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The Exorcist III (1990)
Surprisingly good thriller
The first 6/8 of "Exorcist III" are very good indeed. Please, for God's sake, skip "Exorcist II", the catastrophe that nearly killed the good name of "The Exorcist". "III" has some of the most genuinely creepy moments captured on film--some even surpass the original (particularly the "things that go bump in the night" sequence in the hospital). Noteworthy are the many moments (sometimes almost out of our view) of dissonant images or behaviors that make watching "Exorcist III" a most uncomfortable experience. And I mean that in the best possible way.
Unfortunately, something odd happens in the final moments of this film--all hell breaks loose. Literally. And then "Exorsist III" moves from psychological horror into "Devil made me do it" bedlam. Pity, because this film is really quite good. Brad Dourif does a fine job, and how nice to see Jason Miller again. And Nancy Fish as Nurse Allerton nearly steals the film. Though George C. Scott chews the scenery as the film progresses, Blatty appears to have done a fine job of reigning in the "ham factor" early on, and it's a better film for his efforts.
By all means, check this overlooked gem out. But you might need to leave the lights on while you do. And don't watch it if there's a hospital stay in your immediate future!
Wind Chill (2007)
What a piece of garbage
I love intelligent horror. I'm not a fan of torture porn/slasher flicks. I love Hitchcockian subtlety, and nerve-jangling set-ups. This film has none of the above. It begins promisingly enough with a brooding college student accepting a ride home for the holidays from a stranger who's posted an available lift on the campus ride-board. How many times did I myself catch a ride home in this manner while in school...always feeling a tiny bit chilled by the possibility of danger. Her driver, an odd young man, is full of mystery. It appears that he knows a wee bit too much about his passenger. Interesting premise. Then all hell breaks loose. The script descends into horror cliché ("Penny Dreadful" did the trapped-in-the-woods routine much better) and inarticulation. In short, it makes no sense. Oh sure, there's the dime-story theology and philosophy that's supposed to make this mess look cerebral. But, it never quite delivers--leaving viewers scratching their heads and asking "who was that?"..."what was that?" and "huh?" Pity, because Emily Blunt is terrific. Unfortunately, her character has the IQ of a grapefruit, which makes her a tough gal with whom to sympathize.
Incidentally, comparing this film to the brilliant "Rosemary's Baby" is blasphemous. Polanski's masterpiece is still the gold-standard by which fright flicks are judged--40 years after its release. Who will be discussing "Wind Chill" six months after its straight-to-video debut?
Into the Wild (2007)
A masterful piece of film-making
"Into The Wild" is my favorite book. I was hesitant to see this film, but felt if anyone could do this remarkable story justice, it would be Sean Penn. I was not disappointed. This is a heartbreaking story that does not wallow in pathos. It is a tribute to those among us who march to a different drum. Maybe some viewers will find Christopher McCandless' story pointlessI've heard the hubris arguments alreadybut for those of us who have felt the lure of absolute freedom, the love of unspoiled nature, and the need to find our souls, "Into The Wild" is awe- inspiring. Penn's screenplay is succinct and smart, his direction is flawless. The performances Hal Holbrook, Catherine Keener, and Marcia Gay Harden chief among themare superb and Oscar-worthy. But it is doe-eyed Emile Hirsch who is the heart and soul of this film. With so many grand performances swirling around him, he's easy to overlook. But don't. His joyous and painful portrayal of McCandless/Supertramp is a tribute to the real McCandless' innocent spirit.
The Gravedancers (2006)
About as scary as a Scooby Doo cartoon...in reruns...
I can't believe this video was included in the "After Dark" horror package--8 Films To Die For. Every film was exceptionally good, despite low budgets and zero star power. This mess was horrific--but for all of the wrong reasons. I've seen better acting in high school plays, the plot grew more absurd by the minute, the "creature effects" looked like a grade school papier-mache art project...and I'm still trying to figure out if a central character's resemblance to Thelma in "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?" was intentional or an unfortunate boo boo. Speaking of "boo boo", kids in bedsheets are scarier than this recycled mish-mash of "don't disrespect the graves" melodrama.
