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Night Games (1980)
Boring, but a great soundtrack
I saw this movie ages ago, in "the golden age" of the VHS. Expecting something erotic and arousing, all I got was a lot of images of a woman running around in different states of nudity and semi-nudity. To sum it up, I was so booooored! BUT...the soundtrack by John Barry was excellent with a really nice waltz as the linking theme. Checking the soundtrack today, the titles of the different track listings are quite silly, but imaginative. We get "The phantom of the orgasm" for instance and "The dominatrix's waltz" :D. But if you manage to find the soundtrack, buy it! It's a hidden gem! And it's also the only reason I give this movie four stars. The score is worth 10, the movie itself 2.
Segunda piel (1999)
Sexy and glossy, but promises never fulfilled
This movie starts out in a very interesting fashion when the story about the married man, his wife and his male lover (hunky Bardem in a good performance) starts to unravel. The husband is devoted to his little family (wife and one son), but also need the love and affection from his male lover who has a lot of the qualities he seems to be missing (open, free-minded and spontaneous). The wife, however (an excellent Adriana Gil), starts to be suspicious about strange phone-calls and her husbands generally absent-minded behavior. Naturally she thinks that he has a mistress, but gradually the truth dawns on her...
Apart from that interesting (but somewhat banal) setup, the viewer can also enjoy the fact that it's a high-budget product with nice locations, a sumptuous score and a title sequence that could rival the ones done for Bond-movies in technical brilliance. And for those who enjoy such things (I do), you also get some surprisingly hot gay love-making between the two men even though there is no full-frontal nudity.
BUT somewhere along the way the story starts to tread water and the erratic behavior of the husband begins to get on your nerves. Basically he wants to have his cake and eat it and expect everyone else to understand HIM even though he never tries very hard to understand either his wife or his lover, who both love him dearly and want him for themselves. In a number of very typical Spanish scenes with two parts arguing (husband/wife, husband/lover), the husband whines about his situation and very soon all patience and sympathy for him has reached zero level!
So when the end finally comes, you almost breathe a sigh of relief that the wife and lover now can go on with their lives and be happy because they are truly nice people at the core and don't deserve all the aggravation the husband has caused them. So, all in all, do take a look and enjoy this high-gloss gay melodrama, it is certainly easy on the eyes and entertaining, but don't expect to be deeply moved.
La terza madre (2007)
Entertaining, but strangely "non-argentoish"
From the word "Go", I was thoroughly entertained with La Terza Madre (LTM). But in many ways I was also a little disappointed because I expected a visual treat in the "Argento-way" and a fitting close to the Mater-trilogy. Both "Suspiria" and "Inferno" (the last one among my favorite horror movies of all time) were hallucinatory experiences where the gaudy visuals and terrific set-pieces triumphed over slow pacing and confused plots. Not so here. LTM often leans more towards Lucio Fulci and the recent TV-movie "Pelts" style-wise, than to the two previous Mater-films.
LTM has a decent pace (actually I find "Suspiria" too slow for my liking), fair to awful performances (nothing new in an Argento film) and some okay set-pieces. But the gaudy visuals are almost nowhere to be seen, the style Argento offered us in the 70s and 80s has changed into a kind of polished and subdued style. Gone are the vibrant colors (almost) from "Inferno" and "Suspiria", gone is the eye-catching art design. One particular scene that underline this is a taxi-ride through Rome where Argento tries to copy a similar scene from "Inferno", but he doesn't even come close to the same intensity.
The finale is also a bit disappointing, but not in a too damaging way. It just feels like that after 90 minutes of build-up, you expect more of a fight between Asia and Mater Lacrymarum, who is destroyed far to easily for someone who is supposed to be powerful and omnipotent. And what about Asias magical powers? She discovers that she has quite a few tricks up her sleeve in that respect, but when the push comes to shove, she doesn't use any one of them. And there is also the fact that the police inspector, a quite insignificant role until the finale, shows up from nowhere and is made into a hero of some sort. He could have been eliminated from the final quarter without anyone noticing it.
*end of spoilers*
And there is one thing I really dislike in this movie...and that is the way the witches are presented. Apparently modern day witches look like supermodels in goth-gear, have hideous make-up and laugh hysterically at nothing unless they are occupied with semi-lesbian activities! You could very well say that they look frightening, but in totally the wrong way. They ALMOST ruined the movie for me, but only almost.
