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Hemlock Grove (2013)
I'm a fan of horror/suspense and really want the Netflix original programming experiment to succeed. I loved 'House of Cards' and am one of the handful of people in the world who actually likes Eli Roth. Which is to say; I had high hopes of "Hemlock Grove". I can't remember the last time I was so disappointed.
1) The three credited writers have little to no actual screen writing experience and it shows: incoherent plotting, poor pacing, and embarrassing dialogue.
2) The casting is terrible. Not a single actor remotely suits the character they're playing. One of many, many examples is Bill Skarsgard. He's supposed to be playing bad-boy-dangerous. He even chain smokes to prove it. Only problem is he looks like a pasty and waifish Prada model with all the menace of a girl scout. Every character is similarly miscast.
3) All the actors are terrible. They're experienced. They're not new to the whole acting thing. Yet every one of them is awkward and stilted and visibly uncomfortable. They all have that embarrassingly amateurish community theater vibe and I can't understand why. Famke Janssen's accent sounds like a Canadian Leonard Nimoy doing a Katharine Hepburn impersonation. It's just one example of the inexplicably poor choices made by every actor involved.
4) For a show about werewolves, gypsies, angels and mysterious backwoods shenanigans, there's no attempt to introduce an ounce of suspense. You know that feeling when you're watching a show and the credits role and you're giddy with excitement over how it's going to turn out and you're mashing at the keyboard to pull up the next episode? Yeah - there's none of that.
5) The whole point of Netflix producing original content is that they're not confined to the standards of TV. Nothing about this show couldn't be shown on primetime network stations: no sex, no violence, nothing that even tries to push the envelope.
6) Even at a technical level, everything seems amateurish: awkward framing of shots, shots held too long, inconsistent editing, dull and murky photography, poor music choices, generic and uninspired production design and costuming.
"Hemlock Grove" is one of those once-in-a-decade epic failures that defies all reason. I hope to God it's an aberration and not an indicator of what to expect from Netflix in the future.
The Gravedancers (2006)
Really Not So Bad
The opening features such bad titles and crappy camera work I almost turned 'Gravedancers' off before it even started, but it turned out not to be so bad after all. As direct-to-DVD horror goes, this occupies the high end and for all its plagiarism and clichés, it's entertaining enough. The budget limitations lend the whole thing a vaguely old-fashioned quality, not least when the ghosts are finally revealed, reminding us that static latex can actually be far more creepy than CGI. There's nothing particularly original or inspired here, and the actors, save for Tchéky Karyo and Megahn Perry, deliver nothing more than functional performances, but for all its faults I was inexplicably entertained.
The Maze (2010)
Pretty Lame Stuff
Even by the standards of no-budget direct-to-DVD fare, this is pretty bad. I can live with the amateurish lighting and questionable acting, such are the pitfalls of limited finances, but creativity and originality don't cost a penny and 'The Maze' is sorely lacking in both. The entire blame for this fiasco can be laid at the feet of the two writers who don't so much craft a screenplay as string together a series of loosely connected genre clichés. We're used to our horror characters behaving stupidly, but few are as stupid as those depicted here. Grown adults playing tag in a corn field in the middle of the night? Really? Grown adults who don't seem to realize that corn rows do not constitute an impenetrable barrier? And shouldn't the psycho killer be just a little bit scary? Or at least intimidating? Not a skinny kid who could, in reality, be immobilized by a girl scout with her hands tied? And why so squeamish about blood and violence? Sheesh.
Not even bad-in-a-good-way. Just plain bad.
Trick 'r Treat (2008)
Entertaining Horror Anthology
Surprisingly entertaining throw-back to those horror anthologies that were so common in the seventies and eighties. Several stories straight from the pages of 'Weird Tales' loosely connected by a vicious little sack-headed demon who really doesn't like people who don't get into the spirit of Halloween. In an era of gross-out torture porn, there's something refreshingly innocent about a horror movie that revolves around creatively retelling old-fashioned ghost stories. Production values and performances are top notch--definitely the high-end of direct-to-video. While not particularly scary, it's consistently entertaining.
