Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Very Craven Christmas III: Red Eye

Ah, this probably is my favorite Craven movie, and considering how utterly and completely nuts I am about Nightmare On Elm Street... and Scream, I suppose, that's saying something. Funny thing is that it's not really a horror movie, well, not entirely, it's more of a thriller, but  it does get into a bit of a horror/action movie mix towards the end, so it's good enough for me. Also, it's pretty damn good.
Very effective poster, I'd say.

Red Eye is the story of a hotel manager named Lisa, played by Rachel McAdams, who finds herself on a red eye flight, thus the name, sitting next a charming fellow named Jackson Rippner, played by Cillian Murphy. In many ways, it starts out like a romantic comedy of sorts, but that all comes to a close when Rippner reveals his agenda. Turns out he's working for some ill-defined group of badguys, and he's keen on having Lisa pull some strings to make an assassination attempt on a visiting VIP easier. If she refuses, Rippner is prepared to have his men assassinate her father. Also, he is dangerously psychotic and hates women. What follows is a battle of wits as Lisa tries to get herself out of trouble without condemning a man and his family, or her father, to death.

This is one of those movies that basically has one major set, inside the plane, and most of the movie's actually spent in the two seats where Rippner and Lisa are sitting. For that reason, the film is rather dialog-heavy. It doesn't suffer from it, though, the part where Lisa matches wits with Rippner is easily the most interesting part of the movie. I maintain that the reason for this is that is that the two main characters have excellent chemistry, and they're both quite impressive actors. Special props has to go to Cillian, because he pulls of the switch from "charming and helpful" to "misogynistic and psychotic" quite well, makes me think of 28 days later and the "In the house, in a heartbeat"-scene, but with woman-hating crazy instead of righteous rage-crazy.

This movie was released the same year as "flightplan," and both being thrillers set on planes with female protagonists, I suppose they might have had some kind of "dueling movies"-kind of thing going on, but in my mind, it's no contest. Flightplan wasn't horrible or anything, but it felt like it had to cheat to get the plot to work, and the tension wasn't half as great. Also, no Cillian Murphy.
Did I mention I think this guy makes the movie yet?

In the traditional understanding of horror, this movie barely qualifies, as I mentioned earlier. It's rather firmly placed on the "thriller"-side of the thriller/horror divide, but it's very suspenseful, and it's a good movie, Craven's best in many ways, and that should be good enough. It does also make it quite a natural ending point for A Very Craven Christmas, and I hope I've motivated those of you who haven't gotten around to updating yourself on Wes Craven's catalog of movies to do so, and hope you all have a good New Year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Very Craven Christmas II: Scream

This movie is in a sort of weird place for me. Being a child of the 90's, I experienced a lot of my friends being into this movie, but I, being a huge wimp at that point in my life, would have nothing to do with it. When I finally watched the movie, though, it was different from what I expected. While my contemporaries had pitched the movie to me by describing the most fucked-up fatalities, that really isn't the most memorable part about it, but that's enough introductionary banter, let's have a looksee at Scream 1.

Being a stereotypical slasher in every sense of the word, Scream's story is about a masked killer going nuts on the teenager population of some small midwestern town. Parties are held despite the multiple murder, and, as one comes to expect in such cases, the body-count continues to rise until the main character gets her Survivor Girl on, albeit in a somewhat more interesting way than what is usual. Scream is a very postmodern horror film, in that the conventions of horror movies not only is important in the movie, but also proves for interesting plot points, as the killer seems to be operating consciously on "slasher rules."
A quick lesson in how slasher movies work from a guy I identify with.

Scream is a fairly clever movie, at least for a slasher. Much of the cleverness comes from the slightly meta aspects of it, granted, but there are some scenes that are quite goddamn clever, involving a time-delay surveillance camera camera and bloody murder.
Also, multiple levels of dramatic irony

Not that metaness is the only thing going for the movie, of course, the dialog is fairly snappy, at least for a slasher, and the movie manages to have multiple characters that are actually sympathetic, which goes a long way in raising the tension. This is something I really wish more horror movies would do. Having one, or at worst one half, sympathetic character and a bunch of assholish walking gorebags does not compelling cinema make.It sorta reflects poorly on us horror fans when the movies we watch seemingly goes to length to justify the bloody murder about to happen. Also, as I mentioned, movies become that much more exciting when they have characters that are possible to relate to in them.

These two, for example

On the topic of horror, well, it's a slasher, so the threat will always be fairly well-telegraphed, which might dimminish it a bit, but the soundtrack goes a long way to make eerieness, and the use of dramatic irony is just pure delicious at times, chiefly in the scene with the camera, as discussed above. Also, the opening scene is fairly famous, but it's well-earned, the way the movie subtly escalates the tension through editing and atmosphere without stepping up the dialog at all. Of course, once the dialog actually steps up to the plate, it gets pretty damn intense.

Scream is one of those movies I always underestimate until I rewatch it again, it's an important horror movie, being the new blood that the horror genre needed back in the 90's, snapping the genre out of the funk of Direct-To-Video and ridiculous franchise milking. Of course, the new scream sequel may constitute as genre milking, but that is merely speculation on my part, as I haven't seen it. If so, that'd be somewhat unfortunate, but if nothing else, the first movie is a solid piece of work and definitely one of those movies that bears a second watch.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Very Craven Christmas I: A Nightmare on Elm Street

So, Christmas time is fast approaching, and, yet again refusing to cover holiday-themed horror movies, I decided to show some love for yet another horror legend whose name fits nicely into my absurd alliteration addiction. I briefly considered doing A Very Carpenter Christmas 2: The Revenge of Return, but as a rule, I try to avoid, or at least snark at sequels, and that'd seem inconsistent on my part, so Wes Craven it was. Keeping with the spirit of A Very X Christmas, I will endeavor to only write about the best movies, mostly so I have an excuse to not even think about "Cursed" or "Vampire in Brooklyn" again. Also, I'll be steering clear of "Last House on The Left." But enough about what I won't do, let's get to the horrors, shall we? The first movie in this Holiday Special is A Nightmare On Elm Street, a movie that did to sleeping what Psycho did to showering and Jaws to swimming. Spoilers will follow.

Something's fishy in Springwood, a bunch of high schoolers find themselves plagued by absurd and threatening dreams featuring a maze-like boiler room and a strange burnt man with a clawed hand. Creepy enough in itself, but this being a slasher, people start dying, and it's up to Nancy, played by Heather Langenkamp, to figure out what the hell is going on and, possibly put some sort of stop to it before she too succumbs to the dream killer. Also, it features Johnny Depp in his first big role and probably the strangest shirt he's ever wore.
Seriously, is midriff-baring shirts for men a thing that was a thing in the 80's?

The movie's villain, Freddy Krueger, named after a bully who tormented ole' Wes back in school, is probably the most memorable part of the movie. His burnt visage and hand-claw weapon is visually very different from the typical "built like a brick shithouse and wearing a mask"-killer that we see in many other slashers. Not that this movie revels in the visual aspects of the villain much, and  I dare say that really works. Freddy is mostly in shadow, and the few times you actually get a good look at his face, it's fairly effective. Another thing the movie does well is that it does not over-explain, although if you look at the whole Nightmare-franchise as a whole, that praise quickly fades, but more on that some other time.

