23.11.10

A Serbian Film (Srpski Film)

A Serbian Film (Srpski Film)
Release Date: 2010
Directed by Srdjan Spasojevic
Written by Aleksandar Radivojevic & Srdjan Spasojevic
Starring: Srdjan Todorovic
      Sergej Trifunovic
      Jelena Gavrilovic
      Katarine Zutic
      Slobodan Bestic
      Ana Sakic
      Luka Mijatovic

**** (4 out of 5 stars)

- WARNING: THIS MOVIE WILL SCAR YOU FOR LIFE -

Let me start out by saying this first- if you have any sexual hang-ups, if you're easily offended, if you've got a weak stomach, do not watch this film.  That being said, this is still a 4 star movie.  I wasn't sure exactly what I was in for when I threw on A Serbian Film but I knew the basics: a pornstar is lured into a new project by a mysterious film 'director' whom he is introduced to by a former flame and fellow porn actress.  I also knew that he was lured in falsely, and that somehow this was going to be a dirty ride through an ugly terrain.  I, however, did not even begin to grasp in the least what was going to happen to me during the course of this film, or what I would feel like after the credits rolled.

Milos is an aging, but still attractive, porn actor who is living the family life yet also trying to save up enough money to get away somewhere with his wife and child.  Suddenly, he is offered a new project that is shrouded in uncertainty.  He's also offered a whole lot of money to do so.  After accepting, he slowly begins to figure out that the job is not necessarily what it was cracked up to be.  Srdjan Todorovic plays Milos perfectly, a blend between family man and sleaze; we feel his emotion in a constant from the beginning to end.  There are a wide range of emotions brought out in this dark and twisted script, and Srdjan Todorovic plays them out to perfection.  He is the only actor that really has a lot of lines or dialogue, and it carries well with him in the role because he seems very natural.
Notable mention: the actor who played the depraved Vukmir, Sergej Trifunovic, was also incredibly moving and very creepy.  
The violence is extreme and (often) gory.  Mainly this film contains a lot of sexual violence, which makes it all the more unbearable.  There are a few moments, one in particular involving a pregnant woman, that are excruciating but they serve the purpose.  This film is all about disgusting, grotesque, vile individuals in a hideous world and the imagery (although nothing subtle at all about it) displays it all perfectly: we twist from mediocre uneasiness to the full blown need to vomit.  The scene I mentioned previously with the pregnant woman has to be one of the most ridiculous and depraved scenes I have ever watched- by far surpassing anything in Cannibal Holocaust or Salo: 120 Days of Sodom.  
Of course there are still a couple real cheese doodles mixed into the bag.  One particular moment in the end comes to mind when Milos is exacting some revenge on his "associates", he pushes his erect penis right into a man's eye socket and begins to thrust into his brain, basically.  Very cheesy type of special effect, although it is quite real looking.  However, earlier in the film there is an extraordinary death scene involving a (sexy) decapitation.  Trust me- to believe it, you HAVE to see it.

One of the major aspects of this movie that got me was the story itself.  We see a lot of terrible premises for horrors and thrillers, so it's refreshing to see something new and exciting- even if it is absolutely wretched and void of any morals.  The climax of this movie is something that we will NEVER EVER (let me repeat that: NEVER EVER) see in any film that's made in the Western world.  I thought the climax and ending of Oldboy tested the limits beyond comprehension... until I saw A Serbian Film.

Even though I wanted to cry in my mom's arms about how horrible and sick the world is, all the while vomiting, I still can give this movie 4 stars.  Mainly, this is due to effectiveness- I always try to judge a film on how effective it is in it's own right, in it's genre.  This movie is meant to scar you, it's mean to rip your heart out and fuck it to death.  I couldn't agree more on that with any other movie I've seen recently.  A Serbian Film is truly shocking, weird and absolutely on another level.

Check out what happened in the UK with A Serbian Film

16.11.10

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre countdown!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Countdown

Seeing as how The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is probably the ultimate serial killer film, I decided to countdown the series in the order of my favourites.  Check it out- let me know which one is YOUR favourite.

1) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
***** (5 out of 5 stars)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by Kim Henkel & Tobe Hooper
Stars: Marilyn burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger & Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface. 

When I was about 13 years old, I first saw the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre with my best friend.  To this day, I have never had such a disturbing and haunting experience after watching a movie.  It stuck with me like a bad cold, I couldn't shake it.  The reason being is because most horrors (and even some thrillers) don't make you feel like you're right in that person's shoes, mainly due to the style in which they have been filmed; Tobe Hooper created a masterpiece from nothing because he made it feel real.  Nowadays it's all reality television because people seem to literally want to live the lives of others, but back in 1974 Hooper made us feel like WE were the ones that were being chased by Leatherface, we were the ones stuck at the supper table with the cannibal family, we were the ones who couldn't escape the house no matter what.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre took the audience and plopped them right down next to Marilyn Burns and it made us run like hell.
One thing that helped The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was that it was billed as being based on true events, and while most are quick to say "That never happened!", it does have a small basis in reality.  It's not hard to find striking similarities between Leatherface/his family and the most infamous resident ever to live in Plainfield, Wisconsin- Ed Gein.  I'm not going to go into great detail for those who don't know Ed Gein, but here's what I will do for you.  The following is a list of items found in Gein's residence- read these and tell me if you can find a similarity or two between the fiction & non-fiction:

- four noses
- whole human bones & fragments
- nine masks of human skin
- bowls made from human skulls
- ten female heads with the tops sawed off
- human skin covering several chair seats
- Mary Hogan's head in a paper bag
- Bernice Worden's head in a burlap sack
- nine vulvas in a shoe box
- skulls on his bedposts
- organs in the refrigerator
- a pair of lips on a draw string for a windowshade

**Notable mention: after his mother died, Gein decided he wanted a sex change and began collecting women's skin and making a 'woman suit' out of it all.  Sound familiar?

