Monday, 18 February 2013

5 Films To Enjoy

The blog will be quiet for the rest of the month, but I'll leave it off on a positive note (since I get very ranty on occasion, a bit of balance can be nice). Here is a list of some more recent (well, not 20 year old) horror flicks worth checking out.


American Mary
Starring Katherine Isabelle, who will forever have the goodwill of Ginger Snaps, this starts out as one of the best films I've seen in a long time. It loses steam towards its second half, but is still better than a lot of other clutter out there. For the body mod enthusiasts out there.


Berberian Sound Studio
Great atmospheric piece about a very British Toby Jones as a sound artist on an Italian exploitation film and the paranoia of being out of his comfort zone. Don't go in expecting a typical horror, because it will disappoint you. Once you just watch it as a film, you will really enjoy it. I think watching it without subtitles adds an extra layer of distance.


Grabbers
An Irish comedy-horror. A bit light on story, about a small Irish island terroised by aliens whose only weakness is alcohol, and it is sold as being a lot better than it is, but it is still worth a peep, and has some of the best and most realistic Irish characters I have ever seen.


The Bay
Barry Levison's latest, and a bit of a spin on the found footage genre by being a full fledged documentary. It's not fantastic, and gets frustrating towards its latter half, but its a bit different, and worthwhile for those who enjoyed Contagion.


The Innkeepers
Ti West finally gets that 'slow and not of it's time' style horror right (House of the Devil tried it but just ends up boring). Set in an allegedly haunted inn that is about to close, the young staff seek out and experience ghostly experiences. Pay it your full attention. It had me on the edge of my seat!

And finally, I recently renewed my subscription to the fantastic British horror magazine The Dark Side. You can get the sub for cheap, and they have fantastic digital issues. I'll be eventually doing a proper write up on em, but just so you know why they are easily the best horror mag, they are honest horror fans, and would never give a seal of approval to nonsense like Creature.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Instant Reaction: Creature (2011)


I have just finished watching the 2011 (though didn't surface this side of the pond until 2012) monster flick; Creature. Set in a Louisiana Bayou, the film follows a group of young adults who fall victim to a monster called Lockjaw. The film received bad reviews and has one of the lowest per-theatre averages of all time. As far as I'm concerned, this was being far too generous to it.

This film sucked.

The big draw of it was that it was a physical creature instead of CG, so it had a man in a rubber suit, and in fairness, this is probably the best element of the film, as the creatures design is decent, and for the most part, it is pulled off convincingly. This is about the extent of the good things the film brings the world. And even at that, there are plenty of moments when it looks like a man in a rubber suit stumbling around.


The biggest problem with the film, and one that is something I think is inherently fundamental, is the story. Sure, the creature is good, but the hell is the point when all you are going to do is waste any good will on a plot we have sat through dozens, if not hundreds of times before? The plot really does boil down to kids being chased in a bayou by a monster. In 2011. Come on. I don't know who sat there and decided that it was ok to make such a hashed out film, but I wish someone would have slapped them and told them to stop being so lazy.

I went in full well knowing the film had received bad reviews, and I had heard plenty about the ending that the filmmakers decided just not to include (whether they shot it poorly, they had to tack on a new ending, or if this was intentional, none of these reasons let it off the hook). I was not prepared for just how boring the film was. I watched Wes Craven's Swamp Thing for the first time recently, and I hated it, but that film is decades old and was a cheapy in the days before the fantastic technology we have now. Creature on the other hand feels like a TV movie, what with its awkwardly loose framing and step-printing slow motion, and wastes the talent of some fantastic actors. When your film is called Creature, and you plaster all your promo material with the titular character, you cannot spend half the movie trying to build up anticipation. You haven't hid it from us like Alien. You haven't earned the stripes like The Thing. Instead, I spent a long time waiting for something entirely underwhelming and wholly unsatisfying.

Poor Sid. At least he got to see boobies.

Fangoria gave this film their official seal of approval in the first and only issue of the magazine I have read. What is the point of reading such trash when it tries to pass this kind of nonsense on to the trusting horror community? I get that it is a throwback, but get the hell off it. If I want to see Swamp Thing, I will watch Swamp Thing. There is no excuse for not even trying to give us a new story. It is the exact same problem I have with the fan favourite Hatchet; it points to things we know and love and thinks that is enough. No, it isn't. Any idiot can say the name of a popular film, or repost a funny meme, or sing the latest pop song and get it stuck in your head, but that does NOT make it good enough. It doesn't twist or challenge the audience. It doesn't break convention. It doesn't even feel like a well executed rip-off. Instead, we get a lazy film with a lazy script that bores the audience and then decides to skip the conclusion. 

