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The Boy Next Door (2008)
A paint-by-numbers made-for-TV movie
This movie is a low budget made-for-TV movie produced by the Canadian movie networks. I've seen it commercial-free on The Movie Network, but it nevertheless had regular fade-to-blacks intended for commercial breaks.
It is a generic movie of the week designed for woman cable channels, without any discernible effort or deviation from the formula. You probably have already seen this story a dozen times on cable.
Sara is a beautiful and single novelist who lives an ideal life in an ideal television small town. A murder happens and she becomes the prime suspect. As per formula, the Sara will try to solve the mystery, and will be lightly threatened by someone who wants her off their track.
Sara will of course struggle to convince the good looking and well meaning policeman who's investigating the case that she's in danger and being framed.
As you must know from the formula, the actual murderer will turn out to be either a friend, the other woman, or the policeman, and you do not really get the clues to solve this mystery. It just sort of happens.
Everything is per formula. Everyone is middle class, single, beautiful, and a little stiff. Everything is clean and new. There is no violence or serious conflict, and in this case no romance. This movie will not offend or interest anyone, it is strictly a time filler for cable.
Possibly a Goth cult film in the making
Gabriel is film featuring breathtaking cinematography and style, a palette of dark and brown colors that help captivates the viewer in its dark underworld populated by dirty, anonymous homeless people, rock clubs, S&M, and squatters. The film is where Goth is at in 2007, post The Crow, post-Matrix, post-many vampire movies including Queen Of The Damn and Underworld, and affordable digital independent film making.
It's the story of Gabriel, arriving to this dark, rainy city, to meet back with the six other archangels who have been fighting, and loosing, against a fallen angel, Sammael.
The film avoids actually referencing hell and heaven, or a specific religion. The antagonists could have been vampires instead of archangels, it is simply a story device. The characters are the classic photogenic, tragic, humorless characters that populates these movies.
The actors are very good, and helps selling this story which walks on a path that has been taken many time, and has often led to corny, preposterous, made-for-television goth movies. Although it is never clear in these films how such extreme world can function, effort have been made in the writing to show the fallen believably enjoying their dark side and giving as well as receiving pain.
Unfortunately, once released from the wonderful atmosphere of the film, we realize that there wasn't that much actually going on here.
While the film utilizes archangels for its characters, it turns out that they fight the fallen angels with fists, guns, and knives. The fallen retaliate with bombs, and guns. There are no magic powers in this film beside healing wounds (which is convenient for action scenes), and there is not an angel wing or divine intervention in sight. It is merely a series of short action scenes as our hero eliminates his enemies one by one.
When entering this world, Gabriel meets Jade, an angel who has become a prostitute and drug addict in the course of only two years. It's a one-dimensional character which ultimately serves no other purpose than to setup a predictable love scene which feels out-of-character for Gabriel. Jade is ultimately a by-the-book character, pretty, and expendable. She may be a viewer proxy for the female goth audience.
Overall, the film has a thick and effective atmosphere created with a gorgeous cinematography, tasteful use of effects, but ultimately delivers little more than a series of murders in a fight between two idealism that are never explained. Two sequels are apparently in the works.
Similar to an episode of "Ghost Whisperer", without mythology
Ellie faints at the museum where she works and has a near-death experience during which she briefly sees her dead boyfriend. When she wakes up, she is able to see dead people.
The setup reminds us of shows like Ghost Whisperer or UK's After Life, with an even lower production budget. There is no mythology associated with the supernatural; her ability is simply a plot device used to help save a family and herself in a family murder plot. Her ghost boyfriend, which could have been an interesting new element, does not contribute to the story or development. He is there only for two scenes: First, to tell her to go back to the living, and later in an obvious scene to ask her to move on with her life without him.
The dead appear to her as though they are still alive, and are fully aware of their status, except for the parts that need to remain conveniently unknown for plot reasons.
The first 25 minutes of the movie deals with her first and second ghost, who simply want to tell their close ones to forgive and move on.
The movie then spends its last 50 minutes on its last case, a typical one of a dead woman who has been shot in her house, and the man who is accused of this murder.
"Voices", as it is called in Canada, is a TV movie that is low-budget in every way. It uses a minimal cast, lacks the necessary extras to fill up the crowds, and relies almost entirely on one 'Ellie's work place' and one 'Ellie's residence' set. The script is simply a sequence of obvious character and development we have seen time and time again. It even has the classic scene where a criminal will confesses, with flashbacks, to his crime to the lead character, moments before the police arrives.
Reminding you furthermore that this is a TV movie, there are a few fade outs at key moments where a commercial break would normally be inserted.
We have seen this story before and there are no surprises.
As is typical in this type of TV movie, the police would have actually lacked the evidence to release the wrongly accused suspect, and should be acting differently at the end. But movie is more concerned with wrapping up quickly and simply.
There is no mystery, no suspense, no action, and no meaning for the supernatural in "Voices"/"A Near Death Experience".
It's merely a mash-up of B movies you have seen before, for example on woman's cable networks.
The Tulpa (2005)
A decent little 'twilight zone'-like clip
This is a short film is currently playing in heavy rotation as a filler between movies on The Movie Network in Canada. I have seen it multiple times by now.
It isn't about Tibet, or an exploration of the mind. :) It's a short story that takes place almost completely in one room of a suburban home, where a generic "Tibetan Monk" is interrupted in his meditation by a TV crew coming to interview him for a segment for their supernatural show.
This is very much like a segment from a Twilight Zone episode, and you can probably guess what is going on already, it is so obvious for the genre.
It has a pleasant atmosphere and a good mood set by the wall-to-wall ambient music
It would be possible to be more critical about the cliché characters here and how the ending is telegraphed from the beginning, however I think this short film's intention probably just to entertain you for a few minutes.
Without spoiling, what the monk does, assuming his culture and background, and the characters around him does not make sense. This is very basic north American television-level fiction/fantasy which does not hold up to scrutiny. However, the entire film is well produced and performed. Sarah Sido is very pleasant in her role.