Monday, 14 November 2011
Horror Week (7 - 13 November) - Part One
The week started slowly - I was busy writing up last week's reviews and catching up on Curb Your Enthusiasm, so I didn't get the chance to watch any movies.
Horror week started slowly with the so-so horror/ thriller picture The Hitcher (1986). I must confess I was a little sleepy when watching this one, but the plot didn't seem to make a whole lot of sense - C Thomas Howell spent much of the film running from one explosion to the next, closely followed by a large contingent of Texas sheriffs. Still, Rutger Hauer made for a creepy and charismatic villain, and Jennifer Jason Leigh was good in her smallish supporting role, so it wasn't all bad. I'd give it 6/10. Next up, a real classic '80s horror movie - David Cronenbourg's The Fly (1986). Jeff Goldblum gives a brilliant performance as the mad scientist Seth Brundle, whose DNA is spliced with that of a fly. I suppose the reason why the movie works so well is because we are able to empathise with Brundle, even as his physical condition deteriorates and his actions become increasingly inhuman. Cronenbourg also uses the bigger budget he was given to make this movie to great effect, showing us in grotesque detail the process by which Brundle gradually transforms into the Fly. I love this film - it's probably my favourite Cronenbourg movie - I give it 9/10.
As promised, I finally got around to seeing Them (aka Ils) (2006), but this was a case where the box promised things such as 'sheer blind terror' which weren't delivered by the movie itself. In some ways it was better than the American remake (The Strangers) - the characters were better developed, the acting a little better - but as a horror film, I didn't find it to be nearly as scary. A couple in an isolated location are chased around their home by a gang of intruders, but here it's all build up, and no pay-off. First they run around their house, then through some woods, then through some tunnels - and after a while all that running gets boring after a while. Rating: 6/10. Next up was Shadow of the Vampire (2000), which asks the question: what if the guy playing the vampire in the 1920s horror film Nosferatu actually was a vampire? Willem Dafoe was suitably sickening as Max Shreck/ Count Orlok, a vampiric being whose grotesque appearance and lust for blood and/ or sex is about as far from the romantic notions of a vampire as you can get. Unfortunately, to my mind, John Malkovich's turn as the director of Nosferatu is much too hammy, and the film as a whole is too slow paced for my tastes. Rating: 6/10. Finally, I watched the surprisingly good Bride of Chucky (1998). I hadn't seen the original Child's Play movies (though I guess I will have to rectify that omission now), but I liked this one. It wasn't scary at all, but then it wasn't really supposed to be (I mean, how frightening can a two foot doll really be?) - it's all played for laughs, and on that score, it's a resounding success. Brad Dourif, who seems to specialise in playing creeps and lunatics does excellent work in voicing the demonic doll, with fine support from Jennifer Tilly as his lover/ partner in crime. Rating: 7/10
Thursday was all about George A. Romero. I'm a little ashamed to admit that until this week, Dawn of the Dead was the only part of his original zombie trilogy which I'd seen. Well, I've now seen that trilogy, though I felt it started a little slowly with Night of the Living Dead (1968). I can appreciate that it's a very important film in horror cinema history, in that it laid down the groundrules of the modern zombie picture, but the film was made on the cheap and, at times, it shows. Still, confining the action to an isolated farmhouse, and focussing on the tensions between its inhabitants, as they debate the bext way to survive, does make for an interesting middle section. I'll award it a 6/10. Dawn of the Dead (1978) on the other hand, is just a fantastic movie. Here, we have a different group of survivors hole up in a shopping mall. The increase in the budget results in some much improved special effects and make up work, which is showed off in impressive fashion when the survivors face off against both zombies and a rampaging gang of bikers. As many other people have noticed, Romero uses the shopping mall location as a chance to make some observations about the fact that the zombies aren't too different from the dead-eyed consumers normally found roaming around the shopping mall. For me, this is the best film of the trilogy - my rating for this one is 9/10. By the time Romero made the third part of the trilogy, Day of the Dead (1985) (set inside a military bunker which is one of the last strongholds for the human race after the zombies have taken over), budgets and technology had increased to permit some wonderfully gruesome make up and effects. Unfortunately, the script here isn't quite as sharp as the second instalment, and the evil army captain in charge of the bunker is a rather one dimensional villain. There are still a lot of interesting ideas and concepts here though, and through experiments carried out by scientists at the army base, we learn some interesting facts about how the zombies function. (Also, that they can be trained to fire guns). Rating: 8/10. I also watched a non-horror movie on Thursday evening - The Ides of March (2011). It's a political thriller with an exceptionally strong cast - including Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffmann and Marisa Tomei - but the plot is only moderately engaging. I didn't find it to be as interesting a picture as as the real life based All the President's Men, or the more paranoid The Parallax View. Rating: 7/10
Right, I'm going to have to split this post into two parts (I seem to have exceeded the amount of space permitted for labels). Part two coming up in a jiffy...