere to run, but nothing to gain from it.

Score: 4/5

Notes: Big Guns, Manly Men, and Explosions

TV Shows

I have contemplated for a very long time about whether I would attempt to make reviews of television shows or not. If I chose to, would I separate reviews by seasons? After much contemplation, I decided it would be too hard to effectively summarize television shows without leaking too much to make it sound interesting. However, as I feel television shows are too important to just completely pass over, I decided I would make several posts with names of shows I feel people should not live without. I believe I will do three a post. Here we go...

Six Feet Under (2001; Alan Ball): This is probably my favorite television series of all time. After I finished watching it all, I felt as though I missed all of the characters. As if I had just lost a best friend...

2. House (2004; David Shore): This is a well known show, so I don't feel I have to express much about it.

3. Twin Peaks (1990; David Lynch & Mark Frost): This is a very forgotten show by many it seems, and that is a great shame. While I am a very rare breed (a David Lynch hater), I feel this show is easily one of the greatest shows to grace the screen, and the one exception to my hatred for Lynch (so far).

That length feels about right, so with that, I shall end my first exploration of television.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Burn After Reading (2008; Joel & Ethan Coen)

This review will be biased. I have a very strong... fondness for the Coen Brothers.

Look at them! Don't you just want to run up and take them...

Burn After Reading. Okay, so, in the most basic degree (very basic) a group of very dumb gym employee's (and owner) get a hold of a disc that previously belonged to an CIA agent (Malkovich with exceptional brilliance). They decide they should try and get some money off of the transaction, because as far as they are concerned, it could be one of the most important documents to exist in the USA.

To bring some excitement to this site, I am going to start employing new styles to keep things fresh. I will be hip. To launch this new wave of hip, I am going to change the order. I will start with the camera.

The camera, in true Coen form, stays reliably fresh, always seeming to find all the right corners at all the right times. Excitingly explorative (not a real word, it turns out), yet in a simple and consice manner.

The biggest problem I had with this film was the beginning. The first thirty minutes felt like a very slow drag into what is supposed to be (I assume) a faster paced film. Some of their jokes are not as succesful as I would have hoped, yet not complete duds either.

Back to positive now (told you I am hip). The dialogue, also true to Coen fashion, has their traditional awkward feel, which seems to always add to their dark comedy tones. Next point is, while I am sure this will get me crap, that I found the... structure of the film well crafted. The constant feeling of a grand scheme building up, yet there really is nothing to build. I felt that, while most likely leaving most people disappointed or frustrated, really was the genius behind the film.

So with a most likely violent shit storm for doing this, I give this film a...

Score: 4/5

Notes: Dildo Throwing, Nathaniel Fisher Sr. (that one is for me)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

13: Game of Death (2006; Chukiat Sakveerakul)

Oh boy, my first review from Thailand. How exotic.

Alright, so, this guy with glasses. Right there. Maybe there? Wherever he is. He is a failure. His girlfriend had recently dumped him, he just lost his job, etc... Life sucks. So he gets a call from these people (whom I shall dub as "X"). X says they are willing to pay him money for each of their 13 games he completes, but if he doesn't make it all the way until the end, he loses everything he made. He agrees and the game is on.

This film is quite the little trickster. If it weren't for the new name (Games of Death), at the beginning you would have no idea what this film turned into. It is very well constructed to lead you from a few innocent little games to the high stakes games near the end of the film.

13: Game of Death is as much as a character study as it is a horror film. We observe the change in behavior as our lead man is forced into all sorts of demeaning behaviors that eventually lead to very heavy police involvement.

The score was sort of bland, yet seemed to flow well with most of the movie. The camera was fairly adventurous, but never pushed too far beyond the safe zone. The special effects near the end really killed a lot of the impact the finale brought to us.

I should also point out that with this film, I am sure you could find one hundred or so things that don't really add up, but none of those one hundred things are even remotely important. This movie brings to mind The Game (1997 David Fincher). After it is all over, does it really matter how the company remained on top of everything? Nope. It is the same deal here. We are treated to a very nice character study of a man playing to the whims of others for money, and the side effects that carry with the man as he passes each test.

Score: 3/5

Notes: Feces, Flies, and Father Abuse

The Departed (2006; Martin Scorsese)

To be completely honest, I really wasn't expecting much from this Scorsese crime movie. I mean, sure, Scorsese has made some good crime dramas, but the whole genre feels sort of dead to me. It all is starting to blend together (kind of like Westerns).

