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.