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A brilliant gorefest! A great tribute to Eurotrash horror! A philosophical social satire!
Watching Sandik (aka THE CHEST) introduced me to the unique vision of Can Evrenol. The references and the style used in this film clearly show that Evrenol is in great command of the language of cinema from exploitation horror. But rather than simply giving us a taste of gore (and, believe me, it is a brilliant gorefest!), Evrenol instead displays the bloodshed in front of a very strong curtain of social satire: The foundations of family, as the strong haven that we have been pre-conditioned to completely rely on, are shaken to the grave under the shock and awe of what is inside THE CHEST! A true masterpiece! What is inside the Chest? .... Watch and find out.
One of my favorite films at the Seattle international film festival (SIFF2003), and I had the chance to see it again during a brief run. I agree with the positive comments by other readers. A true cinematic gem, told in a folkloric tragedy. But there's this one scene that i absolutely love because it's a tribute to early german expressionist cinema. The way it is shot and edited, is what excellent cinema survives on. I know that sounds very vague, but that's how speechless the scene leaves me. Ok here it is: This is a possible spoiler so don't read on if you don't want to know the plot:
During one murder scene: it is night. THe victim is in the outside bathroom (small cabin) and the killer approaches. He has a white goose under his armpit. The victim sees the killer thru the square window on the door.
1)The face of the killer approaches (POV of victim) 2) CUT TO: goose flapping winds while shrieking in the air 3) CUT TO: THe face of victim steps back and disapears into the darkness of the cabin 4) CUT TO: killer enters cabin and the cabin shakes while we hear grunts and moans and while farm equipment that were leaning against the cabin fall to the ground.
I mean, this is stuff that is very simple but once constructed it looks amazing and cinematic. And there are plenty of scenes like this. I think this is a marvelous accomplishment. Congrats to the filmmaker.
The Station Agent (2003)
During the main titles sequence, a montage of vinnets about how a dwarf's life is so complicated because he is center of attention and at the same time he's too short to be noticed, I already found myself in a plot based on acting out what it is destined to. A film with a dwarf, apparently, must showcase the challenges he must go through during life. Well, why not stick a montage explaining this during the main title sequence? Nice, but I already lost any hint of respect for originality at this point.
Along the way some interesting characters come in, but the sincerity of their conflicts are left at a Cuban guy, developed as if only to provide comic relief and become the anti-thesis of a dwarf: he who looks like a man but acts like a kid (while the dwarf looks like a kid but acts like a man), who claims he can't stand his sick dad. While a woman who has relationship problems due to her tragic past, becomes woven in as if only to be able to justify some of her weak-founded comments later in the film.
The actors are good. But the characters written only feel like dentures: from a distance they look pretty and interesting, but you can take them out and place them in a water glass over nite. That's how disposable they are. I congratulate the filmmaker for receiving awards, but seeing the film makes me question the jury, or the quality of the other competing films. Because nothing about this film, that it won the awards for, stands out as being innovative and original enough. But let's not forget other crew's accomplishments: The cinematography was a success. Works great and no flaws. The music score by Stephen Trask is the right idea: Acoustic guitar, harmonica, percussion, but is very amateurly handled. The spotting is poorly done (where music begins, and ends). But that's what happens when a songwriter ends up scoring the film. Overall, a simply forgettable film.
In This World (2002)
In search for the promised lands
Those of us who live in so-called "western" and "civilized" cities always enjoy imagining the nostalgia of getting away from it all, owning a small hut in the mountains, living off of nature's gifts: veggies from the back yard, and meat from the farmhouse. Well, then there are those who live in those places that seem oh so nostalgic to us, and can't wait to get away from it all. They face the realities of rural life that so many of us day-dreamers tend not to include in our imaginings. And it also becomes hard for us to comprehend what is it about our stress-filled lives that these people want, that they would put their lives in danger and risk everything for entering another country and be part of that life. Then we realize the ignorant and arrogant lives we've been living: The luxury of taking survival for granted.
Films like "In this world" show us the journey taken in search for the promised lands. And we realize that the struggle for survival is common in every part of the world; it simply takes a different shape or form. The refugee's life becomes a story of adaption, rather than reaching a resolution. The idea of getting away from it all turns into realizing the lack of the void: that the frame of mind is what dictates what we want to get away from. Because it is so easy to find something to want to get away from, anywhere we live. Winterbottom's film captures these issues in almost documented reality of two brothers in search for the promised lands. It's almost as obvious of a reality right infront of us, as real and un-noticed as the image of the main titles super-imposed on a paint-peeling wall.
We see that we all are a refugee, running away from something, only to realize that we end up chasing a dream we will be running away from again later.