Because when I distance myself from the previous two ma(s)terpieces and judge this movie by itself, it's not really that bad (except for the witches). Like I have stated before, the pace is decent and almost never flags, performances are variable (to say the least) but fun, there is gore a-plenty (some scenes of murder are truly nasty!), some female nudity (for those who like that sort of thing with a lesbian flavor to it), one GREAT and unexpected scare, a (mostly) good score with echoes from both "Inferno" and "Suspiria"...and the movie looks good although not in the Argento-way, but more mainstream. I get the feeling that good old Dario had fun doing this movie. And the viewer will certainly never get bored...at least I wasn't.
Asia is adequate, but sometimes she shows examples of truly baaaad acting, like in a scene where she is longing for her dead mother and tries to sob. That was embarrassing! She is at her best when she has to be tough and determined. Otherwise I thought the acting was mostly quite okay, at least when you consider what kind of characterizations and lines they had to work with sometimes. Poor Daria Nicolodi was particularly unfortunate in this respect, reduced to a (poor) ghostly vision. The best set-piece is reserved for the beginning, when the antique urn is opened and the evil is unleashed. Other than that, we get a few scattered scenes where Argento can show at least something of his mastery of the medium.
All in all, I was entertained and had this movie been directed by a newcomer or someone else than Dario Argento, I think I would have given this horror movie an 8 in rating. But since I had higher expectations, it has to be a 7. Still, LTM is better than "Cartaio" (although I admire that Dario was trying something new), "Sleepless" (a decent effort but it felt a little "flat" and like he was directing half asleep) and "Phantom" (one big, expensive and failed joke!) and it's probably the best he has done since "Opera" (even though I have a soft spot for "Trauma"), so I have high hopes that his next move will be in the right direction.
Could have been so much better
I'm afraid that I didn't like this movie very much. Apart from a few saving graces, it's nothing to write home about.
J-horror has boomed for the last five-six years but the films themselves have on more than one account been repetitive and carbon copies of a previous success. This is one of them.
Basically this is a supernatural slasher movie. The beginning is promising with chilling scenes from a morgue where a dead girl has her eyes graphically sewn together, but soon after opens them. However, after that, it's quickly downhill for this flick.
To be kind I will start with the things I like about "Gawi". On the plus side, the visuals are gaudy and the movie looks great for it's type. For those who like their horror movies gory there are a few nicely executed (no pun intended) murder scenes. We also get a few good suspense sequences/set-pieces.
However, there are quite a few drawbacks also...
First of all, and my major complaint about this movie, is that the plot skips and jumps forwards and backwards in time with an alarming intensity. Usually that's not a problem for me, but here, where the students look exactly the same no matter what age they are, I was confused on more than one occasion.
The performances are okay I guess (a little hard to tell when you don't know the language), but seem a little stiff. And for a horror movie, I don't think it was scary enough. For a while I was quite bored actually.
Being a fan of giallo movies, I was expecting quite a lot from "Nightmare", but unfortunately I was quite disappointed.
The Descent (2005)
Wow! Edge-of-your-seat-movie of the year!
This movie starts with a bang (the car crash in the beginning is truly shocking).
Then the movie settles down for some character introduction as our "heroines" begin their travel downwards into the unknown abyss. Soon they are trapped within an unfamiliar cave system and have to find another way out than the hole from where they entered. While the terrors of climbing in a dark and claustrophobic environment makes itself felt quite early (I developed sweaty palms long before I had expected!), the introduction of the underground creatures was enough to send me flying out of my seat when I watched this (among with almost the whole cinema salon audience). The atonal score that accompanies the mayhem is very effective and contributes to the overall atmosphere of dread. It's also a very nicely shot movie, gaining much from the contrast between dark and (occasional) light.
There's a lot I like about this movie, but also a few things that doesn't work (according to me):
The latex creation of the creatures are not very convincing when they are viewed up close (they should have been kept in the dark for a longer time) and the ending...well, let's just say that I thought it was interesting and very frustrating in about equal measures (sequel, anyone?!). And the women were not very interesting from the beginning. They act as good as can be expected with this type of material, but the audience is not given enough of background information to really care for them...well, maybe for Sarah. There are also a few lapses in logic. Nothing new with this genre, I would say..;D
All in all though, a superb horror movie with guts and gore and enough tension to fill at least three or four lesser horror movies. For the fans, it's a MUST!
La monja (2005)
Beautiful to look at, awful to listen to ;D
The major flaw in this Spanish slasher/shocker is within it's script. For the first half hour it's an okay effort, building some suspense and an atmosphere of fear and dread. We even get some nice killings too! Then it goes completely downhill and turns into a whole catalog of "your basic slasher clichés". I must admit that I was quite disappointed because the trailer promised so much more. The final thirty minutes consists of some killings and a lot of running around in an abandoned convent. It should have been so much better (although the final scenes in the flooded room is quite okay)!
