Author Topic: Jon's Horror-thon 2010  (Read 9304 times)

Najemikon

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Jon's Horror-thon 2010
« on: October 10, 2010, 09:25:47 PM »
Yes, I finally have reviews ready to post! Slow to start, but I'll have a few in here soon...  :-[

Najemikon

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The Box
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2010, 09:30:31 PM »
The Box
4 out of 5



Press the button and get a million dollars, but someone whom you don't know will die. This is the offer given to Norma and Arthur, an ordinary decent couple played by Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, by the mysterious Arlington Steward (Frank Langella).

The question "What would you do?" will ring in your ears as you witness that their decision is just the beginning. Based on a short story by the writer of I AM LEGEND and from the director of DONNIE DARKO, The Box takes you on a tense, gripping and totally unpredictable ride as the couple realise that they are part of something greater and far more terrifying than they could ever have imagined.


The Box is a great idea, a genius premise, but more importantly, a great story with believable characters. Richard Matheson’s original chiller was just six pages long, published in Playboy, and Richard Kelly has done a good job in expanding it, although the tone of thing tends to shift. That’s the problem with a lot of films like this; they come up with some genius idea, but usually one that can’t stand a feature length running time or end satisfyingly. Whether you will believe The Box succeeds where others fail, I can’t really say. Certainly the response in general has been poor, but I think it’s a damn good try and I enjoyed it. You end up with a drama, running through with an atmosphere similar to both The Body Snatchers and Close Encounters of The Third Kind. Certainly it is sci-fi thriller, rather than supernatural horror, albeit with a great deal taken on faith for the viewer.

The genius idea in this case is that a regular couple, Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (James Marsden) are sent a package. It is simply a box with a button. The following evening Norma is visited by a sharply dressed gentleman, Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), who tells her that if she and her husband decide to push the button, someone they don’t know will die. They will also receive one million dollars.

The problem at this point is convincing us that this couple are regular and would be able to weigh the decision, but that’s tough. Norma is told that she will be losing her position as a school teacher, while Arthur finds out he has failed his astronaut test. But he still works at NASA, for goodness sake! Also Norma has a deformed foot and they were banking on surgery to fix it. Well, if a NASA engineer can’t fund that, who the hell can? They aren’t exactly suffering.

But at the same time, it’s the emotional truth of these characters that will keep you watching beyond the thrill of their awful Indecent Proposal style predicament. You might not be able to sympathise with them needing the cash, but their story is solid and personal to Richard Kelly, which makes up for a lack of Donnie Darko audacity. He set it in the 70s and the story ties in with NASA’s work exploring Mars and this was his childhood era. The “making of” documentary on the disc is well worth seeing, because he modelled the couple on his own parents; his dad was a NASA engineer involved with the camera that sent pictures back from Mars, his mum was a school teacher and she did have a deformed foot caused by an x-ray accident as the film proposes. Also, his dad did use NASA facilities to make her a prosthetic to aid her walking. It’s beautifully told with optimism and style and benefits from essentially being real.

Cameron Diaz is great as Norma, especially in the scene where she appeals to Arlington by saying she understands what it is to live with a disfigurement (it’s moments like that provide the real substance). She doesn’t get enough roles like this, but it must be fun for any actor to explore a serious role in such a throwaway b-movie. James Marsden also does well as the husband who is determined to uncover the conspiracy that Arlington is at the centre of. And Frank Langella is the films mysterious anchor as Arlington. He is always worth watching.

By the end, you may feel the twists in their predicament too wild or not convincing enough, and bordering on sadistic simply because it’s obvious, but if you stick with it, I think you will be rewarded. The Big Idea that Kelly has expanded the original story into is not wholly original, but the story is committed to it and it might make you think. Plus it's unpredictable method of delivering the story makes it interesting. Considering where it starts from and what you might have been expecting, that’s a mark of a good film.

Offline Jimmy

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Re: The Box
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2010, 09:36:39 PM »
Press the button and get a million dollars, but someone whom you don't know will die.

The question "What would you do?
This is supposed to be a question hard to answer? Who care if someone I don't know die, thousands of people I don't know die everyday and I don't get a million dollars...

OK now I'll read your review :whistle:

Najemikon

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Buried
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2010, 09:39:06 PM »
Buried
3 out of 5



Paul is a U.S. contractor working in Iraq. After an attack by a group of Iraqis he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter and a cell phone it's a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap.

Buried is a very clever film and brilliantly made. Ryan Reynolds is fantastic, proving what a great actor he truly is. His delivery of the script makes sure there is humour in what is a very bleak premise. Also, to say we are trapped with Reynolds inside the coffin, Rodrigo Cortés inventive direction is never lazy. It is at once a masterclass in film technique and bursting with originality too.

