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Jagten (2012)
7/10
Great acting, immaculate production, not an unpredictable bone in its body
31 January 2014
There's a lot to admire about The Hunt, foremost of which is probably Mads Mikkelson's performance as the protagonist Lucas. The cast is all-around strong, enlivening characters who don't necessarily have all that many hidden depths from the script itself, and the direction is always at least competent and at best very good.

But despite that I just can't love this movie somehow. I've rated it a 7 because it would sort of seem insulting to the actors otherwise, but it really hovers around a 6.5 in my mind. Maybe I'm bringing some baggage to the movie myself since I'm already familiar with historic child molestation social panics, such as the rash of satanic ritual abuse accusations in the 1980s, and I have a rough idea of how something like this might get started. I certainly think this is an important topic to make a film about, and it does throw some interesting light on the way adult relationships are affected by children in various ways (specifically in small Danish rural communities, I suppose, but I'd say the themes are pretty universal).

But once The Hunt got going, there was almost nothing in it which took me remotely by surprise. After the main action begins, assuming you have read a one-sentence synopsis of the film, you can pretty much always guess what will happen at any time by asking yourself "what is the worst decision Lucas could make right now which is nonetheless fairly reasonable from his point of view?" More generally, you might ask "what plausible outcome from this scene would be the worst for Lucas's case or position?" Just like water flowing downhill, you can pretty much foretell where the entire film is going to go from the beginning right out until way in the end of the fourth act.

Now, I don't need every movie I like to be some kind of sui generis bolt from the blue that makes me see cinema in a whole new light. But I do like the occasional curveball every now and then. The Hunt, for all of its good qualities, just seemed pre-ordained to run along tracks I could already see. It's worth watching if you're a fan of Mikkelson's or haven't thought about the issues involved very closely, but otherwise there's probably a much more interesting movie about this out there somewhere.
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Wu gong zhou (1982)
10/10
Underground legend Keith Li's dark masterpiece
3 October 2007
Keith Li is still not a familiar name to many except gore hounds specializing in SE Asian horror, but those in the know will agree that he reached his pinnacle with this disturbing, uncompromising gem of cinema; his only extant subsequent films seem pale and incomplete when compared to the bleak vision of Centipede Sorcerer.

Other commenters here have already noted many of the unforgettable features of this film: Darma Yang's startling cinematography, the strong religious and existential subtext, and of course the sheer barking madness of what actually occurs during the film. To this I'll only add that Li displays an absolute mastery of tone here; apart from a slow section in the first part of the movie, it stays extremely, horribly consistent throughout, with a mood that builds like the slow realization of some terrible idea from a suspicion to full-blown awareness.

As another poster noted, seeing this will be a real shocker for fans of Din Long Lee. It's truly a one-of-a-kind performance, but I can't help but think that the very fact that she was involved in a production like Centipede Sorcerer had something to do with her career never really taking off with more mainstream audiences.

It's a testament to Li's weird genius that he ends his film with a tip of the cap to Truffaut's 400 Blows. Days after I've seen it, the haunting final score still lingers in my memory. This is certainly not a movie I can recommend to everyone, but it left an indelible mark on me for sure.
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Lockout (2006)
7/10
Better than I expected low-budget psychological horror
9 September 2007
I didn't have high expectations going into this movie, having seen more than my fair share of awful direct-to-video horror films, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised by Lockout. It's clearly a low-budget movie, but the director and actors prove to be fairly adept at working within those parameters and still coming out with an intriguing, competent little film. In that way and several others it reminded me of the little-seen German serial-killer movie Schramm (1993).

There were some flaws here that prevented Lockout from falling into that "great but unknown" category. While the acting is far above par for this kind of movie, a few scenes did fall a little flat. The pacing could be a little tighter overall. And at the end of the movie there's a sort of big reveal which isn't particularly compelling (or unexpected, by the time it happens).

Overall the dialog is much better than I would have expected, though, from the naturalistic-sounding phone call in the first scene to rest of the character's conversations. The focus of the movie tends to be on the characters and their emotional state, rather than the larger plot, and as such it tends more towards evoking unsettled moods over outright shocks and scares, which is fine with me. It also has a few thematic subtexts that are more complex, and better executed, than is common in the genre, although some of these seem a bit muddled up by the end of the film.

I'm not much of a gore-hound myself, but there is one fairly graphic gore scene. I think the director was wise to concentrate his effects budget in a few places instead of just hurling red paint everywhere, but the level of violence is probably not enough for voracious gore-hounds and a little extreme for the more typical horror fan.