Freddy's backstory is also quite nebulous, we know he was suspected of killing and torturing children but got off on a technicality, we know that the parents of Elm Street burned down the factory he worked at with him still inside, and we know he now haunt the dreams of his killers' children. How we got from the penultimate step to the last one is unknown, and I honestly think it's better that way. Is he a revenant creeping his way from beyond the grave by pure vengeful anger alone? Is he magical in some way? deal with Satan? Aliens? Who knows.

The way the movie handled dreams was also quite clever, favoring a smooth transition between being awake and sleeping, reflecting how it's hard to point out the exact time you fall asleep. Of course, once things starts getting really strange, you usually manage to separate dream from reality, but up until a certain point, it could be chalked up to things just being kinda weird.  Also, there's some symbolism going on somewhere in there, it some times feel a bit half-assed, but the horror effect of it is quite nice, and for a movie like Nightmare, that's probably the most important thing.
Hell-o symbolism.. also, disturbing scenes

All in all, I consider A Nightmare On Elm Street a solid film, it's an interesting idea with a lot of things going for it, and while I personally think that the series went the way of many horror franchises and cocked up what made the original good when making sequels, and let's not start on the whole Remake thing again, that doesn't really change the fact that the first movie's pretty good.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Slowzombie Halloween Spectacular

Ok, not so spectacular, maybe, but I figured this'd be a good time to talk about one of my favorite Halloween horror movies, namely Trick 'R Treat, a Halloween-themed horror anthology released in 2009. It's movies such as these that makes even the iconoclastic goblin that resides in my skull throw up his immaterial hands and say "Fine, we'll do tradition."

The movie's set in a small town well renowned for their celebration of All Hallows', wherein a small boy, or boy-like creature, dressed in a sackcloth mask trudges around, reminding one and all about the immutable rules of Halloween. Some require more reminding than others, and somewhat more... hands-on methods are chosen for some cases and infractions In two of the stories, he features prominently, but in the others, he's pretty much just there, seemingly unnoticed by everyone.

I'm really not going to discuss the stories at length, as to avoid spoilers, but a couple of them are fairly clever. Granted, there were a couple of times where I ended up going "uh, wait," to myself, but the movie's fun nonetheless. I can't quite place my finger on why it works, but overall, it flows very well, and it's fun, in that sorta-cheesy, sorta-scary way that such films as Drag Me To Hell manage so well. It's a horror movie that I'd have no problems using to ease someone into the genre, and probably a pretty nice party movie. Just a little tip for next year.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tucker and Dale vs Evil

This was a movie I honestly was a little skeptical of. I'm not opposed to horror comedies, the concept certainly has worked before, and the actors involved, at least the two main characters are played by actors that, on occasion, can be quite funny. So, what was the problem? I'm not quite sure, but it might have been the trailer. Trailers for comedy movies seldom work in my opinion, not sure why, it might be a timing thing or a question of the setup.

Well, deciding to ignore the boiling tar pit of pessimism for once, I ended up seeing the movie, and I'm glad I did. T&DvE isn't really a horror film per se, but it uses so many horror elements it's almost not funny. One could call it a hillbilly-style slasher from the point of view of two terrified hillbillies. Tucker and Dale, the aforementioned hillbillies, travel to a decrepit cottage to refurbish it for summer home usage. Things get zany when a visiting bunch of camping college students mistake the heroes' attempts at saving a friend of theirs as the precursor to some Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style violent shenanigans. Long story short, one of the college students is a violent psychopath, and he rallies his compatriots to go kick hillbilly ass. It goes hilariously wrong for both parties.

See, this movie is heavy on the darkest of dark black comedy, and that most visceral of slapstick, or splatstick as I have come to call it. Our heroes doesn't want to hurt anybody, but that doesn't mean people don't get hurt, oh no, far from it. A whole lot of attack rolls are botched, if you forgive the geekiness, so the college students manage to off themselves in utterly ridiculous manners, my favorite being accidental suicide by wood chipper. It's silly, yes, and it certainly requires a Looney Tunes Meets Evil Dead-esque mindset, but if you can get into that, you'll probably have a lot of fun.
Pictured: Not what it looks like

The characters in this movie would be fairly unremarkable, but compared to usual horror fare, it's not horrible, The main characters, at the very least, are fairly charming, at least to the point where one's willing to accept their lapses in judgement, temporary or persistent as they may be, and that's something a lot of both comedies and horror movies just can't do. Coupled with the above-mentioned black comedy, Tucker & Dale Vs Evil makes a fun time to be had for all, although it's certainly more fun if you're familiar with the hillbilly slasher sub-subgenre.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Australian horror double feature

Now that's a blog title I never thought I'd write, but what would this blogging thing be without the occasional surprise, right? By entirely random chance, I ended up watching two horror movies from down under in the same day. What are the odds, right? Well, one of them have been on my backburner for quite a while, while the other one just sounded like a rollicking good time, well, for me, at least partially terrifying to most folks, but enough about that.

I honestly didn't think Australia makes much horror. Of the top of my head, I could only remember Wolf Creek, in all it's fucked-up-terrifyingness and Undead, the cult film that unfortunately never got around to culting. Further research, read: wikipedia, reveals that the island of a thousand and one poisonous things also gave us Queen of The Damned, that one Cthulhu film that didn't have all that much to do with Cthulhu and The Howling III: The Marsupials, a movie I now must watch, if nothing else for the sheer masterfulness of the trainwreck that movie probably is. So, the track record's a bit... uneven, to say the least, but let's just see if these movies nudge the average up a bit.

First up, we have Lake Mungo. Even as a person who attaches no stigma to the label, perhaps the opposite, I feel ambivalent about calling this movie a horror movie. On one hand, it's about ghosts and the afterlife, shot in documentary-vision, a bit like A Haunting In Connecticut would be if it wasn't... insufficient and not thought-through. enough, but on the other hand, it seems to be more of a character thing, how our main characters react to what may or may not be a ghost, I'd call it soft sci-fi if the movie actually shot for some sort of a scientific explanation for this whole ghost thing.

The story follows a family after the death of their daughter. Their tribulations get compounded when it seems they may be haunted by the ghost of their daughter. Scare-wise, it's very effective, using slow build and a refreshing lack of pomp and circumstance, not to mention pretty awesome atmosphere building. Also, it's a bit of a mindbender in that the actual ghostly presence isn't thoroughly explained, see the "may" in my ultra-short synopsis. Sure, at the end, there's some substantial evidence some sort of nebulous shit went down, but the focus isn't on a confrontation with the supernatural, but rather the family coping with the untimely death. Despite what sounds like a heartwarming family-centric remake of "Ghost," though, I maintain the scary bits are pretty damn scary, especially since they're so low-key as to slip in past ones guard. Oh, and an American remake is in the work, pretty much no way they can screw this one up, nosir.

The second one is The Tunnel. This was a movie I only heard about recently. Released this spring, it's fairly unique, in that they offer the entire thing free on bittorrent. Yup, you heard me, they're basically giving this thing away, financing the movie through crowdsourcing and, another strange idea, selling individual frames in the movie. It's a bit of an indie wet dream really, reasoning that if people really likes the product, they will donate, be it for owning a tiny part of the movie, or just supporting the makers. It's an idea I really like, and if it continues to produce movies like this, I'm a happy camper.

