robotGEEK'S Review: Slither
Directed by: James Gunn
This one took me by surprise. Not only because of how fun it was, but in the quality of the production and the talent involved both in front of and behind the camera.
I remember my buddy Gabe being such a big fan of this one ever since it first came out, often trying fruitlessly to get me to watch it. I think the title might have misled me into thinking it was a low-budget forgettable indie horror film. That's just me though; not sure why I had such strong reservations though now that I think about it. So as I was browsing Netflix the other day trying to find something in the "horror" genre, I finally decided to give this one a try.
So right when it begins with the opening credits I'm already floored. James Gunn directing? The guy who did Super and who's now doing Guardians of the Galaxy? Starring Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks and Michael "Fucking Merle" Rooker? Man, I'm sold. So I was immediately excited to see this, finally.
Slither has a lot going for it right off the bat. Outstanding ensemble cast, quality production value and a hip fun take on the horror genre. At times it feels like something Joss Whedon would have done had he made this himself. Now with that being said, I think I'm going to have to be completely honest here and say that while I did find it enjoyable overall, it just didn't "wow" me as much as I had hoped. I'm not sure if I can pinpoint the exact thing that didn't work for me, but it just always felt like it was missing something, or that it just didn't flow properly. I can't be alone in feeling this. Am I? I mean, all the ingredients are there. Abso-fucking-lutely. Yet somehow, in some way, it just doesn't mesh all that well together. I don't know if we would have to blame writer/director James Gunn or the editor.
Surprisingly, my first experience with James Gunn was by recently watching the highly enjoyable Super. I should have done a review on that one, but I never got around to it. That's another indie project where he mixed up a few genre's and gave us something uniquely original. It didn't blow me away or anything, but I found it an effective piece of filmmaking where in one minute it can be a sad tale of a pathetic lonely man who loves his wife so much, that he'll do anything to protect her and win her back. While on the other side of the table, at other times it's brutally violent, dark and sometimes gruesome to the point of shock. And then it can be funny, charming and cute. So it's kind of all over the place, but in a fun way. Here we have a straight-up homage to 50's "It Came From Outer Space" type films (you know, like The Blob), yet enhances it with witty dialogue and some truly outlandish sequences. And Fillion was a very nice and welcome surprise. At times, it just seemed like he was playing his character from Firefly. Awesome. I wish he had done more roles like this.
The ensemble cast in here is pretty great in their respective roles. But I think it's Fillion who ultimately steals the show. The guy is just a smart ass and a badass and combine the two, and well you have a semi-Han Solo. The film is also peppered with some regular character actors that give the film that little bit of extra spice it needs.
I should also get into the effects work, which is pretty great. I've seen bigger budgeted films that have far worse effects work, so I'm not sure if that's a testament to director James Gunn's skill as a director, or his effects team, or both, but it works effectively well. I can remember a good few that just gave me the shivers, while others were both funny and gross, which was the point.
This film has been flying under my radar for so many years, so I'm glad to say that I've actually seen it, but ultimately it just didn't impress me as much as I assumed it would. Maybe that's my fault? I've heard so many great things for so long that maybe I built it up too much in my head? Maybe.
robotGEEK'S Review: The Collector
Directed by: Marcus Dunstan
I know, strange that I decided to check these out out-of-order. Here's the funny thing though, if I had seen this one first, I'm not entirely sure I would have taken the time to see the sequel, which would have been a serious bummer since the sequel is leaps and bounds above this one.
Unless you looked into it beforehand, you would never know the same guy wrote and directed both of these films. That's how different they are in terms of tone, style, substance and overall entertainment value. It's so different overall that they even use a different guy to play The Collector in both films, giving you an entirely different take. I'm not sure if this was the director's intent right from the beginning, as they do in all of the Halloween and Friday the 13th films, but it's such a huge difference overall it's almost impossible not to notice, for better or worse.
So here's a quick verdict:
The Collector was pretty good as a low-budget horror film, but not nearly as good as The Collection. So there, the verdict is in. The Collection: Awesome. The Collector: Decent little film.
One of the first things I noticed immediately both as the opening credits were rolling and as the film started playing was how amateurish it all looked and felt. Quite a contrast from the second film, believe me. It seems with the sequel, writer/director Marcus Dunstan did his homework, studying up on what makes a film look good rather than just getting the job done. And whether some of that is because of the work of the DoP or Dunstan himself, it's a vast improvement in the sequel. And I'm not bashing this completely, because it was fun. I dig the concept and the cast was pretty good. Of course, if you're not into the whole Torture Porn sub-genre, then you may not like this. In fact, I was surprised I did. The Collector, when in fact being a part of this sub-genre of films isn't nearly as hardore as the Hostel or Saw films. Yes, some, if not most, of the deaths are all due to elaborate traps set up by the killer, who has basically set up shop inside a residence, holding the family hostage in the basement all while an intruder has broken into the house to rob it. It's a crazy premise, but a fun one nonetheless. The guy is basically walking into a house of horrors and the dude just doesn't know it. Will he make it out alive? Will he try and save the family trapped inside? Will he try and take on the killer?
Here's some of what bothered me. Moments after the thief has entered the residence we are made aware that the family that actually owns and lives in the house is being held hostage and tortured down in the basement. Yet as the burglar is roaming the house looking for valuables, and subsequently after he discovers that the family has been kidnapped and is being tortured and he tries to find a way to rescue them, the house is filled with an insane amount of intricate traps. Some extremely sophisticated, and some very ghetto. So if the intent of the killer was to capture the home owners and "collect" them, why would there be such an insane amount of traps inside this one residence, especially when it's mainly the burglar who is dodging these crazy traps and the killer doesn't even know for the majority of the film that their's even anybody else (the burglar) in the house? All I kept wondering was "Why are there so many traps in the house when the family is already caught and being tortured down in the basement?". It just didn't make any sense.
I guess it works if you sort of turn your brain off for this film. I mean, it would have made sense if The Collector knew that there would be a lot of people coming through that residence that he knew he was going to eventually capture, hence the elaborate traps. But it just seemed like overkill, especially when you consider his whole point is to "not" kill anybody, rather he wants to "collect" them.
I will say this though, that mask looks pretty badass. It's certainly done creatively, almost reminding me of Decker's mask from Nightbreed. You see nothing of the actors face who's wearing it, other than the darks of the eyes. And they seem to do this little effect where the killer's eyes look like they're almost constantly glowing. But it's done in a way to make it almost look like a lens glare or something. Just by looking at this guy, you just have no clue who he is; the actor and the character. Which surprised the hell out of me when I did some research and found out who the actor was that was wearing the thing. I was not expecting that. An interesting choice to say the least. I should also point out that they used someone else for the sequel, someone who looks completely different physically and it's a pretty drastic difference. In this first film, he's tall and thin. In the sequel, he's shorter and much stockier, more powerful. Taking a few ques from past slasher films and maybe learning from this film, they went a slightly different direction with the character of The Collector in the sequel as well, where he's played more as an unstoppable killing machine, almost like a Michael Myers. Where as here, he's vulnerable and just a guy with a cool mask.
I think I'll start wrapping this up by saying overall, it was a decent little horror film, it's just not nearly as badass or enjoyable as it's vastly superior sequel. Hell, I'd even suggest possibly just skipping this one altogether if possible if it weren't for a couple of truly gruesome and creative kills. They do a decent job of trying to get you all caught up to speed in the beginning of the second one, only they don't explain "everything", so maybe you should just go ahead and watch this. Don't listen to me.
