Monday, June 28, 2010
Before he went all crazy, making those silly Academy Award Winning Lord Of The Rings movies, Australian director Peter Jackson had a fairly nice career making crowd-pleasing horror film. His most famous of which are Bad Taste and Dead Alive. While these two films didn’t make much of a splash stateside during their theatrical release, they did soon become cult classics, and made a killing on DVD.
Dead Alive is known to most by a different title. One that is a little more catchy, being Braindead. It was put out under Braindead in most regions of the world, nearly all in fact except America where it was changed to Dead Alive, which makes it sound more cheesy than it should. Even though this movie has enough cheese to make Kraft jealous.
The plot that the film follows can be easily claimed by almost any zombie flick. On a trip to a remote jungle, a zoologist uncovers a strange breed of monkey, which at that point attacks both him and his crew. Somehow the monkey catches a ride on a boat and makes it way to land, where it is promptly caught and placed in a zoo. Enter a young man with an over protective Mom, a crush on the girl next door, a heart full of gold, and a body full of clumsy. Lionel decides to take his girlfriend on a date, and go to the zoo of course, but his always knifing mother is there to put a stop to things, and subsequently gets bitten by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey. She gets ill, passes on, and then comes back, only to bite and infect more people with this strange disease from a distant land.
Obviously, Dead Alive isn’t one of the most original films to grace the screen. In fact, its plot has been done several times, near to death, but it just keeps coming (he-he). The screenplay, weak as it may be, is always fun. Now fun doesn’t mean good. It’s full of inconsistencies, impossibilities, voice-overs, terrible dialogue, and to many deux ex machinia’s to count. Our hero begins as a bumbling idiot, and somehow becomes a leading class strong-man in the course of about three days. He also has the keen ability to get the girl, end his mom, and save the day. Like I said, fun doesn’t mean good. But in the life of a film critic, sometimes its nice to just sit back and watch some stupid without a care in the world.
That being said, for what it is, Dead Alive is an excellent film. It obviously knows what it wants to do and does that perfectly. It has a certain vulnerability at its heart that entrances the audience into rooting for the characters, and hoping for the survival of their favorites. It may be one of the best zombie films made. It’s intentionally funny and self-referential, the humor doesn’t always hit, but when it does, it hits spot on. The film is also unrelentingly grueling, gory and violent. Peter Jackson knows how to direct violence, he puts things at the perfect angle, sets up just the right shot, gets the gore, and doesn’t let up. He isn’t afraid to cover the screen in gooey red, or green, or even white. (yes white, one of the more disgusting scenes in the film)
Not a whole lot else matters in a zombie film like this. The film sets it sites, and hits its mark. It knows what it does, does it perfectly and nothing else. You cannot hate a zombie movie for being a zombie movie, especially a good one. It is wholesome, mindless, brain-bashing, gut-munching, side-killing fun, that never lets up and never holds back. Peter Jackson can have his cake and eat it too, as he knows how to direct fun, entertaining horror films, and win some Academy Awards too.
I Give Dead Alive A:
Friday, June 11, 2010
Surveillance is the second film from Jennifer Lynch. Daughter of David Lynch, her career was thought to be short-lived after her debut feature Boxing Helena was received extremely negatively by both from both movie-goers and critics alike. Now, fifteen years later she tries again to break into the business her father is constantly revolutionizing, and she does so with mixed results.If her career speaks for Jennifer Lynch thoroughly, she is never going to be as talented as her father is. This is something that needs to be stated, and known.
If you go in thinking that Jennifer Lynch is going to be there for us when David passes on, I’m afraid you’re going to be wrong. Boxing Helena was obviously a film with a number of flaws, all of them nearly unforgivable. Surveillance however brings her work up a notch, and almost lets you forget about her previous film, but that however is not something very hard to do.
For all it’s worth, Surveillance certainly doesn’t have as unique of a story as Boxing Helena, but that doesn’t really matter when the other film just ended up terrible. Surveillance is about two F.B.I. agents investigating a series of murders, and a missing woman. While at the town where these vicious acts have taken place, they interrogate three people: a cocaine addicted woman, a corrupt police officer, and a little girl whose family was killed by the murderer. All three of the stories are told slightly differently through the eyes of these people, and ultimately interlock.