So, for those in doubt, I liked The Tunnel. If I were to be extremely laconic, I could call it "Rec Mark 2." Yes, it's another Found Footage-film with a professional cameraman thrown into the mix, as a camera team decide to investigate the tunnels below Sydney, following rumors of homeless people disappearing and a controversial water plant plan that the government just suddenly abandoned. Of course, being hard-hitting journalists, they go in without informing the authorities, and surprise surprise, there's something down there that's none too friendly.

This one suffers from some of the same problems as [REC], in that the start is very slow, but unlike [REC], I feel the start is used a bit more constructively, building up the characters, an important step, I may remind you, in the process of building up a character and then breaking them down that a lot of movies that aim to do the latter forget. Once things goes down, though, the scares starts slowly building up, all the while giving out the occasional hint, and little more just what the hell is after our heroes, and in the end, we're not much closer to exactly what this thing is, and I, for one, think it works pretty well that way. Sure, it could be viewed as a low-budget trick, probably because it, on some level, is, but it's used really well, and the means used to conceal the full visage of the Whatever-The-Hell-It-Was never seem forced. Sure, they seem frustrating as hell, the times we're placed dangerously close to the thing,  but luckily, most of these moments hectic as all hell, so it's not a problem one reflects over much, except possibly in retrospective. It also helps that the beastie displays intelligence and predatory sadism, without really showing any of that pesky comprehensibility that in my opinion bogged down [REC]2's zombies. It's fast, it's ugly, it wants to eat frighteningly specific parts of you, and it's hunting. Outstanding.
At this point in the movie, only the three pictured characters are alive. 
Astute observers will notice the night vision camera is still being operated by someone.

The movie is pretty damn tense, much in thanks to the nearly entirely dark tunnels, hand-held cameras and  the aforementioned superfast hunter thing. The film uses darkness very effectively, although you may not like this experience if prolonged bouts of nightvision bothers you. The characterization is above average, but it's mostly used as a tool to progress the story, with a handful of instances of characterization for characterization's sake, which isn't bad for a movie this type. Acting's decent for a movie as small as this, and although it probably won't win any big awards, didn't put me out of the situation, which is always a good thing.

All in all, The Tunnel may be a serious contender for my favorite Found Footage Film, although I think I'll need to see how it holds up upon rewatching before I can make a final verdict. That said, it's refreshing to see a found footage film with proper denouement. Without spoiling anything,  the ending also contains a somewhat surprising emotional point. It's not mind melting or anything, but it's a nice perspective from a subgenre that 9 out of 10 times end with the cameraman being killed and/or dragged off. Regardless, you can't beat the price, so I highly recommend checking it out.

Monday, September 26, 2011

John Dies At The End: The Movie

What feels like ages ago, I wrote a short bit on the David Wong book John Dies At The End, and while I feel I couldn't quite capture what I liked so much about the book in writing, it'll have to do. The reason I'm bringing it up again is because, as I mentioned, I had heard rumors that Don Coscarelli was working on a movie. Of course, my long and bountiful... well, long, career as a nerd have taught me one thing, not to get overly excited as to rumors such as these. At this point, it's very tempting to go on a little rant about Guilermo Del Toro and At The Mountains Of Madness, but this isn't the time. This is the time for discussing actual tangible evidence that Coscarelli is making this happen, yes, a trailer. 


So yes, that will probably seem pretty incomprehensible to anyone who haven't read the book, but from what I can see, it seems very faithful to the original. As a fan of the book, I'm pretty excited about this, but it could also backfire, there are some parts of it that might not work as a complete transplant. I'm interested to see how they do the pacing, since the book was a mite unusual in the dramaturgical department, but at least there's an escalation all in all.

As I mentioned in my initial post, I believe the story is very much in good hands, since JDATE seems like a story that Coscarelli could do well with. The Quirk-To-Serious ratio kind of reminds me of Bubba Ho-Tep, a story of an aging Elvis and a wheelchair-bound, dark-skinned John F. Kennedy (or two old men convinced they are Elvis and JFK, depending on your interpretation) fighting a mummy in an old folks home, only replacing the melancholy of Ho-Tep with my favorite filling, horror. The horror elements also seem similar to his most famous film, Phantasm, being some less bleak version of cosmic horror with a strong focus on how knowing or seeing certain things will attract attention you really don't want.

So, here's hoping this thing pans out well.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Before And *After*: YellowBrickRoad

Oh, hey, I had almost forgotten about this thing. Blame shenanigans if you feel like it. But anyway, I finally got around to watching YellowBrickRoad. First, some corrections, our heroes are apparently a mix of cartographers and scientists, and this is the reason they go for the expedition, both to figure exactly what happened and to map the area. You wouldn't think the latter part would be much of an issue in this age of  ridiculously detailed satellite pictures all over the place, but I'm no cartographer, maybe it's a "woods" thing, I don't know.

So, my fears of this being a stupid slasher is certainly assuaged. Sure, there's a couple of kills, but something about the way they're done makes them more surreal than indulgent, in retrospect that'd probably be an interesting direction for a slasher to go, but never mind, that's not this movie. So yeah, the kills are odd, somehow, although I can't quite put my finger on why. Probably an editing thing. It doesn't work well as far as immersion goes, since it kind of draws attention to the fact that somebody made it this way. If that was the filmmakers' intention, way to go.

As for story, I'm not sure, I get the impression there's a lot of underused potential here. The expedition psychologist tapes everyone, doing interviews for reasons that frankly escape me at the moments. You'd think this would be a nice horror element, but as soon as things really starts going south, the point where such video logs would be interesting, there aren't any.

When it comes to horror, there's clearly a tendency towards slow build horror, and atmospheric freakyness, but I feel there's something missing. I don't really have a problem with the threat being vague, being a Cosmic Horror fan, I'd be a strange duck if I had, indeed, but there's something about the threat that doesn't quite work  in my eyes. Don't get me wrong, there are elements that are very interesting, and the one that chiefly comes to my mind is the use of sound.

See, as our heroes come closer to their destination, to the degree that they get any close, there's some possibly non-euclidean shit going down here, the sound of music from a LP player somewhere keeps haunting them, and the way our heroes react to it seems to hint that there's some nebulous other influence going on. Fairly clever, as long as you like things Lovecraftian. As I mentioned before, I do, so no complain from me, the music bit is probably my favorite part.

(SPOILERS HERE... MAYBE)
On the other end of the spectrum, the ending is just... ugh. I have no problem with endings spinning into wild metaphor as the climax approaches, as long as it's interesting, it can work, just look at Paprika, for one, but this one? Not so much. Of course, I don't know how I'd end this thing, but honestly, if you're going to end it up with some sort of vague hell/purgatory metaphor.... I hope you're aware that doing so may be the most cliched ways to wrap up a story I can think of, save that oldie but goldie "It was all a dream" chestnut. Granted, I could be wrong here, and if the ending's supposed to be something else, then egg on my face, but I still maintain that the ending's pretty bad. I might end up writing about the "WTF ending" phenomena at some later point, but that's it for YBR. I was pretty set to enjoy this film, but I feel it didn't quite measure up. Granted, there were some interesting ideas and some creepy atmosphere, but it wasn't quite enough, thinks I.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

BlackBoxTV

I've got a couple of movies lined up, but I wanted to take a small break from the feature length game to talk about short films. I'm a fan of horror short films, as they occasionally manage to fill me with more dread than entire feature-lengths, and in much shorter time. I'm not sure why, perhaps because short films usually pack the horror tighter, and the short duration makes it easier to sustain a thoroughly disturbing atmosphere for the entire thing. It doesn't hurt that your average short film is made by amateurs with inspiration rather than professionals who need to make a buck. 

