Posts Tagged ‘film blog’

Many would put the first Hostel right at the beginning of the ‘toture porn’ genre (even though there were many foreign films before featuring similar themes). This is probably because it was one of the first big mainstream US films to openely advertise itself as such. It was a pretty good little horror film and made enough money to get a sequel green lit.

Hostel 2 (directed by the same director as the first, Eli Roth) doesnt aim to do much differently from the first on the outset as we yet again have a group of backpackers (this time all females) who get caught in the sights of the ‘hunting club’. But upon watching the film its clear Eli Roth has a much clearer sense of world building and characterisation. It would have been so easy for him to have done a quick easy rehash of the first but i’m happy to say this feels fresh and tense.

The three female leads have an interesting dynamic between them that feels realistic thanks to a well written script that clearly has had a lot of thought put into it. It wont win any screenwriting awards but it is nice to see some well written characters in a genre that seems to thrive on the opposite. As there backpacking holiday quickly unravels each handle things very differently, which creates some very tense and quite thought provoking consequences.

This time round we also get an almost equal time following the people who are planning on commiting sadistic acts on these girls which also highlights how the club wirks and is organised. This for me is one of the highlights as its well thought out and gives everything another dimension.

While the film does feature strong violence and gore, it doesnt focus on it as much as one might expect. It also never feels out of place as it all benefits and guides the story along its path.

The final act features some truly great twists and turns all of which work well and help elevate this film from the usual genre tropes.

I never expected to like this film as much as i did. Its easily the best in the series and is well worth your time if you like tense horror thrillers.

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Nowadays horror films seem to be the gateway into film making. I’m guessing it’s because it can be a cheaper genre to make a film within, as playing on a person’s fears often doesn’t need that much help.

Lights Out, based on the directors earlier film short is a perfect example of how clever use of atmosphere, a clever script and some good acting can for a smallish budget, create a film that stands out amongst the overcrowded genre.

The basic premise is a family are being ‘haunted’ by a malevolent force and the only way to stay safe is to stay in the light. There’s much more to the story though and watching it unfold is another one of the films strong points.

Unlike many horror films, Lights Out shows you the ‘monster’ very early on and also introduces the main plot device of ‘stay in the light’ at the same time. By doing so it gives the film much more time to focus on the characters and the ‘why’. It’s a clever use of pacing and one that really pays off. It’s not the first film to use light as a safety measure, but it is one of the best.

At times I was very much reminded of the 2003 film Darkness Falls (previously reviewed) as that has a very similar idea of ‘stay in the light and your safe’. The big difference here is that Lights Out is a good film. Whereas that film relied on jump scares, this film builds a great atmosphere in which you never feel safe. Every shadow, every bit of shade becomes a danger.

There are some very clever moments that play on preconceptions. This is especially true of some of the characters as they all feel like natural people and not the over the top caricatures we often see in films like this. The film also heads in some interesting directions which I didn’t expect which I was really happy with.

It’s rare for a film to work on pretty much all levels but Lights Out achieves it. I’m not sure if it’s because I went in with no expectations or not (although I don’t think it is) but this may be one of the most enjoyable and good horror films in recent years.

Highly recommended

I’d wanted to see this film for quite some time due to my love of extreme Asian cinema such as ‘Visitor Q’ and ‘Tetsuo: the Iron Man’. I’m happy to say that it was worth the wait, well kind of.

How do you start to describe a film like this?

Well firstly I’ll say it’s not a film for the easily unnerved as the atmosphere created through clever use of music and visuals is pretty unsettling from the get go. It’s not as extreme or graphic in terms of its depictions of sex and violence as say ‘Visitor Q’ but it has a more eerie vibe about it all.  I guess you could say it’s a kind of sexual horror film. But it’s not that simple.

The film is pretty complex in its themes and ideas. The plot of the film is about a husband and wife who are being stalked by a twisted individual. But I’d argue the film is about the futility of life and the need for companionship. The husband and wife are both missing something from their lives and it is only when the third party intervenes in their lives that they start to openly address these issues. You could even argue that the film is about voyeurism and how everyone is being watched without even knowing it.

