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Neco z Alenky (1988)
More Nightmareland than Wonderland
The original Alice in Wonderland story was a little odd but, within the context of a dream, ultimately excusable. The director/writer of the film must have found the story too ordinary, as he opts for a more bizarre and occasionally creepy re-imagining. The adaptation is pretty loose in relation to the original story and omits several major characters (most noticeably the Cheshire Cat, although he could have been invisible the whole time....) although many of the key plot points remain.
However, the kicker is that most of the artistic elements aren't even all that memorable, let alone good. The best one is the rabbit coming to life in the beginning but then it's mostly so-so until a very creepy take on the tea party. Some is just weird for the sake of weird, which doesn't necessarily make for a good film.
The worst part is that the film is fairly dull and the repeated effect of seeing Alice talk for the other characters gets annoying fast. As such, the film may be worth watching just to see how much of it you can stand before switching it off.
Nine Lives (2005)
The minutes of our lives
Don't be deceived by the excessive praise afforded to this film, as it actually features little substance. Many of the vignettes are just a scene in length and none are particularly outstanding. The sort of hammy, over-the-top acting seen throughout may be excusable in a feature length film where other content exists to pad it out but instead the viewer is stuck suffering through heavy over-performance after heavy over-performance. The writing varies immensely, with some of the most cliché content seeming a somewhat deliberate attempt to mock everyday, mundane conversation.
That's not to say that the film isn't without its charms as, at times, there's an everyday feel to the thing when the actors aren't trying to desperately oversell their performances. However, the most aggravating aspect is the sheer predictability at times. Viewers should be able to easily intuit the coming action; this doesn't result from foreshadowing but rather poor writing. While some things are left unsaid, one can easily draw conclusions. The film features some major stars which, I imagine, is probably the reason it's received a free pass from so many despite being mostly a forgettable humdrum.
Watching it feels like a week in hell
Low budgies are always something of a crapshoot. On one hand, the people involved have more freedom. On the other, they often can't afford talent. Hellweek was supposedly produced on an estimated budget of $14,000 and, for the life of me, I can't figure out where that money went. The camera-work is amateurish at best, the acting is a bit worse than amateur, the script is meandering and occasionally nonsensical, and the editing is non-existent. There are serious issues with sound-balancing where one second you can barely hear the characters but the next second their laughter can be deafening. The color is off in many of the scenes and there are lighting issues in many shots. The film also suffers from the all-too-frequent problem of inconsistent outdoor environments where morning, day, dusk, and night fly by in minutes.
The story is both meandering and often incomprehensible. Near as I can figure, ghostly serial killers are haunting a warehouse where a fraternity plans to haze new members. Of course, it takes forever for anything resembling hazing to begin. Much of the movie revolves around a boy named "JJ". His is apparently the only important name, as any scene that he's not in (and there are very few) all of the rest of the cast is mostly talking about him. And, to prevent you from forgetting who that character is, JJ frequently talks in the third person or otherwise self-references.
The majority of the film is consumed by talk about some big party, occasional drama between characters that doesn't build into much, and pointless almost-subplots (a porn business, a premonition, a psychic, etc). While the movie is supposedly about kids being attacked in a warehouse it takes forever for them to actually get to the warehouse. It's almost as if the horror was an afterthought. The villains and effects are generally goofy and their motivations range from being confusing to silly.
Hellweek plays out like a bad student film project. Most of the actors deliver dialogue with an almost smile on their face, an "oh, look at me, I'm ACTING!" The camera-work, editing, and production are generally shoddy. The story lacks focus and even the dialogue is weak. Would recommend avoiding.
Will you be shocked or disturbed? Probably not.
This really isn't a movie. Hell, there really isn't even a story (nor is there talking). It's just some shock content and an overly long opening credits (around 5 minutes, which is absurd for a 30 minute film). While it's not exactly art it's definitely different. The film concerns a morgue where some morticians are doing autopsies. Later, one of the morticians proceeds to violate a female corpse while he's alone. The film features full-body nudity although I'm not sure if the bodies were fakes, real corpses donated to "the arts", or actors with prosthetic effects. Either way you see full-bodied nudity (both genders).