I was surprised at how things ultimately played out for the burglar who unwittingly decides to rob a house that's been booby-trapped all to hell by a sadistic killer who clearly likes to fuck with people; another aspect that I was not expecting. You see, apparently, this thief is able to outsmart and outwit The Collector. Who woulda thought?! And for me, that was the fun part. Someone was actually able to use their brain instead of just freaking out in panic, 'cuz you know what happens when you panic right? Don't go in expecting much, and you'll enjoy this. Then go see the sequel immediately and hope they start working on that third film.
Hands of Steel Japan VHS Cover
|Hands of Steel Japanese VHS Cover courtesy of robotGEEK'S Cult Cinema|
At last! Finally this is in my hands! I'm flying pretty high right now. On two separate occasions I've attempted to get my hands on this, and both times I was outbid. I'll admit, the first time I low-balled it, not thinking anyone else would have wanted it. But the second time, whoever had their first bid in was prepared, because no matter how high I went, I was automatically outbid. Seems this guy felt the same way I did and just needed to have this in his hands just as badly as I did. For a second time, I lost out.
The very next day, I decided to visit one of the VHS Collectors pages on Facebook that I hadn't visited for a long while, and not even a full minute into browsing I see a guy from Sweden offering a whole bunch of tapes for sale, with this one unceremoniously pictured between a bunch of random and uninteresting tapes. I immediately messaged him and well, the rest is history and this is happily in my collection of my ever-growing Hands of Steel VHS tapes from around the world. I did pay more than what I'm used to paying, but opportunities like this just don't fall in my lap like this one did very often.
Because of my financial situation lately, my collecting has pretty much stopped, save for the occasional splurge on something badass that I happen across randomly like this!! I went a little nuts when I began collecting again about a year ago and well, I realized I needed to chill out. Other things in my life were taking top priority. But I do browse from time to time and there are titles that no matter what, I will always be on the lookout for. Why? Because I'm convinced I have slight OCD, and I become obsessive when it comes to collecting shit. This evil sickness has me by the balls. Muah Ha Ha (*insert Dr. Evil laugh)!! This literally just arrived in the mail, having traveled a week and a half from Sweden, and it sits gorgeously on the shelf next to it's brothers. It's the little things.
robotGEEK'S Review: World War Z
Directed by: Marc Forster
I haven't read the book, so I am basing this purely as a film experience, and not as an adaption or book to film comparison. With that being said, as much as I tried getting to the theater to see this, I was never able to. For me, this was one of the few times I would have gladly paid full price for a theater ticket in this day and age to see a film, because quite frankly, based on the trailers alone, this looked awesome. Unfortunately things didn't work out for me that way and I had to wait till it hit DVD, which was just last week. So I finally jumped at the chance to check this out; now let's do this!
My initial reaction after watching WWZ the other day was that I thought this was great, and highly deserving of it's box office success. For me, this was a nonstop thrill ride from beginning to end. Again, I'm not comparing it to it's source material, just as a zombie film in general, and in that regard, this was pretty badass.
All the bad press and negative forewarning was all for naught as WWZ was a thoroughly and captivating thrill ride. From what I keep hearing and reading, most people don't dig it for the simple fact that it's so different from the book by Max Brooks. I can understand that. Had I read the book beforehand, I might feel the same way knowing how different the source material was. A lot of other gripes seem to come from the fact that you go in expecting a typical zombie film, when in reality it's really more of a "survivalist" story. And those are other's categorization of this, not mine. I can also kind of see that, but honestly, I don't really buy it. Whatever expectations people went in with are their own, and mine were that it was going to be an end-of-the-world type of scenario with some kind of massive virus or plague infecting the planet on a global scale and it's up to Brad Pitt, who apparently is good at this sort of thing, to find out what this virus is and to find a cure before the entire world population is turned into zombies. And that's exactly what this was, no more and no less.
For me, what works best for the film overall is that it starts off immediately once the film begins and never lets up it's intensity for the duration of the entire film, except for the last act, when it gets more into "suspense" mode, which is fine because it works effectively well. But seriously, I was on the edge of my seat the entire fuckin' time and that, more than anything, surprised the hell out of me. We're not treated to some slow buildup exposition in the beginning showing us what Pitt's character does, or should I say "used" to do. In fact, we're never really told why he's so important until a good halfway through. Instead it's just another day when suddenly the shit hits the fan and we're thrown into WWZ. Literally, that's in the first 5 minutes. Chaos, destruction, panic and confusion. That's my kind of zombie flick. And I'm not sure what all the flack was about when people were saying there wasn't enough zombie action. I don't know what film they were watching but from my experience, there was nothing "but" zombie action from beginning to end. The general consensus was that this was just "Meh", or "Just alright". So I honestly didn't have very high expectations for this at all. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. All in all, a fun solid zombie thriller.
What I loved about this was that we're thrown into this world of chaos almost immediately and nobody really knows for quite some time whether we're dealing with some kind of virus, disease or epidemic. And the word "zombie" doesn't get tossed around for a long while, and when it finally does, it's cautiously. It seems to be the last thing people want to deal with, or believe in for that matter. And when it does come right down to the fact that we are actually dealing with zombies, it's a different take than what we're used to. They're fast, lethal and when bitten, turn you within a matter of seconds. I guess they would compare most notably to the ones in 28 Days Later. The only real gripe I would have is that while it's done extremely well, a "lot" of the zombie action is CGI. It's not cheap looking or bad, but it's noticeable regardless.
So let's end this with a small discussion on director Marc Forster's career. Consistency is not his strong point. His output so far has been eclectic with varying results. For my money, he's been a hit or miss director. He never seems to stick with one particular identifiable style. You'll never look at his films and say "That's a Marc Forster film". Never gonna happen. Some of his films look sloppy, and some look really nice. But he does deliver from time to time, with Stranger Than Fiction being a personal favorite, and well I think WWZ will be a close second in his filmography. To date, I believe his contribution to the new Daniel Craig starring James Bond films has been the least favorite for the general public. But with WWZ, he keeps it clean and steady; not over stylized and not gritty either. So on the technical side, I have to commend him for that.
All in all, a much better film than I was expecting to get. Thoughts? Comment people!
robotGEEK'S Review: Hudson Hawk
Directed by: Michael Lehman
This was a film I never got around to watching because honestly, I just had no desire to; it just didn't look very good to me. I don't know, it's been 22 years since this came out and I'm only now barely sitting down to watch this. What does that tell you?
But, after reading The Film Connoisseur's glowing review of this just a few days ago, I thought maybe I wasn't being fair and misjudging this misjudged piece of cinema? Maybe I missed something in the trailers? You can check out The Film Connoisseur's review of Hudson Hawk HERE.
Sigh. Try and try as I might, I just could not get into this film at all. Michael Lehmann is just not a very good director, and even worse with action. Sure he did fine with Heather's, but that came out in a certain time and was a particular kind of film that catered to his filmmaking style. Hudson Hawk does not. And all I kept thinking about as I watched this was how The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, which had just come out the year before, was so much better and was able to take a similar concept and do it right.
The film starts off way back in the late 1400's with Da Vinci (yes, Leonardo Da Vinci) inventing some kind of new device. Bad makeup, costumes, the works. So right away you're kind of thrown for a loop. The tone, the style, the look; it's all just very cheap looking. Flash forward to the present day circa 1991 and honestly, it's not much better. Only in place of the cheap looking film we're treated to cheap gimmicks, painfully forced humor, and some serious over the top and bad acting. And guess what? Though marketed as an action/comedy, there's really hardly any action in this. It seemed like I kept waiting and waiting for that to come back into play for what seemed like the majority of the film. Instead we're treated to trite visual and physical comedy that is so forced and unfunny most of the time that it's just painfully awful to watch. All the while Bruce Willis trying to play cool.
