Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Roost (2005)

This is exactly why horror movie blogs should exist: I catch wind of a movie called The House of the Devil on The Last Blog on the Left (thanks, Bo), I read a post about Ti West on The Horror Effect (thanks, Becky), I skim some brutally honest reviews on Horror Movie a Day (thanks, BC), and I decide to check out West's work for myself. All the blogs out here work together to do more than just share excitement for horror movies; they spread the word, create awareness, generate curiosity. And no blog is really "better" than the other. In this case, all the different perspectives, ranging from one side of the spectrum to the other, effectively piqued my interest, and I added West's films to my Netflix queue, excited to see how they'd work for me.

I decided to throw out the rating system this time and just bandy some Goods and Bads around:
  1. Bad: Yes, there are problems with pacing, especially if you're ADHD.
  2. Good: No lame big-budget Hollywood gloss (Kodak 16mm motion picture film).
  3. Bad: A "car wreck" scene that just might be worse than the "car wreck" in Grace.
  4. Good: West has a unique style that I'm thinking the down-time contributes to (...rethinking apply "bad" to #1).
  5. Good: West enjoys making movies so much that the excitement reaches the viewer.
  6. Neither Good Nor Bad (on the heels of #5): Some viewers are seeing the movie as something they could easily do and thus deriding it. I challenge these naysayers to get out there and give it a shot.
  7. Good (on the heels of #6): I have a new appreciation for ultra low-budget indie horror that Paranormal Activity didn't incite.
  8. Good (on the heels of #7): There are also those who are getting inspired, and realizing that they can accomplish that movie they've always wanted to make! For this same reason I cannot hate Harry Potter or Twilight books: they are, after all, however shallow they may be, inspiring people to read again!
  9. Good: I have Trigger Man (2007), Cabin Fever 2 (2009), and The House of the Devil (2009) to look forward to.
  10. Great: Ti West's quote on his Facebook fan page!
As you can see, the Goods outweigh the Bads. I can't help but enjoy the product of someone who loves what they do, and it will be exciting for all of us to follow West's career. Looking forward to Trigger Man, next!

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Saw VI (2009)

Rating: B
To be a sixth installment, this wasn't bad. Visually stimulating throughout and laden with current events (e.g. healthcare reform, loan defaulting, etc.), which I found to be quite amusing. I also got my wish after drowning in the exposition of Saw V: VI does contain flashbacks and plot-thickening, but not as exhaustively. The only real fault I found was in the movie's twist-per-scene structure, especially toward the end (of course). It's as if the filmmakers decided, Okay, everyone loves Saw because of the cool twist at the end of the first one, so we'll just add as many twists as we can and hope one triggers that same awe. Well, unfortunately, the "twists" get old. Unless you have a structure to support a twist-per-scene, e.g. Memento, the "twists" will become tiresome.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pandorum (2009)

Rating: B+
* Audio commentary coming soon!
A movie I've been immensely excited about for months, Pandorum is entertaining from start to finish. Instead of allowing the middle act to sag under the dead weight of inflated exposition, the pace remains intense. I've seen a lot of reviews comparing Pandorum to Event Horizon and Aliens, and while I agree to some extent (space crafts, hyper-sleep, unknown predators) this movie is its own offering to the same subgenres. And what is it that it offers? It's clearly a psychological-sci-fi-horror-action-kung-fu-thriller-chiller-creature-feature!

The only major letdown was the premature unveiling of the creatures. This is the same problem (among many others) I had with The Village. A lot of suspense is built around the unknown predator: What is that noise in the ventilation ducts? What was that dark silhouette that just flashed by in the corridor? If we, the audience, haven't seen the creature yet, out imaginations are free to run wild with the fear of the unknown. Show us the creatures right off the bat and you have a hard time building suspense with one of your movie's main threats. In the vein of The Descent, however, Pandorum does effectively evoke some claustrophobia with the cramped ventilation ducts!