So one guy decides to be a dirty cop, and another guy decides (kind of) that he wants to be an undercover cop for the guy that the dirty cop is being dirty for. Yeah, if you thought that sentence was messy, imagine how they must feel. So the movie follows as both of the cops try to figure out who the other is before one of them is dead.

To stay in character, I will start with good and move my way to bad. This movie was in fact a thriller. Meaning that I was really interested in who was going to get caught by who first. That part of the movie really did have my attention, but some other things... eh... (that good thing didn't last long).

First thing you notice is that they stress being Irish a lot, however, I felt that whole part of the film really wasn't needed. Maybe they thought it would add more dimension to the characters, but I personally could care less if they are Irish.

The camera is very direct and to the point. That is good. It just isn't great. In a great movie, you want more from your camera then just normal. The score seemed sort of out of place in some parts, and even at times felt like they forgot to tell someone to stop the music, as it continues on into the next scene, out staying it's welcome.

I feel I should point this out. The problem with long movies is that for every fifteen or twenty minutes you extend a film past around an hour and forty minutes, the stress put on the pacing of the film is increased exponentially. I feel Scorsese, while handling it okay, needs a little more practice with it if he wants to continue making movies that are as long as this one (two and a half hours).

As most of those problems are very minor, and the story itself was very gripping, this film still walks away with...

Score: 3/5

Notes: Cocaine Shower, Impotence, Won an Oscar (Hey, that works on more people then you think)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Don't Look Now (1973; Nicolas Roeg)

As the story goes, many a year back I was simply an average movie guy. I was only aware of the movies cranked out by Hollywood, and most of my cinema knowledge was wrapped up in stupid ass comedies that will never go away. One fateful night (Halloween to be exact) I saw a TV series on some of the greatest horror films ever made, and at that point in my life I really hadn't ever seen a horror movie, I just wasn't interested in it. Well, as I watched them preview the movies and talk about what made them so scary, three of the films struck me in a special way. I decided that horror is where I needed to be, and I would one day see those three films. The three I am referring to are Audition (1999), Peeping Tom (1960), and last but most certainly not least... Don't Look Now (1973)

I am going to make this summary REALLY quick, so I can spend the rest of the time expressing my very non sexual feelings for this movie (they aren't sexual). A couple has a daughter and a son. The daughter drowns. Later on, they are having trouble dealing with her death, and the husband ends up seeing her again while in Venice.

Wow. Even though I had no eye for cinema at the time, I must applaud my choices for inspiration. This film is absolutely breath taking. The score is gorgeous. The camera... orgasmic (in the non sexual way).

The film so smoothly transitions from a casual day to some of the most tense scene's I have ever been graced to see. I mean, this film completely shatters the rules of using the dark. One of the most intense scenes is made in the middle of a sunny day.

The camera is half of the battle. In the first appearance of his daughter in Venice, the camera zoom is delayed, as if to not show us what is happening, but to show us literally what he sees as he double takes and has to focus. We are not voyeurs to this hellish experience; we are apart of it.

The score is mostly classical, beautifully played to match the atmosphere set by traveling through Venice. However, when it comes time to get to business they know exactly where to stick it (in a non sexual way).

At the same time as the search for the daughter begins, murders start occurring throughout Venice. At this point, each and every person we see throughout Venice is so perfectly constructed as to be considered a suspect. The awkward glances and drawn out shots of faces feel as though we are being starred at... as if they are wondering if we are catching onto their scheme.

One last part that should be brought up before concluding this, the ending is one of the most powerful endings I have ever seen. It made me want to pull down my pants and have sex with the screen (in a non sexual way).

Score: 5/5

Notes: Boobs, Blind

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Haunting (1963; Robert Wise)

I decided to shake it up a little (very little) by adding a movie from the 60's (real adventurous, I know). So I bring you the classic "The Haunting" by Robert Wise.

A doctor has decided that he wants proof of haunted houses, so he gets the owners' okay to stay in the mansion shown above, "Hill House". He then hand picks three other people to accompany him and spend time observing the mansion. Shit hits the fan. (I agree, that last part really killed the flow.)

Where to start... I suppose with the scares. It really surprised me how well the scares held up over all these years. One in particular left me in a wee state of alarm. Due to the unseen driving most of the film, the lack of effects available at this era has absolutely no negative impact on the film at all. Some would argue that the lack of effects could limit ones imagination; restricting it to only the ideas they could even remotely construct on film. However, this film gives a feeling off that they knew exactly what they wanted, and it just so happened that it wasn't far off from what they really could pull off (quite convincingly I might add).