So between the real, gritty feeling of the film and the story of Ed Gein pushing more people into the theaters to see the Massacre, Hooper had really found something that worked.  Every time I watch it, I'm the one being chased with a chainsaw- it chills me to the bone.  Some people look at it today and say that it's not scary, but coming from someone who never found anything too creepy about The Exorcist, I find this to be the most frightening film of all-time.  I give it 5 out of 5 stars, and there isn't a single thing about this movie that pissed me off.  Top notch.  It's only too bad that Tobe Hooper hasn't really found success after such a great initial blast.  Maybe if he'd get back to the gritty touch of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we might see another classic.


2) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
***** (5 out of 5 stars)
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Written by: Sheldon Turner
Stars: Jordana Brewster, Matthew Bomer, Diora Baird, R. Lee Ermey, & Andrew Bryniarski as Thomas Hewitt/Leatherface.

This prequel to the re-imagined Texas Chainsaw Massacre is so close to actually being my favourite, even though the remake has nothing on the original.  Reason being is because it's just an incredibly well made film, in my opinion.  One of the things I loved about the remake is Sheriff Hoyt, played by none other than the amazing R. Lee Ermey (most of you know him as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket), and in the prequel to that story we get to see a lot of stuff about him: how he became Sheriff, where he lost those teeth of his, why are they killing people.  The latter of those is the best and tastiest part- why do they kill?  The original TCM is a stand alone, unbeatable piece of cinema but one thing I always wanted to know was the reason behind the family being so depraved.  In the prequel, we get to see why the family kills (I won't ruin it for you).  Also, we get a fairly well written story behind the upcoming victims of the family: two brothers and their girlfriends are having a little vacation before the older brother goes back to Vietnam and brings his brother over after he has been drafted.  Along the way, the younger brother gets cold feet and before we get a chance to fall further into the story of these two brothers, the action begins.  A biker gang causes some trouble for the traveling foursome, and one thing leads to another when Sheriff Hoyt shows up to see what caused the accident; he then takes three of the travelers (one of them hides when Hoyt blows away a biker chick) back to his humble abode.  This sets off a chain of events, one of which explains how ol' Uncle Monty lost both of his legs, and of course as I mentioned before we see Hoyt get those pearly whites knocked out.  We also get a little bit of the big fat lady who was in the 2003 remake living in the trailer with that stole child- she gives us the best and funniest line of ANY of the TCM movies (the quote refers to her as the Tea Lady and of course you have to hear the way she says the line to appreciate it):

Tea Lady: I just can't stop eating those little chocolates.  They are soo good!
Luda Mae: I put coconut in them!
Tea Lady: Oh sweet Jesus!

For the most part, the kills are all fairly gruesome which is a big selling point for any horror but especially The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  The highlight for me was the killing of Leatherface's boss at the slaughterhouse, and also when he tears the tendons out of one of his victims in the basement; he also plays a part in Monty's mishap with his legs.  The movie keeps up the dirty, gritty feeling that we got from the 2003 remake- this is why both of these movies are, in my opinion, excellent because they keep that real, disgusting feeling that the original film had.  Even more so in these new movies, we get a dirty feeling even just looking at the screen (much like David Fincher created for an atmosphere in the movie Se7en).

**Notable mention: Lee Tergesen has a small part as the biker boyfriend of the chick Hoyt blows away.  Anytime he is on screen, no matter what movie or show it is- I love it.  Big fan of Lee.

This movie didn't really have anything that pissed me off, and for that I can certainly give it a 5 star rating.  Check this out if you haven't seen it!

3) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II
**** (4 out of 5 stars)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by L.M Kit Carson
Stars: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow, Bill Moseley & Bill Johnson as Leatherface 'Bubba' Sawyer.

Another film out of the series that almost hits the number one spot is the second installment, once again directed by Tobe Hooper.  This time, we have a Lieutenant (played by the wonderful Dennis Hopper) who is hellbent on finding the killer(s) of all these kids in Texas.  Meanwhile, a radio show host gets some audio of a murder possibly committed by the chainsaw wielding maniac himself as she gets a call in from a couple teens out causing trouble.  Eventually, they get together and begin to try finding the culprits and soon enough the radio host gets attacked by them, including Chop-Top Sawyer (played by another amazing actor, Bill Moseley, who I am a huge fan of!).
The best things about this movie are Dennis Hopper, Bill Moseley, and the fact that the story is fairly solid.  It's a classic model of a cop desperately seeking the truth behind a series of killings, but it takes a new twist when Hopper goes to a shop and purchases several chainsaws- because if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  Nothing is better than seeing Dennis Hopper chop things apart with a 5 foot chainsaw and two small handheld chainsaws.

I give this film a 4 star rating, mainly because I just wish there was a little more backstory here.  That's one thing I couldn't be satisfied with until they came out with the prequel to the 2003 remake.  Other than that, I find this to be a solid entry in the series.


My only piss off:

- Leatherface is now Leatherface 'Junior' Sawyer... the only name I see fit for adding onto Leatherface is Hewitt, which is from the prequel in 2006.  Everything else is just so unjustified.

4) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
**** (4 out of 5 stars)
Directed by Marcus Nispel
Written by Scott Kosar (based on the 1974 screenplay by Kim Henkel & Tobe Hooper)
Stars: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Eric Balfour, R. Lee Ermey & Andrew Bryniarski as Thomas Hewitt (Leatherface). 

