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11/05/2017 12:33

Film: The Eye (Gin gwai)

Year: 2002

Director: Danny Pang and Oxide Chun Pang

Writer: Yuet-Jan Hui, Danny Pang and Oxide Chun Pang

Starring: Angelica Lee, Chutcha Rujinanon and Lawrence Chou

 

Review:

This film follows a young woman played by Angelica Lee. We learn that she has been blind since she was two years old. She goes into the hospital where they perform a cornea transplant that will allow her to see. The doctor that performed the operation is played by Edmund Chen.

Lee is in recovery when a girl wakes up her, played by Yut Lai So. She has a brain tumor and has a lot of surgeries to correct it. They make a deal to go outside once Lee can see. She has bandages over her eyes. Lee is taken to a room with Chen, a nurse, her grandmother played by Yin Ping Ko and her sister played by Candy Lo. As they are taking off the bandages we see that it is too bright and hurts. Everything is blurry, but Lee sees a figure in a corner away from everyone. They delay taking them off.

Soon after this, Lee gets up in the night to see an old woman, played by Jinda Duangtoy, in a hallway. There is a shadow figure with her that frightens Lee. It turns out that Duangtoy has died in the night. Before Lee is discharged, there is a scene where Lee takes a picture with So.

Lee is taken to another doctor that will help her with learning what things are in the world. During this drive though, she sees a figure on the highway. She is used to touching them and needs to learn what they look like by sight. It turns out this doctor is played by Lawrence Chou. He is the nephew of Chen. Lo is a flight attendant and asks if Chou can make sure her sister can make it home as she has a flight to catch.

Ko starts to show Lee videos her father made for her when she was a girl. There is a knock at the door and there is a boy there. He asks if she has seen his report card and she tells him no. Ko asks who it is and she tells her, Ko then responds he is messing with her. The boy is gone from the door and Lee goes into the hallway. She sees him outside of a door, eating a candle. She joins him, but when the door opens and boy is gone.

Lee starts to think that she is seeing ghosts. This is confirmed when she goes to a restaurant and woman working sees them too. She goes to Chou for help and he doesn’t believe her at first. This is starting to drive her crazy, to the point where Chou goes to Chen to tell him he has to help her. Chen doesn’t believe, but Chou is out to help her in anyway that she can.

Lee goes to visit So and learns she has passed away. This shadow figure appears again as well as with a boy who was hit by a car. Lee is given a card and sees inside of it a picture of her with So. She asks who the woman is in the picture and Chou asks if she doesn’t recognize herself. She freaks out, because that’s not how she looks in the mirror. She is haunted by nightmares and another room.

Can she figure out the truth? Who is the person she is seeing in the mirror? Did something happen to her? Is Lee the one with the powers of sight or was it the transplant that gave her this?

Now I have to say that I did see the American remake years ago and I normally prefer the Asian version better and this is definitely the case here. I felt that this film delivered on the scares where from what I remember about the other version was that it didn’t. Many of the ghosts we see are really creepy. The two that really stuck out to me is a woman with her baby in the restaurant and an old man in an elevator. I felt the story for this film was solid. The film does present that Lee might be sensitive to ghosts to start with, but then we really see that the corneas she is given was from a person who had visions. It ties in the concept of unexpected death as what keeps ghosts here and suicide as well. The shadow men were a creepy concept and I like how the beginning and ending come full circle as well at the climax.

I felt the acting was pretty solid. Lee did a great job as the lead. She played being a blind person well and I even believed when she got her sight that she had trouble understanding it. She hides her eyes a lot and uses sunglasses even after it should be healed. Now part of this is due to the ghosts she is seeing, but it even happens before she really starts to fear. I thought Chou was good as the doctor who wants to help her as a patient, but the deeper he gets the more he is willing to do. So was cute and I liked the role she played. I also liked that Lo and Ko seemed to slightly believe in the supernatural. I don’t know if this is something in the Asian culture or not, but it played well.

Now for the most part this film used practical effects. I thought the ghosts looked creepy and some of them actually got me to jump. They did use computers at times and I wasn’t a fan of that. It made some of it look really fake and unrealistic. This is definitely the case at the climax. That did disappoint me. Now I thought the editing was good, especially at the climax when they are trying to sync it with what the original owner of the eyes did. I thought that was a good touch. The editing was also very good when Lee’s room is changing when something is swinging. The soundtrack also was very good in setting the mood of the scenes. I was a big fan there.

With that said, I would recommend this one. This is a solid Asian ghost horror film. I think it is much better than the remake, but I will need to revisit that one to say how much better. I thought the story to this film was good and builds well to the climax. I liked how the climax mimicked what Lee learns in the film and that it comes full circle. Lee was great and the rest of the cast rounded it out nicely. I thought the effects and make-up of the ghosts was good, but I did have issues with the CGI that was used. It doesn’t hold up well at all. The editing and soundtrack of the film were both solid as well. I would say this is an above-average ghost film. This is from Hong Kong and Singapore, so keep that in mind. I actually watched it with subtitles, so if that’s a problem, then you should probably avoid this.

 

My Rating: 7 out of 10

10/30/2017 18:57

Film: Carrie

Year: 1976

Director: Brian De Palma

Writer: Lawrence D. Cohen

Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie and Amy Irving

 

Review:

This film starts during gym class. The game is lost when the ball comes to Sissy Spacek. Everyone is mean to her as they go into the locker room. We then see Spacek while she is in the shower and she starts her period. She doesn’t seem to know what to do and has blood all over her hands. She grabs one of the popular girls, played by Amy Irving. Spacek is pushed back into the shower and they taunt her, saying things like ‘plug it up’, throwing tampons and sanitary napkins at her. The other girls involved are Nancy Allen, P.J. Soles and Edie McClurg. Their teacher breaks it up; she is played by Betty Buckley. During this, a light explodes while Spacek is screaming.

