Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

h1

50 Movies in 100 Days: Curse of the Puppet Master

February 17, 2013

Curse of the Puppet Master

This movie was just pretty flat out bad.  A mad man who was getting people to carve puppets and then would put their souls into them and us them to commit murder if need be.  Overall, can’t think of anything that was all that redeeming about it.  I think that I would put the one good thing from it was the opening scene/credits where there were tons of living puppets and they looked wonderfully creepy, but beyond that, nothing redeeming.

The story is that a man runs a puppet/amusement shop sort of thing mainly with puppets.  A few of them are normal puppets with strings, but many of them are living puppets which do their tricks.  His daughter comes back to college and looking for an old hired hand, her father said he left.  He finds a new puppet maker and his daughter falls for him.  There is a group of jerks in the town which go after the daughter including breaking into the house.  However things go sideways when one of the living puppets save her.  Her father then takes a number of the puppets and goes and kills the jerk.  Well, he watches, and the puppets kill.  The new puppet maker is now pouring himself completely into his work and falls sick, so the owner sends his daughter off to get a fictitious item of the puppet fair thingy and he puts the puppet maker into a new mechanical robot puppet thing, so that there would be a better interface or something like that, it is hard to understand it all.  The daughter comes back and his horrified, and then her father is sucked into something and the film ends.

I’m going to lump the acting, direction, sound, etc, all into one fell swoop, this film had no one of note in it, and you can see why with how lousy the film is.  The one thing the film had going for it was that some of the puppets looked creepy beyond that the whole look and feel of the film was nothing to write home about.  The acting was nondescript and the characters about as boring as you can get with no  reasonable plot development or character development throughout the whole thing.  The jerks were jerks simply because they were jerks, the puppet master probably is explained in some of the earlier puppet master films, but is a weak character, his daughter is dull and there is nothing going for this film acting wise.  The plot is predictable, which at times can be okay if it is done well, but this wasn’t, and you can have a predictable plot with interesting characters, but these characters like previously stated weren’t interesting.

Now, normally I’m one to like this sort of horror film, but there are a rare occasion during a film series where nothing is entertaining and with this film, there isn’t anything that is entertaining.  If you want to see the puppets that are alive, watch one of the many other puppet master movies and skip this one.

Critical Grade: D

Entertainment Grade: D-

Overall Grade: D

 

Advertisements
h1

Repulsion

June 17, 2010

Repulsion

Roman Polanski, known now for being a messed up dude as much as a director, is actually very brilliant and creates a setting of horror that isn’t anything like you see today.  This is much more psychological then modern horror films which rely on jumps and gore to make an impact.  There is only one real jump scene in this film and you do jump when it happens, but otherwise the setting and atmosphere that is created is just off enough to make you feel uncomfortable while watching it.

The story is of an innocent girl, Carole, lives with her sister.  She has lived a repressed existence, but she seems to be functioning fairly well and just innocent with her views of the world.  She has a boyfriend who is more into her than she is him, and her sister has a married lover whom Carole is repulsed by.  When Carole’s sister, Helen, leaves for a few days on vacation, Carole’s reality starts to crumble around her.  Carole falls apart, quitting her job, and hiding herself in the apartment.  All of her troubles are compounded when she receives an abusive phone call from her sister’s lovers wife.  She imagines everything going wrong, people coming after her and removing her innocence.  When Michael, her boyfriend, becomes worried about her and breaks into the apartment, Carole believes that all her horrors are going to come true and kills him.  She does the same later with the landlord when he comes to collect the rent.

Normally I’d go to the actors next and explain what performances were good and which were bad, but besides Carole, Catherine Deneuve, the rest of the actors and actresses see only limited screen time.  So the next real thing to talk about is Polanski and his work creating this film.  It isn’t a typical horror film, but he creates bits and pieces that are just disturbing to watch.  There is a rabbit which Carole is supposed to cook when her sister leaves, but instead it is left on a plate, out in the apartment, and we see it decay as time passes, mirroring the decay of Carole’s mind.  She imagines a crack in the wall growing and eventually the whole wall crumbling.  It is hard to explain the effect that Carole’s decent has on the viewer, but compared to many psychological  horror films, Polanski does an amazing job filming it.

Another thing to consider about this film is the fact that with only one character on the screen most of the time there is very limited use of dialog.  Now most films often explain everything that is going on, especially common in horror films, and it is rare to have characters in silence.  Wall-E is the one film that I think does this brilliantly as well, limitings its dialog.  Whereas Wall-E shows love through the actions of the character extremely well, Polanski uses the silence to show off the decay of Carole.