Dead End (2003)
Great Performances - Okay Movie
A predictable plot, the denouement of which can be guessed in the first act, is lifted above complete dross by some very strong performances. Ray Wise and Lin Shaye, as a constantly bickering middle-aged couple, are fun to watch and put the rest of the cast to shame. The screenplay, while not original in any way, provides them with some surprisingly funny banter. Oddly lacking in blood or violence, given the story, with the terrible fates of each character only hinted at and never shown. All involved do a reasonably good job considering the obvious lack of money, but ultimately, as is so often the case with low-budget horror, the effort is wasted on a screenplay that lacks real structure, surprises or suspense.
It's Grim Up North
'1974' has a lot in its favor. The performances, production design, and cinematography are excellent. The shortfall is in the screenplay. Pierce's book is so rooted in the urban landscape of West Yorkshire that the back streets of Leeds become another, if not the most important, character in the story. The Leeds of '1974' is not supposed to be realistic, but an almost Dante-esquire vision of absolute power running amok where the police are more dangerous than the psychopaths and nobody is to be trusted. It's a vision of concrete tower blocks and crumbling Victorian architecture. The film, however, rarely depicts Leeds as an urban metropolis, favoring rural isolation instead. It's a curious decision, and denies the film much of its potential visual power.
Pierce's books make McCarthy's 'The Road' seem like light and fluffy beach reading. For all the movie's 'It's Grim Up North' doom and gloom, it's nowhere near as unrelenting as the book. Though Tony Grisoni makes an admirable effort, and presents a society of rampant corruption, at no point do we really feel the Orwellian weight of it all. In the books, it's clear that the horror is simply the inescapable reality of the world. In the film, you get the impression that Eddie could just get in his car at any moment and leave it all behind.
I guess I was in the mood for uncompromising nihilism and '1974' failed to deliver. Not a bad movie by any stretch, but fails to achieve its potential.
Green Zone (2010)
Superior Conspiracy Thriller
I always find it slightly comical when people complain of hand-held camera-work. It reminds me of an old woman hearing The Chemical Brothers and wincing in pain – "They don't really call that music do they?" Personally, my eyes have been able to follow a moving object ever since I was a child. I have no problem with a hand-held camera.
As for the movie, 'Green Zone' is an excellent action thriller about a US Army Warrant Officer investigating the shady reasons why the military intelligence being fed to the Iraq Survey Group is failing to uncover weapons of mass destruction in post-invasion Baghdad. Much of the ensuing shenanigans are inspired by the findings of both the Iraq Intelligence Commission Report and the UK's Butler Review, which in 2004 found that pre-war intelligence had been highly suspect.
I say 'inspired' because 'Green Zone' is fiction—unless I blinked and missed it, there's no opening title card claiming "based on a true story". Conservatives, so often unable to discern fact from fiction, will view the film as a piece of docudrama reportage and find it deeply flawed, as it would be if it purported to be such a thing. The rest of us will recognize that Greengrass has crafted an excellent conspiracy thriller that simply uses the controversial politics of post-war Iraq as background color, and does so very well. As is to be expected from a director who, at this point in his career, can do this stuff in his sleep, the action sequences are brilliantly choreographed, the tension masterfully built, and the characters multi-layered. The cinematography that others have called "ugly" I found added a sense of realism, particularly in the grainy night scenes. My only complaint is a couple of instances in which Iraqi characters begin spouting embarrassing soap-box polemic. It isn't that such thoughts are out of character, just the way they are expressed; the dialogue being too obvious and cheesy. Thankfully, such moments can be counted in seconds rather than minutes. What's so impressive about 'Green Zone' is the seemingly authentic locations. It really does look as though it were filmed in Baghdad. Instead, it was shot on location in England and Spain. A production designer hasn't worked such magic since 'Full Metal Jacket' converted a London parking lot into the battlefields of Vietnam.