She is taken to the office where Buckley talks with the principal, played by Stefan Gierasch. It is decided she will be allowed to take the rest of the day off and go home. Gierasch keeps getting her name wrong and Spacek yells. An ashtray on his desk explodes and flips off the desk.

During her walk home, she is taunted by a boy on a bicycle. He is the nephew of the director and played by Cameron De Palma. He calls her creepy Carrie and she uses her mind to knock him over.

We then meet Spacek’s mother. She is played by Piper Laurie. She goes over to Priscilla Pointer’s house to try to spread the gospel. Pointer isn’t having it and tries to pay her off to leave. Laurie is bothered by it and leaves. Pointer is also the mother of Irving, in real life and in this film.

When Laurie arrives home she gets a phone call from Buckley, explaining the situation of what happened. Laurie blames Spacek for the change in her body. She starts to hit her with a book and reciting scripture to her. She then locks her in a closet where she is forced to pray.

Later that night she is allowed to come out and go to bed. In her room she tries to focus on using her telekinetic power and breaks her mirror. Laurie hears that and comes up to check on her. Spacek pretends that nothing happened and is told to go to bed.

Buckley then gets all the girls that were bullying Spacek into the gym. She tells them that her recommended punishment was to keep all of them from going to prom. She was overruled and everyone was given detention. The problem is detention is with her and if it is not completed, then they will be barred from prom. The girls reluctantly agree. During it though, Allen refuses to continue with it and loses her right to go prom. After it is over, Irving comes up with an idea to have her boyfriend, William Katt, to take Spacek to prom. He reluctantly agrees.

It takes him some time, but he does get her to agree, much to the displeasure of Laurie. Allen then comes up with a way to embarrass her. She enlists the aid of her boyfriend, John Travolta, his friends and Soles to put this into motion.

Will Spacek have the ideal night that Irving is hoping? Or will Allen be able to ruin it? Is Laurie right that everyone is going to laugh at her and that what she is doing is a sin?

I saw this film for the first time around when I realized I was into horror and wanted to watch things from Stephen King works. From what I’ve gathered is that everyone knew the ending due to the trailer and even I knew what was going to happen before the first I time I saw it. That doesn’t matter, because that to me isn’t the most horrorific part of the film, but it is great. The climax is very satisfying. What is worse in this film to me though is how Laurie and all of the girls in school treat Spacek. She is told wrong things by her mother and belittled. The girls at school, aside from Irving and the date of one Katt’s friends treat her bad and bully her. It is satisfying to see her getting her revenge, even though she kills the innocent in the process as well. This doesn’t have the most complex story, but it really doesn’t need to be. There are a couple of style choices that director Brian De Palma did in this film that I thought weren’t needed, they were comedic in nature.

The acting I found to be really good. Spacek is a little too pretty to be Carrie from what the novel describes, but she did style choices that make her awkward. She is also amazing at the end of the film and looks terrifying when she is using her powers to get revenge. Laurie is horrible as a mother and I thought she played this role great. I was highly impressed. I believed Irving, Katt, Allen and the rest in their roles. I thought they did a solid job and were well cast.

I thought the effects were solid. They were done practically and I thought they looked real. The blood which is corn syrup, as told to us by the film Scream, did really look like blood. Making things fly through the air looked realistically done as well. I thought the editing for the most part was really good. I kind of touched on that I had issues here for a couple of points where they sped up Katt talking to his friends to make it comedic. I wasn’t a fan of that. I did like the choices in editing for the climax though. The score of the film is a great blend of using the Psycho soundtrack as well as using music you would find during the era as well. It definitely helped to build the tension and set the tone of the film.

Now with that said, I would highly recommend seeing this film. It is a classic. The story isn’t complex, but it doesn’t have to be. The things we see at the climax aren’t even the most horrorific in the scheme of things. The acting is very good in this film. The effects are all practical and looked real. The editing of the film does have some issues, but for the most part is good as well. The score of the film is solid as well, helping to build the tension and the mood of the scene. I feel this film is great and deserves to be seen if you aren’t a fan of horror.

 

My Rating: 9 out of 10

10/29/2017 15:58

Film: Carnosaur

Year: 1993

Director: Adam Simon and Darren Moloney

Writer: Adam Simon

Starring: Diane Ladd, Raphael Sbarge and Jennifer Runyon

 

Review:

This film starts showing us the genetic code for chickens, lizards, vultures and other animals. We then see we are at a company called Eunice. They are genetically altering chickens. We see their board where there is Ned Bellamy. We then shift to the top scientist they have, played by Diane Ladd. Next it comes to Frank Novak. He doesn’t want the shipment of chickens to go out as he says there is something wrong with it.

We then get two guys checking out the chickens. One of them is played by Clint Howard. Something seems to be agitating them, but they are loaded and shipped off. One of the guys is attacked and it scratches his face. They make it out of the gate still.

While driving, the man hears something in the back. We see one of the chickens is attacked by something. He stops to see what is happening and he is attacked by a little dinosaur. It runs off into the night.

We then shift to a quarry. The man that is the night guard there is played by Raphael Sbarge. He is a drunk and he hears something outside. He goes to check and sees a bunch of people running off into the night. One of them stayed behind and it turns out to be Jennifer Runyon. He brings her inside and calls the sheriff on his radio.

The sheriff is played by Harrison Page. He is at crime scene where the truck driver was killed. With him is a doctor, played by Ed Williams. Page states he thinks it is a bobcat that did this. Williams states that there haven’t been bobcats in the area since he was born; being that he is much older. Sbarge tells him he caught a girl trying to sabotage the equipment and Page tells him that he will deal with it later. Sbarge ends up passing out drunk and Runyon leaves.