First of all, we have the dialog. It's awful most of the time (there was quite a few giggles in the audience here and there when I saw it) and merely adequate elsewhere. It is also barely audible during a lot of scenes, drowning under the pressure of sound effects and the soundtrack (however that might not be such a bad thing after all considering the stupid lines we have to listen to!). There is one line in the whole movie that makes a reference to the "I know what you did last summer"-movies, indicating that the film makers wrote it all as one big joke, but I doubt it.
And the ending...well, some will hate it, others will dig it. For me, it was mostly a question of the former because the final twist comes from out of nowhere! If the audience had been given some clues to the girls mental status, I might have thought otherwise. It also throws all logic out of the window, because the murderer could never had been in place for some of the kills! But as an avid horror fan I have learned to live with these inconsistencies in Spanish and Italian movies.
But all is not bad. The movie has a big budget appearance, mainly due to the excellent cinematography (the scenes from past times really shines here), tight editing and an atmospheric soundtrack. Even though most of the actors are pretty bad, Anita Briem is an exception, making the most of what she has to work with. Real screen presence!
And, like I mentioned before, the killings are gory enough for the fans of such stuff and they are usually accompanied by very good special effects involving images of water (but the "water theme" tends to get tiresome in the end though).
So, to end this review, it's a movie that is quite fun in a "so-bad-it's-good" kind of way and it's also pleasing to the eye. But don't expect too much because it doesn't deliver as you probably think it will, judging from trailer and plot descriptions.
House of Wax (2005)
Gruesome but predictable and sometimes truly boring
I viewed this on DVD and thus had the opportunity to skip to the best parts (but I didn't). But I think I can truly say that this is the best way to view this movie. Jump between the inventively gory highlights and some eerie imaginary touches plus the truly spectacular finale, and you will be saved about 40 minutes of pure boredom.
Yes, this is the usual "dead teenager"-movie except for the fact that these kids are in their twenties and, save for the plucky heroine, sometimes incredibly stupid. But this is something normal in these kind of movie, come to think of it. If you are threatened by an unseen pickup driver, smell a truly horrendous odor in the air and are surrounded by a threatening atmosphere, would you CAMP in a place like this? I guess most of us wouldn't, but these kids do.
A couple of them also hitch a ride with a guy who seems to be some sort of offspring to the banjoing population we encountered in "Deliverance", also not the kind of action I would take.
However, all things are not bad. The (straight) guys get so see Paris Hilton scampering around in red underwear before getting killed where it probably hurts her the least...;) The atmosphere in the small, seemingly deserted, town these post-teens wander into is also noteworthy. And the gore hounds get theirs in some nasty scenes. It is not that the kills themselves are particularly bloody, but they are executed in a very way so that you can really feel the agony some of these victims must be going thru. The first kill with the guy sprayed in wax is quite eerie and not easily forgotten.
And like I mentioned before, the finale is indeed spectacular! Worth the price of admission itself.
Not bad at all...
This Belgian attempt at combining thriller, slasher and romance could have been very, very bad. But as it is, this is a movie that is stylish, quite well acted and entertaining for most of it's running time.
The plot is absurd, no doubt about it. We get a budding romance, incest (well, sort of), psychopaths galore, voyeurism and a little sex. I wasn't expecting a lot when I put started to watch this DVD, but soon became involved in this twisting tale of murder and betrayal. Eva (Hilde De Baerdemaeker) becomes a witness to what might have been a murder or just a suicide. Along the way she meets Dieter (Geert Hunaerts who is a major hunk!) who's a man who might or might not be a raving psychopath. What follows is a suspenseful tale, not in the least predictable, but very implausible.
Stylishly shot (for the most part in picturesque Gent), this is a movie that is very easy on the eyes and the comparison other reviewers have made to this being a Belgian "giallo" is quite accurate I think. Dario Argento's "Tenebrae" spring to mind since it is built the same way story wise and also contains a wild and gory climax. Actually, the climax is quite unexpected because the build-up until then points to a more subtle ending. Instead we get a really whacked out finale with the blood flowing very freely. I liked it even though it sometimes feels a bit rushed! :)
The actors do okay, I guess. I wasn't very impressed by Hilde De Baerdemaeker (at crucial moments she seems a bit unresponsive), but considering this was her first part in a major movie it's not that bad. Geert Hunaerts is fine as the mysterious Dieter and Hilde Van Mieghem really shines as the "mother" who turns out to be...well I don't want to spoil to much for any future viewers, let's just say that she is hiding some VERY dark secrets behind her respectable exterior. A chilling performance and, at the same time, an amusing one too.