There is a lot of focus on the unity between nature and the industrial world we are all accustomed to. Not that the film is set in any specific time period. It’s kind of timeless and feels vaguely futuristic at times. In fact the whole film feels very dreamlike with its unusual camerawork and creepy score. Throughout the film the city is shrouded by constant rain which helps emphasise the characters depression. I must say that the cinematography is stunning throughout, especially during the outdoor sequences. It is this amazing camerawork that helps create a beautiful sadness to the whole film, making it much more than your usual semi erotic horror film.

As the runtime progresses so does the craziness of the onscreen antics. All of it culminates in one of the most confusing and messed up fights I’ve seen in a long time. Even when it is being crazy the film is still weirdly believable due to the slow way it draws the audience in. The story is compelling and constantly keeps you on edge, wondering what will happen next.

I think that the decision to release the film in black and white adds to its beauty.  It means you are not distracted by the colours of the world around the characters, while also helping merge the industrial with the natural.

I came away from the film thinking hard on what I truly thought of it and I’m still slightly mixed. It is definitely good but I’m not sure if I’d consider it anywhere near a classic. I’d say it’s well worth watching as it is a truly unique experience and one that I doubt I’ll forget. 7/10

To pay for Spring Break, 3 girls rob a restaurant. This is the start of their descent into darkness.

‘Spring Breakers’ is an interesting film as it is actually far more thought provoking than the trailers would suggest. The film opens with 5 minutes of T&A and party music. This for me is when the film is at its weakest. It makes the film feel juvenile and teen orientated from the outset, which it’s not (no matter how hard it tries). After this sequence we get a couple of other similar sequences segmented throughout the films runtime but never quite as ‘in-your-face’ (well not quite).

What we have for the rest of the runtime is a study of 4 girls getting in over their heads with sex and drugs and their downward descent into the darkness these things bring.

Yes….

there is violence,

there is sex,

and

yes there are drugs

but these things, although being the backbone of the story, are never as important as the actual characters we are following.

A lot has been said about the fact that 2 former Disney starlets (Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez) are in the film. But to be fair you kind of forget this fact as they (and the other girls) all play their characters really well. Gomez is easily the weakest of all of them but still gets the job done.  James Franco also has to be praised for his portrayal of a drugs/arms dealer. He is amazing and is easily steals the screen from the girls when he is around.

I would say that the four central girls all feel quite 2 dimensional and similar. It would be difficult to truly explain each of their personalities as (other than Gomez’s character) we never really see them.  In any other film I think this would be really bad but here it kind of works.

I think it is helped by the fact that we’re thrown straight into the overpowering nature of spring break along with them and have very little time to think about such things.

The music and the visuals are amazing throughout the film and both help create a stunningly overpowering  feast for the mind. There is always something to see or hear and at times it’s a true sensory overload. But it works. The film is about this kind culture and how easily it is to get lost in the sights and sounds. The movie works perfectly on this front and it really helps draw you into the picture.

For all of this ‘overpowerment’ the film still paces itself beautifully and allows you to go on the journey with the girls. By the end of the film you feel you have been on a true cinematic journey instead of just watching random characters doing random things (this for me is what watching a movie is all about, the experience).

For me the film only has two real negatives.

The first is the fact that it doesn’t seem to always know what it wants to be, ‘pure exploitation flick’ or ‘slow character study’. It just about gets the balance but at times I found there was too much random nudity for the sake of it (not that I’m against nudity, but I find there should be some half-decent reason behind it in a film).

The second negative would be the ending. I won’t spoil it but I will say I was left completely unsatisfied. It would also have been so easy to fix, which is the most frustrating point.

Even with the disappointing ending. I would say it is absolutely worth watching as it rally is like nothing else. I for one would be happy to see it again and hope that when the dvd comes out they’ll have an alternate ending that works better. 8/10

For years Laurie Strode has been haunted be reoccurring nightmares of her older ‘serial killer’ brother Michael. Now 20 years later he is back and this time Laurie must fight back or risk her son’s life.

