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Zhai bian (2005)
Decent for a first try, but plain awful as a horror movie!
Perhaps what drew me to this film was that it touted a haunted mansion, and a Chinese haunted mansion at that! It was an interesting premise, and the poster image featuring a bottled fetus (something to do with a child ghost) did little to deter me. After all, it was featured on a local newspaper along with snippets of an interview with the film's director, who stated it was his first horror movie, after directing mainly music videos.
That alone should have told me all I needed to know.
But like a protagonist in one of these horror movies, I trudged eagerly forward, blissfully ignoring those warning signs. Now, having bore witness to this travesty, I must say that it was just plain bad for a horror movie. It fails in all regards: It is NOT scary in any way, shape, or form.
I am a fan of psychological horror (like the 1963's The Haunting, The Others, and the Japanese masterpiece, The Ring), but this film did nothing for me. It had only one single scene that was averagely scary in suggestion, but that was placed early on in the movie, and was ruined by MTV style jump-cuts... obviously the director's music video routes showing through here.
And though I don't always enjoy shock-a-thon type scarefests, well placed moments certainly work wonders for a film. Unfortunately, this 'movie' has not a single scary jump-in-your-seat type jolt. Considering that I was seated in an almost empty cinema on an empty row at midnight, that IS quite an accomplishment.
Strange that for a horror film, nothing in it is even remotely scary. What little resembled horror in this film was borrowed from other Asian movies that did a much better job (Shutter comes to mind). There was however a slightly disgusting point about the fetus, but throwing in a bag of worms (hypothetically speaking), while disgusting, won't make a scary movie scary.
I must admit though, that the soundtrack for this movie was the (only?) highlight of the film. At times, it sounded almost like a disconcerted rendering of an old fashioned Gothic horror movie. Likewise, the premise of the film is quite an interesting one, but thrown into this neophytes hands is nothing but a jumbled mess.
Now I suppose that while this is decent for his first try, but the director should go back to directing those music videos. For now though, all you parents out there, this is probably a horror movie you can show your kids without fear of giving them nightmares...
The Ring Redux?
While this movie is pretty incredible with believable performances all around, one cannot help but notice visible strains of Hideo Nakata's 'The Ring' running throughout the picture. Right down to the maternal themes.
The plot in a nutshell is (spoilers?) a website kills its participants within two weeks of viewing, and only kills women by 'impregnating' them. A young, female reporter researches the case, and comes face to face with the horrors that lie within... If you've seen Nakata's 'The Ring', you'll notice a number of other similarities plotwise...
Though towards the ending, the movie was a tad predictable, and one felt like yelling the identity of the villain to the characters as they struggled at a gruelling pace past obvious expository clues, the movie still kept one rather engaged.
Effective as a horror movie, but somewhat lacking as I felt the eerie presence of the 'ghost' was downplayed somewhat... Characters seemed like one dimensional cutouts, and the ending was rather ambiguous, but effective...
Rose Red (2002)
No Holds Barred...
The problem with most horror films are the time constraints that are placed upon them. Being a television series that spans four hours, Red Rose effectively takes care of that problem, giving us sympathetic, and believable (to an extent) characters.
However, one must remember that given its a TV series, its special effects are at times less than spectacular, and that is one of its few detractors, a superficial argument that most critics would use in arguing against this film.
For me, I personally thoroughly enjoyed the film. Being broadcast direct to your television, director Baxley must have realized that the shocks which has plagued most of today's movies would be rendered ineffective, thus giving us a good old fashioned horror movie much in the vein of 1963's The Haunting, the book on which its based ironically is referenced (along with House on Haunted Hill) on the miniseries.
Although it does seem to drag along on several occasions, it is one heck of an unbelievably terrifying ride, and balances terror with humor excellently. I found it so enjoyable, that the first time I saw it was after I had bought the DVD, and sat watching the four hour long picture, engrossed and on the edge of my seat the entire time.
The plot is rather simple, and follows the traditional 'haunted-house' formula: a house with a bad reputation is wanted by an eccentric person, and tagging along for the ride is the house owner, and the guests, who in this case turn out to be psychics, each with their own special powers.
Without giving too much away, I'll just say that things go awry, as they always do. Definetly worth a watch for people tired of the jump-a-second movies being spewed en-masse in todays Cinema.
Power and Beauty (2002)
I just felt like saying this movie isn't as bad as everyone else seems to think. Sure it wasn't what I hoped for, but it was decent...
