Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Uninvited (2009; Charles & Thomas Guard)

This is a touchy subject for me. Like so many others, I am sick of this remake trend. The idea that foreign films are not enough to stand on their own and need "translation" into our culture is quite sickening to me. However, I simply decided to ignore the bulk of this trend and try to ride it out. Needless to say, the J-horror remake fad is dying slowly but surely (making way for slasher remakes...) and then this monstrosity pops up. As seen on the front of this blog, one of the films in my top ten is the deeply profound "A Tale of Two Sisters". Kim Ji-woon is an unstoppable force in the world of cinema today, and his works should not be touched. The labyrinthine structure of "A Tale of Two Sisters" mandates the viewer to watch its intricicies over and over to fully establish its beauty and awe-inspiring construction. So when it comes to the remake, well, comparisons must be made to establish the complete lack of necessity of it all. This will, in turn, lead to many aspects of the films being exposed, and while I will never divulge anything gigantic, I will be forced to dissect and compare specific scenes. So if you have never laid your eyes upon Ji-woon's masterpiece, I recommend you stop here and just know this; Never fuck with the Kim.

Some girl (now named American) is traumatized by her mothers death and is temporarily sent to an institution to recover. After some time, American is sent home to reunite with her father and sister (now named Bullshit) only to discover that her father's girlfriend has moved in. There is something off and neither American nor Bullshit like her. The veins go much deeper, but that is enough for now. Now to compare!

The first thing shoved into our face is how Americanized this film has become. We start out watching American make out with some guy at a party. Why? In the original folktale and Ji-woon's interpretation, there was never a need for such acts. I guess this is the US way of establashing innocence because she denies the advance to fornicate. That is how we interepret morals in our youth? Disgusting and unwarranted. The strengths of the character should lie within the character herself as this film is very much an understanding of her mind, not how much or how little she loves dick.

This paragraph is simply another example of Americanizing the film and contains spoilers, so skip this if you haven't seen the first one (it is the only one that matters). The development of the "other" sister in this film is quite a dramatic difference. In the original the sister was developed, just like everything else, as a way to cope with the guilt and resentment. The sister represented that which needed protection from the materialized evil that needed to be fended off. All forms of deep symbolism are discarded in the remake, choosing to adapt the more surfaced twist that is seen in umpteen dozen other films that have come out in the past decade.

The visual style of the remake craves desperately to be identical to its parent, but fails in all forms. As seen in the image above, the solemn beauty of the house in the first film is tried at, but simply comes off as background noise. The soundtrack is dull and does nothing but carry us from scene to scene as if they only included it because they knew they had to. The focus on water is present like in the original, and just like the original, it is simply there as an allusion to the original folktale. In that regard, I suppose, it can be considered even.

One thing that bothered me greatly was the change of title. "The Uninvited" seemed like a ridiculous title to me given the original content of the first film. I guess it is supposed to be a reference to the girlfriend who was never wanted in the home. However, most people would assume it to be about the apparations that occur, as if they were unwanted ghosts haunting the innocent people inside. That, of course, wouldn't make any sense, as in the original the apparations are not only wanted, but are needed in order for the center of our film to exist.

As I kept pondering the title, I suppose I came to understand it a little better. As I said before, the remake stripped all forms of depth and tradgedy that were essential to the original's success and beauty and threw them into a hole. I kept wanting to analyze the copied imagery for what it was in the original and tried to apply it to the remake. That was a poor mistake. All the copied scenes were thrown in without second thought by idiots who apparently didn't understand their existence in the first place. The example I will use here is the blood trail.

The blood trail was the essential escalation of her coping after her illusions were threatened when her father confronted her. The trials she was putting her sister through had to become more rigorous as her guilt grew heavier on her conscience. The trail was then later shown to represent the fragments of her different realities colliding as she finally lost herself with the confrontation with the girlfriend at the end. So what does any of this have to do with the remakes blatant copying? Nothing at all, they simply threw it in to create "tension".

