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Night Games (1980)
4/10
Boring, but a great soundtrack
26 February 2011
I saw this movie ages ago, in "the golden age" of the VHS. Expecting something erotic and arousing, all I got was a lot of images of a woman running around in different states of nudity and semi-nudity. To sum it up, I was so booooored! BUT...the soundtrack by John Barry was excellent with a really nice waltz as the linking theme. Checking the soundtrack today, the titles of the different track listings are quite silly, but imaginative. We get "The phantom of the orgasm" for instance and "The dominatrix's waltz" :D. But if you manage to find the soundtrack, buy it! It's a hidden gem! And it's also the only reason I give this movie four stars. The score is worth 10, the movie itself 2.
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Second Skin (1999)
6/10
Sexy and glossy, but promises never fulfilled
13 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This movie starts out in a very interesting fashion when the story about the married man, his wife and his male lover (hunky Bardem in a good performance) starts to unravel. The husband is devoted to his little family (wife and one son), but also need the love and affection from his male lover who has a lot of the qualities he seems to be missing (open, free-minded and spontaneous). The wife, however (an excellent Adriana Gil), starts to be suspicious about strange phone-calls and her husbands generally absent-minded behavior. Naturally she thinks that he has a mistress, but gradually the truth dawns on her...

Apart from that interesting (but somewhat banal) setup, the viewer can also enjoy the fact that it's a high-budget product with nice locations, a sumptuous score and a title sequence that could rival the ones done for Bond-movies in technical brilliance. And for those who enjoy such things (I do), you also get some surprisingly hot gay love-making between the two men even though there is no full-frontal nudity.

BUT somewhere along the way the story starts to tread water and the erratic behavior of the husband begins to get on your nerves. Basically he wants to have his cake and eat it and expect everyone else to understand HIM even though he never tries very hard to understand either his wife or his lover, who both love him dearly and want him for themselves. In a number of very typical Spanish scenes with two parts arguing (husband/wife, husband/lover), the husband whines about his situation and very soon all patience and sympathy for him has reached zero level!

So when the end finally comes, you almost breathe a sigh of relief that the wife and lover now can go on with their lives and be happy because they are truly nice people at the core and don't deserve all the aggravation the husband has caused them. So, all in all, do take a look and enjoy this high-gloss gay melodrama, it is certainly easy on the eyes and entertaining, but don't expect to be deeply moved.
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7/10
Entertaining, but strangely "non-argentoish"
11 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
From the word "Go", I was thoroughly entertained with La Terza Madre (LTM). But in many ways I was also a little disappointed because I expected a visual treat in the "Argento-way" and a fitting close to the Mater-trilogy. Both "Suspiria" and "Inferno" (the last one among my favorite horror movies of all time) were hallucinatory experiences where the gaudy visuals and terrific set-pieces triumphed over slow pacing and confused plots. Not so here. LTM often leans more towards Lucio Fulci and the recent TV-movie "Pelts" style-wise, than to the two previous Mater-films.

LTM has a decent pace (actually I find "Suspiria" too slow for my liking), fair to awful performances (nothing new in an Argento film) and some okay set-pieces. But the gaudy visuals are almost nowhere to be seen, the style Argento offered us in the 70s and 80s has changed into a kind of polished and subdued style. Gone are the vibrant colors (almost) from "Inferno" and "Suspiria", gone is the eye-catching art design. One particular scene that underline this is a taxi-ride through Rome where Argento tries to copy a similar scene from "Inferno", but he doesn't even come close to the same intensity.

*spoilers ahead*

The finale is also a bit disappointing, but not in a too damaging way. It just feels like that after 90 minutes of build-up, you expect more of a fight between Asia and Mater Lacrymarum, who is destroyed far to easily for someone who is supposed to be powerful and omnipotent. And what about Asias magical powers? She discovers that she has quite a few tricks up her sleeve in that respect, but when the push comes to shove, she doesn't use any one of them. And there is also the fact that the police inspector, a quite insignificant role until the finale, shows up from nowhere and is made into a hero of some sort. He could have been eliminated from the final quarter without anyone noticing it.

*end of spoilers*

And there is one thing I really dislike in this movie...and that is the way the witches are presented. Apparently modern day witches look like supermodels in goth-gear, have hideous make-up and laugh hysterically at nothing unless they are occupied with semi-lesbian activities! You could very well say that they look frightening, but in totally the wrong way. They ALMOST ruined the movie for me, but only almost.

