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Hidden in the Woods (2014)
The most inept filmmaking I've seen in years
The very idea of transposing a story so obviously set in a machismo banana republic to America is idiocy on a level all its own.
But apart from that, I'm having trouble deciding which was more painful here: The amateurish writing, the cheap iPhone look of the digital photography, the incompetent editing, the dead-voiced rendition of Amazing Grace over the end credits, or the knowledge that Michael Biehn has fallen so far as to produce and headline in dreck like this.
The fact that I managed to sit through this mess should be testament to my tolerance level, as should the fact that I've given the film two stars rather than one, just because it has William Forsythe in it. Even he can't do anything with the ridiculous clichés he's given to work with, though.
I'm sure someone will tell me that I should watch the original to see a better version. But I'm not going to. If the second time around is this bad with the same director at the helm, how good can the first one be?
No, it is not.
Masterpiece? Don't make me laugh (though I could use it after seeing this shambolic mess).
The good: acting performances. The bad: everything else. Shoddy editing, lousy storytelling, inconsistent style... as an example, the use of the twirling camera sometimes indicates the (unnecessary) reverse-time jump, sometimes (especially in the first half hour) it's just (over)used, ostensibly to disorient the viewer. A grand purpose indeed.
Also, with a view to the storyline, there is no way Marcus would even have found out about Alex until the police showed up at his apartment. First, the rape happens a quarter of a mile away from where the party is being held - and in any event closer to the other end of the tunnel, so that's where the paramedics would pick her up. Why would the ambulance be parked right outside? Second, Marcus recognizing Alex is just ridiculous. She's on a stretcher with her clothes covered by a blanket, her face is a bloody balloon that looks nothing like Alex, and he's just snorted God knows how many lines of cocaine. Thus, the whole premise of the ensuing chase goes down the toilet.
And no, the reverse storytelling adds absolutely nothing to the story, as opposed to e.g. Pulp Fiction and Memento. This film's sole redeeming feature is the fact that it presents 15 minutes of prime material for rape-fetishists to post and download in their forums.
Andy Warhol's future is now!
"In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes". True, this tendency has become more and more of a truism in recent years, what with shows like Big Brother, Survivor and the like. However, this is the ultimate in reality TV: Take a child with no talent whatsoever and let him or her spend a day with a music producer, talking about his or her hobby and then "composing" a "song" about it. Let the producer sex it up with a catchy beat, scratching and sound-bites, and what do you get? A product which not even my usually uncritical children want to see and which would cause me to disinherit them if I ever saw them on it. Not that I would ever allow them to be involved in such blatant exhibitionism in the first place.
The Devil's Tattoo (2003)
Quite good (Beware, lots of SPOILERS)
In the realm of group-of-people-trapped-with-something-picking-them-off-one-by-one films, there has not been a lot of innovation since Alien and Evil Dead.
Not surprisingly, this film does not offer much you have not seen already (at least if you are like me and watch all the thrillers, splatter and horror films you can). Direction and acting could be better, but are satisfactory in most respects within the given limits.
Surprisingly however, this one hits the nail on the head in every aspect of the story.
The snags in this kind of story has always been these three questions: Why are they in the monster's lair, why don't they leave, and why do they split up? When these questions are not answered to my satisfaction, my suspension of disbelief fails. Then it is obviously just a question of producing a popcorn movie for 15-year-olds to snigger at and forget immediately.
But here, the basic premise works, and each question is answered logically: the ten protagonists are eco-activists who board an oil rig to stop it from being toppled. Farfetched as this may sound, it could happen, and I have no doubt Greenpeace activists entertained a similar thought with Brent Spar in those days. Since they need to find the crew of the rig (but expect no problems beyond being told to bugger off), they search the place, and when they find nobody there, they are in a fix, as their very presence is what prevents the oil company from sinking the rig. So they have to stay. (The "weather closing in" excuse preventing the helicopter from returning is ridiculous though, as all the exterior shots of the rig show calm weather with barely any wind at all).
In addition to this initial premise, the rest of the story (and the twist-in-the-tale in particular) holds water in a way I had not expected. A rare sight these days, when even Stephen King expects us to believe that local police suspecting a divorced husband of murdering his ex-wife and her lover will not even dig up his back yard fifteen feet from the house (not to mention the fact that as he lived in another state, it would become an FBI case with all the additional resources this would entail).
