Friday, 30 March 2012

An update from a lazy man

Apologies for lack of posts recently (to all two of my dedicated readers). Unfortunately, life has gotten in the way of writing about horror or whatnot, and I have been playing over the idea that a filmmaker should not be a critic (then again, I have always considered myself more cricket than critic). I have some pieces coming that are a lot less review based and more analysis, so hold on to your butts!

In the interim, I encourage you to check out some music that I have been involved in. I bring it up here with a less than tenuous link to horror. The music is all, in fact, licensed to be used in films/projects and to be shared freely, so those who like something free and atmospheric, here you go. Might I say, it is quite nice to listen to while writing. Really gets you in the mood.

... I never said it was a happy mood...

And, in my last pimping gesture of the month, have you liked the Sodium Party Facebook yet? Why not!? What did we do to you? We thought you were cool. But if you go like us right now, we might change our mind. Also, there will be a LOT of interesting bits coming up with the film very shortly, and we can use all the support we can get!

Right, that's me done. Oh, if you insist; I haven't seen it yet, but I am shocked that a US remake of Battle Royale snuck in under the radar. The Hunger Games has done well for itself, but those of us in the horror know know better...

Friday, 16 March 2012

[REC] 3: Genesis gets a new UK trailer

And here we have the new UK trailer for [REC] 3: Genesis.

Not as cheesy as the previous trailer (though that was intentional cheese), this one gives a bit more of a look at the scope of the film, which actually seems relatively narrow. I'm going to guess the plot will be zombies attack wedding reception, bride (and groom, possibly) are trapped, try to escape, find some underground tunnel out. 

Looks nice. Very lavish looking. Zombies look well done, though all zombies are well done these days (to the point they are unrealistically real and not as scary, but that's a potential rant right there). Should I point out the fact the UK trailer has no dialogue, hiding the fact it will be a Spanish language film? Cuz I find that kind of funny.

I'm looking forward to the film (and it's sequel, which is supposed to be very epic in scope), but one thing that the trailer is making me think is that abandoning the found footage and going with a more traditional style is going to take away a lot of the tension and scares the previous two installments had. Really, it looks like it'll be more of a survival horror/action game with a similar visual style to Haute Tension (or Switchblade Romance, for those in the UK). 

Still looking like one to watch, and it should be coming our way towards the end of the month.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Teeth: Does it actually have any real bite?

In celebration of me getting my tooth that had be agony for the past week sorted out, I decided I should write about something teeth related. So, what better than 2007's Teeth?

In a nutshell, the film is about a teenage girl who is a member of a Christian abstinence group called The Promise, where they make a promise to God to save themselves for the wedding night. She falls for a boy in the group, and they end up going off to the local swimming hole together, where he tries to rape her but, in every mans worst nightmare, her vagina is filled with teeth that bite his penis off. Out of harm, she is left to deal with the fact her lady parts have something very none-lady like going on. The film continues on with several encounters where this anomaly rears its teeth again, while the confused teenager tries to figure out just what is going on.


Well shot and acted, the film holds together nicely as an indie drama, and I'm sure I could gush about it for paragraphs like that, but I won't. There is a major elephant in the room. The film is about a woman with teeth in her vagina that can bite, but it is exactly what I just described it as, an indie drama. Calling this a bait and switch seems like it would be too nice for it. What it is is disappointing. 

You don't go into a film like this wanting to see a young girls struggles against typical sexual pressures in what is shown to be a very misandry filled flick. Every man in it is an asshole, who abuses a poor young woman unsure of the changes she is going through. Come on, I can buy some people being abusive or whatnot, but pretty much every man is horrible. 

He's a gynecologist. His fingers are missing. 
Do the math.

It is trying to be a morality tale for the young woman and man who might take advantage of her, and to this end, it is successful, but it is ham-fisted at best. If there was a mixed bag of people, then the film would be acceptable, but it reeks of being penned by a man hater, even though written by a man, which can only lead to one conclusion; he has a low view of women in that they have to be in peril to be able to be able to fight back or have any power (looking in to it, he is also gay, which might correspond to this conclusion).

