Thursday, December 31, 2009

Important Horror Films of the Decade

I was asked by several people if I was ever going to work on a "Top 10 of the Decade" list or what have you since it is so popular. To be honest I was never considering the idea because I have a terrible memory and deciding an order would be extremely difficult. However, I finally decided I could just craft a general "Important" list that just spits out my favorites of the decade in no special order.

Grindhouse (2007; Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez)

While not fully horror, it was indeed a tremendously profound release bringing the trashy styles of old back into the mainstream fold. Endlessly entertaining (more so Tarantino's) and inspiring, these must not go unwatched (as well as the trailers).

The Descent
(2005; Neil Marshall)

Marshall's important follow up to is surprisingly popular Dog Soldiers. It implemented both a fantastic visual style (only the natural lights they carried on them) and atmosphere that pretty much could creep anybody out.

A Tale of Two Sisters
(2003; Kim Ji-woon)

It has been stated before how much I admire this piece as well as Kim Ji-woon, so not much more needs to be said. This film is structured perfectly down to the last detail. Every shot has both a purpose and a meaning. It doesn't come much better.

Battle Royale (2000; Kinji Fukasaku)

While I'm not 100% convinced this is actually a horror (more of a drama) I didn't want anybody getting the idea I was neglecting it. A reflection of some of the finest political satire there is. Watch it.

The House of the Devil (2009; Ti West)

This nod goes both to the film itself, as it is a wonderful reimagining of what Roman Polanski would have done if he was West's age and to Glass Eye Pix who have really come into their own this decade. I look forward to watching many of their upcoming releases and hope they continue to polish their retro style.

Mockumentaries (Various)

I could go on to list a paragraph for several of the great mockumentaries of the decade, but I want to emphasize that this is the decade that followed Blair Witch Projects fantastic release. That led the way for this decade to explore the boundries of the idea and craft some of the most wonderful stories with them. Ex. Cloverfield, Quarantine, [REC], Paranormal Activity, etc.

(2005; Eli Roth)

Eli Roth's second huge venture into horror and what a venture it was. I would love to put all of Roth's films onto the list, but I feel Hostel is the most structurely tight and polished of them so I'll let it speak for all three.

Session 9 (2001; Brad Anderson)

Session 9 came as a bit of a surprise as it sort of snuck up on me and signified an important time in psychological horror in the United States. Thoroughly atmospheric and powerful, it is definitely one that has seen many plays on my television.

American Psycho (2000; Mary Harron)

Wonderful opus into the world of the high class yuppie. Specifically one who has completely snapped and uses the materialistic shell as his only cover. Absolutely wonderful.

Trick 'R Treat (2008; Michael Dougherty)

Fantastically structured horror anthology celebrating everyones favorite horror holiday. This film should become a staple for everyone's Halloween nights for now on. Also, can't forget our new mascot as well ;) .

Gozu (2003; Takashi Miike)

This selection is once again for a broader idea. Takashi Miike. He played an important role in both this decade and the last, and this pick was merely a reflection of one of his shining moments. Critics say he churns out too many films not to have great ones, but I don't think anyone can deny that when he has great ones, they truely are great.

Suicide Club (2001; Shion Sono)

Again, this is merely a symbol for the start of a very important career in the director that is Shion Sono. While not his first piece, it can be heavily agreed upon that this was his most important. Both creepy and compelling, Suicide Club was the underdog film of the decade. Not to mention a nod to the mindfuckery that are Sono's works.

Uzumaki (2000; Higuchinsky)

Another gem that has faded away from memories recently. This film showed that given the eye for it, mangas can be adapted onto the big screen with great success.

Shaun of the Dead (2004; Edgar Wright)

This piece proved the inspiration for a huge mishmash of other splatter comedies. The beauty of it all is that it is still the strongest one of the decade. Not that I won't give a nod to Slither.

Let the Right One In/Thirst (Various)

These two important pieces proved that vampire films can involve romance and not also be scraps off of a 12 year old girls journal. Solidly structured and nodding to the vampire films before them, these two prove that the moral ambiguity of vampires has never been explored and it really should have been.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006; Scott Glosserman)

No need, there is already a review up ;).

Bubba Ho-tep (2002; Don Coscarelli)

One of my favorite horror comedies in existence. Shows off what Bruce Campbell can do with a "serious" role to play. Wonderfully creative and hilarious to top it off.

I'm sure I forgot several and any input would be helpful. If I think of more I'll make edits and tack them on in the end. Hope everyone has a wonderful 2010.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon (2008; Richard Gale)

I figured it was about time for another ludicrous short to be posted up on this site, so here you go. The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon is probably one of the silliest shorts in recent history. Check it out sometime as it is definitely worth the ten minutes of your time.

Spoorloos (1988; George Sluizer)

I've said before that I always use the titles I first heard whenever naming a review for this site, but this title is
Spoorloos for another reason on top of that. I don't want anyone thinking I'm talking about Sluizer's American remake under the same English title, The Vanishing.

A man goes on a road trip through France with his girlfriend/wife/what-have-you. While stopped at a gas station, she decides to stop in and get them both drinks and never returns. Completely destroyed by this, the man spends the next several years of his life searching for her kidnapper. His persistence pays off eventually, as his fliers finally catch the attention of the kidnapper himself.