Oh, ye, my two cents on the ending. I wasn't all that bothered by it, because I knew the climax was nonexistent, and by that point, I was so bored I was happy the film decided to skip even trying to be good and just have the common decency to end. 

Thankfully, unlike Hatchet, people really didn't like this film, so it seems unlikely I will be witness to posts and sequels and the likes.

Small blessings, eh?

9 Great Italian Genre Films (for someone new to the territory)


So, you've just watched Suspiria and don't know where to go from there. I have some bad news; Suspiria is a pinnacle and you have started at the top, with no other film quite ever matching it. But there is still plenty of amazing Italian cinema to enjoy, and here are some good starting points after your Suspiria experience. 

Sure, Suspiria is a horror film, but it also has an awful lot of sex and style to it. So, sticking to some of the most accessible talents, here are my top options for someone who wants a guiding hand in what way to go with their Italian genre films after the Suspiria experience, for the sex, or for the horror.

Inferno
The thematic sequel to Suspiria, and probably my least favourite of the Argento films listed here, but it does have a fantastic underwater sequence and oodles of gorgeous scenery. The trade off is a lame story and a weird attack scene in Central Park.

Deep Red
From now on, whenever I think of detective story, this giallo is what comes to mind. People are like mannequins  Must see.

Tenebrae
Another Giallo, this one centred around an author in Rome embroiled in serial killings based on his novels. This is again, like Deep Red, gorgeous, but for my money, has a bit of a less involved feel.

Phenomena
This film is almost poetic, with a young boarding school student (played by none other than Jennifer Connolly) realising a link between her and bug life. The film takes a turn for the ridiculous in the second half with a cheesy 80s hair rock soundtrack and lame effects, but still one of the better ones.

Opera
Classy Giallo surrounding a young woman being terrorised by a killer in her theatre. She is forced to watch murders with needles placed under her eyelids, so she cannot blink. If that doesn't sell it for you, you're on the wrong page.

The Beyond
Now, this one is more creepy than anything else, and plays up the gore side of things, but by heck, I love it and it would be my first recommendation to anyone looking more for terror than style. But that's a general rule; Fulci brings the terror, Argento brings the style (both are debatable).

Lizard in a Woman's Skin
If the first 5 minutes of this film don't suck you in, then there's something wrong with you. Sex sex sex. And don't forget the violence.

Black Sunday
Mario Bava classic that is a bit intimidating to watch because of it's age (made in the early 60s), but the first couple of minutes will show you this is gritty by any standard, and you will not turn it off.

The Church
A muddled and poor story, but The Church is all about its imagery. Probably not for the uninitiated, but one of my picks for most visually and symbolically titillating film just behind Suspiria. Hey, if the Devil literally rapes someone, you have to know what kind of film you have got yourself in for.

And there you have it. This is just the tip of the iceberg, so feel free to leave your recommendations on some other great ones I have missed.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

THE PACT is Pointless and Does Not Deserve A Sequel. Here's Why...


***CONTAINS SPOILERS***

It has been announced that there will be a sequel to the surprise 2012 hit The Pact. I say surprise hit, because this was an awful film that no one should have sung any praises of. This news stirred ire in me, because I felt like I was tricked into seeing this film by all the praise heaped on it, and instead of getting anything out of the experience, I was left with a poorly executed, uneven film that changes genre halfway through, annoying actors, and a ridiculously preposterous scenario to accept. There should not be a sequel to this film. Unless it completely abandons everything about the first one, then it is doomed to be just as poor. 

For me, the biggest sign of a bad film is one that I notice plot holes in. A good (or even ok) film will be able to distract me from its problems, but The Pact has one glaringly obvious plot hole no one seemed to think was a big deal, when in fact it renders the film either redundant, or sloppy. Here it is, argue with me if you like, but this is a massive deal;

All through the film, the ghost seems to be able to throw people around and move objects, to 'warn' them of the danger in the house, of course, but when it comes to actually preventing any of these people being killed by the murderer hidden in the house? Or possibly killing the murderer themselves. Fuck no. It can't shove the murderer against a wall so someone can run, or drop a plank on his head while he sleeps. 


This goes back to the uneven film problem. It starts out as a potentially good ghost/haunted house flick in the vein of Insidious, with some ok set pieces upping the chill factor. But then it jumps the shark by clearly stating there is a ghost, and then deciding to make a twist of M. Night Shyamalan proportions, and completely disregarding the rules it set up for itself earlier. It's like two completely different scripts were stapled together. 