This is woman empowerment, eh?

The film has been labelled a black comedy. Don't be fooled. It is an indie drama, closer to Little Miss Sunshine than Slither. The premise is solid, but poorly executed. It needed to be more like David Cronenberg's Rabid, to allow itself to be exploitative and fun. It still could have had its message, but it would have been less in your face (the same 'girl becoming woman' theme was already expertly handled in Ginger Snaps). Instead, we have a mess of a film that thinks its being smart and biting, when really, it has no teeth. 

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Woman in Black or Who let Harry Potter in another film?

Ok, rant time here. I have had like two weeks to digest Hammer's latest outing; the Woman in Black, and I can give my honest reaction (which, weeks later is the same as it was right when the film ended).

The film? It's a decent middle of the road Gothic-style horror film. It probably won't have any major longevity besides a fun flick caught on TV in a few years. Shot well and has plenty of scares, though somewhat limited in scope, and feeling its 12s certificate.

I hope you find dolls scary, cuz we got LOTS of em!

Now, the elephant in the room; Daniel Radcliffe. 

Note: Not literally an elephant.

This isn't an attack on the guy himself. I'm sure he's lovely. But as an actor, what the hell? Seriously, people. What the hell? Let's start with how miscast he is in the film. He just cannot hold the role he is playing. I cannot buy, for one second, that he has a young kid. They even have a few shots of his wife, about the same age, and I still am not buying it. I know the kid cast is his Godson, to try add some realism, but it just doesn't work. Could he have played someone looking after someone else's kid? Maybe. Can he play a father? Not a lick.

He also cannot hold a role with such weight at all. He in no way embodies the character, nor gives any of the gratis that it needs. His character is someone with the weight of the world on his shoulders. His wife is dead, he's looking after a kid, he's working a job he hates. All Radcliffe does is make it seem like he was given regular milk instead of chocolate milk. He shares the screen with some powerful actors and you can almost feel them struggle to hold him up. 

Dearly beloved, we are here today to mourn the loss of dignity.

His range of emotion in the film ranges from staring, to staring with his mouth slightly open. My god, people. The only way he works in this film at all is as stunt casting (which suits Hammer well). I can't fault his implausible motivations and actions in several scenes, that one is down to the script, but even when things aren't flimsy script wise, Radcliffe just cannot sell it. The only times he is in any way passable is when he is silent (which is, thankfully, a lot), but even then, he just about scrapes by.

'Maybe this fog will hide my poor acting.'

Again, I have no issue with the guy himself. I'm sure he is a decent bloke, but acting-wise (which I will admit poking at is like a personal attack), he is beyond pants. When they cast the Harry Potter films, all the kids were only around 10, so there was no way to know how they would grow as actors, or if they'd be any good. I think Rupert Grint (Ron) has potential to be an amazing talent, Emma Watson grew with the role but is a bit ropy, but Radcliffe is exactly as poor as he was in the beginning. He never grew with the role or as an actor. Everything about him, from his performances on screen to his interviews, reeks of this superiority air, where you can almost hear him saying 'Hey, I was Harry Potter, I think I know what I'm doing. Maybe DeNiro could call me up and learn something'. 

Are YOU talkin' to me?

Honestly, can you watch him and not think he is always the actor who played Harry Potter as a different role, as opposed to being the character on screen? But, with all my chagrin with him, I have hope. He is so disappointing that he does have a chance to disappear into obscurity, only to return with an amazing performance that no one would have expected. 

I went in to Woman in Black as open as I could be, but he disappointed me immensely. Anyone who says different is lying and finds him hot. There is no world where he didn't stink up the screen. My hope? That people will continually echo my sentiments until they get back to Radcliffe and he realises that his one-trick pony has been ridden into the ground. 

I hope he can come back with amazing performances, but right now, that is really wishful thinking.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Re-evaluating the House of Whipcord

Perusing the Horror Channel tonight, I stumbled across an old Hammer Horror from 1974 called House of Whipcord, and I figure I'll throw a few words at it.