'Green Zone' is an excellent movie that will be thoroughly enjoyed by fans of political conspiracy thrillers. It isn't presented as factual, and only fools would look to a movie for facts. For facts, read books or, better yet, read the Iraq Intelligence Commission Report and the Butler Review. But don't blame Paul Greengrass for your laziness and stupidity in mistaking his excellent movie for a representation of 'truth'.
Solid, Suspenseful Thriller
On the surface, 'Shuttle' looks like it's going to be one of those slightly laughable high-concept movies like 'P2' - kids get on the wrong airport shuttle bus and all hell breaks loose. You'd be forgiven for expecting little more than incompetently handled third-rate genre clichés. This is one of those rare instances when you'd be wrong. Defying all the odds, writer/director Edward Anderson manages to craft a tightly structured thriller with a genuine sense of mounting dread and performances well above the norm for straight-to-DVD fodder. He's able to create some sequences of real tension and displays more talent and understanding of the mechanics of suspense than many more experienced directors. I, for one, found the story involving, the protagonists likable, and enough unexpected reveals to keep me guessing 'till the very end as to the true nature of the crime being perpetrated. All in all, 'Shuttle' is a solid horror-thriller that chooses suspense over violence, and does so admirably well for such an inexperienced director. I've no idea what Anderson's been doing in the three years since making this movie, but I hope his evident talents won't go ignored much longer.
Dance of the Dead (2008)
Saved by the Bell...with Zombies
Even at just 80 minutes, this one is tough to get through. I guess some people might be able to enjoy it as an homage to cheesy comedy-horror of the eighties but I'm not one of them. 'Dance of the Dead' features the most tired clichés masquerading as characters; all played by third rate actors speaking badly written dialogue. The whole mess plays like a 'Saved by the Bell' Halloween special, complete with a ten year old's sense of humor and a faux-rock soundtrack. The film lacks a single scare, even of the cheap cat-in-the-closet variety. The zombie make-up looks like the product of a kid's face painting party, and the gore, usually the highlight of zombie movies, is virtually non-existent. I suspect the writer thought he was creating a 'Shaun of the Dead' for teens; but the reality is comedy that isn't funny, horror that isn't scary, and action with all the energy of a retirement home fun day. Don't bother.
Well it's Certainly Original
Thanks to the incomparable EVOL666 for turning me on to this movie. An Australian vice cop specializing in internet crime seems to have spent one too many days wallowing in the filth of other people's sexual perversions, most recently cracking a case of consensual sexual- cannibalism. As his private life spirals into a meltdown, he becomes suspicious of a fetish site promoting the overfeeding of morbidly obese women. Fearing that he's witnessing the work of serial killer intent on feeding his victims to death, he follows the investigation to Ohio and discovers that the situation is far more dangerous than he'd anticipated. The film is solidly structured and well paced, and starts out asking some interesting questions about the nature of love and attraction and exactly what constitutes normal, unusual, and illegal, in consenting relationships. The opening scenes establish a nice contrast between the casual violence of the 'normal' couple and the loving gentleness of the 'abnormal' feederist and cannibal relationships. Unfortunately, these issues get lost along the way as the movie morphs into a straight thriller, albeit one with a pretty unusual central premise and some startling imagery. The middle act gets bogged down in some mildly tedious running around doing nothing in particular, but once everyone gets to the country house for the finale, things move at a thrilling breakneck pace. The final scene can be ignored for the cheap twist that it is. Excellent performances and a daring and provocative story make this one a solid recommendation, it's just a shame that the filmmakers backed away from producing something truly dark and thought provoking
From Beyond (1986)
Classic Eighties Splatter
An eighties minor classic from Stuart Gordon, the cult-king of cinematic Lovecraft. A young physicist, accused of the murder of his research partner, is accompanied back to the scene of the crime by his psychiatrist and a cop. There, they activate The Resonator, allowing terrifying creatures from a hidden dimension access to our world. The movie features the most cutting edge physical special effects of its time, with a half ton of latex, slime, blood, and puppetry being employed in bringing the monsters to life. Twenty five years later, however, it's tough not to laugh. The acting is hammy, and the plot completely nonsensical at times, with a particularly WTF scene that involves Barbara Crampton discovering her inner freak in Dr Pretorius' S&M dungeon. But it's still entertaining, particularly once Jeffrey Combs starts sucking out eyeballs, and well worth watching.
