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Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
**SPOILERS** Here we go again...
As a user of IMDb for the past 7 years, I'm going to assume from this point forward that nearly every film is going to be rated at least 1 whole star too high. Because, in my opinion, there is no way in hell that PA3 is a 6.5 star movie. As people are likely to see the rating before anything else, I want put this up front: at best, PA3 is a 5.8, and that's being generous. I think 5.6 is probably more accurate. I hope that the slew of IMDb members who slap 6 and 7 stars on virtually everything they see will one day learn to dole out the stars a little more sparingly and with more thought. I believe that once a film has broken into the 6+ star rating it should (for the most part) lack glaring errors. PA3 contains too many obvious flubs to enter 6-star territory.
The most unforgivable error is the wife's refusal to watch the video footage. It wouldn't have changed much. I mean, even if she had watched it they probably would have ended up at her mother's house any way. At least there would have been some satisfaction there for the viewer.
The other problem is that the formula used in the movie becomes tedious at times. Only so much can be done while you're waiting for a camera on an oscillating fan stand to show you the next half of the room. It's boring and makes the action feel compartmentalized, as if it's happening because of the cameras and not in spite of them.
Now, I don't mean to say that the whole movie is boring - just some of the elements. There are some pretty strong parts. The comedy works well. Some said it detracted from the film, but I disagree. I think that being able to juxtapose the characters while smiling with images of them experiencing terror both endears the character to the viewer and enhances the horror. However, there are times when the characters don't seem to be acting like they're really going through what they are. This makes the story lose some its credibility.
The friend of the husband is a very effective character, and the scene with him and the older daughter playing Bloody Mary is the most effective scene in the movie - the acting during that part is just intense and enjoyable. What blows it for him though, is his inexplicably hasty departure from the house following that episode. It just seems like, knowing that character a little bit, he might have handled it in a slightly different way. More could have been done with that part of it.
One of the main problems, which leads to why so much of the story seems half-baked and unfinished, is that the scares take precedent over coherent story presentation. So much time is burned during all of the set-ups for the scares that it feels like content has been omitted. And the lengthy set-ups are part of what starts to make the movie feel like it has been hollowed out in some respects.
I would watch this movie again. So that's how we get into the 5-star zone. I know that I will be frustrated again though, and that's going to keep me from ever branding a 6+ on this one. Some decent acting and some creepy scenes that will stick with you make this one worth a watch.
The Thing (2011)
**SPOILERS** I am shocked...
...Shocked that this film is currently rated at 6.7. It is becoming increasingly difficult to take ratings seriously on this site. Considering that Dog Soldiers, for example, is rated as 6.8 - it is beyond my ken as to how this mediocre film can end up near a rating of 7.0. Even when taken as a stand alone film and not a remake, it doesn't contain enough elements to add up to an average 6.7 rating.
Anyway, for those who have no experience with John Carpenter's 1982 version of the 1951 original, The Thing From Another World, I can understand how they may be impressed with the movie. The story is great. It's an absolutely fantastic concept. That's why it's somewhat offensive to me that Heijningen and company could be handed a golden goose and, in turn, give it such a thoughtless and sterile treatment.
First, I'm not buying the relationships among the scientists. I mean, these are people that have traveled to Antarctica, are holed up in close quarters, have in their possession the greatest find in the history of the world, and seem to have about as much chemistry as a bunch of 5-year-olds at a Easter photo shoot. I didn't give a good damn about anyone. Actually, the only one that I really connected with at all was the one dude that couldn't speak any English. He seemed to me to be the most genuine actor of the lot. Most of the acting was mediocre at best, as if the actors and actresses had difficulty inserting themselves into the story in such a way as to produce a visceral performance. Part of the problem is that the film moves along too quickly. They could have spent a little less time showing scenery and shots of the monster and invested more into character development.
Which leads into the next problem. I expected to feel more of a sense of claustrophobia but most of the shots were way too expansive. The camera work really ruins the film. I mean, they're in freaking Antarctica, packed like sardines in a tin can, and freaked out of their gourds. I felt more tension watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. And that's why The Thing doesn't work as a slasher flick, like it was portrayed. Giving the movie that type of treatment guts the film of what's most effective: the Man vs. Man element.
Thirdly, there are way too many shots of the monster. It's gratuitous and detracts from the mystery and suspense. In the end, the monster comes off as being clumsy and inefficient.
