Friday, August 26, 2011

Carrie (1976)

Sissy Spacek was absolutely the perfect choice for this adaptation of Stephen King's debut novel. Her performance was repugnant and charming, often at the same time. I felt terrible for her but I was horrified of her. In the end, though, I was rooting her on. Brian De Palma didn't waste any frames on this one; and the pacing of the final climactic prom scene creates whiteknuckled tension. Extra points for the effect of the car going backwards in the dream sequence!

Monday, August 22, 2011

BOOK: Shock Value (2011)

Just finished Jason Zinoman's book Shock Value, and I'm thoroughly satisfied with my experience. Zinoman's goal is to locate, trace, and analyze the transition from Old Horror (the costume dramas of Frankenstein, Dracula, etc., dominated by Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, et al.) to the New Horror. He uses Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho to define the inception of this transition to modern horror, and Targets (1968) as a killing-off of the Old Horror. From there, Zinoman dissects the innovation and progression of modern horror with Rosemary's Baby, The Last House on the Left, The Exorcist, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween, Carrie, Alien, and others. But more than just a history of modern horror films, the more intriguing, entertaining element of Shock Value is its abundance of anecdotes and bric-à-brac of behind-the-scenes tidbits taken from numerous interviews. Definitely a must-read for any horror fan.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Zombie (1979)

Also known as Zombi 2, this is Lucio Fulci's own vision of a sequel to Romero's Dawn of the Dead, which was very successful in Europe (Dario Argento worked with Romero to create his own cut for the European market). Zombie has that classy washed-out, sandblasted look of 70s Italian-produced movies we're used to. But what sets this one apart are the crowd-pleasing FX and chilling macro-zoom angles. Sure, it's a typical zombie plot, but it boasts one of the most disgustingly memorable eye trauma scenes I can think of! And, as I've said, the FX and makeup design are phenomenal.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Ward (2011)

This could've been a great movie. I'm all for the exhausted confused-girl-in-a-ward plot if the filmmakers are willing to do something new and exciting. And sure, the set design--lighting, colors, composition, etc.--was great. But the technical aspects of a veteran director weren't enough to save the film. It was terribly formulaic and rigidly acted (every character was a parody) thus blunting the ending's epiphany. Taking this one into account with Craven's recent My Soul to Take, I feel sure that these iconic directors are stuck in an earlier era.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dream Home (2010)

The only other Hong Kong-produced horror movie I've seen is Dumplings, and like that one this movie is centered around the social drama and a female character's obsession. Using the recent economic crises as a macrosociological argument, the film focuses on the individual's struggle for personal gain. Make no mistake though, it's a bloody violent experience with unforgiving camera work and gritty, claustrophobic colors and angles. The contrast of brutal scenes against a maudlin, sentimental, melodramatic exposition, interwoven chronologically, drives the movie headlong.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Saw the Devil (2010)

It's almost redundant to tag a movie as both "Korean" and "revenge," but at least the Koreans do the revenge plot better than anyone. For proof watch the Vengeance trilogy by Mr. Park or the recent release, The Man From Nowhere (more of an action thriller than horror). Luckily I went into this one cold; I knew nothing about it other than the cover art and the fact that Netflix predicted I'd like it 4.5 stars--quite high for my usually stringent rating. About 30 minutes in I felt like the movie had blazed through all the stages of a story: setting, characters, plot, conflict, climax, dénouement. I wasn't sure what could be done with the remaining 2 hours! Suffice it to say that I was thrilled with the direction of the plot, and the two leads could not have been more perfectly selected. And even though it was much longer than my usual ADD limit, I was glued the whole time, not to mention exhausted by the end. Check it out!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Meadowoods (2010)

After the first thirty minutes I was ready for the girl of the trio to disappear. I get it. You're disturbed, angry, mad at the world. You hate life. The first act is largely a rumination of nihilistic inquiry that constantly ventures into foolish absurdity. But the movie redeemed itself for a while with a shot and mention of Oldboy! Then they select their victim and begin interviewing her. These interviews revived the movie. Whenever she was on the screen the movie worked. That is, it felt real and dreadful--undoubtedly what the filmmakers were going for. In the end, however, it's exactly what's expected and the last two shots (cuts to earlier interviews with Travis and Stephanie) should have been omitted.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Puppet Master (1989)

Ground-level POV accompanied by shrill synthetic tones, and it's not a Chucky movie. But the dolls don't seem as important as the boring group of psychics--perhaps a limitation of funds that restricted what could be done with the dolls? In any case, I'm looking forward to more interesting uses of the puppets in the subsequent installments.

Stake Land (2010)

A blend of many genres: apocalyptic, religious, survival, action, and of course vampire. I wasn't exactly thrilled to watch another vampire movie, but this one stands out. Great acting. Vicious effects and action sequences. Strong emotion. A likable hero. And Danielle Harris.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

YellowBrickRoad (2010)

It's a slow burn, and about an hour in it goes in a million bizarre directions. The acting and dialogue become laughable. The lead looks amusingly similar to Dane Cook at times. The ending did not have the payoff the preceding 90 minutes required. I'm bored and hungry.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Troll 2 (1986)

The town is called Nilbog (very creative), boasting a population of (if I remember correctly) 25. Enough said.