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A Haunting (2005)
Makes me want to write an angry letter...
I can remember being a child, watching the Discovery Channel and being endlessly entertained by mere science. The Shatner-narrated nature documentaries never failed to fascinate me and make me want to learn more about the intricate world known as nature. Even the "Dinosaurs" CGI special was interesting because it was based on fossil findings, geological change over time, etc. After seeing this show, I am convinced that some superstitious, possibly fundamentalist nut is at the station's helm. If you watch this crap and actually believe it, you are a moron and there is no hope for you. Every scene is meticulously (over)acted by a group of nobodies, and the special effects are both terribly done and highly exaggerated. If these spooky things really happened (child making toys levitate, high-speed wind coming out of a closet, etc.), HOW ABOUT CATCHING THEM ON TAPE AND SHOWING THE FOOTAGE? I can't believe Discovery has really gone this far in an attempt to replace science and factual observation with hokey superstition and laughable ghost stories. In one episode, a young boy has communication with a spirit named "Man" (ha!) which leads him to try to kill the family cat, make his toys levitate, and generally scare the crap out of his entire family. They let this behavior persist for A YEAR before deciding to call their shaman friend to "cleanse the house". Did the thought of taking him to a doctor never cross their mind? I guess rational, logical behavior takes a backseat to hysterical superstition in our oh-so-advanced society. This show is pure insanity, but I guess it's fitting for a station whose regular lineup consists of Monster Garage, Cash Cab, and American Chopper. At least they're getting their precious ratings while making the populous dumber and dumber (and making me crack up with laughter!)
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Note to America: Don't make sequels to foreign films
28 Days Later was one of the smartest "horror" films I had ever seen when it came out, but its sequel pales in comparison. Someone has paralleled the comparison between Alien and Aliens, but I think it's even worse than that. This film will definitely find its audience, much like Aliens did. But whereas Alien and 28 Days Later are scary yet smart, Aliens and 28 Weeks Later are given the Hollywood face-lift with the help of lots of machine guns and overacting. Oh, and a worthless plot.
To be fair, the opening sequence of the film truly had me squirming in my seat and I feared the worst for my sleep that night. One of the most terrifying aspects of the original film was the idea of escaping to the countryside and boarding up for safety, only to eventually be helplessly attacked by the roaming infected. Therefore, anyone who has seen the original will quickly deduce what is about to happen as soon as the young boy knocks on the door seeking shelter. Things are looking good by the end of the first sequence; a reasonable plot conflict has been developed and the director has scared the viewer just enough to remind them that yes, this is a horror film. After this, it all goes downhill.
The American presence in the film is not my beef with it, despite my subject line. At first it seems anti-U.S. in the way it portrays military occupation, but Sgt. Doyle's character, stereotypical though his name may be, serves as a counter to this. The soldiers are doing the best they can, and their decision to go to "code red" and kill everyone rather than just the infected is not out of the question. If anything, the "safe zone" created by the U.S. presence is entirely implausible, much like the fact that Robert Carlyle's character has full access to all of it as a civilian employee. Given the nature of the virus, one would think that maximum (and I mean MAXIMUM) security would be priority number one. And this is exactly where the film fails: completely implausible events are used to push a weak plot forward. After Carlyle's character has been infected by the wife he thought he left for dead, you can officially start laughing instead of wincing. I wish I had been in the laugh-friendly comfort of home rather than a theater, because my friends and I would have had a field day with the latter half of this movie. At one point, Carlyle's zombie is seen looking at a picture of his family while growling and gnashing his teeth like the rest of his zombie brethren. Are we to believe that certain zombies whom once had families are able to put aside their unquenchable blood lust for some sentimental memories via pictures of home? I had to fight the urge to do my best Don LaFontaine impression during that scene. Simply terrible, trite film-making. Also, since it was a U.S.-produced horror film, you can expect characters to do really stupid things while your brain begs for mercy. Once a lull in action comes along, someone investigates a rapidly banging door or initiates any one of a number of cheap scare clichés to keep the sheep filling their gullets with popcorn. Don's (Carlyle) son is the token innocent but stupid kid of the film who initiates most of said clichés, while his daughter is the token looker without a brain who overacts every line she is fed. The only truly rewarding scene for me was the helicopter massacre, and that is a disgrace considering how intelligent the first film was.
Technically, the film looks and feels extremely rushed, especially in the cinematography. Attack sequences (and otherwise) are spliced with mindless hand-held camera-shaking, adding a dose of nausea to an already visually jarring film. I'm not against hand-held camera work, but I think a more direct and effective film might have been produced had it not looked like the director let his kids play around with the camera. The film looks acceptable when it's not dizzying, but it's nothing worth noting. The soundtrack is almost exactly the same as the first, minus the Eno track.
Basically, if you're looking for a mindless gore-fest, this is your ticket. If you're a fan of how scary the original film was on a much deeper, darker, and smarter level, this is not your ticket. I was extremely disappointed with this one.
doesn't belong in the top 250
first, i am a huge fan of the LOTR series by Tolkien. it is one of the most richly detailed and wonderfully written stories of all time, and it pains me to see the dreck that peter jackson has produced. i didn't mind 'the fellowship of the ring'; i thought it was definitely the most concise and well-directed of the three films. also, the visual aesthetics of the films are excellent. the set design and choice of locale is impeccable, and i applaud the people involved for their dedication to recreating the surreal wonderful world of tolkien on screen. however, it is the technical aspect of the project, what should be the real beef of the film, that puts the knife in.
'the two towers' marked the real beginning of jackson's self-righteous altering of tolkien's noble story, and left many fans and serious film-goers wondering what went wrong. but 'return of the king' takes the cake for what could very possibly be the worst adaptation of a novel in film history. jackson changes large portions of the plot of the novel for no apparent purpose; even friends of mine who had not read the book asked me why certain scenes resolved the way they did. the character development is excruciating, as some of the major character-based events from the book seem rushed and inconsequential in the context of the film. jackson has done a great job at remembering the characters' names and their titles, but has drawn a blank on their behavior, values, emotions, and relationships with other characters. the script is pathetic; tolkien's majestic storytelling and tasteful use of pathos and emotional turmoil is replaced by long-winded, sappy, cliché monologues, complete with the exact same musical score used for the previous two films. entire scenes are based around petty arguments and melodramatic emotional breakdowns, and filler dialog is rampant; it seems that jackson did this simply to keep the 3-hour running time.
the action sequences are grandiose and somewhat true in objective form to tolkien's telling of them, but jackson employs cinematography that is on par with a nickelodeon miniseries, using cheap close-ups and nauseatingly swirling camera angles that leave the viewer feeling more confused than involved in the action. jackson throws in some cheap action film comic relief during the battles, giving the viewer the impression that the characters are not fighting for their lives, but rather swashbuckling for swashbuckling's sake. very simply, this is not the 'lord of the rings' that i grew to love years ago when i read tolkien's masterpiece. i am a supporter of artistic freedom in the adaptation process (i.e. kubrick, coppola), but not when the adapter simply has no artistic ability in his craft (jackson, genius behind such film classics as 'the frighteners' and 'dead alive'). this film does not belong in the top 250, nor do the other LOTR films. knowing that this film is above 'seven samurai' and 'casablanca' (and that the first two LOTR films are the reason 'citizen kane' sits at #11) sickens me.