Saturday, December 15, 2007

Review: "I Am Legend" (B-)

This is one of those movies that I was genuinely excited for, but ended up disappointing me. Not a huge disappointment, but it still didn't quite make the cut for me. But the end of the world is one of my favorite subjects, so it's also very hard to gain my appreciation. Especially with zombie-like creatures involved. 

I'll talk first about the good things. Will Smith's acting, as always, is stellar. It's a heavy burden to basically carry a movie solo, especially one that is so high budget. But even down to his interactions with his dog, Sam, and a mannequin, Fred, he somehow managed to connect and translate it (especially during a later scene in a video store). They tapped into something I feel is crucial and that is, people who are alone for long periods of time are not necessarily the sanest. Social interaction is a huge part of what makes us human and deprived of that, we become scarily close to animals - living only by habit and instinct. I like how they showed Smith's character as desperately holding on to parts of himself (talking with mannequins, setting the table for himself, etc.), but they also added another dimension and alluded to his growing loss of control. 

Another good thing is the visual effects of New York as post-apocalyptic, which are very well done. I loved the long, sweeping shots of what is basically a wasteland. The dog as a supporting role, by the way, was an excellent choice. Not only does it add some depth and uniqueness to what could have been another end of the world flick, but the way they did it was really just fantastic. I know in past movies based off the same book they've had more people survive and I really liked they took this one a different route. And finally, I liked that they used score music sparingly and relied on the character's obsession with Bob Marley, although that did get out of hand towards the end.

Now the bad things. First, I really thought they should've kept the so-called "dark seekers" (zombie like creatures) actually in the dark. The anticipation and seeing them sparingly was actually much better than when they were out and about (the screaming sequences were way too much). That is largely because the special effects done to create them was sub-par and there were some plot points that just didn't sit right with me (a creature creating a mastermind trap to catch the last scientist on earth that can save the planet ... come on). The scares that did happen were too predictable, although I do think if the attacks had been more vicious, there would have been vast improvement. The introduction of two characters with a half an hour left in the film also didn't sit well with me, particularly because the way they finished the film with those two was over the top and cliched. And the narration at the end had me rolling my eyes. 

That being said, you can't go into this movie looking for 28 Days Later (because that movie is one of the best zombie flicks ever). For one thing, the dark seekers aren't zombies, although they do eat people/everything. Plus, the movie's PG-13 rating does hamper the storyline because it doesn't allow for more shocking moments. I would've liked to see a flashback of the initial outbreak and the streets of New York running with blood (melodramatic, I know), but that would have likely called for an R rating. Also, the one thing I did not want to happen in this movie happened (I won't say what, because that's a spoiler) ... and it really did break my heart a little. It's the one thing I can't stand happening in movies and after that, it was hard for me to genuinely like the film. I don't think it was bad, but I'll never be able to watch it again. 
Another thing that annoyed me is that the trailer sort of leads you to believe this movie is going to be in the horror genre. It really isn't and it's being billed as sci-fi, although I don't think it's quite that either. It's a weird sort of mix of the two, with drama thrown in, so I'm really not sure what to call it. And there's also a fair amount of higher budget action scenes added in as well. I was expecting it to be more creepy than it was and I think it had potential for that, but just didn't live up to it. They may also have done that to attract a wider audience.  

Overall, I think the movie is worth a look, although you can probably wait until it comes  out on DVD and not miss anything. Will Smith's acting alone is a reason to see it, but again, you aren't missing out by not seeing it on the big screen. Then again, f you're not a horror fan/film geek who thinks post-apocalyptic movies have to be nearly perfect to warrant an A, you'll probably enjoy it more than I did.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Review: "Hatchet" (A+!)

Now it's time to review one of my favorite recent horror movies, but also one that within 10 minutes of watching it became one of my all-time favorites (a category that is NOT easy to get into).

Hatchet is brilliantly funny, doesn't take itself seriously, and pays great homage to the films of the slasher golden years. The acting is spot-on and I really just fell in love with so many moments in this film. I feel like any review I write is not going to do it justice.