I will save some of you time by stating now, yes, there is a trend here. The unseen is always scarier then what is shown to us. My favorable (to put it lightly) review of The Blair Witch Project gives you a taste of how I feel about the unseen, followed by this review (consisting of unseen forces at work) and preceded by The Gravedancers (where I comment on how too much is seen). Some of you might consider this an unfair bias of mine. Well. You're wrong. The unseen is better.

The score is fitting of the era, and actually shows just how long the hectic noises have been used for jumps. The camera stays fresh, keeping a very fine balance in what seems like an amazingly clustered house (house is easier to type then mansion). The camera also shows a keen eye for angles and movement, providing very well done camera sweeps from above (or in circles).

I want to touch back on the house (mansion) real fast. First off, yes, the outside shots are of a real manhouse they found. However, the inside shots are all sets constructed for the film. I can not express enough how unique and wonderful all the sets feel. They each have their own theme going, with decorative statues that you would feel very comfortable around anywhere else but in this movie. I wanted to stress how much this hansion stood out, because for some reason, it really helps add a layer to the background (as in story background, but I guess it literally could be the background...) created for the film, and gives the film a whole other layer to it's personality.

The only solid complaint I can lay down is that I feel this movie lacks the ability to be replayed on a consistent basis, and that is something you should always want in a perfect ten score. Aany other complaints I had weren't important enough to remember, so here you go.

Score: 4.5/5

Notes: Lesbian, Affair (Almost)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Suicide (2001; Raoul W. Heimrich & Yvonne Wunschel)

I must say that this was one hell of a film to track down. It only had one R1 release, from Troma, and was discontinued (or out of stock for a very, very long time) and whenever you type in the title, you get Suicide Club, Suicide Kings, and Suicide Girls. I managed to get myself a copy (bootlegged, but whatever, I got to see it) and it was worth the search.

Yeah, it really is that hard to find a picture. All I could get was a minuscule cover from the Troma release. Moving on, this film is a mockumentary about a couple who film people committing suicides for a website. That's it.

If you read other reviews of this movie, you will hear people complain that no one, not even the couple shooting the film, get enough attention to develop a real sense of character to better understand their motives. I disagree. I feel over the brief time we see the actual couple, we get a real sense on a lot of their feelings about what they are doing. They themselves seem confused at times as to what is really happening. The man keeps convincing himself that he will only shoot one more, but then some force draws him back again. As the body count rises, we really begin to get a deeper insight about who they are as a couple.

I must give a lot of credit to the suicides. As these desperate people tell their stories for the camera, you almost get the feel that what you are watching is real. I was tricked several times by their desperation and anguish. The struggle of the couple to keep the film going gives the feel that the movie actually has progression, instead of just scene after scene of people killing themselves. It really sort of ties it together and gives it a solid conclusion.

Not much can be said about the score (because there is none, it's a mockumentary) or the camera (because you should already know the style... it is a mockumentary). This makes it easier for me to concentrate on the story being told without having to worry about a poor choice of song or what not.

However, due to the subject matter and how it is made, this film relies very heavily on the special effects to carry along it's validity (or pseudo-validity). It is a mixed bag here, with some truely convincing death scenes, and with some very obvious fakes. Those fakes kind of lag down the film, because then (even though you already know it's fake) it has you looking for how fake the others are. This gets distracting.

Not to be cruel, and it doesn't really matter much, but because it is Troma, the subtitles had quite a handful of grammar errors to keep you equally frustrated throughout. So with that one major grip about effects (and one minor about subtitles) that leaves this film with a...

Score: 4/5

Notes: Dicks, Murder (In a Suicide Movie :) )

Monday, September 1, 2008

Inside (2007; Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury)

I need to get two things off my mind in this introduction.
#1. Yes, this is another fetus movie, but that is just a coincidence.
#2. Fuck. It has been a long time since I have been graced by such wonderful violence.

Okay, so, this lady is left alone half way through her pregnancy as her fella is killed in a car crash. The night before she is due, she gets a visit from a lady in black who knows all about the crash and who very clearly wants inside her house. Inside her.

I just want to say that first off, holy shit was I caught off guard with this film. When you see the words "gore" and "bloody" on DVD cases, they could very easily be marketing a PG-13 movie. However, if you see those words on this box, they mean it. This film has GORE. No, it isn't the goriest thing I have ever seen, but shit yeah is it fucking violent.

