"Byzantium" is a tight, intelligent, deep film that beautifully blends the gothic world of Vampirism with a realistic present day world. The characters are engaging, endearing and multi-layered. It manages a level of horror that the "Twilight" series fails to even flirt with, and a level of drama that purely horror Vampire films don’t tread into. Saoirse Ronan is a superb lead and Gemma Arterton does an excellent job as well. It’s a really impressive piece of work that has the potential to reach fans of multiple genres. Definitely worth more attention than it has garnered.
The film provides some scary circumstances and some decent gore but it doesn’t have any memorable characters or unique elements. It was smart of the filmmakers to carryover the plot of the first film into the second, so the series does have some continuity and expands on the established world. However, it’s a pretty bland, mediocre film that suffers to a lack of separating itself from the rest of the capture/torture/kill world of films. With no stars, a typical story and no interesting characters, “The Collection” is not a film you’ll want in your collection.
Wan’s followup to his polarizing hit “Insidious” falls into many of the formulaic trappings of his other films. Jump-scares, slowly opening closet doors, semi-subtle images in the background, creaky creepy houses and of course malevolent specters. Yet, for all of the expected storytelling, predictable gimmicks and questionable humor, “Insidious: Chapter 2” is undeniably titillating. There is just something about the atmosphere that the film has and the way the scares happen that are very effective. Some of Wan’s usually solid technical aspects are suspect in the sequel, namely the choice to dub Lin Shayne’s voice over the younger actress. However, the scant $5 million budget would certainly contribute to any technical shortcomings. All told, “Insidious: Chapter 2” is fairly flawed but undoubtedly entertaining and sports an excellent horror film score.
"Blindness" is a fascinating meditation on humanity and how everything from morals to social structure are affected by sight. The film presents a terrifying circumstance in which simple human trust is dissolved and the world is pitched into chaos by an epidemic of blindness. It’s like zombies who don’t want to eat you; they want to steal you food, steal your possessions and rape you. While the film feels a bit stilted and blatant at times, it’s overall an entertaining and thought-provoking experience that warrants merit.
Scattered, unfocused, and cliche, “The Amityville Horror” remake hardly qualifies as a retelling of the “true story” of the Lutz family. Many of the alleged events experienced by the real life family have been replaced by cliche shock scares and flashy stunts that lack the authenticity of the original. Instead of the simple scares that were linked to the Lutz’s claims; the foul stenches, the ooze, the demon dog, the remake opts for overused cliches; pale ghost children and slack-jawed specters. On several occasions the filmmakers show the audience a presence in scene that is not seen by the characters in the film. This is akin to breaking the fourth wall and creates a logical fallacy, attempting to build fear and tension in the audience but failing to build it for the characters in the film. Perhaps the biggest misstep is the choice to create an elaborate sinister backstory to the house involving the torture of Native Americans by a maniacal reverend. It undercuts the simplistic terror evoked by the actual presence of the red room in the Amityville house. The film is no longer the tale of a house where horrible things happen inexplicably, it’s the result of a phony backstory. In the end, it’s a poorly made film that doesn’t do justice to the original nor the alleged true story.
The original film in the “Amityville” collection is successful in a simplistic retelling of the purported “true” events. However, it never steps out of the shadow of the real story and feels ultimately anticlimactic. Despite its shortcomings, “The Amityville Horror” isn’t without its merits. James Brolin’s slow decent into madness is excellent, unfortunately it is overshadowed by Jack Nicholson’s performance in “The Shining”, which came just one year later. Perhaps the best performance comes from Rod Steiger as the tortured priest tasked with blessing the cursed house. In terms of its presence among horror classics, “The Amityville Horror” is unfortunately lesser than “The Exorcist” when it comes to religious/possession films and lesser than “The Shining” when it comes to haunted house/decent into madness films. It may be a horror giant but it’s standing in the company of colossuses.
Taking on a remake of a film that is as loved and heralded as “The Evil Dead” is a gargantuan task but “Evil Dead” has carved out a place of its own in the horror world. In flesh. ”Evil Dead” finds the perfect blend of paying homage where needed, going beyond where it could, and staying away from what is untouchable. The remake avoids what would have undoubtedly been a failed attempt at recreating Bruce Campbell’s iconic character Ash and instead creates a group of interesting and distinct characters with a valid reason for being at the cabin in the first place. The director/writer team of Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues understand what is important to an Evil Dead film and create a unique world of absolute horror through the possessed. The film is grim, harrowing and bleak but isn’t without intensity, chills and thrills. The use of practical effects instead of computer generated does justice to the soul of the original franchise and injects life into the remake. What is so remarkable about “Evil Dead” is that it intelligently steals from everything that works and leaves the cliche scraps behind. It’s a cabin in the woods, teen slasher, exorcism/possession, gore-fest with a French New-Wave feeling. It’s one of the best new horror films of this generation.
Like most Japanese horror films, “Noroi” or “The Curse” does a great job blending a believable world with the supernatural. Done in a documentary/found footage style, the film establishes a current of realism that gives the film a solid air of authenticity. However, emotionally the film is a flatline. There are some very scary moments, such as the graveyard scene. Yet it feels like much of the tension is squandered on the exposition of a convoluted plot. While the film accomplishes a multi-layered, complex world of horror, it’s simply not enjoyable to invest time in watching. Although the ending provides a truly harrowing finish, it doesn’t make up for the rest of the film being a drag.