Here's the thing. I get what they were trying to do with this. I'm all for these kinds of films when they're actually fun to watch. As I stated before, the closest thing I could come up with was Renny Harlin's excellent The Adventures of Ford Fairlane from 1990. Super slick and stylish, with Andrew Dice Clay being both cool and hilariously funny, a rockin' soundtrack and a knockout ensemble cast, Hudson Hawk and Fairlane share a lot of similarities, only not in terms of quality. I think my biggest beef would have to be with director Michael Lehmann. The guy was just all wrong for this. At times the film looks cheap, he doesn't direct action sequences well at all, and even the slapstick comedy bits fall flat. Everyone's ridiculous overacting doesn't help matters much either. I'm sure the point was to play caricatures of stereotypical villains, but everyone just came off as annoying to me.
I liked the idea of Hawk using classic songs and their running times as his ques for timing his heists. But it just wasn't done very well. I think had a different director been behind this, it would have looked and sounded so much better. It all comes off as somewhat incompetent and an uneven mess. Seriously, a good portion of the film leaves you wondering if this is a first time director taking on his first gig. Now, not being a fan of musicals in general except for maybe 3 (Little Shop of Horrors, The Blues Brothers and Hedwig), I think if they had done a full blown musical number when Hawk was pulling off a heist instead of only playing the music somewhat lightly in the background while Willis and Aiello only whisper and hum along, that would have turned out a helluva lot better than this. Sure it wouldn't have made sense singing aloud while they're secretly trying to pull off a job while security guards are in the next room, but really, does any of this movie make any sense?
Plot? Confusing to say the least, but something about a husband and wife team of rich thieves who want to steal a set of crystals that are supposed to deliver something spectacular. What exactly? I honestly have no idea. They con the famous Hudson Hawk (who's literally just been let out of prison) to pull off various jobs by stealing different works of Da Vinci art that hide sets of crystals that when put together, activates a device designed and created by Da Vinci himself for something or other. For a film with the producing talent of Joel Silver (one of the biggest action producers at the time) and screenwriter Steven E. de Souza (Commando, Die Hard, The Running Man, 48 Hours, Ricochet), and starring Bruce Willis, you would think this would have been a slam dunk.
I think I'll end this with a somewhat positive note as I've exhausted myself by bashing this thing to death. I gotta give Bruce Willis credit. The guy was at the peak of his career when he helped develop the story to this and honestly, if his name wasn't all over this, I doubt it would have ever gotten made. So to be one of the biggest action stars in the world at the time who came out with 4 films that year alone, as well as Die Hard 2 the year before and The Last Boy Scout the year this came out, and to take a gamble on something like this surely takes balls and I commend him for it. Obviously it didn't hurt his career.
I love the taglines for this; "Catch the excitement", "Catch the adventure".
Sorry, couldn't find any of that in here.
Quick Shot: Silent Hill: Revelations
Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
So let's see how much of this I can knock out being semi drunk on some really good wine. Sitting here watching a few horror films tonight it dawned on me that I never got around to doing a quick review on this one, which I just happened to finally see a few weeks ago. Was it good? Did it suck? Do you even care? Well let's find out.
I"ll be the first to say that I'm not a gamer and I know nothing about the whole Silent Hill lore, other than I saw the first film. So that's where I was at when I decided to give this one a shot. I heard all the rumblings on the interwebs and though they were coming from hardcore and die-hard Silent Hill game fans, I thought I'd go into this as just a lover of film. You see, even if a film is bad, I can appreciate the talent that goes behind it if it's an awesome looking film. Sure the story can make no sense and some of the logic will drive you nuts, but if it's beautifully shot from a talented visualist, well sometimes that's all I need for a good time. I've loved many a film just based on how great it looks, especially in the horror genre. Because come on, sometimes all a good horror film needs is some awesome gore, some great visuals and to just keep you entertained for most of the film and you're hooked. So where does Silent Hill fare?
I'll be honest, I remember almost nothing from the original film other than it was based on a popular video game and directed by the frenchman who helmed the awesome The Brotherhood of the Wolf. I figured "hey, this guy knows how to make a film look good, so it can't be that bad...right?". Pretty fare assumption if you ask me. Yea, it looked great overall, had some haunting visual eye candy and all that, but I honestly don't remember much about it. But that could be because I saw it when it was first released and not since then. Overall, not much of an impression was left to say the least.
So here we are with the 3D sequel made 6 years after the original. Right off the bat, the 1st thing that struck me was that this was directed by the same guy who did Solomon Kane, which I had just got done seeing and which I really, really enjoyed. So I got excited, even though the word on the street was that this sucked. Well overall, I enjoyed it as a surreal horror film. What's interesting is that this had a completely different aesthetic in terms of visuals from director Michael J. Bassett. This looked nothing like Solomon Kane, nor did it possess any of that particular style of camera work, something I was actually looking forward to. Instead he goes for a much more subdued and darker tone without a lot of the fluid and sweeping panoramic tracking shots. Basically, he makes it look like any other new horror director had made this. Not always a smart move when you want to make a name for yourself in the film industry. I was immensely impressed with his visual eye candy with Solomon Kane, less so with this. But that's not to say this didn't have it's moments, because it did. It just didn't "Wow" me as much as I had hoped it would.
Another thing I was worried about is whether I'd be lost not having remembered much from the first film. That's not really an issue with this one. You get caught up fairly quickly on what's going on and if you are lost for a bit in the beginning, they do they're best to catch you up with backstory early on.
With that being said, Silent Hill: Revelation definitely has it's moments. A few standout sequences, some outstanding effects work and creature design work, and some interesting casting choices make this one completely watchable. Will I ever see it again? Probably not. It didn't convert me and make me want to run out and play some of the games or anything, but I had a good time watching it regardless. Thoughts?
robotGEEK'S Review: The Collection
Directed by: Marcus Dunstan
I think I've always been kind of turned off to this new series of horror films because this, along with it's predecessor, The Collector, can't help but constantly remind you that the same guys who did these also worked on a majority of the Saw films, a franchise I'm just not a fan of in general. But as much reading as I do online from various movie sites and movie blogs, this film in particular has gotten pretty much nothing but positive word of mouth. So even though I never got around to watching The Collector (the 1st film in this series), I thought "what the hell?" and gave it a shot anyway. And to kind of get caught up to speed on the basic story, I just asked my girlfriend who had in fact seen the original.
With that being said, I was slightly worried that would take away from my experience or leave me a bit confused. Well I can tell you, that's not the case here. Read up on any synopsis of the first film and you're all caught up with all you need to know going into this one and with some minor little details aside, this was just fucking awesome and a really, really nice surprise.
Here's the thing; I do really enjoy these types of horror films, when they're done correctly and made well. However, in this day and age that seems to be a rare thing when so many of these "torture porn" films come out pretty much every year and you honestly can't differentiate one from the other. And it would be one thing if the films weren't made very well, but if they at least had some decent kills or better yet, decent effects, then at least that would be something. But I found myself having given up on that sub-genre some time ago. It just feels like a lost cause. Eli Roth and James Wan introduced it to us most effectively beginning in 2004, but have we gotten anything remotely as good since then? My answer would be no.
So that's why this was such a breath of fresh air because it has so many things going for it that I hadn't found in other films of this type. Not only does it have some really fantastic kills and death scenes, but it's also well acted from all involved (you're not gonna see some pansy looking models in this one), and it's shot really well. So well in fact that I'm surprised I hadn't heard of this director before, but I'll sure as hell be keeping an eye on him. And that's so important to me, even with horror films. If you're gonna take the time and money to make a film, make the damn thing look good. It's simple. Yet about a good 90% of the new directors out there don't seem to really give a shit how their film looks. The norm these days seems to be fast and cheap and to just copy the style of the "flavor of the month". There's zero originality or talent these days in the horror field, until I see films like You're Next, Aftershock or this, and my faith has been restored just a little with each new "good" or "decent" horror film.