Overall this one is definitely worth a look, especially if you are a fan of more cerebral, low-key horror. It's certainly much better than the 3.2 rating it's currently hovering at.
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3/10
Not very good
5 August 2006
This is a very low-budget horror movie, so you can't really judge it on the same level as Citizen Kane or anything. Nonetheless, it's not a good movie. Like many of its ilk, it suffers from poor acting, but the combination of bad acting and an unoriginal script does it in. A big part of the problem is that there is basically no characterization of any of the main characters, and they aren't very interesting on their own merits. The plot as a whole is nothing we haven't seen hundreds of times before, and the movie spends a lot of time building up to a big reveal which is obvious from the first several minutes of the movie.

Genre fans will likely be disappointed by the level of the special effects here, which largely consist of a few stabs to the abdomen and a dash of bargain-basement CGI.

It did have some bright points, though. I thought the cinematography showed a good deal of talent, and the film overall was more visually imaginative than I expected it to be. One scene (involving a pillow in the hospital) was mildly creepy, and if the movie had stuck more closely to these lines it probably would have been a better movie.
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The Toybox (2005)
4/10
Unusual, but weakly plotted and incoherent
14 April 2006
I really wanted to like this movie, because it is refreshingly different from the hordes of everyday horror movie clones, and I appreciate that the filmmakers are trying for something original. Unfortunately, the plot just didn't hold together and none of the characters were likable enough for me to really care about them or their fates.

Visually, The Toybox was pretty interesting. The director took a lot of somewhat risky moves, like adding in little bits of (Flash-looking) animation in parts and really cheesing up some of the special effects (such as the light from a certain amulet). Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn't, but he deserves kudos for the attempt, and the cinematography was generally of high quality.

Unfortunately, when this same approach of throwing lots of things at the wall to see what sticks was applied to the plot, the results were not very good. The film never really finds a tone that it likes, moving schizophrenically from black comedy to family soap opera to 80's witchcraft flick to childhood nostalgia to embattled-family slasher. Taken on their own, bits and pieces of each of these elements work fairly well, but nothing ever coheres into a satisfying whole. Besides that, large bits of the plot are never really explained. I'm not one who likes to have everything spoon-fed to me, and I like movies that leave things up to the audience to decide, but the parts that are left out from The Toybox just seem like they either ran out of money before they could explain them or they didn't really think things through to begin with.

I look forward to the director's next project, since I think there is a lot of talent lurking under the surface here, but I can't really recommend The Toybox on its own merits.
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Hasami otoko (2005)
7/10
Interesting but overambitious psychological thriller
3 February 2006
This is an interesting psychological suspense film which is very much in the tradition of other Japanese films like Cure (Kyua, 1997) and Angel Dust (Enjeru Dasuto, 1994).

*** Minor, first-act SPOILERS follow ***

The movie proceeds along two main narrative lines. In one, the police hunt for the "man behind the scissors," a serial killer who kills his victim with scissors and has apparently killed three victims. In the other, we follow this killer and his female companion as they also try to solve a murder. This sort of dual cat-and-mouse game makes for an interesting variation on the usual police procedural.

*** End spoilers ***

Overall, The Man Behind the Scissors (that's the English title on the DVD I rented) is a good effort and offers a good deal more depth than the average slasher film. It's hampered by a somewhat disappointing last act, though.

Unfortunately, the film has a few too many subplots, and by the end of the movie things begin to drag and the film loses a lot of its focus. There are a lot of twists in the movie, and it could have done with a lot fewer. In addition to this, not all of the narrative threads are equally compelling (in particular, the part of the story concerning the police doesn't have nearly the same level of psychological zing as the other part).

Despite the lackluster ending, though, it's smarter than average, and worth a watch if you enjoy thrillers of this type.
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Jumeogi unda (2005)
6/10
Slightly above average boxing melodrama
18 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
There was a lot to like in this movie, particularly some strong acting on the part of the two leads Ryu Seung-beom and Choi Min-suk (of Oldboy fame), and an unusually bleak tone throughout. I gave it some credit for going beyond the good boxer / bad boxer stereotype that seems to come up in a lot of boxing movies, and for making the leads somewhat human in their foibles.

Ultimately, though, it didn't really seem to add much to the genre. It was a little original in showing the two boxers as equally desperate sad sacks, but beyond that, the melodrama in the third act seemed like it could have come out of any number of boxing films over the years, and there wasn't quite enough non-melodramatic elements to interest me.