Because when I distance myself from the previous two ma(s)terpieces and judge this movie by itself, it's not really that bad (except for the witches). Like I have stated before, the pace is decent and almost never flags, performances are variable (to say the least) but fun, there is gore a-plenty (some scenes of murder are truly nasty!), some female nudity (for those who like that sort of thing with a lesbian flavor to it), one GREAT and unexpected scare, a (mostly) good score with echoes from both "Inferno" and "Suspiria"...and the movie looks good although not in the Argento-way, but more mainstream. I get the feeling that good old Dario had fun doing this movie. And the viewer will certainly never get bored...at least I wasn't.

Asia is adequate, but sometimes she shows examples of truly baaaad acting, like in a scene where she is longing for her dead mother and tries to sob. That was embarrassing! She is at her best when she has to be tough and determined. Otherwise I thought the acting was mostly quite okay, at least when you consider what kind of characterizations and lines they had to work with sometimes. Poor Daria Nicolodi was particularly unfortunate in this respect, reduced to a (poor) ghostly vision. The best set-piece is reserved for the beginning, when the antique urn is opened and the evil is unleashed. Other than that, we get a few scattered scenes where Argento can show at least something of his mastery of the medium.

All in all, I was entertained and had this movie been directed by a newcomer or someone else than Dario Argento, I think I would have given this horror movie an 8 in rating. But since I had higher expectations, it has to be a 7. Still, LTM is better than "Cartaio" (although I admire that Dario was trying something new), "Sleepless" (a decent effort but it felt a little "flat" and like he was directing half asleep) and "Phantom" (one big, expensive and failed joke!) and it's probably the best he has done since "Opera" (even though I have a soft spot for "Trauma"), so I have high hopes that his next move will be in the right direction.
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Nightmare (2000)
4/10
Could have been so much better
19 April 2007
I'm afraid that I didn't like this movie very much. Apart from a few saving graces, it's nothing to write home about.

J-horror has boomed for the last five-six years but the films themselves have on more than one account been repetitive and carbon copies of a previous success. This is one of them.

Basically this is a supernatural slasher movie. The beginning is promising with chilling scenes from a morgue where a dead girl has her eyes graphically sewn together, but soon after opens them. However, after that, it's quickly downhill for this flick.

To be kind I will start with the things I like about "Gawi". On the plus side, the visuals are gaudy and the movie looks great for it's type. For those who like their horror movies gory there are a few nicely executed (no pun intended) murder scenes. We also get a few good suspense sequences/set-pieces.

However, there are quite a few drawbacks also...

First of all, and my major complaint about this movie, is that the plot skips and jumps forwards and backwards in time with an alarming intensity. Usually that's not a problem for me, but here, where the students look exactly the same no matter what age they are, I was confused on more than one occasion.

The performances are okay I guess (a little hard to tell when you don't know the language), but seem a little stiff. And for a horror movie, I don't think it was scary enough. For a while I was quite bored actually.

Being a fan of giallo movies, I was expecting quite a lot from "Nightmare", but unfortunately I was quite disappointed.
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The Descent (2005)
8/10
Wow! Edge-of-your-seat-movie of the year!
28 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This movie starts with a bang (the car crash in the beginning is truly shocking).

Then the movie settles down for some character introduction as our "heroines" begin their travel downwards into the unknown abyss. Soon they are trapped within an unfamiliar cave system and have to find another way out than the hole from where they entered. While the terrors of climbing in a dark and claustrophobic environment makes itself felt quite early (I developed sweaty palms long before I had expected!), the introduction of the underground creatures was enough to send me flying out of my seat when I watched this (among with almost the whole cinema salon audience). The atonal score that accompanies the mayhem is very effective and contributes to the overall atmosphere of dread. It's also a very nicely shot movie, gaining much from the contrast between dark and (occasional) light.

There's a lot I like about this movie, but also a few things that doesn't work (according to me):

The latex creation of the creatures are not very convincing when they are viewed up close (they should have been kept in the dark for a longer time) and the ending...well, let's just say that I thought it was interesting and very frustrating in about equal measures (sequel, anyone?!). And the women were not very interesting from the beginning. They act as good as can be expected with this type of material, but the audience is not given enough of background information to really care for them...well, maybe for Sarah. There are also a few lapses in logic. Nothing new with this genre, I would say..;D

All in all though, a superb horror movie with guts and gore and enough tension to fill at least three or four lesser horror movies. For the fans, it's a MUST!
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The Nun (2005)
4/10
Beautiful to look at, awful to listen to ;D
24 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The major flaw in this Spanish slasher/shocker is within it's script. For the first half hour it's an okay effort, building some suspense and an atmosphere of fear and dread. We even get some nice killings too! Then it goes completely downhill and turns into a whole catalog of "your basic slasher clichés". I must admit that I was quite disappointed because the trailer promised so much more. The final thirty minutes consists of some killings and a lot of running around in an abandoned convent. It should have been so much better (although the final scenes in the flooded room is quite okay)!

