Reviews written by registered user
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First and foremost, I found Eden Lake a breath of fresh air. The
directorial debut for James Watkins offers a slice of contemporary life
that is shocking and thought provoking. It is perhaps important for
those seeing this film to know that Eden Lake is no titillating-horror,
it is a different breed to the various torture porn films and plethora
of supernatural films that seem to be doing the rounds. The film begins
with a young couple, Steve (Michael Fassbinder) & Jenny (Kelly Reilly)
venturing to a lake to spend a quiet weekend, only to have it
interrupted by a group of rowdy youths. The behavior of the youths
prompts Steve to have a word, provoking the adolescences into being
confrontational, disrespectful and menacing. From here on in the
couples weekend steadily degenerates into a contemporary nightmare that
will touch the very sole of every British citizen.
Various scenes and sequences in Eden Lake are shocking and during the screening two separate audience members got up and left. The deserting of individuals during a horror film can indicate the quality of the film; I like to think it's a good thing. I questioned one of the people that left and they told me that they found one particular scene too much to handle. The scene in question involved the goading of a teenager into committing an act of violence by a dominant youth. The beauty of Eden Lake lies in the fact that it takes root in the very essence of horror; it shows a world that is real and accessible; unlike a world of goblins, ghouls and zombies. The film is blatant in its attempt at tapping into contemporary societal fears; it investigates our fears of alienated youth and brutally incorporates that fear to expose our suppressed anxieties. Eden Lake depicts a world that is strikingly pertinent to the one in which live, making the film that much more disturbing. This is heightened by the scene in which we meet the parents; furthermore the ending is a chilling metaphor for "like father, like son".
People have drawn similarities to "Last House on the Left" but it reminds me of, among others, the films "A Clockwork Orange" and "La Haine" and although the gangs in those films were more organized all those films reveal a fringe of society that some of us choose to ignore, but that we all fear, and know, to exist. Eden Lake also had me thinking of many of the early 70's and 80's horrors that were often disturbing and shocking. Unfortunately Eden Lake isn't as good as those films of 30 years ago as I believe it to be too reserved. Examples of this lie in its treatment of racism - it's left up to the audience to decide, as nothing racist is muttered by any of the youths, only tenuously and cowardly alluded to by the filmmakers. The film also makes no real attempt to delve into the world of sexual humiliation or sexual torture, common place in many of the real-life crimes depicted in this film and often portrayed in many of the infamous horrors of previous decades. The language of the youths isn't that shocking, with their dialogue resembling some of the latter episodes of Grange Hill.
Despite my gripes Eden Lake is a brave film, but it does on some occasions resort to clichés and cheap plot tactics. Several times I found myself questioning the behavior and motivation of various characters, which was a shame because it distanced me from the film thus leading to me feeling too removed. The acting isn't bad and I'm sure we'll see more of all of those on show, the script is OK but some of the dialogue is waning in parts.
Eden Lake has been cited by some as a Daily Mail headline waiting to happen, something that beautifully and aptly sums it up. Although Eden Lake will not cause the controversy it deserves it will hopefully instill other filmmakers to raise the bar and push the envelope further. After all, it is only a horror film, and it fits that mould very well. If you are unsure of what constitutes horror or that recent horrors have deviated from the real-deal then go see it. Additionally, if you like to feel angry, upset and perhaps even fearful after seeing a horror then Eden Lake is the movie for you, ultimately it's a fine addition to the genre.
Released with the tagline "His name is Condor. In the next 24 hours,
everyone he trusts will try to kill him." Three Days of the Condor
(dir, Sidney Pollack) is a political suspense thriller first released
in 1975. It is a fine example of the genre and a prominent precursor
for the many similar films that have littered cinema for the past 30
years. Additionally it inspired Robert Ludlum's 1980 novel The Bourne
Identity, the film is also an eerie harbinger for the world in which we
now live as the final few reels reveal. The film centres on Joseph
Turner (Robert Redford) code name Condor. The sign on the side of the
building in which he works reads American Literary Historical Society.
This is not strictly true as he is an employee of the CIA for whom
looks for codes and foreign intelligence by reading books. One day
Joseph leaves the building to get some lunch, upon his return he finds
that every one of his work colleagues has been gunned down. He leaves
the office and contacts his superiors asking to be brought in. Joseph
arranges to meet his boss Higgins (Cliff Robertson) only to be shot at,
he flees and kidnaps Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway) who becomes his only
ally on his quest to discover the truth.
