Tag Archives: Lena Headey

Midnight Masked Maniac Movies: “Laid to Rest”

Yep, it’s a slasher movie alright…

As it’s almost Halloween, it must be time to talk horror flicks, masked maniacs, supernatural weirdness and things which go “Wooaarrgghh!!” in the night.  With that in mind, I’ve taken the plunge back into the icy, bone-chilling waters of the slasher flick – a horror sub-genre which is near and dear to my heart – with the 2009 feature by Robert Hall, “Laid to Rest“.

Set in the sleepy back roads of Texas, “LtR” ignores the torture porn antics of Jigsaw and co and goes back to basics, pitting implacable, Chrome skull mask-wearing villain Chrome Skull against The Girl (Bobbi Sue Luther) in a pitched battle for survival during one hellish night.   And as far as plot goes, that really is the crux of it – faceless mass murderer hunts down Final Girl and slices, dices and pummels anybody who has the misfortune to stand between him and his quarry.

There’s nothing particularly ironic about this entry in the genre – in fact, after a decade or so of horror movies more than eager to point out their grasp of genre tropes, the lunk-headed, rough-around-the-edges, low-budget style of this flick seems like, if not a breath of fresh air, a somewhat welcome change from post-modern horror treatises just dying to share their fancy book learning with you.

“Laid to Rest” has not a brain in its head and wouldn’t know originality if it brandished a ludicrous knife and chased after it for a few hours – this is horror of the kind that flourished in the 1980’s when low-budget scares were all the rage and laserdisc was the viewing media of choice for the discerning nerd and when fright flicks first got my attention.   This is very much the kind of stalking, slashing fare that you’d expect to see late night on cable – minimal locations, actors who you might know from other stuff, low-key synth soundtrack and claret by the score.

The small cast of characters in this story behave like absolute cretins because that gives the make-up department a chance to go crazy with the gore effects when the boogeyman catches up with them and administers the proper punishment for their lack of smarts, because that’s what the maniacs in this kind of movie do – act as a kind of roving Darwin Awards inspector, removing the terminally dim-witted from the gene pool so that their stupidity can’t be passed onto the next generation of cannon fodder…horror movie protagonists.

The performances are…variable?  Kevin Gage, who you might remember from his role as Waingro in Michael Mann’s “Heat”, plays a teddy bear truck driver who goes on the lam with Luther’s somewhat blank heroine when she escapes Chrome Skull’s grasp.  He’s the best thing in the movie, for my money – a likeable archetype who you do root for despite the fact that he’s in the company of characters so bereft of wit that you fear for them safely making breakfast of a morning, let alone escaping the machinations of a movie serial killer.

The likes of Thomas Dekker, Jonathan Schaech and Lena Headey also turn up in cameos and meet the kind of fate which one might reasonably expect from appearing in a film titled “Laid to Rest” (don’t expect to see any of them in the sequel).  As a Klingon warrior might say – ‘They died with honour (and a great big knife sticking out of their noggin)’.

Can I recommend this movie?  Probably not – if you’re a student of horror, this is going to seem awfully familiar, and only the presence of some familiar faces distinguishes it from ten dozen similar gore fests doing hard time on the shelves of your local video store.  If you don’t really dig the hard stuff, this is one gory horror flick – director Hall started out as a make-up specialist and his expertise in creating very convincing and credibly repugnant effects is likely to gross you out for the next couple of weeks.

I don’t have a rating system, but let’s say that this one is more “Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddie’s Revenge” than John Carpenter‘s “Halloween”, but it’s not without…charm isn’t the word.  It’s not unenjoyable.  “Laid to Rest” is low-fi, slash-em-up action for the spooky season – just be aware that the gore might make your pumpkin candy return unexpectedly…

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“Dredd” movie review

If it’s September, that must mean that we’re due a 3D action movie or two to lead us gently into the more reflective Autumn season and transition gently from the explosive mayhem of the summer – whilst I wait for the next instalment in the Capcom derived video game-to-movie franchise which dare not speak its name at the end of the month, these early weeks are taken care of by “Dredd“, director Pete Travis and writer Alex Garland‘s attempt to give this iconic comics anti-hero a film worthy of his stature.

He is the law.