‘Halloween’ was the first horror film I remember seeing as a kid that truly scared me and as such has always been the blueprint I judge other slasher/horror films on. I worked incredibly well and the atmosphere created has yet to be beaten in my view. Michael is on screen very little but you have the constant feeling he could be anywhere and that anyone could die.

The films that followed never reached the same standard set by the first film although I do really like all of them (minus the remakes and resurrection.). I even like the third film that has no relation to the franchise.  The first two films painted Michael as this unstoppable human that could take a ridiculous amount of punishment whereas the later films painted him as some kind of supernatural monster which I never felt worked as well. I find that villains are scarier if they’re human instead of being a ghost or demon.

This is where ‘Halloween: H20’ comes in. Set exactly 20 years after the original (and also released exactly 20 years after the orginal) this could be argued to be the true continuation after part II. Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as Laurie Strode which is great and it’s great to watch her character evolve throughout the films runtime from hunted to hunter.

H20 goes back to the suspense that made the first film so good (although tries too hard to appease modern day horror fans by upping the pace). The director Steve Miner obviously loves the first film and as such has echoes of it running through his film, from Laurie hiding in a cupboard, to the reoccurring silhouette shots of Michael. For a modern day slasher film (well 1998) there are very few deaths and the ones there are generally committed off-screen. I think this is a great move as a few come as surprises when the other characters find the bodies. This helps the films overall atmosphere. It unfortunately looks a little too ‘glossy’ for its own good and at times draws you out of the picture. The music helps bring you back in which on the whole is very good.

The acting is overall very strong with a great performance from Jamie Lee Curtis. Josh Hartnett is great as her son (in his first lead role). You also have LL Cool J, Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee Curtis’s real life mother) and you even get an early performance (if very short) from the great Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  All of the main characters are likeable and you actually care for them.

The only real failing of the film is the fact that we see Michael too much and he never really comes as a surprise like in the original. The tension is never there 100%. That’s not to say there isn’t any. It’s just doesn’t pull off the tension like the original did.

Saying that, H20 is probably my second favourite ‘Halloween’ film after the first (although I do love the third film as a different kind of horror film. I like what they’ve done with the character of Laurie and it’s nice to see her magnificent return (feeling a little like the return of Nancy in ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 3’).

I’d say it’s well worth watching if you are a fan of the series (although I’d expect most fans to have already seen it) or even if you just like a good slasher flick… 7/10

Dean Cain VS Eric Roberts in a shopping mall at Christmas!!!!!

-Need I say more?

Also known as ‘Christmas Rush’, this made for TV film offers Hollywood thrills in a small package finished off with a pretty bow. The film consists of Eric Roberts robbing a shopping mall at Christmas and taking everyone hostage, everyone that is except for Dean Cain (a cop who’s lost his badge and who has the name Lt. Cornelius Morgan!). Dean Cain takes it on himself to take down Roberts and save the day.

Think ‘Die Hard’ in a shopping mall and you’ve pretty much got a good idea of what to expect (although Roberts’ villain does have some interesting and well thought out motives for wanting the money) I won’t pretend that this is of the same quality of something like the masterpiece that is ‘Die Hard’, but what I will say is that this is just pure fun. It never takes itself seriously and just works. It’s what it says on the tin.

The action set pieces are great in the film especially a shootout between Roberts’ right hand man (who may be Russian) who has a massive light machine gun and Dean Cain. It’s just fun to watch and is a well filmed piece of action. In fact pretty much the whole film is really well filmed for what it is. I can’t complain about anything in the film really other than the fact it’s not particularly original. I will also say that I really like the end to the film which is far better than I expected.

The acting is awesome. Both Dean Cain and Eric Roberts are on top form and have a good chemistry between them. I love both actors and am sad that they’ve both disappeared into b-movie obscurity. I guess the one thing that kind of disappointed me was the fact that Eric Roberts doesn’t do any real hand to hand combat which I want to see in all his films. (He didn’t in ‘Raptor’ either, but we’ll get to that film at a later date.)