In my mind, movies rated above, say 5.0, are films that I would consider watching again. Having said that, there is no chance that I would ever watch this film again. I can't give this film much higher than a 4.5, maybe 4.6. To really break it down into simple terms, it lacks the "coolness" factor where I might say to myself, "Boy I'd really like to see this scene again or hear this dialogue." There's nothing I want to revisit in this movie.
The best parts of the movie were the fillings test and the end, when they showed the beginning of the 1982 version.
In conclusion, go ahead and watch the movie, but don't lose the ability to view a film with a critical eye because it's loaded with CGI. As for me, I'll be watching Carpenter's masterpiece again the next chance I get.
Straight-to-Video? More like Straight-to-Garbage. **SPOILERS**
MUTANTS opens interestingly enough with scenes of confusion and what looks like the makings of a visceral horror experience. There is a tense scene with tense music as well as some interesting visuals. That takes us about 5 minutes into the film after which time MUTANTS devolves into an annoyingly uninteresting crap-fest.
We think that the black female soldier is going to be a protagonist through the movie until she is KILLED by the other female protagonist in one of the most ridiculous 2 minutes of story-line that I have witnessed in some time. Oh, and I wonder if you'll find yourself saying - "Uhhh...is that a dude or a woman?" - when you first see the soldier. I didn't know it was a woman until the word "she" was used to describe her.
But I digress. What develops is a classic "Army vs. Scientists/Doctors theme. Obviously, as is almost always portrayed, the army personnel are going to come off as irrational and ruthless while the scientists are portrayed as compassionate and patient. Sonia, as an emergency medical technician, pushes the envelope of compassion into the realm of stupidity.
The scenario by which the autistic boy precipitates the fallout between the soldier and Sonia and Marco is wholly implausible. The soldier shoots the kid at virtually point-blank range with an assault weapon numerous times. You'd think that at least one round would exit the boy and strike Marco. But no. It's a minor miracle.
You'd also think they'd be in survival mode - ALL OF THEM, not just the soldier. I can understand paranoia and turning on the one you don't trust, but turning on the strongest member of the party at that particular moment just seemed counter-intuitive.
Morley doesn't try to develop much foreboding or dread. You know, the stuff that makes a horror movie scary! But I guess you work with what you've got: a bad story, fairly bad actors, and a bad script.
All they are left with to try to elevate this film is the relationship between Sonia and Marco. Now we're looking at something straight out of "Dawn of the Dead" or "I, Zombie", or "The Return of the Living Dead".
This relationship is pretty much the only element of the film that may make you try to understand what you're seeing. And, for all I know, I made up half of this character analysis because I wanted so badly to find something with merit in MUTANTS. At any rate, to summarize:
Sonia being so trusting of Marco during his obvious infection and transformation seems to signal that she has already given up in a way. I understand that she too was bit and did not transform BUT Marco's hair is falling out, he's vomiting blood, and his teeth are coming loose. Did any of these things happen to her? Marco is the only one who seems to be convinced of his fate as he is the one experiencing the painful transformation. Sonia, on the other hand, is in denial.
Maybe the message is that sometimes HOPE is a dangerous and cruel thing. She selfishly dangles hope in front of Marco's eyes by saying she is proof that he may be OK when she has no idea if this is true. She doesn't even know for certain if she will eventually transform herself. But, she allows Marco's suffering out of desperate love for him. He who is the father of her unborn child and the last recognizable trace of normalcy left in her world. She allows both of them to be tortured by waiting on the infinitely small chance that he will be immune. Marco wants to die and Sonia's behavior is tantamount to suicide. Love in despair is dangerous love. She even resists euthanizing him and ends up locking him in a cage, where he eventually transforms. I suppose this is a manifestation of her inability to let go or, perhaps, an attempt to control something in her environment (a caged animal).
Things get promising when the other survivors show up. But this novelty quickly wears off due to more ridiculous plot development. Such as the dude with the machete - who lets the first mutant that attacks him in the cave bum-rush him from like 20 feet off. DUDE, you have a MACHETE! Or Frank, who throws the smoke grenade - which was effective - but then doesn't use it to his advantage and allows himself to be killed by a mutant who stares him down for a good 5 seconds before going for the kill. I suppose Frank forgot he had a gun.
Eventually I'm saying to myself, "This s--t is just dumb." Sonia won't attempt to kill the now completely mutant-Marco when she has an easy shot BUT after he chases her and tries to kill her THEN she shoots. Why not just let him kill ya sister?
Oh - she unceremoniously kills him with a lead pipe after he is snagged in the barbed wire. How humane. This was all worth it.