First of all, we have the dialog. It's awful most of the time (there was quite a few giggles in the audience here and there when I saw it) and merely adequate elsewhere. It is also barely audible during a lot of scenes, drowning under the pressure of sound effects and the soundtrack (however that might not be such a bad thing after all considering the stupid lines we have to listen to!). There is one line in the whole movie that makes a reference to the "I know what you did last summer"-movies, indicating that the film makers wrote it all as one big joke, but I doubt it.

And the ending...well, some will hate it, others will dig it. For me, it was mostly a question of the former because the final twist comes from out of nowhere! If the audience had been given some clues to the girls mental status, I might have thought otherwise. It also throws all logic out of the window, because the murderer could never had been in place for some of the kills! But as an avid horror fan I have learned to live with these inconsistencies in Spanish and Italian movies.

But all is not bad. The movie has a big budget appearance, mainly due to the excellent cinematography (the scenes from past times really shines here), tight editing and an atmospheric soundtrack. Even though most of the actors are pretty bad, Anita Briem is an exception, making the most of what she has to work with. Real screen presence!

And, like I mentioned before, the killings are gory enough for the fans of such stuff and they are usually accompanied by very good special effects involving images of water (but the "water theme" tends to get tiresome in the end though).

So, to end this review, it's a movie that is quite fun in a "so-bad-it's-good" kind of way and it's also pleasing to the eye. But don't expect too much because it doesn't deliver as you probably think it will, judging from trailer and plot descriptions.
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House of Wax (2005)
4/10
Gruesome but predictable and sometimes truly boring
10 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I viewed this on DVD and thus had the opportunity to skip to the best parts (but I didn't). But I think I can truly say that this is the best way to view this movie. Jump between the inventively gory highlights and some eerie imaginary touches plus the truly spectacular finale, and you will be saved about 40 minutes of pure boredom.

Yes, this is the usual "dead teenager"-movie except for the fact that these kids are in their twenties and, save for the plucky heroine, sometimes incredibly stupid. But this is something normal in these kind of movie, come to think of it. If you are threatened by an unseen pickup driver, smell a truly horrendous odor in the air and are surrounded by a threatening atmosphere, would you CAMP in a place like this? I guess most of us wouldn't, but these kids do.

A couple of them also hitch a ride with a guy who seems to be some sort of offspring to the banjoing population we encountered in "Deliverance", also not the kind of action I would take.

However, all things are not bad. The (straight) guys get so see Paris Hilton scampering around in red underwear before getting killed where it probably hurts her the least...;) The atmosphere in the small, seemingly deserted, town these post-teens wander into is also noteworthy. And the gore hounds get theirs in some nasty scenes. It is not that the kills themselves are particularly bloody, but they are executed in a very way so that you can really feel the agony some of these victims must be going thru. The first kill with the guy sprayed in wax is quite eerie and not easily forgotten.

And like I mentioned before, the finale is indeed spectacular! Worth the price of admission itself.
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Alias (2002)
7/10
Not bad at all...
21 July 2005
This Belgian attempt at combining thriller, slasher and romance could have been very, very bad. But as it is, this is a movie that is stylish, quite well acted and entertaining for most of it's running time.

The plot is absurd, no doubt about it. We get a budding romance, incest (well, sort of), psychopaths galore, voyeurism and a little sex. I wasn't expecting a lot when I put started to watch this DVD, but soon became involved in this twisting tale of murder and betrayal. Eva (Hilde De Baerdemaeker) becomes a witness to what might have been a murder or just a suicide. Along the way she meets Dieter (Geert Hunaerts who is a major hunk!) who's a man who might or might not be a raving psychopath. What follows is a suspenseful tale, not in the least predictable, but very implausible.

Stylishly shot (for the most part in picturesque Gent), this is a movie that is very easy on the eyes and the comparison other reviewers have made to this being a Belgian "giallo" is quite accurate I think. Dario Argento's "Tenebrae" spring to mind since it is built the same way story wise and also contains a wild and gory climax. Actually, the climax is quite unexpected because the build-up until then points to a more subtle ending. Instead we get a really whacked out finale with the blood flowing very freely. I liked it even though it sometimes feels a bit rushed! :)

The actors do okay, I guess. I wasn't very impressed by Hilde De Baerdemaeker (at crucial moments she seems a bit unresponsive), but considering this was her first part in a major movie it's not that bad. Geert Hunaerts is fine as the mysterious Dieter and Hilde Van Mieghem really shines as the "mother" who turns out to be...well I don't want to spoil to much for any future viewers, let's just say that she is hiding some VERY dark secrets behind her respectable exterior. A chilling performance and, at the same time, an amusing one too.