And what a film it is – lean, hungry, mind-bogglingly violent, stylish and thrifty, “Dredd” is the kind of sci-fi western that you feel as much as watch, with brutal action sequences and melee combat having a positively visceral effect when viewed in the 3D format that this film is primarily releasing in (there’s controversy in the UK about how few cinemas are playing the 2D prints – only one of Britain’s Multiplex chains are showing it).  Any worries that we might have had about whether this film would be as disappointing as the 1995 Sylvester Stallone/Danny Cannon iteration are comprehensively erased by what is a confident, stylish action movie which makes a virtue of a lower budget and creates a uniquely convincing world.

Not having $200 million dollars to throw at expensive CG and gargantuan action sequences has made this version of “Judge Dredd” get creative and construct its post-apocalyptic world in modern-day Cape Town.  There are the huge city blocks of the comic, but they’re nestled in against a resolutely practical and contemporary backdrop  – highways and overpasses, contemporary vehicles and clothing all stop this film from distancing the casual viewer.

Don’t let her inside your head! Olivia Thirlby as rookie Judge Anderson in “Dredd”

The plot is as straight-ahead as it gets – a gang-related murder in the Peach Trees block is attended by taciturn law man legend Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and ride-along rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), pitching them head-first into conflict with hooker-turned-syndicate crime maven Ma Ma (Lena Headey), whose drug empire is run from the building and whose army of heavily armed thugs are intent on stopping legal interference in whatever form it takes.

That simplicity, in essence, is one of the best things about this film – The plot single-mindedly concentrates on propelling the action forward and the script focusses on making the world convincing rather than in beating the viewer around the head with distracting gadgets and surface detail to hide the fact that there isn’t much of a story.  This film doesn’t reinvent sci-fi cinema as you know it, but it does a brilliant job of making this post-apocalypse world seem like a postcard from the future – the tech is all backdrop rather than foreground, showing up periodically to let Dredd do something cool and doesn’t draw undue attention to itself.

Urban is great as the titular bad-ass, finding a way to make the character funny without getting mired in cheap one-liner schtick and showing some holes in the metaphorical armour that his otherwise imperious icon of justice wears – a Dredd who bleeds and occasionally needs to think on his feet to get through the hellish multi-level fight through the under-siege building he finds himself occupying is infinitely preferable to the one-man killing-and-quipping machine that the Stallone version gave us.  Olivia Thirlby is great too as Anderson – there’s a fantastic scene which gives her psychic gifts ample room to roam and we get to see how she would interrogate and intimidate a perp into silence – it’s telling that a scene where a bad guy gets the upper hand on her doesn’t convince entirely as being anything other than a plot contrivance as up till that point in the movie, her neophyte Judge has shown that she has the right stuff and wouldn’t necessarily get suckered in the way that she was.

The 3D is a selling point, but I found it restrained for the most part – used sympathetically to inhabit the scenes where futuristic crankers are on the ‘Slo-Mo’ drug which slows down time for the user but not employed to constantly chuck sharp objects at the viewer or as a way to distract viewers from creaky storytelling.  There’s a climactic scene which employs the broken glass trope of action cinema in a curiously beautiful and aesthetically pleasing way – is it worth the price hike?  I’m not sure, but it is native 3D rather than post-converted shenanigans, so let that guide your ticket-buying choice.

This is a fine, stripped-down action movie with an intriguing take on the iconic character and the future-shock world he inhabits – I hope that it leads to more adventures for the 2000 AD law man and that all concerned behind the camera find a way to retain the tactile near-future dystopia they’ve delivered so credibly in this very entertaining film.

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New “Dredd 3D” clip busts perps, ripples flesh…

You’ve watched the trailer and can now see a brief clip from the new Dredd 3D” on the film’s official site.

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Any fears we may have had that the makers of the film were watering down the content to appeal to a mainstream, PG-13 audience has just been well and truly slammed int0 an ISO-Cube for seven years, I think we can conclusively say.  The Cannon/Stallone “Dredd” this most certainly isn’t – Empire’s review from the 2012 Comic-Con screening indicates that “Dredd 3D” is very much its own take on the source comics material, for good or ill (Karl Urban‘s great, the low-budget is noticeable, it’s all quite similar to “The Raid”) but the tone is generally complementary.

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So much gore!  It’s like director Pete Travis and writer Alex Garland have mainlined a bunch of Paul Verhoeven‘s eighties films, drawn from “2000AD” as though it were the sacred text that some would say it is and then gone to town to deliver the kind of old-school sci-fi actioner that many a fan will yearn for from this film.

I’m almost aggrieved that I have to wait until September to see this – it looks so good!

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