Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Awakening (insert 'will put you to sleep' pun)

I thought I had missed the boat with this, but since it is about to make its US theatrical debut, I can make a few timely words about Brit horror, The Awakening.

Set in the early 20th century, the film follows sceptic Florence Cathcartas as she proves seances are baloney, and that ghosts are nonsense. She is then asked to come to investigate the death of a student in an isolated boarding school, which appears to have happened under supernatural circumstances. The film plays on elements of whodunit, giving way to the possibility that Florence, in her scientific ways, may be wrong and the supernatural may, in fact, exist.

Sound familiar? It should do. Let's acknowledge the elephant in the room, because it is a very done plot that has never been executed better than in Robert Wise's The Haunting and the more recent 1408 (which is dramatically underrated). So originality is not in this films favour, and you can pretty much guess where it is going from the moment Florence heads to the school. And it must be said, the journey is about as predictable as the destination. 

The Awakening has a great vibe of the classic Hammer horror, and is one of the more successful suspense films I have seen recently, but the film peaks early with a tension-filled sequence involving a chase and a dolls house and there isn't enough here to make it rise above the (poor) spate of competing genre films. It also has a rather tight kinship with Harry Potter and The Woman In Black, owing to similar subject matter in a short time period. 

I've seen a lot written about it being a return to form for British horror, but really, this is nonsense. In our technologically driven, hand held, zombie world, it is refreshing to have a throwback to a more classic period, but this is no excuse for simply retelling the same old tired story. This film is almost immediately doomed to fall into the netherworld of horror, not necessarily forgotten, but not necessarily remembered, even though it's not that bad. It is just more of the same.

Woo! Shorts!

It is a solidly built film and will pass the time happily, especially for those who like their Hammer or a load of chills, but once it is over, you will struggle to remember the name of the film. Instead, you will be saying 'no, not that one. The other skeptic hunts ghosts film. No, the OTHER one'.

If there's nothing else on, you could go worse, but otherwise, just wait for it to come on TV.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Hell Broke Luce

Tom Waits has been teasing us all for the last week with some random images with amusing captions. FINALLY it is revealed what the build-up was for; a music for his amazing song Hell Broke Luce, from his album Bad As Me.

Easily my favourite song from the album, the video isn't disappointing, and is just feckin cool to boot!

After the long wait comes REC 3: Genesis

Recently released on VOD and with a US theatre engagement next month (and a UK DVD release at the same time), REC 3: Genesis finally arrives after quite a lot of anticipation and build up. And, of course, is a massive let down.

Paco Plaza, one half of the directing team behind the first two instalments, brings the horror of the 'possessed' zombie-like people to a wedding setting, where the newly-weds are separated in the hoopla and try to get back to each other, and the different group of survivors struggle to survive in the melee yadda yadda yadda. Infected people attack a wedding, that's it in a nutshell. Whereas the first two films are found footage flicks, this one, while initially seeming to start out that way, becomes a proper cinematic endeavour.

Now, the film does this in a kind of clever way, where the weddings videographer wants to keep filming, but the groom destroys the camera, thinking he is a fool. It is quite a nice comment on the stretch of the imagination of all found footage films and if you were just expecting another REC sequel, it would have been quite the turn, but come on, it has been one of the biggest talking points about the film so far. And THAT is the ace in the hole for the film; a surprise switch of format, which was already revealed before most of us will see the film. Apart from that, there is fuck all going on here.

Before I rant, let's see if I can point out what I liked. I liked the way the videographer was a bit of a douche thinking he was a big shot with the camera. I liked the cheesy uncle who is the man who brings the infection to the wedding (not a spoiler). I liked that, even though I hated the religious element brought in to the second film, it is built on here with some detail, including some work with mirrors and a priest, and there is one reasoning put forward by the priest that I cannot say that might make the religious shoehorning in the film worthwhile.

That's about it for what I liked.

Look at this picture. You can almost guess where I'm going with this...

I mean, the acting isn't so bad, but the script is dire. I like how the infected are sometimes reminiscent of the classic George Romero zombies, but you have to remember, the terror of the first two films is that these are fast moving people in closed quarters, whereas here, they are inexplicably ambling and wholly unterrifying. I can understand the want to have the groom and bride get back together in this chaos, but it is a frustrating storyline that isn't in any way well developed, and will have you yelling at the screen when they spend so long lovingly chasing each other instead of getting the fuck out of dodge. If they loved each other so much, surely they could set aside their 'amore' long enough to make sure they can escape together. Do you think you could put off hugging each other till later, you know, when crazy infected people aren't chasing you? Oh, and there's the 'surprise' news from the bride, which is about as subtle as a speeding semi...

Making sure I wasn't the only one who thought this, other reviews have pointed out the annoying lack of seriousness in the film. While the groom searches for his bride, he adorns knights armour, and has a bumbling sidekick. The bride finds a chainsaw and cuts her dress, not to make it easier to run in, but to look like a sexy badass. It seems odd that a film that initially was intent on scaring the wits out of you decides to go one step away from a rubber chicken. And this is the major problem with the film; it is one massive misstep.

Though Sponge-John is pretty awesome.

You can almost feel the director going 'Hey, I can make something that looks like a real film!', and then he gives us a technically ok movie (and it is only ok), replacing what was so good about the first films with a tired storyline, clichĂ© characters and pretty much a lack of anything else. There are no good scares. I hated every character. Everything had a been there done that feel to it. Some parts were incoherent  in their execution (the resolution to the videographers character, anyone?). The film felt incomplete, and not in a 'ooh, there is something not being told to me to build up tension' way, but in a 'this film is all idea and absolutely no thought' kind of way. Trying not to spoil it, there is also one way to stop the infected that stops the film dead in its tracks and pokes holes in the second instalment. The only silver lining is that it reaffirms some of the ideas from the second film, but that is nowhere near enough to make a full film.

This film wastes a good setting and premise and tries to be Evil Dead 2 (which it is NOTHING like, mind), but ends up being another forgettable horror flick. What's sad is that its best moments are when we see action from security cameras, showing that this would have been a great film to have been found footage, but the filmmakers dropped the ball by trying (and failing) to be subversive. It's not horrific enough to be a horror, and it's not funny enough to be a comedy.

I didn't hate this film, it certainly has its moments, but I hated it for letting the REC film series down. It is easily the weakest entry, and only ranks above the abysmal Quarantine 2 in all the films. Hopefully REC 4: Apocalypse will get the series back on track for a good finalé, but for the first time, I am very worried.