Being a big fan of the Rat Pack, the main reason I saw this movie was to see how Frank, Dean, and Sammy were portrayed, and I was sorely disappointed. Sammy only had one line (on stage at the Sands), while Frank had quite a few, but the actor portraying him looked, and sounded nothing like the original... It boggles the mind as to why they even cast the guy for Sinatra. Way too short, and way too emaciated, he looked more like a sleazy, third rate imitator of the voice. As for my favorite member, Dean had zilch to do or say. Sammy and Dean only appeared in two scenes I believe.
Peter Lawford was portrayed by a rather old actor who looked like he was in his late 60s. Though he looked more like the real deal than 'Frank', much was left to be desired.
'Momo' suffered the same fate. They cast a guy that spoke with nary a trace of a hood's accent, and he appeared very much like an accountant than a gangster. Well at least this was better than '98's Rat Pack where he sprouted a black hat and dark glasses in every scene.
What really bothered me though was the cliches, mainly 'Frank' wearing the same black hat in just about every scene he was in, including him with his tux, which looked odd to say the least. And he is a good dresser in real life.
The only one that I felt comfortable with was Natasha Henstridge as Judy, but who ever knew that with dark hair the blonde bombshell would turn out looking like the twin of Courtney Cox...
Now on the story...
Interesting... Don't expect any focus whatsoever on The Rat Pack, but do expect a very cut-rate romance movie, which is very slow on development with very stiff cardboard characters. While this may be a tad better than most average soap operas, what kills it is the fact that it is a biopic.
Shuang tong (2002)
Could have been so much more...
The reason I went to see the movie was because simply: I liked the concept. The nine gates of hell has always held my interest and few films have taken advantage of the possibilities that celluloid offers.
Needless to say, I saw this with very high hopes, and thus my opinion may seem somewhat opinionated.
Let me just say that the movie is not scary... leave the concluding scenes (which didn't make much sense anyway). No jump in your seat thrills, no creepy buildup, and hardly any characters that were actually scary. But this is not necessarily bad for some movies (let me emphasize 'SOME MOVIES') as it can help segue the genre into a totally different and unexpected one. This script tries to do that, but fails miserably. What we have here is a hybrid of a detective and horror story, or maybe the worse parts of both.
Characters are one dimensional, most characters are expendable and hardly matter, and try however hard I wanted, but I could not feel sympathy for any characters. And amazingly enough, the main character who spoke very little English, and when he did it sounded very heavily accented, but apparently, he must have been fluent in English... after all, he spews big words in lines which left the actor seeming confused.
Most of the scenes were utterly miserable and unnecessary, and after the movie, I wondered if the screenplay was made by an amature screenwriter.
Take my advice: Do yourself a favor and skip this one.
American Psycho 2? Not!
I should start off by saying that I was greatly disappointed by this sequel. Two words: It sucked.
Now let me retread and explain.
While this movie does have some great twists and surprises, the only connection that it has with American Psycho is the opening scene featuring Patrick. Even then, it ruins the magic of the original. Many people theorized that Bateman never committed the murders, and AP was quite open ended in that sense, as one could draw his or her own conclusions. This movie simply chucks that out the window, and simply says "Patrick killed them." Little surprise here that Christian Bale chose not to reprise his role.
I was extremely disappointed in that sense, as I was expecting more of the head trip of ol' Bateman. That is not to say that it is a bad movie though. As I said, it has great twists, and does not go for the traditional cheap thrills expected in teen slasher flicks. It instead substitutes that for intelligent suspense, and a feeling of an itch the viewer just cant scratch until the end. Though there are plenty of goofs in the movie, it is still worth a shot as long as you ignore the American Psycho in the title. This movie would have done great as a stand-alone movie, but as it bears the AP title, my high expectations were crushed.
Don't expect any social satire or yuppie jokes, as this film centers around a bunch of college kids. The main character is Rachael Newman, the successor of Patrick Bateman, who as a child of 12, killed Patrick with little remorse (By the way, neither Bateman's apartment, nor Bateman himself look like the ones present in the original AP). She wants to become teaching assistant to William Shatners character, so that she'll get a job in career and stop psychos. She accomplishes this by killing off her assistants. (Go figure)
The tone of the film is quite 'cutesy', an odd accomplishment given the nature of the film. While the movie occasionally relies on slow, stacatto tracking shots, much of the film looks quite professionally done, with the exception of a few fake blood stains, and bad audio synching.
Oh and don't expect much on the DVD itself either. The only features are the trailer, and scene selection. The trailer is quite cool, with the original AP music playing in the background.
All things considered. American Psycho fans, I can't stop you from buying it... heck, I bought it. But take my advice... it sucks. Don't expect a movie anything like AP. Why, even Beneath the Planet of the Apes was a better sequel compared to this, and believe me, that sequel sucked!