I never thought that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre needed to be remade, like most of the classics, but like Mick Jagger says: you can't always get what you want.  However, Marcus Nispel (no, he's never really done anything worth shouting from the roof) turns in a pretty decent effort here.  The biggest thing about this remake that I loved is the feel: it's a disgusting, dirty, gritty feel as if the camera lens was grimy the whole time.  This is what made it feel connected to the original, for me- the tone, the atmosphere.  Most of the new horror movies that come out have a lipgloss shine over it, and that's one thing that impressed me right off the bat.  We get a little more out of this than we did sometimes in the original, mainly I enjoyed Sheriff Hoyt's character (played by the fabulous R. Lee Ermey) because it gave an even scarier take on the family- not only are they fucking lunatics, but they've got a Sheriff working with them.
The acting is fairly spot on in this film.  Jessica Biel makes a pretty good frightened lady, Eric Balfour is someone I find to be intriguing in general (why, I do not know), Jonathan Tucker also plays a great stoner (I barely recognized him at first- I was a big fan of his due to The Black Donnellys).  As I mentioned before, R. Lee Ermey is an excellent actor and he brings a terrifying role to life as Hoyt.  There are a few minor roles that are also played very well, which rounds out the film as far as characters go.
The kills are all pretty gnarly!  My favourite (which is actually not a kill, just a maiming) is when Andy is running through the yard where the sheets are on the clothesline, and Leatherface takes a big swing, chopping off part of his leg.  Also when they pick up a hitchhiker, a female this time unlike the original film, she blows her brains out- that whole scene is pretty fucking intense!

All in all, this movie is a 4 star rating for me.

Biggest piss offs:

- The dirty, weird little kid.  He served no purpose other than to lead them through a little hallway to escape the house, which could have been worked out some other way than having a stupid, inbred little kid running around.  He wasn't even creepy- he looked like a hungry beaver.
- I was not a fan of Andy, his character wasn't anything special.  His only redeeming point was when he decided he couldn't leave his buddy Kemper behind in the house.  Other than that, he was useless.

5) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
*** (3 out of 5 stars)
Directed by Jeff Burr
Written by David J. Schow
Stars: Kate Hodge, Ken Foree, Viggo Mortensen, & R.A Mihailoff as Leatherface 'Junior' Sawyer.
The third installment of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is awesome, although I only give a 3 star review because on a technical level it's nowhere near perfect.  Right off the bat I wanted to see this because I saw Viggo Mortensen & Ken Foree on the bill- gnarly.  The story starts out well enough, we get a couple of young people going on a road trip of sorts and all the while there are bodies being exhumed from makeshift graves in the desert along the highway.  We get the ominous tone from the start, and that's usually what can make an average movie FEEL awesome.  Then of course we get some creepy action going on at a rest stop along the way, where the young lady in the car gets peeped on by the attendant as she uses the washroom- to the rescue comes Viggo.  Then slowly we're introduced to Foree's character and the action really lifts off.  We get some truly creepy moments from Leatherface, and a fairly disturbing performance on Viggo's behalf, but other than that there is nothing that really makes this film stand out of the series.  I was a big fan of Kate Hodge as Michelle- she gave a fairly balanced & natural performance as the object of the hunt for Leatherface.

Biggest piss offs:

- The climax

6) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: New Generation
* (1 out of 5 stars)
Directed by Kim Henkel
Written by Kim Henkel
Stars: Renee Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, Joe Stevens, & Robert Jacks as Leatherface Slaughter.
This is definitely the worst of the TCM movies, yet there are still a few things I do like about it.  The beginning is a fresh little bit where we see a graduation ceremony going on and some teens wander off the beaten path, when the fun really begins.  We get introduced to Vilmer  (played by Matthew McConaughey) who seems to have some sort of leg disability, wearing a mechanical device around his thigh and knee on one leg.  Of course some kids get killed and then one girl, Renee Zellweger, ends up back in the old house all alone with a psychotic family, including a wild, mentally handicapped transvestite- our new Leatherface.  That's one thing that I do enjoy about this movie is that Leatherface has even more qualities of his influence, Ed Gein.  Ed used to dress up in woman skin that he had taken from victims and howl at the moon, and old Leather really howls here.  Gein wanted to be a woman, and that's why I enjoy the depiction of Leatherface here because he's dressed half in womanly attire and half macabre.  McConaughey's character is a little too much for me at times but definitely creepy.  The story ends on too strange of a note for me, having the house turn into some weird experiment by some sort of agency which is all never really explained- we get a really creepy shot of some guy with weird brands all over his chest pierced with large hoop rings.  Weird.. even too weird for Leatherface and his family.  The TCM is meant to be just the simple story of the family- there is no need to take it bigger and any further than that, it's as scary as it can be.

Biggest piss offs:

- The rings on the dude's chest, like, what the hell is that?  No explanations, nothing.  Whack.
- Leatherface and his family now have a last name: Slaughter.
- Renee Zellweger... she's squinting all the time, and it makes me mad.
- It's like a remake but they destroyed it; at least the remake in 2003 was scary and a little disgusting, this one just stinks like rotten meat.
- The fact that Kim Henkel directed this just came to my attention, and seeing as how Kim wrote the original screenplay with Tobe Hooper it just really disappoints me to see how terrible 

19.10.10

Manhunter

Release Date: 1986
Directed by Michael Mann
Based on the novel by Thomas Harris
Screenplay by Michael Mann
Starring: William Petersen
      Kim Greist
      Joan Allen
      Brian Cox
      Dennis Farina
      Tom Noonan
      Stephen Lang