This isn’t a film that translates extremely well to a contemporary audience, but it is a really well made film for it’s time and Deneuve’s performance is one of the best I’ve seen in a horror film.  Now people expect a slasher like A Nightmare on Elm Street or gore like in Hostel or a combination of both.  Subtle horror films are a thing of the past, but if you can get past the slower pace of the film, Repulsion is really an interesting and creepy experience.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B+

h1

Teeth

May 24, 2010

Teeth

Teeth is a perfect blend of horror and dark, dark comedy that makes you cringe at times and laugh at others. With a great leading performance by Jess Weixler, the film comes together nearly perfectly.

The story starts out with Dawn O’Keefe’s mother on a date with her future husband and Dawn playing in a kiddie pool with her soon to be step brother, Brad.  Something happens and we jump forward to the present (sorry, this is going to be very odd description/summary of the story ).  In the present, Dawn has become and abstinence nut in high school, she leads the club at the local high school and the whole idea of sex is out of the question for her and she has a boy friend who is in the club with her as well.  Mean while, her step bother has become a degenerate, in his twenties, living at home, not really working and has a rotweiler.  The relationship between the two isn’t good as Dawn tries to be pure and Brad basically doesn’t care about anything.  One day Dawn and her boyfriend go off to a river for a swim.  It turns out that her boyfriend isn’t quite as into the abstinence thing as she is, and he tries to have sex with her.  Things go wrong, and he ends up drowning.  Dawn doesn’t know what to do and she goes to another friend, a guy, for advice.  He tells her that he is her hero and they end up having sex but it turns out that he was just doing it for a bet, so the following morning when they have a “quickie” things go wrong.  Also during this time, Dawn’s mother ends up in the hospital, in a massive series of unfortunate events worsened by the step brother, and she ends up passing away.  Dawn decides to take revenge on her step brother before she leaves town.  That is probably the most disjointed and confusing summary I’ve ever written, but I was trying to keep it cleanish.

The acting of Jess Weixler is simply brilliant in this role.  It is extremely out there, and I don’t think that many actresses would have been able to pull it off as well as she does.  John Hensley, from Nip/Tuck, plays her step brother Brad.  And while his performance isn’t as good, he does come off as a scumbag and while you feel sorry for most of the other characters who have unfortunate events happen to them (at least a little bit sorry, not all that much, all the guys are made out to be some level of deviant), at no point in time do you feel sorry for Brad.  The rest of the roles are much smaller, her boyfriend, her friend, even her mother, only show up for bits of time in the film.  Their performances aren’t as good as Weixler’s, again, but their roles are smaller, so it isn’t all that important if they aren’t as strong.

Mitchell Lichtenstein is the writer and director of this film, and while he has primarily done acting in his career, his second attempt as a writer/director is very good.  This is definitely a film that has a strong straight forward message about female empowerment wrapped up in a an extremely odd way of telling it, much like Ginger Snaps being about puberty.  He does a good job getting solid performances all around, and visually creating proper surroundings for each character.  And while there are a few hilariously cheesy lines, it feels like they were intentionally put in, not that they were unintentionally poorly written bits of dialog.

This film just works on every level, the writing, direction, and acting all just come together perfectly.  And while films at times can be too preachy and heavy handed in getting across what they are trying to say, Crash, The Happening, and The Day After Tomorrow come to mind, it has that humor element that makes it every interesting to watch.  I can’t quite use the term enjoyable, as I don’t think any guy can completely enjoy watching it, but I’d still highly recommend it.

Entertainment Grade: A

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: A-

h1

Dog Soldiers

May 14, 2010

Dog Soldiers

Dog Soliders

Neil Marshall’s first film and possibly my favorite film of his.  This is really a B sort of horror film with werewolves, but a great B horror film.  It doesn’t really launch into a new area of werewolves like Ginger Snaps, but it keeps in the classic werewolves, and is all about fighting them off.

It starts with a routine, boring, military exercise in the middle of Scotland.  Things start to go wrong when they find the remains of another special ops team that has been torn apart.  They see werewolves out in the woods and they take refuge in a small cabin where Megan lives in her family cabin.  The werewolves circle around the house and the soldiers are forced to fight them off and try and find a way to escape, because they aren’t within range to contact anyone else.  They make an attempt for a vehicle in a barn, but that fails.  When their ammunition starts to run low they find out that Megan hasn’t been completely honest about why she lives out int he house.

The acting in this film isn’t all that impressive, Emma Cleasby plays Megan, and it is a pretty boring performance.  The acting isn’t all that important though, because this is a strong horror/action film.  Sean Pertwee and Kevin McKidd are the two main military men in this film and they are strong in the terms of their action.  They come across as extremely intense.  The whole military team is intense as well, and the action sequences are a little bit hokey and the werewolves don’t look extremely great at times and at times they look very good.