There's a weirdness to the whole thing. The scene with the morticians just going over their bodies is somewhat surreal. There's a bizarre character development that takes place despite the lack of speech and most of the mortician's face being obscured. His eyes convey his bizarre curiosity as he examines one of the men's naked frames, seemingly stopping on the genitalia. Later on when he starts with the female he seems to gingerly cut free her clothes. He plays with his blade delicately against her skin... then he guts her open. And a little after that the film really starts to get graphic, although I will say that he only uses one hand to examine her... There's a definite progression to the depravity.
It's a film that I wouldn't really think I'd be interested in but there was a certain oddity to this premise. And while the initial legitimate autopsies were harder for me to watch, a morbid curiosity better kept my attention for the second half especially since it was almost downright funny in places. I'm honestly not sure what they were going for with this, though. It's short, it's a little weird, but mostly it's just pointless. All the same it's really not bad and somehow has a strange charm to it. Ultimately it's more silly than disturbing, almost like an angsty teen's attempt to be edgy.
The Nesting (1981)
Where the cuckoos come to roost
The Nesting is an open-ended supernatural thriller featuring a convincingly neurotic writer with a bad case of agoraphobia (among other things) who decides to rent a house she finds out in the country that looks suspiciously like the one featured on one of her book covers. At times the film is a reasonably intelligent thriller but it has a tendency to err on the side of goofiness. Many of the characters, despite being likable, are incredibly over the top (the Colonel, handyman Frank, etc) and quite often characters are brought into a scene solely to die because there aren't enough victims on-hand.
The film's ambiguity is largely owed to the fact that the ghost scenes only seem tooccur when the writer is nearby and the others seem to die right after the encounter. That and a later reference would almost suggest that the thing could have been in her head although the attacks look like they're being carried out by an invisible, supernatural assailant.
The writer's character is relatively dull, as are her two apparent romantic interests. Other characters are humorously colorful and bring a lot more to the production but the protagonist really seems to exist to do little other than unconvincingly act scared by various phenomena (oddly not done as well as the agoraphobia, but clever camera-work helped with that) and to unravel a mystery that never quite gets compelling.
Art & Copy (2009)
Full of sound and even more sound but ultimately signifying nothing
A myopic documentary about the advertising industry, Art & Copy is as lacking in critical analysis as it is historical context. The entire thing is ultimately little more than a collection of interviews generally with obscure professionals (albeit ones connected to a few iconic ads) while occasional statistics appear as segues between scenes. The resulting view of the advertising industry and its development is exceedingly shallow with virtually no take-away as well as nothing to balance the production out. The film seems to push advertising almost entirely as an art form where advertisers draw inspiration from thin air rather than a calculated process that creates benefits for the clients. Unsurprisingly, the statistics in the film refer to ad spends with no statistics relating to ad campaign return (instead you'll get either "It did well" or "The client decided to stop using the campaign").
Art & Copy really could have been so much more with a tighter focus and insights from the director. That said, the film is redeemed by a few interesting bits of trivia such as the origins of the slogan "Just do it"
Solid premise bogged down by unnecessary plot points
Basically a group is stranded on an abandoned oil rig where some testing has been going on and there's a monster. While that would be enough plot for people, the creators decided to add in some crappy drug smuggling story to it. It may give the group an excuse to be out there but, at the same time, it's pretty much unnecessary and leads to some mediocre subplots. My other issue is all the damn monster-vision shots. We have constant disruptions where we see everything through a blurry (green or red) lens moving quickly. To make it worse, half the time the monster isn't even doing anything! It's just running around, not interacting with the group or anything else. Plus, in the interests of being confusing, we'll occasionally catch glimpses of puddles of organic crap appearing and then transforming yet predictably none of the characters see this plus nobody ever seems to hear anything (an aggravating trend).
Finally somebody is grabbed then, while tracking them, they find an old scientist who tells them they're in danger and they should leave. He then promptly vanishes from a locked room. The story proceeds to get weirder from there. However, it never really gets good. The setting is great, though, and I like the concept. Some of the effects are really neat while others... well, not so much. I love the monster's true form. At the same time so much of the movie just isn't worthwhile and there are just so many pointless moments. And while the ending does help salvage other parts of the film, the whole thing feels like a half-rate rendition of The Thing.
Also, the title is a reference to a Greek mythological shapeshifter.
