Sunday, 29 September 2013

They Made Me Do It...Again! #4: Pacific Rim (2013)

Pacific Rim is a 2013 Sci-fi Kaiju film. Directed by Guillermo Del Torro (Pan's Labyrinth, The Devil's Backbone) starring Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy, Green Street), Idris Elba (Prometheus, The Wire) and Rinko Kikuchi. The film is inspired by many of the Japanese and Mecha works of the 20th Century.

The plot actually begins not with the emergence of the Kaiju but rather several years into the war between the Kaiju and the man made giant robots known as the Jaegers, with a nifty prologue to get you up to speed. Our protagonist, and Jaeger operator, Raleigh Beckett (Hunnam) has recently lost his brother in an epic sea battle with the knifehead Kaiju and has resigned himself to a career in steelworking when he receives a visit from the excellently titled Stacker Pentecost (Elba). Pentecost, along with trainee Jaeger pilot Mako (Kikuchi), is able to convince Beckett to get back in the saddle as the Pan Pacific Defence Corps stage their last stand against the invading Kaiju spilling out of the trans dimensional rift at the bottom of the ocean.

I'm a huge Kaiju and Godzilla fan and right off the bat I can tell you that I wasn't disappointed by the delivery of giant robots scrapping with giant monsters and the film followed through on it's promise in every sense. The special effects are superb and not once did I doubt that the human and digital characters existed in the same space. There is also great effort and attention to detail that has been poured into the Kaiju lore which is explored through the slightly grating scientist double act and more entertaining turn from Ron Perlman as black market Kaiju organ dealer Hannibal Chau (a not so subtle Blade Runner reference). Aside from the digital effects there is also a lush visual design on display from Del Torro with the Hong Kong sequence providing a particular rainy, neon feast for the eyes that transports you straight to Los Angeles 2019.

The only thing that undermines the plot and high drama is the shoddy script and inconsistent performances from Elba and Hunnam. Whereas the Kaiju and Jaegers have had a lot of thought put into them the same cannot be said for the human characters and I found it difficult to get behind humanity when we have been provided with such insincere heroes. My expectations had been somewhat set by the trailers and for my money Hunnam and Elba have some pretty poor performances in their filmography but the ultra cheesy action movie dialogue and notorious "cancelling the apocalypse" speech made me wince. It also bothered me that the only Jaeger given the proper screen time was Gipsy Danger, the American robot of course, and other nation's Jaegers were quickly disposed of and I also felt there could have been a little more variety in the Kaiju design.

Pacific Rim is best enjoyed as an overblown, melodramatic homage to the Kaiju genre peppered with cartoonish protagonists and action bravado. A sort of Top Gun with giant monsters and you can't help but feel if there was a Pan Pacific Defence Corps impressionable young military types would be queuing up round the block. Smarter and fresher than most summer blockbusters a solid foundation has been laid and a good time has been had by all, but for me, I can't wait to see what they do with the concept next.

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of Pacific Rim? Are you on board for a sequel?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Superior Remakes #4: Maniac (2013)

Maniac is a 2013 slasher remake of the 1980 film of the same name. Directed by Franck Khalfoun (P2) and produced by Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, Piranha 3D) the film stars Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Nora Arneseder (Safe House). The film updates the sleazy 80s New York setting to a modern day Los Angeles.

Maniac centres around Frank, a mannequin restorer, and his psychotic impulses to stalk and kill women. Through flashback sequences we learn that he didn't exactly have the greatest mother and that this had somewhat of an impact on his hobby of scalping young attractive woman and, disturbingly, stapling the scalps to his beloved mannequins at home. However, when Frank meets photographer Anna (Arnezeder) he finds that he wants a relationship that goes a little bit further than stabbing and scalping but can he keep his murderous migraines in check and resist the urge to kill?

Maniac (like the original) is unique in that it tells the story completely from the perspective of the killer. Frank is the villain, albeit a sympathetic one, but he is also the protagonist and there is no heroic character or police detectives trying to hunt him down...there is just the killer and his victims. This is made all the more compelling by the genius use of the POV filming technique, we see the film literally through Frank's eyes and the camera doesn't turn away from the violence or the horror just as a real killer wouldn't be able to. This can have several different effects on you depending on your disposition but it can't be denied that it completely sucks you in and forces you to care about the character.