At its heart Three Days of The Condor explores the possibilities of the moral and ethical motives of an American government post Vietnam and Watergate. It attempts to show that one man can take on the might of the government and discover and expose the truth. It is an extremely familiar premise and one that has been employed a great deal throughout this genre. Various political films of the 1970's employ similar narratives including The Parallax View (1974), The Conversation (1974), All the Presidents Men (1976) and Marathon Man (1976). As mentioned Three Days of the Condor is directed by Oscar winner Sidney Pollack (They Shoot Horses Don't they, 1969; Jeremiah Johnson, 1972; Tootsie, 1982; Out of Africa, 1985; The Firm, 1993 etc), it is for this reason and the timely nature of Three Days of the Condor that I believe it to be the best political thriller of the 1970's.
The manner in which the film is directed conveys a sense of suspense that surpasses that of its contemporary offerings. Intriguingly the film is shot mostly during the day and for the vast majority of its running time is very well lit, when trying to illicit suspense I find this a bold move by the director as daytime and well lit scenes can be very unforgiving i.e. there are no dark passages, rooms or alleyways for the protagonist to hide. This choice of film-making leaves Joseph vulnerable and perceptible and whilst many directors would probably fail at employing this method , Pollack utilizes an array of tightly framed shots, moving pans and intelligently edited action sequences to create the tension that superbly complements the films narrative. The techniques utlised by Pollack established a benchmark for the many similar films that followed over the next three decades.
The narrative is both intelligent and well structured as it never resorts to cheap tricks or conventions to further its story and because it plays out in a few days the pace is perfectly apt. The acting on show is brilliant, which should be unsurprising given that Redford is at the peak of his career. His portrayal of the isolated everyman is captivating - aiding the films ability at tapping into audiences. Faye Dunaway incorporates a sense of anguish and hesitancy that doesn't detract from her impetus as a character, but rather helps the viewer to empathise and understand her motives. Max von Sydow as Joubert, the sly and devious assassin is also brilliant. If this film was made today, this type of character would seem very old-hat, but during the 1970s it was very much in vogue, as it had me thinking of Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man and Gregory peck in The Boys from Brazil (1978). It would be unsurprising to me if other actors have drawn on Sydow's assassin for their inspiration when playing similar roles.
Finally, I would recommend Three Days of the Condor to all those that enjoy a good political thriller. If you are expecting an earlier Bourne Identity, you will be disappointed. This film is not an all out explosion action fest and nor does it depict its lead as a man of unseemly abilities; it is far better and cleverer than that. In fact, if you liked last year's Oscar nominated Michael Clayton, which interestingly stars Sydney Pollack, then you should revisit Three Days of Condor and watch the film that inspired it.
Written and directed by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, 2002; The Decent,
2005) I wasn't really expecting anything that would blow me away with
Doomsday. The basic structure for the film is evident from its title;
yes it's post-apocalyptic, dystopian and concerns mankind.
Predominantly set in the near future the film depicts the aftermath of
a deadly virus that took its root in Scotland. This virus leads to
Scotland being quarantined and cordoned off via a huge wall and sea
defences. After which the rest of the UK carries on functioning for
several decades until the discovery of the virus in London. It then
emerges that survivors have been spotted (from the air) on the streets
of Glasgow. It is presumed that if there are survivors there must be a
cure and an elite group, led by Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), are
sent into Glasgow to locate and retrieve the cure. Once there they
encounter hundreds of savages that litter the streets and buildings.
In his own words Neil Marshall stated that Doomsday is homage to the post-apocalyptic films of the past, and the film is definitely a hybrid of many, if not all, of those post-apocalyptic films. There's a belief with some film-makers that the word "homage" should be replaced with the word "plagiarism" and with Doomsday, they would probably have a case. The film isn't a parody, or a pastiche and nor does it have the grace of any of the previous offerings in this genre. It is, to put it bluntly, a rip-off.
Neil Marshall heavily references John Carpenters Escape from New York (1981), some of Sinclair's dispositions and idiosyncrasies are lifted straight from the legendary Snake Pliskin including her often pining for a cigarette, the fact she has one eye and her blatant disregard for authority. The difference here is that this lead has a vagina. Doomsday also heavily draws on Mad Max (1979), Mad Max: The Road Warrior (1981) and Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdrome (1985). This is perhaps most evident from Sinclair as she is a Police officer with a dark history. Doomsday also employs a road chase that may have been an outtake from Beyond The Thunderdrome, additionally the manner in which the gangs behave and operate is lifted direct from those films. Annoyingly the film makes no attempt to cover up it's "inspired" premise i.e. an elite unit embarking on such a mission shouts of films like Aliens (1986), Predator (1987), Screamers (1995) and Marshall's own Dog Soldiers (2002).
