Friday, December 5, 2008

"What's your favourite scary movie?"

OK, so now we have a week in review. The main film I have seen this week would be the recent classic horror movie Scream. It has taken me an unacceptable amount of time to watch this, I know, and as a result I had already seen and heard a reasonable amount but that didn't stop me enjoying the hell out of it.

If you are a horror fan, you will probably enjoy all the nods this film has to some of your favourites. While it is often referred to as a spoof of the genre it holds up very well as a horror film in itself. It's clever how the character Drew Barrymore plays gets killed off so early on as it demonstrates that anything can happen in this film, no-one is safe. I also see this as a nice homage to Psycho when the supposed star gets killed off half-way through.

The cast are all good, Jamie Kennedy and David Arquette stealing the show for me personally. I think Randy was probably my favourite as I could totally relate to the guy, even more so in Scream 2. Courtney Cox plays Gale Weathers with such a great attitude, you really hate her but want to see more of her throughout. Neve Campbell is a good enough victim, not falling for every cliche but enough to make it amusing.

The reveal of the killer is both really obvious and totally daunting at the same time. You know that there is more to Billy than what you see, he is way to shifty to be innocent but you think you're wrong when he 'dies'. The fact that it was him AND Stu was a smart twist. I liked the little exchange between those two and Sidney when the tables are turned, the dialogue was very good throughout.

Wes Craven is obviously no stranger to the horror genre although I am not too familiar with his work. A Nightmare on Elm Street is probably one of the most terrifying ideas for a horror movie I can think of, even though it's execution is maybe less effective these days. Having someone like that give life to this movie was a genius idea and worked very well. Although I didn't see it at the time, I can understand why it caused such a fuss. The slasher movie had lain dormant for a while and this really reinvigorated it and I believe it probably revived the whole horror genre. We can't go a week without a new horror movie being released now!

Best Scene: The opening, just so unexpected.

Best Quote: 'Did you really call the police?'
'You bet your sorry ass I did.'
(sobbing) 'My mom and dad are gonna be so mad at me.'
Did You Know?: The janitor in the school is actually Wes Craven and he is wearing the easily recognisable sweater worn by Freddy Kruger.

Overall: A throughly enjoyable horror movie with some great references while still being unique in itself.

Also this week:

· Thir13en Ghosts - Maybe focuses too much on the effects (which are effective) and lacks in plot. The cast are good however and it offers up enough jumps and gore to remain entertaining. I have always been a sucker for the haunted house idea anyway so I was sold. :)
· The Wizard of Gore - I have never seen the original so have nothing to compare it to but it was an interesting horror film. I think it maybe threw a bit too much at the viewer, especially near the end but I think I followed it. Good performances throughout and unusual sets also.
· Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay - Have to admit, the only reason I watch these movies is for Neil Patrick Harris but I do find myself laughing throughout. NPH is still the highlight though and is even more entertaining in this sequel, I love the fact that he is more than happy to send himself up as he does. If you watch it though, stay till the end of the credits!!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

"She's a real carpenter's dream: flat as a board and easy to screw!"

After the disappointment of Friday the 13th, a friend of mine mentioned Sleepaway Camp. It's in the same vain in that it's set in summer camp with a murderer on the loose. I was expecting it to be a spoof of the idea but it actually wasn't. I guess Friday the 13th was too new and small to be made fun of at the time.

Firstly, I enjoyed this more than Friday the 13th. The characters were more developed, the story had more depth and the acting was better. Not that the acting was great but it was as good as it needed to be. Angela was an interesting main character that you wanted to know more about all the way through. The character of the Aunt is absolutely demented, I have no idea why she was like that but it was amusing. The male characters were OK but the other girl, Judy, was pretty bad and really irritating, not that you were supposed to like her anyway. I do have to say that the cop at the end that arrives at the camp has the most awesome movie mustache ever! It's absolutely hilarious, think Groucho Marx!

The plot is kinda flimsy, just a typical slasher movie really although the deaths are way more inventive than F13th. The script is nothing to brag about, it gets the job done which is all you can expect from something as low budget as this. But the ending? That's another matter altogether! The killer themself is pretty predictable once you get nearer the end but that's not the bit that gets you. If you want to see it then don't read on because this is a pretty major spoiler....Angela turns out to be the brother that survived the boating accident we see at the beginning. The crazy aunt decided to raise her as a girl for no apparent reason and it has obviously traumatised him/her enough to send him/her on a killing spree! It doesn't make a whole lot of sense and there is a bizarre flashback sequence part way through with their father and his male lover in bed together that I don't quite understand (explanations on a postcard please!). But it's the actual revelation rather than the idea. The final shot is actually pretty terrifying for such an overlooked horror film. It lingers on the screen for a lot longer than you probably care for it to be and it is truly haunting.