In addition to the POV style and striking visuals (clearly Aja's influence) there is a tremendous soundtrack to accompany the carnage from french producer Rob and is easily the best and most effective since the Cliff Martinez engineered soundtrack to Drive (2011). The contemporary French electro sound is perfectly suited to the movie, whether it be a pulsing stalking movement or a schizophrenic blend to echo the madness on screen. The violence in the film is sometimes graphic but always stylish and there is some creative stuff including a cheeky nod to Pet Sematary (1989)

The original Maniac was by no means a bad film but it was the perfect candidate for a remake, a low budget affair that was ripped apart by the censors but had some creative ideas but lacked the vision to realise it's full potential. Khalfoun and Aja are those visionaries and have created a instant horror classic that will only gather more cult status as time passes. For this critic it's the best horror film of 2013 and I really can't see anything having the balls or the penache to surpass the powerhouse that is Maniac!

***** 5 Stars

What did you think of Maniac? How does it compare to the original?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Troll Hunter remake gets a director

News has emerged over the weekend regarding the upcoming remake of cult Norwegian film Troll Hunter (2011). The project now has a directer attached in the form of the UK's own Neil Marshall! I've long been an admirer of Marshall's work on The Descent (2005) and Doomsday (2008) but not so much on Dog Soldiers (2002) and most recent film Centurion(2010). Troll Hunter is a great film and not one I would previously have supported being remade, however, with Marshall on board this could be one to watch...

Do you think they should remake Troll Hunter? What do you think of Neil Marshall?

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Aftershock (2013): Review

Aftershock is a 2013 exploitation disaster movie. Directed by Nicolas Lopez starring (and produced by) Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Inglorious Basterds), Andrea Osvart and Nicolas Martinez. The plot is based on Nicolas Lopez's real experiences during the 2010 Chilean earthquake.

The film begins by introducing us to Roth's clueless American tourist simply called "Gringo" and his Chilean tour guides Pollo and Ariel. The boys end up going on the pull in a local night club and meeting foreign beauties Kylie, Monica (Osvart) and Irina. After a few days of flirty sightseeing things go horribly wrong as the city suffers a massive earthquake and traps our protagonists in a small urban area. This is further compounded by a local prison being damaged and groups of convicted rapists roaming the area and the gang have a matter of mere hours before a predicted tsunami devastates the city.

Aftershock is very appropriately titled as it delivers shock after gruesome shock, and there were several times in the film where I gasped at how graphic the violence was. The film is very much divided into 3 distinctive styles. Firstly there is very much the tone of a laddish frat boy comedy, this then segways into frantic disaster movie and finally throws a slasher twist into the mix. This blend of styles was certainly unexpected but were really too disparate to join the film together. It certainly is an exploitation trope to mix shocking violence with black humour but the trouble was the violence was very realistic and sometimes harrowing and this clashed with the attempted humour being attempted.

That being said, I found the characters very likeable and cared about them due to the perfectly judged length of the first act and the brutal, unexpected demise of many of the main characters kept me tense and engaged. The film really subverted my expectations of which order characters would die in and the introduction of the prisoners provided a tonal change just as the "disaster movie chaos" was running out of steam. I also really liked the fresh setting of Chile as a location and although no particular culture or historical context of earthquakes was delved into it still was a nice change of pace from the predictable California earthquake setting.

Aftershock is an interesting experiment in genre melding and fairly ambitious outing for an exploitation film. Unfortunately the film fails to create a cohesive plot and falls apart in the third act as ideas clearly evaporate. A messy (in more ways than one) horror film that may cut too close to the bone for sensitive audiences, Aftershock should only be sought out by exploitation enthusiasts.

*** 3 Stars

What did you think of Aftershock? Do you think it's right to exploit real life tragic events?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

They Made Me Do It...Again! #3: Sinister (2012)

Sinister is a 2012 serial killer/supernatural horror film. Directed by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) starring Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Assault on Precinct 13), Juliet Rylance and James Ransone. The film was produced by Jason Blum whose prolific credits include the Paranormal Activity and Insidious franchises.