***** (5 out of 5 stars)
"As a child, my heart bleeds for him.  Someone took a little boy and turned him into a monster.  But as an adult... as an adult, he's irredeemable.  He butchers whole families to fulfill some sick fantasy.  As an adult, I think someone should blow the sick fuck out of his socks."
A quote that maybe describes the topsy turvy feelings one can feel when on the subject of an abused person who later in life succumbs to the evils done against them and beings to do evil themselves.  In possibly the finest of the films about Hannibal Lecter (spelled Lecktor here), even better than it's remake Red Dragon, Michael Mann serves up his classic style dropped into the world of Thomas Harris.  We follow Will Graham as he is brought back in on a case for the FBI that puts him back in the hot seat; a few years before, Graham nearly went insane trying to capture Lecktor, and got seriously wounded in the process.  Now, Jack Crawford wants him in to help catch The Tooth Fairy, a killer who takes whole families lives together.  Slowly we watch Graham fall back into the mindset needed to catch a serial killer, and of course he goes back to his old pal Hannibal for some advice, a little quid pro quo.  We watch two sides of the film between the killer's life and Graham's, a style which extended into Silence of the Lambs as we watch both Starling/Lecter battle with wits and Buffalo Bill a.k.a James Gumb as he goes about his routine.  This film in particular is very interesting because it shows us Francis Dollarhyde's life (The Tooth Fairy) as he struggles to find love but succumbs to the dangerous urges inside him.  It's a fairly twisted tale, and something that we don't usually see from Mann; I love his filmmaking, and having seen the 2nd film in the Thomas Harris series first I was pleasantly surprised to go back and see this one after already knowing about Lecter, and of course already enjoying Mann's style in other films.

William Petersen (most well known for his role as Gil Grissom, the overeducated crime scene forensics expert) is the true story of this film- he is on fire.  Between this and To Live & Die in L.A, Petersen never has to be in another film for me to consider him one of the top actors in his generation.  It's hard to look away from the screen when he's there, he commands the respect and the attention we give his character.  It's hard for an actor to really nail a role on the head perfectly to where I want to see the performances go, but Petersen pulls it off and really makes me feel like Will Graham is in front of me.  His delivery, his timing, the way he moves- everything feels right.  Not to mention the slick look that Mann lays over the film like a glossy coat; the director's choices for atmosphere really pull us into Graham's character.  We spend the long hours with him, we walk through the victims houses with him, we fall into his shoes.  He makes us go round each corner with him, feel what he's feeling.  A truly epic performance in my opinion.
Another exceptional performance I feel that's worth notice is Tom Noonan as Francis Dollarhyde.  That being said- I love Ralph Fiennes' portrayal as well, but Noonan is just creepy in general.  He later ends up on CSI up against Petersen's Grissom, which is pretty neat too.  In this film, he is a loner- a big, tall, creepy creeperton of a man.  He is shadowy, but also we get the feeling that at any minute maybe he could just smash someone to bits.  He looks tall and lanky but behind that lies some sort of mysterious danger.  He brings a quality to the role that Fiennes doesn't have in the remake.  Fiennes plays a physically fit, physically commanding Dollarhyde while Noonan plays the character as dangerous, but even more detached physically and emotionally.


This movie is top notch, from acting to directing.  One final scene at the end with Will Graham and his son sums it all up- the fight between the great evil and the great good.  They watch a family of turtles swimming, and the boy asks "How many?", and Will replies: "Most of 'em.. most of 'em made it!".  I take this a subtle metaphor for the families that Will has saved due to giving himself over to the FBI and what they needed.  He saved countless families from the wrath of The Tooth Fairy by giving up pieces of himself, and almost pieces of those he loves.   An excellent film, worth 5 stars.

Halloween

Directed by John Carpenter
Release Date: 1978

Written by John Carpenter & Debra Hill

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis
      Donald Pleasence
      Nancy Kyes
      P.J Soles
      Charles Cyphers
      Brian Andrews
      Kyle Richards

***** (5 out of 5 stars)

With this film, John Carpenter single handedly changed the horror genre into intelligent filmmaking.  He kept the killer hidden for the better part of the film, and still kept people tingling with fear.  We watch the scenes with the killer in them from the killer's point of view: staring out the eyes of a mask.  This creates a fear in the viewer that stems from the unknown.  It runs parallel with our original fear of not being able to see the killer: we still can't see him.  We look at him in the end and can only see a pale, white mask and while we look through his eyes we (of course) still don't see him.  No matter what way it's filmed, we still don't know who Michael Myers is.  This is a technique that really drives this film to greatness.

Michael Myers is not only a serial killer, but he is unstoppable.  As the series goes on we find out more and more about how immortal he really is.  Nothing works- no bullets, knives, falls, explosions or electrocutions.  Myers is a force to be reckoned with, and even from the beginning we see this.  He gets beat up, he just stands up and keeps walking through his victims.  He has the strength of ten men, evident when he picks up a victim with one hand by the throat.  He walks through doors and closets and fences, and we constantly cheer inside for the moment that someone blows his face off or cuts him up- that never happens.  Even in the end, we're left with a "holy fuck" feeling.  Where did he come from?  This is the only thing I wished Carpenter had elaborated on, and I guess now I've got Rob Zombie to thank for that.

Something else about this franchise in general that I enjoy is the choice of songs.  In this film, we hear "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult- how fitting.  Michael Myers is the Grim Reaper personified, except you'd probably have a better chance working out a payment plan with the Reaper.  I'm not sure if this movie uses it, but in several of the other installments we hear different versions of "Mr. Sandman" which also work well as a creepy reference to Michael.

Jamie Lee Curtis really kicks this film into gear with her performance.  She plays an every day type of high schooler who just so happens to have a muddy past as far as details go.  She is the queen of scream, and always will be.  Of course, Halloween will always be the horror film she's recognized for, but she has definitely made her mark on a couple.  
Pleasence is always enjoyable as Dr. Loomis.  The original is clearly where it all starts: the mad doctor desperately trying to convince the rest of the world of what he already knows.  He is hellbent on stopping Michael Myers and he doesn't care if the rest of Haddonfield thinks he's retarded- he's going to stop him.  An all-out performance by Pleasence, as always.

