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This is a list looking at the best of the meta-horror films. The more meta the better. Films that delve and explore what makes the genre tick. The meta concept can be stretched sometimes too far into parody, and this list tries to keep it close. Don't mistake these for metafilms though, even though many are as they make the metaphors far easier to convey.
The following is a list of horror films to reconsider. They all have a generally negative standing (less than a 6.0 with over 10,000 votes) that they definitely don't deserve. I'm sure I'll catch some flak for this list itself and may in several cases view myself as the idiot through the looking glass of time.
Ultra Slow Burn Arty Indie Horror
To lesser degrees, Entrance is much like critically acclaimed Michael Haneke's "Cache." It focuses on the verisimilitude of the medium without using shaky cam or other tricks. Rather than inundating with atmosphere and creepiness, he drains the audience with banality and normalcy. Defying the audience's expectations of a horror film helps to create a vacuum of uncertainty with a hard to place uneasiness.
Where your typical stalk and slash film might rely on popcorn scares to pass the time between kills, Entrance leaves you with nothing. On the right viewer it creates a sense of unsettling voyeurism and begins to wear on the actual conscience. On the wrong audience, it instills boredom and anger for lack of gore/shock/scares/etc - sadly there has been a lot of the wrong audience watching this film after Stephen King praised it in Entertainment Weekly. Not to knock King's typical fans or the readers of Entertainment Weekly, but this is not a pop-horror piece. Its more art-house indie horror than anything.
In recent years there has been a lot of interest in evolving the horror genre past its current state and in that regards Entrance may be ahead of its time. Fans of the ultra-slow-burn horror such as "Red White and Blue" or Ti West's "House of the Devil," should certainly have a profound appreciation for this film. Typical horror fans may only like the final twenty minutes when the pace finally picks up.
I for one immensely enjoyed Entrance, but thoroughly understand how a vast majority of its viewers simply won't like it. I rated it lower than the very similar film Cache due to a few issues with the sound and simply because on a repeat viewing I didn't find all the cerebral stimulation that Cache offers.
The Thing (2011)
The prequel fails to live up to the masterpiece.
Contains SPOILERS for those who have not watched John Carpenter's version.
If you happen to speak Norwegian the initial mystery of John Carpenter's The Thing is instantly spoiled as the Norwegians scream "It's not a dog. It's a thing. It's imitating a dog. It's not real. Get away idiots." Coming into this film, the situation is similar in that all the mystery is gone for anyone who happens to know the plot of the original. From the get-go it is known what the thing is and how it behaves. The audience knows the Norwegian base will be destroyed and that the movie will likely end with two non-infected Norwegians failing to stop the thing from escaping.
That's the major challenge that faces director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. To film a movie about the unknown while having virtually everything known. John Carpenter's version was a masterpiece of distrust and xenophobia, building a perfect pace with excruciating levels of thrills. In this day and age, where xenophobia is more prevalent than ever you would think that building and adding to these themes would be a knockout.
This sadly is not the case.
The prequel simply deploys red herrings and the mystery of "infected vs. non-infected" delves into bad slasher territory. A dart toss would be more accurate than trying to logically guess who is the creature. There is nothing new in terms of suspense and it fails to build on themes of humanity, xenophobia, and trust. Sadly its more action than thriller and by the end it really has worn itself out.
About the only way this film meets and surpasses John Carpenter's is in the CGI and visual effects. The thing in this movie is brutal and the effects are even more disturbing. The special effects teams deserves credits for breaking out some of the most disturbing Lovecraftian images I can recall. Watching humans erupt into tentacled flesh beasts never crosses into the realm of unbelievable and almost always remains repulsive.
Its hard to lay fault on this one. The script wasn't impressive, the director certainly didn't help, and the actors definitely didn't shine. Trying to pick out one bearded character from another becomes fairly difficult, but even more so because there is no character development. Mary Elizabeth Winstead doesn't ever really command the lead and none of the other characters are even in the position to take the helm.