The Collection pretty much starts off just plain awesome and continues with this trend all the way through until the satisfying conclusion. I do feel we've got a new horror franchise on our hands with this one and if this film is any indication, it looks to be on course for a solid set of films and possibly even a new horror icon. Now only time will tell if this Collector ( a guy who literally collects "people") will go down in history as more of a Jigsaw or a Michael Myers. Okay, sure, you can nitpick the shit out of films like this where logically, some or a lot, of things just don't make sense. But who really cares? I went in to see a film about a guy killing people and was not only handsomely rewarded with that, but I was actually floored from time to time at how creative and downright gory it got. On top of that, it's really well made and put together and that's one of the biggest draws for me. I'll take "quality" over "quantity" any day.
Let's dive into one of my favorite sequences shall we? The film starts off in a hidden nightclub. You know, the ones that nobody seems to know about, except the cool kids? And they're always located in the ghetto and you need a secret password to get in from some back door alley? That kind. So the movie begins in this undergound club and let me tell you, the shit that is unleashed in this films first act inside this nightclub kind of blew my mind to be quite honest. I sure as hell was not expecting that and it was pretty damn well flawlessly executed. Of course nothing else in the film can quite measure up to that insane sequence of "awesome", but it sure as hell tries and left me with a thoroughly entertaining experience from beginning to end.
Doing a small bit of research on this film's writer/director Marcus Dunstan, I see he's done quite a bit of things in the horror field, most notably as a writer penning films like Piranha 3DD (an absurd, but totally fun film), the Feast films (3 to date and I haven't seen a single one yet, but I've heard good things), and Parts 4, 5, and 6 of the Saw films. So he's been a round for a little while and has his teeth firmly sunken into the genre. As a director though, he's only done these two Collector films. Well I'm a fan now and if he continues to keep up the talent he exhibited behind the camera for this particular film, I'll continue to be one as long as they turn out as well as this one did.
Look, I'm not gonna lie and say this thing is actually scary, because it's not. Let's be honest, rarely is a horror film actually scary these days. Am I right? So let's not start bashing the film for not being scary. No, you won't be coming out of this one having had the shit scared out of you, but you will be awesomely entertained.
robotGEEK'S Review: The Cell
Directed by: Tarsem Singh
The Cell is a perfect example of why I love to revisit older films that I saw once when they originally came out, but remember very little of. So it appears waiting 13 years to revisit this one has given me a whole new appreciation and such a different perspective of Tarsem Singh's The Cell.
What I remember about this film in particular were the stunning surreal images. No real sequences stuck in my head during that initial viewing, but rather just a few standout shots, and really nothing else. Hell, I don't even remember Vince Vaughn being in this. And if I were to pinpoint the only things I did recall about this it would be that it starred Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D'Onofrio, played out like a surreal nightmare with stunning visuals and was directed by the guy who had done that R.E.M. video "Losing my Religion", which was such a huge hit.
The Cell blew me away for so many reasons. Not only is it a surrealistic and nightmarish masterpiece of visualist cinema, but it's also an expertly choreographed thriller. Probably one of the best thriller's I've seen done this way in a very long time. And that's what surprised me the most about this, because while those amazing surreal sequences are aplenty in here, a good chunk of the film is a straight forward detective thriller with an exhausted, yet dedicated detective, played by a great Vince Vaughn, on the hunt for a serial killer and his last remaining victim who's yet to be found, and quite possibly still alive. And I think that's actually the part I liked most about this film; the detective thriller aspect. I love these types of films. It's dark, and brooding and quite intense at times. Every now and again a filmmaker comes along and get's this formula right. Great examples would be David Fincher's Seven, or Kathryn Bigelow's Blue Steel. This one certainly falls under this category.
I'll be the first to admit that I just don't like Jennifer Lopez as an actress. I really, really don't. She annoys the hell out of me. Maybe that was one of the factors that kept me away from this for so long? Possibly. But I gave this another shot anyway and well, you know she wasn't bad at all. This was about 5 years into her theatrical film career, so still sort of a newbie I suppose. But she was fine. Quite frankly, I was surprised she didn't ruin this for me. I think that was my biggest fear. My head doesn't automatically go to Jennifer Lopez when thinking of a dark surrealistic thriller. And it's funny, even today when I see her name in a new film, I just roll my eyes. But moving on. Vincent D'Onofrio again demonstrates why he's one of the more unique actors in his field. He can pull off a certain kind of character that not a lot of others are capable of, and he does it so effectively well. You also have to admire his dedication to any part. Much like De Niro has done in his career, D'Onofrio can physically transform his body for a role. Just take a look at his role in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, or his small but effective cameo in Adventures in Babysitting, or his turn as detective Goren in Law & Order: CI for 10 years. Hell, even his role in Men in Black was oddly perfect. And while this film is peppered with a lot of recognizable character actors, it's really Vince Vaughn that caught me off guard. He's been sort of pigeon-holed into making one lame subpar comedy after another, I often forget that he can turn in a serious performance from time to time. And he was just great in this. Tired, weary, dedicated and not very pleasant, he plays this detective character with such a degree of intensity that you wish he would do more work like this.
I've got to hand it to director Tarsem. He goes by Tarsem Singh now, but I remember when this first came out, and when he was doing music video's, it was always just Tarsem. He just always stuck with me as a brilliant visual director, whether it be music videos or commercials. And I remember when that R.E.M. video came out it was huge, winning lots of praise and lots of awards, deservedly so. And with his first film in The Cell, he goes a step further with a bigger budget and it's simply breathtaking what he can pull off. I still find myself trying to figure out some of the things pulled off in this film. And what I loved was that it could go from purely fantasy and bright and beautiful, to dark and gothic and surreal. And while the detective thriller storyline is a big central part of the film, and what ultimately pushes the story along, it's the dream sequences that will stay with you. They are magnificently orchestrated, and flawlessly executed and that's all due to Tarsem's mastery of the visual form. Just look at his second film The Fall for further proof.
robotGEEK'S Review: Memoirs of an Invisible Man
Directed by: John Carpenter
Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a fascinating film. It really is. As I continue with my John Carpenter kick, I wanted to check out something totally different from his filmography. Again, as with almost all of his films, I remember catching this when it first hit theaters, but never again since then until now. I don't know, I guess it didn't really stick with me, and in my young immature mind I think I couldn't get past the fact that Clark W. Griswold was trying to play a straight faced leading man. Plus, at the time, I didn't know who John Carpenter was, nor did I really care.
Flash forward 21 years later, I'm 21 years older and wiser (maybe) and a much more appreciative filmgeek, and I'm finally ready to tackle this one on once again, so let's do this!
Let me just lay this out for you right up front, Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a great, fascinating and superbly made film, but a flawed one. For me it seemed like nothing could measure up to the great first act of this film. If you've read anything into the production of this film, you know then that there were a lot of problems, a lot of shifting writers, directors and studio interference, and boy does it show in the final product. I'm not going to bore you with all the detailed specifics, but this script and it's directors changed hands quite a bit until we ended up with Carpenter in the directors chair, with about 3 different people credited for the screenplay, which is loosely based on a book of the same name by H.F. Saint. But that first act is pretty stellar, then it slows way down in the second and slightly shifts tone, then recovers slightly for the final and third act.