The film is basically a women in prison movie about a young French model who is brought to an old prison in the countryside under the pretense of meeting the parents of a man she has met. When she arrives, she is forced into a prison-like circumstance when a Mary Whitehouse-type brings her in front of a former justice and, explaining that they exhibit justice outside of the law, she is sentenced to captivity until she has no vanity and does not display herself in an appropriate fashion. She quickly learns that there is no escape, and the prison is run under a three strikes regime, where strike three spells death. We follow her progress through the prison and her attempts to escape, in parallel with her friends in London, who wonder where she has gone.

Also, there's boobs in it.

Allegedly, the film is notorious, but it lacks a Wikipedia page, so I'm inclined to think it might be a bit of a forgotten film. What I will say is that if there was ever a B-grade film from the 70s to hark back to, this is it. There is more than a passing resemblance to modern 'torture porn' films like Hostel, minus any actual real violence. 

The atmosphere and the harsh minimalist setting makes the film quite harrowing viewing, but well worth it. This is a film I could imagine being successfully remade sometime soon, as long as it stuck to the ring-wing fearing agenda this film clearly sets out with. The film is directed with artistic flourish, with some unexpectedly fancy camera work. Not exactly a masterpiece, but it seems to be punching above its weight with some success.

The downsides to the film are the very dated scenes in 70s London and some typically poor acting for a low budget feature, but once the film arrives at the old prison, the tackiness is left behind and a potentially timeless piece sets in to action. The former justice is also a fantastic character, and it is a shame more is not done with his character and his hesitance to use his court as a means to murder people. Unfortunately, the TV version I was watching was very muddy whenever it got dark, and I don't know if all prints are like this. I almost turned the channel off because of it, but bare with it, it passes.

All in all, you might stumble across this film on the Horror Channel, and you will be in for a decent time. You might find yourself more paranoid about the conservative type around you than you were when you went in.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Join the Sodium Party

For those who may have missed it, the first clip from our upcoming feature film, Sodium Party, has surfaced online. Here, for all to see, is a proper 50 second clip:

You can also watch the video here at Vimeo, if you're so inclined.

Now you've seen the teaser clip, can you figure out the hidden moments? There are at least a dozen. 

Please share the video and don't forget to like the film on Facebook and check it out on the official IMDb.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene: A stunning portrait of a cult


It's difficult to say much about Martha Marcy May Marlene without spoiling it, so I will just give my plot impression from the first 15 minutes.

A thoughtfully slow independent flick about Martha, played by Elizabeth Olsen, who we see sneaking out of what can only be called a commune in the early morning, before anyone is awake. She makes it to town, where she calls her sister for help, but not before one of the men from the commune confront her. We then switch pace by seeing Martha staying with her sister and her boyfriend in their plus summer house by the lake. Martha is secretive and edgy, and the film is inter-cut between her time with her sister and her time in the commune.

I think that doesn't give away too much, right? 

I have been oddly immersed in the world of cults and fanatics recently (not with real world contact, mind you), and I went in to this film without any clue what it was about. What you see above is about as boiled down as I can get about the first 15 minutes. For most people watching the film with any sort of cultural knowledge, a commune like the one portrayed here is all too reminiscent of one famous 'family', and in that way, Martha Marcy May Marlene is one of the most thoughtful portrayals of the mindset behind a cult. 

I have always been disappointed by films like Jim Van Bebber's The Manson Family (it's an awful film, don't fool yourself), with this film being a tactful and detached view, drawing the viewer in to the world by way of contrasting it with Martha's time with her sister, which, though luxurious, stinks of people putting possession before everything else. You can feel a love for the simplified life, and see why someone who is emotionally unsettled would be drawn to it. Heck, I doubt many people would turn their noses up at it if they didn't have the real-world knowledge of how so many communes end up.

Well acted and, even though very slow, very well paced. We aren't being bombarded with information. It is actually the lack of information shared that builds the tension and conflict. Martha just will not tell her sister why she is afraid, the same as she will not tell the commune why she is unsure. This film doesn't signpost its information for the viewer. It depends on them to read between the lines, to pay attention more to what is not said than spoken. 