The effects in this film (that weren't all CG) really were amazing. If it was not for those rare CG spots in the violence, then you could be easily convinced that some of the actors really were killed in the making of this film. The film starts out with a casual horror tone, with just some eerie background music with creepy images, however that atmosphere gets completely dumped as the rest of the film is shot almost completely in a red tint (as seen above) and covered in blood (yes, they are separate, which is why I chose the picture above to demonstrate it).

Now, for the people who really couldn't care less about screens covered in mindless gore (me most of the time). The camera work stays fresh, with uncomfortable close shots to show you every drop of sweat and blood on a persons face, to bizarre angles you really wouldn't expect from a film that revolves around gore. It really adds a whole other layer to my appreciation of this film knowing that a lot of the power of the film is created with it's creative use of it's camera. You are usually shown just enough to where your imagination can't help you try and pretty up what you aren't shown. While other times you just get to stare straight into their faces as they are torn apart.

The score (and lack there of) really helps carry the films tense violence-laced story along. The timing and nature of the "music" makes the silence just as tense as the very hectic score. While this is off topic of the score, I just want to point out that this film is also a perfect example of how well fetus' can impact the intensity if used skillfully.

While the film fully accomplishes what it sets out for, and the story is just thin enough to hold the violence together without getting too in depth where it is not needed, I feel that having a movie with absolutely no depth to it at all always loses a little in subsequent viewings. When I say depth, I don't mean Miike/Lynch confusion, I mean just any form of third dimension. Something, anything, that requires even the simplest response from your brain besides "blood good". Even nudity would have had more depth then this film. One last point, the intermittent images of the fetus do nothing but harm the film.

Score: 3/5

Notes: Broken Windshield Wiper, Smoking is Bad, Zombie?

Blame (2006; Narciso Ibáñez Serrador)

To be honest, when I heard about "Films to Keep You Awake", a Spanish TV series (supposedly) ripping off of The Masters of Horror, I was pretty excited. While never having actually watched a single episode from the semi-popular US series, something about the idea makes me, and many others, happy. So when I noticed the DVD release was so cheap (unlike the high priced American cousin) I knew that it had to be worth a shot.

Alright, so this very generous and very lesbian doctor opens up her large home to a friend in need (who has a daughter) in exchange for some help with her home clinic. The friend in need (dubbed for now on as "Tease") later finds that the clinic actually performs abortions (Oh! Ah! Controversy!) and feels that she should help the kind doctor (dubbed "Lez") to try and repay her for her help. Later on, Tease ends up pregnant and is stuck with the decision whether she should go through with the abortion or try and feed two children with her abysmal salary. Lez finally convinces her to abort, and the procedure has some very shocking consequences.

What kind of summary was that? With that sort of vague ending I feel I should be taking Ebert's place as a useless man who gets paid too much to talk about how much of an idiot he is.

Moving on...

What I feared would actually be a very weak film in the series of six turned out to be a very pleasent introduction for me. While suffering from a problem I notice in TV movies (I will explain later) it ends up correcting itself near the end as it actually starts to build an eerie atmosphere. Seriously. It does. I am not kidding.

Controversy over the subject of abortion really has begun to lend itself more and more to the horror genre as people slowly begin to realize that the idea of extracting soon-to-be children actually is grotesque. This, mixed with other controversy's can lead to some very powerful ideas that directors really need to play more with (see the movie "Dumplings" for a good example).

Now, I suppose I should address the little problem I feel seems to haunt TV horrors. Lighting. I don't know what it is, but when given the chance to shoot horror for TV, people grow attached to their lights. It seems they just refuse to shut them off at all during the movie, having some scenes in the middle of the night be as bright as scenes where the camera is making us stare right into the sun. As I pointed out earlier, however, "Blame" corrects itself as the movie progresses, eventually leading to it letting go of it's unhealthy relationship with it's lights. For anyone who might want to shove hundreds of examples of TV horror's that have good lighting, I just want to point out again that I haven't seen The Masters of Horror yet, so those don't count.

I suppose to make this more complete I should touch on some other things. The camera seems pretty basic, almost making you think that they were scared they might break a TV rule about using style. Also the score is decent, nothing too catchy, but it gets the job done and is in no way distracting from the rest of the film.

Score: 3/5

Notes: Private Places Are Used For Two Things; Birth and Sin