This was a passion project for Chevy Chase, who was trying to branch out into other genre's of film, with this being his first real attempt at accomplishing that. However, I think this was far too ambitious as his first outing. Maybe if he had started to mentally prepare us for a more serious side of Chase with minor or supporting roles in a few dramas beforehand, this probably wouldn't have been such a shock to most of us. If you read any review of this film, that will always be one of the main gripes; that they just couldn't understand why the studio would want Chevy Chase for this of all people. And they couldn't get past the fact that this is the guy from the National Lampoons films. And I have to admit, when I was young and I first saw this and not knowing anything about the production, I felt the same way. Come on, the guy has been doing comedy his entire career, so he had to expect some kind of backlash. But as I watch it now I have to say, Chase was just fantastic in this. Though it was still a shock to see him so fit, tanned and so serious, I thought he owned this role. And he really does have the perfect voice to narrate this film.
Let's get down to the nitty gritty. This film is a mess, but it's a hot mess. There are things to like, and there are things to not like, but my feeling is that the good far outweigh the bad with this one. For one, you've got John Carpenter helming this thing, so it looks great. Not your typical Carpenter visuals, but as one of his few director-for-hire gigs, and also one of the few without his name sprawled all over the damn thing, it looks awesome regardless. You've also got some pretty remarkable special effects. Bear in mind this was 1992, when optical effects were just becoming the standard and practical effects were a thing of the past. Even for having been done in this time period, the effects work is simply amazing. Even as I watched this now, I just couldn't figure out how they did some of that. Though some are a bit shoddy, there are others that are just simply stunning. The cast is pretty great in this too. Besides Chase, you've got Daryl Hannah and Sam Neill and a few other recognizable character actors. But I said it before and I'll say it again, Chevy Chase was fantastic in this. I mean, seriously, it takes you about 2 minutes to put aside all your feelings about him being a comedic actor because he's so spot on in this as the typical wealthy high dealing lawyer with a questionable work ethic.
Here's where the film does not work; the comedy bits. I think from the get-go, and even with the trailers, you're led to believe that this will be some sort of action/comedy/thriller, which it is not. And I think that when people finally got a chance to see this, they were confused because for the most part, it takes on a serious tone, yet they still find a way to throw in some funny bits here and there. But for me, that's where the film falters. I'm not sure exactly who's idea it was to try and make this a comedy in some respect, but it's those little pieces that take me out of the experience, because up until those points the film is working just fine as a straight up thriller with some great effects work and some nice visuals to boot. I know Chase wanted a serious tone, and I know Carpenter wouldn't have thrown in comedy on his own, and considering how many drafts this went through, who really knows? I just think it was a bad move in general and it hurt the films potential. Had they marketed this thing as a man who's just been dealt this huge blow (becoming invisible is kind of a big deal) and suffering an identity crisis while simultaneously trying to outrun a crazy FBI agent and his goons so that he can use him as the perfect weapon for the government, it would have done better and not surprised those who went in expecting a comedy starring Chevy Chase as an invisible guy. Another serious issue is the second act, or pretty much the whole middle where Chase's character hides out at a friends beach front condo. This is where the film kind of grinds to a halt and where more of the lighter moments come into play.
As flawed as this is, I'm not going to fault Carpenter for this one bit since he had no creative control in this particular case. The theatrical trailer for this did this film absolutely no favors. With that music, and that guy narrating, it's all leading you to believe this is some other kind of film than what it actually is, so I can understand the initial backlash. And that's not the most creative poster either. But it's been 21 years now, and time has certainly been kind to this little gem. Not in the sense that it's going to be some cult classic or anything, but it's a helluva lot better than I remember it being and if you can get past the forced humor, it's a pretty great little thriller starring an unconventional leading man with some outstanding effects.
Quick Shot: John Carpenter's Vampires
Directed by: John Carpenter
As I quench my thirst for more John Carpenter films, we now get into Vampires.
As with about half of his films, I initially saw this when it first hit theaters, but remember very little about it and have never given it another shot until now. I don't know why my brain works that way; it just does. I guess at the time it didn't make much of an impression on me. One thing I've learned though, that is usually the case with many of his films.
Vampires is a film I'm finding really hard to get on board with 100%. For the most part, I liked it quite a bit. James Woods was an awesome tough asshole. The practical effects by KNB were top notch. I like the concept. I like the slight western style setting. I even like Thomas Ian Griffith as the main vampire. For about 95% of the time this looks like a classic John Carpenter film. But it's that other 5% that really gets me. Because you know it could be better, and all budget restraints aside, he's done more with less.
Another issue I had was that the film just had so much more energy when he had his full crew in the beginning, before they left the film after about 20 minutes. These guys were cool man, and I really wish they had stuck around for the majority of the film. Unfortunately they don't, and the film suffers for it. What's weird, and I almost hate to say it, but this has a very From Dusk Till Dawn vibe to it, which came out only 2 years earlier. That's just me though. I'm not saying it influenced this film in any way or anything like that, just that it had a similar look and feel to it at times.
Thomas Ian Griffith was cool as the ancient vampire Valek, only he didn't have much to do. I've seen him in plenty of films, and it just kind of felt like a waist to just have him show up hissing and killing people left and right and then disappear again for a good chunk of the film. But those are my only real complaints in the bitching department because overall, it was a pretty fun ride. You'd never guess that just 2 years before he had made the gawd awful Escape from L.A. Vampires is a fun film oozing with a gritty western style, just not a lot of substance. Maybe that's why I can't really find a lot to say about it other than it was a well shot and well executed western style vampire film; but it could have been better. You constantly feel like it's missing something.
Next up in my John Carpenter binge; Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Stay tuned!
robotGEEK'S Review: Solomon Kane
Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
I'm not entirely up to speed on what the whole deal is with this particular film having been made in 2009 and not getting released here in the states until this year. Anybody have any info on this? Regardless, I remember reading about this way back when and always coming across images on various film sites repeatedly for the following years; yet no movie here in the states.
So you can imagine my surprise when I'm casually browsing Netflix recently and saw this under the "New Releases" section. I love when shit like that happens. So yea, finally, here's my chance to check this one out. After literally waiting years to.
I'm just gonna lay it all out here, I loved this film. It's exactly what I was hoping it'd be based on everything I had read about it, and it was a completely satisfying experience. And as a fan of these types of films, there really is just so much to like. Right from it's opening frames to it's closing shot, Solomon Kane is a stunningly shot film with breathtaking cinematography, a badass design element in all aspects; creature, costume, set decoration, etc., and some perfectly choreographed and executed visuals from writer/director Michael J. Bassett. I mean, this dude made a statement with this film. And guess what? I think this is a helluva lot better on all fronts than that big budget Conan remake. In fact, this reminded me a lot of another medieval "under the radar" type film from France that came out some time ago called The Brotherhood of the Wolf. Speaking of which, I need to rewatch that and do a review on it. I remember it fondly and as I watched Solomon Kane, I couldn't help noticing the similarities in both style and substance. TBotW was a fascinating example of how to blend genre's the right way. I'm not saying Solomon Kane does the same thing, but taken as a whole, it has a similar look and feel. A funny little fact I'll also throw at you, both directors of these two films both directed a Silent Hill film each. Christophe Gans (The Brotherhood of the Wolf) did the first Silent Hill, and Michael J. Bassett (Solomon Kane) did the second. When you see this film, you'll understand why. Solomon Kane is just oozing with style.
I should also mention that the cast in this was both surprising and just overall top notch. Surprising in the sense that I wasn't expecting to see so many notable actors in this in small roles like Max von Sydow, Alice Krige and Pete Postlethwaite. And then there's James Purefoy, who plays the titular character. I've heard the name before, but the only thing I recognize him from was the Kevin Bacon starring television show The Following, as the serial killer. But I have to say, he more than carries the picture and exudes quite a presence whether he's playing a savage brute, or a peaceful man who's renounced violence. Basically two sides of a coin, and he plays them both perfectly.
