Reviews written by registered user
|9 reviews in total|
This one is a pure delight, in particular for uniquely grown up
audience tastes in vintage horror - a genre that has more often staked
its appeal on content appealing to less mature sensibilities. As a
youngster I was always enthralled by the Lon Chaney and FRANKENSTEIN
tradition - where sensational masterpieces of creative monster makeup
are the real stars. As a child I wasn't enamored of WHITE ZOMBIE
because it just doesn't follow that formula, perhaps foreshadowing the
1940's Val Lewton approach to horror film. But having gotten a little
older, watching through adult eyes - once a fan of horror films, always
one - I have to give this film highest marks for so many compelling
aspects, all working together like clockwork.
There's a gritty depth of darkness on one hand, that really delivers. Lugosi is in top form, with one of his creepiest characterizations ever. When he's made his voodoo doll and zombified our doe-eyed ingenue (what perfect casting) - its like he's just had some sick psychosexual climax. A unique moment of sheer evil, brilliantly played. The mental breakdown of the grief-stricken groom is really something. And When he discovers his 'deceased' bride's tomb empty, her remains missing, his scream of anguished desperation is gut-wrenching in sound. Likewise, the scene with our zombified beauty at the piano playing Liszt, as Mr Beaumont helplessly tries to court her - consumed with guilt and horror at what he's had done to her, in his obsession and desire - is a chill of horrifying beauty. The entire film offers a tapestry of such little perfect stitches, all working together to great effect.
And on the flip side, WHITE ZOMBIE also has a certain warmth and subtle humor that enhances the horrifying impact by delightfully understated comic relief. The main element here is Dr Bruner, our 'Dr Van Helsing' character, who lends expert aid and assistance to the groom beset - by expertly advising, sorting fact from fiction about zombies, and what to do. He affects a socially awkward, amiably bumbling characterization, uniquely entertaining and witty. Asked by our young engaged couple (unnerved after a scary encounter on the road), if he believes in zombies, his character is indelibly established by his comically equivocal reply: "Oh, no! Uh, well - I don't know!"
The film's protagonists (our young couple, and the dubious Mr Beaumont) stand as 'ordinary people' - across from a dynamic opposition of concentrated good and evil, in the characters of Bruner, and Lugosi's evil sorcerer. There's a depth of story and themes here, along with all the basic elements - great casting, acting, cinematography, narrative style etc - that makes WHITE ZOMBIE a film to love, more and more with each viewing.
I also have to admire some intelligently educated 'myth busting' story appeal - e.g. Bruner finding clues to what's going on in Haitian law (referencing 'use of drugs that cause lethargic coma, or lifeless sleep'). The obscurity of the line between supernatural and natural masquerading as such (a la some SCOOBY DO caper) is among the intriguing aspects in this film, ahead of its time too (a la "Serpent and the Rainbow"). Again, this is sophisticated stuff for a horror film, and a treat for Lugosi fans - among his best performances.
Having seen pics from this film in monster magazines as a child (e.g. 'Chauvin' the zombified former executioner, etc) - no way could I have foreseen what an impression WHITE ZOMBIE would make on me years later - on my 'inner horror-film-fan child.' Two thumbs up for this one, and a resounding recommendation for discriminating viewers. Fittingly, this film has quite a cauldron of mixed ingredients that work together, casting quite a spell. One to fall under with pleasure.
That only 10/10 stars can be given, may be inadequate for due critical
accolades to this episode. And to the series, for which it stands.
Maybe need 'extra credit' stars. Words fail to encompass its scope and
scale - deliriously entertaining, with inspirational uplift story
values. Incredible narrative aplomb and style, achieves 'knockout with
feather punch' impact.
Scenario: the human spirit confronted, under duress, targeted by Man's Inhumanity To Man. And its triumph - yet not without bitter sacrifice and tragic loss. Its warm and witty, at the same time sadder but wiser ... and uniquely unforgettable.