***SPOILERS***

Really, if you have to drag one character's grandmother out of the hospital and have another character's estranged son run away to watch the final match, you know something has gone badly wrong with your character arc, right? By the time the audience has sat through hours of backstory and training montages to get to the third act, they should already care enough about these characters that their emotions don't need to be manipulated by cheap tricks like these.

***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I don't think it's a bad film, and I imagine fans of the boxing genre will find it refreshing (I'm not one). For casual viewers, I don't find much in Crying Fist to recommend it over any number of other excellent films.
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Capricorn One (1977)
4/10
Disappointing
4 January 2006
I really wanted to like this movie. I was hoping for a classic late 70's paranoia film in the mold of The Parallax View and similar films of that era. Unfortunately, while it boasts a great premise and it's got some interesting bits here and there, it ultimately failed to satisfy on many levels.

It would take a while to catalogue all the flaws in this movie, but I'll try to hit the basic points. The characters are extremely underdeveloped, both from the script and the wooden acting (with a few exceptions). Nobody seems to have any motivation besides "I'm an astronaut," "I'm a sleazy vice-president," "I'm a nefarious NASA director," etc. That's not necessarily the worst possible flaw for a movie, but it does mean that the plot needs to carry movie instead of the characters, and sadly, that just doesn't add up either.

I won't go into specifics, but some of the things that happen in the plot just strained my incredulity too much. I don't mean the major plot point, about the mars mission, but rather an accumulation of little details that just seemed totally unrealistic even though I was able to buy the overall idea of the movie.

Add to all of that a really awful ending that seemed as though the writers just hit a deadline and tacked something on, which also features some totally egregious slow-motion shots (cut back and forth with regular-speed shots! The effect is amazingly tacky).

The only things that prevented this from getting a lower rating from me were the interesting premise and a few scenes featuring witty banter between the always reliable Elliott Gould and Karen Black(!). I'd watch this if it came on TV, but I'd be hard pressed to recommend it as a rental.
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Nothing (2003)
2/10
Self-indulgent dreck
17 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was awful. It is possible to make a good movie with very minimalistic setting and characters; see, for instance, Tape, My Dinner With Andre, or any number of theatrical adaptations. The trick to doing it is that the audience needs to be interested in the characters. In Nothing, the characters were just not very interesting. What little conflict there was between them seemed totally forced, and the whole "old pals are splitting up, then reconcile" plot is a hoary old chestnut which director Natali does nothing at all to enliven.

I had trouble staying awake during the long, boring stretches of badly done slapstick comedy. Nothing is a film that aspires to be an unremarkable episode of the Outer Limits but winds up being more like a bad kid's cartoon.

The only reason I rated this a two is that no movie which ends with a shot of disembodied heads bouncing off to the horizon can possibly earn less than two.
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5/10
Seemed a little overrated
15 August 2005
Being a dumb yank, I'd never even heard of the book this movie was based on, so I saw it based on a blurb describing it as similar to Office Space and Lost in Translation. With that in mind, I was somewhat disappointed by Fear and Trembling (no relationship to the Kierkegaard book of the same name).

I think my main problem was that the protagonist seemed like a blank slate, just as inscrutable in her own way as the Western stereotype of Japanese and other Asian people. She endures a variety of awful humiliations, but we get barely any insight at all into why she does so, apart from a vague longing to be Japanese. There is a little bit of flowery language about the city of Nara at the beginning, and we learn that she lived there as a child, but there is very little indication of what is driving her, in the present day, to integrate herself into a business culture which she obviously finds deeply unpleasant.

Compounding this is that the protagonist is never seen outside of the environment of the office. It's fine to keep the focus there, but a little indication with how she interacts with the part of Japan that is outside the office building could have greatly increased our understanding of the character.

At its worst, Fear and Trembling is a dour indictment of petty office politics which can doubtless be found in any large corporate headquarters. Things like backstabbing colleagues, autocratic and incompetent bosses, and spiteful busywork being assigned to hapless underlings are certainly not things that are unique to Japanese culture. While some episodes do cast a little illumination on (the writer's take on) that culture, for the most part they could take place anywhere. This fact makes the protagonist's persistence seem all the more puzzling.