If you need a synopsis, here's a quick one:
Solomon Kane is a ruthless savage brute and murderer. When his soul is bound for hell, he renounces violence and becomes a peaceful man living a simple existence. That is until he befriends a traveling family and is helpless when their daughter is kidnapped to be sold into slavery. He gives his word to her dying father that he will find her and free her if it's the last thing he ever does. Bound by his word, he seeks out to find her and deliver his brand of justice.
After having finally seen it, I'm kind of shocked it doesn't have a bigger reputation than it currently has. It was pretty straight-up badass on all levels and surely entertaining from beginning to end. I should also point out that this is effects heavy, but it's done so well that you never once want to yell at the television screen "Aw that looks so fake!". In fact, I probably should have made a point to mention the effects work early on because it's pretty outstanding to say the least. And the overall design work for the creatures, villains and whatnot by creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos was just amazing. So many times we kept commenting how killer and badass certain characters looked throughout the film. Hey, that's a testament to true originality to character design.
In the second act there's a lull that slows the film down quite a bit. Even then, they pepper the film with such stunning visual eye candy and a few interesting sequences here and there, so you're not really ever bored, or at least I wasn't. Strong opening, and if you can make it through to the end, you'll be a happy filmgeek. Because even when it slows down in the midsection, you just know Kane is going to get angry and be a badass again. He has to, that's what the movie's about. He's going to renounce the fact that he renounced violence in the first place, and get back to doing what he does best, and that's kicking a whole lot of ass. And boy does he ever.
It's Friday the 13th! So here's my "Best to Worst" list!
It's Friday the 13th, Yay! So I thought I'd take a moment and offer up a quick post on my fav Friday the 13th films, and the ones that suck, and then the ones that land somewhere in the middle. Why not, right?
So let's make this short and sweet and right to the point, shall we? And please, I'd love to hear your opinions, comments or even your particular Friday the 13th list from best to worst. Be sure to click on the individual titles to read my original reviews when I first published them Jack. Or don't; do whatever the hell you want. I should also let you know, I've never seen Jason X, and my memories of Jason Goes to Hell are shoddy at best, so those as well as Freddy vs. Jason will not be included. So here we go:
Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter (1984)
This will always stand heads above the rest for me. For as long as I can remember, even when it first came out in the mid 80's, this was and has always been my favorite Jason film. Great make-up effects by master Tom Savini. A young Corey Feldman pre-Goonies and a young Crispin Glover doing one insanely fucked up dance you'll never forget. Plus, it's also directed by Joseph Zito, of Red Scorpion, Invasion USA and Missing in Action fame. Overall, it's the best example of a straight-forward Friday slasher flick in the best possible way. What's not to love?
Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives (1986)
The thing that always stuck out in my mind about this one was that killer Alice Cooper song, and the video I saw constantly on MTV with footage from this. I also remember that cool Frankenstein-esque opening, but nothing else really. So it was such a treat when I revisited this a short while ago during my attempt to see all of these Friday films in chronological order. I have to say, this was such a blast, extremely well made and honestly, almost ties with Part 4 as my favorite of the series. But I think Part 4 just barely beats this one out just because of the sentimental value it has for me.
This one was just so badass on so many levels. The kills, while not overly gory or anything, were inventive. And the cast was pretty great. And I know a lot of people weren't really down with it, but I thought the dude playing Jason was just killer. He was taller and thinner than the typical Jason Vorhees, but he was also fast and just plain brutal; like a fucking stealth assassin. I loved the scenes of him charging through the forest going full speed. I know this was the one and only time this guy donned the hockey mask, but I wish they had stuck with him.
Friday the 13th (2009)
Okay, before you lose your shit, hear me out. Most people hate on this for no real reason. I really can't understand the hate. It's a well made slasher flick with some pretty sweet kills, a high body count, plenty of T&A, a thrilling pace and a very welcome addition to the franchise after the last few that really just let us all down for various reasons. It's a Friday flick, what else were you expecting? So maybe they shouldn't have called this a remake; fine, I get that. It really didn't offer anything new in that regard. So maybe if they had just called this an official sequel instead? I think that would have bode over extremely well with the general audience because really, it plays more like a sequel and quite honestly, it's definitely one of the best entries in the whole damn series by the "go-to" guy for Hollywood remakes these days, Marcus Nispel.
Friday the 13th Part 3D (1982)
Honestly, I've never been a fan of director Steve Miner. I just don't dig his style. But I happen to dig this one quite a bit if for no other reason than it's dated 3D gimmicks and a couple of rad kills. But the best part though? Jason finally get's his trademark hockey mask.
Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood (1988)
This is pretty much a ho-hum affair until it gets into the third act, where all of a sudden it gets into Carrie territory as Jason battles it out with a telekinesis chick who does a decent job of holding her own against this unstoppable force, but she just can't stop crying. Shit, I just realized that I don't think I ever did a review on this one.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Bet you were wondering when I'd finally get to this one. I don't hate on this or anything, I just don't really find it all that entertaining really. I remember the first time I finally saw this, which was only a few years ago believe it or not, the only feeling I got outta this was "Meh". I suppose I might have been more appreciative and much more enthusiastic had I seen it when it first came out back in 1980, or even when it hit home video.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Not a bad film, but not an exciting or memorable one either. Overall, it just felt like a remake of the first one.
Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Oh boy. Well, first of all, Jason doesn't actually reach Manhattan until maybe the last 15 or 20 minutes, and when he finally does, it's not as badass as you were hoping it would be. Most of the film he spends shaking down the group of teenagers on a boat. So much about this just felt wrong. No nudity. No gore. No kills on camera!? And no Jason in the big apple!
Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning (1985)
I don't even know where to start. This movie just sucked. Besides the one Friday film that's not about Jason, it's also just plain weird and has an odd vibe throughout. I really can't understand what the director was trying to accomplish with this one. I really don't.
Maniac Cop 2 & 3 hitting Blu ray in November!!
So here's a bit of awesome fucking news I found via Eric Walkuski over at Arrow in the Head, a great horror movie site:
Blue Underground has detailed the Blu-ray debuts of William Lustig's MANIAC COP 2 and MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE, both of which feature a 1080p presentation mastered in 4K high definition from the original camera negative.
The sequels arrive in separate Blu-ray/DVD combo packs on November 19th - just in time for Thanksgiving!
MANIAC COP 2 features a new 1080p 1.85:1 video presentation mastered in 4K from the original camera negative and supervised by Director of Photography James Lemmo, a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track, and a variety of extras:
- Audio Commentary with William Lustig and Filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn
- Back On The Beat
- The Making Of Maniac Cop 2
- Cinefamily Q&A with Director William Lustig
- Deleted Scene
- Theatrical Trailers
- Poster & Still Gallery
- Isolated Music Track
- Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems
Pre-order MANIAC COP 2 right HERE.
- Wrong Arm Of The Law: The Making Of Maniac Cop 3
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
- Poster & Still Gallery
- Original Synopsis
- Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems
Pre-order MANIAC COP 3 right HERE.
If you're as big a fan of Maniac Cop 2 as I am, where in my humble opinion remains one of the best low budget grindhouse style assault of action and horror on film, then this is awesome news indeed. These are a "must have" for me, no question.
robotGEEK'S Review: Dead End Drive-In
|image courtesy of Moviepostershop.com|
Directed by: Brian Trenchard-Smith
This Australian import has been following me around since pretty much the mid 80's, when it first came out. I mean it in the sense that I just saw it everywhere; video stores, rental stores, and most notably, my good bud's personal collection. Every time I'd browse his VHS collection, Dead End Drive-In was always front and center because for whatever reason, he considers this one of his favorite all-time movies. And I'll admit, that's a pretty sweet cover. Only that cover doesn't explain shit, so I never really knew what this movie was ever about and so I never sat down to actually watch it until recently. Let's see how it went.