It is this absence that is the heart of the film's brilliance, and also the one that will make it a love it or hate it one for film goers. I like a film that lets me place myself as the character, but the usual style is for everything to be telegraphed, so no audience member is left behind, so this film will not be for everyone. I actually found the end a bit hard to stomach and it is only in hindsight that I can enjoy it. I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying it's brief, but when I saw it, I knew in my mind what was happening next, but was frustrated I was not given it. Now, I realise that is the genius of it. I was able to imagine what fate lay ahead of me. I was able to become the paranoid Martha.

All in all, it is a film well worth seeing. I wouldn't describe it as one to see before you die, but it is well made and fascinating. It is not often that you actually leave your own skin without realising it.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Before the remake: The original Silent House

In anticipation of the upcoming remake, I decided to give The Silent House, a Uruguayan feature filmed in a single take about an hour and a half long, a gander.

To say too much wpuld be to spoil the film, but at its most base, The Silent House is about a father and adult daughter who are hired to clean up a derelict house before it is viewed for sale. The owner of the house advises the pair to keep downstairs, but once he’s gone, the daughter hears a loud noise that the father investigates, setting off the horror.

Oh... Em... Spoiler?

The film takes place in real time, so we arrive with the dad and daughter, stay with the daughter as she inspects the place, and follow her in one continuous take for about 77 minutes.

On a technical level, this film is pretty great. Looking in to it, it was very low budget, but you would never know. The lighting is atmospheric, and the house feels all the more claustrophobic in the single take. You never once get the impression that this is anything below a decent studio film standard. The acting is also satisfactory, with the daughter playing a very successful final girl indeed, and the few other performances holding up the film nicely. I wouldn’t say you ever fully invest in anyone, but they aren’t irritating and they serve a two dimensional purpose very well.

It wouldn't be a horror film without 
a creepy black-haired little girl.

Using the phrase ‘two dimensional’, you can see where I’m going to go with this. The whole premise of the film is real fear in real time. The theory being that if you experience the horror with the protagonist as it happens, you will feel more in the moment, therefore more terrified. Unfortunately, the film has one major screw in the works; it’s not scary. Technically great; yes. Well acted; yes. But scary? No.

There are a few moments that might get you a little tense, but nothing that hasn’t been done a thousand times before. It is established early on that the windows and doors in the house won’t open, but this is only established through the daughter briefly tapping at them. The Silent House sells itself short by giving us real time, but not a realistic situation.

'He's behind you!' 'Oh no he isn't...'

This starts from the outset, where the dad falls asleep in seconds. A necessary suspension of disbelief (who wants to watch someone properly go to sleep), but a big one to ask. Plus the light streaming in the window cinematically doesn’t help. Once the shit starts going down, we know the daughter should be smashing the doors or windows away with all her might, not a casual glance. Going upstairs, getting outside but allowing herself to be brought back in, these are all just steps too far.

I know the final act gives some credence to it all, but I found myself detached, not caring what happened to this character who might as well have been a computer controlled droid. Her actions do not represent the audience well, and the situation given to us does not push us to accept her troubles. In fact, the conclusion made me wonder if ‘real fear in real time’ may have been false advertising (you’ll get it if you see the flick). The film has a great thesis of fear in real time, but a very poor execution on a story level (which has been a recurring critique).

The film also betrays its own ‘real time’ ideal by adding in a very lengthy post credit sequence which, though beautiful, is just hammering home a point we all got, and the montage during the end credits reassured. We didn’t need this PS.

Finally, in a bit of a nit-picking fashion, the film isn’t technically one take (not counting the ending). I believe it was shot on the Canon 5D Mark II, which can only record about 20 minutes uninterrupted. The film still seems like one take, and is a hell of an achievement, but I just want to put that to bed.

All in all, the upcoming remake (which Living Dead Girl went to town on the trailer of) looks interesting enough to have made me seek out this interesting little piece. I have hopes for the remake, but if it follows in the tracks of its predecessor, I think it may be, again, a case of technique over story.