Simon Says (2006)
Bizarre Backwoods Slasher
A thoroughly bizarre horror movie in which a deranged Crispin Glover (is there any other kind) boobytraps a stretch of woodland with 1001 flying pickaxes and waits for a bunch of irritating teens to stumble onto the scene. I've never really understood the logic of populating a movie with completely unlikeable characters. It makes for pretty tedious viewing when the only reason for watching is not the hope that the characters survive, but that they will die sooner, rather than later. And the teens here, played by the usual bunch of pretty twenty-somethings, are some of the most irritating in horror history. Luckily, 'Simon Says' benefits from the presence of Crispin Glover, who is hilarious camping it up with a bizarre high-pitched accent that seems like a cross between English aristocracy and Louisiana Creole. He's clearly acting in a completely different movie that exists only in his own head and thank God for it. The kills are pretty creative and grizzly with a lot of messy dismemberment, but veteran writer/director Bill Dear has little interest in originality or developing any suspense or real fear. For fans of Glover's unique style, this is an often very funny must-see movie. For everybody else it's a pretty average teen slasher.
The Other Side (2006)
Quality No-Budget Thriller
A no-budget indie thriller from Atlanta, Georgia, that has the appearance of having been filmed in the local community by a bunch of friends in their spare time. The inexperience of all involved is evident; the direction, writing, editing, and acting, all reveal a certain level of self-consciousness and it's clear that for many of the performers, it's their first time in the front of the camera. Everybody has to start somewhere, though, and a movie such as this has to be judged by different criteria than the more professional and experienced competition—on imagination, originality, and ambition.
The central premise of 'The Other Side' is actually pretty cool – a bunch of damned souls escape from hell and must evade the Reapers sent out to reclaim them. It's a shame that the specifics of this scenario are never really spelled out as it's by far the best thing about the story. The screenplay is tightly structured, unusually so for a film of this kind, but much of the dialogue is excruciating, a fact not helped by the inexperience of the actors. Luckily, the likable lead, Nathan Mobley, inspires enough sympathy to make his character's plight meaningful. Gregg Bishop displays some real talent as a director and choreographs some pretty solid action sequences, particularly in an attack on a hospital and later, on a motel.
The reapers, however, are pretty insipid and never seem particularly threatening. I realize that when you're working with such a low budget you don't always have the luxury of casting who you'd like, but really? There was nobody better? Nobody available in the whole of Atlanta that was actually scary? These are hell's bounty hunters but they come across like slightly irritated officials from the IRS. Beside the completely nonthreatening antagonist, the bad dialogue, the completely uninspired photography, and a few too many shots stolen from 'The Terminator' and 'The Matrix', the biggest problem is with the music. As is so often the case with low-budget movies, the score is a major handicap. Nothing destroys the mood of a scene faster than crappy music, and 'The Other Side' has it in spades. If you can't afford a quality score, then don't have one at all. Invest the money in quality foley work instead. Look at 'Texas Chain Saw Massacre' - they inspired terror with nothing more than the sound of screeching metal.
'The Other Side', considering its non-existent budget, is actually pretty good and offers a far more satisfying viewing experience than many films with one hundred times the budget (I'm looking at you 'Deadline'). For all of its occasional nods to other movies, the story is fresh and original and told in a tightly plotted script with several genuinely thrilling action sequences. What more can you ask of such a movie. Worth checking out.