The plot centres around washed up true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Hawke) who has just moved his wife (Rylance) and two kids into a new house quickly revealed to be the scene of a grisly mass murder with the intention of writing a new book and regaining his fame and fortune. Once settled into the house Ellison discovers the most grim collection of home movies detailing a series of murders stretching back to the 1960s all linked together by a mysterious figure. Furthermore each case features a missing child not included in the ritualistic killings which ultimately turn out to be the doing of Baghuul, a pagan deity who eats children and is able to take them from this world into the netherworld. It then falls to Ellison to crack the case and figure out how to escape Baghuul before it's too late.

Sinister is very much a film of two halves and two styles, the gritty disturbing true crime serial killer film and the far fetched supernatural demon film. The first half is by far the strongest and the grainy snuff-like super 8 films that depicts the previous murders are the most terrifying, and therefore best, parts of the film. Cut this with Ellisons suspenseful night time patrols, armed usually with a baseball bat, and you have an extremely tense and atmospheric horror film. This is made all the more stronger by the excellent sound design, particularly in the super 8 films, where strange reversed voices and eery static combine with horrific imagery to create some of the most unsettling scenes in the history of horror.

The tipping point from this impeccable first half into the jarring supernatural second half is signalled by the clumsiest of exposition as Ellison's contact in the occult world professor Jonas frankly states "The symbol is associated with a Pagan deity named Bhaguul. He consumes the souls of human children". For me this deflated much of the fantastic tension built up in the first half and whilst it's never easy to combine realistic and supernatural elements I felt this element was simply too far fetched to gel with the tone of the rest of the film. Another drawback of the film is that Hawke, a fairly competent actor, is surrounded by terrible actors. Juliet Rylance's performance as Ellison's wife is shockingly cringe worthy and quite why she needed to be English I'm not sure as the accent made her sound all the more wooden and out of place in this film. The film also tries to shoehorn comic relief into the plot via "Deputy so and so" (Ransone) and falls flat every time, I appreciate the writers probably felt the film would benefit from some occasional light hearted banter but it just doesn't fit.

Every time I think about Sinister I have mixed feelings and have changed my mind back and forth a few times since the film was released. Is it an over hyped mess of styles that veers into the ridiculous one too many times? Or is it an intensely terrifying horror film that tries to do something different by creating an original horror character but loses control in it's third act? I feel more than anything that it was likely a horror film designed by committee and stumbled over it's own ambition, I'm reluctant to say that it completely wasted it's potential but with some personnel changes and a little restraint in the script it could have been an instant modern classic. As it stands Sinister is definitely a very scary film, an original property and one to watch on your own in the dark but when all is said and done it is unable to deliver on its own promises.

*** 3 Stars

What did you think of Sinister? Would you have changed any of the supernatural elements?

Monday, 16 September 2013

Open Windows trailer

A first trailer for Open Windows has emerged online today. Directed by Nacho Vigolondo (Timecrimes) the film stars Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey coming straight off of the excellent Maniac and the solid Would You Rather respectively. The more keen eared among you may also notice the dulcet tones of the always terrifying Neil Maskell (Kill List, Utopia). The film follows an obsessive fan (Wood) being snubbed by famous actress Jill Goddard (Grey) and subsequently being manipulated by lunatic Chord (Maskell). Whilst Grey is still finding her feet, Wood and Maskell have fine genre form behind them recently making this one a must see for me. Check out the trailer....

What do you think of the trailer? Are you looking forward to this one?

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013): Review

Insidious: Chapter 2 is a 2013 supernatural horror sequel to 2011's Insidious. Directed by James Wan (Insidious, Saw) and written by Leigh Whannell (Saw 1,2 & 3) the film stars Patrick Wilson (Insidious, The Conjuring), Rose Byrne (Sunshine, 28 Weeks Later) and Lin Shaye (Nightmare on Elm Street, Kingpin). The film was delayed in order to be released on Friday the 13th.

Insidious: Chapter 2 follows the continued misfortunes of the Lambert family. After the events of the first film Josh (Wilson) finds himself the prime suspect in the murder of psychic medium Elise (Shaye) with his wife Renai (Byrne) suffering somewhat of a mental breakdown due to yet more paranormal activity in the household. To make matters worse, Josh appears to be possessed by his childhood phantom (the veiled hag from the first film) and it falls to paranormal investigation team Specs (Whannell) and Tucker, along with new psychic medium on the block Carl, to unravel the mystery behind the excessive haunting of the Lamberts.