Halloween is absolutely iconic.  It set the pace for the next 22 years until now, and to be honest no film has ever really come neck and neck with it in my eyes.  Nobody has been able to come up with the same dynamic between characters as we find between Loomis and Myers, and nobody has been able to match the unstoppable force that is Michel Myers.  Until the day someone can reinvent the slasher genre, John Carpenter will reign supreme- and Michael will sit at his right hand.

Halloween II

Directed by Rick Rosenthal
Release Date: 1981

Written by John Carpenter & Debra Hill

Produced by Debra Hill & John Carpenter

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis
      Donald Pleasence
      Lance Guest
      Charles Cyphers
      Hunter Von Leer
 

***** (5 out of 5 stars)
It has caused me a lot of grief trying to sort out my feelings for this series.  Michael Myers is by far my favourite slasher in movie history, and until some brave filmmaker decides to change my mind I'm sticking to my guns.  The first Halloween movie was a step in a new direction: the unseen is where the terror lies.  Carpenter figured out that by not showing the killer's face, he could create an air of mystery that lends itself to the terror of Myers and his brutal path of destruction.  In this installment, we see everything.  Worst of it is that now Laurie Strode is stuck in an isolated hospital just on the edge of Haddonfield, and we watch as Michael tears the place limb from limb to find his sister.  The sense of isolation we feel in the hallways of the hospital are heightened by the fact that now we see Michael's face, and we watch as he creeps about the place, ready to murder in an instant.  Now the terror is right in our faces, we can't get away from it.  This contrast to the first film is what makes Halloween II one of the best films in the whole series.

As I just mentioned, isolation plays a huge part in this movie.  When you can put yourself into the shoes of the characters and really feel the desperation of being in the hospital while a madman stalks the halls, it really puts you on the edge.  The long empty hallways, the darkened rooms, the cold and sterile feel of hospitals, it all melts into one disturbing, long fight for survival.  The hospital itself provides a unique environment; in particular, I think of a scene where a couple nurses are chatting and in the shadows we see Michael as he hangs out in a room full of newborn babies.  Something about Michael in a place where people are supposed to be healed is almost ironic- after he's done with his victims, at least they don't have far to go to get stitched back up (if there's anything left to stitch).  There are plenty of empty patient rooms and O.Rs for Myers to creep among, places to hide in the darkness right before an unfortunate individual walks by.

Jamie Lee Curtis is the only Laurie Strode there is, she is perfect in this role.  She's a frightened, damaged young girl in this second film and this is where we first uncover the truth about her and Michael's relationship.  I couldn't imagine any other actress to play the role.  
Of course, Donald Pleasence is back as Dr. Samuel Loomis and this is him and at the height of greatness.  Loomis knew right from the start that Michael would do damage, and once again nobody believes him.  This is a central theme throughout the whole series: Loomis knows what's coming, but nobody heeds his warnings.  Probably because he sounds like a maniac most of the time, shooting at anything that even resembles the shape of Myers.  In the end though, he is always right.  Here we get to see the big showdown between Loomis and Michael, ending in an excellent explosion.  Pleasence brings a very down to earth feel to Loomis, who is written as a crazy, obsessed doctor; even on the rampage after Myers, Loomis is still played down to perfection.  Any of the series' installments that have Loomis in them are mostly my personal favourites.  The dynamic between Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis is incredible.

There are several really cool kills in this movie.  Before I get to them, I have to mention something that almost ruined the movie for me until they cleared it up.  At one point, someone wearing the same blank William Shatner mask is seen on the street and assumed to be Myers; a police cruiser then flies into him, pinning the man to a van, and then an explosion goes up leaving the man burning in flame.  The police then get a call, and take off with Looms- what the fuck?  They just left the man burning in flames.  Whether or not it was Myers, wouldn't they take some time to look into?  Over the course of the film, they do cover their bases and it saved their asses because I was almost ready to throw the DVD into the street because of it.
Moving on to the kills.  Specifically a brutal kill in a hot tub, which left my jaw dropped.  1981 wasn't exactly the time of stellar effects, but they pull off a lot of great kills.  Blood was never huge in this series, and that's something I enjoyed, but we do see the viciousness at the hands of Myers.  We also see the beginning of Michael's routine: isolate everyone as individually as possible, then slaughter them one by one.  He methodically picks everyone off, luring them out like a hunter with his prey.  This is the standard for most slashers now, that the killer picks off all the victims one by one, sometimes in pairs.  This is where the isolated hospital environment really comes in hand.  We also get a lot more "Michael creeps out of the darkness" in this film (i.e a young nurse finds the doctor dead in his office and Myers slowly comes out of the darkness, his gleaming white mask seeping out of the background).

Overall, this movie is worth each of the 5 stars.  I love the kills, the plot, and of course the acting.  Another thing I love is the introduction of Samhain, essentially setting up the supernatural elements which start to take place in the rest of the series.  Here we begin to see where they're going with Myers' character- instead of being just a random serial killer, now he starts to become something even scarier.  I recommend this to any fan of old school horror, and anybody who's looking for a really creepy movie especially around October 31st.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Directed by Samuel Bayer
Release Date: 2010

Written by Wesley Strick & Erci Heisserer (screenplay)

Story by Wesley Strick

Based on characters by Wes Craven

Starring: Jackie Earle Haley
      Kyle Gallner
      Rooney Mara
      Clancy Brown
      Connie Britton
      Thomas Dekker

** (2 out of 3 stars)
"You have nothing to worry about- this won't hurt one, little, bit."

Freddy was wrong- this remake, which was more unnecessary than most, certainly hurt quite a bit.  Krueger is one of my favourite villains of all-time, horror or otherwise, and he's the only thing that saved this lame retelling of the original.  We don't get anything special as far as kills go, and most of the time I wondered why the made Freddy look less scary than the first time around?  We'll never know.  That being said, the story behind Krueger's death and the part played by Jackie Earle Harley are both what saves this film.  Other than that, there are a whole lot of emo kids and a whole lot of inconsistencies.  

Instead of listing what's wrong with this movie, I'll give you what I enjoyed.
Freddy Krueger was a child killer and the parents got revenge- that was the extent of Wes Craven's explanation in the original Nightmare on Elm Street.  There was no more, and no less.  In this version, we see a darker version of what Freddy's past looks like.  We get the feeling that he molested the children and tore them up with his claws, but then we also get the feeling that maybe Fred was pegged for something he didn't do.  We don't exactly get much evidence for either, especially not the latter, but once the kids of Elm Street figure out what their naughty parents did they immediately question it.  Rightfully so.  If your parents told you someone had hurt you and so they murdered that person, wouldn't you at least question it?  In the original film, this is something that I always wondered- didn't the kids have any questions?  Regardless, the murder was uncalled for (I'm against the death penalty in all forms, vigilante or by law) but wouldn't you want to know what the proof was?  It would certainly be easier to sleep at night knowing for sure that it was at least somewhat justified.  This is something I really enjoyed- too bad the rest of the movie wasn't as thought out as this point was.  
I saw Jackie Earle Haley in a movie called Little Children, and ever since that Oscar nominated performance I have been watching him.  He is the only shining point as far as acting is concerned here.  He adds a little something to Freddy that makes up for the terrible effects used on his appearance; a dark, creepy growl of voice and excellent delivery in the lines.  He is void of all the humour that Robert Englund brought to the character, and I think that it's fitting.  Even though this film didn't strike the bullseye by any means, Haley still gives Freddy dimensions that weren't present in the original performance and that is an attribute to this terribly flawed film.

It's hard to believe that Wes Craven was onboard for this one, but I guess that's the fad of the day- remake every and all horror film of the past 40 years, no matter if it needs to be remade or not.  You'd think that they would stick to remaking movies that had great premises in the 70s and 80s but weren't well executed, yet we still see them remaking classics.  I would assume it's all fueled by greed.  To think that a movie like Nightmare or Friday the 13th would need to be remade is like pissing all over the classic pioneers of slasher films.  I'll give it to Rob Zombie, he certainly impressed me with his remake of my all-time favourite slasher, Halloween.  I'll even give Marcus Nispel and Jonathan Liebesman for their reboot of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (particularly the latter for the prequel to Leatherface and his family's story), which is also on the top of my list for classic horror films.  But to me, there is no need to try and reinvent Jason or Freddy- above all, these two are iconic and immortal characters in the movie universe and we should just leave them alone.  Some of the sequels in these franchises were enough shame, let alone a flaccid reboot.

I honestly gave this movie 2 stars solely based on Haley's performance as Fred Krueger, and the elaborated backstory to his death.  Other than that there is nothing special about this film.  Maybe if they pulled off something as gnarly as Johnny Depp's death scene in the original film I could give them another star, but unfortunately it was a brutal effort.  Kudos to the filmmakers for trying- Wes Craven has some big directorial shoes to walk in.

Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre (a.k.a Harpoon)

Directed by Julius Kemp

Story by Torsten Metalstein Hvas & Sjon

Written by Sjon

Starring: Pihla Viitala
      Nae Yuuki
      Miranda Hennessy
      Terence Anderson
      Helgi Bjornsson
      Gudrun Gisladottir
      Stefan Jonsson

**** (4 out of 5 stars)

First, let me state that I have been waiting to see this movie ever since I saw the description of it on www.upcominghorrormovies.com even when it was just a plot synopsis.  So when reading this review, keep in mind that due to my excited state when I finally got to see this movie I may be biased.  
That being said: I love this movie.  If you're looking for an hour and a half of pure debauchery, gore and mayhem then this movie has got what you are looking for.  Some of the acting is a little off, and of course the script isn't exactly tailored to Bogart, but I still feel that this is a solid addition to the psycho family genre.  It's original in the sense that usually we find this sort of story working in the backwoods down South, or in a remote region somewhere in the European areas; here, we find a demented family floating the oceans on a large whale hunting ship, scrambling for meat on the open water.  The setup is a bunch of tourists that are going on a whale watching vessel to, you guessed it- watch whales.  Of course, through the jigs and reels (pardon the lameness), they end up in the clutches of the aforementioned psychopathic family of whale hunters.  The mother and her two sons are horny, hungry, and dying to kill.  From here it's a run of the mill horror, with some of the tourists being killed off brutally and of course the family takes a few hits.

One thing that I didn't like about this film but it doesn't surprise me they put it in there, is the rape scene.  One of the young tourists is a beautiful young woman, who we assume from the start seems to be damaged goods; she is lured by a crew member into a room downstairs, where she is then forced to have sex.  The thing that bothers me most is that most movies in the horror genre always use that rape scene as the "go to" scene.  Right off the bat, we get this.  The other disturbing part about this scene which pushes it past the typical rape scenario is that when one of the other female members of the tourist group finds him forcing himself onto the other girl, she just stands there as if she is disgusted with her; you'd figure that from one woman to another, she would have at least asked "Are you alright?".  Not here.  Maybe that's what makes it a good placement, that it's not your typical rape scene, there is no feeling bad, there is no want for revenge.  It's like we're meant to look at this girl as a skank, because that's what this other chick obviously thought.  We don't even get to see anybody take some revenge on the guy either- the girl had sought him out to let him know the Captain of the ship had been seriously injured, and after he figures that out above deck he takes one of the lifeboats and sails the open sea by himself, leaving the tourists out on a limb.  This is where the family comes in and all hell breaks loose.