It may seem like I'm giving something away even though I normally never do (with the exception of The Uninvited as I was completely determined to tear that remake apart). However, none of that description is a spoiler as most of that is given to the viewers right away. The focus of Spoorloos is very much the conflict and thoughts of the two men involved. It is for all intents and purposes one of the greatest character studies ever filmed. While one of the major points has popped up repeatedly in both film culture and music (how long would you search for the one you love?) there are a myriad of other important aspects to pick up along the way. Maybe the most important part, though, is how closely the film hits home. You have no choice but to immediately root for the man as he desperately clings to memories of her, knowing full well you would do the same.

I won't waste your time with many of the more technical aspects as you should be spending your time hunting down a copy of this piece for yourself, but some things need to be said for those who are interested. The camera is served to us in a mostly minimalistic style, rarely focusing on backdrops or rapid motion, chosing instead to give us intense, focused shots on the people involved. The camera never falters, challenging us to bare witness, and even mentally take part in, the events that unfold.

Score: 5/5

Notes: Never Take Bike Trips to France

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Attack the Gas Station (1999; Kim Sang-jin)

What comes to mind when you read a title like
Attack the Gas Station? Frankly, I had absolutely no idea what to think about it at all. The concept itself is odd, but not the annoying forced odd in films like Tokyo Gore Police that just irritate you. No, it sounded like some form of odd that could almost be compelling if crafted by the right hands.

Four Korean youth decide to attack a gas station.

No matter how I tried to wrap my head around it all, there always just seemed to be something missing. The idea of four trouble makers attacking a gas station hardly seemed like enough material to warrant an entire full length film. How much action could one possibly churn out of a limited cast doing what is essentially only robbing a single store.

Apparently you can derive endless action out of it, as that is exactly what Sang-jin accomplished. While I am not an expert in his works, I must say that after watching this piece a few weeks back that every other film he has done is now on my list of "must watch". Whatever it is that drives him to these ideas is like nothing I have ever seen in any other director before. To be able to craft such a stylized action comedy out of a simple title is just mastery of his craft at work.

I am going to make my analysis brief for this one, as most of the film is spoken for in just the title itself. Don't get me wrong, however, this is not some childish Apatow piece trying to soak up some cash from drug addled teenagers. The comedy in AtGS is both simple and at the same time very much more matured and thought through than what passes as comedy in the US today.

The colors tended to be sharp, adding more of an edge to the action sequences, of which there were many. The music was very much on key with the tone of the rest of the film and the camera never made itself unwelcome. It all shaped up into a breath of fresh air for me, as I no longer felt I had to wait for only the Coen Brothers to craft the comedies I enjoy.

Score: 4.5/5

Score: Attack the Gas Station, otherwise known as A New Way of Applying for Jobs

Monday, December 21, 2009

Paradise Murdered (2007; Kim Han-min)

With my winter break in motion and most of my friends visited, I finally have some time to sit down and enjoy a few moments of peace.

A small island community numbering only seventeen citizens finds itself in quite a situation. The situation being that all seventeen of them disappear and no one knows why. The film proceeds to go back in time to give us a first hand experience of what really happened.

First off let me say that despite how much I hate most thrillers that come out of the US, I've noticed foreign pieces tend to feel a lot more fresh and appear to know that they actually have room to move around and explore (see Memories of Murder for an example of this). This is most likely caused by the unbelievable amount of red tape and butchering scripts have to go through in the US to get the green light (aka, turn everything into
Se7en). The whole point of all this is mostly that just because things get described as thrillers, don't get too distraught until you find out what country it is from.

Right off the bat you notice that Han-min isn't planning on taking the entire film too seriously as we are introduced to the film by over-acting fisherman screaming about like little girls finding a spider. This is a trend that continues through the earlier parts of the film, and one can't help but feel a little uncomfortable with that. As I see it there are two sides to this, either you could see it as just some jabs at light-hearted humor, or you could see it as more of an inadequacy on Han-min's part. This film being his debut, (and strangely enough not on IMDb) odds are his confidence might have been a little on the lesser side of the spectrum. As far as I am concerned the jabs at humor were unnecessary as the film was actually interesting enough and had enough compelling atmosphere to stand on its own. This, in return, produces a negative effect as everytime one of the nonsense scenes pops up, it reminds you of just how much of a movie it really is.

As you should notice by the plot, this piece focuses on a very large group of individuals, which makes it hard for the director to make them appear as individuals and not just background noise. This might be the strongest asset this film has. While not as evenly spread and thorough as pieces like
9 Souls and The Thing, most of the cast on the island have enough time to develop past the 2D place holder mark. That accomplishment alone is fantastic considering there are seventeen of them and the film clocks at just under two hours long.

Overall the film has enough strength to hold on its own. While some of the absurditys can grind on your patience near the beginning, the whole thing comes together well enough as the tale progresses. The pacing and structure are solid, keeping your interest and not bogging the story down while trying to conceal what was really happening. It all wraps up into a nice mystery that while flawed, is still enjoyable enough to sit down to on a nice night before bed (if you can't tell, that is what I did ;) ).

Score: 3/5

Notes: Whodunit? Whodunwhat?