It seems the reviews turned out to be longer than expected… and pretty time-consuming to write. So here’s the first half of the movies I saw on the weekend, complete with covers (copyright: amazon.de, amazon.co.uk and amazon.com) plus trailer-and imdb-links:
I don’t know what it is with all those superhero movies lately. Be it the X-Men trilogy or Christopher Nolan’s new spin on the Batman-franchise which try to be more sophisticated with their pseudo-psychological subject matter or the Spiderman series which doesn’t offer anything else but an annoying main character and villains without any profiles whatsoever.
Truth is they don’t work, at least not for me. Only one new superhero movie did it for me, which was “Watchmen” which had an interesting way of showing different timelines and interesting characters who weren’t really superheroes in the sense that they really wanted to be the protectors of society, something which I always found bothersome with those other main characters.
Now “Kick-Ass” has some of the same qualities: a main character who wants to help other people, who is (like Peter Parker) a real loser, but what makes it different is that there’s no supernatural element. There is some over-the-top violence and action, true, but it’s not the family-friendly version the new superhero movies portray.
Of course the idea of becoming a superhero is something a lot of kids (myself included when I was very young) can relate to. Only problem is that the trailer only showed that and sold the movie as some kind of stupid comedy which it definitely isn’t. I would say it’s even more mature than any of the other aforementioned mainstream movies in that it deals with topics those rarely touched upon. Not even talking about the violence, blood and some gore scenes (which again show how the German censorship, age restriction is a joke of and in itself), the movie shows scenes in which people just close their eyes or draw the curtains of their windows when they watch someone getting beaten up. Or even worse: they want to record it and put the video on youtube.
The director ingeniously hides the violence behind some punk rock or sometimes even childish music, but make no mistake: It has some really shocking scenes, and the message of injustice and the lack of moral courage is something not many movies dare to touch upon with an action-or superhero movie which is also a lot of fun. Where else do you get a small girl with the name of Hitgirl being trained by her father Big Daddy (played by Nicolas Cage) who kills a whole mafia gang?
I don’t know what it is with animal horror, but I just like it in a strange way. It’s one of the guilty pleasures you have, like watching a slasher movie when it’s not really important what the story is about but how the characters are killed. Of course in an animal horror flick, especially with a crocodile, you KNOW they get eaten up, you KNOW they are torn apart limb from limb. The only question is WHEN it attacks and HOW it looks like. There have been many examples, especially in B-movies, where it just didn’t work, because the animal was badly animated or it showed up too late in the movie. The last good croco-horror flicks I remember were „Alligator“ from the 80ies and „Lake Placid“ from the 90ies, the former because of the horror, the latter because of the comedy.
Now having a movie made by the director of the excellent „Wolf Creek“, my expectations were pretty high. And I wasn’t disappointed. Granted, it takes a while until the creature shows its ugly face, but sometimes it’s more effective to hint at its size and strength than show it (even though at the end it looks pretty good).
There are some parallels to the movie „Black Water“, but I liked this one much better. Maybe it had to do with the characters which weren’t getting on my nerves or it was the monster itself in comparison to the real-life creatures (and some strange ending which didn’t fit the realism of the rest of the movie).
It’s just a really entertaining flick with a crocodile which is no disappointment when you see it and a finale which even beats the old „Alligator“.
If „Rogue“ was the subtle approach to animal horror, „Primeval“ definitely takes the crown of bloodiest and goriest crocodile movie ever. It doesn’t take any prisoners. Even small children aren’t safe from it. The tempo of the movie is so ultra-fast that it doesn’t really need any exposition or character development. Some would see it as a flaw, but there are so many movies which waste a lot of time to introduce characters you don’t really care about. „Primeval“ just doesn’t care in the first place. The crocodile doesn’t really care who gets on its dinner plate.
And then of course you have the African militia which at first seems a bit out of place with all its political chaos involving machineguns firing at resistant fighters or natives (hard to know who was who) and decapitations. But then you really get the sense that the movie is not really split in half. It’s true that the animal doesn’t appear that often (but when it does, oh boy, beware, blood, guts and mayhem ensues), still it fits the chaotic African wasteland and water regions where the camera team is hunted, either by the crocodile or the militant group. So you ask yourself the question: Who is the hunter, who is the hunted, and who is the most violent? Human beings or a creature which was actually created by blood that was spilled and seeped into the soil and the water of Africa?
Dead Space: Downfall
Of course as a gamer I was very interested in a movie adaptation, even though it looked like a cash-in. Which it actually is. There’s no doubt about it. The story and characters are not that important, the animation is, except for the 3D-CGI-scenes, cheap. The voice acting lacks immediacy and enthusiasm.
But what it keeps is some really good musical score and the trademark of the game: blood, gore and scares. It never achieves the same sense of panic and horror which the original evokes, but it’s a nice addition nevertheless. Unfortunately it’s also pretty redundant if you played the game and know the story anyway.