I wasn't to impressed by the soundtrack. It serves it's purpose I guess, but it's your average "suspense track". Otherwise a movie I thoroughly enjoyed even if I understand that this might not be everyone's "cup of tea", so to speak. Give it a try, however!
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Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005 TV Movie)
6/10
Minor but entertaining Argento
1 July 2005
Make no mistake, this is a made-for-TV movie so don't expect the usual Argento-gore and a lot of stylized violence. If that's what you're looking for, look somewhere else!

It also shows sometimes that he is working in another medium (television), style-wise. But apart from that, this is a playful and lightweight homage to Alfred Hitchcock, that works fairly well within the constrains of the medium.

It has a sympathetic lead in Elio Germano (but the female are more formulaic) and most actors are a lot better that what is common in an Argento-movie. The beginning of the movie is very well set-up when you get a peak into several apartments a la "Rear window". The script is full of references to different Hitchcock-movies, but there are also nods towards Brian dePalma and...Dario Argento himself! There are scenes that seems to have been lifted more or less intact from his other creations like "Deep red", "Opera" and "Inferno". But this is not necessarily a negative thing since all this is mostly woven into the plot with a lot of skill. There is only one murder (but two death scenes), but it is quite violent and the scene leading up to it is very suspenseful. The final 10 minutes are also edge-of-your-seat material.

Also worth mentioning is the nice cinematography by Fasano (especially the shots at night are very nice to look at). And the score by Pino Dinaggio is absolutely top-notch! It's certainly a lot better than the anonymous music he put together for Dario in "Trauma" and might remind you of his work for Brian de Palma.

But some things don't work, for instance the scene where our "hero" breaks his leg. It is too drawn out even though it's suspenseful in the beginning. The pace flags occasionally and is generally erratic. And even if the climax is exciting, I cannot shake of a feeling that it could have been even better with a tighter script. It seems that Argento/Ferrini lost interest somehow in their intriguing little tale of terror. And finally, the usual quibble when it comes to an Argento film...the dubbing is sometimes truly bad, at best it's acceptable. And note that I saw the Italian version! God only knows why italians often prefer to dub instead of using the original sound?!

But all in all, a very decent outing by Mr Argento. It certainly doesn't top "Suspiria", "Inferno", "Deep red" or his other masterpieces (it doesn't even top the underrated "Trauma" which is resembles sometimes), but it is absolutely one of the best things he's done since "Opera".
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Saved! (2004)
7/10
Many hits but also a few misses
13 April 2005
This is a smart comedy with a good-natured edge to it. It attacks the hypocrisy (and NOT faith itself) within some churches and people who claim to be "true" Christians, but in reality they are more concerned (like Hilary Faye/Mandy Moore in this movie) about protecting their own ego. Jena Malone plays what you might call the "crown-princess" to Mandy Moores over-ambitiously Christian school leader. They both belong to this clique of "true believers" within the school they attend and are very highly thought of among their peers. However, things change when Jena, in an act to save her boyfriend from "gayification", sleeps with him and gets pregnant. Her fall from grace is huge in the eyes of Ms Moore, who promptly sets out to "save" both her and the rebellious jew-girl in school (Eva Amurri). With or without their approval at whatever cost! I honestly expected this movie to be funnier. Don't get me wrong, it has some truly funny moments (and there is a fair amount of wit involved in these jokes too) and Mandy Moore is a blast as the strong willed but misguided Hilary Faye (who in one terrific scene throws a bible at Jena Malone with the words "I am FILLED with the love of God!" after she and two other girls have tried to "exorcise" her). But somehow the satire could have been a little sharper sometimes, more pointed towards their targets instead of aiming them at "sitting ducks". I liked Jena Malone, but there were moments when she came across as a little bland. However, the big blame in this case must be put upon the script that gives her a few awkward moments (and almost completely ignores the fact that she is pregnant and has every right to worry about that - but seldom seem to do!) But most of the time this is a teen comedy with wit AND heart (notice the sweet scene between Culkin and Amurri close to the end - both giving excellent performances). Some might think that Mandy Moore hams it up in her part, but I thought she was spot on the mark! An assured comedienne might have emerged here! Other supporting players are great too and the score is amazingly chosen, the soundtrack could very well be worth picking up. There are people like that, especially among believing teenagers where you often view things in black and white and don't see the gray scales. So this movie and "Mean girls" are hopefully the beginning of a trend with teen-movies that don't depend on farts and sexist humor for their laughs.
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6/10
Extremely stylish and atmospheric - and somewhat boring
12 April 2005
I had great expectations for this movie. Since I am a great fan of Dario Argento and his Italian giallos I was thrilled to hear about this french little "giallo-imitation". The beginning with a mother, her child and a murderer is stunning and kept me glued to my seat. After that we are suddenly in the company of five youths (three girls, two guys) in their early twenties and even if they are quite alright for this kind of movie, they are not very interesting.