The effect it has upon the viewer, maximum catharsis (suggested analogy: amazing grace), can leave one torn. On one hand, normal enthusiasm to sing its praises, tell all the world about it etc. On the other, world being as is ('human condition') - because of the 'pearl of great price' aspect in this show, an almost hierophantic-like impulse can stir - to breathe no word about it to anyone, keep it quiet as if secret warranting careful protection.
One struggles to find a precedent for this highest-of-high NExperiences (like the series in entirety). I might almost compare it with - some ark that's rigorously kept out of sight, 'not for display' - in a tabernacle carefully guarded - off limits, 'no admittance' (and 'mums the word').
This bottom of this show's more-than-just-unique vessel, almost unfathomable - seems a distinct 'transcendent' quality and personal impact. If you watch it, relax, enjoy - maybe prepared. Just in case. It can touch some viewers unexpectedly, in a whole bunch of 'just right' places way down deep, well past the customary and usual contact points for story, arts and entertainment.
Just a show. Still ... I got a few little questions for the guys who conceived and made this one, if I ever get the chance. Meanwhile, bravo guys. Beyond awesome. And thanks - we needed that!
Horror film has long faced a fork in its story-telling road, a choice
of which way to go. Universal Studios went with fantasy as basis of
horror, nightmarish monsters - visually striking makeup design and
execution. Settings featured vaguely fictional European landscapes of a
past century mostly, as imagined. At RKO, Val Lewton took the 'horror
movie' idea into an opposite direction, with stories set in modern era,
and often familiar non- fictional places (New York, etc). And as the
source of fear and horror, the unseen - what might be lurking in
shadows, things suggested without certainty, leaving doubt, room for
the worst imaginings - namely, the stuff that scares us in real life.
BLAIR WITCH would make Val Lewton smile. It offers no 'monster' or visual spectacle involving effects. Instead, fear emerges in a progression from the psychological to the supernatural, and with marvelous dramatic credibility. The film slowly builds intensity, and pulls it off with superb subtlety, from merest undercurrents of tension between characters who (in the scenario) are only just meeting, and with no prior acquaintance, team up to take on more than any of them are prepared for. Its pure story-telling, and brilliant as such. The 'script' (improv-based, I understand), actors and director deserve awards.
If you've ever camped in woods, and heard the type sounds coming from various distances in the dark, you're well prepared for one level of scares in this film. But BLAIR WITCH hits its stride in a deepening progression of scare levels. It proceeds from frightening realities - (lost in the woods, a survival situation emerging) - to possibilities of harm to life and limb by human intent ('Deliverance'-style deep woods yokels suspected)) - to horror of supernatural scope and scale, undeniably evil and violent.
Throughout the story arc, an air of doom gathers with increasing loss of control over circumstances the protagonists encounter, some just bad luck, others self-fostered. Indeed, the dysfunctional nature of peer relations and communication, is a foundation of everything that happens to our unfortunate principles. I've wondered if this ties in with the intensely negative reaction this film evokes for some - rightly puzzled at by various reviewers here more, shall we say - appreciative (or perceptive)? BLAIR WITCH panders to no pretensions, such as seem to preoccupy some tastes, and perhaps prejudice or constrain some reviews. BLAIR WITCH is a film with richness and many story aspects. But its not about whether its characters are suitably 'likeable' (as TV show film critics sometimes seem to expect), or proper 'role models' for any children in the audience, or ... etc.
What this film does instead, is offer credible characters, whose tendencies we recognize from real life and don't necessarily admire. The movies is less about 'liking' its principals, than believing what we're seeing as shown and told. And instead of giving us cardboard 'good guys' or 'bad' it gives us people who seem very real, and for whom we're inclined to feel different things in turn. The film portrays its protagonists as neither reprehensible, nor charismatic, inviting us neither to love nor hate them - only to feel the terror they undergo, and without any distraction of 'not believable.' Indeed, there's a contagiously realistic emotional quality to Heather's loss of control when she screams, with neither her nor us knowing what it is she's facing. We don't have to know what's going on, to be scared by it - in fact, the greater the unknown factor, the more unleashed the imagination, the more bewildering the fear. This is an awesome movie for discriminating, mature, no-nonsense tastes in unique horror film approaches, to be savored and viewed over and again.