The movie does have its moments, though. When it lets its hair down a little bit (as in an early scene involving calendars, or in a repeated one featuring the protagonist flying above the city) there is a good amount of humor and levity to be found, and the performances are all fairly good. Overall it's a worthy, but flawed, effort.
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Equilibrium (2002)
7/10
Incredibly goofy (but fun) mash-up of the Matrix, 1984, and Logan's Run
28 July 2005
This movie is a relic of the year 2002, before the Wachowski Brothers had put an irrevocable nail in the coffin of the Matrix franchise by delivering a poor second movie and a really awful third one.

The movie lifts so many things from the Matrix that it's difficult to list them all. Furthermore, it mostly lifts them pretty badly, and the budget is obviously about 100 times less than that of the Matrix. A sense of camp goofiness suffuses the entire affair, from the overly dramatic lighting, to the citizens standing in neat rows looking at a giant video screen with a talking head on it, to the high-concept premise itself. In one way it's like the Showgirls of early-21st century science fiction movies.

Nevertheless, the film is fun. It's mostly saved by the stellar performance of Christian Bale in the lead, who has clearly been told, "OK, put on this outfit that we stole from Neo in the Matrix. Now act exactly like Keanu Reeves." Fortunately, Bale is good at doing this, and is generally a better actor than the robotic Reeves.

The supporting cast all put in some excellent work as well. Probably the most engaging part of the movie is watching them gamely play along and put in serious hard work as the story gets more and more ridiculous. I was very impressed by their professionalism.

Probably my favorite scene involves a character who kills at least eight people to save a little puppy (said puppy seems to be played in some scenes by a rather unconvincing hand puppet). What a moral statement for the ages -- along with the timeless message, "ruthlessly destroying all forms of art and literature in order to eradicate emotion from humankind... would be WRONG." Campy entertainment.
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8/10
Interesting parable
20 July 2005
I liked this movie. It had a dreamy, parable-like quality to it that reminded me of films like Man Facing Southeast (1986) and The Rapture (1991). The focus is not really on the plot, so if you are annoyed with movies that don't explain a lot of the action, this is probably not the movie for you. Some would probably find it a little pretentious too; personally, it was well within my own threshold.

The cinematography is really good throughout, and the acting is well-done. The director is very successful in evoking a strange, off-kilter feeling, which predominates and occasionally escalates into eeriness and even a little dread. The newly returned dead are enigmas to their living relations and the audience both.

I felt somewhat let down by the ending, but not as much as I would have thought if I'd known the plot of the movie beforehand. Although some things in the movie (mostly plot elements) were not resolved to my satisfaction, I did feel like the character development was complete by the end. That focus is fairly typical of the movie as a whole.
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Yogen (2004)
2/10
Boring melodrama
19 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Pretty much the only saving grace of this movie was the performance of bug-eyed, scenery-chewing actor Hiroshi Mikami in the lead. Beyond that and some unsettling dream-like sequences at the end of the movie, there's nothing to recommend here. Premonition is slow, the effects are nearly all laughably bad, the story is obvious, and the antagonist of the movie is (MINOR SPOILER HERE) a badly-animated dirty newspaper. (END SPOILER)

Viewers of American TV may be aware of a rather insipid syndicated show about a man who somehow gets the next day's paper delivered to him and then goes around trying to prevent trouble from happening. This is basically the plot of Premonition (and about a billion other bad science fiction stories). Mixed in with this is a very soap-operatic story of the protagonist and his wife trying to get over the loss of their child. The supernatural events which occur in the movie are never really explained, which would be fine if they were more mysterious to begin with, but since they are rather mundane anyways, the lack of an explanation seems like a let-down.

I could go on (in particular, about a scene where someone is stabbed, and the filmmakers decide to use CGI to show blood spreading under this person's clothing -- what, were you afraid to get fake blood on a sweater? Is there some kind of terrible sweater famine in Japan? Come on, people, this is the most rudimentary possible special effect, and it looks about a million times better than slapping some red on the film via After Effects or something). Suffice it to say that this film is a waste of time, and along with Infection (2004) represents an exceedingly poor start for the "J-Horror Theater" franchise.
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8/10
Good, but slow and not a horror movie
6 July 2005
This is not really a horror film; form-wise it has more in common with a mystery or drama. The intent is not to scare or gross out the viewer, but to examine the central themes and characters.

On that level it's fairly successful. There is a lot going on in the movie, and as another reviewer has mentioned, the focus tends to wander, so it's often hard to determine exactly what the movie is trying to say. Sometimes that works to The Uninvited's advantage; I like movies to have a little ambiguity in them where I can apply my own imagination, and there are several deliberately ambiguous moments here.