In sticking with its plagiaristic tones a train scene echoes a scene found in Walter Hill's The Warriors (1979), the similarities to that film doesn't stop there either as both employ gritty street scenes and centre on a small group that is both segregated and hunted down. An all-time cult classic in the post-apocalyptic genre is The Omega Man (1971) and Neil Marshall doesn't leave this film untouched either with its vacated city streets, gangs' night time mentality combined with the fact that each of the films explores the notion of mankind's survival in the aftermath of a deadly virus. A more recent "deadly virus" film that's referenced is Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later (2002) and another recent dystopian film that strikes of similarities is Children of Men (2006). Doomsday also takes a medieval twist in the way of Excalibur (1981), and seeks to have the protagonist fight her way out of capture like Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000). The manner in which the gangs scavenge for survival harks to Waterworld (1995) and their cannibalistic tendencies reminded me of Land of the Dead (2005) and The Time Machine (1960).
Ultimately I felt the film lacked any originality, but those that have not seen all of the above mentioned films might take some enjoyment in Doomsday. For me the film is far too formulaic, the characters clichéd and the script poor, Bob Hoskins as the cockney Captain Nelson is cringe worthy and the acting in general is all a little too tongue-in-cheek. Ironically a similar description would perhaps accompany all of the films mentioned, but with a cult film you do need a sense of the new and something that is both original and interesting. The only interesting point of Doomsday is trying to spot how many films have been copied.
Finally, it is safe to say that Neil Marshall cannot do cult and this is evident from the fact he has ripped-off so many other films. He is no John Carpenter, but interestingly there lies a sense of irony in the fact that when Marshall is awarded a larger budget he fails to deliver.
Directed by the unyielding Christopher Nolan, Batman's latest outing is
the one of the most intellectual blockbusters to date. It incorporates
every element that a blockbuster needs in order for it to live up to
that billing, whilst simultaneously sticking firmly to its comic book
origins. Nolan has been hired to make a massive film and that's exactly
what he's delivered making Batman the most successful movie franchise
ever. This time around The Dark Knight follows Batman (Christian Bale)
incorporating the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and
District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to eradicate organized
crime in Gotham for good. Unfortunately they fall prey to the criminal
mastermind known as the Joker (Heath Ledger).
The Dark Knight starts like all good blockbuster should, with pace. For example the opening few scenes show an in-progress heist that echo's various crime films such as Die Hard and Heat giving The Dark Knight an immediate adult feel. These opening shots have been designed to create tension and Nolan executes them brilliantly. Additionally, and during the heist, the robbers are treacherously and meticulously executed by a counterpart - a great way to establish the malevolence of a baddie. This is because viewers will now be aware of his capabilities leading to his presence being viewed with caution and apprehension. Savvy audience members will also be aware that, despite the robbers' masks, the baddie is the Joker.
In pure blockbuster terms the film explores and delves into many of the attributes that make these films a success i.e. the compromised love interest, glamorous women, fight sequences, car chases, explosions, disposable baddies, social dilemmas, black comedy, secret organisations, expensive CGI, fast-paced editing, salient lines and ultimately the near floundering of a hero only for him to emerge stronger. Nolan has utilised these aspects and managed to combine them with various comic books motifs and his own stylish direction.
Blockbusters aside, The Dark Night is the best rendition of a comic book to date. Additionally the critics have not been wrong in their praise of the Jokers performance. It is the best Joker to date and talk of a posthumous Oscar nomination is not that far-fetched. Ledger plays the character with such conviction that he manages to command the eye of every audience member, perfectly illustrated during the fund-raising party as despite the actions of his henchmen and the panic of the guests, viewers will remain transfixed on him. It should also be noted that if his first introduction via the heist was not sufficient his second will go down in film folklore due to the entrance and the manner in which he disposes of a villain; it being both chilling and iconic. Batman's introduction is also dark, with him apprehending his helpers, exhibiting superhero strength and killing a dog - Bale fans and film buffs will also how notice how these shots hint at the chainsaw scene in American Psycho. Again this is Nolan wanting to establish a darker side of Batman. Some may also find is gravelly voice irritating, but it should really be expected and it again speaks to the roots of Batman.
Being a comic movie the film is littered with references to comic book iconography that are only really found in films of this genre. Examples of this lie in the numerous framed shots of Batman in a side-on pose as they hark back to the very first drawings of him; the fact that the Joker speaks of not killing Batman because he completes him is also the comic book approach to how Batman's villains mirror his character and his development (scarred childhood). Deft touches to the films misc-en-scene including the helium balloon shaped like a comic book speech bubble add to the films grace, as do the various methods the Joker employs to dispose of his victims i.e. a potato peeler, poisoned liquor, a tummy-bomb and a led pencil. These additions aid the film in sticking firmly with the comic mould. It's not just the Joker either as Batman utilises a sonar device that harks back to the comic book renditions of Batman being able to call upon his winged friends for help, in which a similar device is also used.