Never before has the "Lewton" method - using shadows, the unseen, imagination taken past bounds of what's known, believed, imaginable, in context of things hinted at, power of suggestion etc. - been taken to such heights, and with such overwhelming effect. One of the greatest and most common weaknesses or failures of horror film, in general, is the lack of mental breakdown and stress that would probably occur in real life, if one were faced with some supernatural evil. Horror films most often dramatize only minimal psychological impact on their characters, after encounters with insurmountable horrors. Among BLAIR WITCH PROJECT's most admirable triumphs is its realistic depiction, and harnessing as an energy source driving story - of the toll taken upon the characters by the traumatic nature of the experience, as it unfolds, of their encounter with implacable horror. No spoiler to say they don't come back the same, I hope ... heh heh.
Didn't see a review with that title. Seemed like one was in order for this entertaining, original, exceptionally unique little flick. The script, acting, character development etc - all elements come together in delightful way. The Ernest Borgnine role, brilliantly conceived and executed (ahem). A great performance by Sondra Locke too, before she became more famous (Clint Eastwood movies, if I recall). Perfect casting, all around. Superb viewing, highly recommended for discriminating tastes in vintage exploitation cinema. No comparisons apply for this monumental, one-of-a-kind landmark movie. Ten stars in every department, a lot of bang for low-budget production buck.
In many ways, as good as HORROR (and BRIDES OF Dracula), beginning to
end. Opening credits unveil a new visual style, and musical score -
both cool. First scene's set in the brief Dracula PRINCE OF DARKNESS
revivification era, story continuity-wise. It details a Drac- attack in
the village, profaning the church, nasty. The mood starts so calm and
pastoral - but gets scary-tense, fast. And the payoff ...
From there, takes up year later - Dracula having perished since in waters around his castle. But now, still, the villagers won't go near the church. The priest reads mass to empty pews, kind of demoralizing. As the regional monsignor finds, on visit, to his dismay. An exorcism's needed for further good measure, he realizes. So - with the priest - a trip to the castle's in order. The monsignor takes care of biz. But unbeknownst to him, something's gone horribly wrong - involving a bloody injury the priest sustains. Guess who's back up and biting mad, unable to enter his own castle - with the priest now under his power?
This one's nothing but highlights, from scenario to visual style. Tension erupts between the monsignor, whose niece's boyfriend admits - he's atheist. This leads to some original and frankly intriguing script turns; per basic Dracula story subtext - what with crosses, etc - as surfaces when he tries to stake-impale Drac (for biting his girlfriend). A bloody backfire, pivotal scene, unforgettable moment in the series equal to any.
The finale's exceptionally satisfying - again from the visual, to character and story points. Dracula PRINCE OF DARKNESS, fine film - had a great end idea. But for all put into it, with the rigged floor (cracking ice), it just didn't come off as it needed to. This time around, we get a grand, brutally grisly undoing - everything it can be. With not just gory action and surprise, but suspense added, courtesy of the 'spiritual subtext' story factor they worked in.
Fascinating to read the very different ways this film strikes viewers, fans of Chris Lee's Dracula. With this one, Hammer hits hard, and right on target I think. One to savor and enjoy over and again, really delivers.