I am laughing my a-- off during this part.
And then..... THE CAVALRY ARRIVES! NOAH (Noah's Ark...I get it...) mows down the bad guys!
What is up with this mediocre, Hollywood-esque, FRENCH HORROR FILM???? I mean...whyyyyyyyyyyy did David Morley do this? Does he not know that he is soiling an otherwise magnificent tradition?
In the end, you can't even call MUTANTS a horror movie - it plays more like an action-flick. It's not terrifying and when the mutants catch you they head-butt you. MUTANTS suffers from weak story-line, character development, and dialogue. And in turn, we all suffer too.
So watch this if you want. But my suggestion is to order a couple of pizzas and watch 28 Days Later, Aliens, and Dawn of the Dead (1978) instead.
Ordinary madness... **SPOILERS**
While watching SPIDER, I was struck by how voyeuristic of an experience it was. Now I know that all movie-watching is voyeuristic, but this seemed more personal. I believe it's because we spend so much "alone time" with Spider that it's almost as if we are following him around and looking over his shoulder as he goes about his schizophrenic routine. His mental illness is handled in such a matter-of-fact way, with virtually no sensationalizing of it, that there is a certain authenticity that comes through. Ralph Fiennes clearly did an extraordinary job portraying Spider. It was truly amazing and I can only imagine the effort it took to become this afflicted man so convincingly.
To go through the film and cover the salient points - I guess that Spider is arriving back in his hometown when we first meet him. Until the part where he is looking through the window at the boy and his mother, I basically had no idea what was going to happen. My initial impression of the film was, "OK. We're watching a mentally ill man's inexplicable behaviors. Now what?" That's not to say that I didn't enjoy what I was seeing because, as I said, Ralph Fiennes' performance is compelling. But there was no foreshadowing or any other indications (such as dialogue...) that the film was going to develop as a reliving of past memories or, quite frankly, develop at all!
I was actually relieved when the flashback scene came about, as the monotony of watching Spider's idiosyncratic routines with no plot development in sight was beginning to produce a pervasive tedium throughout me being.
Nearly everything else that happens is fairly transparent. Which is kind of surprising, because it's Cronenberg. It's also surprising because the memories seem too coherent, as if Spider is psychoanalyzing himself. I had some trouble with this. I wondered why he was reliving his past at this moment and why it was going to be so profoundly impactful this time around. I understand that he is home again, and that alone can trigger powerful memories. But - based on his "writings" and the fact that he carries around items from his childhood - he has never abandoned the past anyhow.
And some of the fly on the wall scenes were rather sketchy. Why would he have been privy to the goings on in the bar (as he is "present" there in his adult form) and why would he have known that his mother's body was buried in the garden?
Then I had a thought. Is it possible that there was no other woman and that the "other woman" is what Spider's mother turned into after she began to abuse alcohol? Is the "killing" of the first mother symbolic? I don't even necessarily believe all of that, I'm just trying to understand where Spider came up with the whole storyline.
Then, he begins to see the superintendent as the other mother. I can only assume he makes this generalization because of her cold, domineering attitude. And when he remembers that he killed this other mother, he is able to stop himself from harming the superintendent.
If we take everything on its face, this is a simple story. It's the fact that we are "told" the story by a seriously disturbed individual that makes me question some of its veracity. And the whole package is just so damn...tidy! Leave it to a jaded and skeptical viewer like myself to demand something more complicated. But, I don't know. Did this movie really satisfy?
While there are a few emotionally resonant moments, and I really felt bad for the first mother, they seem too few and far between to strongly carry the movie along. I found myself hoping, late in the film, that it would end a little quicker as I was already pretty certain of where it was heading and was getting tired of the minimalism somewhat. And this is coming from a guy who LOVES minimalism.
Having said all that, I think that 6.9 is too high of a rating. It is a 5.5-6.0 at best and that's only if you appreciate voyeurism of this sort.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Not awful, but lacked in story development.... (Contains SPOILERS)
I don't know - it's just that the first one was so ... GOOD!! I was not entirely disappointed by the second installment (and I guarantee there will be a 28 MONTHS LATER, or a 28 DAYS AFTER THE FIRST 28 WEEKS LATER - or something like that) but I feel that there were certain cop-outs in story progression and also a certain number of non-engaging scenes that made me rate this one a 6/10.
