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I Spit on Your Grave (2010)
Far better than I expected but still not a pleasant movie *slight spoilers*
Unlike most horror remakes we all hear about nowadays I for one found slight potential in a remake of I Spit on Your Grave. It may just be because of the 70's style of filmmaking but I still prefer the original over this one but that does not mean it's a terrible film in any sense of the word. My biggest gripes before going into the movie was the whole modernized aspect of it (cell phones and laptops) and its modern clichés (cop is introduced and as usual turns out to be a bad guy) but all in all I felt it to be a very well put together movie despite its minor flaws. It's definitely NOT a date movie and it's definitely NOT a popcorn flick. In fact, I'd recommend watching this movie alone in the comfort of your own thoughts without having to deal with the awkward silence of the others around you. The plot is pretty much the same but like a recent edit I did of the original, the music score suggests an underlying but yet unexplained reason why Jennifer is leaving the city to be in solitude. The creators of this remake did manage to keep the oppressive tone of the original while spicing things up a bit to give you a tad bit more room to breath. The rape scenes are still extremely graphic and half the time I kept thinking to myself "were they acting in this scene?" because you don't really get to see rape handled like this anymore. It's not as raw as the original given that there is virtually no nudity (maybe a little I missed) but the acting ability of the actress made me believe she was actually in trouble. Another rarity in slasher movies these days. My biggest gripe with this remake is that the mentally challenged guy is not really that likable. His acting feels very staged and I didn't fully believe it. At heart, this film is a revenge slasher. And once everything begins to settle down that's when the real plot of the film begins. After being assaulted, double crossed, gang banged, and left for dead, well, you know the rest. It's your standard by-the-numbers slasher but there's just that special charm that sets it apart from all the other crap slasher movies being given the opportunity to waste our time but this one will definitely keep your attention until the end. As a warning, if you've seen the original and get a sense of deja vu, it is very much okay to zone out since you pretty much know how it's gonna go anyway. It's a fun ride and it's likely I'll watch it again at some point.
The Whistler (2010)
Russ Diapper's new film is a hit!
After patiently waiting days on end for Russ Diaper's (spelled Diapper in this film) latest masterpiece to reach my mailbox, it finally arrived.
Now, several people have had several problems with some of Diapper's past films and I personally never found very many faults in any of his movies and I'm here to let you know, even though I found very few faults with his last 3 films, that the first impression you may have gotten from his first films is drastically altered. Before I discuss the movie, I had to talk about the editing, music, cinematography, special effects, etc. Well, first off, the editing in this film is top-notch and it flows just nicely and never drags. Some of the awkward zooms during character conversations didn't quite work for me as they should but did not deter my opinion of the film since they were usually really brief. The music, composed by a new composer, was top-notch as well. While it did feel like a cheap synth score it definitely worked wonders with the film and sounds very good and consistent. The actual film's soundtrack kinda blew way by surprise. The 5.1 track is mixed perfectly, carefully blending the sound effects, music underscore, dialogue, etc. to sound very natural. Stereo separation is very good as well but it's not knock your socks off blockbuster-style since this is a horror film after all but it definitely will not disappoint. Also, during sequences with rain I guarantee that you'd have a very hard time trying to convince yourself that the rain was dubbed over in post-production. The cinematography was much better in this film than some of his previous films. The film is framed mostly static with a few handy cam-style shots and the framing is spot-on. I can't believe I haven't mentioned how much the colors pop and definitely stand-out. The black level is amazingly consistent and clean as well. This is a film that needs to be on Bluray. I know DVD has very many limitations but the colors still managed to pop and show depth even though this film appears to be shot in HD. In other words, I've never seen a DVD where the colors popped that distinctly. The special effects in this film will please everyone. It's not a gore fest but it does provide plenty of blood to please the masses. The acting seemed much better in this film than any of his previous films but in only a few instances I couldn't quite believe the performances and some character interactions seemed kind of awkward and forced but overall the acting was more above par than most films released this year.
Anyway, onto the film, it opens with a very nice prologue detailing the legend of The Whistler narrated by a very convincing and menacing voice combined with an amazing back story and still photography and brief CGI clips. Then the credits roll then the real fun begins. It opens with a man dressed in a clown mask attempting to rape this poor woman victim. He asks her to strip and awkwardly enough she does. Next thing ya know The Whistler comes to get him and a nice bit of blood is splashed all over this poor naked woman. Then it cuts to a shot of our two main characters, Justin (Daniel Bennett) and Tim (Joe Lombardi), having a conversation in a graveyard when they see this strange old man (Paul Kelleher) staring at them from behind a tree. Several scenes later, they find themselves at the old Whistler tree from legend. Legend has it that if you whistle in a certain way while being around the tree and you get a whistle back. After Justin scares Tim they part their ways and as Tim is going back to his room a shadow crosses behind him. Cut to a scared shot of Tim and cut to black. That's all I'm gonna say about the film at this time because I don't want to ruin anymore of the secrets of this film. I will say this though, there is a certain sequence involving a phone conversation and the news of the death of a loved one. The framing is perfect and the slow zoom up to the end of the conversation gave me chills and made me believe the pain.
