Reviews written by registered user
|14 reviews in total|
"Grave Encounters" was a pleasant surprise. The premise is hardly innovative, nor is the found-footage format, and the trailers made it seem bland at best, but I found it, contrary to all expectations, holding my attention from start to finish. The setup is simple. A ghost-hunting reality show (clearly Ghost Adventures with the serial numbers filed off -- from its opening narration to its lead investigator, Lance Preston, who's really pretty good at channeling Zak Bagans) conducts an investigation of a supposedly haunted insane asylum. The crew find themselves trapped inside, besieged by ghosts, hallucinations, shifting corridors and distorted time. It's not a great film, but it works. Starts off slow, a nice sense of buildup, and then, in a refreshing change of pace from most found-footage movies, things actually happen. The second half of the film picks up nicely, the manner in which the ghosts are depicted is legitimately scary, and the sense of helplessness as the characters descend into insanity and the asylum becomes increasingly distorted and Silent Hill-ish is solidly executed, even if none of these people are particularly likable. A good horror film for a lazy afternoon -- not amazing, but nor is it a waste of time.
I question William Malone's status as a "master" of horror, but that goes for the majority of the directors Mick Garris has assembled to helm the series. "The Fair-Haired Child" is a middle-of-the-road episode with a lot of potential that's largely wasted. The music hall setting is atmospheric but underused. The monster is unsettling and well-designed, but we don't see enough of it. It's been a while since we've seen Lori Petty, who's starting to show her age, and she's not given much to work with here; it seems odd to give an actress primarily known for her kinetic goofiness such a stiff and humorless character. "The Fair-Haired Child" is one of those episodes that could have been better as a feature-length film. It certainly would have benefited from a less irritating protagonist; the kidnapped girl is unbearably shrill and seems to get dumber as the episode progresses. There were a few mildly frightening sequences here, and some skillful visual direction from time to time, but I can't justify a rating higher than a 6. It's not bad, but it's far from masterful.
Norman Reedus (of "Blade 2" and the bafflingly overrated "Boondock Saints") plays an amoral theatre owner and finder of rare film prints, hired by a mysterious collector (the ubiquitous Udo Kier) to recover a particularly elusive film, "Le Fin Absolue du Monde," whose single screening engendered a sudden and unspeakably brutal homicidal mania in its audience. If this sounds familiar to fans of the genre, it should; "Cigarette Burns" is essentially a splicing of three films, "8MM," "The Ninth Gate," and Carpenter's own "In the Mouth of Madness," which was perhaps the last decent film he made prior to this first entry in Showtime's "Masters of Horror." It's also entertaining in its own right, with more dialogue and mystery than one would expect of Carpenter and a few sly and gory jabs at the pretentious extremes independent filmmakers are often willing to descend in order to create "art." If "In the Mouth of Madness" was a direct tribute to Lovecraft, "Cigarette Burns" is a fine take on the modern weird tale. In the 1920's and 30's, it was often the printed word that drove hapless protagonists mad; in the 21st century, film is the new Necronomicon. As such, I felt this might have been a stronger piece if it were left entirely up to our imaginations what horror "Le Fin Absolue du Monde" showed its unfortunate viewers. The unknown and the unseen are far more frightening than a "Ring"-like sequence of apparently random art-house brutality. Otherwise this is a strong entry, perhaps the best season one has to offer.
Ang Lee's "Hulk" is without a doubt the most bizarre big-screen comic-book
adaptation I have ever seen. It's a bizarre dichotomy of comic visuals and
arthouse drama, with a couple of big action sequences thrown in to appease
those viewers who were expecting a summer blockbuster.
"Hulk" is not about a large green monster smashing things, although it has that too. It's about how parents mess up their children and then deal with it in all the wrong ways later in life. Bruce Banner is an emotionally dead ticking time bomb thanks to his evil father's genetic meddling, while his recently-ex-girlfriend Betty is completely estranged from her career-military father due to his lack of involvement in her life. When the Hulk himself finally comes along, we realize he's not Banner's rage - he's ALL the psychological baggage his father left him with.