The following morning Page takes Sbarge to where the group is that is trying to shut the quarry down. They are worried about the environment. Page asks if Sbarge sees the woman that he had last night and Sbarge decides to lie. Page is bothered by this but tells him that if he changes his mind to tell him.

We then see that Novak entering the lab of Ladd. He is upset about someone close to him having passed away. He blames Ladd. Ladd tells him that they are still alive; he just has to go downstairs to see them. Novak does and ends up in a laser show. This is containing a tyrannosaurs rex. The lasers are keeping it in check, but it eats Novak.

The film then shifts to a group of three people in a jeep joy riding while drunk. They almost slide off a high cliff, but manage to stop. One of the guys gets out to urinate while the couple starts to fool around. They are then attacked by the dinosaur that is getting bigger.

Bellamy and the rest of the board are trying to figure out how to contain this. Woman start to become ill and we see that they are becoming impregnated with eggs. We see a scene where Page cracks eggs and black liquid come out of it. One falls and there is a baby lizard inside of it. This outbreak is spreading and a military unit is called in to contain it. Sbarge and Runyon hit it off. He finds the group has chained themselves to the equipment and he goes to get dinner from the local diner. He also is bringing something for Runyon. When he arrives back, they are being attacked by the dinosaur. The group is massacred except Runyon.

Can they kill these dinosaurs before everyone is dead? Can they get out of the quarantine? Did Ladd create these on purpose and why?

I have to say that I’ve heard of this film, but never had the chance to watch this until now. I surprisingly found it to be not that bad. I like the mad scientist aspects with Ladd, even though her reasons for what she is doing don’t make the most sense. I do like the idea that dinosaurs are being genetically created. It is fun to see them wrecking havoc in the town. It was slightly confusing at first why people are starting to get sick, but it does address that. I didn’t mind that aspect after the reveal. I really liked the ending though, I was hoping it would go the route it did and didn’t disappoint.

The acting leaves something to be desired. Ladd was okay as the mad scientist. I didn’t care for her reasoning, but that’s more an issue with the writing. Sbarge I couldn’t believe as the hero. He doesn’t command the role and I think that’s something that you need there. Runyon was bland. Page wasn’t bad though. Plus it was fun to see Howard, he is such an underrated supporting actor.

Next I need to cover the effects. I will admit that the dinosaurs look fake. For the most part though, I didn’t mind it. At the climax, the t-rex did bother me. The blood was all practical and I thought that looked great. The film has low running time, but I felt there were still some editing issues. There were just scenes that I felt don’t contribute much to the product and it made me question why they were there. It also didn’t build enough tension for me. The score to the film didn’t stand out to me, but it also doesn’t hurt the film either.

Now with that said, I surprisingly enjoyed this film, but it isn’t very good. The story is interesting in that dinosaurs have been created by genetics. This film does have a good concept. The acting wasn’t great, but there were some decent performances. The effects were good for the most part. The film does have editing issues and doesn’t build enough tension. If you like cheesy, campy horror films, I would recommend this one. This would be one to watch with friends while having drinks, but don’t expect much. It does have a solid ending though. It was quite average for me.

 

My Rating: 5 out of 10

10/28/2017 13:23

Film: The American Nightmare

Year: 2000

Director: Adam Simon

Writer: Adam Simon

Starring: George A. Romero, John Carpenter and Tom Savini

 

Review:

This is a documentary film reflecting on horror films that changed the landscape of not only genre itself, but films in general. We get to see interviews of directors as they talk about their famous films, a little bit of the background where the ideas of them came from and we hear from other directors and people in the academic community on how that film influenced them.

The first film that is explored is Night of the Living Dead. We hear from George A. Romero and where his influence came from for this film. We also see how society was at the time and things that people thought about after seeing it. Something big from it was casting an African-American, Duane Jones, as the lead.

The film also interviews Tom Savini, who would go on to work in horror films and a lot with Romero. He tells about his experiences in Vietnam and how it influenced him with his career.

We then move on to learn about Wes Craven and what inspired him to make the disturbing film, The Last House on the Left. From there we go to director Tobe Hooper as he details where he came up with the ideas of Leatherface and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Romero is brought back to talk about his classic film, Dawn of the Dead, the sequel to his previous one. He parallels human nature to what we see in the film and how the masses are not that much different from the zombies that see in the film. This documentary then features David Cronenberg. It shows a lot of his films, but focuses on Shivers, which is a tale that is similar to Dawn in that there is a fear of being different from the masses, but in a much different way.

The last film featured in this one is Halloween and we get interviews from John Carpenter about his masterpiece. He speaks on creating one of the first and most important modern slasher films. We finally then get that all of these directors grew up fearing the end of the world, but by the time that Halloween came out, the world seem to have moved on from sci-fi based horror films from their childhood to the much more real horrors from these directors.

This also features director John Landis, who created An American Werewolf in London. As well as Tom Gunning, Carol J. Clover and Adam Lowenstein, who are all professors or have professions in academia and give their impressions and reactions to seeing these films.

As a huge horror film fan, I was excited to check this out. I’ve seen all of these movies at the time of writing this aside from Shivers. It is fun to hear from the directors about what influenced them to make these legendary films, but it also great to hear from other horror icons as their impressions of seeing these films. There is a lot of good information in this documentary and it was highly enjoyable to me.

The only real drawback is that they really don’t delve as in-depth as I would have liked them too. This has a running time of 73 minutes and they move pretty quickly through each film. It also states on the case that An American Werewolf in London is included, but I think they are only pointing it out because Landis is interviewed. That film came out in the 1980s and isn’t covered in this. I’m a big fan of it so I would have liked to hear more behind it.