Definitely a must-watch. 3/4 stars.
Spirits of the Fall (2008)
A very well done thriller
It's been a little while since I had the chance to view this little gem at a special screening so if I forget some things it's OK. I can come back and fix it later.
Being a follower of young, and very well accomplished, director Russ Diaper, I could not wait until I got to view this long-awaited film and boy did it not disappoint.
Like his previous film, Deadly Pursuit, this film is shot entirely professional while still retaining some of its proud low budget attributes. The film is basically about this guy (once again it's been a while so the names aren't fresh in my head) who has lost his wife and as a result closes down the hotel that he runs. A little while later he decides to open shop much to his uncertainty. Like every film of this genre he opens the hotel and begins to see some, and I say this with all sincerity, pretty scary things. There is one moment in the film that actually caused me to jump right out of my chair. I won't ruin it for you but it involves a crying baby in the next room, a guy in the other, and the guy goes to investigate the sound and he puts his eyes to the keyhole. Enough said. By far the scariest scene in the whole movie but that's not to say it's the only scare.
I need to re-view the film in order to grasp the full details of this film but the ending was honestly flawless. The scene with the old man speaking to the main character in a room, pitch black, with only the light reflecting off of the old man's eyes as he's explaining everything that is going on is by far the CREEPIEST scene in the movie. There's just something about two characters in the dark revealing all the events of the film with only their eyes showing that give me the willies. The scene, however, with the old man (at least in the cut I watched) chanting to rid the hotel of the evil did run on for a little too long with no cutaways, just a single shot of the old man chanting nonstop. That is my only gripe with the film.
The acting does kinda start off at the beginning a little sluggish with some obvious newbies to the acting world but that doesn't last for very long. I found myself easily drawn into the story because once the very mildly sluggish acting in the beginning evaporated I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.
Now my favorite part of any movie is the score. The score for this film is very very well-done for a guy who wrote, directed, produced, just did about everything for this film in such a short time. I had a rare chance to speak with the director of this film who advised me that the music was done in one or two days. With what was presented in the film I don't see how it was done. There's so many layers and beautiful music pieces in there that should have but didn't take days and weeks and months to complete.
Overall I rate this film an 8/10. This film was definitely an improvement over Mr. Diaper's first directing debut which was very impressive for a first film, but because these are totally different genres and I prefer the horror genre over the whole cop drama genre I prefer this film more. Both are very well-shot and directed so either way you can't go wrong.
Last thing I'd like to note is that the somewhat lacking in realism CGI from DP is missing from this film and that is definitely a godsend because this film does not need it to make it amazing.
If you see this film in stores, online, or wherever, check it out. It's definitely worth a look.
Deadly Pursuit (2008)
Outstanding debut film
People think of me as a little too easy on low budget films. But honestly I don't think I am. If there's something there even though it may have missed the mark a bit, I don't count that against it. I count it as part of the experience.
Russ Diaper on the other hand definitely has something here. At a whopping 1 hr. 55 mins., this film never gets boring. It's movies like this that inspire us, the filmmakers, to get out there and film. Of course this film is an obvious parody of all the popular U.S. cop dramas, and while I have never been a fan of any cops in any movies, I found myself riveted by this film. I liked and disliked Dennison throughout the film but I admired him for his inability to ever step down. I also admire the use of very cleverly placed flashbacks to give an even further back story into the main character and other people around him, making you realize further that no one is innocent. The thing I admired most about this movie were the characters. Not a single annoying one in sight. I didn't want anyone, hell, even the bad guys, to die. You kinda rooted for each character in one sense or another. That can be a good thing or a bad thing but to me it was good. Even the most despicable characters had a likable side to them making them more human.
I've viewed many of Russ Diaper's earlier short films and I liked them for what they were. Very effective, atmospheric pieces made on a next to nothing budget. It's also films like this that make a budget nearly useless as long as you have the resources at hand.
The camera work is the star of this movie, not just the actual stars. There was always something in the frame, no matter how minor it is that always struck my eye. Very good for a first time feature length film director. The uses of camera tricks were very clever, also. The use of very well placed, but still very new to the director, CGI did not take me out of the movie considering it was very brief.
Now, about the mysterious villain, forgive me it's been a while since I viewed this film, and his mysterious identity. That had to be one of the most shocking, but yet still very predictable, moments of the whole film. The buildup to the reveal alone was what drew you in.
All in all I believe this film could not have been done any better. It was a very good first time effort. I definitely cannot wait to see what Russ Diaper has up his sleeve next.
My score: 4/5