Best Scene: That ending.

Best Quote: Probably the one in the title.

Did You Know? In the UK, the film is known as Nightmare Vacation (which is weird, why would they change a normal enough title to one that is more American?)

Overall: Well worth watching just for the ending but it has good elements throughout. I'll probably check out the two sequels although they are not supposed to be as creepy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"It's just a book. No harm ever came from reading a book."

No matter how many times I see this movie, I always enjoy just as much as the last time. It's a genre that is criminally under-used: the adventure film. Sure, it's not as good as Indiana Jones (few things are) but it's pretty damn close. It's one of those films that you catch the beginning of and then just find yourself watching the whole film, it's so much fun.

The cast is spot on. I really like Brendan Fraser anyway and feel that he doesn't get the roles he deserves. He makes a very good hero, sarcastic, tough but also just as confused as everyone else. Rachel Weisz is an excellent heroine as she knows more than most of the other characters, she never holds anyone back and can take care of herself. John Hannah and Oded Fehr offer entertaining support and the villains are good too.
Considering the age of the film, the effects still hold up. The plot is enthralling and entertaining and the script is snappy, fun and well delivered. I love the soundtrack, it suits the action perfectly, really gives you a sense of Egypt.

Best Scene: My favourite scene is probably the sand wall bit. Visually great with amusing reactions from all the characters involved with a great conclusion. It's so hard to pick a favourite scene really, there are so many good parts.

Best Quote: "Some bloody idiot's spilt his drink!" - Winston Havelock

Did You Know? The scene where Rick and co. land on the right side of the river surrounded by bullrushes, that is Frenshams Pond near Hindhead. I've swam there! But minus the palm trees and pyramids...

Overall: Highly entertaining, the running time really flies by and it stands up to repeat viewings.

I like The Mummy Returns as well, although it's not as entertaining. I'm generally not a fan of child actors and so their son ruined it for me a little. I've yet to see the latest one but I don't like the fact that Maria Bello has replaced Rachel Weisz, I think I would have preferred to have just seen a film with Rick and Jonathon. But I'll reserve judgement until I see it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Jason was my son, and today's his birthday..."

I think I'm a bit of a hypocrite when I call myself a horror fan as there are 3 classic horror films I have never seen: Scream, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th. With this blog, I intend to rectify that starting with Friday the 13th.
Firstly, I have to say, I cannot believe this is considered in such high regard and has garnered so many sequels. The acting is dredful, just lots of screaming and badly delivered lines. None of the characters were developed enough to remotely care about them, whether they lived or died. This isn't exactly uncommon in horror films but at least there is usually some sort of suspense and entertainment in waiting to see how the victims get killed off. But the deaths in this were drab and uninventive, it really had nothing going for it in my opinion.

I already knew the ending, inasmuch as I knew Jason's mother was the killer. But it was set up really badly if you ask me. The fact that she was only introduced about 5 minutes before she is revealed as the killer meant that there was no build up, no time for people to formulate their own ideas of who the killer was. The scare of Jason leaping out of the water was good but totally copped out when it was just a dream. I'm all for dodgy horror movies but this just took the biscuit.

For once, I think I might check out one of the sequels to see if it actually improves!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Warriors...come out to play-ay!"

I'll admit, I'm often a victim of watching movies purely because there is someone I like in it. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it really doesn't. Otherwise, I watch movies because they are recommended to me or something is an apparant 'must-see'. So I'm not entirely sure what possessed me to rent The Warriors. I didn't know anything about it, didn't know anyone in it, I just hear someone mention it every now and again and felt it was something I needed to watch.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I was under the impression that it was going to be really dated and to a certain extent it was but it doesn't fall victim to 70's fashion because each gang has a different style. I could easily have watched another half hour or so to see some more gangs. The story was so simple and yet compelling, you got to know the Warriors well enough to care if they got home and cleared their names. It's one of those films where you can't really catch everyone's name on first viewing but I particularly liked Swan, Vermin and Ajax. You gotta love films with characters with stupid names. I'm glad that Vermin didn't get killed as was originally written. The female character was also good because she wasn't your typical love interest, she could handle herself and didn't cause chaos as most of them always do.

I liked the way it was shown as a classic style comic book during the transition, it added to the real story type element of it having been originally derived from a Greek story. Considering a lot of the cast were unknowns, they all did a reasonable job, granted there was really a lot of 'acting' to do but you believed them. The costumes are also brilliant, if totally whacky! You kinda wish you could see more but you do get a good look at various gangs during the opening titles.

I know there's supposed to be a remake on the way, I don't see why they need to. I can only see it being pretty much EXACTLY the same movie, maybe with just more violence and a heavier focus on social issues and gang warfare.