First the obvious difference between DAYS and WEEKS: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is apparently no Danny Boyle. It seems that in comparing the two end products, Boyle had a more complete artistic vision than Fresnadillo. I did not feel as much of a sense of dread or foreboding in WEEKS whereas I remember becoming fairly tense during much of DAYS. I must admit however, that the realization that all 15,000 re-inhabitants (infected or not) were to be mowed down by the military was pretty distressing.
Something in the atmosphere was lacking however. Maybe it's that the outbreak was so contained in this movie while so little was known about the state of the world in the first installment. Unfortunately there is little exciting camera work done in WEEKS - no particularly well-realized shots that stand out in my mind.
Was anyone else bothered by the constant reappearance of the "Bigby"/Father character after he became one of the Infected? I couldn't help but feel that the writers, Rowan Joffe and Fresnadillo, contaminated the purity of the Infected by making this particular one seem to have the human qualities of remembrance, cunning, and a singular intelligence. This was WAY too reminiscent of the African-American ?Janitor? Zombie in Romero's (THE KING!) LAND OF THE DEAD - which was also disappointing in its own way.
People looking for gore.....you will find it here, but it won't be as shocking as the gore in DAYS. There are even two - yes, TWO - eye gouging scenes, but neither of them holds an LED to the climactic eye-gouging in DAYS. The gore is fairly tame in WEEKS, with little attention being paid or effort being made to add much realism to it. However, I definitely found myself saying quietly out loud, "cool." - when the "Bigby"/Father guy becomes infected through the kiss (Now, that was freaking brilliant!) and savagely turns on his helpless wife, and, "awesome *snort*, YES! *chuckle*." during the chopper turned lawnmower scene. There is a fair amount of gore - but it is somehow unsatisfying.
The most annoying thing about WEEKS is that the beginning is so great yet the end is so blah and poorly edited?/executed?/planned? After sifting through the choppy last few minutes I was perplexed. Why the hell did it end so abruptly, with basically no story being given to us at the end? And why was so much time wasted on the whole infected father/son/daughter scenes when more could have been done with the ending after the escape? Did they get killed? Well, it didn't appear as if the chopper was wrecked and we weren't shown any blood inside of it. Maybe they ran out of fuel and landed and then continued on foot? I mean, why give us so little at the end.
But I guess this one was all about the bucks and setting the stage for part 3, which will hopefully be the greatest and LAST episode.
Basket Case (1982)
Hotel Broslin Room #7
Contains spoilers. Stop reading if you do not want to see things that may spoil the plot.
First thing: this movie is not scary. Definitely not. But for some reason that doesn't matter. In fact, the runaway success of this movie proves that director Frank Henenlotter did something very right. "So what good is a horror movie that isn't scary?", you may ask....well...the basic premise of Basket Case is enough to keep you glued to the screen.
Siamese twins, Duane and Belial, are surgically removed by hack doctors. The boys' mother dies during childbirth and the their father blames the misshapen Belial for her death. After the separation, Belial is placed in a garbage bag and tossed out with the garbage. Unbeknownst to the father and everyone else, including the doctors, Duane and Belial share a psychic link which persists even after their separation. Duane pulls Belial out of the trash and promises to never leave him.
What follows is a vengeance driven killing spree. The thing about Basket Case is that it isn't very gory. This will probably turn some people off to it who just can't get enough guts, blood, etc. While not over the top, the gore in Basket Case is enough that it punctuates the story in the right way. Most of the gore consists of bloody screaming faces and huge claw marks to the face. There is also one scene with a split in two at the waist - but it's not as bad as it sounds.
Basket Case is a low budget film that is in fact very watchable. Made in 1981, the picture and sound are not impeccable, although there are some very interesting camera shots as well as some good ambient lighting and what not. But I don't think that this movie even tries to be artsy or anything. It is just a bare bones murder mystery with some elements of horror.
People used to watching '70s and '80s horror will get a kick out of the performances of the low budget actors and actresses. That is definitely what keeps Basket Case watchable. There isn't any really bad acting and there isn't any really good acting. It's just middle of the road, but better than what you may anticipate from a $35,000 movie made in 1981. Some of the characters are very well played, like the hotel manager and the prostitute that befriends Duane. Also, Duane's ill-fated romantic interest - Sharon - is well played by Terri Susan Smith. You also get to see her breasts for a few minutes in the film. That is the only nudity.
So, if you want to see a well done, tongue-in-cheek-, poignant tale of twisted brotherly love, check out Basket Case. It's at the very least mildly disturbing and you should get a kick out of watching some of the stop-motion photography used to make Belial move along the floor.
"What's in the basket?"