Tag Archives: Horror films

Uwe Boll X Zombies = Fun?

It seems utterly beyond belief that this meeting of the minds hasn’t happened until now.  Legendary Z-grade auteur and astute money man Uwe Boll – in his capacity as producer – has gone zombie.

I’m sure he has a lovely personality…

Sensibly, and perhaps understandably given his status as go-to punching bag for any genre film fan bemoaning the questionable standard of modern exploitation cinema, Boll has chosen to stick behind the camera on this one, leaving the orchestration of gory gut munching and head-shot kills to a pair of Italian film makers.

Intrigued?  Check out the trailer here.

It has a weird, cg-enhanced look which doesn’t entirely work for me – the military base location looks less like the foreboding backdrop to a zombie versus bad-ass soldiers showdown  and reminds me more of an episode of BBC Three‘s excellent ‘Canines Gone Wild!’ show, “Dog Borstal” (something tells me that grumpy dog trainer Mic Martin could take down any errant undead brain muncher with a roundhouse kick and a ‘Leave it!’).

Still, as a fan of most horror flicks which aren’t from the “Saw”/”Hostel“/blah school of torture and nit-wittery, I can always find it in my heart to enjoy a spot of gross make-up, the world gone to heck and intense actors wrestling manfully with dialogue that most daytime soap operas might reject as being a tad bit heavy on the exposition.

It can’t be as bad as “House of the Dead”, can it?  (Warning – NSFW video link contains gore. And ass hats)

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“Suspiria” remake – does not want!

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Today’s wholly unnecessary, asinine remake – I assume that you all have your bingo cards and are playing along – is one close to my heart.

The once-promising but recently questionable director David Gordon Green is directing “Suspiria”, a remake of the classic 1977 terror trip by mentalist Italian auteur Dario Argento.    Whilst his recent work has looked questionable, he does have more than one extraordinary horror film to use as a calling card – though his work often echoes Hitchcock and has a troubling undercurrent of icky misogyny, his cinematic vision has a one-of-a-kind, fever dream quality which is best described as the closest thing on celluloid to capturing the intensity and terrifying dream logic of an especially vivid nightmare.

Sure, the fact that his peak creativity is now some thirty years ago means that his films may seem dated to kids watching them now, but if you can get past the flyaway collars and Goblin‘s Prog Rock scores you’ll get to watch horror films which are – brace yourself for this notion, as it may knock you sideways – actually scary.  I know, right?

Why am I so against David Gordon Green?

Hmm. Stoner humour - always so amusing...

This was his last movie – a flick so utterly in love with its dim-witted genre send-up and beyond obvious spliff gags that it was the equivalent of watching a comedian who believes that he’s so utterly hilarious that he spends his act laughing hysterically at himself without ever letting you in on the gag.  I got the distinct sense from watching it that it was the work of obnoxious, inexplicably self-regarding hipsters who think that they’re utterly above the genre they were mocking and had naught but contempt for people who liked fantasy films and literature.

Accordingly, I have no confidence that “Suspiria” will offer much more than a bad cover version of a trippy horror masterpiece and distinguish itself mostly by substituting the atmosphere and European sensibility of Argento’s film for  Green’s clod-hopping, obvious sense of humour.  A previous iteration of the script in 2008  had Green dialling back the weird sexuality and dream-like weirdness of Argento’s original and casting his Your Highness lead actress Natalie Portman in the central role – a gambit now apparently rendered moot by her success in the not-dissimilar psycho-drama Black Swan.

I fully expect this to be a duff, 3D, PG-13 rated farrago which does little but drive fans back to the original and top-up Argento’s pension – great for Dario, but not exactly good news for anybody who wants to see a decent, adult horror movie.

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“The Cabin In The Woods” reviews appear online

It’s a good time of year to be a Joss Whedon fan.

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The end of April sees the “Buffy”/”Angel”/”Firefly”/”Dollhouse” auteur directing some small-scale, low-budget superhero flick or other, but in the meantime we get to see the long-delayed meta-aware horror pic he wrote and produced with Drew Goddard, “The Cabin In The Woods”.

As the film has now previewed at the South By South West festival, the first reviews are beginning to escape from the restrictive bondage of their press embargo and – wouldn’t you know it? – they’re really quite good.