I would highly recommend seeing this documentary if you love horror films, especially classics from this golden age that shaped cinema to how it is today. Hearing these directors take on their own films as well as the films of their contemporaries is definitely worth it. It has a low running time so it is a quick watch. They do not as in-depth as I would have liked, but it is still fun to hear their thoughts. This one is definitely worth a view to horror fans or those who like to hear the back-story and in the insides of the filmmaking process.

 

My Rating: 8 out of 10

10/26/2017 19:45

Film: Dark Night of the Scarecrow

Year: 1981

Director: Frank De Felitta

Writer: J.D. Feigelson

Starring: Charles Durning, Robert F. Lyons and Claude Earl Jones

 

Review:

This film begins with a man, played by Larry Drake, playing in a field with a little girl, played by Tonya Crowe. Drake is a full grown man that is mentally slow. He is picking flowers with her and she tells him that he has to be gentler as he crushes one. She makes a couple of lays and states she has to kiss his cheek. He is against this, but does relent after coercion from her.

We then cut to the mailman, played by Charles Durning. He is delivering mail and stops by to talk to Lane Smith, who is working on a piece of farm equipment. Durning doesn’t like Drake and wants to kill him. Smith is against it and states he will rough him up, but won’t go farther than that without good cause.

Drake and Crowe are walking home. On their way, there is a yard that catches her eye. She wants to check it out. They look through the fence due to a broken board. It has some nice vegetation, a bird bath and a lot of gnomes. Crowe decides to go in and Drake refuses, not wanting to get in trouble. There ends up being a guard dog there and it attacks Crow. Drake busts through to help her. He then takes her home and her mother, played by Ivy Jones, freaks out when she sees them.

Smith rushes over to the post office, where he tells Durning that Drake killed the little girl. Durning takes out a handgun, puts it in his belt and tells Smith to get the dogs and the guns. They head off to pick up Robert F. Lyons and Claude Earl Jones.

Drake runs home when his mother comes out, she is played by Jocelyn Brando. She tells him to go and hide like she told him. Soon after, the four men show up and ask to see Drake. She tells them that he isn’t there and she hasn’t seen him. Durning tells her that the dogs say otherwise. She goes back into the house and the dogs follow the scent. This brings them to a scarecrow in the field. Durning ends up realizing that it is Drake in disguise. They kill him as a firing squad. Afterwards they learn that Crowe isn’t dead, she was just hurt.

There is a trial and the D.A., played by Tom Taylor, tries to convince the judge that Drake was killed in cold blood. He doesn’t see it that way and they are acquitted of the charges. They go off to celebrate while Taylor will do what he can to prove that they murdered him and get them convicted.

Crowe wakes up and doesn’t know that Drake has been killed. She seems to be called by him and goes to his house. She goes inside and speaks with his mother. Brando tells her that he has gone to a better place and won’t be coming back.

The next day, Smith is freaked out when he sees a scarecrow that looked just like Drake did after they shot him in his yard. He goes to get the rest and they meet up with Durning at his boarding house. Durning is irate, thinking that Taylor did this to get them to crack. He tells them that it is nothing and they are fine.

When Smith returns home that night, the scarecrow is gone. He does hear a machine in his barn start up. When he goes out there, he doesn’t find anyone. He turns it off and then climbs up to the loft. Something turns the machine on again and he is pushed. He tries to hold on to the light, but falls into his wood chipper.

Durning is told the next day over breakfast what happened and he is shocked. The other men are too. Jones even more so when he sees the same scarecrow on his property, is this Drake back to extract his revenge? Or is something else going on here?

Now I was turned on to this film from some horror film podcasts I listen to. I had never heard of it so I thought I would give it is a try. I have to say that I was thoroughly surprised. The story is something that could still be used today. We have a simple man, which has a mind of a child, who plays with a little girl. He doesn’t do anything wrong to her, but the man that hates him has issues and is hinted to be a pedophile. Durning will do whatever it takes to get rid of this guy, for no one reason than that he hates him. What I really like about this film though, is there is a chance that it isn’t super natural. We see the scarecrow, but it is possible that someone, like Taylor, could be using this to scare them and then kill them. There is a scene at the end that rebuffs this, but it is a solid concept. I really like the revenge aspect of this film.

The acting is good as well. Now he isn’t in the film long, but I thought Drake did a great job at portraying his character realistically. I’ve seen him in other things and thought he did very well. I was impressed. Durning is great at portraying a character I absolutely hated. It was well done. Lyons and Jones were good, thinking that something was up, but being weak enough that they could be pushed around. Smith plans a farmer very well, since the first thing I saw him in was Son in Law. I also really liked Crowe and Brando, who seem to know what is killing them. It is an interesting angle there. I also really respected Taylor in the small amount of screen time he had.

Now this film was made for television. I actually thought it was really well done despite that. The editing of the film is tight. It moves quickly through its 96 minute run time, building tension all the way through. It is one of those films where you are rooting for the killer to get his revenge. The effects of the film are good. The kills are all done off screen, but the effects used were practical. There is really very little blood. The score to the film fit well and helped to set the scenes.

With that said, I would recommend seeing this one. This is back when made for television films were still high quality. I think we are seeing a little bit of that again, but I was impressed with this one. This is a fun revenge flick that takes place in a country town and something we could see even done today. The acting of the film was good. The editing of the film was well done and the little effects used were also. The score helps to set the scenes and to build tension. If you want to see an above average revenge horror film, then I would recommend giving this one a viewing.

 

My Rating: 7 out of 10

10/25/2017 18:47

Film: The Cat o’ Nine Tails (Il gatto a nove code)

Year: 1971

Director: Dario Argento

Writer: Dario Argento

Starring: James Franciscus, Karl Malden and Catherine Spaak

 

Review:

This film begins with a blind man, played by Karl Malden, walking with his niece, played by Cinzia De Carolis. We learn later on that he has no family and is a retired journalist who is now blind. Carolis parents have passed away and they live together. Malden passes a car and goes to tie his shoe. While he does, he asks Carolis to get a look at the man in the car they previously passed. Malden had overheard a conversation between him and another man that the girl couldn’t get a look at.