I saw the american -cut- version. Too bad, because i missed the two notorious scenes that people have been talking about. Still it was a very well made film. It takes its time and manages to built tension and cinematic progression. I was really impressed with the musical score, but only to realize that the version i saw used pre-existing music from a film called "kingdom of spiders". It was orchestral (quite an unusual sound for Italian horror) and took me by surprise. The story has a wonderful creepy feel to it, nice use of a Greek "ghost town" and traditionally creepy scenes (like the use of catacombs with human bones). Very impressive, but i still want to see the 2 notorious scenes i missed because of lousy censorship rules, or editing. Whichever caused me to miss out on Massaccesi's (aka D'amato)original vision.
Night of the Scarecrow (1995)
Well, "hay" there
The special effects and make-up are well done. The plot is standard. Characters are really fun, especially the priest. But the main girl and guy were a bit of a bore. As if cast only for their looks (which is usual, but at least look for a bit more, right?) The Scarecrow is funny and entertaining. He could've easily become one of those horror film characters like Leprechaun, or PumkinHead, or Jack Frost. But not exciting enough to become a Jason, or Freddy. Not much to say except i enjoyed it, rather than getting just plain bored.
Luther the Geek (1990)
I'd chose either over this film. This film has been in my "must see" list for a while because people talked about it being "disturbing" and also the VHS box contains lots and lots of quotes from people saying how "amazing" it is, or how "as close as you can get to texas chainsaw massacre" and lines like that. But, sorry folks, I was disappointed big time. The idea is interesting, but the script is SO underdeveloped that each character becomes a mistaken creation of evolution and people do indeed to the dumbest films in the film.
That, in turn, takes away any credibility that the plot may have otherwise had. I couldn't believe how unnecessarily loooooong some "where is he, let's find him" sequences were. A few gory moments to please the gore fan, but they are so few that by the time we get to them there's no point. If Luther's a geek, then the filmmakers must really be down on the food chain.
The Bad Seed (1956)
This film was surprisingly unsettling for its time and its subject matter. We've seen lots of films where the lil' one goes bad (the good son, etc...) but this one is quite cinematic i must say. The highlight for me was composer Alex North's score. Beautifully Eerie would be the word to describe it. North's scores have predominantly used contemporary harmonies and dissonances. This is another great example of his superb style. Too bad we couldn't see 2001: a space odyssey, with his original score. Back to the Bad Seed: The lil' girls acting may seem over the top sometimes. Today she could've been diagnosed with Tourrett's syndrome or maybe overdosed on ADHD pills. But then she was just a nice little girl with a little temper every now and then. One other minor fault is the explanations about the nurtureful qualities of psychological behavior, to help the audience understand what's going on. Everyone remember "Psycho"? How we are told by the police what multiple personality disorder is? Remember how unnecessary that line feels today? Well, the Bad Seed has some of that as well. But overall it was quite a delight, and an examination of the anti-thesis of the happy american family.
Witchboard is a well written, well acted, and well directed film. It's fun, it's light hearted, and it's perfect family entertainment. Everyone, grab a Ouija board and call over some spirits. No Ouija board? No worries. Go to your nearby video rental and rent Witchboard instead. But don't watch it alone. Not because it's too scary, but simply because it's quite fun and it doesn't require a lot of your attention so some buddies to chat with would be a good idea. You know how some films try to have this sub-plot idea going, to enhance the main story and characters? Well this one has one of those too and it's quite well written i must say. Characters are believable, some are funnier than others, and the acting is convincing. Some of the effects are very nostalgic, particularly to those who love horror films from the 80's.
The Hearse (1980)
Shoot the Piano Player
I found this title in my search for good quality horror films. This one, obviously, qualifies into the "haunted house" genre where the scare factor is more in-direct. But there was a problem. This movie isn't good. I hate to say that, because i strive to find positive attributes in every film i see, but this film simply is badly made. How more contrived can a haunted house script be? The film begins with a woman realizing she needs to spend time alone because she's been having "difficult times" (so we can later explain why she thinks she must be crazy when she sees things), then the big house inherited from her dead aunt (low angle shots here, with blue lights behind dead trees, a la Amityville horror) and a bunch of bad acting locals who act unkind to this lady almost as if just because the script calls for it. But here's the biggest fault: The musical score. Sorry Mr. Webster Lewis, but your score took away any possible strength this film could have had. Not only have they re-used the the same 3 cues through out the film (which i can understand to some degree, considering recording costs) but each cue within itself is bad. They begin with this short piano lick which, everytime you hear it, you're supposed to realize that "something ain't right here". It becomes tiring, it becomes overpowering. In other cues you hear this Jaws' theme-like piano motif pounding away which is supposed to build the tension, but give me a break guys. And next time hire a composer who knows that writing original film music is more than trying to create suspense by using diminished chords or pounding low piano keys. By the time this film was over i couldn't figure out how or why it ended up on my "must see" list for interesting horror films. And the director should stick to his editing career instead (looks like, from his filmography, he's been more successful at that). And that's not a surprise, after seeing this bad film.