Den of Geek has a nice, non-spoiler appreciation of the film for you and IndieWire’s review is equally complementary, bar some issues with ultimate reveals (for that reason, I’d suggest not clicking onto it if you want to go into the film devoid of foreknowledge).  What Culture! also seem to dig it – and I’m now racking my brains to try and second guess what the last reel reversal so often alluded to in these reviews could possibly be?  Bruce Willis is a ghost? Keyser Soze is Verbal Kint? Soylent Green is people?

The film opens on Friday April 13th (I see what you did there) in the UK – I’ll see you in the queue…

 

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What I (might) be watching tonight…

The business of choosing DVD rentals is a fraught one in our house.

We’ve just given up on our subscription to the UK’s leading provider of rental-by-post for the reasons which most people might cite – your top choices not turning up, the discs which you get sent being hit-and-miss in terms of cleanliness and playability, the title that you added in haste during one period of insomniac delirium and never being watched.  The short and long of it is that we weren’t watching stuff, were paying a monthly subscription no matter what and spending more money than we needed to on what is the thinking nerd’s equivalent of the unused gym membership.

Hence, we’re supporting our local Blockbuster whilst it’s still there.

We’re planning to watch this dynamic duo of films tonight:

When Irish eyes are smiling...

and somehow we missed this (hopefully) delightful valentine to nerdery and film-making last summer…

That J.J. Abrams - crazy angles, crazy guy...

I’m expecting big things, I won’t lie.  With “Fright Night”, I’ve yet to see anything that Anton Yelchin was in which I didn’t like  (and yes, that is me admitting on the Internet that I enjoyed “Terminator Salvation”).

With “Fright Night”I loved the original – it was a VHS/TV broadcast staple for me, although I’ve not seen it in years.  Here’s hoping that this revamp (sorry, had to be done) keeps the fine balance of scares to chuckles that Tom Holland’s 1985 film managed to deliver.

Also – this dude is in it:

MindFreak! Or not, what with copyright infringement and all that jazz...

So, plus ten to awesome Scots Thesp-based kick assery then?

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“The Devil Inside” – found footage fiasco?

If you’re in the US and a fan of the ‘found footage’ horror sub genre,  there’s a decent chance that you might be heading out to see the latest shaky camcorded scarefest, “The Devil Inside” this weekend.

Herbal Essences, anyone?

By all accounts, you really shouldn’t.

Bad reviews are one thing – horror fans are used to seeing their genre trashed by mainstream critics – but this film would appear to be doing the unforgivable and blatantly cheating it’s audience.  SPOILER AHEAD.

Per the thread on NeoGaf’s ‘Off Topic’ forum, the film abruptly ends and directs the audience to a URL if they want to see the actual ending of the film.

SPOILER ENDS

If you find that notion as irritating as I do, I would suggest not giving these hucksters your cash – not that this will deter them from making an inevitable sequel, as the film cost around $1 million to make, made $2 million in midnight previews on Thursday and is on course to take in $25 million at the US box office this weekend.  That whole thing I posted the other day about studios making more low budget fare?  Yeah, we can forget all about that if this kind of crap is what the studios are going to try and pull.

Whilst I can’t fault the film makers for chutzpah, I can decry them for having such contempt for their audience.  There’s a difference between being a William Castle-style showman and just adopting cynical social media schtick to fleece teens of their allowance on a Friday night.

 

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A Season of Vamps – “Priest”

As part of the build-up to the January 20th release of “Underworld: Awakening”, a movie which I feel like an ill-advised, one-man-band cheerleader for (don’t ask me why I am, just be aware that I am so afflicted and aim your sympathy accordingly), I thought that it might be fun to run a series of posts which look at recent, classic and current vampires in pop culture and discusses what we think about them, why we watch them and why they persist as a horror staple when so many other fictional monsters fall by the speculative fiction wayside.

To get things going with a resounding “Hmm…”, I’m looking at 2011’s Franchise Which Wasn’t, the Korean comics adaptation “Priest”.

On the face of it, this is a can’t miss premise: disgraced religious warrior is pitted against super-powerful vampire hybrids in a dystopian future.  It’s a simple high concept which has a lot of scope to talk about faith, fear, politics, the self, and all manner of interesting subject matter and juxtapose that against a fast-moving tale which hits on our enduring love of the undead and our uneasy relationship with religions and their place in contemporary society.