We then get a point of view shot of the person from the car. They break into what we learn to be a hospital where they study genetics and perform surgeries that are experimental. We see him knock out the guard on duty and use a screwdriver to jimmy open a door. The person then goes in to where there are files. We then see someone who tries to enter and find the knocked out guard. An alert is raised.

The police officer in charge is played by Pier Paolo Capponi. Outside he meets a journalist who he allows in, played by James Franciscus. The man who runs the hospital is played by Tino Carraro. With him is his daughter, who is played by Catherine Spaak. There is also Horst Frank, Aldo Reggiani, Carlo Alighiero, Tom Felleghy and Emilo Marchesini. They all meet together to see if they can figure out what the purpose of the break-in is. Reggiani throws out that there could be corporate espionage, but he is shot down, stating that is not possible.

Alighiero looks at the files and knows something is up. He contacts someone to meet with him. They do so and we get an up-close shot of someone’s eye. This image will recur throughout the film when this individual is involved. We also get POV shots again as well. Whoever this person is, they push Alighiero onto the train tracks to cover the crime they committed. As this happens, there are paparazzi there to photograph a famous woman. One of them happened to snap a picture when the crime happened; he is played by Vittorio Congia.

The story is run that it is an accident. When Malden is brought the paper by Carolis she notices the man in the car from the night before. Malden then reaches out to Franciscus. He wants him to look at the full picture that was cropped for the paper. Malden does so and Congia reveals that it was murder. Franciscus is on his way over, but before he can get there, Congia is murdered by the killer.

Franciscus and Malden then team up to try to piece together who the killer could be. Franciscus also works with Capponi, who they share information with. Malden with Carolis go to meet with Rada Rassimov, who was Alighiero’s late wife. Franciscus goes to meet with Carraro and his daughter Spaak. He is rude to the latter and she seems to be intrigued by it.

There are more loose ends for the killer to tie up when Rassimov finds a note in her late husband’s car. She hides it in her watch she wears around her neck. The killer does get to her before Franciscus can. The killer doesn’t seem to find anything in the watch. Where was the note hidden then? The killer also learns that he is being investigated by Malden and Franciscus. Will he kill them before they can figure out who the killer is of these 9 suspects they have?

This is a film that I had been meaning to see for some time. I have been a big Dario Argento fan, the man that directed and wrote this film. It had been on a list of mine and when I heard a bit about this film from a horror film podcast, I finally found the time. I am glad that I gave this a viewing. I haven’t seen very many of the Italian giallo genre, but I’ve been starting to see more and more. I will say that I was guessing until the end who the killer was and I really liked that. There are some films that are too predictable and it ends up bothering me. This one gives us a lot of suspects, many with good motives. I didn’t fall for many of the turns that the film wants you to. I had two suspects in mind and I ended up being wrong when I decided to go with the other. I will say that I was slightly disappointed in the ending of the film overall.

The acting did leave me something to be desired. I don’t buy that Franciscus could be as mean as he is to Spaak and for her to sleep with him that quickly. Now I am not from Italy, so maybe it could happen. It just seemed rushed without good interaction between the two. I will say that I loved his interaction with Malden. I thought Malden was good for the most part. There is a twist near the end that I found to be played a little bit awkward as well. Spaak doesn’t have much of a personality, but she was beautiful. I also thought that Carolis was a cute kid and adds a dimension to the film. The rest of the cast don’t stand out, but round everything out fairly well.

Something I don’t normally notice in a film is the score. This one I did. A lot of that is I know Argento uses the band Goblin or Ennio Morricone. If I’m not mistaken, Morricone did the score for this film and it is great. I love the 1970s, progressive rock sound the film has. It gives the film an eerie feel, even in scenes that normally wouldn’t be. I thought the editing was okay. There were some parts that drug on for me and this film does have slight lull. The effects in the film were good. There’s not a lot blood due to the weapons the killer used, but the deaths looked real.

Now with that said, I would recommend seeing this film. It really is a murder mystery of who is the killer done by the master of horror Argento. The story is quite interesting and there are nine possible killers, all with a motive of some sort. The acting isn’t the greatest in this film, but it isn’t all bad. The score of the film is great, the editing was decent and the effects were good. This isn’t the best giallo by Argento and not his best film, but I would say that it is definitely worth a viewing. An above average film overall.

 

My Rating: 8 out of 10

10/24/2017 19:22

Film: Mother!

Year: 2017

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Writer: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem and Ed Harris

 

Review:

This film begins showing a woman on fire. We then see Javier Bardem put a crystal in a pedestal. The house then fixes itself as it looks to be either in disrepair or has been burned. It then ends up in the bedroom where a woman wakes up; she is played by Jennifer Lawrence. She goes looking for her husband. She opens the front door, then Bardem comes up from behind her.

It turns out that Bardem is a famous writer. He is struggling though and been unable to write. His house was destroyed in a fire and Lawrence has fixed it up herself to make it look like it was before the tragedy. She touches the wall and can feel the heart of it. She absolutely loves Bardem and will do whatever she can to make him happy.

That night they are interrupted by a doctor, played by Ed Harris. He thinks the place is a bed and breakfast. Lawrence is leery of him, but Bardem takes a liking to the guy, offering for him to stay the night. Harris has a bad cough and drinks some kind of liquor. Bardem joins him. Lawrence makes up a bed and goes to sleep. When Bardem doesn’t join her, she finds that Harris is sick and throwing up. Bardem has her leave the room and she hides Harris’ lighter by pushing it back off the stand it is on.