Visually this is a decent film.  It struggles at times do to the small budget that it had with visual effects but Marshall does a good job of creating a dark and intense creature feature.  This, along with The Descent shows that Marshall really knows how shoot a horror film and how to show it off.  I love the fact that it is set in a tiny little area, I think that it is a good thing for a horror film, the sense of feeling trapped makes it much more intense.  It also helps that this isn’t a teen driven film, so many horror films, since they are targeted towards teens, end up being full of teens and just annoying everyone watching the film.

This is a B horror film, but it is a very good B horror film.  It doesn’t rely stupid slasher action sequences or annoying deformed human monsters that show up in so many horror films.  Neil Marshall is definitely a one of the better horror directors out there and I look forward to see more of his work, which should be coming out next year.  One of the better werewolf films outt here, so it is definitely worth checking out.

Entertainment Grade: A-

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B+

h1

The Alphabet Killer

May 12, 2010

The Alphabet Killer

The Alphabet Killer

This film tries to blend itself between true crime and horror, unfortunately it leans more to the horror aspect, which is where it fails.  The story is initially interesting as it starts with a double homicide and then moves into the realm of psychological horror film.  Visually it is solid, but it isn’t all that great.

It starts in Rochester, NY where a double homicide has taken place.  Megan Paige, an over zealous police officer, takes on this case and becomes very personally involved in it.  She develops schizophrenia and starts hallucinating about the victims becoming more and more obsessed with the case.  This puts stress on her fiancee, Kenneth, and eventually leads to a violent breakdown.  After going into treatment for two years, she returns to the force, cleared for desk duty.  When a call comes in of another murder and she dives back into the case vowing to solve it, with or without the help of the police.

The acting in this film is pretty suspect.  Eliza Dushku plays, from Dollhouse, doesn’t really fit in this role.  She just seems very stiff in her role and comes across as kind of annoying.  And she dominates the film.  Cary Elwes plays Kenneth, Paige’s fiancee, and he just isn’t all that interesting in this role.  His role seems to be very secondary and they really don’t develop him.  Timothy Hutton, probably the biggest name in this film, and his role is solid, but not all that impressive.  The talent just doesn’t come together for their roles, mainly thanks to the poorly crafted story.

Visually this film is average, when set in reality, it actually comes across as a pretty tough true crime sort of film, but when it jumps into the horror aspect, it becomes very cliche in how it looks.  Rob Schmidt, director of Wrong Turn, simply isn’t good enough to blend the two aspects.  His previous forays have always been into horror, and this film would have worked better if he had stuck to a single genre instead of jumping between the two.  Much of that problem, though, can be placed on Tom Malloy, the screenwriter.  His story is just a really poor retelling and unfocused retelling of something that has actual events to be based on, it is hard to know how he ended up with it going so poorly.

This is a film that I would recommend skipping.  There is nothing that really draws you into watching this film that is worth while.  I don’t mind true crime films (even though you look at my review of Zodiac it might not seem like it), but they need to be much better focused then they currently are.  I’d definitely recommend Zodiac over this film.

Entertainment Grade: F

Critical Grade: D-

Overall Grade: F

h1

Ginger Snaps

May 2, 2010

Ginger Snaps

Ginger Snaps

This film takes on werewolves in different light then you normally see them, granted, they are still killers who take over the body, but this film works it in line with the budding sexuality of the main characters.  It is darkly humorous and is a solidly made film that isn’t all that subtle about its other message but does a good with the analogy throughout the film.  It also have a very cult type of feeling in the film, it isn’t all that great, but it is just kind of absurd.

Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald are two teenage girls who are obsessed with death.  This is shown at the beginning of the film where the sisters are shooting faked suicides for a school project.  They are picked on at school and they decide to take revenge on the bully’s dog one night.  Unfortunately, puberty hits Ginger and a werewolf attacks her.  She is run off into the wood and bitten by the werewolf.  Brigitte tracks her down her sister and they fight off the werewolf which runs into a road and gets hit by a drug dealers van.  Things start to change for Ginger, both because of becoming a werewolf and puberty.  Ginger plays it off simply as puberty, but Brigitte suspects that it is more and she is becoming a werewolf.  Her suspicions are confirmed when Ginger starts to grow a tail.  With the help of the drug dealer, Brigitte looks for a way to save her sister from becoming a werewolf.  They aren’t successful in time and Brigitte tries one last attempt and mixes her blood with her sisters, giving herself the disease.  When Ginger ends up killing the drug dealer, Brigitte has to kill Ginger in order to survive.

The acting in this film isn’t all that impressive.  Emily Perkins stars as Brigitte Fitzgerald.  She does a decent job playing the gothic character, but the performance is nothing special.  Katherine Isabelle plays her sister, Ginger, with an equally as average performance.  Their performances don’t detract all that much from the film, though, because this film has the cult classic horror feel, and that means that it is more about the absurdity of the story and dark humor and cheesiness of the film.  Kris Lemche plays the drug dealer and has a similarly unimpressive performance as well.  There aren’t any big names really in this film, so for the performances of the unknowns, it isn’t all that bad, but still not overly impressive acting.