Evil in the Woods (1986)
Largely incomprehensible mess, partly due to deliberately shoddy editing
Evil in the Woods is a mess of a movie. While intended more as a comedy (or possibly a spoof), there's relatively little humor to be found in the film. Instead you get random for the sake of random with odd editing compounding it.
The film is about a boy who finds a book at the library which talks to him (he can hear a voice narrating the story) and tells him about events occurring in present-day Mildew, Georgia. At times you forget all about the boy and the book except for the occasional segue card read by the narrator. The framework does little beyond linking together seemingly disparate film clips. If not for the rare interaction between characters in the individual subplots I would believe that they just mashed two or three separate movies together.
Most of the movie concerns a production crew filming a movie featuring bigfoot and aliens. They're having problems shooting the movie between equipment issues and crew members going missing. A local witch and her cannibalistic "family" is to blame. While we see this group often, very little is explained about them and their interactions with the others are limited. There's also a couple whose child has gone missing and a sheriff although they all have limited screen time. And a character who dies in a brief flashback early on.
The actual "evil" in the woods is never clarified. References suggest it to be some sort of entity although, within the context of the story, it could just refer to the evils going on in the forest (murder, cannibalism, witchcraft, etc). At any rate, the evil is billed as having been there for "three thousand and three years" and, whatever it is, the locals all appear too scared of it even to warn visitors.
All things considered, this should have really been a fun movie. The set-up is amusing, especially the scene with the librarian, but most of the time it's just dull and quite often confusing. It feels like the movie was squeezed together to compensate for missing footage, which could explain some of the random twists.
The Burrowers (2008)
Digging a little deeper...
The Burrowers defies expectations. Where one might expect something along the line of Tremors (or, god help us, Tremors 4), the Burrowers should and cannot be confused for a lighthearted horror. The film is instead dark and vaguely disturbing, with a presumably high body count.
The titular Burrowers largely stay out of sight for much of the film, although the creatures always feel close at hand and there are quick glimpses as they attack. The creature design is less than impressive although the creature's lore helps compensate for any shortcoming. The creatures seem to fill an evolutionary niche which, once disturbed, has caused them to hunt for alternative food supplies.
The acting was surprisingly solid. There's an authentic flavor to the Western atmosphere and a certain degree of lawlessness pervades the film. Every encounter seemed tinged with danger which adds an additional suspense to the film.
The Burrowers offers more than enough fodder for thought. The movie arguably has a lot going on in it, between eco-themes, racial undertones and overtones, etc, that could feed any number of academic papers depending on how you read into the events. At the same time, the sheer amount of things going on at times can be a turn-off. One gets the impression that a lot of characters are killed not simply for dramatic reasons but instead are written out as a means of balancing the otherwise overladen story. Right around the end is the distinct feeling that the director and crew didn't really know how to end the movie so they tacked on an awkward conclusion that offers little in the means of closure rather than to simply leave it open-ended.
A "werewolf" film
Starring Alice Cooper as a rock star (I mean, really? How's he going to pull that one off? >_>) returning to his home town, Monster Dog is something of a werewolf whodunnit without much of a whodunnit part. Since most of the attacks are credited to wild dogs whom we see throughout the movie (supposedly controlled by a werewolf because, well, werewolf mythology is anything you want it to be) the film builds up the idea that there may not even be a werewolf... or, at least, a werewolf that doesn't look like one.
Because the movie doesn't have enough bizarre plot threads, you have an old (bloody) doomsayer running around as well as an angry mob who killed Alice Cooper's dad because they thought he was a werewolf. The mob, which consists of four angry rednecks, are the closest thing the film has to antagonists. Most of the time you're left wondering when that werewolf will show.
And because Alice Cooper is a rock star playing a rock star, you have an obligatory terrible music video (entitled "Identity Crisis" which could either be clever foreshadowing or, more likely, they just thought it sounded cool...) which plays in the beginning (and is reused at the ending because, well, Alice Cooper) as well as some scenes of shooting another rock video. For extra laughs, Cooper's character is named Vince Raven. I'm not joking. Seriously, it's a name so badly contrived that you'd more expect it in the laziest of fanfics.
All things considered, it's a decidedly average film. It moves at an okay pace (except for a far too long obvious dream sequence). The redneck gang was pretty entertaining even if they weren't played up enough. Pretty much everything in the film seemed to rush by, probably because they tried to do far too much.