On the other hand, maybe the ghost hated the lead woman as much as I did.

Monday, 4 February 2013

For HMV, I shed a tear


Today, I went to Dundrum shopping centre. My normal course of action would be to let my partners in crime do their own thing while I would sojourn to my little haven; HMV. Like many people, I would scope out for the latest offers, find some old favourites, and discover some new shit to enjoy. Well, today, I went up the escalator, walked down the corridor, and was greeted by the grey shutters pictured above. It's no news to anyone that HMV is in currently closed and under administration, and judging by the news in the UK, where a massive amount of stores are certainly being sold off, the chances of it returning to its former glory in Ireland is more and more unlikely (Zaavi occupied the Dundrum site just a few years ago, in fact). There is a slight chance the store will eventually return, but probably with less sites and potentially completely new management.

Now, I knew going towards it that the store would be shut, but I was taken aback by how it hit me seeing it closed. That's when it hit me. It hit me that it was a place that connected me to culture, to my choice of art. Sure, prices are typically better online and the convenience of it is undeniable, but walking in to the store and seeing actual physical product, laid out so you knew what was new, what was hot (and not), and what they had obviously ordered too much of and wanted to sell off for peanuts, nothing could beat it. There was something about being in there with your kin, standing in the horror section, browsing the ridiculous B-grade flicks, vindicating your choice in partaking with the socially awkward. I cannot say I am shocked the store has gone the way it did, but I never waned in my visits. It meant a lot to me in so much as it was as close to a finger on the pulse on where things were at that you could get.

You might read that and think I am some loser for eulogising (hopefully prematurely) a corporate chain and that I should get some class, or man up and adapt to online. But that's the thing. I read. I view art. I visit museums. I am as connected on the net as anyone could want to be. But at my core essence, I am not someone who spends a lot of time reading, or visiting museums, or establishing an online persona. I watch films and I listen to music. That, in its most pure form, is what I enjoy. And who in their right mind would not feel at least a bit sad if their one way immerse themselves in this world, the actual physical world, in a perfectly legit and acceptable way was taken away?

So, yeah, I'm missing HMV.


Sunday, 3 February 2013

I think I owe an apology (sort of)...


Over a year ago, I wrote a post where I went to town on Adam Green and his slasher love letter Hachet. I am not going to go back on my opinion of that film. Far from it. I rewatched it recently, and still hated it. But I also rewatched what I consider a modern classic, Frozen, and more importantly, the making of Frozen found on the Blu Ray and DVD, and after some thought, I want to offer Adam Green an apology.

This is good reason.

Frozen is possibly once of the best horrors, or hey, even just thrillers in general. It deserves to be said in the same breath as films like Fargo or Misery, something that should always be on the tip of the pop culture tongue. I don't feel like it got that, and this saddens me deeply. It is a masterfully crafted film, with incredible performances and neigh a frame that is poor (there is one bit that is unintentionally out of focus, but the performances are so strong you just don't care). There is only one person I have met who didn't like it, and their reasons for disliking it almost led me to believe they were watching a different film. This is a genius piece, through and through.

As much as Hatchet is a blatant homage to horror with a hip and comic approach, ready to be out of fashion before it leaves the editing room, Frozen is its antithesis, with more in common with greats like Hitchcock. I truly believe this film will age with the likes of The Birds or the David Cronenberg canon as a film that seriously defines the best of a generation, and portraying a tale in our age that proves to be timeless.

Meh.

I know that Hatchet has its audience, but for me, it is a film of failed potential. I cannot deny it has heart. Oodles and oodles of heart. But you know what else had an incredible amount of heart? Frozen. It just isn't so obvious, because it is a frankly more mature film that is controlled in its ways. But when watching the making of Frozen, it becomes abundantly apparent; Adam Green is a real fan. I did know this before, but seeing the passion he put in first hand really made the difference. He isn't just a one trick pony, giving reference to those before him (there are plenty of popular directors people will complain do this), but has actually given something truly great to the genre that will, if there is a God, be reference by the next generation of filmmakers.

If you didn't get it, I liked Frozen.

So, where does this leave us? I have a lot of respect for Adam Green thanks to Frozen. I appreciate the love the man has for the genre from his other films (including Grace, which I also didn't like, but hey, it had a lot of It's Alive references running through it), but I have all these films he is compiling into his own features. If I want them, I will put on those DVDs. For my money, he is best when he is treading original ground. And you know what? Personality counts. I will put up with the Hatchets of this world if it means that I will also get the Frozens of the world.

What I'm trying to say is; Adam Green, will you marry me?