The significance of "A Tale of Two Sisters" was built upon the significance of all of its little pieces. Everything that was shown was placed in front of us delibrately. What we get with "The Uninvited", however, is simply another collage of the dozens of other remakes, scare scenes slopped together by a story devoid of soul and meaning. Not only can the film not stand up to it's predecessor, it can't even stand up as its own film. The importance of this review really comes in expressing many of my ideas on "A Tale of Two Sisters" so that my eventual review of it doesn't have to be a book like this review is.

Score: 1/5

Notes: Bells, Pearls, and Insignificance

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Grotesque (2009; Koji Shiraishi)

Way back when I reviewed a movie called Noroi, which was themed similarly to the Blair Witch Project. In said review I also said the director had made other films themed off of the long-black-haired-girl craze in the form of "Ju-rei" and "Kuchisake-onna". Sprinkled onto the end was a little note containing the title and genre of his newest work, Grotesque. It seems it is time to leave the hair behind and go for a modern day torture porn flick. Awesome.

What to put into the summary... well, two people who just started dating get tortured.

You see the thing is, much in the vein of what Eli Roth wanted to do (but US censors didn't want him to do) Shiraishi brings back the certain flavor that torture porn films need. "Grotesque" comes straight to its point at the very beginning and doesn't stay longer than it wants to. The whole genius of this piece comes with the fact that Shiraishi got to make exactly what he had in mind; a brutal and explorative adventure into torture and rape that doesn't bother with the modern nonsense it doesn't require such as character development.

That isn't to say that this movie has no inner themes to it. You might be able to pull out some ideas about love (strangely enough) or something silly like that, but then why are you watching this film of all things? On that note, why was it necessary to include those things at all? I know I said Shiraishi's genius was his ability to do away with unneeded garbage, but that wasn't exactly true. It was just about 95% true, which is a lot closer than most people come.

The problem with Grotesque, however, begins a little past the half way mark. We are shown a very surreal series of scenes that didn't quite fit the relentless butchery that had been thrown into our faces up until that point. While I have mixed emotions about that segment of the film, it is not the only piece that will yank you back into reality. Near the ending the film takes a sudden, unwarrented change in tone that kills some of the final impact of it all. It felt sort of like a cop out when Shiraishi had already taken it so far.

Do these segments ruin the film? Hardly. I give kudos to Shiraishi for his attempt at updating the torture genre. The torture itself, being the main focus in the first place, is very vivid and can easily succeed in making any normal person look away in disgust. It is just a shame that the atmosphere had to be broken in a way that it could not be repaired.

Score: 4/5

Notes: Would you die for someone you love?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Make Over

After some consideration, I decided I would revamp my scoring system over the next few days. I wanted a system that could better reflect my opinions in a more precise manner. Plus, when using a scale of ten, it becomes hard to score films between the areas of one and five as once a film because trash, measuring the exact amount of shit it is becomes redundant. However, I always felt that the five scale was just a little too restrictive and it tended to clump my almost tens with my tens.

After giving it some thought, I decided that a minor change to the five scale would solve the issues I have been having. So let me now demonstrate the scale I have in mind.

1: Rubbish; Offal; Garbage. This will, and always has, been the lowest a film could acquire (unless you count zero, but that just feels like you are saying the film doesn't exist).

2: Mostly Rubbish; Bad. These are the films that are bad, but they may have some signs of life in them somewhere.

3: Average; Mediocre; Watchable. These are films that are on the border. They have enough material within them that might warrant a watch depending on your tastes.

4: Good; Worth Time. These are the films you should definitely look into if you have the time. While they struggle with minor points, they are still well constructed and demand your attention.

4.5: Almost Great. These are the films that are so close to being 5's that they deserve their own category separate from the 4's. This category keeps the 4's and 5's from growing to unruly and large. These films, like the 5's, are ones you need to see, but just with a little less urgency.

5: Great; Perfection. Enough said about these. These are the greatest films around. Buy them now.

Also, this list puts a cap on the recommended list, restricting it to only 4.5 and 5. This isn't to say you shouldn't still watch the 4's, but it shrinks the list to those films that need the most attention. Hopefully the transformation will be done within a day or two. Maybe even with a new review... but let's not get too ambitious.