Visually this film is just okay, it has a kind of campy feel to it, which works well for the story.  John Fawcett, director and writer along with Karen Walton, does a solid job in keeping the filming and acting in line with the feeling of the film.  The best part of this film has to be the writing of Fawcett and Walton and the combination of the horror aspect and feminine film aspect of the film.  They play off of each other surprisingly well and even though it is kind of odd to think of those two together.

Overall this isn’t all that great a film, it is quite campy and cult in how it is made, but with the absurdity of the plot, it actually ends up being quite enjoyable.  Add in the dark humor, which I’m always a fan of, it helps make the film overall entertaining.  It might have the greatest acting or greatest direction, but it just absurd enough that it is worth checking out.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade: B

Overall Grade: B

h1

The Happening

April 29, 2010

The Happening

The Happening

M. Night Shyamalan’s terrible attempt at an eco-horror film, probably proof that a solid film director, with Signs, Unbreakable, and The Sixth Sense, can lose his touch.  The acting is terrible, the story is extremely contrived and the allegedly intense death scenes end up being more laughable then anything else.  This film has a couple of interesting deaths in it, but even the deaths aren’t what they should have been for an R rated film.

The film starts out with Elliot Moore teaching a class and talking about how some scientific events, such as bees disappearing, won’t ever be fully explained.  At the same time all hell breaks loose around Central Park as people start killing themselves.  It is reported to the teachers as a terrorist attack and people start to flee New York City.  Elliot meets up with his wife and a fellow teacher and his daughter and head out on a train to Philadelphia.  As they are on the train people start getting calls about attacks in Philadelphia and other locations.  The train is stopped in a rural town and everyone disembarks.  Julian, the fellow teacher of Elliot’s leaves his daughter, Jess, with Elliot and his wife, Alma so he can head off to look for his wife who he has lost contact with and who was in Princeton.  Elliot, Alma, and Jess continue further into the country with other passengers from the train and their numbers slowly dwindle as more are infected by the airborne toxin.  Every time it approaches the wind picks up violently.  Eventually it is only Elliot, Alma, and Jess left and they seek refuge in a remote house in the country owned by a suspicious old lady.  The old lady ends up going mad and killing herself and Elliot, Alma, and Jess are able to hide from the attack that Elliot has now conjectured is nature getting its revenge.  It subsides and those left alive in the US are faced with a new world.  The film then leaves us with the phenomena starting over in France.

When I heard about the idea for the story, I thought that there could be potential for it.  Nature taking its revenge is an interesting idea and with what they teased in the trailers, basically the Central Park scene, it looks like it could be a creepy film.  However, the acting in this film is so terrible and the story ends up matching it with how bad it is, it doesn’t hold up.  Mark Wahlberg, who has given some very good performances before, completely fails at being a school teacher who is worried about his marriage.  He comes off like Robert Langdon from Dan Brown’s books: The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons, as someone who can do no wrong and he ends up just ticking you off as you watch him.  Zooey Deschanel plays his wife and gives an equally as putrid performance.  She always plays the nice girl and it is hard to put her in a situation where she is cheating on her husband as she again plays the role as the nice girl, there is also no believable panic from her when the phenomena is coming for them.  Her emotions are so closely and sweetly reigned in that her performance fails.  The rest of the performances are basically as unbearable.  John Leguizamo is probably the best thing the film has going for it in terms of performances and he has minimal screen time as Julian.  Wahlberg, Deschanel, and Ashlyn Sanchez dominate the screen time, Sanchez as Jess, and a kid actor can’t carry the film or counteract the phoned in performance by Wahlberg and Deschanel.

Visually there are a couple of good scenes, mainly the opening Central Park scene that is a little bit creepy.  After that the poor acting takes over and the deaths are so contrived and poorly executed that they fail to send a shiver up your spine.  I’ve seen PG-13 films that have more terrifying death scenes then this film.  M. Night Shyamalan fails to get anything from his talent, and normally he is able to build up suspense, even in The Village he does this fairly well, but there is no suspense in this film.  I think most likely Shyamalan needs to get off his high horse as a writer/director and allow someone else to write for him and simply direct.

Overall this film doesn’t offer anything.  It might be worth spending the time to watch the opening sequence, but that is about it.  The acting and story are so bad that it has passed the point of being funny bad and is just bad.  Shyamalan is past his prime, so if you want to watch one of his films, I recommend Unbreakable instead as the only really good work that he put out.

Entertainment Grade: D-

Critical Grade: D

Overall Grade: D-