The highlight of any James Wan movie is the expert direction, usually combined with jolting classical score, and this remains top notch just as it did in the original film and the more recent The Conjuring (2013) with Wan demonstrating his aptitude for vintage horror scares. Along with the slick aesthetics there is some pretty clever retconning in place in order for Wan & Whannell to write themselves out of the pretty firm corner we were left in at the end of the first film. This includes Josh and Carl time travelling through the chronology of the franchise, via "the further", in an attempt to discover more about the antagonist. I thought this was pretty neat and was the same kind of idea put to good use in the underrated Paranormal Activity 2 (2010).

Unfortunately, cleverness is in extremely short supply in this movie and there are just as many moments that come off as silly and hokey with a particularly shoddy script in places. I found it very difficult to engage with the film due to the two very disparate plots that were going on at the same time, the Lamberts being haunted and the paranormal investigation team doing their best Scooby Doo impression. Although the comedy antics of Specs & Tucker often fell flat and grated, I feel that the film would have been much more cohesive if it had been treated purely as a spin off focusing on that single plot line. The performances of Wilson and Byrne, that were fairly solid in the first film, are easily the weakest part of this sequel with Wilson channelling Jack Torrence in an ill advised turn as a possessed madman and Byrne similarly drawing upon the hysterical tones of Wendy Torrence in that same film.

If the first Insidious was a knowing horror cliche mashup then Insidious: Chapter 2 is an exercise in throwing as many ideas at the screen and seeing what sticks. Veering into hokey cliche much more than the first without the same suspenseful atmosphere and simplicity of a good old fashioned haunted house movie. Wan shows little of the freshness and restraint displayed in Insidious or the excellent The Conjuring. Some have applauded the film for it's ambition but I feel without the right execution you have to put this installment into the, admittedly very large, camp of disappointing horror sequels.

*** 3 Stars

What did you of the film? How does it compare to the original?

Friday, 13 September 2013

(Happy) Friday the 13th (1980): Review

Friday the 13th is a 1980 summer camp slasher film. Directed by Sean Cunningham (producer of Last House on the Left and the "House" franchise) starring Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King and Kevin Bacon (Tremors, Stir of Echos) with special effects by Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead, Maniac). The film kick started a slew of early 80s summer camp movies and spawned 7 direct sequels of its own.

Friday the 13th opens, as many of it's sequels do, with a group of young, good looking camp counsellors arriving at camp Crystal Lake to get the place in order for the upcoming season. However, through a series of POV shots, and a local raving madman, we learn that the counsellors are not alone as one by one they are dispatched by a mysterious knife wielding maniac. We also learn that this is somehow related to the drowning of a child called Jason in the early 50s as a result of negligent counsellors and the general consensus seems to be that camp Crystal Lake is doomed...DOOOOMMEED!

Ok, I'll stop patronising you. We all know the twist, Scream made sure of that, the killer is, SPOILER ALERT, not the iconic Jason Voorhees but rather his psychotic mother Mrs Voorhees on the revenge path. We all know this now but think what a shocking twist this must have been at the time. Horror movie killers were rarely female much less middle aged mothers, and has to go down as the 2nd biggest twist in summer camp slasher history! (touche Sleepaway Camp (1983). Despite not having the franchises famous son on board the film really lays the blueprint for the rest of the franchise and most other slashers of the 80s (along with Halloween (1978) before it) ie. boobs, blood, drink and drugs!

More than anything the film is one big homage to Psycho (1960) and the works of Alfred Hitchcock, certainly Cunningham is not alone in this as many slasher directors of the time were huge admirers of the great man. This influence manifests in the fantastic string based score, the POV stalking and the mother/son dynamic that would be developed in future instalments and is lifted from Psycho almost verbatim. However, rather than come across as a derivative copy of Psycho, the film succeeds in freshening up the formula for a new generation. The protagonists in Hitchcock films were rarely young adults and this extra dynamic allowed Cunningham and his contemporaries to tap into a more lucrative market with unprecedented success.

I've seen this film many times and Jason Voorhees was one of my childhood heroes (yeah I've been a horror nerd for a looong time!) but it still entertains and hasn't aged as much as some of the 70s horror films. It isn't a massively cerebral film and is very derivative in it's execution but it is a lot of fun with some groundbreaking special effects. Some of the later instalments weren't half as good even with the benefit of such an iconic character in Jason, so do yourself a favour this Friday the 13th and take a little trip down memory lane.....all the way to Camp Blood!