Things perk up a bit when they arrive to their destination, a beautiful castle somewhere on the french countryside, and meet their host, a rather creepy guy in a wheelchair who makes sexual advances to one of the boys. He has an autistic son who stares ominously throughout the picture and he is quite eerie actually. The movie still looks great and there is a fair amount of tension for half an hour or so.

But after this introduction of almost all of the characters NOTHING HAPPENS for quite a while. We get quite a few scenes with some tension, but no payoff. Since it is a french production, they also throw in some female full frontal nudity in a lesbian love scene for those who like that sort of thing (I don't..). There is a police showing up from nowhere and he disappears just within a few minutes for some reason, only to show up briefly at the end. And the play these youngsters perform is truly abominable. If I had hired these actors I would have asked for a refund!

The final half hour is a little better (when the killings start - they are lensed in a loving, stylish and gory way), but unfortunately the story never gets really exciting or involving. Real suspense is sadly lacking for the most part. There is a great potential buried somewhere here, but apart from the gorgeous visuals and assured directing, it is mostly ignored. The acting is okay I guess (and most of the cast look good!). Clotilde Courau is an adequate heroine, but has tends to laugh hysterically in all the wrong places. It really got on my nerves in the end.

The camera LOVES Vincent Lecoeur but he hasn't a lot to work with like most of the others. * minor spoiler * The only part with some teeth is Axel de Fersen (the wheelchair guy) and actor François Berléand really hams it up entertainingly in that part. And the old horror movie cliché is still valid, a man or woman in a wheelchair certainly has some hidden secrets. *End of spoiler *

After all this you might expect me to dislike this movie. Wrong! I truly enjoyed it for a number of reasons. It's gaudy look and big-budget visuals (it really is a feast for the eyes). One of the first shots is a bird against a slightly cloudy sky and that image is almost worth the price of admission alone. The luxurious and atmospheric score that accompanies all the mayhem is classy and nice. The murder set-pieces that are choreographed with assurance and style. Let's just hope that this director can sink his teeth in a better script next time. Then we might TRULY be able to look forward to a great horror movie, one that even could become a classic within it's genre!
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Flashback (2000)
5/10
Slasher German-style
12 April 2005
* minor spoiler * The director of this movie apparently helmed a lot of TV-movies in Germany and it sure shows. This German slasher tries very hard to be stylish looking in a "gallic" way, but seldom succeeds. The look is distinctly like a German TV-movie with harsh lighting in the night scenes and a rather flat look in the daytime scenes. The plot however is very "giallo" with twists and turns. The screenwriters really try to fool the viewer, but since everything is telegraphed in advance in different ways, I was rarely surprised and saw the outcome miles away in advance.

Also hurtful is the way the characters are presented. We can feel no sympathy for these young spoiled brats as they meet their bloody ends. The awful dubbing on the DVD I saw was also a big drawback. At best it's amusing, for the most part it's irritating. However, everything is not bad. The scenery is awesome, we get some nice killings with a sickle and Elke Sommer does a quite nice turn as the stern housekeeper (it would have been nice if she had been the villain of this movie, but alas...), still looking quite good for her age.

This movie also contains quite a few comedic scenes, rarely found in American or Italian slashers. They mostly involve some bumbling cops and if you like that or not is a matter of taste. Quite a few scenes border on farce actually, even a few bloody ones. Especially as they are accompanied by some really strange and in-appropriate music.

So "Flashback" is a decent time waster, but I wouldn't pay too much to see it.
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6/10
A very mixed bag
2 February 2005
Parts of this horror movie are absolutely brilliant. The opening scene, with the doomed girl standing in front of a mirror, is a real stunner! And for the first half hour things move along quite effectively. We get some amazing visuals, mostly concerning mirrors, and good suspense too. Then, after that half hour mark, we get some truly boring dialog scenes and a lot of quarreling between our hero (who, according to me, seems to be a nice guy but a complete bore!) and an ex-colleague of his (he used to be a police but resigned after a shooting accident). Things pick up later in the movie, but the ending is a little bit of a let-down, because the build-up had so far been (mostly) very effective. But it is a nice idea for a horror story and well directed! Give it a try and I think you'll like it! :-)
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Phone (2002)
7/10
Stylish, creepy but a little sluggish
2 February 2005
Like many other Asian ghost-story movies, this one is extremely well made. It really looks stunning! And the heroine is a quite well defined character, you do worry about her safety. After a giggle-inducing beginning ("Toilet films presents...") the movie starts with a bang when a women in an elevator is scared to death by some shadowy figure. Then we are introduced to our leading lady, a reporter who's getting threatening phone calls because of some article she wrote (that little side-plot is never fully explained and serves as a somewhat annoying red-herring). But things will soon be even scarier for her! First the 5 y.o daughter of her sister accidentally (or is it?) answers a call on the phone and is terrified by what she hears. Soon after she's beginning to show signs of a changed personality. As our heroine starts to unravel the mystery behind these calls and some unexplained deaths, she gets herself deeper and deeper into something that could possibly kill her!