Well, here I go with my anti-capitalism again, but nevermind, on to the subject of today's discussion, namely a webseries called BlackBoxTV. This series is a horror anthology type thing that occasionally dips into Sci-Fi, every video being an unconnected bit of horror with a similar creepy-as-hell atmosphere, the topics are ranging wildly, from life after death, to loss & forgiveness. They aren't all hits, sure, but they never quite elevate, or should I say descend, to the point of badness, at worst, they are somewhat meh. I

One of the good ones is called "Final Exit," a very unusual look on the afterlife. Well, not very unusual, in that it's more or less a flip of the symbolism, but it's not often you see that the very thing our hero have been trying to avoid is, quite literally, the thing he needs to do to stay alive. It also plays with our expectations quite nicely for that very reason. It's not the most atmospheric of them, but it's still pretty good, atmosphere-wise. It's also nice in that it acknowledges the symbolism of what's going on in-story, but that could be the lazy literary critic in me speaking.

One of their longest films, for they are all rather short, surprise surprise, is "Three Way," which is a valentines tale with a good bit of a twist, to say the least. Granted, you can see the twist at the end coming, but it's not directly obvious enough that it becomes annoying. Also, the reveal and ending was quite chilling in that low-key way that non-supernatural horror manages to do some times. Could almost be a feature length, but it also works well short.

I honestly could write a good bit about any of these, but I feel like I've spoiled enough already, go check out BlackBoxTV, and bring a really tiny bucket of popcorn.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Norwegian Horror Spotlight: Fritt Vilt 3

Alright. It's time to finish this thing off. Fritt Vilt 3 is, strictly speaking not a sequel, but a prequel Yes, that's right, we're going to the prequel well already at the third part of this thing. You can say a lot of of things about Fritt Vilt, but the concept didn't really need further elaboration or discovery. Now, I saw a preview screening of this, and I didn't really like it, which I suppose is understandable, since the rough first-draft workprint of any movie is bound to be unpolished. Let's see how it's improved.


So, for the story. Our heroes are, yet again, college-age kids, except it's the 80's now, oh joy, the 80's. Anyway, the kids seek out the hotel from the first movie, at this point infamous for the disappearance of a young boy and, shortly thereafter, his parents. Of course, this, like many other things in this movie, doesn't go anywhere, as they strike up camp somewhere away from the hotel, and get kidnapped, killed and in general mistreated by our friend, the Cold Prey Killer, striking some sort of wibbly balance between being a tragic manchild monster and a regular thrill kill monster.
Pictured: Our Antagonist. Scary fellow, isn't he?

Hoh yes, this is one of those prequels, ladies and gentlemen. The movie quite shamelessly tries to win our sympathy for the killer by giving him an over-the top abusive father. I mean, seriously, I tried to sort out the heads and tails of the logic behind the father's actions, but the only reason I can see him acting as he did was because the screenwriters needed him to be, and writing a descent into darkness is hard. That's another thing. One has to wonder exactly where the filmmakers wants the character, if it can be called that, of the Cold Prey  Killer to go. To Wit, in this movie, is he a victim continuing to strike back after his abusers are dead, or is he a  potentially preternatural devil-child who does what he does for the giggles of it? The inconsistencies seem to be pretty large, but it's possible I'm overthinking this. Wouldn't be the first time.

Group Shot!

Anyway, our main cast. I don't really know what to say about these people, except that they annoy me. They all talk in a way that may have seemed typical of the 80's, as a 90's child, I wouldn't know, but to me only makes them sound like tremendous douchebags. Also, the somewhat stilted and unnatural-feeling dialog and delivery doesn't really help. The characters are given precious little depth, and they don't really emote all that well until they start being scared, running for their lives and the like. For what it's worth, there's a good bit of running and screaming in this movie, though.

Also, this movie has a nasty habit of setting up things that ends up having no significance whatsoever. For example, it's revealed that one of the characters is packing an AG-3. Nothing inherently wrong with packing something with automatic fire capabilities in your horror movie, perhaps an odd choice when it's a given that your killer has to survive, but hey. Of course, that's assuming the gun has any impact on the plot at all. You see, except for painting the guy carrying it as a complete nutcase, and his friends surprisingly cool with the possible sociopath packing heat, the gun literally does nothing. The guy owning it gets killed off-screen, one assumes because choreographing a kill with two armed opponents was too hard, and the thing was never brought up again.
I call it Vera

A perhaps more grievous unfired Chekov's Gun is that of one character, a doey-eyed blonde who gets captured by the killer and kept locked up by his mentor-ish hillbilly friend. You see, our blonde friend survives a lot of shit, including multiple failed escape attempts, what seems to be attempted rape, and of course being locked up by a guy who could easily have played a part in Deliverance. Her fate? Finally freed for about a minute before being shanked. First time I saw this movie, I thought it felt rather pointless, although I by now realize she served a role in the plot, a very flimsy role, yes, a role that, strictly speaking wasn't necessary, but a role. Still, it doesn't sit right with me. The whole thing seems... exploitative, even for a slasher.

For all it's flaws, though, there's one bit of this movie I did not dislike. Sure, it's pretty much only this bit, since this movie at almost 100 minutes felt unbearably long  for several reasons, but still. The ending is actually kind of clever in how it wraps it all up without letting the story of the killer loose upon the world, which would make some continuity issues at best and make the first two movies utterly nonsensical at worst. That said, while I can actually recommend the first movie of this series for a good, cheesy slashfest, the second one did not improve, and by the third one, the quality degradation seriously started to show. You may have noticed that I haven't talked about the scares, and the reason why is that they're pretty much nonexistent. A few jumpscares and jumpscare fake-outs at first, and then pretty much nothing. Sure, there's danger, but no real horror, yet another sign that the creative minds behind this might need to call it a day soon.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Norwegian Horror Spotlight: Fritt Vilt 2

Next up in the Fritt Vilt (Cold Prey) trilogy, another one of those horror trilogies that only in the loosest possible sense can be called a trilogy, a rant for another day, is Fritt Vilt 2. This one follows pretty closely to the second one, and the main mission seems to be expanding on the incredibly deep Masked Ice Pick Killer mythos from Fritt Vilt 1. I'm not sure if this is a sequel that needs to be, but well, re-watching the original did lead to a surprisingly positive review, so who knows, maybe it's a repeatable success.
This is seldom the start of anything good.

Fritt Vilt 2 follows up on Fritt Vilt 1, obviously, where the shell-shocked survivor of the original stumbles into town, earning her a stay in the hospital that's a few days from shutting down, inhabited only by a bare minimum of staff, an elderly lady and a sorta creepy mature-beyond-his-words kid. Yeah, I can't see this going horribly wrong at all. Anyway, the local police recover the victims of the original movie together with the killer, who, surprising nobody, recovers from this whole "being dead" business and quickly expands his franchise of recreational murder. The fuzz proves to be inadequate for dealing with a lone mountain man armed only with melee weapons, and once again it's up to our tomboyish heroine to save the day.
You'd think this guy would be a plot element, but not quite.

