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Haute tension (2003)
How did they get away with this?
I know that this has been discussed in other reviews, but after seeing "High Tension," I just HAVE to agree and throw in my two cents.
The only reason this film is getting 5 stars from me is because the acting was pretty good, and the film makers certainly knew how to build visual tension. I hereby acknowledge their skill in those departments.
Now, having said that ... this movie is such a BLATANT rip off of Dean R. Koontz's novel, "Intensity," it is not even funny. Other people have commented that Koontz should sue for plagiarism, but I am sincerely baffled that he has not already done so! The first three fourths (maybe a little more) of the movie are point for point, step by step directly the same as Koontz's novel. Oh, the fine details were different, but no more so than ANY novel adapted into a movie. If you were to write a simple synopsis of the plot of the majority of this movie, you could easily pass it off as a book report on "Intensity." The movie follows the book (with ironic loyalty) until the final act, or what would have been roughly half way through the novel. Then, the movie takes a left turn that is INTENDED to mimic the twists of such films as "The Sixth Sense" or "The Usual Suspects" or "Fight Club." Sadly, it was nowhere near as successfully executed as any of those films. They were so desperate to create a twist that no one could out guess that it simply made no logical sense at all.
The truly sad thing is ... Hollywood now cannot make an adaptation of the great novel "Intensity." Because those viewers not in the know would (oh IRONY!) think that such a film was a "rip off" of "High Tension." Sad ... very sad.
Dream Parlor (1999)
Very good movie, but the book was better
As my reviews at Amazon will indicate, I am a fan of Christopher Andrews the author. I read his book adaptation of "Dream Parlor" about 6 months ago, and I loved it. I waited to see if the movie would become available for rent from Blockbuster, but I decided not to wait any longer and bought a copy. For the most part, I am pleased with my decision.
First, the movie is low budget, but I do not write this to be negative. Viewers should just be aware that this is an independent film, and should not expect the flash or special effects of current Hollywood fare. The film makers did a lot with what they had to work with, and the director has a good eye. There's some decent CGI work, but don't expect "The Matrix" here.
Second, the performances were better than one might expect from a low budget movie. I've already been impressed with Andrews as a writer, and now I see that he's a pretty good actor, too. So are Harold Cannon (who I think I've seen before) and Kevin Moore, and an enjoyable Kevin Crowther. Alison Storry was less impressive, but she was far from terrible. All together, a solid cast.
Finally, the movie has a slow but steady pace, which picks up noticeably in the final act. The total running time felt a little short, but I'll get to that in a moment. Social and religious commentary is evident, but it does not bog the movie down. The story is straight forward and relevant, and refreshingly high brow. There were some strobe effects that got a little hard on the eyes during the film's climax, but they don't last long enough to be a real problem. And as I mentioned in my Amazon review of the book, the main characters of Eli and Corbit are multi layered and very human.
My only real complaint is that some of the supporting characters ended up being a little flat and two dimensional. And having read the book, which was BASED on this movie, I was a little surprised by this. It had been several months since I read the book, but I kept feeling that something was missing here and there. So I looked through the DVD's special features, and sure enough, THERE were the deleted scenes that I was half remembering.
As I mentioned above, the movie is a little short, running just barely more than 90 minutes. So I can't help but wonder WHY some of those scenes were cut. A visit to the movie's website explains some of these decisions, but still ... with so much time to spare under the 2 hour mark, it seems that SOME of these scenes could have remained intact and fleshed out those characters. Especially Kirk, who could have been more than just a cookie cutter tough guy.
But again, I make these biased comments as a fan of Andrews' books in general, and "Dream Parlor" in particular. It is possible that, had I not KNOWN that something was missing here and there, I MIGHT not have noticed as much.
Still, overall I enjoyed this independent film, and consider it a worthy partner to its somewhat better novelization. Rent it if you can find it, buy it if you can't!