(Spoiler ahead!) And, can we talk about about the plot holes the size of a Buick? First of all, Allison didn't dance on any graves, so why were the spirits out to get her? Second, if the house (at the end) was completely enclosed in iron fencing, how did Allison escape through the window? And why was there a "Cheerwine" vending machine in the house?! Not to mention half a jaw was left unburied at the film's end...negating the "happily ever after" ending.
Yikes! Skip this film and rent the other 7--they are excellent--particularly "Reincarnation".
What a piece of crap!
I'm so sick of "filmmakers" being more concerned with art direction than a cohesive story. I wasted 2 hours trying to figure out the significance of plot points only to find...ha hathere is none! Nothing is connected. None of the carefully identified nuances mean anything. And when it's over, the viewer has no idea what they just saw without listening to the director explain what we were seeing. Now THAT'S a sign of expert film-making! Here's a novel idea...how about A.) trying a bit less to make film look like an MTVvideo, B.) actually writing an ORIGINAL story that makes sense (this is "Stay" plus "Identity*" plus "The Jacket" equals MESS), C.) aping someone like--oh, ALFRED HITCHCOCK who never had to describe what we were watching because his films made narrative sense!
*Apologies to "Identity", a really fine movie that shouldn't be mentioned in the same paragraph as this trash...
The dumbness outweighs the terror ten-to-one...
I'm so sick of supposed awesome films that are nothing more than sub-par music videos. It takes more to scare an audience than blood, gore, a maimed bad guy, and an oozing, drippy setting. Speaking of such, can we please get our horror films out of the sewers? Ever since "Seven", I feel like I need a shower after every "scary" film I see. I guess it's not frightening unless the walls are caked in slime... What is scary, however, is the horrible acting of our heroine. Franka Potente was fabulous in "Run Lola, Run". I wanted to run after ten minutes of her over-gestured, oddly wooden performance. But then again, when a plot is this ridiculous, she probably figured "hey, why bother?" Franka plays a London hipster who leaves a groovy gallery party in search of George Clooney. She takes a couple of swigs from an airline-sized bottle of vodka, and passes out on the tube platform--only to wake up after the system has closed for the night. Meaning she's stuck underground. But she's not alone. There's something in there with her. Something with a big appetite for blood. Okay, I'll agree... that sounds scary. And it should have been. But plot holes the size of a Buick ruin the tension. Franka, honey, I have two words for you: "fire alarm". Pull the alarm, the firemen show up, you're rescued, you don't need George Clooney, and we don't have to suffer through another 90 minutes of your character's incredible stupidity, the all-too-typical alterna-rock soundtrack, the sadism and gore, and the "give me a break!" ending. I wish "hip" filmmakers would realize that really masterful film-making comes from scaring an audience with suggestion. Sunny days can be more terrifying than dripping sewer walls. A smiling college professor can menace more than a deformed, in-bred whack-job. Less blood is more. Way more. Rent the Dutch version of "The Vanishing" if you don't believe me. Now THAT'S awesome film-making.
Love Actually (2003)
OK if you don't mind disappointment. Should have been so much better...
Sappy, though at times, brilliant comedy. I wanted to like it more, but the muddled, maudlin overblown resolutions didn't ring true. Wonderful performances by Laura Linney, Emma Thompson and Bill Nighy can't save this manipulative soaper. I wish Curtis had been brave enough to simply let the stories play out--some happy, some sad, some devastating. Instead, it's all tied up with a big, shiny, unrealistic bow...not what I'd expect from him. My favorite subplots were Linney's, Kiera Knightly's and Collin Firths...until Firth's morphed into a Broadway musical act-ender. Ridiculous. Liam Neeson's tale started interestingly enough, but soon suffered the fate of Firth's. If you want a film with interwoven characters behaving as human's truly behave... rent Altman's "Nashville". It's strange, moving, funny, and totally true. Unlike this pre-packaged heart-warmer that should be a bit of a heart=breaker, too.