Ultimately Batman is a vigilante in a cape, he is there to fight crime and only he knows best. The Dark Night examines Bruce Wayne's psyche in deeper more conceptual way that its predecessor, here we see that vigilante abandon his code in order to defeat the villain thus shifting Batman further to the darker side. It examines the intricacies of what constitutes heroism in a thought-provoking and entertaining way, making it one of Nolan's most accomplished works. The film is dark but the shadows that are there are used to great effect because a lot of the time they complement both the story and narrative. This is brilliantly exemplified by the scene in which the Joker is interrogated, not only is it superbly directed but it had me thinking of Brando in Apocalypse Now. Cleverly the Jokers gentle submergence and re-emergence from those shadows aptly embodies the very essence of the jokers character; that of mystery. The action sequences are also very impressive, but again because of the lightening I felt little cheated, especially given that they seem to be the best from Hollywood in recent years.
Overall the film just falls shy of being a masterpiece, although it can be praised on so many levels from its cinematography to its direction and its performances, it lacks the icing on the cake. It pains me to complain at the films length and its lighting given its subject matter, but it was just too long and had a tad too much going on making the film feel a little cramped. I refuse to dwell on those issues because despite my gripes The Dark Knight is a wonderful film and an experience that should be relished.
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is the overdue sequel to one
of the decade's leading cult comedies, 2004's Harold & Kumar Get the
Munchies AKA Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. The film begins where
the previous left off with the pair about to travel from America to
Amsterdam in search of Harold's (John Cho) love interest. Once on the
plane Kumar (Kal Penn) retreats to the toilet and assembles a homemade
smokeless bong in the aircrafts toilet only for a passenger to witness
him. His bong is mistaken for a bomb and chaos ensues. The two are
arrested in flight and the plane is turned around for them to be
questioned. They are then believed to be part of a North
Korean/al-Qaeda plot and incarcerated to Guantanamo Bay.
One problem that always arises from a sequel is it's originality as it is re-working trends, characters and conventions established in its predecessor. However, a sequel does have the power to utilise certain strengths that can aid the narrative and a fine example of this is familiarity. With Escape from Guantanamo this familiarity allows for the makers to concentrate on other characters and evolve the characters of both Harold & Kumar further. This leads to Escape from Guantanamo being slightly more emotional than its predecessor, this notion is supported by the subplot of Kumar's ex-girlfriend. This subplot consists of a flashback depicting a very funny Emo-Harold and a delusional dream of Kumar and his ex getting it on with a giant bag of weed.
The narrative structure of Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is almost identical to that of its predecessor as it employs a quest-narrative, evident from its title, and like the first film it charts the two as they embark upon a series of misadventures. Along this journey they encounter many characters, one of which is Ron Fox (Rob Corddry). Ron is the chief antagonist of the picture; he is an ignorant, obtuse, irresponsible and brutish representative of the American Homeland Security. Arguably, he embodies a stereotypical and overzealous xenophobic American. Unfortunately his red-neck, ill-bred attitude is a bit of a one-trick-pony, it is played too much and becomes a bit weary towards the end of the picture. The voice of reason and logic in the film appears to be in the guise of Dr. Jack Beecher (Roger Bart), and by being a doctor the character is clearly educated thus alluding to the dim-wittedness of Ron further. Ron's ardent nature is at times too pervasive and leads to those around him being ineffective in the gag department.
Despite those character shortcomings the beauty of the film is that it is laugh out loud funny and chiefly because it draws upon an array of contemporary issues. The film's crack at the war on terror is a little too timid for my liking and the decision to show Bush as a pothead is too old school. In fact the manner in which the film decides in general to lampoon America's behaviors in various political arenas is dated or, to concur with the film's release, overdue. However, the funniest political joke is perhaps the NSA officer being unable to translate Harold's parents, because he assumes they can't speak English, an apt and direct assault on America's foreign policy.
Actually, if the political comedy of the film is ignored then Escape from Guantanamo is incredibly funny. Fine examples of this include the pimped up red-neck pad, the bottomless party, the cock-meat sandwich, the cyclops child, the caring prostitutes, the KKK encounter and of course the return of Neil Patrick Harris. The return of "Doogie Howser, M.D." is one of the highlights of the film but this time around his drug of choice is mushrooms which he takes whilst driving. His brief re-emergence also sees him brand a prostitute, flirt with hallucinations and tell Ron that his role in Starship Troopers convinced him to join the Feds; priceless. There are some jokes that will be perceived as racist, but they are all cleverly balanced out. The fact that the fanatical white American bears the brunt of the humour in the film fits in well with contemporary society - and is of course, very funny. A good example of this is the ignorant assumption that an Asian man on an airplane is a terrorist, again very funny, but if you've seen the trailer you've already seen one of the best gags.
