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REVIEW – It (2017)

September 16, 2017 Leave a comment
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Produced by: Roy Lee, Dan Lin, Seth Grahame-Smith, David Katzenberg, Barbara Muschietti
Screenplay by: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman
Edited by: Jason Ballantine
Cinematography by: Chung-hoon Chung
Music by: Benjamin Wallfisch
Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, Owen Teague, Stephen Bogaert, Jackson Robert Scott
Based on the novel It by Stephen King
Year: 2017

 

I always seem to preface these types of reviews with this, but it bears remarking again: Horror remakes are rarely successful and rarely a good idea, and the trailers for this 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a transdimensional being taking on the form of a malevolent clown who terrorizes children was looking to be just one more film on the pile of crappy remakes, reboots, and reimaginings we’ve been getting since the turn of the century. The emphasis on jump scares, the hammered-into-your-brain catchphrases, creepy horror children, and the audacity to challenge the immortal Tim Curry’s portrayal from the miniseries with a gritty new take on the clown really didn’t work in the film’s favor. This was particularly worrisome, as the film with the film had been in development hell for approximately six years due to creative conflicts before finally moving forward in production in its final form, releasing two years after that. As someone who had never seen the cheesy 3-hour-long miniseries, let alone read the 1000+ page novel, however, I was at least open to the idea that this could at least provide an easy gateway into a cultural touchstone I really had little prior interest in touching myself. Turns out…I was totally right, but not in the way I thought. Read more…

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REVIEW – Alien: Covenant

May 19, 2017 2 comments
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Produced by: Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam, Michael Schaefer, David Giler, Walter Hill
Screenplay by: John Logan, Dante Harper
Story by: Jack Paglen, Michael Green
Edited by: Pietro Scalia
Cinematography by: Dariusz Wolski
Music by: Jed Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, Demián Bichir, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, Benjamin Rigby
Year: 2017

 

Alien: Covenant has a lot to live up to. Not only does it have to one-up a film that has largely come to be known as (inexplicably) a reviled film, Prometheus, but it must also bridge the gap between that film and one of the more widely respected sci-fi films ever made, Alien, just by taking on a more direct title, thus negating any “it’s just a side story” hand waving should it fail to live up to the standard of the first two films. Personally, I’m with everyone else in considering Alien and Aliens to be masterpieces, but I also think that the hate reserved for Alien 3 and Prometheus is largely overblown, too. (Resurrection and the AvP films can pretty much just go to hell, though.) As such, while I was certainly hoping for a masterpiece in Covenant, I also realize that this was probably never going to come to pass, and so I also had my expectations set accordingly – and had a pretty good time as a result, it turns out. Read more…

REVIEW – Gremlins

December 25, 2016 Leave a comment
gremlinsDirected by: Joe Dante
Produced by: Michael Finnell
Written by: Chris Columbus
Edited by: Tina Hirsch
Cinematography by: John Hora
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Francess Lee McCain, Corey Feldman, Dick Miller, Judge Reinhold, Glynn Turman, Polly Holliday, Keye Luke, Frank Welker, Howie Mandel
Year: 1984

 

Don’t expose them to bright lights. Do not get them wet. And never, ever feed them after midnight. The three rules about owning a mogwai are pretty well-known, even to people like me, who went a couple decades of their lives before seeing either of the Gremlins films – one of the most often cited Christmas films for people who don’t want a traditional Christmas film – much like Die Hard or even last year’s Krampus, itself kind of an adult Gremlins. I wasn’t allowed to see this movie growing up – the combination of monsters, magic, and the fact that it was a horror film were pretty critical factors in that. And probably in a lot of other kids’ lives, too, since it was a major reason why the PG-13 rating was created. Alongside Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, due to their scarier and more violent content than the usual PG-rated film, Steven Spielberg collaborated with the MPAA and created a rating between PG and R due to the films he was producing. I only ever got around to seeing it as an adult – not, mind you, because my mom told me I couldn’t all my life (that had long since passed, even as a kid). I just never got around to it until then! Luckily, I think I’ve held on to my inner child… Read more…

REVIEW – The Evil Dead

October 31, 2016 Leave a comment
The Evil DeadDirected by: Sam Raimi
Produced by: Robert Tapert
Written by: Sam Raimi
Edited by: Edna Ruth Paul
Cinematography by: Tim Philo
Music by: Joseph LoDuca
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Hal Delrich (Richard DeManincor), Betsy Baker, Sarah York (Theresa Tilly)
Based on the short film Within the Woods by Sam Raimi
Year: 1981

 

“Cult classic.” That’s the best way to describe something like The Evil Dead, a low budget horror flick that’s just this side of camp, to the point that you’re not entirely certain whether it’s intentional or not. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, for instance, is obviously trying to be campy. The original version of The Last House on the Left? Not so much, but it’s got quite a bit of camp value, despite (or, more likely, because of) its disturbing subject matter. The Evil Dead has all the hallmarks of camp, and yet, because it’s so earnest, it’s also easy to believe that director Sam Raimi was, in fact, trying to make a genuinely terrifying horror film that just kind of got away from him. If you know anything about the strenuous shoot, for example, you can see where the earnestness comes in. Most of the crew was confined to the remote Tennessee cabin location for several weeks, and Raimi purposely mistreated his actors to get them into the proper mood for a horror film, for example. There’s a very good chance that The Evil Dead was, in fact, meant to be a scary horror film that instead came together in the editing as the ambiguously humorous production that it ended up being – something that its sequels and spin-off series embraced more wholeheartedly. Read more…