First off, I have quite the crush on Joel David Moore. He's so fucking cute in this awkward way and his expressions during this film just had me laughing my ass off. There is something about him ... I'm not sure what it is, but I hope I get to meet him one day and I hope he needs a girlfriend because I am certainly up to it. Hell, I'll take pretty much anything he has to offer. To give you perspective: I like him so much, I sat through the worst horror movie quite possibly ever - "The Dead One" - just to see him. He is just the right person for this role. Also, on that note, having seen him in other films (most notably his film "Spiral," which blew my mind), I know he is more than just a comedy/horror actor.

The supporting cast is also seven different shades of awesome. I'm not sure you can count Kane Hodder as Victor Crowley supporting, but he's definitely suited to horror films. Plus, he's motherfucking gigantic. And Deon Richmond as Marcus was a riot. Seriously, the scene where he climbs the tree? I nearly choked I was laughing so hard and then I spent the next five minutes wondering why people just don't climb trees. It kind of makes sense, but I guess then you wouldn't have a movie. Mercedes McNab plays the dumb pornstar with an STD so well and is genuinely funny, although I do wish she would find another role besides the dumb blonde to play.

The script is amazing. There are not many writers out there that can do horror and comedy, much less mix the two. There were several moments where I'd be laughing, then suddenly jump because something scary happened. It was a great mix. And I want to be clear this isn't one of those dumb comedies that makes you laugh once (if even that). I've seen this film multiple times and every single time, I laugh. It's smart, it's gorey, and it's just a great throwback film to the 80's. I wish more horror films today were like this.

Adam Green is a genius. He's done many things I love ... the other film being "Spiral" which he co-directed with Joel David Moore (review later) and also his short films (which are beyond hilarious).

SEE IT or you are dead to me (and climbing a tree will not help you).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Review: "The Mist" (B)

Wow, I have to say I was really surprised by this movie. That being said, I haven't read Stephen King's novella and I didn't know much about the story going in beforehand, but for some reason I had a feeling that I wasn't going to like the film. I don't think the trailer did it any justice, because I was wrong.

The thing is, I don't really have a thing for monster movies - I don't dislike them, but the vast majority of them (in my opinion) have been moronic with no redeeming value whatsoever. However, this isn't really a monster movie, at least not in the sense that we think of when we use that label. I think it's really about the capacity we have as humans to act like monsters rather than what is outside the supermarket. Don't get me wrong - I quite liked the monsters (those spider things were fucking creepy), but Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) screaming "We want the boy!" was one of the best scenes of the film, particularly because of what happens towards the end of it (you'll know what I mean if you ever see this). And I'm going to go off on a tangent and just say that the old lady ROCKED. She had some of the best lines/moments.

The ending really does just wrap the entire film in a big shocking, violent and honestly surprising bow. I had a feeling something like that was going to happen, but I didn't quite realize just how good it would be. The earlier scene where the father makes a promise to the son clued me in that something was going to go down. You don't see too many endings like that and I really thought it was fantastic. I do think one of the guys who reviewed it over at Bloody Disgusting was correct when he noted that the ending will make or break the movie for you. Some will like it, some will absolutely hate it.

There are a couple of things that did not work for me. The first, and most important, was how it seemed to slow down quite a lot in the middle of the movie. I understand some lulls, but this one seemed to go on and on. I thought the scene leading up to the sacrifice took too long and honestly, I was a little bored. And finally, more minor but still genuinely distracting, the music at the end was used way too much and I didn't think it was an appropriate match in the first place. That could be because of the lack of music prior to its use (which was good), but it did seem out of place to me. A soft score might have worked better, rather than forcing some sad song down our throats. I'm aware the moment is sad, I don't need Arabic women wailing (I'm guessing it was Arabic, but it was definitely wailing of some sort) at me for me to understand that fact. 

Notice how I am not saying what the ending is. Stephen King said that anyone who revealed it should be hung until dead, so I'm taking that threat seriously. He's kind of a scary (but cool) guy. I have a crush on him and those glasses of his, so I obey. 

Monday, October 29, 2007

Review: "Saw IV" (B-)

So. Yet another movie in the Saw franchise.