I can’t speak to the Korean manhwa (comic) by Min-Woo Hyung but the film which results from his work is a disappointment on a couple of levels – some of which it takes sole responsibility for, one of which is resolutely the result of my own (not realistic) expectations.

To the latter – when I watched the trailers for this film, I was honestly expecting the “Judge Dredd” film that we didn’t really get with Sylvester Stallone and director Danny Cannon, back in the mid-1990’s: a world in which we had surrendered  personal freedoms to live in a none-too-welcoming future of grim, impersonal super cities, presided over by a ruthless warrior police force whose remit was more based on a more binary morality than interested in anything resembling justice.

It’s fair to say that we do at least a visual sense of that world in the finished film, but the representation is brief and doesn’t really extend to a convincing, detailed depiction of what it might be like for people to live in it.  Like much else in the film, the film’s universe is a purely visual creation, where things exist to be cool and look striking – if aspects of the world in “Priest” don’t seem to make too much sense, the viewer frequently gets the idea that we’re not meant to be looking at them with too much scrutiny.

What was hinted at by the advanced trailers for the film is fully depicted in the end product – this is more of a sci-fi western than a horror picture and in that respect it at least manages to subvert expectations by largely eschewing the dark and dingy territory that you might expect from a story where the antagonists are vampiric creatures and setting much of the action in a bright, sun-drenched, sandy, lawless badlands environment.

Think “Mad Max” with a hint of the Man With No Name and you’ll get a sense of where the film makers are aiming at but don’t quite manage to hit.

The actors are good  – Paul Bettany doesn’t play down to the material or do anything less than his best work in this film.  He’s a muted, tortured presence as the titular character, but I wonder what kind of effort he was exerting to stay with the American accent that his role demands here – is there any real reason this particular protagonist in a ruined future absolutely has to be from the States?

He’s more than matched by Maggie Q, whose turn in this film suggests an actor familiar with the traditions of the ‘Martial Chivalry’ genre – she’s grave, restrained and capable in the face of the unstoppable Vampire foe, here epitomised by Karl Urban.

Urban is one of those reliable actors who lends even fairly straightforward material like this a bit of quirky individuality and energy.  He’s particularly fun in this film as a mysterious bad guy who has a history with Bettany’s hero and a revenge motive which is quite neat and mean-spirited.

The vampires in this film, you see, waged war against humanity for centuries until they were bested by a resurgent human race banded together under the banner of religious faith.  The surface of the planet after the war is a scorched hell – the excellent animated prologue movie by director Genndy Tartakovsky fills in some of the back story in eye-popping style – and vampires are consigned to reservations far away from the Walled Cities which house the survivors of the conflict.

When a report of a vampire attack on his estranged brother reaches Bettany’s character, he rejects his religious order’s call for calm and sets out to arrest what he believes must be a resurgent vampire populace before it can again overrun the new cities and what’s left of humanity.

If any of that sounds a little ordinary and entirely devoid of innovation, that’s because it really rather is.  Again, I can’t say how this reflects on the source material, but the adaptation is – charitably – based on archetypes and lots of things that you’ve seen before in other media.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as with many B-movies part of the joy of them is in noticing the homages and allusions to what’s gone before.  Director Scott Charles Stewart openly homages John Ford’s “The Searchers” during the film and that’s nothing if not ballsy – this vampire actioner really doesn’t have the story or stylistic chops to live up to the legacy of that celebrated Western.

It’s a pacey and concise film – the running time is a brief 87 minutes – but it could also have benefited from more of a sense of humour.  I’m not saying that Bettany’s tortured hero had to quip wise after each vampire fight, but some levity might have lifted a story which takes itself rather more seriously than is probably good for it.  We’re not dealing with the angst of a tale like “Let the Right One In”, after all – this film doesn’t have much more to say than ‘kung fu priest beats up mutant vampires – repeat’, for cripes sake.

In the pantheon of throwaway horror action pics, this is a little bit more throwaway than most, but your enjoyment of it may increase relative to your love of Paul Bettany, Karl Urban and Maggie Q.  If you happen to be a fan of any one of those actors, you can consider this a three and a half star to four stars out of five film.  Everybody else should consider this as one of those films that you watch on an otherwise unoccupied evening and enjoy despite yourself if you’re any kind of SF geek.

 

 

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