So even if the „Resident Evil“-movies weren’t really connected to the real storylines of the survival horror games, they at least tried something new and had Milla Jovovich as a bonus. Maybe it’s a bit unfair to compare them to the “Dead Space”-anime. So let’s compare it to “Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury” which had more or less the same length, bad animation and not much story and character development. Both are nice to watch, but both are also pretty irrelevant.
There’s something about movies shot with a camcorder which doesn’t cut it for me. But it doesn’t have anything to do with the technology itself, but with the directors’ reliance on the technology alone. „Blair Witch Project“ was the beginning and how the guys pulled it off was a pretty amazing publicity stunt. Because there was nothing in the movie that was really remarkable. No story, no characters, nothing but a bunch of people running around in the woods in the middle of the night for the last 10 minutes after they were talking for 60 minutes or so with people about this witch. A documentary that tried to be realistic and scare people. Obviously it did.
Then we have „R.E.C.“, another publicity stunt. The trailer only showed people in cinemas how they jumped off their seats screaming. Sold. What does it offer? An annoying female reporter and a camera man who can’t hold the camera still for even one moment. I would have fired his ass the moment he applied for the job, same with the woman. But not talking about the characters, what else did the movie have? Nothing. It tried to scare people with shaky camera movements, loud screaming and a famished model (at least this is how the woman, creature looked like). Obviously it did.
Now „Paranormal Activity“ seemed to be the same thing, showing people jumping off their theatre seats and screaming. So I went in to see it with very low expectations (not in the cinema, but watching it on Blu-ray). And what did the movie have? Everything! Well, everything also included a very annoying female character lead and a guy obsessed with his camera. But what the movie really succeeded in and which all of its predecessors failed at was: It was scary and gave me goosebumps. Not to give anything away, but the way the sound worked with deep bass attacks and the steady camera was just brilliant.
Of course „Paranormal Activity“ borrows a lot from other movies like „Poltergeist“ or „The Exorcist“, but this time the technology of a camcorder is used to emphasize the movie’s atmosphere: panic and horror. Dare to watch it alone with an open mind and low or no expectations and you’ll be easily surprised.
I have to confess I haven’t seen „Duel“ by Steven Spielberg, so I don’t know if it really steals a lot from the movie or even if the director saw it and used it as an inspiration. One thing is abundantly clear: It’s not a groundbreaking or very special flick. It has an unsympathetic main male character and is full of plot holes and illogical scenes. Still it succeeds in the way it keeps the viewer interested throughout its playing time.
There are a couple of really suspenseful scenes which have the potential of making you bite through your nails. The cinematography is top-notch because the HD-cam gives it a sense of realism which the story itself doesn’t always offer. It’s also very hard to categorize the movie. It’s not really a horror movie, maybe more like a suspenseful thriller.
All in all nice to watch, but easily to be forgotten, and not, as the cover on the Blu-ray box says „the best British horror movie in years“, because that would mean there weren’t any good movies at all.
The Last House On The Left(2009)
Remakes are always a mixed bag, especially if they have a controversial original in mind. Even more disconcerting is the fact that I didn’t really like the original, not in the way that I found it disturbing, but that I found it forgettable. Could have something to do with the age of it (70ies) and that I watched too many movies which had much more brutal scenes than that (same with Wes Craven’s „The Hills Have Eyes“), but I just didn’t know what to expect. So I expected even less.
And I was pleasantly surprised. The remake has some voyeuristic elements (like some close-up shots of the girls), but it doesn’t try to be controversial for controversy’s sake like so many other movies.
It’s definitely not a fun movie to watch. The rape scene was (without any music) pretty hard to watch through and how the violators suffered later was not really the same like so many other „fun“ slasher/revenge movies of late.
„The Last House On The Left“ might not have touched me in the same sense as other movies have (like „An American Crime“; even though it’s difficult and unfair to compare the two of them). But it is a very good movie and a prime example how a remake can outdo its original.
There’s always a thin line between comedy and horror, especially if some twists in the story are involved. Sometimes you don’t even know what is going on the whole time. At some point you stop caring because the characters are not interesting.
Fortunately „Dead End“ is a rare example of how weird situations, goofy characters, horror elements and a logical twist at the end work together perfectly. The setting doesn’t change and you don’t get any more characters than this family, so it’s a good thing the family has a lot to tell. And yes, they do talk a lot, but the dialogues are well-written and, even more important, the actors do a great job, especially Ray Wise (known from the Twin Peaks-series) as the father and Lin Shaye (known from diverse horror movies like „2001 Maniacs“) as the mother.
It’s the perfect anti-Christmas-movie… but without the snow and Christmas trees. Still it gives an interesting inside look at how families are getting together for the festivities, all bringing along presents and so on, but how they all have secrets and don’t really like each other. A little bit like „Little Miss Sunshine“, but with less pathos and funnier.
I came along this movie when I watched the prequel/sequel of “Reeker”. „No Man’s Land – Rise of Reeker“ the former one being similar, but being released some three years later. Still all three movies share their fair amount of bizarre characters, situations and humor.
To be continued…
… coming up soon (probably tomorrow): movies 9-13