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.