The problem is, it just isn’t scary and the claustrophobia of the story –the very reason it has been made this way- ultimately throttles the potential. I can’t think of anything to compare it with, except the CSI episode directed by Quentin Tarantino (Grave Danger), which in one sense was easier because it employed characters the viewers already knew well, in another sense it was less ambitious because it used all of those characters freely and took the pressure off the victim, but the acid test was the nail-biting suspense. For all its technical endeavour, Buried just didn’t grab me the same way. It does have its moments and there is a truly awesome one before the last act.
 
After the first few panic fuelled minutes, it becomes apparent Buried does have a few tricks up its sleeve and the plot is more open than I expected. To say it can only be effectively driven by Ryan, it really is very inventive. However, it then has to commit to its ideas and it just doesn’t gel. I can honestly say the ending wasn’t predictable, but it was only not predictable because it had no connection with the audience. Ryan as Paul can communicate with various people on a mobile phone and he gathers a handful of names that become essential to the conclusion... but mean nothing to us whatsoever. What was a potential conspiracy comes off as contrived, which is a shame.

I expected to be terrified! After the first act, I thought I’d underestimated it and it had more to say than a simple thriller, with political and moral tones coming to the fore, but by the end it was rather flat. Still worth seeing for the originality and sheer entertainment, just don’t expect too much.

Who the hell am I to say though? The film is getting exceptional reviews, so maybe I just missed something.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2010, 09:44:07 PM by Jon »

Najemikon

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Re: The Box
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2010, 09:41:26 PM »
Press the button and get a million dollars, but someone whom you don't know will die.

The question "What would you do?
This is supposed to be a question hard to answer? Who care if someone I don't know die, thousands of people I don't know die everyday and I don't get a million dollars...

OK now I'll read your review :whistle:

 :laugh:

I thought exactly the same, Jimmy. I joked, that damn button would be pressed before Mr. Langella finished his sentence. :devil: But the plot is quite fiendish in that respect, summed up neatly in a single line. I don't want to say, because it is a sharp moment in a rather cosy film overall.

Suffice to say, I would think on it. A lot. :fingerchew:

Offline Jimmy

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Re: Jon's Horror-thon 2010
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2010, 09:45:21 PM »
Of course I wouldn't want to know who it was after... maybe it's the catch? There always a catch, nothing is never free in real life :weep:

Offline Achim

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Re: Jon's Horror-thon 2010
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2010, 07:42:00 AM »
For me the plot of "The Box" is only enough to fill the space of a 30min TV episode, which I believe it previously did (maybe even the Twilight Zone).

Maybe/hopefully this is not how it ended (or at least more sophisticated), but it's the only thing that makes sense to me:
(click to show/hide)

Najemikon

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Re: Jon's Horror-thon 2010
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2010, 05:47:26 PM »
That is in there, Achim, and is part of the killer line I mentioned earlier however it isn't even halfway in the plot as I remember. Quite clever really, but this is what I meant in the review; it's almost as if there are two stories running parallel. You have the simple Twilight Zone style premise and then the drama of who the couple are and more importantly, who the mysterious man is and what is he doing.

Regardless of whether you like the end result (and Kelly does divide opinion), he has fleshed it out without it feeling like padding.

Najemikon

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Night of The Living Dead (1968) ****
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2010, 07:54:24 PM »
Night of The Living Dead
4 out of 5



Gritty, daring and trailblazing, George A Romero's 1968 masterpiece NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made. It's spawned numerous sequels, a colour remake and is the direct inspiration for all our modern zombie films, teaching a whole generation that great movies can be made whilst bucking the traditional studio system.

It’s fun watching Night of The Living Dead on Blu-Ray. For one thing, the quality is excellent, but also this is possibly the first time I have actually seen this film properly!

Due to naivety on original release, the film was not properly protected. Director George Romero helped Tom Savini remake it in the 90s simply so they could finally hold the rights on the title. Meanwhile the original has been re-released a dozen times in various quality and cuts, especially in the UK where the film had been cut anyway. So, I’ve seen grainy, cut, the awful 30th Anniversary extended version (not by Romero), but never the proper original. Here it is.

Even now it’s confusing because there are two Blu-Rays. Avoid the Network version, which despite having the only absolute correct ration, apparently looks terrible and is still cut. This is the Optimum release and looks really good.