The characterization in this movie isn't as strong as in the original, and it seems somewhat awkward or directionless at times, which might be just as well, considering most of the characters given much of it is killed relatively early, leaving only our heroine and Ms. Whatsherface for the final. On the topic of said survivor, she is, as I mentioned above, shell-shocked like all hell, but I feel it's overplayed a little bit. I'm no expert, but I get the impression that it's hammed a bit more than necessary, both in writing and acting, although she shapes up well in the end, which I guess is character development of a sort.
Ah, the road to recovery.

Now, on account of the killer, his backstory is expanded upon, but we're still not given much of a consequence to explain what he's about. The story clearly has some places it wishes to go, what with implying some supernatural, or possibly preternatural resistance to... well death, but it doesn't come together. Don't get me wrong, I don't have to have an answer, in fact, I'm perfectly content with not having one, but there's clearly an answer in the making in these films, but it seems to be so keen on preserving the mystery that it doesn't know what foot to stand on. Maybe I'm overreacting here, but the vagueness as to if there's anything supernatural or just someone stupidly resistant and some dodgy medical science is kind of getting to me.

When it comes to the kills, this movie doesn't bring much new, except possibly a piece of somewhat questionable logic. One of the victims gets knocked out with a fire extinguisher, and we think that's all from her. Until, that is, she wakes up in another room and gets to scream and squirm at the killer for about twenty seconds before getting bludgeoned to death with the extinguisher. Now this seems odd, since the killer, up until this point, did not seem to be of the sadistic kind. In fact, more times than not, he seemed to have a more practical outlook on the killing, like it was a 9-5 job but with more screaming. It seems inconsistent, 's all.
Kinda getting Irreversible flashbacks here.

Again, like the first one, this movie has one scene I really liked. Our heroine finds herself traveling through a dark hospital, encountering such sights as a bloody hand on the other side of the door, withdrawing back in the dark, general hospital creepiness... oh, and the killer rushing at her. Of course, at the reveal of the last bit there, we're greeted with a "it's just a dream" resolution, but it's still pretty cool, since it's dreamlike and creepy in a slightly Silent Hill-esque way before that. Of course, the scene doesn't do much, but it's a nice sneak peak into the protagonist's brain, and also, creepy as all hell.

No comment necessary.

Now, this movie isn't quite as good as the first one, I think, and the fall in characterization is probably the biggest problem, together with it, with one previously mentioned exception, not being very scary. It raised more questions than it answered, and although that's not in itself a bad thing, it does hint at a bit of an unfortunate trend. That said, I'm at least willing to give it points for having the hero actually doing a double tap of the vilain in the end, just in case, although some minus points for having the opportunity to do so without actually doing it earlier.

Thank you, godnight.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Norwegian Horror Spotlight: Fritt Vilt 1

So, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for some more Norwegian horror with your friend Slowzombie. This time, I will be having a look at Fritt Vilt, or Cold Prey, as it's known internationally. Faithful readers of this blog might remember that I had a couple of none too kind words about the movies, and while a lot of my criticisms still stand, the movies have come to be regarded somewhat higher in my mind since I first saw them. If this is just optimism or nostalgia or sheer boredom on my part, I can't tell, but I suppose we will find out.

First out is the original, Fritt Vilt I, a very Norwegian slasher, in that it follows a gang of five twentysomethings on a skiing trip in the Norwegian mountains. One of them manages to break a leg, and they shack up in a creepy abandoned hotel. Now, I'm not so sure there are all that many creepy abandoned hotels in the mountains of my motherland, but otherwise, it's pretty perfect for slashers, especially since there are some areas of the countries with precariously poor cellphone reception, in addition to being very remote, obviously. Needless to say, the creepy hotel isn't entirely abandoned, and our heroes find themselves chased by a masked maniac with an ice-axe. Fun times are had by all.
Our heroes

Now, despite the things that are kind of iffy with the film, I do mean that the characterization is way above average for a slasher. As far as I'm concerned, there's only one disposable satellite character, and although there's no high drama, one does get the impression that the characters actually have a purpose other than walking high-pressurized blood bags, which is nice. They even have a bit with the resident alpha male jerk having a bit of a sympathetic side, but that could also be viewed as a nice way to get him into trouble in a convenient time, if one were a cynical sort of person, that is.
There's pretty much no way this could turn out to be a bad idea

Now, when it comes to scares, you'd think this'd be right up my alley, what with it being in an isolated place with halfway sympathetic characters, set in a hotel even. Yes, my old horror nemesis, the hotel returns. I don't have no idea why, but I find hotels unnerving at best, and utterly terrifying at worst, or possibly best. However, the dilapidated nature of the hotel kind of takes the edge off things, for whatever reason. There's also a bit of our old friend, the jump scare and the blink-and-you'll miss it flyby, which is par for the course, this is a slasher after all.
No way, no how, no sir.

 However, there's a pretty cool horror moment where the blonde, Ingunn goes to take a shower , but notices something, and, not knowing the basic rules of slasher movies, poor thing, goes to investigate. Of course, the "something" is the killer, and he's out to do some killing. I don't really like the resolution of this scene, but the buildup is pretty cool. The foot shot is rather unusual, and I don't know why I find it so fascinating. Had I shared certain tastes with Mr. Tarantino, it would have made sense, but I chalk it up to it being somewhat unusual for a slasher to try to build tension like that. Oh, and surprising nobody, the blond girl dies first.

Pictured: The foot in question. Can you feel the tension?

On the topic of scenes, there's also one surprisingly funny one playing around with some tried but true slasher tropes and a can of something red. It's always a bit depressing when horror movie writers understand comedy better than so called "comedy" writers, but I won't get into a rant about my least favorite writer/directors right now. What I will say, though, is that it makes it a bit jarring when the next scene with blood, which is the very next one has blood that looks a bit less than blood than the canned goods, or maybe that's just my Hollywood-addled mind.


The biggest problem with this movie is probably the villain. The killer has no name, and pretty much no personality past the little backstory he's given, and the backstory is that particular kind of vague that doesn't build up around the menace of the villain as much as it raises so many questions as to distract from the horror, a problem I seem to remember persisting  into the sequel. The killer has precious little personality or uniqueness, even for a masked killer, which is a shame, because the characterization otherwise is, as mentioned before, pretty good. It's to the point that I'd almost be more interested in some weird 127 hours-esque scenario where the only killer is the environment. Still, slashers gonna slash, and all that. Oh, and may I add that a slasher movie using "All My Friends Are Dead" by Turbonegro for the closing credits is kind of clever.
Play us off, Hank.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

This certainly is going to be a Thing

So, another horror sequel is in the works, well, to be precise, a prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing. This time following the decline into paranoid murder in the Norwegian camp our heroes from the original does visit at some point after being visited by a stir-crazy Norwegian. Those who accompanied me through my Very Carpenter Christmas may recall that I was less than impressed by the ... uh... Norwegian from that movie, but it looks like horrible accents won't be this movie's problem, since they've gotten themselves some actually Norwegian actors, among them Trond Espen Seim, who fans of Norwegian cinema no doubt will recognize as professional PI and trainwreck Varg Veum.

That isn't to say this looks to be a particularly Norwegian affair, no sir. The main character seems to be Kate Lloyd, played by none other than Mary Elizabeth Winstead, of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World fame. Kate heads a team of Americans, surprise surprise, who's sent to have a look at what these cheese-eaters have found in the ice, the eponymous thing, of course. Now, as much as I do like Winstead, I have to wonder, does all American movies have to feature an American main character? I mean, I can see the appeal of it,  but you'd think it wouldn't be necessarily. Still, it's not like it messes with canon to any mentionable degree, so I guess it could be worse.

On that topic, though, I'm actually a bit excited for this movie, and I hope they do something exciting with it. From the look of things, they're running with the paranoia angle on this one too, although the trailer makes it look a good bit more action-y. I'm a little bit dubious about trusting trailers, though. Well, judge for yourselves.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rare News Update

So, I don't write about movie-related news often, mostly on account of the movies I'm interested in either being obscure enough to avoid my attention until I find the DVD somewhere, or have been out for a while. This time, though, I figured it'd be relevant to my interests to discuss something that just came up.

Now, my home country doesn't have the habit of banning movies, well, not any more, anyway, they famously banned Life Of Brian back in the 70's, leading to the movie's tagline reading "Too funny for Norwegians" in Sweden. Nowadays, though, this doesn't happen too often, the last movie that was banned was Ichi The Killer, back in 2001. Not sure about that one, but it's been too long since I saw it to formulate exactly what irks me about it. Maybe I'm just not a fan of this whole banning movies business.

Anyway, the dudes and dudettes responsible for such things have stirred again, this time banning A Serbian Film, citing Norwegian laws as they pertain to portrayal of intense violence and the sexualization of minors. Normally, films that aren't released in the theater aren't banned, and the distributors are kept responsible for following Norwegian laws in everything they put into the country, but A Serbian Film apparently was enough to get them to bring out the big guns. I haven't seen A Serbian Film, although I'd be lying if I said I wasn't even a little curious about this film at this point. However, having seen Cigarette Burns, I do believe I will err on the side of caution in this matter.

So, on the topic of banning movies, well, I don't like it. People in the western world in general when people try to ban books, or other media, but movies and games are still treated like this. I'm thinking it's partially because they're newer media, and partially because they are believed to be more visceral, if you like. It has also been pointed out that the ban might be counterproductive, on account of filesharing and such methods, of course, that could be said of any material that can be converted to some variation of a digital file, but the point still works. Also, I'd go so far to say that such a ban will lead to the wrong people seeing this movie. See, while the number of video store clerks with a detectable conscience I've met in my day is rather low, I'm pretty sure they exist, and I'm equally certain that the number of bittorrent clients with a conscience is lower, if at all in the positive. As far as I figure, the ban will probably attract two types of people, film geeks with morbid curiosity and junior-high teenagers with equal or greater morbid curiosity.

Then again, it never really was all that much about "someone think of the children," like so many media certificate cases seem to be, as it's more of a case of Norwegian Law which makes it lighter on the  nonsensical alarmist, a la when fundamentalist Christians got the impression that His Dark Materials, a cornerstone in my youth reading by the way, was of the devil and should get banned and so on and so forth.

Astute readers may have noticed that I'm flip-flopping a bit about what I think about this, and you'd be right in your observations, mostly since I'm a bit hesitant to defend this thing because, from what I can hear, this movie... may have earned the reputation, and, if one approves of such measures, ban. Oh well, thems the news.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Before the Mask

Long-time readers of my blog, of which I suspect there are few, may know, but it bears saying again. I love "Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon" this deconstructionist faux-documentary opened my eyes to the whole found footage genre, a type of movies I would later have a lot of fun, and some agitation with. Just the way I like it. 


So, imagine my excitement when I heard that a sequel was in the works, well, in pre-pre-production anyway. Yes, you see, "Before The Mask: The Return of Leslie Vernon" is trying to drum up interest and some starting cash with a crowdfunding project, in the shape of pre-orders of DVDs and other merch. They're currently aiming at 15k $ , and they're almost a third there. I haven't participated myself yet, but come payday, I will.

I'm a bit uncertain if this movie is supposed to be direct sequel or not, mostly since the movie's facebook page is being a bit cryptical, and some minor things in the casting list on IMDB, although I guess I should take the latter with a grain of salt. Could be I'm reading too much into this, or if it's wishful thinking or what it is, but I kind of smell ARG, Alternative Reality Game. We'll just have to see about that, though. Meanwhile, B4TM, as it is called on IMDB at the moment, seems to have maintained most of it's principal cast, and with the same writer/director, I guess you could call me cautiously optimistic, which is better than average.

For those interested in checking it out and possibly help out towards the creation of this film, can go here. Tell'em Slowzombie sent ya.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

*Before* And After III: YellowBrickRoad

Alright, it's semi-obscure horror film time everyone. My favorite time! The topic of inquiry today is a piece called YellowBrickRoad, a 2010 American horror/thriller set in New England, favorite stalking ground of Stephen King, my eternal sorta-nemesis-if-I-ever-bothered. Whether or not this'll be relevant is as of yet unknown to me, as I, true to format, have not seen the movie yet.


So, the plot is fairly simple on the surface, as a lot of plots tend to be. In 1940, the people of the town of Friar, New Hampshire, go up a mountain trail and never return, pretty much vanishing. 68 years later, a group of ambitious explorers, or something of the sort, try to pick up said trail, but discover that, surprise, surprise, Friar a la 2008 is a creepy town with creepy people, both presumably with dark secrets. The path also appears to be some sort of entity in itself, in a Genius Loci/Event Horizon kind of way, although that could also people being symbolical. I will, however, hope that we're dealing with an enthralling intellect of some sort. This is partially because the alternative is, as this trailer would have me believe, it being your average slasher.

The movie looks sorta low-budget, but not enjoyment-impairingly so, probably on account of the lack of color-correction. I'm not complaining though, the se7en/Saw-inspired grime filter is actually getting sort of old,  well, still nice to look at, but I suspect I'll write more about that at a later date. Anyway, if Paranormal Activity 1 showed us anything, it's that you can, indeed, make a pretty good movie for 15000$, and from what I can see, YBR has a higher budget than that, of course, the higher budget could also be bad news, see I Know Who Killed Me and more high-budget travesties than I care to count, but let's not get into that.

So, the two trailers I've seen of this movie paints it in two distinctly different lights, one as a creepy town/forest-themed Lovecraft-esque mindfuck of a thing, whereas the other one goes for the slasher vibe as mentioned earlier. In cases like this, I prefer to believe the nongeneric one is the most representative. We'll just have to see about that.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Terrorvision Part 2: More Who Horror

So, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I like Doctor Who, and I feel this show is somewhat relevant to this blog. Sure, it's not very bloody compared to most films I write about in this thing, but every once in a while, it manages to scare the living daylights out of me, and one particular episode I find profoundly unsettling in a way that I'm sure the show's primary demographic, that is to say young'uns, probably won't get. The episode is Midnight, episode 10 in the otherwise fairly unremarkable season 4.


The plot of the episode is fairly simple. The Doctor (David Tennant) has left his companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) behind to take a guided shuttle tour of the planet Midnight. The planet is bombarded by so strong sunlight that nothing living could possibly exist out there. However, midway through the trip, the shuttle is besieged by... something that tries to get in. One of the passengers starts acting funny, repeating everything that's said, it eventually becomes evident, or at least as evident as anything gets in this episode, that the creature, whatever it is, has possessed the poor woman, and tension arises as to what to do with her.

Now, what I really love about this episode is how it uses group psychology, conformity in the face of uncertainty and several other psychology-related things, it's really almost too clever by half. It's also interesting because pretty much for once, The Doctor doesn't really know what's going on, he's as clueless as the rest of the tourists. Sure, he takes a different stance, but he's also used to weird shit going on, and not quite as species-centric as the human tourists, but that might be on account of his race being pretty well extinct by now. But back to the group dynamics, it paints a rather grim picture of how humans react under stress, some people have theorized that it's a power of the Creature to fuel paranoia and similar through some preternatural mechanism, but I see little evidence for that. If anything, it's a commentary on how humans react on something ostensibly threatening they do not understand.

It's also somewhat refreshing, in a slightly terrifying sort of way, how we never learn all that much about the creature, all we know is that it more or less wraps the passengers around it's little finger and completely locks down the doctor, and that only a well-timed sacrifice managed to stop it from reaching civilization and doing god knows what. The way the doctor reacts is also very telling, we're talking about a man who has faced down space nazis, creepy angel statues that won't do anything to you until you look away, alien witches, the creature that inspired every satan-like character in existence, gas mask zombies, sentient carnivorous darkness, werewolves and more generic humanoid alien than you can shake a stick at, without batting an eye, but this thing more or less wrecks him.


Production-wise, this thing is also very simple. It's what my friends over at TVTropes would call a Bottle Episode, which is to say an episode made to use as little of the show's budget as possible, thus allowing more extravagant season openers and finals. Now, it could just be me, but I tend to like these low-budget episodes more than the extravagant finals, but then again, the Russel T. Davies-era finals had their own issues, I guess I might get to that later. Midnight might be the most bottle-y of bottle episodes, because it's more or less entirely set in one location, which considering the claustrophobic nature of things just as well could be a kinda big bottle. Sure, there's an effect shot or two, but there's little spectacle, which forces the episode to rely on acting, and Tennant brings his A-Game, and writing. I'm actually a little surprised that the writing is as good as it is in this thing. Russel T. Davies is mostly known for making extravagantly silly season finales during his run of the show, but here, he really brings the scary and awesome. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

High Tension


So, I had heard about this movie before, and it occurred to me that the movie aficionados of the internet seems to have some sort of bizarre hate-love thing going on for this one, a bit like me and several filmmakers that shall remain unnamed in this post, lest we get derailed. But ok, I'm told, even by those who do not like it, that it's a fairly atmospheric movie that has quite a bit of tension to it, so I figured it'd be worth a shot. Plus, it has Muse on the soundtrack, and I'm willing to forgive a lot when my British Alt-Rock friends are involved.

Forgiving this, though? No can do

So, High Tension, or originally Haute Tension, or "Switchblade Romance" as it is known in the UK and Scandinavia (now that's a lot of titles,) is a fairly basic slasher story from France. The story is about two college girls, Marie and Alexa, who goes to visit Alexas parents, only to have their rural calm and relaxation ruined by a passing trucker who thought killing everyone in the house and anyone else he might encounter would be a decent form of recreation. There's also a twist near the end, but I'm going to get all the other stuff I want to say about this movie, because that twist is spoiler-tastic, and very instrumental to my overall impression of this movie.

So, in my big Slasher Movie Taxonomy, I'd place High Tension somewhere between The Strangers and some of the middle Friday 13th movies. It's a bit of a strange place, but it'll do. There's a couple of frankly insanely gory fatalities (such as the "Cupboard Decapitation" and the oldie but goodie "Axe To The Torso,") while the main focus being our heroine running around, hiding while being scared pretty much shitless by a murderer that appears to be lurking ''just'' outside of view most of the time. I personally found some of the gore effects a little ridiculous, but I'm not a huge gore fan, so there's me.

Now, as I mentioned, there's a lot of panicky running and hiding in this movie, and this could be pretty boring, but it works, partially because our hero actually has a reason for not booking it, which adds to the aforementioned tension. The more I think about it, the more this reason ties into the twist, but I shouldn't get to that just yet.

Let me just talk about the titles for a little bit. High Tension is a pretty ok title, but it's awfully generic, like how Scream was supposed to be called "Scary Movie" (yes, really,) I guess. I actually like the alternative title better, it has a vaguely unnerving ring to it, although I can't really remember much switchblade useage, which is a shame, because switchblades are cool, in a "this thing is ridiculously dangerous"-kind of way. The second half of the title, though? Maybe more relevant, but I'll get to that. BLUH BLUH, HUGE SPOILERS below.



Alright, it's finally twist time. So, as the movie progresses, it's revealed that the trucker is Marie... well, an alternative personality of hers anyway. Ostensibly, Marie has gone mad with lesbian lust towards Alex, and when I say mad, I mean PROPER mad, "chase the object of your affection through the woods with powertools"-mad. Now, that's a bit weird, to say the least, and there might be some other explanation than that, but if so, it's pretty well hidden. Also,  there's plot holes the size of caribou in this thing now. Every time the trucker did something off screen while Marie was on-screen, we're left with a bit of a conundrum, especially when our two heroines is in the back of the killer's truck, while he's driving it... yeah, that doesn't quite fit with the trucker really being Marie, now does it? 

Ok, I will be fair, if this whole thing is from Marie's point of view, she could be seeing and hearing things that isn't so, but there's still logistical problems up the wazoo, requiring our villainous protagonist to be at least two places at once, and you can explain a lot by a degenerating grip on reality, but there should be a limit here somewhere. I mean, at some point you have to show how this is supposed to work. All in all, the twist left me thinking about the movie after I finished it, which is a good thing, but it left me thinking it was actually pretty dumb, which isn't quite as good.

Maybe I'm just being unreasonable, though, because the journey up to the point of the spoiler is fairly good as far as slashers go, although it's far from dethroning The Strangers as my favorite straight slashers.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Before And After II: Insidious Part The Second

There are definite advantages to being a pessimist, you can safely avoid a lot of disappointment that way, but that said, there are few feelings sweeter than having something actually turn out as good as you expect. If there was any doubt, I liked Insidious.

So, the story is pretty much what it says on the tin. This couple starts experiencing weird shit after their son ends up in a coma, the circumstances around said coma also being in the "weird shit"-category. Eventually, they discover that their son has managed to astrally project himself on to way too deep astral water, and now all manner of undead dicks want his vacated body, and the evilest of these, some sort of demon, being the closest to manage this. Needless to say, this would be bad, for more than one reason.

There are a couple of things with the story that I found, well, rather refreshing, for the lack of a better word. For one, yes, the wife is the one who discovers weird shit going down first, as is customary for these films it would seem, but when she confronts her husband about it, he's initially skeptical, but actually agrees to move out of the house, something that, in most Haunt-movies would solve the problem entirely. This movie, though, is similar to Paranormal Activity, in that it's actually a person who's haunted, rather than a location. This, for obvious reasons, makes this gesture rather pointless in the large scope of things, but still, he seems like a more pleasant guy than a lot of ghost movie fathers, so that's something.

Of course, this sympathy towards the father becomes very important near the end, where the dad enters the shadowy dark world that is The Further. It brings to mind how that Silent Hill movie got a lot of flak for turning the main character into a woman, the implication being, the critics claimed, that males could not go through hell for their offspring, that it was "a chick ting" if you will. Well, insidious doesn't do that, although I do see the more practical reason for the father to be the one with talents in Astral Projection, but that's a little too spoilery even for me.

