Sorry friends for the delay. As you may know from my previous post, I have been working on a massive project of a house. Still, this post has been gnawing at my insides for weeks and I ditched some responsibilities this evening to nurse a minor sinus headache and finish it up.
I like to spend free time in October leading up to Halloween watching (or re-watching) various and sundry horror films, and playing/replaying horror video games. Now that I am catching up on life, I have had time to pen some proper reviews. Following are my thoughts and recommendations for a selection of films, on a scale of zero to five stars (*).
A Tale of Two Sisters – * * *
An interesting little K-horror movie which I read was the basis for the recent American horror flick “The Uninvited” which is NOT to be confused with the classic 1940’s ghost story/romance of the same name, starring Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey. I have been looking forever for an original recording of “Stella by Starlight” from that movie but to no avail. I digress. A Tale of Two Sisters was, for this audience member, intriguing but ultimately a bit confusing. The story is about self-deception and massive delusion/hallucination so it’s not quite clear what is real and what is fantasy. It is well acted, and the main character, Su-mi, has just the right amount of pathos. A bit of gore but not too much and some truly creepy moments that punctuate periods of calm which allow the tension to build.
Pontypool – * * * *
A sort of zombie apocalypse/rage virus plague story which relates to linguistics and semiotics (I’m getting a word-nerd boner just getting to use those terms!) Steven McHattie who plays the hero has the most unbelievably smooth, sexy, sonorous radio voice ever. He plays a sort of Don Imus-y, crusty old radio shock jock who witnesses and narrates the events as they unfold outside his church basement studio. There were some heavy-handed metaphors about bigotry, and misunderstanding other cultures but this offered some of the comic relief, so the obviousness didn’t bother me as much. You can positively feel the chill of the Ontario winter and the claustrophobic atmosphere is wonderful. The actor playing Dr. Mendez is atrocious and one of the very few sour points for me. I also didn’t understand why he would be speaking Armenian if his name were “Mendez.” Didn’t make sense. Now, I’m going to have to read the books by Tony Burgess upon which this movie was based (though from the book reviews I’ve read, the film and books are miles apart).
Blood and Donuts – *
This is (for the record, it’s properly spelled “doughnuts”)—a Canadian horror flick starring actor, Gordon Currie. He looked familiar so I looked it up and turns out he was in a fun little creepy, pedophilic coming-of-age story called “Ripe” which I’d seen a while back. While he is pretty good, this movie is not. Sidenote—I’ve always been amazed by the ability of excellent actors to shine even when a script is terrible. Sometimes it’s worse to have good actors because it highlights how shitty the plot and the other actors are. I’m a big fan of vampire stories so I will usually watch one even if it got “m’eh” reviews in hopes that the critics were wrong. I had heard that this one garnered a bit of a cult following even though it didn’t do well box office-wise. Sorry, but this time, the cult is wrong. The actor (Louis Ferreira) playing the “lovelorn cabbie” is doing this weird, terrible foreigner-cum-Christopher Walken impression. Methinks the actor (Helene Clarkson) playing the doughnut shopgirl looks a bit too old to be playing some chick who works in a doughnut shop to put herself through school, and unfortunately they didn’t give her much of a character to work with, so she’s stuck doing this lame tough-girl cliché. It’s not believable in a movie that the vampire would fall head-over heels at first sight for someone with an okay face and a bitchy demeanor. Aside from this, it had an anorexic plot, mostly mediocre performances, and laughably bad special effects. And I’m sorry, but you cannot use a car battery as a make-shift AED to bring someone back who has likely suffered massive internal bleeding. Dumbass should have driven himself to a hospital, not a loading dock.
Blair Witch 2 – * * * *
Bitchy, back-lashing haters be damned; this was a pretty darn good B horror flick. After the monumental success of arguably the first online viral-video advertising for an independent film, people just didn’t have anything nice to say and the audience stayed away in droves. BW1 was groundbreaking, pretty well acted, but ultimately flawed with plot holes. Still, it was an achievement. This movie picks up where that one left off, but doesn’t attempt to be another “found footage” type, though it does incorporate the use of cameras as a narrative device and pays homage to the first film. It creates a nice little story with some interesting subplots, and keeps the scares coming with ambiguity and suggestion; toying with the viewers’ ideas of what is really happening. As a side note, as the credits roll you will hear a wonderful and atmospheric track from one of my favorite 90’s act – Poe.
House of the Devil – * * * * *
This is a very slow paced, but incredibly well done film in the style of late 1970’s to early 80’s Satanic Panic horror. I know it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere for a long time, but trust me and stick with it, slasher fans. Furthermore, I defy the average viewer watching this to find a single anachronism without resorting to an internet look-up. From the super high-rise stone washed jeans (which are weirdly back in fashion) to the foam-cushioned earphones on her walkman, right down to the acting style. This is spot-on. Fun fact: the actor playing the main baddie was also the baddie in Manhunter (the original 1986 film adaptation of Thomas Harris’ book Red Dragon). I knew that guy looked familiar.
Gingersnaps/Gingersnaps Back, – * * * * *
(not to include Gingersnaps: Unleashed which only gets * )
I include these together because the second is basically a continuation of the first, though they have very different stories and styles. Fun script, fresh story, pretty good acting all around (loved Mimi Rogers as the sweet, clueless mom!) What Jennifer’s Body wished it had been. Stop after the second one. Gingersnaps: Unleashed was a period piece (Why? And the connection it was trying to establish with the modern films made no sense) that was loosely related to the characters from the first story. It was filmed concurrently with the sequel (GSB), had the biggest budget and best special effects, but a completely disappointing story. The first two had way lower budgets and thus worked so much harder. Also, I don’t like when movies set in “olden times” have characters use modern dialogue. Acting in GSU was still pretty good despite that and a pretty cheesy, predictable plot. The first two make a very nicely done coming-of-age metaphor while looking at relationships between female siblings, and women’s roles and positions in society. It’s a werewolf-teen comedy-slasher-chick flick all in one tidy package.