The biggest plus for this movie overall are the amazing kills.  We get everything from double head shots, a ridiculously cheesy decapitation, Kamikaze action, and a good flare to the eye.  The effects were great- there was lots of excellent gore to satisfy the hungriest horror fans.  Even in the end, the girls finally see a whale and it tries to kill them.  Can't get any better than that.
Another thing that made this movie even better for me was the fact that the protagonist of this story is a gay, black man.  We find this out shortly after the horror starts up on the whale hunting ship, and of course the leading lady is upset because now how is she going to get laid?  The family hates black people, clearly, and it's excellent to watch his character get one over on them.  Of course the joy gets cut short when the law shows up, and a devastating mix up happens- this adds more flavour to the pot.

The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre a.k.a Harpoon is one of the finer films to come out of this sub genre.  Most of the movies that we see that are along the same lines usually fall short due to a terrible plot, terrible acting or even terrible effects and scares.  This one serves up a healthy portion of great kills and some half decent acting; the story is pretty original when it comes to the setting, which adds a little something more.  4 out of 5 star movie, and I recommend it to anyone who loves horror movies; you'll certainly get a good kick out of this one!

Paradise Lost II: Revelations

Directed by Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky
Release Date: 2000 (TV)

Featuring: Damien Echols
Jason Baldwin
Jesse Misskelly
Kathy Bakken
Steven Branch
John Mark Byers
Melissa Byers
 
*** (3 out of 5 stars)

The post-title says it all: Revelations.  This film picks up several years after the original trial, and now Damien (along with the other two boys) is a little older, and has spent a long few years in jail.  If it all isn't sad enough, we find out that Damien Echols has been raped repeatedly inside jail and nobody would help him out of the situation he was in.  Due to the fact of the closed mindedness of a small town and the lapse of judgement on the part of law enforcement and the judicial system, a young man has been robbed of his innocence and manhood; of course, there are groups of people (especially in West Memphis) that would argue he deserves every bit of it, that nothing he gets is good enough to fit the crime he has supposedly committed.  We get more and more disgusting commentary from Mark Byers, stepfather of one victim Christopher Byers, and others who were involved in the original case.  A lot more mumbo jumbo, for lack of a better word, gets spilled from the lips of the closed minded folks who live in this small West Memphis town.  Each time I watch either the first or second installments in this series, I keep thinking that I'm lucky to not have been 16 in a town like this because even today if the police raided my room and looked at my literature or media, they'd find enough to lock me up for eternity on their watch; apparently reading and listening to certain types of music or watching certain movies is no longer something that is attached to freedom.  We are revealed with more and more disturbing evidence that points us in the direction of the rightful owner of these charges.  Many more questions get raised the second time around, and at this point the filmmakers had gathered up quite a following.  After seeing this film, I took more time to look into www.wm3.org and try to find more ways I could help out.  The injustice that we see in both Paradise Lost films is absolutely appalling, and would make anyone with either bit of a warm heart cringe.

There was no doubt in my mind even after watching the first film that Mark Byers was responsible for the deaths of the three children, or at least had something to do with it all.  After this second installment, there is even less than no doubt about that fact.   We see more and more evidence pile up against Byers.  The scariest of all is the fact that his wife's death is, to this day, due to unconfirmed causes.  There is evidence that leans towards the fact that Mark Byers probably hurt her, and possibly caused the death; but we will never know.  By the end of the film, we find out that the supposed holy man was arrested for selling drugs.  We hear mounting evidence about how Byers had given a kid a knife and urged him to use it on another kid after he and his wife had left town and moved on somewhere else.  When they had left town, they also robbed as much as they could from 'friends'.  What makes everybody so easy to accept that these young kids were responsible for the murders and that a man like Byers isn't capable of anything like that?  The man lies through his teeth, contradicts himself and his stories, yet people still lap up all the milk that police and the judges give them.  Ignored is the fact that Byers had a knife with blood on it that matched his blood type as well as his stepson Christopher's type, and the fact that he blatantly lied about knowledge of blood on the knife and then twisting, turning his statement until it was barely even recognizable by the end.  Worse is the fact that everybody still can't see past the lies and recognize that Jesse Misskelly is not mentally fit enough to testify for or against anybody, and that he was coerced into giving a false statement.  We ignore all these things, and look past the fact that Byers is putting on the grandest show of all- he parades in front of the camera, having a makeshift funeral for the West Memphis 3 in the woods (where he calls the three dead children his "babies", which to me is indicative that he thought he had some relationship with the other two little kids), arguing with reporters and activists.  The best way to hide is in plain sight, and that is what Mark Byers has been doing ever since the discovery of the bodies in Robin Hood Hills.  He plays the church man, he plays the grieving father and husband, he plays the good ol' Southern boy.. while everybody watches.   Not to mention that he did have an argument with his stepson on the day of the murders, and spanked him; this is something that always factors into motivation for murder, if anybody had altercations with a victim.  
Later in the film, we discover that there were bite marks on the face of one of the victims.  The three alleged murderers are cleared, but Byers could not be properly tested due to the fact that he has had false teeth since four years after his son's murder.  Copies of dental records were used, but came up inconclusive.  Byers then takes a polygraph and feels he has been exonerated, although he was on a variety of medications that could have affected proper testing (Xanax and Haldol are two of the substances).  Every time he feels he has beaten the rap, it's like he is taunting the cameras, dancing for the onlookers.  Byers is so in our face and so outspoken, it feels to me that he is the true murderer, or at last had some involvement.  Anybody else would probably shy away and not want any attention; the average every day person does not want to be involved in a media circus surrounding murders, but Byers seems totally at ease with being there, almost as if he does feel that being the center of attention helps him hide in plain view.