The following morning when Lawrence is making breakfast, there is the doorbell. It is Harris’ wife, played by Michelle Pfeiffer. She is there to stay with him. It is then revealed that Harris is dying and that he came there to meet the writer that changed his life, Bardem. Things get uncomfortable when Pfeiffer starts to make herself at home and ask some questions that are too personal. Lawrence also notices there is a weird wall by the furnace as well.

Making matters even worse, Pfeiffer and Harris go to touch the crystal that Bardem is in love with and it breaks. Lawrence goes to kick them out while Bardem boards up his study. Before they leave, Brian Gleeson shows up at the house. Following behind him is his older brother, Domhnall Gleeson. Domhnall is upset that he is being written out of the will and the two brothers get into a fight, with Domhnall injuring his brother too where he might not make it. Bardem leaves with the family to get him to the hospital.

While they are gone, Lawrence cleans up the blood. It has soaked into the floorboards below it and leaked into the basement. It is to the point that the wood falls apart. Lawrence goes down into the basement to see that the blood has exposed a door in the weird wall. She uses a wrench to open it to find a room with a giant vat of something in it.

The boy ends up dying and Bardem returns home. A party is being thrown there in honor of Brian Gleeson. Harris and Pfeiffer as well as other friends and family show up. Bardem is all for the party, but Lawrence is not as they are not listening to her. When her sink and its counter are broken she flips out. Bardem then ends the party. During this she also feels that the heart of the house has died a little bit.

That night they finally make love and Lawrence becomes pregnant. With everything that has happened, Bardem is able to write again and it is the most beautiful thing that he has ever written. The problem with it though is that it starts a whole turn of events that lead down a path that no one can stop.

Can Lawrence keep her husband and this idyllic life? Or will Bardem need those around him more than he needs her? What was the crystal that was broken? What did it symbolize?

Now it took me a whole day before I could write this review, because I felt that I needed to reflect on what I saw. First I will say that director Darren Aronofsky can create the most beautiful and haunting films that are out there. This film tackles so many issues. Bardem is a man that needs the fame; he needs the love of everyone around him in order to be happy. In order to obtain this though, he also needs the unconditional love of Lawrence. All she asks of him is to be there with her, but he can’t do that. This film also looks at the issues of cults or how people can be easily influenced by the ideals of them. There is also imaginary of governments stepping in when ideals like a cult are too strong. I have to say that I just loved how everything played out and the ending was amazing.

The acting of this film was superb and that is really what is most important. Lawrence was amazing in this role. She has to deal with wanting what is best for her and her family, while her husband, Bardem, wants to be beloved. She gives love to him unconditionally and supports him, to the point where it ruins everything she worked for. Both of them did an amazing job in their roles. Harris and Pfeiffer were great in the time they are on film and their characters were also interesting. I thought the rest of the cast did a solid job to round out the craziness of this film.

As I’ve stated, this film is shot beautifully. For the most part are close-ups of Lawrence’s face and we even get extreme close-ups. We follow her through everything that is going on. As the house that she has worked so hard on falls apart, the scenes reflect that and even showing the heart of the love that Lawrence has. I thought the editing of this film was something that was tough, but very well done. We never get a concept of time and during the climax, things change constantly. I thought the film did a great job at portraying that, but never taking me out of it. The score of the film was amazing as well. It fit perfectly and blew me away with it building tension.

Now with that said, I would recommend seeing this film. The film doesn’t have the most coherent story, but it is not that type of film. It is carried by the acting and it is really an allegory touching on a lot of different topics. It is shot beautifully. The effects are mostly CGI, but they look wonderful. The editing of the film is amazing and the score is as well. The horror of this film comes during the climax and it has some crazy things that happen. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone as this is more an artsy film. If this sounds interesting and you are into those types of films, give it a viewing. I felt this film was amazing and I believe my rating will come up even higher after another viewing.

 

My Rating: 9 out of 10

10/23/2017 19:20

Film: Carnival of Souls

Year: 1998

Director: Adam Grossman

Writer: Adam Grossman

Starring: Bobbie Phillips, Shawnee Smith and Larry Miller

 

Review:

This film starts with a young girl spying on two people in another room. The girl is played by Raquel Beaudene. The woman in the other room is her mother, played by Anna K. McKown. The man is Larry Miller. He is raping her and then Beaudene comes in to stop it. She picks up a gun that belongs to Miller and points it at him. Miller then breaks McKown’s neck and Beaudene flees.

She grows up to be played by Bobbie Phillips. She now owns and runs a bar that belonged to her mother. Helping her is her younger sister, played by Shawnee Smith. Smith isn’t overly reliable and is somewhat flaky. This is due to her trying to create a music career at the local bars. Also helping out at his bar is Cleavant Derricks.

I will point out here that this film has an odd timeline that jumps back and forth between the past and present. We learn that Phillips’ testimony is what put Miller away. Phillips sees a car that belonged to him and a red balloon. She gets into the car and he appears in the backseat. He puts a gun in her mouth and forces her to drive. They go to where the carnival was when Phillips and her family met Miller. To get out of the situation, she floors the car and crashes into the water.

She wakes up in the bathtub that is overflowing. Derricks is knocking at the door, trying to wake her up. The water is leaking to the bar below. They have to clean it up, but the water is still dripping even when they think they have gotten it all.

Phillips is haunted that Miller is out of prison and is after her. She goes as far to let Henry G. Sanders, a regular at the bar, to drink for free to look into Miller. The information he brings back though is that Miller is dead. Despite this, Phillips still sees him regularly and thinks he is out to get her.

Derricks finds out that there is some flooding in the basement so Phillips goes to get a pump to get the water out. She decides to get a carwash after she picks this up. She has a horrible vision that the truck she drives gets stuck and the carwash is leaking in. The water is starting to fill up the cab and then she wakes up in the water.