**** 4 Stars

When did you last see the film? Does it hold up well against other 80s slashers?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

They Made Me Do It...Again! July 12-July 13 #2: The Possession (2012)

The Possession is a 2012 possession/exorcism film. Directed by Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch) starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Resident), Natasha Calis and Matisyahu. The film was produced by Sam Raimi's Ghost House pictures.The plot of The Possession is based on the infamous "Dybbuk box" eBay hoax in which Kevin Mannis claimed that the box was haunted by a Dybbuk (Hebrew for dislocated spirit) and had caused violent phenomena to all who owned it. 

In the film the box is purchased by recent divorcee Clyde Brenek (Morgan) for his daughter Emily (Calis) in order to win brownie points and settle his daughters into his new home in a suburb right out of Poltergeist (1982). However soon after opening the box Emily begins to feel "not herself" and this soon develops into full blown possession, complete with accompanying moth swarms and violent outbursts. Clyde soon discovers the box's Hebrew origins and so enlists the help of Tzadok (Matisyahu), an Hasidic Jew and seemingly qualified exorcist, to drive the Dybbuk out of Emily's body.

The film has been described by many as the Jewish version of The Exorcist (1973) and although this seems a lazy description, it is a fairly accurate one. The Jewish/Hebrew take on the sub-genre, with accompanying mythology, is certainly a somewhat fresh approach to a very tired format and the creature design, much less the fact that you actually get to see the demon leave the body, is something rarely seen in cinema exorcisms. That being said, The Possession is a deeply generic film. All the possession tropes are there, little girl in a nightie, insect infestation and the always cheesy demon voice. If you like all those tropes then they're certainly employed to good effect and the film keeps within the strong tradition established by The Exorcist but personally I hoped for slightly more.

The film's main strength is it's high production values, particularly the special effects and excellent score, and it is a very slick, mainstream film in the best possible way. Standout use of effects include the fingers coming out of the throat (spoiled in the trailer) and the creepy, yet faintly ridiculous, appearance of the Dybbuk in the MRI scan. The score is utilised well to build tension through simple piano patterns and booming strings and scenes often begin with an eery Kubrick-esque ariel shot showing Bornedal's flare for creeping atmosphere.

All in all The Possession doesn't reinvent the wheel but plays as a solid possession/exorcist movie that is true to the sub genre while incorporating fresh elements of Jewish folklore and impressive special effects set pieces. Will be best enjoyed by people who really love or, conversely, have never seen a possession film but personally i don't fall into either camp.

*** 3 Stars

What did you think of The Possession? How do you think it ranks amongst other possession films?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

First clip from Horns

The first clip from the upcoming Horns has made it's way online today courtesy of Collider. Directed by horror auteur Alexandre Aja starring Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple, the film is based on the Joe Hill novel of the same name following an unfortunate young man who sprouts horns. Although the clip doesn't give you much of a taste I'm very excited to see Aja back in the director's chair for the first time since 2010's Piranha 3D (following his sterling script for Maniac) and to see what else Daniel Radcliffe has to offer after last year's The Woman in Black. Check out the clip...

Are you looking forward to Horns? What do you think of Radcliffe's American accent?

Sunday, 8 September 2013

You're Next (2013): Review (spoiler free)

You're Next is a 2013 post-modern home invasion film. Directed by Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die, V/H/S 1&2) starring Sharni Vinson (Bait), Joe Swanberg (V/H/S) and AJ Bowen (House of the Devil). The film was completed in 2011 but  not able to be released widely until 2013.

The film centres around the Davison family, particularly son Crispian (Bowen) and girlfriend Erin (Vinson), reuniting at their country home for the weekend but, as the prologue reveals, there are masked killers in the local area who have other ideas. As the sibling pleasantries soon melt away it becomes clear that the Davison family have a lot of tension and ill feelings towards each other but before they get to work out their differences over dinner they are interrupted by the masked antagonists. What follows is an ultra violent game of Cluedo as the Davison clan start to drop like flies and more than a few seem to have ulterior motives.

Some have called You're Next a horror comedy or a "meta" horror film but I feel both of those labels are a little too convenient. Above all You're Next is a fun horror film and harks back to the spirit of the cheesy 80s whodunit slasher, both in it's tone and it's delivery. This works in the film's favour enormously and, as any good homage to horror cliche, always knows when crack wise or give a wink to the audience. There's a real common sense to this and if you can't reinvent the genre (as few can) then why not play fast and loose with the established tropes and subvert the genre, and Wingard certainly seems to know his horror onions!