A lot of this film is a rehash of the first, but I still enjoyed it.  Enjoyment may not be the right term- I found this enlightening, just as I did the first.  We get a lot more information, as I talked about previously, but in the end we stay at the same standstill as before.  Damien Echols will now be a product of the system: forced to fight against being raped by other inmates, no doubt he will become a hardened shell of a man.  Eventually, he could end up having to use force to defend himself and then probably add more charges to the already bogus one he is serving a sentence for now.  The fact that they've locked away an innocent person who now has to fight to survive will only work against Echols; he'll eventually be conformed to life in the system, and no matter if he makes it out alive or not he will always have the strain of prison life sitting on his shoulders, reminding him of what was once taken from him.  Neither three of the West Memphis trio will ever live a normal life again, all thanks to a conglomerate of individuals that were essentially working against them.  We see more and more of what prejudice and closed minds can do to those who don't fit their view of 'normal'.

I gave this film 3 stars, not because it wasn't good but because as I mentioned previously there is a lot that just rehashes the original trial.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, however, and I recommend this to anybody who has seen the first.  These films are important to the future of our justice system- a very relative how-not-to story.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
Directed by Werner Herzog

Produced by Eric Bassett

Executive Producer: David Lynch

Written by Herbert Golder & Werner Herzog

Starring: Michael Shannon
      Willem Dafoe
      Udo Kier
      Chloe Sevigny
      Grace Zabriskie
      Brad Dourif

***** (5 out of 5 stars)

So what?  So, what?  So.. what?

Sometimes you don't know what to think while watching Herzog's latest endeavour.  Moments where the camera stops, and we literally watch a frozen frame: there is no pause or freeze to it, the actors literally stop moving and stare as if they're caught in the reality that is being filmed, as if to say "Hey we're making a movie here".  Other times, Herzog literally just films people in their natural state.  Brad McCullum goes to Peru to find himself and explore the world, and in one scene is walking through a market; it looks in this scene as if Werner Herzog literally just shot clips of people on the street and then edited to be from Brad's point of view, a very effective technique (along with Brad monologuing, talking about how people seem to keep staring right at him, into him).  Music also plays a huge part in this film, and a strange one.  Brad keeps playing a song by Washington Phillips, "I Am Born to Preach the Gospel", over and over, saying that this was "it".  All these oddities create Herzog's world, where we weave in through past and present, blindly following McCullum on a bizarre trek through his mind.

Werner Herzog is probably my favourite director, and when I heard that Absurda (David Lynch's production company- of whom I'm also a huge fan) was putting out his latest work.. well let's say I was a little more than thrilled.  My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? is, in my mind, a masterpiece; admittedly, there are some confusing elements to the story that the movie tells but it is a classic indeed.  Based on a true story, Herzog tells the tale of a series of events that led up to a man killing his mother with a sword.  We watch a series of flashbacks about the time leading up to the murder, told mainly by the man's fiancee (Chloe Sevingy) and close friend (Udo Kier) to the lead detective on the scene (Willem Dafoe).  The man (Michael Shannon) claims to have two hostages with him inside the house, and the police are setup outside to try and defuse the situation.  Slowly, the story of Brad McCullum unfolds before our eyes.  For the most part it makes perfect sense but of course Werner Herzog, responsible for many classic films of both documentary format and fiction, has to give the story a thick air of mystery; a few scenes in particular leave the viewer truly wondering- what is happening?

The directing is always the highlight of a Herzog film for me, no matter if the subject matter is sensational or if Kinski was on the screen hamming it up; a filmmaker like him usually tends to be very true to form, very distinctive.  At every point in this movie you can tell you're in his world.  Even in his non-documentary films, Werner manages to give us such a real looking, real feeling environment that it may as well be a documentary that we're watching; this works even more effectively than normal, as this is based on a true story.  

Michael Shannon is the true glory of this movie.  I've seen him time and time again playing different roles but always seeming like the odd man out- here, Herzog places him at the center of a bizarre mystery that unravels the mind of an eccentric man.  Shannon plays a man in his mid to late thirties, Brad, who still lives with his mother, and is trying to balance between that and a relationship with his fiancee (played wonderfully, as always, by Chloe Sevigny).  It's not so much the eccentricities that keep us watching, it's the hope that eventually we will find something to explain the alienation of Brad McCullum.  We never truly get a good explanation as to why he's turned out like this, maybe only the fact that his mother was overbearing and strange in her own right.  Sevigny plays Ingrid well- a young fiancee trying to bring her husband-to-be back to reality and keep him grounded.  She is a simple character but she plays the concerned party very well, just as her character in Zodiac played off of Gyllenhaal's determined persona; we also get to see Udo Kier, a guilty pleasure of mine, play a friend and fellow actor/director in the same capacity, as a worried friend.  
Willem Dafoe is one of my favourite actors and has been since he played a powerhouse of a character in Oliver Stone's Platoon.  He is an actor who doesn't seem to fall into the character, but always put his own little fun twist on who he is playing.  One of the highlights is very early into the movie when he tells his partner, played by Michael Pena, about a law enforcement situation; Dafoe puts on his cute, Souther belle voice as he laughs with Pena about the story.  This is something that always stands out for me with Willem Dafoe, the small idiosyncrasies he puts into his roles.  Also worth mentioning is Brad Dourif who is always a pleasure to see onscreen, whether in a leading or minor role.  Even as a blatant racist, Dourif is always worth watching (clearly everybody must remember Mississippi Burning!?  Coincidentally, Dafoe is also in that film and plays a fine role indeed).

I had been waiting for a long time to see this movie, ever since I got word that Lynch and Herzog were both involved in a project.  Finally I was able to see it and I was not disappointed in the least.  Another 5 star film.  Werner Herzog continually surprises me, and it's nice to see Lynch producing something that isn't totally confusing (although Lynch is up on the top 5 directors list in my mind) and mind boggling.  Although that's not to say that this movie doesn't mess with your head, but the fact is that this is based on a truly bizarre and macabre man's life and there is no trickery.  What you see is what you get.  Leave it up to Werner and Lynch to make it spin like a top.
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