Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Short Film: "King in the Box" (B)

Another short film by Adam Green - I just couldn't resist. Saw this one at Fantastic Fest prior to seeing "Spiral" and the entire audience was laughing by the end of it. It's genuinely ridiculous and for some reason amuses the hell out of me. Which seems to be a trademark of Green.

Anyway, you gotta watch it (and love it).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Nightmare Remake?

Surely there is nothing in the horror world that is generating as much controversy and forum arguments other than whether or not remaking "Nightmare on Elm Street" is a good idea. Especially with the recent Rob Zombie remake of "Halloween," this has me shaking in my boots a little bit (for proper explanation of why I don't like the remake, read the review I'll write ... later).

Mr. Disgusting over at B-D wrote down a few ideas why he thinks the remake is something to be excited about. I have to say - I agree with most, if not all, of them. Particularly the bit about wanting to see a prequel of sorts, because I always wanted someone to explore that. Especially since it can be rightfully explored, as opposed to creating a background that doesn't - shouldn't - be created. If my allusion to Rob Zombie's version of Michael Myers isn't that obvious to you, come visit me in Austin so I can beat you with a stick.

My hesitation is exactly like the hesitation I had before the remake of "Halloween" came out. "Nightmare on Elm Street" is another favorite of mine - scared the crap out of me when I was little - so if this gets botched, I'm going to be more than a little upset. I had high hopes for other remakes and have learned not to let a director's name get me too excited. I just don't want the prequel to be explored and be magnificent and then the movie to become a shot-for-shot remake. There's no point in that. There are reasons why the "Dawn of the Dead" remake was great, whereas "The Omen" remake was completely pointless and a waste of money. Also, I'm not sure that Michael Bay producing is a good thing or a bad thing. I'm leaning towards bad.

But, you know what? It's very hard not to get excited when you think about the prospect of more Freddy, who has always been one of my favorite monsters. Given the right casting, Freddy could be just as creepy and sick as Robert Englund's portrayal of him ... although you never can beat the original. Here's hoping for a great cameo. Key term in all of this, however, is GIVEN THE RIGHT CASTING. It'll be nice to see someone else's take (within certain parameters, anyway). Mr. Disgusting also raises a good point that this version will undoubtedly be gorgeous, which excites me to no end.

So I remain cautious, but I am going to keep my eye out for a nice red and green striped sweater so that when the day comes ... I will most definitely be in style.

Note: Head on over to B-D, because they also have an interview with Robert Englund regarding the remake.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Film Review: "Land of the Dead" (B-)

I have to say, this is one Romero flick I'm torn about. It has it's moments, and I love the satire in it, but in terms of straight up horror evaluation ... I wasn't too much of a fan.

I suppose the main reason this film doesn't work for me is that Romero takes a unique concept and runs with it ... but he runs too damn far. The concept is, of course, the idea that zombies can evolve and learn just as humans do. Disregarding the obvious questions - how do they learn if they are, by definition, brain dead? - it could be a pretty ingenious idea when utilized correctly. But I feel Romero goes too far with it, which ultimately is detrimental to the film.

Don't get me wrong, there are several things I really love about the film so I by no means think it's god-awful. For one, the reality of it is pretty startling - we all know that in the event of anything that shatters society (here, zombies) when there is no government, the rich would take over. And that is precisely what happens in "Land of the Dead" and I feel that was portrayed accurately. There are some fun lines, of which my favorite is "zombies, man, they creep me out" which seems to be somewhat moronic, but is actually quite genius in my opinion. To my knowledge, no one on screen in a zombie film has ever acknowledged their fear of them and the way it's expressed here is just perfect in context. I also love Charlie's character for some reason. But I have to say one of my favorite things about "Land of the Dead" is the sequence where the zombies enter and cross the river, which I thought was done very well and is genuinely creepy. But the winner of my favorite scene in the film is one particular zombie attack where a seemingly decapitated body comes at a car, flips his head forward and bites a guy. Now that's creative.

That being said, there are a whole lot of things about this film that grate on my last fucking nerve. The first and most obvious being that I think the zombies "education" was taken way too far. The idea that the lead zombie could swipe guns off guys on motorbikes seemed ridiculous, much less that he actually uses it later in the film. One, there's no way that classic Romero zombies have quick enough reflexes to swipe something off of a moving motorbike. And then learn how to use it? I wasn't buying it, unless we're supposed to understand that the zombie is acting on some sort of gun-toting instinct, which seems to be a more appropriate political commentary coming from Romero. The scene where all the zombies grab tools was cringe-inducing. I get that a zombie could act on residual human instinct and clump - even work - together with other zombies, but the idea that they could each individually evolve enough at the same time to understand that picking up a power tool could help break a window that probably is bullet-proof? Yeah, I wasn't buying that either.

All in all, if you're looking for a quick, somewhat fun, gorey zombie flick, then this is for you. I'm upping the grade of this based on the obvious political allusions of the film, because they are fantastically well-done. If you look deep enough, every scene holds a larger, relevant meaning and I love that. But I did not like the ending, so the grade dropped back down to a low B - 'cause come on, giving the zombies a "place of their own"? That just sounds stupid and didn't come off any better.

One last thing: "Zombies, man, they creep me out" is a pure genius line. Don't try to argue with me on this, just accept it and move on.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Film Review: "Spiral" (A+!)

This is one of those movies that I can't be objective on. I loved this movie through and through - there's no way I can find fault with it. I saw this first at Fantastic Fest, then when it had a limited release and played in Austin (which rocked).

I love how it burns slowly and builds to its shocking ending so perfectly, I love that jazz music is such a strong presence, I love that it isn't a straight up horror film but instead fucks with your head. I love that you get so drawn in with the characters that even when you know something is up, you can't help but love and feel for Mason (Joel David Moore). I love that Adam Green of "Hatchet" fame co-directed this with Joel Moore, also of "Hatchet" fame. Moore, by the way, also co-wrote and produced the film.

This is really more of a dark thriller than a proper horror film, so any genre fan looking for another "Hatchet" will of course end up with a huge surprise. This film really rides on the characters, particularly Mason, which is a huge reason why it works so well. Another reason it is so good is that the twist ("non-twist" as I believe it's been called) is what you think it is (if you pay attention, anyway), but then another twist is truly great. And this isn't the kind of twists that end up forming huge plot-holes or ruining a movie (like the end of "High Tension," which I hated).

The acting is brilliant - I found myself really identifying with Amber (Amber Tamblyn), who is so unique and wonderful and a breath of fresh fucking air when compared to the other sad and stereotypical roles of women in horror. Joel David Moore, who I already loved from "Hatchet," is also fantastic, especially when you consider how far from any previous role this is for him (having usually done comedic roles prior to this). Mason is so strange, so tortured, and even when the end comes, I couldn't help but still sort of like him in an odd, sympathetic manner.

There is one scene for me that stands out and not in an entirely good way. When Mason is in the graveyard to visit his mother's grave, there is a pop-ish song playing and I hated that. The scene itself would have been fine, but the music seemed so out of place when compared to the rest of the jazz-infused scenes. This might just be me, though - I liked that jazz became this secondary character and was so important to Mason. It was an added unique layer to an already great film.

I truly can't wait for the DVD - I've heard it's great. Also very notable is that this film stands up to multiple viewings. I've seen it twice and wasn't disappointed either time. I concede this film isn't for everyone, but it is a stunning change of pace and certainly found itself into my favorites. For me, this is near-perfect independent horror.