Overall: A good piece of entertainment, worth a looksee before it undoubtedly gets tainted by the remake.

And the game continues indefinitely...kinda like Monopoly!

OK, so, the Saw sequels. I'm gonna go ahead and say straight away that I don't think any of them have come close to matching the first and they are gradually getting worse in my opinion but they still have things going for them.

Saw II doesn't feel totally like a Saw film to be honest. It is more like a House of Horrors but with characters we know and the theme of Jigsaw's game. And this was pretty much the case as the director had intended this to be a separate film but producers felt they could market it better as a Saw movie so Leigh Whannell was brought in to help with a rewrite to make it better suited. It's a good film overall, it's nice to see the character of Amanda back and the new arrival of Donnie Whalberg as Eric Matthews, one of the most popular characters of the series. The twist at the end is another good one and I liked how it linked up with the first one by ending in the same room. What I failed to mention in the last blog was the absolutely fantastic theme, written by Charlie Clouser. I only really noticed it in this film but going back and watching the end of Saw again, I'm convinced that added a substantial amount to the creepy factor.

Saw III was a bit of a drag for me. I liked seeing the relationship between John Kramer and Amanda as well as the flashbacks of Adam. It was all the other elements featuring Jeff that I just couldn't get on with, I just really didn't care where that was going and even when it all came together at the end, I was still a little underwhelmed.

Saw IV just left you with more questions than answers, definitely not recommended if you haven't seen the other movies. There's so much going on and it leaves you with such a confusing twist that you don't really know what to make of it. I think it was trying to be too clever and leave too many clues that it just felt overly bogged down. I know people say how good the scene transitions were but I found them to be a bit irritating and took you out of the film.

The traps continue to be inventive and disturbing, it really makes you think: what would you do? If I had to dig my eye out for a key or have a load of spikes clamp on my face, I'm sorry but I'd go for the spikes any day! I'll probably see Saw V when it comes out on DVD as I want to see if anything gets solved but I do hope they wrap things up sooner rather than later, and hopefully by finally telling us what happened to poor old Dr Gordon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"I want to play a game..."

Seeing as it is not quite 2009, I may be a bit premature in my blogging. But it is never to early to start watching movies! Does a marathon runner just get up in the morning and run 26 miles? Hell no. So I have decided to do some training in preparation for this mammoth task. I decided to start with a film that people had been nagging me to watch for a few years now, a little horror film called Saw.

Now, over the last couple of years, I have really gotten into horror films. I like them with a bit of humour like American Werewolf in London or Shaun of the Dead, some with a more psychological effect like The Shining and sometimes the occasional gore fest like Re-Animator and Evil Dead. But what I have never liked is violence. Violence and gore to me is totally different. I don't really like intense peril where there seems to be no hope of escape and to me, that was what Saw always seemed to be like to me.

But I was wrong.

In a sense at least. It was intense peril and it had a very down ending but it was just absolutely fantastic, edge-of-your-seat filmmaking. It was far less gory than I expected, it focused more on the trauma of the situation and the confusion and distrust rather than the shock tactics of sawing limbs off. Even in the climactic scene, you barely see much more than the initial laceration. The acting is great from both leading men (Leigh Whannell, also the writer, is particularly convincing whereas Cary Elwes goes a little OTT near the end) as well as the supporting cast. The whole idea is very original, one of the most inventive and disturbing concepts of a horror film in a long while. Maybe because it's so real, it could happen to you. It's clever how the serial killer, never actually murders anyone and he himself wants his 'victims' to live. The twist at the end was magnificent, I don't care about all the people that apparently saw it coming, I could barely get my head round it when he was standing up! I remembered people saying they couldn't believe who Jigsaw was and there was me, thinking I was so clever that I figured it was Zepp when I first laid eyes on him. More fool me. And finally, the direction is very effective, erratic in once scene then hauntingly static in another. It's an outstanding breakout film for the young Aussie filmmakers.

I won't deny the fact that there are several plot holes in the movie, things that just don't really make sense. The one that irks me the most is the key. If Adam was supposed to have the key to be able to undo his chain, why was he chained up in the first place? Why were there two saws? How the hell would Dr Gordon have ever shot him if he could freely move around? That doesn't make sense to me. I'm still very curious to know if Dr Gordon survived. Sure, he probably bled to death or Jigsaw got him on the way out but you never know. I'm sure they will probably acknowledge it sometime in the near future.

The next day, I decided to watch Saw II but ended up watching III and IV as well. But I will do that in another blog so as not to clutter it up.

Overall: A very well done horror film and one that I would happily watch again and again. If that makes me sick then so be it!

I also want to get the special edition DVD as I have heard that the commentary is very entertaining.