In the end, its a CGI-driven action fest that in no real way honors the character-driven suspense of the original. Nothing new brought to the table aside from modern special effects. 6/10
Harry Potter: Disorder of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix isn't a bad film, but it has obvious and glaring mistakes that keep it from being on par with the other Potter films. It's barely ten minutes into the film when Nymphadora Tonks utters "Don't worry Harry. We will explain every thing when we get back to headquarters." Sadly nothing could be further from the truth.
The sad part of this film, is how untrue that statement was. They never do explain, they keep applying the same formulaic plot. A mystery appears, Harry and the Scooby Gang face adversity, overcome adversity, then face a greater evil that is ultimately squashed by or with the help of the older generation who plotted the showdown all along. This film failed to hit hard where it should have - dealing with death, unlike the previous which dealt masterfully and subtely with puberty.
Pieces were missing all over, it felt like everything in the film could be considered a Deus Ex Machina. Merely introduced to later fill in a plot gap. There was no casual blending or mere foreshadowing that Mike Newell delicately established in the Goblet Fire, it was blatant disjointed plot objects mashed together to complete the puzzle. Some points the film miserably at: - Dolores Umbridge's hatred of half-breed's into the ultimately just ending of her doom. - Thestral's obviously symbolic of dealing w/ death they are largely ignored, and I found it preposterous that anyone but Luna and Harry could fly on them considering the others couldn't even see them. - The Lastrange family line. It seemed weak and just thrown in, despite perfect casting of Bellatrix w/ Helena Bonham Carter. The director should be ashamed for limiting her screen time with the role, and never expanding on the racism. - The failure to establish inner conflict for Hermoine's character in obvious parallels between Dolores and her methods - Believable establishment in Harry seeing Voldemort and himself alike - The failure of interaction between Sirius and Harry - It seemed forced and poor. The audience was forced to recall emotion from either the book or two movies past. There just wasn't the connection in this film, where it should have been the strongest. - The failure to properly vindicate and re-establish Cho as good character, instead of a turncoat.
While it had bad points, it also had good. The most notable was the performance of two new actresses to the series that lit up the screen whenever they were involved - Natalia Tena as Nymphadora Tonks and Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. While Natalia had very little screen time, I enjoyed every moment of it, and left wanting more. Evanna as the peculiar Luna Lovegood gave a near perfect performance, and brought an utterly brilliant character to life.
The actors all around gave good performances, as usual the adults seemed to outshine the kids whenever they could, but overall it was a good movie.
Dark Reality (2006)
Poor Directing Choices
I have to start out by saying that the actresses and actor did a fine job for what they worked with. The problem in Dark Reality is you had a poor director who tried so hard to be innovative and evocative he ended up trashing up the film. From start to finish you can tell the film reel quality itself is low, but the poor lightning and shaky camera only hurt it further by obscuring what is going on. The sound is muffled and often times not understandable. I'm sure Huston (the director) would argue this was to induce a state of panic in the audience, but he had more than ample material in which to do it. Having to result to camera and lighting the way he did was a sign of over the top syndrome.
The story is good. A basic sadistic female kidnapper story that avoids cliché by keeping the girl's in a state of despair the whole time for good reason. Billy Bob from Silence of the Lambs treated his victims better than Netwon. The biggest problem with the story is that dead people constantly harass the lead character in her mind, and by the second time they showed up I was fast forwarding as this was attempting to destroy the only decent part of the film.
In the end, the way the director pieced it together showing random blurry things and constant barely viewable scenes (not because of horror, because of the lighting, angles, and camera) ultimately destroyed this film. Huston was obviously trying too hard and if anything it resembled a bad film school project. If you want to see a decent story then it's all right, but be warned the film quality is enough for most to turn it off.
Saw III (2006)
Saw III - Blades aren't dull yet.
