Saturday, March 15, 2008

Film Review: "Doomsday" (C-)

You know, I was semi-excited about this film, but also very, very nervous. Why? The trailer made it look like a film where a fanboy made an homage to '80s flick with a plot pretty much copied from better virus movies. Well, I was right to be nervous.

There are bits of "Doomsday" that work, but the vast majority of the movie is a mess. The plot seems to be copied (as are entire scenes) and some of the film just doesn't make any sense. Why would an armored tank that supposedly can withstand chemical warfare not have bulletproof glass? How does a Molotov cocktail and a cannibal with ax manage to crack through that glass? How does a woman, although legitimately kick ass, not suffer - at the very least - a dislocated shoulder after knocking a guy off a speeding bike with an ax and not dropping it? Hitting someone while standing stagnant who is going that speed would do serious damage to BOTH parties. These are just two of many examples that the film suffers from more minor details harming overall story. Which there isn't much of.

I loved "The Descent." Sure, these are two very different types of movies, but where "The Descent" is tightly wound and beautifully paced, "Doomsday" is chaotic and at times, boring. It doesn't even seem to be edited right, or perhaps that's on purpose. Whatever it was, it didn't work - the fight scenes were actually annoying rather than exhilarating and fun, which could have been it's saving grace. The different parts of Glasgow - "Mad Max" wannabes vs. a lame Medieval setup - just didn't fit, even if all Marshall was going for was a laugh. I never thought that I would walk into this movie and have moments where I really wanted it to end.

The only thing I liked about this move was killed way too early. To be honest, I didn't like Rhona Mitra's character - she was baffling and her sentimental side made me roll my eyes. Perhaps that's why I wanted to see more of Sol's girlfriend, who I would call a demented cannibal with Maori tattoos . Why was she not in until the end of the movie? She alone could have made some fucking entertaining scenes. Instead of the lame Gladiator-esque matchup between Eden and a guy wrapped in tin foil, there should have been a grand epic battle between the two women.

I feel like "Doomsday" is, at its best, supposed to be a laughable, entertaining movie. The problem is, it is laughable. Just not in the way Marshall wants it to be. I suggest he go back to movies that aren't completely derivative and have actual artistic quality. This will end up going down as a multi-million dollar botched '80s homage and that's just sad.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Film Review: "May" (A+!)

Wow. A character-driven horror movie with a female lead that is brilliant. I was so surprised, this wasn't exactly what I was expecting. I had heard very good things about this movie for a long time, but the DVD cover didn't exactly entice me ... but finally got it through Netflix and watched it. I ended up loving it! It's definitely going onto my list of favorites.

From opening to closing sequence, this movie is startlingly good. It's a slow-paced film that doesn't need a whole lot of extra things added in to make it any better. The characters are written perfectly, which, for this type of movie, is absolutely necessary. You tumble back and forth between really liking May's shy, intriguing weirdness and feeling nothing but empathy for her ... to cringing when she is struggling to connect with anyone, especially a man. Still, though, you find yourself identifying with her need to just have a friend. Who isn't a doll, anyway.

Part of what makes May so easy to connect with is Angela Bettis' portrayal of her, which is excellent and completely top-notch. Having heard her speak at Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, I know how unnatural that sort of high-pitched, slow voice was for her. Not to mention the way she manages to evoke such emotions in anyone watching the film. I have a special place in my heart for these types of movies, so the good acting all around just made it that much better.

Highlights for me have to be the opening sequence, which I was NOT expecting ... and definitely set the tone for a dark and bloody film. Another favorite is when Adam shows his movie, because May's response is a genius line that had me laughing out loud, but also sufficiently weirded out. I find that to be an awesome combination, myself. The ending, which I found to be fantastic, oddly beautiful and fitting, left me wanting to see so much more. And THAT is a mark of a truly great film.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Book Review: "The Ruins" (A+!)

This book has been on my "to read" list for a very long time, but I only recently got to it. I didn't want to see the movie without having read the book first so that was the catalyst for me finally settling down with it. I ended up devouring it all in one go, finishing at 5am ... and well, let's just say it took me five minutes to even set the book down after reading the last line.

There is just something about this book that, much like the vines, crawls underneath your skin and stays with you. Rarely do horror novels stay with me or even scare me, but this one did. When I finished the novel, I had this moment of wondering what I was supposed to do. It felt like I needed a therapy session, especially with the incredibly bleak ending. I don't know what I was expecting, but the ending just completely floored me. Needless to say, it took me awhile to get to sleep and school the next day was a haze.

The thing about this book is, Scott Smith takes a plot that seems vaguely ridiculous and makes it work flawlessly. I have to admit, when I found out that the so-called villain were vines - or at least that's how they are described - my knee-jerk reaction was one of "oh this is gonna suck." I was wrong. It turns out to prey on what I think is genuinely frightening - something invading your body, making you crazy and turn on yourself, as well as everyone else around you.

The book's also not short on blood. Or any kind of violence at all. The characters, crafted and developed so well, are hard to let go of because you feel genuine empathy for them. They aren't even necessarily making stupid decisions, they just don't know any better. (SPOILER) So when one of them is suddenly forced to amputate both of his friends legs, or when one of them is going batshit insane, you really do feel for them. (END SPOILER)

I highly recommend this novel, although if you like your horror fiction just as simple entertainment, this is probably not for you. It is a profoundly disturbing story that even I found hard to read. I also guarantee that from the moment you open the book, you will be swallowed into a Ruins black hole and not reappear for at least four hours. Definitely give yourself the time to read and don't plan anything for awhile. Include an extra hour for recuperation time. And possibly therapy.