This Ozploitation flick was subpar on so many levels. After my friend finally gave me the rundown on what the story was actually about; a post apocalyptic tale about Drive-In's that have been converted into prison camps, I expected something far more entertaining. And just with that premise alone, your mind can just go crazy with that concept. But unfortunately the filmmakers decided to go another route, and basically make this film boring as shit. No action, no fights, no thrills whatsoever. Yea they might drop one in from time to time, but 95% of the movie is so dull you don't even notice.
Ultimately, for me anyway, there were only 2 things that worked in this film, and that is that this thing looks cool, and has a pretty rad 80's soundtrack. Other than that, it's a complete waste of time. You look at the budget, the setting, the location, and you can't help but wonder what kind of film this "could" have been. What drives you nuts though is that since the film looks good, you keep waiting and waiting for something to happen, but it never does. And the whole "Drive-In/Prison Camp" scenario is just completely wasted. So much so that it drives you nuts. Here's why:
So this guy borrows his brother's rad '57 Chevy and takes his girl out to the local drive-in. Once he's there his tires are stolen right off his vehicle by the local police while he's having sex with his girl. Then he finds out that once you go in, you're basically stuck there until the government decides when or how to extract you. No real reason is given as to why. Or maybe there was, but I was so bored out of my skull, my mind might have wandered off. Oh, and if you try to leave, you'll be shot down. So he's stuck there for an undetermined amount of time, biding his time and trying to figure out how the hell he's going to escape. Meanwhile, the crowded drive-in has basically turned into a way of life for hundreds of people. They're settled, comfortable, and have no real desire to ever leave. But with only one guy who basically runs the joint. You'd think an overthrow type situation would be easy. Another factor that's never fully realized.
So right there you've got this cool set up where all kinds of crazy shit can happen inside this place. I mean, you could literally go in any genre with that set up; horror, sci-fi, post apocalyptic, whatever. What do we get instead? A ho-hum tale that plays out more like a "day in the life of" style story. You see how they get their food, how they get their hair done, how they basically just hang around all day doing nothing but waiting. Zero violence, tension, or even any kind of entertainment value in my book. You know what? The best and most entertaining part of this was a scene where a film was playing at the drive-in. They were showing some schlocky exploitation looking jungle picture and those few scenes that you got to see were far more entertaining than this whole film. In fact, I need to track that one down because it looked hokey as hell, but in the best possible way. That film playing just so happened to be another one by this film's director Brian Trenchard-Smith, titled Escape 2000 (which I MUST see!!), who believe it or not also did BMX Bandits. I shit you not.
Overall a dull uninspiring missed opportunity. I mean, come on; that dude on the cover's not even in the damn movie! But hey, at least I can say I finally saw this.
robotGEEK'S Review: "You're Next" and some bitching about the current state of horror films and why "You're Next" is important
Directed by: Adam Wingard
Is it me or does it seem like there's a big rush of "home invasion" films lately? I mean, I'm sure it's not as much as I think it is, but really, it feels to me like the "home invasion" is the new sub-genre in the horror field; especially in the last 5 years with films like The Strangers, Silent House, The Collector and most recently The Purge. I know there are a whole lot more; I just can't think of them all right off the top of my head at 1 am.
And here we are with yet another film using the same premise; a bunch of people getting together in an isolated house out in the woods (when will they learn?) when they of course start getting picked off one by one. But you know what? This ones actually pretty fuckin' good.
This is a film I remember reading about a few years back when it hit a few festivals, all with great reviews. But for some reason it disappeared and only got a release just a few weeks ago. But hey, same thing happened with the Drew Goddard/Joss Whedon Cabin in the Woods, another little horror film that took years to find distribution. I mention that one because like You're Next, it just knocked my socks off.
Yea, yea, I know. I bitch a "lot" about the state of horror films these days. I really do. But every once in a while a little gem pops up here and there and reminds me that there's still hope for the genre. Having grown up in and being a product of the 80's, I remember what horror films are supposed to be like. I remember going to the theater for the newest Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm St., Halloween and so forth and so on. I remember renting films like Evil Dead, Chopping Mall, Return of the Living Dead, Re-Animator and well shit, you know what I'm getting at, for the first time from my local video store when they were "new releases". Then we got into the Scream/I Saw What You Did Last Summer/Urban Legend generation, or as I like to refer to as the "Kevin Williamson era of horror", where hot unnatural looking humans from the current hit television show were cast as "regular" people to run around making stupid decisions. And then The Blair Witch Project happened, and then every wannabe hack figured they could mask their inexperience and the fact that they had zero talent by making "faux documentaries" or better yet, the "found footage" film. Then we got into the "torture porn", which was at least a decent attempt at revitalizing a dying genre. At least until hacks started culling together what little money they could and rehash any worn out premise they could find and adapt to the Michael Bay style of filmmaking, which basically means to just run around and shake and spin the camera as much as you can until those of us with vertigo or motion sickness throw up. But wait! That's not enough. Let's do lots of unnecessary quick edit bullshit to fuck with those of us with epilepsy too.
That's where we're at in the horror genre right now, and it's so sad. A lot of these filmmakers get a shot at making a film "one" time, and they blow it by doing it the same way everyone else does, and you never hear from them again. It's a rare thing these days when a guy who's out making his first film or "calling card", and actually takes the time to make the film look good. Prime example; Antiviral. While not a great film, it's certainly an impressive debut and one of the most striking ones I've seen in a while, even though Cronenberg does revert to a lot of handheld stuff for about 20% of the time. But you can see the talent there.
Alright, yea I got off track there for a bit; my apologies. You're Next is important because like the recent The Conjuring, reminds us how good horror films can be. Yea I know a lot of the films I've chosen have gotten a mixed reception. The Conjuring basically felt like a remake of The Amityville Horror (I still enjoyed it). And Cabin in the Woods wasn't scary, but damn if it wasn't badass. And Antiviral was more of a surreal thriller than anything. Very slow, often times experimental and moody; ultimately not everyone's cup of tea. And You're Next is just another typical "home invasion" flick, but with a decent little twist. Nothing that will blow your mind or anything, but taking into consideration that it had an awesome amount of gore and violence, a strong cast, some sweet kills, and even a few surprises and scares for those out there that easily scare, You're Next was a straight up solid horror film. Seriously, what more can you ask for?
The filmmakers have taken the basic formula and somehow got it right. It's not going to reinvent the genre or anything, or even spin it on it's head, but it was a thrilling ride the whole way through and entertaining as hell. And I'll say it again, there were a few nice surprises in this one; like who the main character ended up being. I really didn't see that one coming. The nice little cameo by one of my favorite new directors. Or that Barbara fucking Crampton (Re-Animator, Chopping Mall) was in this?! I had no idea until the credits ran at the end that that was her! And then just the plain brutality of it all, especially in the third act. The gore, the kills, and the violence was just awesome and extremely well done. I won't spoil it for you, but there were some seriously badass kills.
So now that I'm done loving all over this, here are the two things I did have a problem with, and they're just minor complaints really. First off, the look of the film wasn't anything to rave about, for the most part director Adam Wingard kept things stable and coherent. These days, that's really all you can ask for. But there were a few times when his loose freestyle almost turned into handheld shaky-cam territory and just totally unnecessary. Not so much that it ruined the experience, but enough for you to notice and enough to where twice during the film I almost lost my lunch. But then he recovers and things run smoothly again.
Secondly, the music. The music was fine. In fact, it's pretty standard fair and truth be told, you don't really notice it. That is until the third act when all of a sudden it morphs into some 80's style synth and man, what a fucking treat! Like, reminiscent of Goblin. It's such a drastic change that you immediately notice and it stays through till the end credits and you can't help but wish that they had stuck with that style for the whole film. But then again, I guess it wouldn't have had as big an impact as it did when it shifted gears in the third act. So I guess you can call this both praise and a complaint. Ha! Fucking rad score in that third act. I'll just leave it at that.