I really liked this movie. Extremely well made and with a spooky atmosphere you could almost touch. However, the ending is almost a carbon copy of the ending in "Ringu", and the pace of the movie itself is erratic. These Asian ghost stories mostly tend to be on the slow side, but that is usually to their advantage. But in "Phone", we sometimes get scenes that tends to make one lose interest, because nothing happens that has any relevance to the story. Fortunately, these moments are quite few, and all in all, this is one horror movie that will give chills to most people, I think.
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Darkness (2002)
6/10
Pretty spooky but not without certain flaws
2 February 2005
This is a strange little movie. On the bonus side is the atmosphere of doom, the incredibly creepy house and gaudy visuals. You are never quite certain how things are going to evolve or how it's going to end. And those three previous owners of the house (those in the old photo) are positively nightmare-stuff. However the performances are stiff, you almost get the impression that these family members haven't seen each other before in their lives. And, as so often in horror movies, people behave in all sorts of stupid ways, but I guess that's almost a part of the genre... All in all, I would say this is a unsettling little ghost story...but make sure to see the unrated version as I did. The PG-13 is mutilated!
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6/10
A different Argento, to be sure, but that's not bad Argento!
2 April 2004
I have read the reviews complaining about that Dario has abandoned his style and all the gore to produce a tame TV-thriller. Far from the truth, according to me! I really think that this is the best he has done since "Opera". Granted, his stylish touch might seem to be muted compared to the baroque thriller of the 70s and 80s, but this cold and bleak atmosphere that he conjures up this time along with very brightly lit camera-work for most of the scenes, is something I enjoyed throughout! Sure, the gore is almost totally absent (apart from one scene), but as a whole this picture is much more efficiently done. The pace is fluent and unlike most of his other movies, there is actually no point where the characters just stand around and talk (and sometimes his players have been involved in some truly atrocious conversation) to fill out the time.