Most UFO-minded documentaries seem either uncritically gullible or
skeptical beyond point of rationality. This 3-episode series walks the
line between, with superb balance, and refreshing results. But beware:
it doesn't pander to prejudicially "pro" or "con" bias. As such, it
won't please ... quite a few viewers, who prefer one or the other type
This series raises as many good questions, as it answers - earning high marks on both counts. I'm surprised at the relatively low (5.4 / 10) IMDb series rating, and assume that perhaps reflect viewer tastes - i.e., preferring either a more typically "con-skeptical" (e.g. NOVA: CASE OF THE UFOS) - or "pro-excited" presentation and slant. But this series deserves acclaim for its essentially non-dismissive approach sympathetic-to- possibilities, while yielding no ground to gullibility or anything even remotely uncritical. It excels thus in both its aims, and results the investigation team gets.
These investigators aren't trying to 'explain away' anything, nor build it up into some big mystery. They're interested in solving cases they investigate. And the do so with impressive methods and skill - not least of which, witness interview and evaluation - getting answers, and leaving questions that remain, standing.
The episode about a Fayetteville NC incident made me wonder - how are polygraph examiners selected sometimes, when it comes to saucers. Is question posed to them, of whether they 'believe' in UFOs or not? Either way - could answer to such a question have any bearing on their handling of a UFO witness? While the examiner concluded the witness was fabrication - all other factors, as presented, suggested otherwise. The show's investigative team held his conclusion in reserve, sensibly amid conflicting indications.
The episode on Mexican reports perhaps best showcases the versatility, command, and critically balanced rigor of the investigative team. They got to the bottom of cases they looked at - and the Jaime Maussan factor too. Without personalizing, they brought an entirely new light on his role. We've seen him on TV ever since early 1990's, when the Mexican ufo bonanza kicked up. But, never like this - admirably eye-opening work, scientific and forensic.
The Bucks County PA episode, likewise excellent.
As a fan of Hammer horror, this film highly needs some praise. I'm
compelled to speak up for it against a lot of criticism it takes --
sometimes on valid ground, it's not perfect. The makeup does show flaws
for example. Problem is, overall significance of these issues is often
overstated, to the exclusion of a myriad of more impressive, even
superb aspects. There are a lot of things for the better that haven't
been adequately noted, with all the criticisms taking up most reviews.
I'll take a shot at that here.
Disclosure: the Frankenstein films with Cushing are among my favorites from the halls of Hammer. I find EVIL stands out as a solid one, with the first two, and FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED.
One complaint I don't credit is that EVIL's story doesn't follow the previous (two) films; though I don't disagree with the fact. EVIL has an interesting surface veneer as if of 'sequel' (perhaps to appease expectations of distributors or audiences?). But it's much better understood as a stand-alone film. The second Cushing Frankenstein film (REVENGE) tightly follows the first (CURSE)as a sequel. Perhaps for some, that puts expectations on EVIL that it has to fit the mold, satisfy that presumption, or there's something wrong. Unfair basis for criticism, I submit.
As the film begins, prior expectations it's a sequel seem sound. Even though it doesn't begin with Cushing incognito as "Dr. Frank" (the way REVENGE ended). But we quickly gather there have been previous circumstances and events; suggesting (deviously) story continuity with CURSE and REVENGE, like a sequel.
But when Cushing's flashback comes and the past is recounted, we learn it's not as we saw in the first two films at all. Instead we get a whole, new alternative origin story!
True, we can rationalize, maybe Dr. Frankenstein is misrepresenting what went on, willfully or not (maybe his mind's snapped). But the film doesn't bear that out. Nothing that follows validates it. For example, when we meet the Monster, he is indeed exactly what we saw in the flashback, apparently accurate (and not what CURSE portrayed).