Phillips does meet a man, played by Paul Johansson, who catches her trespassing where the carnival used to be set-up. He is interested in her and offers to take her out on his boat. She declines, telling him she hates the water.

Smith can see that all of this is weighing on her mind. She wants to sell the bar, but Phillips goes back and forth with what she wants to do. Her visions are getting worse and aside from seeing Miller, she also sees these white, demon-like creatures. What is real and what is in her mind? Can she figure it out before it is too late?

Now I will lead off stating that this is the second time I’ve seen this film and I still am not a big fan. This is a loose remake of a film with the same name. This one really only brings up the surreal feel that the original did and not knowing what is real or what is fake. I will say that from this film, I do like that there is an issue of Phillips carrying the guilt of watching her mother die and that is the root of what is wrong with her. She can’t live it down and no matter what she knows to be real, she is still haunted by her guilt. I also normally am a fan of films that have surreal feels like this one does; the problem though is that the story doesn’t make sense. On top of that, I really didn’t seem to care, which I should feel bad about it, but the film doesn’t do enough for me to make a connection with to feel more for her. I didn’t mind the ending; I just didn’t completely understand how it was possible.

The acting left something to be desired. Phillips was attractive and she seeing her descent into madness was good, but her acting was subpar. She doesn’t really show much range for me which hurts this role for her. Smith doesn’t get a lot of screen time so I really didn’t have much of an opinion on her performance. She normally is very solid, especially in the scream queen role. Miller was great as the murderous clown who haunts Phillips. The rest of the cast weren’t very memorable.

For this I will talk about the effects first. They were all practical and I thought they looked good. The white demon-like creatures I was a big fan of actually. To go from this, the editing of the surreal scenes was good. They matched them up well with the next scene for it to make sense of the progression. The editing wasn’t good though in that I was bored throughout the film. It never built tension for me to care unfortunately. The score of the film also left something to be desired, but I did like the carnival music that was used.

Now with that said, this film wasn’t very good. It does do well at keeping with the feel of what the original did. It does have as strong a story though for it has the impact though. I liked the concept that the guilt Phillips is carrying is causing her to have these horrible visions that are haunting her. The acting in this was mediocre in my opinion. The effects that are used in the film were good, making the creatures look creepy. The surreal feel of the film I enjoyed. The editing did lack as the film was boring to me. It never builds the tension it needs. The score of the film also didn’t stand out. I feel this is a below average film. I would recommend the original and avoid this one.

 

My Rating: 4 out of 10

10/22/2017 13:44

Film: Carnival of Souls

Year: 1962

Director: Herk Harvey

Writer: John Clifford

Starring: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist and Sidney Berger

 

Review:

This film begins with a group of guys in a car pulling up alongside a car full of girls. The one in the passenger seat is played by Candace Hilligoss. The guys ask if the girls want to drag race. They agree. The race takes them to a bridge where the car of girls crashes and falls into the river below. There is a search done, but the car cannot be found due to dirt and speed the water is moving at. Hilligoss does emerge from the river, even though its been hours since the incident happens.

We then see her at work. Her boss is played by Tom McGinnis. Hilligoss went to college where she studied playing the organ. She actually works at a factory that makes organs. She has accepted a position in Utah to play the organ at a church. She isn’t religious, but she wants to get away from the town the incident happened. She is very good at playing this instrument and the haunting sound it gives.

She has decided she will drive straight through to the new town. As she approaches at sunset, she sees an odd building in the distance. She tries to change the radio station, but it seems to only be playing organ music and gets louder as she tries to change it. She then sees a face outside of her passenger window, played by director Herk Harvey. This causes her to crash. She comes to a gas station and asks about the address she is staying at. He directs her where to go and also tells her about the pavilion in the distance.

Hilligoss makes it to the boarding house and she shown around by the landlady, who is played by Frances Feist. She is firm, but takes a liking to Hilligoss. She sees Harvey outside of her window and it freaks her out. The next morning she goes into work, meeting her new boss. He is a minister and played by Art Ellison. She tries out the organ and those inside get sucked into her playing. She gets light headed and Ellison tells her that he has to take a drive to run an errand. He asks her to come along. She asks if they will go past the pavilion. Ellison states they will and will take her to it if she’d liked.

The two of them go and stop at the building. Hilligoss is fascinated with it and wants to go inside. Ellison tells her that is not possible, as it against the law. We then see that Harvey is inside of this pavilion, looking out at them.

Hilligoss arrives back at her room and Feist asks about her day. She offers to bring up coffee and sandwiches for Hilligoss if she’d like, since she hasn’t eaten yet. Hilligoss accepts and states that she will take a bath first. There is another tenant of this place, who is played by Sidney Berger. He knocks as she is getting out of the bathtub. He is somewhat pushy and she shuts him down. Hilligoss does feel bad about being rude and goes to apologize. She happens to look over the banister to see that Harvey is sitting in a chair. He gets up and starts to head for the stairs. Hilligoss locks herself in her room and becomes more terrified as the steps get closer. The doorknob turns and it is Feist. Hilligoss lets her in, but Feist is worried about her tenant.

The next morning Hilligoss has coffee with Berger. She thanks him for the gesture and then goes out shopping. She encounters a problem though when she can no longer hear anything around her. She tries to communicate with people and they don’t seem to notice her. What is wrong with Hilligoss? Who is Harvey and why is he following her?