So there you have it. A film that on the surface looks like another home invasion horror flick, but one that's got a few tricks up it's sleeve. I don't really see this thing making any money because the promotion is non-existent, and the trailers don't do this any favors. I had to rely on positive word-of-mouth, and so now I'm spreading that positive vibe and hope that you will make the effort to go check this out while it's still in the theater, for however brief that may be.
robotGEEK'S Review: The Snowtown Murders
Directed by: Justin Kurzel
Category: Suspense Thriller / Horror
I went into this one knowing absolutely nothing about it, other than what the brief description that was given on Netflix Instant, and if you watch a lot of movies, that's always a gamble because you never know if the movie you're about to watch is going to suck balls or if it will blow you away. With as many movies as I watch, I've certainly experienced both. What's interesting about this particular title is that it keeps popping up in so many different categories like "Thriller", "Horror", "New Releases" and "Dark Psychological Suspense Thrillers". It was almost like Netflix was forcing me to watch this thing.
The Snowtown Murders, also know as the Bodies-in-Barrels-Murders were a series of murders committed between 1992 and 1999 in Australia. I'd actually never heard of these murders and was intrigued; I'm all for a good solid thriller about a serial killer, whether it be a foreign or domestic film. So after practically having this shoved down my throat for weeks and weeks, let's see how it did.
I have to be honest, all those quotes you see up on that poster there are quite accurate. This was a brutal and unflinching film about a serial killer who's able to convince and manipulate those around him to help in his killing spree of pedophiles, perverts, obese people, or basically anyone he deems unfit for society in his eyes. The thing about this film is that while it's a good film and a well made film, it's also a hard film to watch. It reminds me a lot of a Lars von Trier film, or even Requiem for a Dream in that respect. You know, the kinds of films you'll only ever watch once and never again; it's like that. While not big on gore and violence (though there is a lot, with not all of it directed solely at humans), it's not as much as you'd expect. Instead the majority of the film focuses more on the psychological aspect of the crimes, the accomplices and the victims, mainly young Jamie Vlassakis, the pre-teen who seems to take the brunt of the abuse from just about everyone throughout his young life, until he meets serial killer John Bunting, in the form of his mother's new live-in boyfriend and father figure, where things only take a turn for the worse. You could look at him both as an accomplice and a victim. And it wouldn't be far fetched to consider him both.
Going back to how difficult this was to watch; a lot of that has to do with it's poverty stricken setting, which quite frankly looks like hell. I mean, we're talking bottom of the barrel existence here, and it's extremely uncomfortable to watch at times. And first time feature film director Justin Kurzel's camerawork doesn't do the film any favors. A few standout shots here and there (many of them surreal) are completely overshadowed by Kurzel's heavy handed gritty loose handheld style, which only add to the films constant sense of dread. To just drive that point a mile further, the films deeply hypnotic score is arguably one of the best technical aspects of the film. I'ts just haunting.
Truth be told, this film tests your patience, but if you're willing to see it through to the end, you're handsomely rewarded with a dark, bleak and disturbing film with some outstanding performances. But what's also a little frustrating though is that not a lot is explained in terms of backstory, or relationships between a lot of the central characters, which creates a lot of confusion. Often times they just show up, with no rhyme or reason, and you just have to accept it. I had to do some research afterwards just to be able to fill in the gaps, figure out who was who and how they fit into the picture so that some of it made sense, which you really shouldn't have to do. But what triggers all this is a slow burn style of film with images and sequences that have no meaning (seemingly) and have no correlation to anything that's going on (seemingly). That is until you've finally made it through to the end and all these bits and pieces from earlier finally fall into place and start to make a little sense. But you're still left with a shitload of questions.
Ultimately, a deep affecting, brutal, but flawed film. But it's one that stays with you for a while and kind of ruins your day because it's depicted so starkly and you know that shit that happened in here really did happen and there are monsters like these out there.
Machete Get Ready; done 80's Sat. Morning Cartoon Style
Now this was just awesome. I came across this yesterday and just had to share. This little gem was created by Day Job, Etc. and is a spot on interpretation of how Robert Rodriguez's Machete would have liked like had it been an early 80's Saturday Morning Cartoon. Just Awesome. Enjoy!
Review: John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness
Directed by: John Carpenter
I have to say, I think this was my first real introduction to John Carpenter films. Yea I'd seen bits and pieces of a few of them growing up, Halloween and Escape from New York for example, but never really followed his films when I was a teenager in the 80's and 90's. That was until I saw this at the theater; I must have been 18. I don't know why exactly, but this one floored me. I had never seen one like this and I just loved the surreal aspect of it so much; Hell, I even had a poster of this on my wall forever. It still didn't get me to go and seek out every Carpenter film up to that point, but it made me more aware of who he was and from this point on, I would keep a close eye on his work. Unfortunately for me, what followed was his less than impressive output in his long career. So I'd have to say, this was one of the the last good films he had made before a string of misses, which ultimately led to him giving up on the big screen after 2001's Ghosts of Mars.
What I remember most about this was that it was so unique, and some of the surreal imagery just always stuck with me. Some of it didn't make any sense to an adolescent, but overall I found it to be a dark, surreal and a sometimes fucked up journey of a man hired by a publishing company to go find the worlds most famous author; Sutter Cane, who has gone missing. Once he arrives in the town where he was last seen, he realizes a lot of what is printed in the author's novels unfolds in real time as it is written in the books and that the town and it's inhabitants come right out of the books as well. Trippy stuff since they all seem to be fucking crazy.
So I hadn't actually seen this for about 15 years at least. I've moved around so often in those 15 years and with that, movies weren't a top priority for me for a few years. Crazy, I know!! But my recent Carpenter kick got me to thinking if this still held up, or if my memories were so way off base that this actually wasn't as good as I remember it being. So I figured now was as good a time as any to revisit this 90's Carpenter offering.
You know, this wasn't as amazing as I remember it being, but it wasn't bad either. I probably won't hold it up as high as a "lot" of other Carpenter films I love; and there are a lot, but it wouldn't fall anywhere near some of his bad films either. So it's somewhere right in the middle there. And as I said before, it's probably his last "good" film before ......well, you know. And this has a lot of great qualities. A solid cast, good practical effects by the always reliable Kurtzman/Nicotero/Berger, and an interesting concept. I think for me though, while there are a few standout scenes and sequences for sure, it doesn't really look like a John Carpenter film, with his signature extreme use of widescreen. I suppose with this kind of story, and it's setting, it must have been hard to film the way he usually does. But the constant feeling I had while sitting through this was "Wow, this doesn't look like his work". And the same could be said for films like Big Trouble in Little China, I know. But I'm just sayin'. There are certain films that work so effectively with his particular style of filmmaking, and while this one looked fine, didn't really play to his strengths as a visual filmmaker. But that doesn't mean it's not a good movie. It's very entertaining. Perhaps even one of the darker films he's done.
One of the things I noticed right off the bat was his usual synth score (which I love!!) is replaced with a more rock infused style with electric guitars. Weird. For real, it kind of threw me off there and the more I think about it, the more I feel that if he had gone back to his usual style of music, it would have worked so much more effectively. Maybe even elevated the thing a little bit. I'm just guessing though.
Overall, a good surreal horror film with some truly bizarre and awesome imagery. One that's definitely worth a try if you haven't ever seen it or it's just been a long while since you have. Definitely one of his better films from the 90's. Though I have yet to revisit Vampires and Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Those are next!
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