REVIEW – Darkroom (2013)

October 22, 2016 Leave a comment
Darkroom (2013)Directed by: Britt Napier
Produced by: Britt Napier, Ron Stein
Written by: Michaelbrent Collings
Edited by: David Leonard, Jim Mol
Cinematography by: Frederic Fasano
Music by: Anthony Lledo
Starring: Kaylee DeFer, Elisabeth Röhm, Christian Campbell, Tobias Segal, Geneva Carr, Britne Oldford, Natalie Knepp
Year: 2013

 

Alright, so let’s get this point out of the way before I begin discussing this movie: Yes, I went to school with the star of this movie. I did not, however, know her very well, and I didn’t even have many of the same classes as her during the time she was there, and so I am in no way claiming to know intimate knowledge – and, even if I did, I wouldn’t divulge, because I am not writing for a gossip rag, and I am not a shitty person. That being said, it’s still kind of weird knowing that I very briefly crossed paths with someone in such a tiny school (43 people or so in my graduating class – she moved halfway through high school, so there’s that, too) who went on to be a recognizable actress. Not the biggest, mind you, but she had a prominent enough role in Gossip Girl for a couple seasons (I didn’t watch it, but I know I’m not the only person who watches things), and she once played Michael Rappaport’s daughter in a shortlived Fox sitcom called The War at Home, wherein she kissed Seth MacFarlane. He apparently remembered her well enough to invite her to do some voice acting on Family Guy. Heck, she was even one half of an actually crucial puzzle piece in Ted meeting the mother on How I Met Your Mother. That’s not unimpressive at all! So, yeah, there are people who will point at her and say, “I recognize her!” and so it’s still a noteworthy anecdote from my life (and anyone’s lives, really, from our class), especially considering that I once briefly played one of the gravediggers from Romeo and Juliet alongside her in our freshman year of high school for a school assignment – during which I cut my hand pretty badly on the jagged metal pipe I was using as a prop shovel. No wonder which one of us went on to act for a living and which went on to merely talk about people acting… for a hobby. Read more…

REVIEW – The Final Girls

October 15, 2016 1 comment
The Final GirlsDirected by: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Produced by: Michael London, Janice Williams
Written by: M.A. Fortin, Joshua John Miller
Edited by: Debbie Berman
Cinematography by: Elie Smolkin
Music by: Gregory James Jenkins
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Åkerman, Adam DeVine, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch, Nina Dobrev, Alexander Ludwig, Angela Trimbur, Tory N. Thompson, Chloe Bridges, Daniel Norris
Year: 2015

 

It’s almost a cliché by now that horror films will inevitably mock themselves, if not outright be more mock than shock. (That was terribly trite, I know, as is mocking your own writing, but, whatever – I’m keeping it.) Thanks in large part to Scream (and, yes, to a lesser extent, fellow Wes Craven film predecessor New Nightmare), the genre, more than almost any other, has become somewhat replete with meta-commentary about horror film structure and clichés, and so it takes something pretty special to make that whole shtick interesting again. The Final Girls, with its meta-to-the-nth-degree title, is one of those special films that rises above the pack because it brings something new to the table: sincerity. Where most other films seem content to take the cerebral route, horror comedy The Final Girls takes the emotional route and presents a story with a surprising amount of heart and emotion – one that’s also, more importantly, surprisingly effective. Read more…

REVIEW – Audition (オーディション)

October 8, 2016 Leave a comment
auditionDirected by: Takashi Miike
Produced by: Satoshi Fukushima, Akemi Suyama
Screenplay by: Daisuke Tengan
Edited by: Yasushi Shimamura
Cinematography by: Hideo Yamamoto
Music by: Koji Endo
Starring: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Jun Kunimura, Renji Ishibashi, Tetsu Sawaki, Miyuki Matsuda, Toshie Negishi, Shigeru Saiki, Ken Mitsuishi, Ren Ohsugi
Year: 1999

 

“Kiri, kiri, kiri…”

For years, this movie remained a source of almost profound morbid curiosity for me. When it was available on Netflix’s streaming service, I put it there almost immediately, and yet it sat in my queue for what seems like years (and probably was). The woman with an ominous syringe in her black-gloved hand in the artwork seemingly looked down upon me for my cowardice for being far too frightened to just hit “Play” and see what she intends to do with it. I’d heard about the film and even read some vague commentary on its premise, but I’d managed to avoid spoilers for the most part, and I never really had the full picture as a result. Most of what I’d heard surrounded the film’s sudden shift in tone and allusions to the shocking and disturbing imagery that awaited viewers who worked up the courage to follow through in their own viewing experience. Read more…

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