Population 436 (2006)
More Dull Horror Lite
'Population 436' tells the story of a Federal census taker visiting the small, rural community of Rockwell Falls to investigate the cause of its never-changing population. Featuring a citizenry of grinning simpletons practicing strange religious rights to protect their way of life, the movie is part 'The Wicker Man', part 'The Stepford Wives'. It comes as no surprise to find that director Michelle Maxwell MacLaren was a producer on 'The X-Files'—the film plays like an extended TV episode with a central mystery that could very well have been investigated by Mulder and Scully. Except it would have been better written and directed. 'Population 436' is pretty dull, made-for-television fare, largely devoid of any real drama or suspense and containing nothing to warrant its R-rating. The most shocking thing about it is the revelation that Fred Durst can act.
John Wayne Gacy was a truly terrifying sociopath. Not that you'd know it from this chaste straight-to-DVD movie that inexplicably shies away from depicting either sex or violence. The young teenage boys that Gacy preyed upon are played by actors in their twenties, diminishing the pedophilic horror of the subsequent seductions. Abductions and killings largely take place off screen, and the rape and sadistic sexual torture that he subjected his victims to isn't even mentioned. It's truly strange that the filmmakers, having chosen to depict such a sadistic human being, should then dilute the story to TV-movie banality. Beyond the complete lack of drama, horror, or suspense, the dialogue is ineptly written, the pacing slow, the performances patchy, and the music of the cheapest synthetic orchestral variety. The whole juvenile endeavor kind off begs the question, Why did they bother?
Powerful, Disturbing, Beautiful
Following the death of their child, a therapist insists on helping his wife through her grief himself. She conceptualizes her anxiety as fear of the woods around their summer home and her husband, a proponent of hardcore exposure therapy, takes her there to face her fears. Once isolated at their cabin, however, her mental state rapidly deteriorates into acts of extreme physical and sexual violence.
Reminiscent of the dark, psychological studies of Ingmar Bergman and Roman Polanski, 'Antichrist' is an exceptionally well crafted film from a director working at the height of his powers. A sense of darkness and foreboding begins from the very first frame and is masterfully developed through almost dreamlike scenes of increasing dread to an unbearable last act of brutality, raising fascinating questions about the historical depiction of women as agents of the devil, from the Old Testament to Freudian psychoanalysis. Though the violence, whether physical or sexual, is extreme and graphic, it never once seems exploitation, but rather a natural manifestation of the deeply disturbed psychology of the character. Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourgh carry the entire film with breathtaking performances of startling naturalism, courage and conviction. A powerful, disturbing, beautiful achievement.
Another Great Time-Loop Thriller
One of those multinational indies – a British film with an Australian cast playing Americans in a movie set off the coast of Florida (but filmed in the Pacific). Such movies can either be the epitome of direct-to-DVD dross or surprising gems; 'Triangle' is the latter. A yachting party encounters a freak storm and are rescued from their capsized vessel by a mysteriously deserted cruise ship that seems to appear out of the blue. What seems like another retread of the old ghost ship story quickly morphs into something more akin to the excellent Spanish thriller 'Los cronocrímenes'. I'm always a sucker for some trippy time-loop shenanigans, and 'Triangle' doesn't disappoint, providing enough unexpected twists and turns to keep things interesting to the very end. Highly recommended.
I'm certain that somewhere in Los Angeles there's a machine that is able to combine random genre clichés and churn out screenplays and storyboards for studios. For a few extra bucks, it will even make casting suggestions. 'Deadline' is a result.
Spending a few nights alone in an abandoned Victorian mansion must be high on most people's list of things not to do. Not so Alice, who jumps at the chance to shut herself away in the spooky old house in order to finish a long-overdue manuscript. Even doors opening on their own, screams in the night, and an abusive boyfriend fresh out of prison can't convince her to seek someplace a little closer to civilization. Hell, she can't even turn a light on when walking around at night. Taking such an implausible scenario as its starting point doesn't bode well, and it can only go downhill from there. Possessing all the scares of an episode of 'The Ghost Whisperer', the complete lack of creativity or originality is depressing.