Don't cast Dennis Quaid in this type of movie ever again. Ben Foster was fine whenever he didn't have to interact with Quaid, but together the two were rigid and awkward and only partially excused by their constant reiteration of the fact they had just awakened from prolonged hyper-sleep. Once they parted ways and Quaid took a backseat, the acting smoothed out and stopped reminding me of the two main character in the first Saw movie. But perhaps I'm being too hard on Quaid. It's hard for me to set aside the memory of his character in Undercover Blues (1993)--I was 9 and it was a movie about spies and I wanted to be a spy and I thought it was hilarious and it still lives in my heart even though I didn't become a spy!

So, like I said, it's a good, entertaining film that blends sci-fi, action, and horror. I had the luxury of watching it with the volume as loud as I wanted, which I highly recommend. The movie utilizes sound effects more than it does visual effects (I am not even counting the lame creatures, save for the child toward the end), and succeeds in keeping the viewer on edge with even the most perfunctory of sounds. Forget about Event Horizon, forget about Aliens, forget about The Descent; enjoy Pandorum as Pandorum. Just don't expect anything spectacular as far as effects or anything new as far as psychological probing based on the title of the movie.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Session 9 (2001)

Rating: C
I've been seeing a lot of positive reviews on Session 9, and since psychological horror movies are my favorite I didn't hesitate. Unfortunately it was below average (a C, actually) not only for a psychological thriller but for a horror movie in general. Devoid of camp, special effects, musical stings, and the multitude of other gimmicks horror movies usually employ, the movie relies upon subtlety and suspense to grip its audience. The subtlety caused this to be a two-part viewing for me--I couldn't get past the hour mark on my first attempt; and the suspense consists of no more than a few excessive, overplayed red herrings. The last ten minutes do pick up, however, but the "twist" fails on two counts: (1) it reaches past the limited pathos established by the preceding seventy-five minutes, and (2) it reuses a tactic utilized by countless psychological movies. For what it is, it doesn't do a bad job; it just does no more than a mundane job.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

The Children (2008)

Rating: D-
Because a rating of F is reserved for the true dregs of the barrel, I chose a D-. As much as I tried and tried to think of something, anything that could redeem this movie for me, I couldn't find it. Terrible on so many levels. Is there a good movie in the Ghost House Underground lineup?

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Rating: B+
It's amazing how well this movie holds up. The first time I watched this was seventeen years ago when I was eight. It wasn't scary this time around, but it was still a lot of fun. The transformation scene remains visually satisfying despite advances in special effects. The lead, played by David Naughton, was a perfect choice, as was Jenny Agutter. Watching this movie again reminded me that I need to watch more werewold movies, so, next up in this category: American Werewolf in Paris (available on Netflix Instant Viewing), The Howling, and Dog Soldiers. What else can I say? Oh yeah, All Hail John Landis!

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Halloween II (2009)

Rating: A
Vehemently derided by the majority of viewers, Zombie's re-imagining of Halloween is a movie that has made waves to say the least, and I'm probably going to lose a lot of [whatever the equivalent of street credit is to blogs] for posting this. I, Chris, hereby unabashedly proclaim that I enjoyed this film from start to finish. With each successive film, Zombie has shown his maturity as a director. I was never bored, and I enjoyed the new dimensions he added to the film where he could have produced yet another remake.

My positive experience is arguably due to two major factors: (1) I had only seen/heard panned reviews since its theatrical release, thus lowering expectations; and (2) I set aside the original franchise and viewed Zombie's take as its own entity. The editing shows that Zombie was pressed for time, uninterested in making the remake altogether. However, the clipped editing of the film appeals to something inside of me (ADHD?). I love the extensive surreal sequences, the psychological symbolism, and Lori's mental deterioration. The score is equally pleasing, though I still like the score from Inside and High Tension best!

One complaint I'm seeing a lot of is that this movie isn't scary like the original. It's hard for me to accept/use this as a substantive argument against the film. Most of the said reviewers watched the originals as kids for one thing, so of course it will not appear to be as scary. In fact, it's hard for any horror movie to be scary once you've grown up, which is quite sad actually. The only way recent horror movies have successfully affected viewers is by trying new tricks, à la Martyrs, Paranormal Activity. Now, this isn't to say that I think Zombie made the second one scarier, but I appreciate his bravery for stepping outside of the true-to-the-original remake.