Overall, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay wonderfully reworks the original film but on a larger scale, it is a comedy that is definitely above average as the jokes are well paced and mostly well written. It's not quite in the same class as its predecessor, but I strongly believe that upon multiple viewings it will become even funnier.
Frontier(s) is a French horror film written and directed by Xavier
Gens, also responsible for the computer game inspired film, Hit-man.
The film begins in Paris with a group of criminals involved in a heist.
As they are carrying out their robbery something goes wrong and it
descends into chaos leading to the group splitting up and arranging to
meet in a hostel out in the sticks. Unbeknown to the criminals the
hostel owners are neo-Nazi degenerates with a hidden agenda, part of
this agenda being the mutilation, torture and murder of their new
Ultimately I did not warm to this film as I found it to have too many problems. Coincidently the first of which occurs in the very first few scenes of the film. These opening shots utilize frantic camera-work interlaced with rapid editing that both confuses and disorientates the viewer. On a personal note I find this method of film-making to be unnecessary especially when executed so poorly. This technique is superfluous, MTV-inspired and amateurish and does nothing but cheapen the film. The over arching feeling of the opening few scenes is that of the director trying his best to hurry the viewer or rather speed up the narrative in order to get us the "meaty" part of the film. In general the direction of the film was mediocre with dingy and overly stylized scenes, the final reels being a fine example of this.
Once the "meaty" part of the film arrives we are treated to some gruesome acts of violence and horrific forms of mutilation, which to give it its due are a lot more impressive than the film Hostel. When viewing Frontiers horror fans will notice the vast array of influences/rip-offs from the previously mentioned Hostel to The Hills Have Eyes, The Descent, Wrong Turn, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of a 1000 Corpses, Blair Witch etc etc! In fact it draws so heavily from other films a case for plagiarism could probably be made, some critics citing it as the 'French Chainsaw Massacre'. Although it seems obvious to draw comparisons with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Frontiers lacks the suspense of that film and the ingenuity of direction that was so wonderfully conveyed by Tobe Hooper. On the surface Frontiers appears to have been made by people that have seen a lot of horror films but have failed to grasp the concept of what makes them successful, something a lot of horror aficionados can do and probably would do if they were given the same resources. Frontiers fails to further the genre or create anything new, instead it offers the same old "been here, seen it".
Essentially the film lacks identity and this is due to it feeling too much like a Hollywood film. Often fans of the genre turn to other countries for something new or fresh or for something that isn't available in their own culture, but with Frontiers this isn't offered. Being so Hollywood in its construction with its stylized death scenes and MTV School of directing it alludes to the possibility of a director that is using this film as a cleverly engineered stepping stone in his career, and given his next feature it seems to have paid off. Basically Frontiers is a film that shouldn't have left the drawing board The redeeming features for Frontiers are its violence and gore content as it does contain some memorable death scenes - but even here I still feel it's trying too hard to compete with the Saw franchise. There has been a market for this kind of violence with some referring to it as "Torture Porn" but perhaps mediocre films like Frontiers indicate that it's nearing an end. This notion is further supported by the fact the film lacks any originality or intellect the fact it tenuously draws on recent French history and has a Sarkozy lookalike on TV doesn't qualify as intellect.
Finally, the manner in which the film has been made hints at a director that is clearly full of his own ego and if this were the case it would help to explain the shaky camera-work in the opening scenes as maybe whilst filming he's masturbating furiously at his deluded talent. I would recommend avoiding Frontiers if you like your horrors to be engaging but that maybe you'd enjoy it if you're only after high levels of violence and gore - just fast forward the first few scenes.
As any film fan will know, if Frank Darabont adapts a Stephen King
novel and directs it then you should really sit up and take note. For
those that are unaware, Darabont wrote and directed the Stephen King
adaptations The Shawshank Redemption and the Green Mile and now he
brings to us The Mist, which is ironically a return to roots for Frank
Darabont who started out writing on 80s horror B Movies. The Mist is a
film about a group of townsfolk whose town becomes engulfed by a
terrifying cloud that traps them inside a glass-fronted convenience
store. The cloud contains strange creatures and various monsters that
could quite easily kill the humans, should the mist make its way into
As the characters converse inside the building they are forced to get along as best they can, shades of Lord of the Flies springs to mind and, characterized by their behavior, they begin to take sides and split into factions. Superbly written and wonderfully acted, all the characters portray a sense of realism that is rarely captured when trying to represent such hostile environments. Furthermore, being that we live in an age when reality TV and manufactured environments are created to imprison volunteers for the amusement of others, a film like The Mist has more bearing on our conscious than perhaps the makers envisaged. This connotation with contemporary sources of entertainment provides the audience with the ability to register and humanize with the townsfolk much more easily allowing for their dilemmas and disagreements to have an increased impact, which in turn intensifies the horrific nature of their circumstances.