Now this is about the third time I’ve seen this film. My mother actually showed this to me the first time I saw it as she was a big fan of it. I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time I saw it, due to age. This is a great example of psychological horror. You have a woman, Hilligoss, who goes through a near-death experience and trying to cope with the world around her as she deals with the stress of it. She goes through mood swings, where she wants people around her, but also wants to be alone. She has a man who is a womanizer that comes on to her. She enjoys the attention, yet he comes on way too strong. She is also being plagued by Harvey and other ghouls of a sort. The question is are they real? Why does she go through spells where she can’t hear anything and no one knows she is there? The ending is great and makes the film for me. There are also some creepy parts that made me feel unsettled as well.

The acting is good for the time. I really think that Hilligoss was great though. She plays some who is traumatized and trying to live life very well. I say this because she has to deal with wanting to be alone, then wanting people around all the while having people telling her how she should be coping. This is an issue that people who are dealing with things have to live, you can’t get into their head and sometimes telling them what to do doesn’t help. Berger annoyed me, but I’m fine with him in the film. I also thought Harvey did well as the specter that haunts Hilligoss as well.

The score of this film is something I really want to talk about. I can’t tell if there are more than two songs in this film, but most of it is organ music. It is haunting and unsettling. It gives the film the mood that it needs. The times that it is used make even normal scenes feel creepy. The editing of this film was excellent as well. The film only runs 78 minutes, but there are some great cuts from one scene to the next that impressed me. There really isn’t much in the way of effects so I really don’t have a lot to say there.

Now with that said, I would recommend seeing this film. It is a haunting tale of a woman trying to deal with near-death experience. It makes you question though these ghouls she is seeing, are they real or her hallucinating to deal with this trauma. Hilligoss’ performance is solid and the rest of the cast doesn’t stand out, but help to support her. The score of this film is haunting and I loved it. The editing of the film was very good. I will warn you that this film is from 1962 and is in black and white, if that is an issue then avoid this one. If you can get past that, I would definitely recommend this film even if you do not like horror.

 

My Rating: 8 out of 10

10/21/2017 13:06

Film: Captivity

Year: 2007

Director: Roland Jaffé

Writer: Larry Cohen and Joseph Tura

Starring: Elisha Cuthbert, Daniel Gillies and Pruitt Taylor Vince

 

Review:

This film begins showing us a guy that is strapped down and is tortured by some kind of device. The man calls out in pain as he is killed.

We then shift to a beautiful woman putting on make-up to be photographed. She is a model and played by Elisha Cuthbert. We hear a lot of her interviews throughout the film and we learn that she is the hottest thing on the planet. We also see that someone is following her. They are recording her as she goes.

Cuthbert then goes to a bar where she is followed too by this mysterious person. We see that she orders a drink and before it gets to her in her private area, something is poured into it. She immediately becomes sick and tries to make it to the bathroom. She then discovers that she is being videoed. She passes out.

We then see that whoever did this to her is creating a scrapbook of some kind. We see that the first page is identifying the victim. When she wakes up, she is irate and starts to break things. A drawer opens and there is an outfit inside of it. She refuses to put the outfit on and the lights become much brighter and a loud sound is emitted. She hides under her bed to get away from it and then finds a tool she can use. She tries to escape from through the vents, but it doesn’t work. She is captured before she can get away.

The next time she wakes up, she is strapped down. The person fills up a blender full of body parts and blood. It is mixed up and then a funnel is shoved into her mouth. She tries to not drink it, but does until she passes out. We then see that the next stage of this is isolation.

When she wakes up again, she notices that there is a strip scratched out of the wall. It turns out that it is a window and there is someone on the other side. He writes a message to her by scratching more out and then she does the same back to him. They end up clearing a lot of it out and can see each other. Sound is not getting through the glass though. They find a vent that allows them to talk and he gives her matches when the power is turned off by the person watching them. This guy is also captive with her and he is played by Daniel Gillies. The two of them create a bond together in trying to find a way out.

It turns out the person who is watching and controlling everything is Pruitt Taylor Vince. Why is he doing this to them? Who is Gillies really? Can they get out or will they fall victim like the rest of the people who have been captured have been?

Now I will say that the first time I saw this film, I believe I was in college and I really liked it. I thought it was creative take on films like Saw. After my second viewing though, I am not as impressed by it and it didn’t hold up. I still like the idea of why Cuthbert is taken and held, but I don’t like the reason why it is being done. I don’t know if it something that could really work. I thought what is done to torture her and others was solid concepts, but not really sure it fit in the film per say. Wasn’t a fan how things played out during the ending and the twist got me the first time. I knew what to look for this time and the motives of the twist do not make sense. The story just doesn’t seem to flow as it should. I also don’t believe the house, its size and the set-up is real enough to believe.

The acting does leave a little to be desired. I didn’t mind Elisha Cuthbert. I thought she was great to look at on scene, but she doesn’t blow me away in this film with her acting. Gillies didn’t impress me much in this film. Vince, who I’ve seen in other things can play a creepy guy very well just didn’t get enough screen time for me to be impressed. There isn’t much else in the way of cast to really touch on here as well.

I will say that the effects of the film were good. I think they were done practical from what I could see. There is an acid on skin scene that looked good. The scene of forcing Cuthbert to drink a horrible liquid was gross and fun to see as well. The editing of the film does have some issues. For a film that isn’t very long, it does seem to drag. I get why we are focusing on the relationship of Cuthbert and Gillies, but I found myself bored with it. The score wasn’t bad. It stands out in a couple of scenes when it needed to build tension, which was good.

Now with that said, this film is average at best. The story is a take on the ‘torture porn/Saw-like films’, but doesn’t play out well enough. It doesn’t feel like those scenes really fit into the film to me. I liked the idea of why Cuthbert was taken, but not the reasoning of it. The acting is okay, nothing to write home about. I thought the effects of the film were good. There are some editing issues as a film at this length shouldn’t have felt as long as it did. The score of the film was good as well. I think this film does deserved to be viewed once, but there isn’t much rewatchability to me.

 

My Rating: 5 out of 10

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