Almost all other complaints stem from comparisons to the original franchise. BC of Horror Movie a Day has written an exhaustive review of the movie. I agree with almost all of his points, but my ultimate decision is not ambivalent. As BC has shown, this movie easily provokes a lot of discussion. With such an ending, for example, interpretations abound--I'm not even sure Zombie knows exactly what he was getting at, which is awesome. Reminds me of Lamberto Bava's commentary to Demons when the helicopter falls through the roof ("I don't know what's going on here").

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Thursday, January 14, 2010


I would like to thank the bloggers (below) who saw this site fit to receive an award. Receiving these awards lets me know that people other than my proud mother look at this blog (My son can make things on the Internet, she boasts to her friends). Unfortunately, grad school has recently gotten the best of my time, and I'm severely ADD, which keeps me from being able to read and follow instructions most of the time. So let the following list of notable blogs suffice!

Bloggers from whom I received awards:

The Jaded Reviewer - Not only does The Jaded Reviewer save all of us a lot of time by aggregating various lists across a multitude of blogs, this blogger has an outstanding format for reviews!

Hayes Hudson's House of Horror - A word to describe this blogger is zeal. Zombie Hayes does neat giveaways, and you can feel the energy in each informative post!

B-Movie Becky - Knowledgeable. Clever. Talented. Humorous. The first post I ever read on Becky's blog was a CAPS review for Splinter, and I've been hooked ever since!

Other blogs I would send an award to if I set aside my raging narcissism and took time to recognize the efforts of others

Last Blog on the Left
I Like Horror Movies
Horror Movie a Day
Tower Farm Reviews
Day of the Woman
Gore Gore Girl

If you aren't listed here, send me a link to your blog so I can check it out. So far, every blog I've scoped out has been better than the waste I pump into the blogosphere.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Final Destination (2009)

Rating: C-
Final Destination 4; Final Destination: Death Trip. Another franchise that gets worse with each successive installment, yet my love for the first one compels me to keep watching. The only reason I didn't rate this lower was because it managed to amuse me at times, e.g. making fun of the fact that it was another 3D movie, the coffee shop named "Death by Caffeine" and so on. It also added a new douchebag for everyone to despise. But the movie managed to make 82 minutes feel like an eternity and employed terrible big-budget CGI throughout. Oh, yeah, and a supreme display of terrible acting by (everyone) Shantel VanSanten in particular.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

Rating: B+
Day of the Woman. It's amazing to watch this movie today, as it was truly ahead of its time in 1978. Sure, over-the-top violence was on the market, but not in the same vein. The vein I'm talking about is realism or naturalism, which this movie aspires to portray. Though it is what it is, exploitation, female depravity, hard to watch; there is some good food for thought concerning base male sexuality (and how to deal with it). And, if you don't want to think too much, the movie offers plenty of delightful visuals, especially the tastefully implied visuals, e.g. the infamous bathtub scene!

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Opera (1987)

Rating: A
Ah, the giallo. A classy Italian slasher. And no one does it better than Mr. Argento. Opera is pure Argento with a mysterious killer, trademark POV shots, and the injection of loud 80s music intense sequences. It also throws in some creative camerawork, such as the heart-beat effect and a lot of nice close-ups (loved the necklace retrieval gag and the bullet through the peep hole gag). Though not quite on the level of Suspiria or Deep Red, Opera is a great entry in the Argento canon.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2007)

Rating: B+
Well, well, well! Thank you, Netflix, for providing me with the most enjoyable instant viewing selection to date. If there's one thing I've learned from watching horror-comedies it's that it isn't easy to pull the genre off. Specifically, it's hard to elicit genuine laughter. But Behind the Mask tackles this nearly insurmountable feat brilliantly! Cheers to Nathan Baesel for a top notch performance. You don't necessarily have to be a slasher franchise connoisseur to enjoy this one, but it helps add to the fun. The only reason it didn't receive an A+ is become it began to lose its charm toward the end.

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The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Rating: A-
From the twisted mind of Clive Barker comes a highly entertaining thriller that spills plenty of crimson, often in creative ways. Bradley Cooper should stick with comedy (Wedding Crashers, The Hangover), but Barker's story rescues the movie from minor acting degradation. The movie also managed to remain interesting for the duration. I never found myself bored.

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