The best performance of the film is by Marcia Gay Harden, who plays Mrs. Carmody, a religious nut that achieves a leadership through her constant preaching. The manner in which she plays Mrs. Carmody leads me to believe that she is a much underrated actress as during this film I truly despised her. The anti-religious notions that are ever present throughout the film are tainted with malevolent undertones and fanatical ideologies that brilliantly portray a level of fear rarely touched upon in contemporary horror. The Mist tells of religion as being fundamental to some peoples grasp of hope and that with it even the most apparently sane individuals will result in "lynching" others to achieve savior. It is an austere representation of religion that serves as a reminder to us all of its capabilities. The fact that the religion being pilloried in The Mist is Christianity has been dwelled upon too much by some critics, this choice of religion is merely fitting given the films location and setting, any other choice would have been inappropriate.
The Mist is a fine cult horror, so much so that it does not deserve to be viewed in a cinema. It is a film that would play out much better watched at home on your own TV. It is an intellectual film that will no doubt cause debate to ensue following the final reels. Ultimately, and as with previous Darabont ventures, the film is about hope. Its narrative is strongly embedded in the characters belief that there may be way out of their predicament and that their fate is not yet sealed. This is beautifully illustrated at one point in the film when one of the groups, which have emerged from the townsfolk, must make the decision of either staying with the brainwashed, or venturing into the outside mist; it is a choice of facing one of two fears fellow humans or the unknown. Their fate sealed if they stay, but perhaps not if they leave.
The film is pessimistic in its outlook and serves as wonderful reminder of the importance of hope to us all. The ending has gained a lot of criticism, but I believe it to be by far one of the best endings to a film I have seen in a long time. After it had finished the despair and anguish I felt was in direct correlation with the characters and the story, thus the film had achieved its goal. I whole heartedly admire a director that has the courage to go against a studios wishes and audience expectations and provide an ending that is a bleak and daunting as the 120 minutes that have preceded it. Frank Darabont has stuck with the continuity of the narrative themes and left us with perhaps the starkest metaphor for hope ever to grace contemporary cinema.
Finally, The Mist is a contemporary B Movie, which is no surprise given Darabonts history in the area but also it is a wonderful social commentary that so happens to take its shape in a horror film, that also happens to be a Stephen King adaption. After seeing The Mist, Darabont has gone up a notch in my estimations as a director and writer. I thoroughly recommend The Mist to anyone that likes to leave a film feeling depressed, but immensely satisfied.
Hancock began life as a good idea and with a very intriguing premise;
it bills itself as the alternative superhero film by aiming to show
that the Superhero can be humanized. The film centers on a down and out
alcoholic superhero called Hancock, played by the ever impressive Will
Smith. He is a superhero that causes destruction and fuels his own
public hatred where ever he goes due to his lifestyle and his
indolence. It becomes fortunate therefore that one day he should save
the life of PR man (Jason Bateman), who is married to the lovely Mary
(Charlize Theron) and that in return for saving his life he chooses to
help Hancock change his image.
The film starts well by introducing us to Hancock asleep, scruffy and unshaven on a public bench but ultimately establishing him as a lousy, grumpy oaf. As the film progresses Hancock evolves into a very endearing character, his apathy and self loathing - exhibited by his alcoholism, are all traits that manage to humanize the myths that surround super human beings. The fact that his physical prowess and lifestyle choice is his undoing is an interesting concept and in some quarters would be regarded as a microcosm of the manner in which gifted, black American men have been marginalized over the years (but this is a short review and I don't want to get that deep... however, examples that come to mind, and help to support this theory, are such great physical talents like Ed Moses, Shaquille O'Neil, Carl Lewis, Jesse Owen etc) some film scholars will no doubt give more precedence to this side of the film.
