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The Strangers (2008)
Entertaining, but could have been much better.
In essence, this movie is a pretty entertaining thriller, but I can't bear the tremendous lack of plot. Sure, we all know that a wild romp through this kind of terror doesn't always require much of a plot, but this film sets up a plot and doesn't deliver on it. We start out with a lot of story. Crying, hurt feelings, a wedding, a child's scared voice over the phone, even a teaser of the horrors to come. They set this story up to go somewhere, and never do. Even when they send in a friend to sort of rekindle hope in a plot, they stop that pretty quickly. The killers are random and without surprise and do nothing more than terrorize a couple for the better part of ninety minutes. This film has been done many times over and I really hoped for some kind of twist or story to drive the terror we witness. Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween are two movies that come to mind when I think of the right way to do this kind of cookie-cutter terror film. On the plus side, the scares are very decent and the tension is very well captured. The soundtrack is really good and the cunning use of silence is certainly great. I gave this an above average rating for the simple fact that it is a scary film and fun to watch, but I don't see why they bothered setting up a plot if they had no intentions of delivering on it.
Dark Water (2005)
Not scary enough for horror, not smart enough to thrill *SPOILERS*
I'll start out by saying thematically, this movie was well conveyed. Using Roosevelt Island and its brutalist architecture was a notable success for the locations department.
Unfortunately, I feel this film falls quite short of being much of a horror movie or think piece.
I saw the original Dark Water a couple years ago and was pretty happy with it. Needless to say, my hopes were certainly a little high after seeing it as well as the previous translations of The Ring and The Grudge. I could see that this film was setting out to darken the tone of the original story but it felt very empty in the end.
Now, I want to try and be objective about this, so I'll step away from the comparisons.
I found the pace of this movie to be terribly slow. I don't mind a steady ramp into the tension of a thriller, but the first act of this film just left me unimpressed. I understand the divorce and subsequent events early on are meant to serve as a catalyst for the climax, but I felt it was far too prominent and a bit forced. We can all understand bitter custody battles and divorces, there's no reason to so blatantly illustrate every painful detail. This film is not a family drama or ABC movie of the week. Such a situation could be summed up very quickly and established in a matter of minutes. The ongoing dispute rarely made an impact on the situations in the film. For the most part, they came off as rather arbitrary. Almost as if they were trying to elaborate the fact that so many horror movies in Asia seem to focus on single mothers.
There were also some great opportunities for interesting plot twists that were missed or even left wide open.
Why didn't they follow up on the delinquent teens who were somehow involved with her husband?
What ever became of the girl's family and the attorney's investigation of them?
I think these are two plot points that could have really made the film much more dramatic but the filmmakers chose to ignore these things.
Furthermore, Dark Water deserves little recognition for making me think. Every little thing (that wasn't completely neglected - see above) was spelled out far too quickly. Every time I thought I might have to think about something, lo and behold! They shove the explanation down my throat! And sure, the mystery behind the girl and her family wasn't immediately clarified, but it was painfully obvious where it was going. I wasn't the least bit surprised seeing as this is a ghost story. It felt like a really poor remake of the remake of The Ring (finding bodies in wells, bad parenting, etc).
In summation, I'm but one voice in a world of opinions, but I was really let down by this movie, regardless of whether it was meant to be a horror film or thriller.
I don't condemn the viewing of this film, but I sure don't recommend it if you're looking for The Ring or The Sixth Sense.
I don't quite get why people liked it.
I love Mike Judge because of Office Space, I love Luke Wilson because of Old School, and I love Maya Rudolph and Horatio Sanz because of SNL.
Still, this movie rarely made me laugh. The thing is, I think Mike Judge underestimated his audience by hoping we'd laugh WITH the characters in this movie. It's an insult to even fathom that I would laugh at the same things as them. The endless ass and fart jokes make me long for the comparatively mature humor of Beavis and Butthead. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of that kind of humor. But it works better in fifteen minute TV segments.
I understand the social statement Judge is trying to make here, but it wasn't well conveyed. The plot was flimsy, it seemed to duck out of trouble spots all too easily, and I wasn't impressed with the conclusion. Lots of unresolved plot points, plenty of missed opportunities to fit in more intellectually relevant humor, and cheaper than dirt fart jokes made for a pretty painful ride.
If you're looking for something along the lines of Old School, keep moving. I suppose if you're a fan of Deuce Bigalow you may want to give this one a watch.
I really can't recommend this movie to anyone expecting more than just an hour and a half long fart joke.
The Ring (2002)
Easily the best horror contender this year
Well, where to start... First off, I must insist that if you are ever given the opportunity to see the Japanese version, PLEASE see the American one first. There is much to behold in the US release, especially in a visual sense. The cinematography is phenomenal, and the tension was superb, as well as a great sense of shock timing. Now, see the Japanese one, titled "RINGU", and let your jaw drop. I recommend seeing them in this order only because the American one is to be appreciated on its many great merits, but if it is seen after RINGU, you can really unfairly find THE RING lacking. I honestly was much more visually pleased at the horrors of the US release, but RINGU will have you clenching on to the edge of your couch. I hate closets.