In terms of it's home invasion riffs I found it seemed to play off Home Alone (1990) more than any other and, after all, isn't Home alone the most fun home invasion film. This even involves direct recreations of some of the Home Alone booby traps and accompanying slapstick and when you consider that the film manages to combine this with extreme violence and a definite brooding atmosphere at times then you start to appreciate that this melding of styles is no mean feat. The film also subverts the slasher genre in particular by having a strong female protagonist in Vinson, possibly the most murderous female in a slasher since Mrs Voorhees lost her head.

I can best describe You're Next as Scream meets Home alone, it avoids being too "meta" for it's own good but still deftly sidesteps cliche with tremendous comic timing. Certainly not a game-changer or a modern classic but there's enough there to keep any horror fan guessing and laughing and how many modern horror films can you honestly say are just pure fun.

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of You're Next? Did you find it scary or funny?

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Cronenberg's Shivers due a remake

News has been announced that David Cronenberg's debut feature Shivers (1975) is set to get the remake treatment. In my opinion this is exactly the kind of movie that should be remade, a film with an interesting premise and great setting that was stunted by seriously low production values and laughable special effects. Of course it was of its time but there's nothing scary about a turd on a string! The remake will reportedly be directed by  Danish talent Rie Rasmussen and we'll have to see if this turns out to be a superior remake...

Do you think Shivers will benefit from a remake? Am I too harsh on the original?

Friday, 6 September 2013

Robocop Remake Trailer

A trailer has emerged today for the upcoming Robocop remake. Directed by Jose Padilha starring Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton and a little Samuel L Jackson thrown in for good measure (but then, doesn't every film?). The film is a modern update on the classic 1987 dystopian sci-fi flick directed by Paul Verhoeven. Personally I'm still not sold on this and I doubt they will be recreating the levels of violence in the original,  it could go the way of the Total Recall remake (another Verhoeven classic)....check out the trailer!

What did you think of the trailer? How do you think the new film will compare to the original?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

They Made Me Do It...Again! July 12-July 13 #1: The Purge (2013)

The Purge is a 2013 dystopian home invasion film. Directed and written by James DeMonaco (writer of Skinwalkers and Assault on Precinct 13 remake) starring Ethan Hawke (Sinister, Training Day), Lena Heady (Dredd, 300) and Rhys Wakefield (Home & Away).

The premise of the The Purge is as simple as it is genius. In the year 2022 America has been so ravaged by crime & poverty that the right wing political party known as "the founding fathers" have introduced the annual purge, a 12 hour period with no laws and no consequences during which citizens can maim and murder to their heart's content. However, ostentatious security salesman James Sandin (Hawke), wife Mary (Headey) and their two children only want to hunker down for the night in their enormous house and let the "purgers" get on with it. This goes slightly awry when their son has a crisis of conscience and decides to give shelter to a fleeing homeless man drawing the ire of a group of ultra-violent rich kids and their "polite leader" who only wish to exercise their right to purge and give the Sandins an ultimatum....send the fugitive out, or we're coming in!

The most fascinating aspect of The Purge is the social satire and back story behind the main concept, it instantly demands that the audience put their selves in the shoes of the protagonists, would such a system really be for the greater good? Would you protect the life of a stranger wagered against the lives of your family? The film raises several interesting questions of ethics and morality and even though the Sandins begin the movie as affluent pacifists they too become forced to play the game and by the end of the film you really wonder whether the protagonists were really protagonists at all.

By stark contrast the antagonists of the film are clearly so, representing the rich oligarchy desperate to eradicate the poor and hungry who place such a burden on the nation they clearly see it as their right to purge and enact their twisted agenda. The best performance of the film has to go to Rhys Wakefield as the polite leader, with well spoken, charming delivery of the terrifying threats he channels the same kind of "polite terrorism" employed so effectively in Funny Games (1997). Although I must say the rubber masks worn by the purgers are cliched in the extreme, once the polite leader takes his off he's able to convey a genuinely psychotic character that I found incredibly effective.