Fittingly enough, the two show-stealing performances here come from Nick Nolte and Sam Elliott as the two fathers whose sins are at the core of the film. As it stands, "Hulk" is not the best movie around, but it's an interesting one, and I prefer a unique film that makes me think to a more consistently paced one that doesn't. It's a fine piece of unexpectedly cerebral melodrama - but it's far too thoughtful to be a successful action movie.
Starship Troopers is a subtle and insidiously subversive movie that proved
frighteningly prescient in the wake of post-9/11 uberpatriotism. Both
Heinlein's book and Verhoeven's film are valid and interesting political
statements at opposite ends of the spectrum. Heinlein's novel was
criticized as fascist at the time of its publication, and for all his
obvious talent as a writer I'm inclined to agree. The movie is as much a
sendup of the original novel as it is a satire of jingoist American
politics. It really is a shame that despite the squeaky-clean heroes
plucked straight from the soaps, the Mormon extremists, the multiple-amputee
mobile infantry retirees and the propaganda shorts masquerading as news, the
vast majority still seems to regard Starship Troopers as a stupid action
movie and, for some reason, absolutely refuse to consider that it might be
Beyond is, hands down, the best of the Animatrix shorts, a simple story about a woman who explores a "haunted" house in search of her missing cat. It's a bit difficult to understand if you haven't seen The Matrix Reloaded, but it does address one point that was made in that movie that I had hoped they would go into in more detail, namely ghosts, vampires, werewolves and other paranormal phenomena being entirely the result of a glitch in the Matrix. Beyond is a haunting piece reminiscent of the "Labyrinth" segment of Neo-Tokyo, an obscure anthology of anime shorts by Rin Taro (Metropolis), Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll) and Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira).
The problem with Blade is that its star and director take the film far too
seriously for its own good. What should have been a fun action movie ends
up unpleasant, meanspirited, humorless and unexciting. Norrington's most
recent effort, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, suffers the same lack
of spirit. Blade II is a better film from a better director (the talented
Guillermo del Toro, who knows when to play a movie straight and when to make
it simply a fun ride).
For the first hour or so, Jeepers Creepers is an interesting, creepy, even innovative two-person horror chase with an unsettling villain and several genuinely unnerving scenes. After the Creeper discards his hat and coat and his true nature is revealed, however, it quickly falls apart. The monster suit may be well-designed, but it just isn't that sort of movie, and the truck-driving, bat-winged, trenchcoat-clad Creeper is far more disturbing when seen in the half-light of a cornfield at night, or the shade of a tree outside a rotting church, than he is in full view during the finale inside the police station. It could have been good. For a while, it was. Judging from the previews, it looks as if they've screwed things up in a similar manner in the sequel.
The first half of Mimic is entertaining, creepy and innovative. It even bucks a few rules of horror cinema by killing a couple of kids in the subway. After the characters all find their way into the disused tunnels underneath the city it falls apart both in script and direction. It's almost as if del Toro, usually a more-than-capable action/horror director, handed the project off to someone else halfway through. His eerie visual style and suspense are ditched in favor of heavy-handed religious symbolism and unlikely coincidence. For effective, creepy horror, check out Cronos or The Devil's Backbone, and for goofy action Blade II is a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to Hellboy.
Dog Soldiers is a rare beast - an independent British horror film. The
basic concept has been done to death, but Dog Soldiers shines in its
execution. The dialogue is intelligent and funny (if sometimes nigh
unintelligible to American ears), the action is great, the humor is
and the property damage is astounding. The joke at the end of this movie
(stick around for the end credits) made me laugh until it hurt. Sean
Pertwee, one of my favorite actors, plays a great badass sergeant (upon
seeing his own exposed intestines he exclaims, "Sausages!"), and the
soldiers are downright admirable in their dedication to one another and
their tough stoicism in the face of insurmountable odds. Dog Soldiers is
hardly great cinema, nor is it stupid or insulting. It's enjoyable,
and not at all for the squeamish.
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