I wasn't to impressed by the soundtrack. It serves it's purpose I guess, but it's your average "suspense track". Otherwise a movie I thoroughly enjoyed even if I understand that this might not be everyone's "cup of tea", so to speak. Give it a try, however!
Ti piace Hitchcock? (2005)
Minor but entertaining Argento
Make no mistake, this is a made-for-TV movie so don't expect the usual Argento-gore and a lot of stylized violence. If that's what you're looking for, look somewhere else!
It also shows sometimes that he is working in another medium (television), style-wise. But apart from that, this is a playful and lightweight homage to Alfred Hitchcock, that works fairly well within the constrains of the medium.
It has a sympathetic lead in Elio Germano (but the female are more formulaic) and most actors are a lot better that what is common in an Argento-movie. The beginning of the movie is very well set-up when you get a peak into several apartments a la "Rear window". The script is full of references to different Hitchcock-movies, but there are also nods towards Brian dePalma and...Dario Argento himself! There are scenes that seems to have been lifted more or less intact from his other creations like "Deep red", "Opera" and "Inferno". But this is not necessarily a negative thing since all this is mostly woven into the plot with a lot of skill. There is only one murder (but two death scenes), but it is quite violent and the scene leading up to it is very suspenseful. The final 10 minutes are also edge-of-your-seat material.
Also worth mentioning is the nice cinematography by Fasano (especially the shots at night are very nice to look at). And the score by Pino Dinaggio is absolutely top-notch! It's certainly a lot better than the anonymous music he put together for Dario in "Trauma" and might remind you of his work for Brian de Palma.
But some things don't work, for instance the scene where our "hero" breaks his leg. It is too drawn out even though it's suspenseful in the beginning. The pace flags occasionally and is generally erratic. And even if the climax is exciting, I cannot shake of a feeling that it could have been even better with a tighter script. It seems that Argento/Ferrini lost interest somehow in their intriguing little tale of terror. And finally, the usual quibble when it comes to an Argento film...the dubbing is sometimes truly bad, at best it's acceptable. And note that I saw the Italian version! God only knows why italians often prefer to dub instead of using the original sound?!
But all in all, a very decent outing by Mr Argento. It certainly doesn't top "Suspiria", "Inferno", "Deep red" or his other masterpieces (it doesn't even top the underrated "Trauma" which is resembles sometimes), but it is absolutely one of the best things he's done since "Opera".
Many hits but also a few misses
This is a smart comedy with a good-natured edge to it. It attacks the hypocrisy (and NOT faith itself) within some churches and people who claim to be "true" Christians, but in reality they are more concerned (like Hilary Faye/Mandy Moore in this movie) about protecting their own ego. Jena Malone plays what you might call the "crown-princess" to Mandy Moores over-ambitiously Christian school leader. They both belong to this clique of "true believers" within the school they attend and are very highly thought of among their peers. However, things change when Jena, in an act to save her boyfriend from "gayification", sleeps with him and gets pregnant. Her fall from grace is huge in the eyes of Ms Moore, who promptly sets out to "save" both her and the rebellious jew-girl in school (Eva Amurri). With or without their approval at whatever cost! I honestly expected this movie to be funnier. Don't get me wrong, it has some truly funny moments (and there is a fair amount of wit involved in these jokes too) and Mandy Moore is a blast as the strong willed but misguided Hilary Faye (who in one terrific scene throws a bible at Jena Malone with the words "I am FILLED with the love of God!" after she and two other girls have tried to "exorcise" her). But somehow the satire could have been a little sharper sometimes, more pointed towards their targets instead of aiming them at "sitting ducks". I liked Jena Malone, but there were moments when she came across as a little bland. However, the big blame in this case must be put upon the script that gives her a few awkward moments (and almost completely ignores the fact that she is pregnant and has every right to worry about that - but seldom seem to do!) But most of the time this is a teen comedy with wit AND heart (notice the sweet scene between Culkin and Amurri close to the end - both giving excellent performances). Some might think that Mandy Moore hams it up in her part, but I thought she was spot on the mark! An assured comedienne might have emerged here! Other supporting players are great too and the score is amazingly chosen, the soundtrack could very well be worth picking up. There are people like that, especially among believing teenagers where you often view things in black and white and don't see the gray scales. So this movie and "Mean girls" are hopefully the beginning of a trend with teen-movies that don't depend on farts and sexist humor for their laughs.