Many critics have labeled the film as being unequal and disjointed and I would have to say that I agree. The first half of the film is amusing, engaging and quite plausible (given its premise) but upon the introduction of a second hero with equal powers the film quickly descends into the farcical. For example, some of the early scenes have Hancock exhibiting his strength in often mundane scenarios from dragging a car up a driveway to dunking a basketball from over 50 meters away but given there placement in the context of the film they are clearly the conceivable actions of a super strong human being. During the latter stages of the film this demonstration of strength becomes inane and coarse, epitomized by a scene in which the two superheroes battle it out the sky, throwing each other across blocks and through buildings, and affecting the weather to such an extent that lightening, twisters and snowfall all takes place. This is ultimately where the film falls down as it resorts to the clichés that are so often witnessed in films of this genre. Ultimately this decline is driven by a foolishly executed back-story that has no place in the film and should have been erased the moment it was conceived. The internal logic of the film is preposterous and nonsensical and would remain so even if it was chief plot device in a Saturday morning kids cartoon.
When it comes to the direction it seems surprising to me that Peter Berg should be able to make the leap to making a blockbuster like Hancock, this is because Hancock was always going to be a commercial risk given its target audience and release date and his previous film The Kingdom was not a huge success. In these situations it is normally an established director that is chosen by the studio to carry films of this nature. This is evident from the manner in which the plot, story and narrative transpire to the screen as Berg's direction is gritty, with frantic zooms, sharp fast-pans and steady-cam sequences. His direction does not really complement the film, leading me to believe that in Hancock we have a director that is better than the film he is trying to make, a rarity in film making but it does happen.
Finally, Hancock is probably one of the biggest let downs I have had the misfortune to witness this year. The incoherent story has seriously affected the outcome of this film; it has led to it being almost incomprehensible. The futile subplot and unnecessary twist laid the foundations for the films demise. However, despite my immense disappointment I can still sit back and take light in the performances and the direction, but they can do nothing for my overall feelings towards Hancock.
Castration in cinema is a rarity and normally not a topic that draws
audiences, but Director Mitchell Lichstenstein's Teeth is very
different to the previous genre offerings that have tackled castration
as both an anxiety and fear. The film begins with two step siblings
playing "you show me yours I'll show you mine" in a paddling pool, only
for Brad (John Hensley) to mysteriously sever his finger. The truth of
the matter is Dawn (Jess Weixler) has a mutated condition, referred to
in mythology as Vagina Dentata, thus explaining Brad's bleeding finger.
The film immediately cuts to twelve years later and Dawn is now the
prominent figure of a chastity group, thus conveniently explaining why
she would still be unaware of her condition.
As the film progresses Dawn becomes curious of her body and is forced to confront her mutation during a rape. She inadvertently castrates her attacker and upon realising what she has done is equally as horrified. The man, bleeding profusely, flees the scene leaving her distraught. The scene, and several of the ones to come, are horrific and if watching with others you will notice that the males in the audience will be the ones wincing and cross-legged. Teeth is a film that reverses the predisposed stereotype of a female victim meeting her doom via the means of a phallic shaped object, usually a knife. Penetration, it seems, is a favoured form of execution in many horror films but here it is dismemberment by the means of castration. Having said this, it should be noted that Dawn is not a character that revels in her "ability" she is horrified upon learning her condition and seeks to discover more. She doesn't wield her power, and neither is she bent on revenge unlike the films Carrie, I Spit on Your Grave or Baise Moi. In Teeth is a female character that has yet to determine what's best for her, only the final reels of her dealing with her step brother hints at what she has become or what she will be become - it could also be alluding to a sequel. Teeth struggles to establish itself, yes we know it's a horror, but it feels more tender and heartfelt than perhaps it should. Audiences are likely to feel compassion for Dawn and empathise with her condition, more than perhaps the makers were intending. In doing so the film amounts to tender portrayal of young girls' journey in dealing with sexual awareness.
Ultimately Teeth approaches male castration in probably the most primitive of fashions. It retells the perpetuated myth of the fear of the unknown to men, the vagina, and the mysteries that can lurk in its depths. It is a myth that has been told and re-told for generations and through civilisations, examples of it can be found in Greek mythology and artifacts that date back thousands of years. Feminists believe that its very existence is verification for an innate fear of women. For many psychoanalysts male castration anxiety is a favoured topic of exploration and investigation, some even cite it as being at the very foundations of all horror. Because the film tackles such a subject, and in this manner, it has raised some eyebrows as some critics believe the film to be derogative of men. This is due to it depicting them either craving sex, being violent, weak or as focal points of humiliation. Admittedly there are no strong male characters in this film, but give me a pen and paper and I'll a write a very long list of all the films in which there are no strong female characters, most of which will be horrors. The fact that the male is the victim in Teeth merely facilitates its story, it being about a toothed vagina.