*MINOR SPOILER* And in "Il cartaio" the three main actors are actually very good! They are people you can care about and when they are in danger or die, you feel sorry for them. *END OF SPOILER* Like I mentioned before, I enjoyed the bleak look of the movie...as always classy camera-work in every frame of an Argento picture! And Claudio Simonetti's score is his best in years even though you might be just a little bit tired of it by the time the movie reaches it's conclusion. And talking about the finale, I found it both interesting, but at the same time also maybe a little bit of a letdown. However, the endings have been a bit weak lately in Dario's films. Not since "Tenebrae" has there been a really powerful conclusion. And two minor complaints finally...it was too easy to guess who the killer was. This has been mentioned before and I think it is true. The killer's identity could have been better camouflaged without a "certain scene" (you will know which one). And the card scenes went on too long on two occasions. The constant screaming from the victims became annoying in these scenes and I almost wanted them to die just to make them shut up! Otherwise, his best work in years and a film where he is not just content with repeating an old formula (like in "Sleepless" which I liked anyhow), but is actually trying to find a whole new path in his art.
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4/10
Creaky plot and stiff acting
11 November 2003
This thriller in the Agatha Christie vein could have been much better that it is. The actors are all well known in Sweden and Nils Asther even made a Hollywood career. The snowbound setting is atmospheric even if it is spoiled by the very theatrical looking graveyard. Arne Mattsson had before he made this had much success with a few thrillers where his unique sense of movement and lighting overcame silly storylines, much like Mario Bava in Italy. Most notably maybe in "Mannekäng i rött", an elegant technicolor thriller. This movie has a story that takes place around Christmas and New Years eve. There is a murder and more suspects than I have the strength to name here. The start of the picture isn't half-bad but soon stiff acting and silly dialogue destroy whatever mood there was in the beginning. As long as the actors are doing everyday chores and such thing, they seem quite natural. But once they are to display emotions of fear and dread, they act like cardboard cut-outs or hamming it up terribly. A few suspenseful sequences and a nice score cannot help this one I'm afraid. If you want to get familiar with Arne Mattsson and his particular visual style, watch "Mannekäng i rött" or "Vita frun" instead. They may look old-fashioned now, but at least they are hugely entertaining.
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4/10
Inventive deaths...but little else!
5 November 2003
The first film was quite inventive and had an ominous atmosphere that I really liked. And the plane crash in the beginning was incredibly well made and horrifying! Here the plot is more or less the same. A girl has a vision of a huge serial car crash on the highway and of course she is a survivor among a few others. And soon enough they start dying, one by one, in some VERY implausible ways. All the death scenes are very well made, nicely built up and most of them pretty shocking. But this movie has so little else to offer. Performances are adequate at best (the heroine is pretty sympathetic though), the plot is almost non-existent and, worst, the film is pretty tedious when there are no deaths. We get a lot of mumbo-jumbo about "death's design" and "list of death", but those of us who saw the first FD will yawn and think about something else. So rent it on video or DVD so you can fast-forward to the "good parts" and skip the dull interludes.
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The Ring (2002)
7/10
Excellent for the most part...
19 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
First, let me say that I have NOT seen the japanese original! You don't have to rely on guts and gore to make a good horror movie. "The Others" is one example, this is another. For most part, this is one truly creepy and scary horror movie. Naomi Watts is excellent in her (a bit awkward) part as a single mother. Let's hope she can lay her hands on some more major parts! It is a visually stunning movie too. "Feardotcom" tried to achieve a similar look and managed for the most part, but otherwise that movie led nowhere and was all over the place! Here the visuals serve a purpose. To set a specific mood. The best scenes are the ones on the island! They are genuinely disturbing in a very quiet and understated way. *******MINOR SPOILER HERE******* And even though the "surprise" ending after the ending is totally predictable, it is still chilling. *******END OF MINOR SPOILER***** There are only two things I am not satisfied with. First, the little boy who plays the son. He is not a bad actor but he displays some truly bizarre behaviour. Or rather, he displays no concern at all when all type of strange happenings are occurring all around him. He seems to be the "Sixth sense"-boy crossed with "The Omen"-boy. And finally, the plot is really no big shakes. Once you get the hang of things, there is really no need for any more explainations. However, the film makers insists on explaining and explaining and explaining in too many flashbacks. But otherwise a classy shocker!!!
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Shake It (2001)
5/10
Good try, but rather unfunny
19 September 2003
The premise is good, the actors excellent and the music score well chosen. It is a really hard try to achieve something really sympathetic. So why does it fail on most levels? The main blame must lie with the script. First, it is not funny! And with a romantic comedy that must be close to a deadly sin. There are a few chuckles, but otherwise nothing. Secondly, the characters are rather badly drawn. I have no doubt that they are meant to be extremely interesting, but their behaviour are absurd most of the time because we never really get to know them properly. We are thrown into the plot head first without any background to who they are and what makes them tick. Like a previous reviewer wrote, this film is filled with supporting characters, including the main protagonists! The female doctor is the only REAL person who manages to make a REAL impression, but she only has about a minute of screen time. As to the actors, they really try, but I am not convinced that they agree which kind of movie they are in. Charlotte Munch seems to think this is some kind of serious relationship drama and responds accordingly, looking troubled in almost every scene. Mikkelsen and Lyby have no chemistry whatsoever together and one wonders what they saw in each other in the first place. The usually excellent Mikkelsen seems unhappy about the whole thing and manages to look bored with BOTH his man and his woman. Lyby is the one actor who comes off the best. He is the most sympathetic in this "comedy" and responds to his plight with some kind of normal reaction. He is sweet guy with a whole lot of emotions and also some sense of humour who really deserves someone better and more focused than the guy Mikkelsen portrays. Other than that we get a gallery of more or less eccentric people who bend over backwards to get a laugh from the audience, but fail at every turn. And then there is the ending!!!! Pleeeease, take it away!! I suppose it's meant to be heartwarming but it only comes across as phony and ridiculous. But it is not hard going despite all my reservations. You can watch it if there is nothing else to do, it will cause you no pain...but nor will it stay in the memory for longer than one minute or so! Loved the score though...
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Feardotcom (2002)
5/10
Visually impressive...plot-wise nothing to write home about!
13 July 2003
There are two ways you can watch this film. Take this as some kind of nightmare with the same kind of logic (almost) and you will probably like it a lot more than if you expect a linear plot and nicely rounded up ending. Director Malone sure has plenty of style to spare...the question is WHO'S? There are shades of several other movies here like "Seven" (a lot), "Silence of the lambs" and Adrian Lyne's "Jacobs ladder" along with the influence of other directors (like italian horror maestro Dario Argento and others). The movie sure looks great! And it's entire atmosphere is heavy with a sense of doom and evil. We get some truly disturbing images that flash before our faces. On the bonus side is also a very good score by Nicholas Pike.