I suppose I should go back and re-watch each movie and review them each in order, but the only one I really would want to go back and watch is the first (which is still my favorite). That being said, I don't think each sequel has been bad, but I do think, however, that this franchise has to die out eventually. I had virtually no serious desire to see this movie and only ended up seeing it because there were rumors Donnie Wahlberg was going to be back in it and well, I like him. And I admit - I was curious to see what they were going to do with Jigsaw since he died in the third installment.

I'm still confused after watching this, I'm not going to lie. I feel like in order to give a proper review, I have to go and re-watch Saw III, which you'll understand if you ever see this movie. The ending of this one really threw me for a loop. While I had somewhat figured half of the ending out, I did not get the larger part of the equation prior to it's arrival and if there is a soul in this world that actually did, I want to meet him/her right the fuck now. I'm going to have to go re-watch both Saw III and IV in order to figure this out.

The thing about the Saw franchise that inevitably draws me in each time is the sheer cleverness of each movie. That's a serious compliment considering these movies are made super-fast. They've been able to come out with one each Halloween. And that's fucking quick for a movie. Also, the movies never one-up themselves because they simply don't try to. The kills don't get better or worse, they're just different. But the way everything is tied together and how each movie comes out feeling somewhat fresh and original is a damn good thing.

I do feel like this movie is flawed. For one, some of the acting just wasn't that great to me. Some of it felt stale and other parts felt like some actors were trying a bit too hard. The script seems stale to me at times, and I feel like the movie rests a little bit too much on the shock value audiences get from the torture sequences. Which, by the way, I don't think are as bad as some of the ones in the third installment (the bone breaking one at the end was, for me, hard to watch since I can't stand that sound). Additionally, the movies just aren't scary anymore. The first one had some scenes that gave me nightmares and preyed on some of my worst fears. The second was alright in terms of fright. These last two have not made me jump or scared me at all, which is a bit disappointing.

Overall, the movie is entertaining for any fan of the franchise. The films always succeed in pulling me into the movie and making me think. Oftentimes, I find myself asking myself what I would do if placed in such a horrifying situation and that affect - forcing your viewers to question themselves - makes a movie that much better because it personalizes something you think won't happen to you or simply can't be real.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Review: "Hellraiser" (B)

This can also be the post wherein I might say something a horror fan has never said before: I don't worship at the feet of the film Hellraiser. In fact, I kind of didn't like it. But I think it's noteworthy to remember I'm watching this for the first time and I didn't take my DeLorean back to the 80's.

I suppose my main problem is that I just didn't find this movie disturbing. Every review I've ever read has hailed it as being scary and profoundly disturbing, but ... uh, I don't get it. This is probably a sign of me being really desensitized to violence or ... something. I thought Pinhead was scary enough and he had some really (truly) awesome lines - one of which is the title of this journal - but the movie just didn't resonate with me. I wish there had been more scenes actually IN hell with Pinhead. If there had been a scene with Pinhead bending over someone talking in that calm yet scary as fuck way he has while they writhe ... well then I would have a very different review I suspect. And I really don't think the pleasure/pain aspect was explored all that well. Weren't the cenobytes or whatever they're called experts at mixing the two? Wasn't that what we were told or am I just a moron? I didn't see any pleasure in this movie except for the slightly lame sex scenes (I forgive that because the movie was made in the 80's).

Don't get me wrong, just because the movie doesn't resonate with me and I don't carry an insane affection for it - that doesn't necessarily mean I don't think it isn't a classic. I get that it's a movie that changed things in the genre and back then, it must have been revolutionary. That one scene at the end where the guy (see, this is why writing reviews days after the fact is bad) is basically torn apart by the chains and his face is all extended? I will admit to being sort of "wow" at that moment in the movie. If you translate that same scene to now (which they probably will, they're making a remake I think), it has the potential to be the kind of scene that forces people out of theaters. Which makes me wonder how marketable a remake of "Hellraiser" actually will be, but that's another post. Or, actually, I think it would do well - it's about a torturing Hell that mixes pleasure and pain and everyone's all about torture right now ... so if they marketed right, it could be a hit. Then again the movie market is a fickle bitch when it comes to the horror genre.