Many of the film-making aspects of the film are, if anything, competent. Directorially though, the film is enjoyable. The camera doesn't shy away from the severed members as they fall to floor and nor does it restrain from showing the blood. One scene that illustrates this and through doing so sticks in my mind is the young man that, after being castrated during sex, ejaculates blood from his messy stump. Any mediocre horror will have a scene that plays on in the audiences mind after the end credits and for Teeth, it is that one.
Despite the fact I welcome Teeth to a genre littered with misogynistic films and weak female characters, I can't help but feel that it could have been better. For me Teeth fails living up to the promise of its premise, it is not the intelligent horror that some may have hoped for as it neglects to investigate or explore the myths. Instead it opts for a modern rendition tainted with teenage angst. Overall the film meanders along at slow pace, at 90 minutes in the length the first castration occurs almost 40mins in, and there are only 3 in total. I like the fact that the film is reactionary to the recent spate of torture porn films, but it is not as shocking and for some probably not as scary. Dawn is an interesting character and the manner in which her journey of discovery is told is also interesting, but that's it. Teeth is just a fun horror not to be taken too seriously, which is a shame because in doing so (pardon the pun) it lacks any real bite.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Last House on the Left is one of the most notorious of the infamous
Video Nasties that were banned in the UK during the early 1980's. It
has achieved a large cult following and is revered by many horror fans.
The film is the first feature by Wes Craven and is loosely based on
Inger Bergman's 1960 film "The Virgin Spring". In brief the film
centers on two girls, called Mari & Phyllis, who on their way to a rock
concert are kidnapped by four recently escaped criminals. During their
abduction they are raped, sexually humiliated, tortured, mutilated,
disembowelled and finally murdered by their captors. Once the ordeal is
over the criminals then look to a married couple they stumble upon for
help and accommodation, it just so happens that this couple live in the
last house on the left. It soon transpires that they are the parents of
one of the girls murdered and unbeknown to the escaped criminals the
parents execute a bloody revenge.
Such is the notoriety of the film that upon its initial release in Britain in 1974, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) gave it an outright ban with them making clear that cuts would make no difference. Not only was the film not allowed to be screened in Britain, but Canada, Australia and New Zealand also banned it. However, and as mentioned earlier, the film did manage to become available on video in the early 80's but this was before the Video Recordings Act in 1984. This Act led to it featuring predominantly on the Director of Public Prosecutions top 60 'Video Nasty' list. The film also managed to achieve 113 convictions under the Obscene Publication Act in the UK between 1983 and 1987; yes One Hundred and Thirteen! In 1999 the film was again submitted to the BBFC, but this time they demanded that over 2 minutes of cuts were required. The distributors, loyal to their work, declined and the film was rejected a release. It was then re-submitted in 2001, this time the BBFC demanded 16secs to be cut. The distributors appealed, but unfortunately lost and the BBFC (now clearly annoyed) upped it to 32 seconds. As far as I am aware the uncut version is still unavailable in the UK so those that wish to purchase a copy should visit an American online store.
Controversy aside, it's worth taking note of the trailer for the film as it invites the viewer to relish the words "It's only a movie, it's only a movie...". In quintessential horror fashion the trailer teases the audience with its fiction; something that would later be parodied by Craven himself in "Scream". Those that have seen the film will understand how Last House on the Left is a film that embodies a deep and disturbing insight into the extremes of abduction and female humiliation. It is a horrific film and through being so horrific it perfectly epitomizes the very genre it is, a horror. I have huge admiration for this film, given its young director Wes Craven and producer (Sean S. Cunningham; Creator of the Friday 13th series) and the mere fact it really did push the boundaries of cinema. It can be argued that the acting is poor and the script bad, but the grittiness of the film stock combined with the poor acting and dialogue ironically make for a superb film, interestingly the very qualities that made Grindhouse cinema respected and adored.
I have seen this film many times and from my experience women will find it hardest to watch. It is not a film for the faint hearted and it does not rely on heavy chords or lots of suspense. Its effectiveness lies in the simplicity of the story. Albeit a story that is hard to digest, due to perhaps audience members finding it difficult to differentiate themselves from those on screen i.e. it's all too real. Furthermore given the films year horror movie clichés are avoided, in fact they are established leading me to believe that in 1972 the film was ahead of its time.
Finally I can't escape that the film was cut in the UK, cutting a film is comparable to obscuring part of painting, or tearing out pages of a book as it removes what the artist, writer or director intended which is ultimately restricting freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Those that do manage to get hold of an uncut copy could be disappointed as they might not have the patience for such an archetypal horror, as it does not live up to today's standards. However, horror connoisseurs, film academics and those that take a genuine interest in film and its history will probably be the only ones that will truly appreciate Last House on the Left and what it means to the modern horror.
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