At other times, it's more of a distraction, as we wait in vain for the story to return to and possibly resolve an earlier theme. Instead, the film moves on to examine other ideas, and while they are usually interesting ideas, the inevitable result is that by the film's conclusion it seems like there's a lot left unresolved. I don't mean "loose threads" in the usual sense of plot elements that are unexplained (although there are a few of those), but more like bigger themes that seemed like what the movie was about at the beginning of the film and didn't at the end of the film.

The acting is decent, overall, but the two leads both play the sort of shell-shocked, alienated characters that are hard to relate to even if we're sympathetic to begin with, and most of the other characters are not terribly fleshed out. The direction is good although the pace is slow (unnecessarily slow at times).

(Parenthetically, one shot used in The Uninvited seems so obviously ripped off from Ringu that I figure it's got to be an homage, but the movie seems like it takes itself too seriously to throw in a Ringu homage.)

Overall, a worthy but flawed effort that is much more complex and rewarding than most Asian horror movies of recent years.
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Kansen (2004)
4/10
Tepid and muddled
25 June 2005
I was hoping for a little more out of this movie. It is set in a hospital, which is an inherently creepy setting that has been used to good effect in several good horror movies (eg, Session 9, the Eye 2). Unfortunately, though the cinematography is good, there's not much in this movie that rises above the sort of low-level creepiness inherent in all hospitals.

At times I was struck with the idea that the director had originally planned to make a fairly straight-forward hospital-slasher movie, but due to some kind of colossal blunder ended up being shipped 50 gallons of green goo instead of the 50 gallons of fake blood that he ordered. Infection was then swiftly rewritten to accommodate this mix-up, and while they were at it they tacked on some twists at the end which might have been fresh prior to the global movie-twist mania that swept the world circa 1993 or so.

It's not a terrible movie, and there is some endearing acting by the three lead doctors (who do fairly well with pretty colorless characters). Overall, though, it plays out like a Halloween episode of E.R. Many scenes that ought to frighten the viewer are just drawn out, only the most extreme of the gross-out scenes are really effective, and the movie is full of dross that doesn't enhance its story or its mood.
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7/10
Best of the three Whispering Corridors movies
25 April 2005
I saw this movie after having seen the first and third installments (except for a common setting at an all-girl Korean school, the three have no plot connections). While I found the first film uninspiring and the third yet more uninspiring, this one was actually pretty engaging.

As other reviews have noted, there is not much here in the way of horror or scares. There are some horror elements, but the film is more successful when it focuses instead on character development and on unfurling its back story (largely through flashbacks, which can sometimes confuse the narrative a bit). The acting is good as a whole, and most of the minor characters seem fully-realized, resulting in a film that has a rich setting behind it.

There are some bad sides to Memento Mori. As mentioned, if you come in expecting a Ju-On-ish scare-fest you will be disappointed. Some of the scenes towards the end (in particular, one involving mayhem and panic at the school) dragged on a little long, and began to nag at my suspension of disbelief. I didn't find the ending to be terribly satisfying, either--it wasn't terrible, but I wanted a little bit more.

Overall, though, this is an enjoyable film, one that inhabits its small world completely and doesn't try to be more than what it is.
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1/10
Abysmal
13 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a muddled mish-mash of clichés from recent cinema. There are some promising ideas in there, but while the director was clearly aiming to wind up with a hauntingly ambiguous film, what he ended up with was a confusing mess. Lead actor Daniel Wu does a fair job but with no central theme it seems as though he doesn't have much to work with. Furthermore, the movie is largely devoid of scares (although, in fairness, there are some creepy moments amid the drudgery).

*MILD SPOILERS*

We have the mysterious death of an estranged twin, diabolical librarians, ghostly love interests, identity confusion, death by savage monkeys, oedipal conflict, abusive stepfathers, sublimated homosexuality, and crime gang connections. The only real commonality these elements share seems to be that they cause the protagonist to express a vague sense of confusion and discontent.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect to this film is that despite the brother's death by monkeys being strongly featured on the DVD cover, the act itself is never directly portrayed. Instead, director Julian Lee uses what appears to be stock footage of monkeys - not very scary.

*END SPOILERS*

Avoid this one. For an excellent psychological, ambiguous horror tale, check out the Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters (2003).
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Kairo (2001)
4/10
Ringu Ripoffu
26 March 2005
In general I'm a big admirer of Kiyoshi Kurosawa. I thought his films Cure and Charisma were both excellent, all the more so for leaving lots of room to the viewer for interpretation and ambiguity.