If I were grading this on how much I liked the movie, I'd give it a C. But ... I know it's a classic and I recognize why others would like it/why it was revolutionary so I'll bump it to a B. Really, I should give it an A just for the line "I'll tear your soul apart!"

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Review: "30 Days of Night" (A)

An isolated Alaskan village. Complete darkness for 30 days. Ancient, blood-thirsty vampires.

If this wasn't enough to draw you in to see
30 Days of Night, I don't know what is. Except for maybe the fact that David Slade of the genius film Hard Candy directs. In fact, I was so ready for this movie that I dragged a friend to go see it at midnight the night before it opened, despite the fact that she had early class the next morning.

This movie is utterly gorgeous, to start. I was practically overwhelmed that a horror movie was this fucking pretty to look at. The cinematography is genius. I'm not sure who will appreciate the macabre beauty of blood splatters against the snow except hardcore horror fans, but this movie is definitely a feast for the eyes.

One of the best things about this film is that it takes a tired myth - vampires - and ... well, re-vamps it (seriously bad pun). The teeth, for instance, are rows of sharp-edged fangs. Instead of biting victims and sucking their blood, these vampires have to rip and tear and the feeding is messy. It isn't "oh, yes, I love human blood, but I only have a trickle coming down the side of my mouth" kind of feeding. How lame is that, anyway? I also loved the long nails - the one scene with the girl literally being clawed to pieces gave me the chills. I did , however, have the reaction of wondering why it always seems to be a woman that dies in such drawn out and tortuous ways. The consequence of being a feminist who loves the horror genre, I guess.

The acting in this movie is quite good. Josh Hartnett and Melissa George were well cast, in my opinion. They both do well with showing the small-town mentality and the shock that comes with their safety being so compromised. George manages to balance vulnerability and kick-ass woman so well. Josh Hartnett has definitely earned some more points with me (already had some from
Sin City) and has risen up on my ladder of celebrities worth my attention. His character involves so many complexities and the end ... well, that was just the maximum amount of cool I think I can take. The comic-relief character had me giggling throughout - even when he died, I was laughing, yet I was also sad. Weird dynamic, but somehow it worked.

Also? Ben Foster? That creepy dude from the beginning? He was brilliant - the one scene with him standing in the cell and making that speech ... I loved it. And usually when you have one person talking for a long time in a horror movie, it's the kind of crap expository monologue that appears in the last 30 minutes to explain to the audience what the hell is going on. Here it's just creepy as all hell and is the perfect set-up for the entrance of the vampires. Speaking of, Danny Huston as the lead vamp was phenomenal.

This movie is grisly, but in all the right places. I think it's important to note that it actually doesn't go overboard. Although I will admit to perhaps not being the best judge when it comes to that - I tend to be on the "more is always good" side. And yes, the movie is a horror film, but the character evolution here really is great. The blood and gore doesn't overwhelm that. In fact, in one key scene, the lack of gore enhances that development.

One thing I have to mention in regards to the vampires is that whenever they would shriek or do something particularly animalistic, the audience would laugh. I didn't really get that. My tip to my friend? Don't picture them as humans doing the things they do. They stopped being human the moment their heart stopped beating. Now, they're just animals relying on base instinct to get what they want, which just so happens to be human blood. They're also ancient - we're given insight that they're centuries old, which probably explains why they speak the way they do.

All my love for this movie aside, I did think it was a tad too long. Then again, that could just be the atmosphere of the film - by the end of it, I too wanted it to be day 30 and to prevail over the vamps. The fact that I felt that way is a good thing and a compliment to Slade's direction. But one thing I really did actively dislike about the film was the music (but only at certain points). Sometimes it just felt ... off. At one point, a pounding, dramatic beat started up so loud it was vibrating the movie seats, but there wasn't anything really going on. I had a "what the fuck?" moment in the theater that interrupted the flow of the movie, which annoyed me. And if I were to nitpick, I also didn't like the way they told us what day it was. That being said, these really were just minuscule annoyances.

So, yes, if you couldn't tell ... I highly recommend this movie. This review is practically an open love letter to David Slade and everyone else involved in the making of the movie.