Monday, 14 November 2011

Horror Week (7 - 13 November) - Part Two

Here we go then, part two of Horror Week...


Unlike 'Zombie Thursday', there was no real theme to the movies I watched on Friday - I started with Audition (1999), a film with a fearsome reputation. I'd read about the film extensively before I watched it, which may have taken away some of it's power (I understand that the best way to experience it is to go in cold with no knowledge of what awaits you - that way, the unexpected shift from the film's quiet first half to its brutal ending will be more powerful). All the same, it's a wonderfully made film, featuring some beautiful cinematography and an incredibly disturbing ending. Rating: 8/10. Next up was The Crazies (1973) - another Romero film, though probably the weakest of his pictures which I've seen. A plane has crashed near to a small town in Pennslyvania, meaning that the town's residents have been exposed to a deadly and contagious virus with the ability to turn those exposed to it into a violent lunatic. It's a promising idea for a movie and I really like the opening scene, but I felt the execution was a little off - there were too many scenes of army officers and scientists shouting at each other, and too few scenes of the townspeople going nuts. So for me, it's only a 5/10. Next up was Drag Me To Hell (2009), which stars Alison Lohman as a young bank clerk who becomes the recipient of a terrible curse after antagonising an elderly gypsy lady. This was a film which improved on second viewing - perhaps my expectations were too high going in the first time, but this time around I really liked it. Sure, it's a little lightweight and unfortunately features the acting 'talents' of Justin Long, but it's funny, well paced, has a number of excellent gross out moments, and likeably eccentric performance from Dileep Rao as a spiritual advisor. Rating: 8/10. I finished up the day with something a little lighter - Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), in which Steve Martin and John Candy play a pair of mismatched travelling companions trying to get home in time for Thanksgiving. I'm not a huge John Hughes fan, but for me this is probably his best movie - it successfully combines the comedy with some heartwarming scenes as the pair become friends (and does so without going too far into mawkish sentimentality). There were also a couple of moments which worked particularly well for me - one where Steve Martin completely loses it with an irritatingly chipper car hire employee, and another where John Candy attempts to barter his way into getting a motel room for the night: "I have two dollars... and a Casio...". Rating: 8/10


Getting into the tale end of the week now, and I began with Roman Polanski's excellent satantic horror flick, Rosemary's Baby (1968). Polanski adeptly builds the suspense and paranoia, as Rosemary starts to realise that her neighbours are in league with the devil - and are after her unborn child. It contains great work from Mia Farrow (in her first major screen role) and Sydney Blackmer (as the avuncular leader of the conspiracy). Rating: 9/10. I then moved on to A Bay of Blood (1971), Mario Bava's early slasher movie. I'd read a number of pieces praising the film, but I'm afraid I wasn't too impressed with it myself; the murder scenes were well executed (and were later copied in the Friday the 13th series), but the acting was pretty poor on the whole, and I never got particularly interested in the convoluted whodunnit plot. Rating: 5/10. Much better was Dark Water (2002) (the Japanese version rather than the American remake). This movie sees a single mother move into a haunted (and very damp) block of flats with her young daughter. As with Them (Ils), the quotes on the DVD rather misrepresented just how terrifying the film is - it isn't particularly scary, but it does works very well as a moving, poignant ghost story. Rating: 8/10. Finally, I caught another excellent Romero film, Martin (1976). It's a very unusual vampire movie - set in the present day (or at least it was when it was made), it tells the story of the eponymous adolescent, a young man who thirsts for human blood. However, Martin isn't constricted by many of the rules which typically affect vampires - he is able to walk around in broad daylight, has no fear of garlic or crucifixes, and rather than using a hypnotic glare and sharpened canines, he attacks his victims with a razorblade and hypodermic needle filled with a sedative. I think the movie works so well because we're never quite sure whether Martin is actually a vampire - or is just a regular mortal with a thirst for blood. Just as my interest in the film was beginning to wane a little, I was jolted back to attention by a brilliant and brutal ending. Rating: 8/10


The final horror movie I watched this week was probably one of the best horror films of all time: The Exorcist (1973). Though the movie is now nearly 40 years old, the famous and tremendously unsettling scenes in the bedroom where the possessed Linda Blair pukes, swears and flies about the place still hold up today. This titanic battle between good and evil contains a number of memorable characters, particularly Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), whose struggle with his faith provides the movie with its heart. Not sure if I'll end up seeing it 200 times like Mark Kermode (if I do, I still have 198 more times to go), but it's definitely one of the best films I watched this week - and I'll give it a 9/10. I didn't think it likely that any other horror movie I had to hand was going to top The Exorcist, so I finished off the week with a couple of non-horror titles. First up was Open Your Eyes (Abre Los Ojos) (1997), an interesting Spanish movie which was remade by Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky. Watching it for the second time (and knowing the shock ending to the film) meant that it wasn't quite as involving as the first time, but it's a decent enough movie. Rating: 7/10. The final film of the week was Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), based on the stage play written by David Mamet. It's just a great, great movie - an unbelievable ensemble of actors (Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin and Alan Arkin) bring Mamet's crackling dialogue to life. It's a film which acts as a searing indictment of unfettered capitalism, where the weak are brutalised by the powerful. Perhaps just as importantly, it brought the character Gil to the Simpsons (one of the few late period characters who would be just at home in the show’s golden age)... Rating: 10/10

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