I was very pleasantly surprised by The Purge as I had mixed expectations based on Ethan Hawke's other recent horror film (don't worry we'll get to that one) and I had assumed that once you knew the premise you didn't necessarily need to see the film. I was wrong, it becomes ever more compelling as you see how the characters are affected by the purge and how the night plays out and although I could see the final twist coming from a mile off it left me no less satisfied with the film.

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of The Purge? What would you do in an actual purge?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

La Gravedad Del Pugil (The Gravity of the Pugilist) Trailer

A new trailer has been released for upcoming Chilean exploitation film La Gravedad Del Pugil (The Gravity of the Pugilist), it's a pretty weird title and an even weirder trailer full of gore, boobs and Giallo-esque ethereal singing. The film is directed by Jorge Mella and although i don't know what's going on here (and probably still wouldn't if i did speak Chilean) it looks like international filmmakers are adding their spin to the flagging Grindhouse revival scene, which can only be a positive. Check out the trailer!

What do you think is going on here? Are you interested in international Grindhouse revival?

Monday, 2 September 2013

We Are What We Are (remake) trailer

A new trailer has emerged for the upcoming English language remake of the Mexican cannibal film We Are What We Are (2010). Directed by Jim Mickle (Stakeland) starring Ambyr Childers (The Master), Odeya Rush and Bill Sage (American Psycho) and following the same "cannibal family" dynamic. However the film seems to place a Gothic twist on the tale perhaps in the vein of Let Me In (2010) or Stoker (2013), if the film is anything like those movies then we should be in for a treat but I'm not sold on the translation from the Mexican setting or director Jim Mickle (Stakeland was a disaster).

What do you think of the trailer? How do you think the film will translate to western audiences?

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Conjuring (2013): Review

The Conjuring is a 2013 supernatural horror film. Directed by James Wan (Saw, Insidious) starring Patrick Wilson (Insidious) and Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel). The film is based on real-life events surrounding paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren during the 1970s.

The film opens with a flashback to the infamous "Annabelle doll" case , a seemingly harmless (but extremely creepy) doll that has unfortunately been possessed by a demon and is now terrorising it's owners. Fast forward to the here and now (of 1971) and we're introduced to the Warrens in their fantastically designed museum of the occult. Of course it's not long before they're pulled back into the field when the Perron family start to experience paranormal activity about their Rhode Island farmhouse and seek the Warren's help to exorcise their demons. However, as we all know, you can't just call up your friendly neighbourhood exorcist and crack on! You need to gather a sufficient amount of evidence in order for the Catholic church to grant an exorcism and through this investigation process we discover the macabre history of the Perron family's new abode.

If you've seen Insidious (which I liked) then you'll know what to expect from this period ghost story and, much like Insidious, it walks a fine line between tradition and cliche. However, the film ends up on the side of tradition through a more subtle approach of "what you don't see", something that Insidious employed in it's first half but rather spectacularly lost control of towards it's climax. This is used to great effect during an extremely tense scene where a Perron child insists that there is something behind the open door of her bedroom but neither her siblings, nor the viewer, are given any glimpse of the phantom. Indeed the antagonist (a demon witch if you're interested) is never seen in plain view but merely glimpsed at regular intervals for only a few seconds at a time and the temptation to let loose is resisted still in the climactic exorcism scene, a clear sign of a traditional horror film by a director who clearly understands the genre.

Another element that set it apart from it's contemporary doppelganger and emphasised the vintage elements was the effort put into the period setting. Gaudy wallpaper, lush Patrick Wilson sideburns and even a 70s horror font on the title card hark back lovingly to this blogger's favourite decade for horror films. In further attention to detail the paranormal investigation equipment is a curious collection of analogue equipment including light bulb EMP detectors and segments filmed through a grainy super 8 style camera. All these subtle touches give a fresh spin on a somewhat exhausted haunted house/possession sub-genre.

The best way to describe The Conjuring is The Amityville Horror done in the Insidious style, which is no bad thing as those two great movies combine to make another one here. However derivative these kind of films might be it's always a joy to be viewing an original  property and not another terrible 70s remake and as horror fans we must always commend this effort. The Conjuring is a fantastic contemporary horror film which draws on all the right areas of the ghost story sub genre and I, for one, would welcome another film featuring the Ed and Lorraine Warren characters, perhaps more in the New York area?....

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of the conjuring? How do you think it compares to Insidious?