The film wants to, and sometimes tries, to be about the different reactions of different people when they know they are being watched by authority or peers. While it desperately wants to be deep and tell us a little something about the human psyche, and ends up falling short, and reverting to a murder-mystery tale that has a trick that we’ve seen before (different people, different stories, overall story develops through different additions ), and even has some slasher film influences, with the killers wearing creepy masks, and lots of blood making it’s way onto the screen.
The story is interesting enough, but it has been done before. A lot before. This idea of telling the story over and over again through different perspectives has almost begun to be normal, and the classic murder-mystery style of having one person solve it the lesser used. The mental aspect they wanted to add doesn’t work, and the twist ending easy to see coming. There is nothing specifically good with the story, but nothing specifically bad about it either.
The two main parts in the film are played by Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman, playing the F.B.I agents, and they do decently, again something that I could go either way on, there was nothing that made their roles jump out, or hold back, but I do have to admit, Bill Pullman is always kind of creepy, so it did somewhat add to the performance. Ryan Simpkins places the young girl Stephanie, and does a fantastic job for her age and part, she is easily one of the best child actors I’ve seen in awhile, and can’t wait to see more from her, in fact she is the first child to win a Best Actress award at the New York City Horror Film Festival. The film also has some other not to shabby performances from Kent Harper and Pell James.
Jennifer Lynch’s direction in this film is actually rather nice. She keeps the film raw and unshakeable. Never do we see anyone in the background, keeping us with a feeling of desperation a solitude, as if we couldn’t escape. A good deal of the film is set in the middle of the desert, which only enhances that effect. The office building in which the police work is desolate and empty, which though unexplained is still creepy as well. The film rapidly switches through color tonality, which gives us different feelings based on which character we’re watching and that helps the film quite a bit.
Jennifer Lynch has certainly beaten her previous offering with Surveillance, but like I said, it just doesn’t matter because almost anything could be her previous offering. She showed that she does have some skill behind the camera and can create a certain amount of emotion, but were she lacks is in directing people. The plot is ordinary, overused, and has been outdone, but is never boring, if she does another film, I will go ahead and give it a shot, but won’t necessarily look forward to it. Surveillance is a film that won’t kill you to see, but you shouldn’t kill to see it. It rests right in the middle, and is worth a rental if you were looking for it.
I Give Surveillance A:
Monday, May 10, 2010
One of the best foreign horror films in recent times not to come out of an Asian nation was REC. Coming in from Mexico, the Spanish film did decently here, playing at a few film festivals and was a pretty successful DVD realese. It was of course remade, and terrible into Quarantine. But don't let that fool you, REC is seriously scary. It's in the tradition shaky-cam style and is very short. It's got an interesting plot, some great sublimely creepy effects. I hope to see more from these two directors and can't wait for REC 2 to get it's stateside realese.
I Give REC A:
The most recent in the sub-genre of creepy children horror came to us in the form of Orphan. The film was realesed last year and was pretty successful, though it did run into a little trouble with some associations. I enjoyed the film quite a bit though. I thought it was good that we got an R rated slasher, that wasn't R for just sex, but actually had some really gruesome moments, and disgusting scenes. One of the best comes during the beggining of the film which had my girlfriend seriously freaking out. The little girl who played Ester did an amazing job, even nailing a faux Russian accent. The only problem was the ending, which was a little to far fetched for me. The film had a cool style, good acting, and some good gory scenes, and I enjoyed it much more than most recent horror flicks.
I Give Orphan A:
I Give Orphan A:
What started out as a short film, and then and indie film dying for a limited realese has now become the major franchise you see before you. Though many people furiously detest Saw, and with good reason. I actually rather enjoy the series, the first one especially. Saw isn't the smartest film ever, but most horror films aren't.But, it's decently gory, fairly scary, and kept me entertained up until it's amazing finale. While it does have it's flaws, mostly in the acting category, I've still watched it multiple times, and still get shivers at the end. While some people grew up on Halloween and Friday The 13th, the most recent generation has the Saw franchise, and that's good enough for them.
I Give Saw A:
I Give Saw A: