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Death of a Wizard (2012)
A true punch in the gut,
Did exactly what a good short ought to do - Hooked me, drew me in and when I caught in the momentum of the story and characters, shocked me with a brutal and savage ending.
Death of a WIzard offers a beautifully grim snapshot of a time and place that I remember only ephemerally from my youth, but it evokes that era perfectly. I think the only other film I have seen to use the B&W format this effectively in conveying small-town American life was The Last Picture Show, and that was 40 years ago! And of course it is to a very different end here...
La Hein was probably a large influence on the director (as well as early Darren Arronofsky films like Pi) but it still has enough of its own thing going on to feel fresh and captivating. Dialogue is very lean and memorable despite some stereotypical "redneck" secondary characters I could have lived without (the weakest scene in the film for me).
This is probably the kind of film that will polarize people quite a bit; I don't know how this is doing on the festival front but if the audience I saw the film with is any indication, it's a pretty clear "love it or hate it" affair. I'm leaning toward the former despite some hesitant feelings about the ending, which felt like an abrupt and violent cop-out without wanting to spoil things too much...Kudos for a sparse but eerie musical score as well - creepy choral music isn't really what I associate with stories like this, but it worked really well in-context.
Not for everyone, but a visceral and evocative short that show a lot of promise. I felt like I had been punched in the gut when all was said and done and if that were the filmmaker's intent, they sure as hell succeeded on that front!
The Dark Hours (2005)
Great indie horror!!!
I can not say enough good things about "The Dark Hours". Don't let the unoriginal title phase you, this flick is exactly what the horror genre needs. This is a type of film that requires every second of your attention, for every little action comes back and ties in at the end. Performances are believable all-around, and Adian Devin makes a brilliant villain, simultaneously hilarious and terrifying. The film is exceptionally well shot on its tiny budget (less than a half-million Canadian dollars). Paul Fox has truly done a bang-up job on his directional debut here. His style and visual creativity elevate what is already a great film and makes it both intellectually stimulating AND a feast for the eye. Wil Zmak's script is intelligent and never underestimates its audience, and the ending will leave a definite mark on your mind. I'd also like to point out the music score, which was downright brilliant. As a film score fan I can say that even though this score will unfortunately never see a CD release it is quite a remarkable and original score. Gore fans will get a kick out of the finger scene as well. Really great horror film; simply not to be ignored. Why can't we have more films like this?
The Descent (2005)
Haunting and powerful, what horror can and should be.
I just got back from a midnight screening of the film and let me tell you that I am greatly satisfied by what I saw. This is a film with a simple plot and a limited cast that draws it's strength from its intensity. And intense it is! The last half of the film is brilliantly executed. Neil Marshall knows the genre well. The dynamic range of his camera--from epic, Peter Jackson-esquire aerial photography to the tight, narrow, womb-like confides of the cave setting--make brilliant contrasts. He also knows a thing or two about human nature, which plays a huge part in the films success. This film kind of reminds me of the brilliant 1997 sci-fi horror film "CUBE" in that it shows that even protagonists--the best of humanity, if you will--can become feral, murderous creatures under pressure. Add to this an often great music score by David Julyan, solid and entirely believable characters and performances all-around, and carnage that even the most demanding horror fan will be pleased by, the Descent is a terrific little horror film that does not disappoint. Like the aforementioned CUBE, the ending--not the cropped US ending, which is missing the last climactic scene but the real ending we will hopefully get on DVD--is uncertain and bleak, and will follow you for a long time. I just sat there when the film was over. It was a profoundly impacting horror flick, and in a day and age when unoriginality reigns king of the genre, "The Descent" is a gem in a coal mine.
Bleak and dark, a perfect horror short.
I think the tagline, "It only hurts as much as you let it", sums up the film perfectly. This experimental horror short is a true example of less-is-more. There are only four actors altogether, two locations, and almost no music. The special effects are elaborate yet clever and never become intrusive. The grainy 16mm photography adds to the sense of dread perfectly. There is only one line of dialog throughout this entire short--unless, of course, you count agonized scream as dialog! If you feel faint at the sight of needles of you fear surgical torture, this is certainly not for you. The abrupt ending will leave you with a sense of bleak dread. This is a perfect atmosphere/experimental/mood piece. Think Clive Barker meets Cronenberg. I will certainly watch for more of Adam's work in the future!
I can see why some people may not like this movie. The dubbing/acting is really, really bad. The screenplay will often come across as incredibly awkward (though I feel this may be due more to the actor's delivery than the dialog itself). The director creates a perfect atmosphere of mystery and wonder. The special effects are excellent, and used intelligently and judicially. The music score is absolutely breathtaking. The cue at the end as the camera rises up and up into the martian sky is so awe-inspiring and overwhelming that it practically brings tears to my eyes (I bought the soundtrack after seeing the film, and let me say that it is really brilliant and beautiful and better than anything overrated composers like John Williams ever produced in over forty years!). The ending is left to your interpretation, which is a perfect way to close things if you ask me. A true sci-fi film. I can understand why some won't like it, but I sure as hell did!
Needed to go that extra half mile...as it stands, "Boo" is a fairly mediocre horror film
A group of teens decide to go party in an abandoned hospital on Halloween. Unfortunately for them, the place is haunted by some very nasty ghosts who don't want them to leave. "Boo" is a decent genre flick, but ultimately it disappoints. The performances are mediocre at best, the script is pedestrian and first-time scribe/director Anthony C. Ferrante (a former Fangoria writer) relies too heavily on predictable pop scares throughout most of the film (though to his credit the flashback sequences were very well-shot). There's nice gore content and the special effects are often very good (loved the skinned dog thing), unfortunately these are too sparse and insubstantial to give the film the push it needed. "Boo" is by no means a bad movie, it's simply too mediocre to deliver on it's initial promise. Could have been much, much worse though
I've seen better, seen worse...
A group of soldiers are called in to a geological base on Mars after part of it is put on a tight lock down. It turns out that the lock down is due to an ancient, alien chromosome that mutates those it "infects", for better or for worse. "Doom" is a film I was greatly anticipating. I didn't expect it to be a piece of high art on celluloid, but I DID expect good, dumb fun. At times, Doom delivers thismost of the time, it doesn't at all. With the exception of Karl Urban, Dexter Fletcher, and Rosamund Pike, the acting is pretty poor. The characters are mostly one-dimensional throw-aways who we don't care for. The writing also suffers from mucho flawsthe science in this film is pretty terrible (check IMDb's trivia section), and while I can forgive that (after all, it is just a movie ), I can't forgive the major sense of déjà vu I had with the painfully long scenes of soldiers running down pipe-infested, mesh-grate-floored, darkly light halls aiming guns at mysterious off-screen sounds. This is a genre convention that is long, long overdue for retirement. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak, a former cinematographer, should've stayed out of the director's chair. The film certainly isn't without visual flair (the much-hyped first-person sequence was a blast), but he relies too heavily on action (the final "showdown" sequence is a real eye-roller) and loud explosions, over suspense or well thought-out scares. The creature effects from Stan Winston studios were great, but we see so little of them that I felt horribly cheated by how little screen-time the monsters got (after all, Doom WAS all about the monsters!!!). In staying with the graphic nature of its source material, the film is very violent, with a slick beheading, lots of severed limbs, a nasty autopsy scene, and even an exploding head (during the first-person sequence no less). Gore hounds won't be disappointed in the red stuff cooked up in Doom. I also applaud the filmmakers for their sparse use of CG; it's great to see films going back to good old realistic-looking puppets, prosthetics, and make-up over soulless, lifeless CG creatures like in Van Helsing or the recent Star Wars films. The only computer generated creature in the film is the briefly-seen Pinky monster, which I found more endearing than frightening. I found Clint Mansell's score to be a huge disappointment. It has a very rock-like edge to it, which didn't work well here at all. How 'bout a REAL score next time around?
Doom wasn't a complete waste but it was a big, big let-down. Check it out if you want but don't expect it to live up to what the makers originally promised! 5/10.
The Amityville Horror (2005)
You know you're in trouble when the DVD menus are scarier than the film itself!
This 2005 remake of the 1979 horror film has the same set-up, with the Lutz family moving into the Amityville house. Everyone's happy at first, but soon strange happenings occur and Mr. Lutz begins loosing his sanity. All this can be attributed to some horrific events that happened in the house's basement several hundred years before. The film begins well with likable performances from the two leads, Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George, and there's a much-needed good sense of humor. Also present is a surprisingly fulfilling amount of gore, thank God, and the attempt to flesh-out the house's back-story was a nice touch as well. Things go way down hill from here as eye rolling clichés and incredibly cheap "boo" scares take center stage. Gone are any scenes of genuine creepiness that were in the original (The "babysitter" scenes in this version were a joke!) and the ghostswhich were quite similar to those found in the 2001 remake of "Thirteen Ghosts"were not in the least bit scary. Even the score, from five (!) credited composers, was a disappointment. Jody, the demon pig (how cool is that?) from the original, has been replaced with a ghostly little girl, ala "The Ring". A shame, really, as there are a few good moments and first-time feature film director Andrew Douglas shows an impressive eye for the camera. Next time, Mr. Douglas, pick a better script.
Not a horrid film but often predictable, generic, and frankly to mainstream-oriented to be
good. 4/10. The DVD menus, by the way, are scarier than the film itself.
Gin gwai 2 (2004)
Inferior to the original...but still worth catching,
After a failed suicide attempt, a pregnant young woman, Joey, begins seeing some not-so-benign spirits. She learns that to find answers, she must dig into the past of her ex-boyfriendand father of her unborn child. This sequel to the 2002 film "The Eye", plot-wise, is unrelated, though much of the original's crew has returned, including the Pang Bros. Directing and Jo Jo Yuet-chun Hui penning the script. The story line has little to do with the title (it may have been better marketed as an unrelated film) but the story itself offers enough twists, turns and red herringssome of which I didn't see comingto keep things interesting and often exciting. While the ghosts in the original were mostly creepy-looking, the ones here tended to lean more towards the gory end of the spectrum, the best scene involving a VERY realistic depiction of what happens to one's body after falling from the top of the building. Qi Shu makes a very strong lead, and all the other actors were fine as well, but for some reason the first quarter or so of the film is spoken primarily in English, perhaps to cash in on the overseas market (?). My biggest complaint is the fact that the film can often be laugh-out-loud cheesy. *SPOILER* for example, when Joey jumps from the top-story of a building, twice, are we really supposed to believe she's in good enough physical health afterwards to deliver an infant!?!?!? Come on, give me a break
Still, it's worth checking out if you like Asian horror. It's inferior to the original, as sequels often are, but it's an interesting film nonetheless.
Ringu 2 (1999)
A lame, uninvolving sequel lacking the superb suspense and creepiness of the original
Reiko and her son, returning from the first film, are in hiding after the unexplained deaths of both her father and her ex-husband, while the authorities continue to search for her and Sadako's curse continues to claim victims unfortunate enough to watch the ever-circulating cursed video. I loved the first Ring. It was the first film to ever truly scare me, it was weird, unsettling and atmospheric as hell. I waited a long time to see the sequel, and now that I have, quite frankly, I wish I hadn't. I like to start my reviews positive and thus I'll begin with what I found effective about the film. While there were no scenes that genuinely haunted me the way the fist film did, there are a number of effective moments to be found here, the most notable being the unsettling "tape erasing" and "mirror" scenes. There are a few genuinely unexpected plot twists as well, the most startling being the death of a very important character from the first film. The actors were all fine. Hideo Nakata's direction, as true of the original, is solid and the atmosphere he creates is strong and often creepy. This, I hate to say, it where the positive aspects end. As with many other J-horrors (Ju-On: The Grudge and Uzumaki being perfect examples), the film thinks it can forgo any type of narrative and substitute a plot with creepy images. Note to J-horror directors: THIS DOESN'T WORK! Without a story line that the audience can follow, or characters we give two scents (for the lack of a better word) about, one neither cares for nor is engrossed by what's going on on-screen. This is especially true of the last half-hour of the film, which is silly, lame and surprisingly cheesy, not to mention confusing as hell.
I really wanted to like this movie. I was excited about it before seeing it, but after it ended I was left thinking, "Jeez, what a lame movie". Shame.