The Last Winter (2006)
Plays at the Speed of a Melting Glacier
A joint American-Icelandic supernatural adventure in which a group of engineers in a remote Arctic survey station succumb to paranoia, delusions, and ultimately death. Is it a poisonous gas, a virus, a mythological wendigo, mother nature or just bad weather?
Perhaps it's because writer-director Larry Fessenden is also an actor that he has such an interest in developing characters and it's refreshing to see a modern horror movie that hearkens back to the quality ensemble playing of 'Alien' and 'The Thing'. But whereas those movies built suspense and horror on the back of our compassion for well rounded characterization, 'The Last Winter' doesn't really do much with it at all. A promising set-up slows down to a glacial pace with very little actually happening for great stretches of time. The sporadic thrills, when they come, are well handled, and there are a few scenes that have a genuinely chilling quality. But events are so labored and drawn out that it takes real will power to persevere to the end. When we get there, we're rewarded with a climax that is just plain silly.
I like my horror with a minimalist aesthetic, and few things are more minimal than a research station in the frozen wilds of the Arctic Circle. I love the look of the movie and the authentic and gritty realism of the production design and cinematography. It's all the more frustrating therefore that having created such a believable and detailed world, Fessenden fails to find a story worthy of it.
Bosque de sombras (2006)
Forest of Darkness
Sometime in the 1970s, two Englishmen and their Spanish wives hope to overcome the difficulties in their relationships with a vacation at a family home in rural Basque country. When the guys go hunting and rescue a young girl held captive in an abandoned farmhouse, it's only a matter of time before the locals come looking for her. 'Bosque de Sombras' clearly takes Peckinpah's 'Straw Dogs' as its model, exploring the same themes of power and masculinity through a sexually provocative wife and her weak and ineffectual husband. Only the psycho-sexual dynamic is played out against the unspoken backdrop of Franco's dictatorship instead of the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, these socio-political underpinnings, which made Peckinpah's 1971 classic so powerful, are lost in 'Bosque de Sombras' not only through the lack of any real sense of the era but a reluctance to define the characters in the broad strokes necessary for political commentary. Even the attempt itself begs the question: just how relevant is a critique of the insular superstitions of Franco's Spain? So we're left with a pretty routine genre thriller of backwoods crazies running amok. The cast and crew do an excellent job (particularly the always brilliant Oldman), the forest locations are beautifully ripe and foreboding, and the movie is suspenseful and thoroughly entertaining, but any attempts to achieve something greater are ultimately held back by a screenplay that dares not deliver on its thematic philosophy.
God Told Me To (1976)
Interesting Ideas Poorly Executed
In B-movie schlockmeister Larry Cohen's follow up to the cult classic 'It's Alive' a devout New York City detective tries to find out who is mysteriously persuading random citizens to go berserk in the name of God. Attempting part slow burn suspense in the vein of 'Rosemary's Baby', part religious meditation a la 'The Exorcist', Cohen simply doesn't have the talent as a screenwriter to overcome his exploitation origins. Instead, the pacing is painfully slow and there are few scares and very little suspense. The periodic descents into blaxploitation cliché don't help matters. The performances are sound, and it's always a pleasure to watch the late, great Sandy Dennis, but by the time we get to the gloriously over-the-top last act and the appearance of the bizarre man/woman antagonist with a vagina in his/her chest it's not enough to salvage what is ultimately a pretty boring movie.
Død snø (2009)
Zombie Nazis - Need I Say More?