But after all the messing around, is it actually worth it? Absolutely yes. It really stands the test of time, clearly a milestone for several reasons and perhaps most importantly, it’s still fun. The low budget is perhaps most obvious in the sometimes clunky acting, but a clever production overall hides it otherwise and Romero’s tight direction makes for claustrophobic and intense action.

The story is a classic set-up of a handful of survivors defending their base (a farmhouse) from being over-run and is a twist on Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Only a year after In The Heat of The Night, we have another black lead in Duane Jones as the resolute and resourceful Ben, the only one who keeps a clear head throughout. Duane is excellent too. The rest of the cast are fine, but largely typical of the era and mood the film embodies, so it's more than possible this was by design, not talent. Despite being released in 1968, Romero chose to film in black and white and the plot unfolds like typical b-movie paranoia of the 50s (not unlike Hitchcock using a 40s style to make a very fresh Psycho in 1960). It sets up a sense of security and makes it easy for the clichés and standards to be gleefully smashed, as well as a handful of moments, which while not gratuitously gory, still make you wince. Apparently Tom Savini found a new lease of life creating fake corpses after all the real horror he saw in Vietnam and that subversively political and bleak tone make the film painfully sharp and potent even today.

Since the 50s at least, it seems American’s make the best films about themselves when they’re bruised, hurting and cynical. Romero used the paranoid tone of the anti-Communist era and freshened it with a big dollop of seething anger, the same anger that might have led to Dirty Harry. It makes the brutal and ironic ending one of the most brilliant of all time, enforced by the credit sequence made to look like typical photojournalism. The message to the audience was clear.

And the really cool thing? It’s help the film attain a cult status, enjoyed by generations since who don’t understand why the film was made, they just like awesome zombie action! Shaun’s Granddad still has a bit of a kick. ;)
« Last Edit: October 17, 2010, 07:56:04 PM by Jon »

Najemikon

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The House of the Devil ****
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2010, 08:45:37 PM »
House of The Devil
4 out of 5



Master of horror Ti West invites you to experience the most blood-curdling night of terror and suspense you have ever witnessed.

Sam is a pretty college sophomore and so desperate to earn some cash for a deposit on an apartment that she accepts a babysitting job with the sinister Ulmans.

But after discovering no baby exists in the household, Sam realises the Ulmans have lured her to their diabolical mansion deep in the woods. Left alone in the house, something stirs in the rooms high above Sam. Outside, as a lunar eclipse begins, it soon becomes clear that she will end this night in a bloody fight for her life with whatever bone chilling horror is locked in the house with her.

Acclaimed across the world as an unrelenting, unforgettable journey into the darkest realms of fear itself, The House Of The Devil will make you pray for the dawn.


After seeing the intriguing trailer which revealed such an authentic attention to detail in creating an 80s set thriller that my first thought was “why have I never heard of this film?”, The House Of The Devil is basically a disappointment. I may have set my expectations too high, but actually, it is a very good film indeed. It just doesn’t pack any punch so in the end, you might want to like it, you might even tell others they should try it because it’s so bloody good! But ask yourself if you can remember much from it a day later and if you can be bothered to watch it again. The story is too obvious and there is no real hook to grab you. I hope I will be bothered to see it again and I hope to find what it is I clearly missed this time around.

The setup is very creepy from the first frame (echoes of Halloween), with the story set on a lonely campus (this is a very small cast really) during a cold Autumn and beautifully photographed in stark tones. It has a wonderful tone throughout, especially during the night-time drive to the house and as should always be the case, that house is a character all in itself.

But the real life of the film is all in the cast. Jocelin as Samantha is gorgeous and perfect for making you believe this is the 1980s. Her sparky performance will keep you watching throughout and a stand-out scene is simply her enthusiastic dancing while exploring the house alone and listening to her Walkman (complete with cheap orange headphones!). She’s been left there by reliably smooth and creepy Tom Noonan, along with his wife, played by Mary Woronov, who is perfect in a small scene where she essentially grooms Samantha. Just brilliantly effective.

Despite the commitment to mood, the hard work of the cast and the lean script, your perception of this film will possibly rest entirely on a sharp shift into the last act Where All The Horror Is Revealed(!). For one thing, the suspense which had been building steadily, for me, was suddenly undone. I can see why it was done like that, I just think it was too sharp. Plus that final denouement was so obvious. I can think of a couple of other very famous films that have done it and if I just mention their names, you would immediately realise what the story is, even if you haven’t seen them!

That’s a shame, and if you feel I’m kind of side-stepping the issue, it’s because I’m well aware that critically this film has been a huge success. I’m wondering what it is I missed! Also, fans of the film have been quite vicious on other forums (well, it is the Internet!); the film has seriously captured some people’s imagination, the thirst for a properly made thriller was so great. I can understand frustration that modern audiences will be bored by the lack of MTV editing and not having music cues that bash you over the head, but still, suspense is defined by the result and declaring everyone who dislikes the film a brain-dead moron is a bit much.