Before you even go see Saw III, make sure you've seen the first two. If you haven't it may not even be worth your time. You'll have more questions than answers if you don't come in prepared and I would have to say a vast majority of the plot will not make sense.
People who enjoyed Saw I where most likely intrigued by the mystery and shocking conclusion. It was a slow deliberate story that amazed even the most apathetic of viewers with it's originality. Saw II lacked the mystery, but established a legacy by thrilling it's veterans with a face to face sit down with Jigsaw and his lair. Saw III continues the story and unlike the previous films before, the audience knows what is in store from the very start.
Nothing can surprise the audience after Saw I and II's ending, in fact it's almost as if they know Jigsaw's motives - they don't however know Amanda's. Amanda as Jigsaw's apprentice brings a new direction into the movie, but it's nothing groundbreaking and her general character is laid out in the first twenty minutes. Besides her small screwball twists, you know the plot already - doors being opened will trigger horrific violence and breaking the rules will cost a person dearly. In fact, this is the first of the Saw films where you can actually piece together the proper ending before it happens. Some may call it a poor script, myself I would say the movie accomplished its goal.
From start to finish, the audience is engaged. Scene changes from one center of action happen seamlessly and almost any questions from the first two movies are answered. Unlike the other Saw's the ceremonial red drape covering Jigsaw's plots is gone. A simple symbolism of the audience being familiar with his works and knowing full well what is in store for them. And that is what I would say the film's goal was, for you to fully understand what Jigsaw is doing and how he accomplishes it.
In short: See Saw III to finish the story and to get a peak at what the fourth installment may be about, but don't expect it to be better than Saw I. Although the amount of gore far surpasses the first two combined and you may find yourself at times hard pressed not to turn your head away. Ans as always if you expect ultra-realism you'll find enough holes to ruin any movie, including this one.
The Grudge 2 (2006)
Disappointing. Poor story, unlikeable characters, nothing new ( Basic Plot Spoilers)
The Grudge 2 starts out really good, it's a shame it lasts for a single scene. In that scene, Jennifer Beals gives probably the only decent performance of the whole movie. From the moment the opening credits roll with a typical CGI-effects style the movie rapidly declines.
The story itself revolves around the continued tale of the curse on the house and three seemingly unconnected plots. We have a family in America that takes place two years after the first movie, Sarah Michelle Gellar's character and her sister's continuing story, and the story of three high school girls that takes place sometime before the American one. The three stories compete with each other for which is one will be the focus and the film cuts in between them almost non-stop.
The problem however is that nothing is really scary because it's all highly predictable or shown in the previews. It's almost like watching a Final Destination movie except the death scenes aren't novel and lets face it, a dead girl hugging a person and then a fast cut doesn't really deliver after the twentieth time.
The few scares come from the fact that they are constantly popping things at you. The second you see the ghosts, you pretty much don't stop seeing them until the credits roll. The suspense they capture in the original and the American remake aren't really felt here, it's constant, it's predictable, and it just feels like the same thing time and time again. It's this same repetition over and over again that ruined the popcorn scares, but it's the acting, the generally unlikeable characters, and the horrible plot that ruined the movie.
The three stories try to show the start of the curse (again), the result of the curse, and then the aftermath of the curse spreading But the characters and plot are weak. The three high school girls are walking clichés without any depth or explanation which is a step above, Amber Tamalyn's character Aubrey and her mother. These two are two unlikable and unexplained characters. Their back story is stupid and their character's feel like something from a middle school play - overdone and melodramatic without a reason to be so. In America, you have some decent characters, that are wholly ruined by an entirely silly story extension.
I wouldn't recommend this movie unless you absolutely have to see the sequel. The performances are bad, the plot is beyond dumb, and the movie itself doesn't have a single redeeming quality. It's a case of a movie that takes itself too seriously and doesn't recognize that the more clever it tries to be the more stupid it comes off.