(Apparently there were business considerations governing a lot of this. Hammer wanted to use a traditional-like monster design in their first film but it was distributed by Warner Bros 7 Arts one of Universal's rivals. So Universal wouldn't allow their design to be used. But EVIL was distributed by Universal, so ... carte blanche)
Trying to keep EVIL in the 'regular sequel' mold, a forced misinterpretation, is the only thing informing complaints it doesn't follow the first two films. We start putting 2 and 2 together while watching, as we realize this. Other subtle points now make sense. For example it's still Peter Cushing and Dr. Frankenstein, but -- this is a different Baron. He still comes on strong, but doesn't have quite the cold-blooded disposition we saw previously. He's still single minded and not too scrupulous, but he's a different character. Ironically, EVIL gives us Cushing's least 'evil' version of Doc Frankenstein. To provide for human villainy in the film, we have Zoltan the hypnotist instead (for scale: he's not a rapist although a little sexual harassment is not out of the question).
Speaking of Zoltan: with the exception of Dr. Frankenstein's assistant (who receives little development or character interest), EVIL gives us one of the most vivid and vibrant cast of supporting players and roles. Zoltan is superbly conceived and executed. But a real stand out is the mute waif who instinctually bonds with the Monster. Her character and performance go down in the Hammer hall of fame. Eros and pathos in one.
And for crying out loud, a special award is due Kiwi Kingston in the role of the monster. And whoever had the insight to cast him. The idea of having a 'big time wrestler' play the Monster was a monumental stroke of brilliance in EVIL, unique among Frankenstein films. These guys professionally specialize in knowing how to make it look like they're really putting a hurt on someone. And when this version of the Frankenstein monster tears into his victims, it is delightfully brutal and very effective. No other movie in this series has monster attack scenes like this. This is original and stylish stuff.
Back to business considerations, and their input to these Hammer Frankensteins, especially Universal's ownership of the classic Frankenstein monster design. Among the most outstandingly enjoyable aspects of this unique offering from Hammer's Frankenstein dungeon is its clear inspiration from, and tribute to, the classic Universal Frankenstein films. Kiwi Kingston's makeup has been criticized as sloppy, but its design is clearly a labor of loving embellishment upon the original theme. Story motifs in EVIL harken back as well. For example, the monster being found frozen in a block of ice (shades of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS WOLFMAN). Or all this to do in the village about the "burgomeister,' and the carnival sideshow setting (kind of evokes Prof Lampini's business in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN). The entire feel is homage to the vintage classic, bringing fresh treatment to the story cycle. Quite a difference from the first two films where Hammer was being careful, apparently, not to trespass on some of that (lest Universal take action).
Story and script are well written, opening with a scary body snatching scene. Pretty good production values on the whole per Hammer standards. EVIL features memorable musical score, nice monochrome-looking lab set, and good photography, like a night shot with the monster carrying a big cross it has just raided from the church (scaring heck out of a drunk who thinks it's after him). I like how the relationship between Baron and hypnotist devolves, Dr. Frankenstein has gotten himself into a situation. Flaws in this film pale in significance against its virtues. 'Bout time someone said some of this stuff about this very entertaining enjoyable film.
Not such a bad film per se. But confused (see below).
As a nature lover especially fond of fungi, its down side stuck out in various ways. The problem can be summed up thus: this film looks at fungi solely through the lens of a fairly overt "mushroom hippie" sensibility. Especially as celebrated at this particular "alternative" mushroom festival event in Colorado each year (apparently).
I understand (and I'm glad) fungi have their countercultural appeal. It just seemed they were portrayed like a cult fetish and cause for party. I'm totally interested in mushrooms, and have no moral issues about the ones of such great interest in this film (you might catch my drift), or people's personal curiosity about that. But everything has its limit.
In this vein, the film didn't seem to know whether it was mainly about mushrooms, or about the people and groovy festival event. And whether it wanted to be a documentary, or a "message" or propaganda (not as nice a word) film like we see these days (Expelled, What the Bleep, etc etc) -- the cult fetish metaphor again.
"Know Your Mushrooms" (even the title ...) has a 2-word "take home" message display at the end of its final credit, and on the CD box too I see: "End mycophobia." There's a good focus for what I found wrong in this movie.