Van Helsing (2004)
Alan Moore's ideas, none of his talent
I actually liked Van Helsing. It's a wild rollercoaster ride. And as an attempt to make something more akin to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen than Stephen Norrington's abysmally bad movie version of Alan Moore's work of genius, it worked.
Unfortunately, it didn't have Alan Moore, who could have made the dialogue work too and the character motivations more interesting. But who cares - the action was what it was about, there was plenty of it, and I for one at times even sat in the cinema wishing for a RWD button to take another look at what actually happened here or there.
A final aside: Now that Alan Moore has opened the can of worms that is public domain reworking of classic characters, we will see plenty of bad instances of it in the future. It's the way of the world (or Hollywood at least), and Alan Moore will regrettably never see one cent of the bazillions of dollars generated from his idea. Well, Alan Moore will most likely do very nicely on his own anyway, what with America's Best Comics and all.
How many times was that? Four? Not nearly enough, so here comes another three: Alan Moore, Alan Moore, Alan Moore. The greatest writer in existence.
Devil's Pond (2003)
Simple premise, beautiful execution
A pretty straightforward basic idea fleshed out with good writing, excellent direction and effective cinematography. Fine performances from Tara Reid and Kip Pardue (truth to tell, I have only seen them in supporting roles until now and never actually noticed either of them before, but this tight story really shows them off).
I watch all the thrillers/horror films I can get my eyes on. And I've seen some duds the last couple of years. This one, however, is brilliant (though not as good as What Lies Beneath). Suspense, character development, a script that actually holds water(!)... Come to think of it, a review this positive from me has to be a mistake. Maybe I'd better watch it again in a couple of months to see if it was really that good. In the meantime, I think you should do the same.
This movie has an original premise, but ultimately winds up a little too confused about where it wanted to go. The storytelling, which starts off with fine, mood-filled, dwelling shots, veers off into a style more reminiscent of standard psycho-thrillers as the conclusion draws near. One scene in particular (*SPOILER*: the death of the father-in-law) jars with the visual style right up to this point and seems to mark a clear break in the narrative. The first hour is absolutely riveting, though, and I'll certainly want to see other films by Ki-Hyung Park.
Geoul sokeuro (2003)
Some good ideas and a chilling end - Spoilers
I was expecting something along the lines of The Ring or Dark Water with this one. The general mood, however, it much lighter and less claustrophobic, and the story focuses more on the plight of the ex-cop and the traumatic experience that cost him his job than on the haunted supermarket in which the film opens.
Certain story points are left dangling (eg. why was Yeong-min released? They still had his prints on the gun, which, as far as evidence went, was harder than anything else in this film).
In my opinion, the potential in the effects was never fully realised. There are no real shocks. Maybe this is because Kim Seong-ho himself expected to make a Ring kind of film, so instead of going straight for the jugular, he went more for the lurching things-that-go-bump-in-the-night approach. I for one would have liked it if they had used more won on the effects and made them really jump at me (and make me jump).
Still, the final scene and the chilling realisation of what has happened to Yeong-min is worth it all.
The best zombie film in the last decade.
I don't understand how they could leave this one out in the 29 October 2003 poll (or how a unoriginal turd like 28 Days Later could top the list).
Undead takes half an hour to get cracking at the flurry of ideas and visuals that in the end make it a much more refreshing experience than any zombie movie since Braindead. By then all the idiots with the attention span of a goldfish had apparently decided not to like it.
What a shame.
Oh, and by the way, Danny Boyle hasn't made anything worth watching since Shallow grave and Trainspotting.
Fear X (2003)
What's the point?
As I see it, this film, like 'Spoorloos' revolves around the climactic meeting and conversation between a killer and his victim's spouse. But whereas 'Spoorloos' had a clear message (Knowledge may not be worth any sacrifice), everything just sort of peters out in 'Fear X'. Still, cinematically, it's on a par with Tarkovsky (who, I'm sad to say, I consider the most boring director ever).
Not a bad film, but certainly not one which will make my top 100.