My problem is that I guessed the outcome early on and I was hoping for a surprise. When it didn’t come, I was happy to settle for a solid production which squeezed all the potential out of the setup. After all, guessing an ending should never detract from the enjoyment, but that didn’t happen either. This film looks like it could have come out the same week as The Brood, but it has none of Cronenberg’s madness. It could have also been out the same week as Halloween, but there’s definitely no Michael.

Ti West directed Cabin Fever 2 before this. It’s hardly a good thing to have on your CV and Pete has given a recent, typical review of that movie. The House of The Devil is a beautiful, stunning piece of work that doesn’t deserve to be compared to crap like that. Ti West has defied the odds and proved to be a genuine talent. The only thing wrong with this film is how you perceive its naivety. How it was made is beyond criticism. This is a three star movie disguised as a five star modern classic.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2010, 08:47:25 PM by Jon »

Offline Achim

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Re: The House of the Devil ****
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2010, 09:43:52 PM »
After seeing the intriguing trailer which revealed such an authentic attention to detail in creating an 80s set thriller that my first thought was “why have I never heard of this film?”, The House Of The Devil is basically a disappointment. I may have set my expectations too high, but actually, it is a very good film indeed. It just doesn’t pack any punch so in the end, you might want to like it, you might even tell others they should try it because it’s so bloody good! But ask yourself if you can remember much from it a day later and if you can be bothered to watch it again. The story is too obvious and there is no real hook to grab you. I hope I will be bothered to see it again and I hope to find what it is I clearly missed this time around.
I just watched this yesterday myself! While I hadn't seen the trailer I had read several enthusiastic reviews. I came out of it with the same feelings as you.

I don't mind the slow build up, Halloween was all the better for it, there just wasn't enough pay-off for the long wait.  When at the 75min still next to nothing had happened my friend asked if I was sure it's only 95min long :slaphead:

The 70s style is perfectly recreated, and I loved the first 30min especially for that. But then came the long wait for something to happen... The last third has one very scary scene in it and then there's the end, leaving the audience wonder what just happened.

Some of the other older films you refer to also build up super slow to their end, but I guess their are soemwhat creepier along the way? Or are we already too used to the mechanics of this that it's become too stale? I think it's to a bid part because we do know these older films, that this one has to fail, because the surprises are no longer there.

Najemikon

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Re: The House of the Devil ****
« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2010, 11:30:08 PM »
I don't mind the slow build up, Halloween was all the better for it, there just wasn't enough pay-off for the long wait.  When at the 75min still next to nothing had happened my friend asked if I was sure it's only 95min long :slaphead:

I'd forgotten, that is exactly how I was feeling. I was thinking to myself, yeah, this is a pretty cool setup, but they seem to be spending an awfully long time getting to where I know they're going to end up... bloody hell, is that the time??!!??  :suicide:

Have you ever watched Red Dwarf? They had a joke with Rimmer trying to pass his engineering exam. He would spend so long perfecting the best way to revise, with colour coded calendars and the like, that he would actually run out of time to revise and would fail the exam! Ti West has clearly spent so long developing the film with considerable ability and talent, but he forgot to actually have a point.

Some of the other older films you refer to also build up super slow to their end, but I guess their are soemwhat creepier along the way? Or are we already too used to the mechanics of this that it's become too stale? I think it's to a bid part because we do know these older films, that this one has to fail, because the surprises are no longer there.

There is a right way to tell a story and a wrong way. Those films had stories that would work just as well today if they started from scratch. House of the Devil just needed... "oomph"!

I often think of Day of the Dead as containing one of the most gruesome, awful scenes in horror. After the zombies have overrun the facility, the camera lazily pans around for a few moments, revealing the terrible result. It's only for a few moments, but very effective. We'd waited all the way through the film and there had been some horrific stuff, to be fair, but that moment just captured the whole film for me. Another example is the girls eyes at the end of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's a glimpse into a level of madness we couldn't have imagined.

He needed a moment like that in the switch at least. An enthusiastic wallowing in truly terrifying horror, then the story might have worked better overall. Horror is about undermining preconceptions, so if you're going to do a story the audience will likely recognise, no problem, but you need an ace.

The other point is that both Day of the Dead and Texas Chainsaw, along with Halloween, The Brood and others, can get away with a slow build-up because the story has a deeper meaning outside of the film. They represent something in society or ourselves that we fail to confront. It's the filmmakers way of forcing us to accept something. Other films like Scream have no such ambition, but they also have ridiculous set-pieces to keep the pace up.