The film’s stark, terrifying imagery is offset by terrible storytelling and some awful performances. While Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins are excellent as usual, Keanu Reeves is noticeably, atrociously bad (In his defense, he should never have been cast in a role that required an English accent). It’s overlong, with a convoluted plot and an unclear storyline. Some of the narrative choices, particularly with the character Mina, create a mixed message about who the audience should be rooting for. In the end, despite some strong visuals, the film is little more than an elaborate game of Tom and Jerry.
A true feat in the found-footage subgenre. What is so impressive about “Cloverfield” is it manages to achieve the storytelling elements that most found-footage films have to forsake in the name of style. You care about the characters, what they are experiencing, and how this event is affecting their lives. Without that element, the film would just be a Godzilla knockoff. However, with that element, it marries some incredible style, creature design, and technical storytelling with a genuinely engaging story and real characters. It’s a tense horror-thriller monster flick that is a must-see for anyone with a penchant for found-footage style films.
Boredom. No, it is not what the title is referring to but it might as well be. ”A Horrible Way to Die” is the slowest of slow burns, cooking with the heat of a Sterno can under a buffet tray. While the performances are good and the story is a modicum of interesting, the payoff is less than surprising and very underwhelming. Indie scream-queen Amy Seimetz does her best to carry the picture but struggles under the weight of its sheer expository girth. It doesn’t help that both her present time boyfriend and the boyfriend shown in flashback resemble each other, adding an element of confusion to the already drab story. It’s simply not worth your time or effort to try this one on for size.
"Thinner" is another goofy turd forced from the bowels of Stephen King source material. While it once might have been a gourmet meal, the ham-handed adaptation makes for an unscary, uninteresting mess. Unfortunately, "Thinner" isn’t funny enough to be campy, and not scary enough to be legitimate horror. The performances are over the top, the fat-suit is poorly done and the story is predictable and boring. It is genuinely mystifying that such a talented writer as Stephen King has had so many stories adapted into underwhelming-to-terrible films and TV shows.
As an audience, we allot films and fiction a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to logic and probability. After all, it’s fiction. However, “Double Jeopardy” is a collection of the most improbable, unlikely, and straight-up laughable circumstances, all wrapped around a premise that isn’t even technically possible. Aside from the blatant misinterpretation of the double jeopardy law, the film is simply awful. It creates a world that runs on its own ludicrous logic. How was Ashley Judd covered in gallons of her husband’s blood when he wasn’t really dead? Did he collect his own blood for months and then use it to fake his own death? How did Ashley Judd get convicted without a body? How does Ashley Judd survive a car falling into water, a fist fight in the water with Tommy Lee Jones and still manage to hold her breath long enough to disappear underwater and swim to shore? How does she manage to make it from Colorado to New Orleans in a vehicle the police are looking for without getting spotted? How does Ashley Judd, on several occasions, escape police by simply covering her face and slinking out the backdoor? What would Ashley Judd have done if the kindly old bartender hadn’t decided to help her evade police, despite the “Wanted for Murder” poster with her face plastered on it? Why would Ashley Judd choose to meet her husband in a spooky, empty cemetery? Why would a child help a total stranger knock a woman unconscious in broad daylight? Why wouldn’t the husband actually kill Ashley Judd and leave her in a coffin instead of leaving her alive?! Why wouldn’t the husband kill Tommy Lee Jones if he intended on shooting him? Does it make sense to shoot a cop and not kill him? Why would Tommy Lee Jones and Ashley Judd come up with the premise of framing the husband for murder instead of revealing his entire sinister plot from the beginning?! It’s just a huge, horrible mess of a film that doesn’t have one redeeming quality. The freeze-frame ending is just the icing on the cake.
Will Smith does an admirable job carrying this very quiet film along, even as the plot gets thinner and less interesting. There are some interesting and tense parts of the film, however it feels like it’s simply a segment of a much larger story. Although the characters are sympathetic, namely the dog, they aren’t complex enough to really sympathize with. It’s a shame that some of the beautiful settings and visuals are severely disabled by the borderline passable CGI creatures and animals. In the end, “I Am Legend” is far from legendary.
Perfect. A perfect movie-going experience. Some films tack on 3D and IMAX and it’s just unnecessary and an obvious money-grab. ”Gravity” is beautifully married to those techniques. The film is technically genius. The visuals are truly stunning and overwhelming. Never has a film done a better job of making the audience feel as if they are the ones in the scene. Every shot, every cut, every single visual in the film is meticulous and well-thought out. Beyond the visuals, the story is just simple enough and just developed enough to make the film a complete and emotional experience. There are few scenes in the film where the story is a strong punch in the gut and can bring you to tears. It’s a film that is simultaneously thrilling, exhilarating, terrifying and inspiring. Sandra Bullock’s performance in outstanding. The entire film rests on her shoulders and she more than carries the film. Bullock is incendiary. ”Gravity” moves Alfonso Cuaron from a league of very few elite filmmakers of our time and into an even smaller group of true visionaries that will be studied and heralded as film gods.