Overall this is a fun piece of action filmmaking and well worth checking out. 7/10

Two fire-fighter brothers must get past their differences and work together before a dangerous arsonist strikes again.

That is the basic plot of the film, although the film has a lot more depth than simply that. The two brothers are played by Kurt Russell and William Baldwin. Russell plays the older brother who is a well-respected fireman following after their father. Baldwin plays a new recruit who people only recognise because he was there when their father was killed in an arson attack. They don’t get on very well and this love hate relationship is the basic backbone of the film.

Along the way we get other great actors such as Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland (although his role isn’t really necessary) and Scott Glenn. All of them are as good as ever and all gel into a great team. The actual fire fighting teams of the film actually feel like a unit and they do feel like they have fought fires together for years. This is helped by a great script and amazing direction by Ron Howard. I guess at times the script can get a bit corny and sentimental but this never took away from what was on screen (which is impressive when you consider it runs at just under two and a half hours in length.

The thing that truly makes this film stand out from everything else is the fire. It really does become a character in itself. Howard opted to use real fire instead of CGI as he realised it was the only way to make it look real. He also placed the actors in the fire which helps make everything believable as they are there. It was brave for all the actors to be willing to do this and it really shows.

the film culminates in an amazing inferno inside a warehouse. The VFX team did an amazing job. The fire looks truly threatening and having the actors in it really does make it that bit more special. The dialogue gets a little silly during the heightened tension between characters but it works.

The whole film feels very much like a Ron Howard film in the fact that it gives you that semi feel good feeling at the end and makes you think about the characters you’ve just been watching. I really love this film and think it is a brilliant example of pure filmmaking. 8/10

Directed when the Asian Horror market was becoming highly popular in the West after the local releases of ‘The Ring’ and ‘The Ring 2’, ‘The Eye’ became an instant hit with its interesting take on the idea of seeing ghosts. (and has since spawned 2 sequels and a remake)

The story is about Mun who after having a cornea implant to make her see again for the first time since she was 2, begins seeing visions of spirits and a shadowy figure lurking just beyond reach. She then goes in search of the person whose eyes she was given.

Before seeing the film I expected another film much like ‘ The Sixth Sense’ with the whole ‘I see dead people’ vibe. How wrong I was. This feels like a fresh take on that idea as although the audience know who may or not be a ghost, Mun is still adjusting to seeing again so cannot rely on what she sees. It’s a clever way of adding suspense and tension to a film that you feel like you’ve seen before.

What i think is really clever about the film is it isn’t really a horror film. It has some moments that shock and are creepy but I’d not call it a horror film. I’d say it falls in with a lot of foreign horror in the fact that it has that style you just don’t get in the west. (not just visual, but tonally as well.) Much of the film is a beautiful observation of someone trying to cope with seeing for essentially the first time and the mental anguish that goes along with it.

It is beautifully shot and beautifully paced. The Pang brothers have an eye for visuals as can be seen in their previous film (Bangkok Dangerous) and It is great that they try to use practical effects over CGI whenever they can. I must say that the opening of the film did make me freak out a little just in case i had epilepsy (I don’t), but a random flashing was not good on my panic threshold.

There is a sequence around the middle of the film where Mun essentially becomes a recluse again. the scene is told through multiple shots while Mun is playing her violin. The song is beautiful as is the sequence and the pacing. (the song is featured throughout the film as a running piece of score). THis scene sums up the film for me in tone and feel. Although quite dark in places I found that on the whole it was a beautiful analogy for love and the beauty that we (who see the world everyday) just don’t respect and notice.

The acting performances are brilliant with Angelica Lee claiming every scene as her own as the main character Mun. The supporting cast are just as good with a great performance from newcomer Yut Lai So as Ying Ying (a little girl whom Mun befriends).

The film builds to a large-scale set piece which is amazingly well filmed and is a fit almost ending to the film. For those that like films such as ‘The ring’, ‘The Orphanage’, ‘The sixth Sense’ and films that offer more than simple scares, this really is worth a view. It’s a great piece of asian cinema that will stay with you long after you’ve seen it. 8/10