There isn't any deeper truth to House of the Dead. There's a lesson for potential babysitters. Erm... that's it. And there's no gratuitous fun to keep us entertained.

Offline Achim

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Re: The House of the Devil ****
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2010, 04:25:42 AM »
There is a right way to tell a story and a wrong way. Those films had stories that would work just as well today if they started from scratch. House of the Devil just needed... "oomph"!
Yes! As you go on to describe, it didn't need a 30min climax, just something more surprising or standing out.



Interesting how you managed find less spoilerific examples... Day of the Dead sure is a good one (example). The climax is surprisingly short, but we were offered a few glimpses throughout and the at the end we got all we could ask for.

Najemikon

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Let Me In ****
« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2010, 08:12:16 PM »
Let Me In
4 out of 5



What an infuriating film! It is born of the most cynical of ideas to capitalise on the success of a true modern classic; there is absolutely no excuse for remaking Let The Right One In. Yet they have and it has been crafted to the highest possible standards and I’m sure Matt Reeves at least approached the job properly and aimed to produce something valuable. If not for the pointless reasons it was made at all, this could have been an important contribution to American horror, lying somewhere between The Exorcist and The Omen. There is a huge difference between this and the recent run of remakes based on Asian films, like The Ring and The Eye. Let Me In is worth a dozen of those, seriously.

The first thing to notice, is that Let Me In is a very American film, with a strong social and visual identity, plus genuine justification for being set in the Reagan years (the scene with his speech in the background is clever and not the only time the screenplay finds relevance beyond the considerable capabilities of the Swedish version). Matt Reeves couldn’t have made a more different film to Cloverfield and he demonstrates real skill, choosing a very claustrophobic framing of characters, while using a lot of wide-open compositions for some of the sets. The opening scene is a perfect example and in many ways the film reminded me of Fincher’s Seven. But I’ll stick my neck on the line and say that Reeves promises to be a much more mature director if he can carry this standard through to more original work.
 
In one sense you can see how hard they have worked at this film, because they do exactly what they feel is right for the story. So, some scenes are absolutely identical, while others take a brand new approach. Nothing is done for the sake of sensationalism; what set-pieces there are feel organic to the plot. Take Abby’s transformation, using more CGi than the original. When Achim first mentioned it in his review, I was disappointed, but it’s important to realise how elegant those scenes are done. She doesn’t transform on screen, but raises her eyes to reveal the change in an extreme close-up. It’s breathtaking and seeing how vampires have been done so often that they’ve become a cliché, it is commendable that the original yet traditional twists Let The Right One In provided have been done differently without resorting to Hollywood nonsense. The new transformation does remove one angle of the screenplay which hinted at her real age, but it’s replaced by a cute, if more obvious tweak.

The cast uniformly give a great performance. As with everything, you can’t help but compare with the first one, but in trying to be fair and judging by their own merits, this cast are excellent. Elias Koteas couldn’t give a bad performance if he tried and he invests the down-trodden detective with just the right balance of emotion. Similar is a haunting Richard Jenkins as Abby’s resolute guardian. Abby herself is played by Chloe Moretz who builds on Kick Ass to exploit her impressive range in a more sombre manner. And Kodi Smit-McPhee proves adept at another challenging and emotional role following The Road, as the quiet and lonely Owen. Particularly good are the scenes with his mum (Cara Buono), as she is never seen properly. She is always out of focus or frame, building the emphasis on Owen’s sad childhood.

As if to prove how different this approach is to a normal cash-in remake, consider my only real fault with the film. I found it paced a little too slow! Normally I’d expect such a film to hype the drama.

There is one excuse after all for wanting to make this film and that is in creating a brand for the recently revived Hammer studios. Ironically, even many years ago they started with The Quatermass Xperiment, an arguably unnecessary remake of the BBC series and they made their name with remakes of classic Universal monsters. Their upcoming roster of films is very promising and if they manage to generate more interest and success by being able to stick “from the producers of Let me In” on the posters, then I’ll have another excuse for liking this film as much as I do! I’m ashamed to say I thought it was superb. Bugger. I really wanted to slag them off.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2010, 08:59:55 PM by Jon »

Offline Tom

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Re: Jon's Horror-thon 2010
« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2010, 08:33:27 PM »
Jon, you seem to have put the wrong plot summary there.
I was surprised to see a review by you for this film. Wasn't you the one arguing the most against this movie a while back (or am I remembering it incorrectly)?