Could there be any more natural bedfellows than zombies and Nazis? As the Dutch 'Worst Case Scenario' rots in indie fundraising hell, we can look to Norway to find investors with the balls to exploit National Socialist iconography for a few cheap scares. The story is simple. Very simple. A bunch of twenty-something medical students vacationing in the desolate frozen wastes of northern Norway find the region infested with vengeful undead Nazis. That's it. The screenplay follows the genre template to a T, and the lack of experience of both cast and crew is obvious (save for the fantastic Bjørn Sundquist). The movie is inspired a little too much by Romero and Evil Dead, but I'm a sucker for anything Scandinavian, and though the characters are purely generic idiot place-fillers and the Nazi-zombies don't make an appearance until the halfway mark, the film is somehow held together by the inherent coolness of its premise. It doesn't hurt that the special effects are straight from the DIY school of Tom Savini (augmented with lamentable CGI blood splatter – ugh) with gut munching and intestine fondling galore. Just when your interest is flagging, another flesh ravaged zombie in full SS regalia appears on the horizon and the heart flutters true love. It's just a shame that it wasn't filmed in grainy 16mm to complete the grindhouse authenticity. Admittedly, the appeal may be limited, but for those of us desperate for a renaissance of the no- holds-barred, politically incorrect mashups of seventies grindhouse, 'Dod Sno', or at least its second half, won't disappoint.
Just when I was beginning to think that the horror genre had run dry of ideas, along come the Australian Spierig brothers to prove that there's still plenty of originality left to mine if you have the talent to find it. 'Daybreakers' is one of the best horror movies in years with an intriguing premise explored in a tightly plotted screenplay that manages to be genuinely thought provoking while delivering old-school splatter gore. Several issues, including the civil rights and ethical implications of harvesting humans and curing vampirism are explored with a degree of subtlety and intelligence that is rare in most drama, let alone horror. The entire cast is excellent and the brothers Spierig direct the affair with an understanding of character, tension, action, and the value of a well placed scare that belies their relative inexperience. Production design and cinematography create a beautifully rendered vision of an urban society that only really functions after dark. Creature design, makeup, and special effects are of the highest caliber, producing perhaps the most savage depiction of vampires to date. I loved this film and hope – no, pray – that we get a chance to return to the fascinating world of the 'Daybreakers'.
The Crazies (2010)
Great Production; Lousy Script
I'm almost ashamed to say that I've never seen the Romero original, so I'm going into 'The Crazies' totally blind. On the whole, it's a better movie than many recent remakes. The generic script, riddled with genre clichés, is thankfully salvaged (in part) by director Breck Eisner. He has a visual flare and a sympathetic approach to characters and location that lifts the movie above its drive-in origins. The tension is built with some success in several scenes, though it's too-often cut short before it reaches nerve-wracking heights. The Crazies themselves are barely-glimpsed, and on the rare occasion we get to see them they are disappointing carbon copies of every madness-inducing virus victim thrown up in the last ten years. Though the film carries an R certificate, there's little on screen to warrant the rating, and the violence and brutality necessary to make these guys truly terrifying is sadly missing.
The primary problem, however, is a screenplay that never manages to convey any real sense of urgency. Characters seem free to wander aimlessly at will and the Crazies are so small in number as to be easily avoided. Imagine '28 Days Later' with barely a dozen Infected in the city and you get the idea. As such, there's rarely any sense of immediate danger. The film is entertaining and Eisner and his cast can't be praised enough for their attempts to boost a dull screenplay into something of quality (hence my rating). It's just a shame that newcomers Overture Films seems to share the disregard that more established production companies have for horror and scupper their product from the outset by hiring hack writers.
Sometimes They Come Back (1991)
Great Title - Lousy Film
The best thing about 'Sometimes They Come Back' is the title, and we have Stephen King to thank for that. Little else of the original short story remains. What we have is a very tame, family-friendly TV Movie that despite having been made in 1991 could quite easily be ten years older. It isn't without its moments – Robert Rusler is pretty good as the gang leader and William Sanderson is always fun to watch doing his weird jittery thing – but the whole thing is painfully formulaic without an ounce of horror or even suspense. The two writers gave the world the 'Beverly Hillbillies' movie and single handedly destroyed the Superman franchise with 'Superman IV: The Quest for Peace'. Need I say more? They possess a unique gift for being consistently hired to write garbage. Not even the special effects can save it. Compared to the previous year's 'Night of the Living Dead' remake, they're laughable. I guess 'Sometimes The Come Back' is exactly what you'd expect from a 'horror' movie made for TV by CBS – pretty poor.