It sounds like they don't like mycophobia, but what's the beef? One might as well protest fairy tales, the Brothers Grimm. Indeed, mycophobia a time-honored folkloric pattern in English tradition, and not very widespread in other cultures. As such it's worthy of recognition and cultural conservation, I think. But in this film it comes under direct attack as if it were a villain or something bad. True, it is quaint and provincial but, c'mon.
What the film doesn't admit: there are many people in USA who haven't been accidentally poisoned -- for leaving wild mushrooms well enough alone, instead of fooling around with them. If you don't believe that, check into frequency of mushroom poisoning reports from countries in which gathering mushrooms for the meal is common practice. Some mushrooms can be devilishly difficult to identify. And you can get first-hand stories of mushroom poisoning at any amateur mushroom enthusiast club meeting.
So I don't know about what this film's visionaries are thinking. Where's their appreciation for our entire beloved literary tradition of mushrooms as icons of mystery and fear, symbols of decay and decomposition and everything rotten? "Fungi from Yuggoth" by HP Lovecraft, great stuff steeped in mycophobia and superbly so.
So, I was a little disconcerted by this movie's attempt to convince everyone how great fungi are, and get all excited about them. On impression, their secrets may deserve to be defended, just as their habitats need to be conserved. I'd rather this film help preserve our cultural, artistic and literary legacy -- including mycophobia!
But alas, rebellion against tradition for its own sake (maybe?) can be fun, I guess. At least this film likes mushrooms, that I can relate to.
After watching this on TCM just now, for the umpteenth time, I can no
longer resist singing the praises of this little, unpretentious gem.
From its lurid title, to its opening shot of the beat poet spewing his
inspired nonsense with satirical conviction, the evocative musical
score by Fred Katz, and the amazing potpourri of quirky, diverting
characterizations by the cast of players ... its hard knowing where to
stop. It's a pleasure to see that this film's relative genius
(considering its budget) is widely recognized in the reviews posted
here, and I have to compliment how incisive so many of the comments I'm
reading here are. One thing I like about this movie, and "Little Shop
of Horrors" to which it compares in many ways (as one reviewer here
notes) is the sheer expression of rejection it represents -- rejection
of the preposterous, over-budgeted, empty, special-effects-based style
of so much of Hollywood's product nowadays -- in preference for
something to appeal to the sensibilities not senses, the intelligence
of its viewers not the arrogance of their stupidity ... sorry, I just
read a review that posted moments before mine, I gather in response to
somebody else's viewing of today's TCM showing, giving the film one
star and calling it "poorly made" ... (how dare they try to diminish
this little cinematic treasure)
By the way, delicious black comedy that it is (borrowed that excellent phrase from another right-on reviewer here ... apologies, I know, "repetition is the death of art") -- there is one moment in the film deserving mention as drama. It's the tour de force one-man scene in which Walter (Dick Miller) accidentally kills his cat. It's launches in absurd enough fashion, with Walter's stupidity taking on tragic dimensions. The dead cat, as he frees it from the wall behind which it was trapped, is presented not as some freshly killed animal hanging limp, but rather a ridiculously stuffed/mounted taxidermist's work, all stiff, dry and lightweight -- almost as if to try and trip any viewing "squares" into saying "Hey look, you can tell it's fake" (duh) -- as if that is even remotely the "point." Standard enough fare in some ways. But as Walter goes to transform the animal into art by covering it with clay, the comedy vanishes for a moment as he breaks down in an emotional anguish made acutely real for the moment by Miller's dramatic talent, which shines brightly. One acutely feels the protagonist's essential pain and loneliness for just this brief scene in the film, driving home vividly how these themes underly the entire story (much as in the equally hilarious "Little Shop of Horrors").
Necrophiles may indeed dance upon the placemats in an orgy of togetherness, I have no problem with that. Yet, films like this can't be made anymore because they are not geared to the cheapened tastes of today's mass audiences. Pity. But they can't take "A Bucket of Blood" away from us, heh heh.