Unfortunately, this film isn't one of his better works. It seems rather like the director's personal remake of Ring(u), covering many of the same themes of technological angst and ghost stories. It even has the now archetypal figures in white with long black hair. The plot is muddled and meandering, and while the plots of Charisma and Cure were also muddled, it seemed as though those films actually had a central idea that they were aiming for. Pulse just seems like a mishmash of early 21st-century Japanese horror tropes, fused clumsily to the apocalyptic themes common in the nineties and before (as seen in copious anime from, say, Barefoot Gen onwards). Kurosawa does try to impose some structure on the movie with visual motifs and his usual excellent command of atmosphere, but it isn't enough to keep the movie interesting without a strong story to back it up.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is definitely a director worth watching. I wouldn't say the same for this film, although if you're already interested in Kurosawa it is worth tracking down (Cure - or Kyua - would be a better movie for newbies to start with, though). It is, at least, better than the noodling Doppelganger, which blends Pulse's fuzzy purposelessness with some poorly executed light comedy.
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Cypher (2002)
4/10
Disappointing but not awful
25 March 2005
I think this film has been somewhat overrated here. There are some things to admire in it; for one thing it deserves credit for being a science fiction(ish) film which relies on its story instead of special effects and action sequences to carry the day. The supporting cast is good, the set design and cinematography are good, and the ideas are interesting enough (though they are beginning to seem a little tired after the many mediocre Dark City / Memento / Fight Club clones of recent years). But the film is undone by poor characterization, wooden performances from the lead actors, and a laughably bad ending.

The main problem I had was that the protagonist was neither likable nor unlikable. I realize that part of the story dictates that he should be a bit of a (wait for it...) cipher, but I was utterly unable to work up any empathy for a character that just seemed like a boring, anonymous schlub of a man. What character transformation there is for this sad sack is artificially forced on him by the plot. Lead actor Jeremy Northam succeeds in conveying that the protagonist is confused and hapless, but fails at inspiring any sympathy for him. Opposite him, Lucy Liu does what she can with a character who has no real personality of her own, unless being the embodiment of a spy-movie cliché counts as personality.

One of the biggest disappointments of this movie is the ending. I won't give any spoilers here, but I will say that a surprise twist at the end was telegraphed pretty clearly at least 45 minutes before it occurred. Further, after being content to be a quirky, idea-oriented movie for the first hour or so, the last few scenes suddenly and terribly devolve into the worst kind of Hollywood pap, complete with big explosions and special effects. The revealing of the film's McGuffin at the end is poorly done, and at the end the characters seem even less likable than they did before some of the film's main plot threads were resolved.

The movie's not all bad, though. It does manage to maintain a certain low level of tension throughout most of it, despite the slow pacing (although I think I have a higher than average tolerance for slow-paced movies). And there are some moments when the unsettled, paranoiac feeling that director Vincenzo Natali was clearly trying to evoke rises to the surface. But in the end, these elements aren't enough to overcome the flaws in the film's acting and script. There is probably a good movie that covers these same themes and ideas, but this isn't it.
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3/10
Bottom of the barrel J-Horror
25 March 2005
This movie was really pretty dreadful. It seems as though as the popularity of Japanese (and other Asian) horror films increases, more and more of these barrel-scrapers are appearing in my local video emporium. Two teens spend the night in a spooky, dilapidated mansion. Incredibly slow scenes of non-suspense follow, as we watch the teens... wander through the house. Slowly. The action, such as it is, is punctuated by completely unrelated scenes, apparently comic in intent, of some more teens, these ones game developers. The story creeps towards a ludicrous, lurid climax, which is followed by a really bad denouement.

All in all, a badly thought out movie executed without any particular skill. There are a few saving graces, though, which saved this movie from getting an even lower score from me.

1. The atmospherics are actually fairly good, although the pacing is slow. The mansion is creepy, and an unsettled feeling overtakes the viewer as the characters dawdle their way through it. The addition of creepy paintings heightens the effect.

2. There was one film technique that I thought was pretty cool, where the camera zooms in on the viewfinder of a camcorder, and the viewfinder expands to become the frame of the movie as a whole. Other reviews here have praised the film technique as "stylish" and "interesting", but I'm afraid I can't agree, except for this one shot. The rest of the movie has a lot of jittery, ripping-off-the-Blair-Witch-Project hand-held shots and a lot of garish, unnecessary coloring.

Overall, a great film to avoid.
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