Now, to the important stuff. The scares. Insidious brings the good stuff in this regard too. The scares are fairly low-key, not relying on the obnoxious jumpscares. One that works especially well is just past the halfway point, when the mom wakes up from some nightmare or other, and we see someone walking outside her window. Initially, I was in full "OHSHI-"-modus, but nothing was made of it, and it wasn't until whoever it was passes again, and she asks if it's her dear hubby I relax, only for the thing, a ghost if you were curious, teleport in and start being unpleasant. The timing is part of what makes it work, together with a lack of over the top orchestral stings and other silliness. The part in The Further is also pretty well done, it's rather subtly unnerving in a very "Ghost House"-kind of way, and although it does get kind of hectic after a while, it still feels rather subtly unnerving in the "less is more" way that oh so few horror movies seem to be able to do.

In summation, Insidious is a pretty good horror movie. Nothing brainmeltingly original or genre-defining like Saw I, but considerably much more scary, possibly a bit of a Paranormal Activity light for those who can't stand Found Footage films, or just a good film in its own rights, for that matter.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Before And After II: Insidious

Alright, after April passing like a blur of coffee and sluglines in my participation of Script Frenzy, I never really got to do any blogging, but now that I have finished my horror spec script, I'm ready to get some work done, well, blogging work. This time, I'm going to do a B&A of a horror movie called Insidious.


This one appears to be a bit of an oldschool ghosty-type flick. The IMDB synopsis reads "A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further." That sounds kind of promising, and I'm kind of curious of the nature of The Further, so I guess the Elevator Pitch, if nothing else, is well-crafted. The poster's kind of cool and ominous, not something I'd be in any kind of a rush to put on my wall on sheer artistic merit alone, but it does the job nicely. "Here be scary" it proclaims, and I hope the movie can follow up.


As for the talents involved here, we have a little Saw I reunion going on here as the movie's written and directed by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, who both worked on the story and screenplay for the first three Saw movies. I'm not crazy  about the second and third one, but I maintain that Saw I is both better and more cleverly written than the movie who gave birth to the modern Gore And Nothing Else film has any right to be, so this could be a good sign. They also did Dead Silence, a movie I wasn't crazy about, but at least it had a certain charm to it.


Now, for my personal thoughts and expectations for this movie, I'm hoping it's a good one. The "Haunted House/Haunted Family"-sub-genre is one that has for the longest time been limping along with very few new and fresh ideas, more or less entirely leaning on people feeling sympathy for a family in peril, while falling back to some oddly specific scares, the bathroom mirror switcharoo, rapidly rotting food, closet doors being manipulated and of course our dear friend Mr. Jumpscare O.B.E. I'm hoping Insidious manages to try something new, potentially exciting and/or terrifying.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Marble Hornets: Season Two

So, I did write about Marble Hornets a good while back, and the series came to a subtly disturbing, but somewhat unsatisfying end end. I thought that was  it. Sure, we didn't learn that much, and the ending sorta came out of the blue and more or less relied on us piecing together just what happened, but this being an ARG, that was pretty much to be expected.

That was before season 2, of course. This time, we follow the uploader of tapes/investigator of things that be spooky, Jay, as he wakes up in a hotel with no recollection of how he got there and a camera strapped to him. The hotel is mostly empty, except our hero and  a new arrival, a girl called Jessica, who we eventually learn is going through some of the same things as Jay. Now it's time to try piecing together what happened in the seven months Jay has absolutely no recollection of. Amongst others, we meet Alex, the director of the titular indie film, again, and although nothing's made explicit thus far, it would seem the guy might not be amongst the forces of the good and sane any more. Also, creepy video auteur totheark and the odd masked man is still at large, and of course, our friend sans the face, the Slender Man.

This season, if you can call it that, is a little more character driven than the first one, what with Jay actually being a character more than an audience stand-in, although I guess he still does that too, given the series' first person nature. Also, he interacts with another character, Jessica on a fairly regular basis, which is definitely interesting, since it becomes rather obvious that they're both hiding some sort of slendy-related secret. Also, Alex gets some more screentime, and he's actually pretty subtly creepy in a way that makes it ambigous to which degree he's insane or the only one with the know-how to survive the Slenderman's... well, whatever he's doing.

Scare-wise, the show has improved, I feel. Sure, season 1 was plenty scary, but I feel the dread is just continues building in S 02. It does help that Jay finds himself in a mostly empty hotel, I guess, given my highly irrational fear of hotels, but there's still chills and thrills galore. One could argue some of the subtlety has been lost, since we definitely get less "Slendy just standing there, or is he?" and more actual sightings, but I guess the show has evolved past it's larval stage in a way, don't get me wrong, though, we get some rather tasty play with paranoia and long periods of build-up, some of them building up to nothing. These buildups to nothing could be annoying, see that godawful Alone In The Dark movie, but in Marble Hornets, it kinda works, creating an oppressive atmosphere that underlines that whatever you're dealing with doesn't like you and probably got at least one law of nature under his thumb.

I'm excited to see where Marble Hornets goes from here, as it is one of my favorite running horror series. I'm considering checking out other "slenderblogs," but that probably won't be this month, more details on why on Thursday.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Off Topic Thursday: My Favorite Movie

Being the resident "film guy" in pretty much every group of friends I have, there's one question I get a lot, namely, "What is your favorite movie?" For the longest time, this question was the most surefire way to get me stuck in some sort of mental 20 goto 10 loop, but luckily, I seem to have found a way to escape that one. How, you might ask? I have decided my very favorite movie, and unless something changes, I now have an answer. So, my favorite movie? 12 Angry Men from 1957.
12 angry men is the story of twelve men on jury duty as they try to reach a consensus in a case where a young boy from a bad neighborhood is accused of murdering his abusive father. At first, the vote is 11 for the boy being guilty, but Juror #8, played by  Henry Fonda, is not so sure. Slowly, but surely, he convinces his fellow jurors that the case is more complicated than they assumed, and that there's room for reasonable doubt. Maybe one of the most interesting thing about this movie is how it's set almost entirely in one small room, the juror's room. As one might be able to glean from my posts about Devil and Buried, I find the thought of movies set entirely in one set to be fascinating, if nothing else for the sheer skill it takes to make a coherent, exciting story without being able to cut away, not to mention the challenge to all involved to make the thing interesting both story-wise and visually.

12 Angry Men delivers everything I require in an one-set film in spades, the dialog is informative and engaging without being on-the-nose, and the exposition is presented more as a puzzle than a laundry list of what happened, and that's possibly the thing that makes this thing tick, we're not as much told what happens as much as we experience the main characters going over what they know and trying to judge the value of the evidence and witness statements, it ties the plot regarding the crime together very well although, of course, we never get any definitive proof that the rising theory, that the boy is innocent, is correct, and he could, in fact be a murderer for all we know, but since there's reasonable doubt in the case now.

Another thing I love about this movie is the characters. Granted, not all of the 12 jurors are all that fleshed out, but we still have some very memorable characters. There's Juror 8, of course, our hero, a strong-willed man that resists peer pressure in the name of justice, Juror 3, the most obvious antagonistic character with some unresolved family issues clouding his perception of the case, Juror 4, who remains calm and analytical to the end, and actually presents a coherent and logical case for the boy's guilt, Juror 9, an elderly man who sides with 8 early and provides the final clue, actually, I realize most of the characters are interesting, although there are one or two that at least aren't very prominent.