But the script and some performances are less than noteworthy. Once the whole gimmick of the plot is settled we are not granted any surprises at all and many things are left unexplained. There are plot holes big enough to drive trucks through!! And most of the actors are sleepwalking for their pay-checks, but somehow think that this was director Malone's intention just to match their mood with the environment they live and work in. Only Stephen Rea manages some sort of "real" acting and even he is not up to his usual standards (but admittedly he has very little to work with and develop). At times I thought that some of the actors were dubbed...at least there is something not quite right here (the movie was shot in Luxemburg apparently).

A rather ambitious movie, but there were just a little more talent needed in the script to pull the whole thing off. But I don't think it's all that bad as some people here are thinking...quite the opposite.
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5/10
Entertaining for the moment...then totally forgotten!
13 July 2003
This is a movie I rented with quite high expectations, being a long time fan of Goldie Hawn. And as long as she was on the screen I had nothing to complain about. She is funny, sexy and totally vibrant on the screen, apparently having a lot of fun in her part. Susan Sarandon is also enjoyable to watch. At least in the beginning when she is totally "prim and proper" and wants to chase her old friend off her lawn. And her two daughters are delightfully non-sound-of-music! And there are some sweet scenes between Hawn and Rush also.

But there is nothing really memorable!! After a promising start the movie loses it's aim and becomes totally predictable. Scene after predictable scene follows and I could see everyone coming. The male characters are rather colorless and sadly underdeveloped, especially Sarandon's husband. And the script is not always as fun as it think it is. It's too bad really, considering the talent in front of and behind the camera, because there is a really good movie in there somewhere (or maybe it already had been made as "Almost famous"?).
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6/10
You've seen it before...but you will like it once more!
11 July 2003
Warning: Spoilers
*** MINOR SPOILER *** Sure, it's old-fashioned! The plot is VERY transparent from the moment we first watch Sandler and Barrymore together! And we have two MAJOR bad guys here, one male and one female and they are supposed to marry the leads against better judgement. So why watch something that you have seen before over and over again. Just because it's a sweet and painless experience, clocking in just over 90 minutes, so you won't be bored. You might however be slightly annoyed at Adam Sandler, even if he is better here than he usually is, but then you should focus and attention to Drew Barrymore who has a capacity to breath fresh air and life into almost anything. She is so appealing and natural that you won't be able to understand why Sandler has to hesitate at all!!! Admittedly, there are flaws. I could not figure out why Alexis Arquette's character ever needed to be in this picture. He is somewhat of a Boy George-clone, and they could have done something interesting with him and HE DOESN'T BARELY SAY A LINE! And even if the finale is sweet, it is also just a little bit silly. But it will do on a rainy night when nothing else is playing on the TV!
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5/10
Average all the way
10 July 2003
If you want your James Bond to be as it always been, look no further. This is in many parts a updated remake of "Diamonds are forever" with the difference that Pierce Brosnan IS James Bond. Not since Sean Connery has this part been more in one actors hands! First of all, the movie is packed with action from the moment GO and you are never once bored during the running time of over two hours, which is quite a feat. The production is (as always) lavish and there is always something to rest your eyes on. Halle Berry is one of the better Bond-girls of late, but is not given very much to work with except in her early scenes. The gadgets are also here, but I found the idea of an invisible car quite risible. And why doesn't any of the crooks bump into that vehicle and discover it? Even if it's invisible it's still there!! The effects are often very convincing, but here and there I was surprised how shoddy they suddenly became. For instance in that parachute-surfing scene. The main things that makes this an average James Bond movie instead of a great James Bond movie is the routine script, filled with silly lines that could have been written 1962, and rather weak villains. No Oddjob or Goldfinger here. But all in all, 132 painless and rather entertaining minutes.
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Ginger Snaps (2000)
8/10
Surprisingly effective...and insightful about teenage life
10 July 2003
I heard so many raving reviews about this low-budget shocker. Expecting to be more or less disappointed, I was surprised to find an effective horror movie with brains AND heart! Both leads are absolutely spot-on! In the beginning of the movie I found them a little annoying and to self-conscious, but they grew on me as the plot got going and at the end I found them utterly believable (if you can imagine such a thing in a werewolf picture!). The script manages to handle the tenderness between the two sisters and the bewilderment of puberty. Ginger gets "the curse" in more ways than one and some interesting points are made from this premise also. There is also quite a lot of humour brewed into the stew along with some sharp satire. This is a rare thing among horror-comedies: It works like a charm! It is both quite funny in places and still manages to scare like few other horror movie does!
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