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.
The bad news is that surprise at the end of “The Wicker Man” is important to its impact on the audience. The good news is that the film still works without the ending being a surprise. While anyone who has seen a “100 Scariest Horror Movie Moments” on TV has already had the twist spoiled, it simply makes the film a tense game of “Oh my God, get out of there already, they’re going to SPOILERS: burn you alive!” Harrowing twist ending aside, the film presents an interesting take on religion. While our hero’s rejection at the cult’s crazy beliefs is understandable, for someone with no religious beliefs, the hero’s religious beliefs are equally crazy. While perhaps he isn’t suggesting human sacrifice, he is an ardent believer in a different form of mysticism. SPOILERS: In the end, it creates an interesting irony, as our hero is being burned alive in order to save crops that will not be saved, our hero cries out toward a god that will not save him.
What makes “Insidious” effective is that the elements of James Wan’s toolbox are in balance. None of the aspects of the film (story, characters, effects, scares, etc.) are designated more importance than the other. The story is interesting and engaging and actually somewhat original. The characters are distinct and have motivations that make sense, making them relatable. The scares are incorporated into the story so they aren’t just random jump scares to shock the audience. The imagery and the music choice in the film is often truly disturbing and has the ability to give you goosebumps. It’s genuinely scary and engaging. The second half of the film has received flack for being a perceived change in tone, however it maintains the flow of the story and offers a satisfying resolution (or lack thereof) to the story. Those who aren’t a fan of Wan’s brand of horror won’t find “Insidious” quite their taste, but keep an open mind with this one because it does have some truly iconic horror moments to offer.
The thing about “The Exorcist” is that it creeps up on you. It’s a quiet, somber film that much like the possessed girl in the film, gradually undergoes an unsettling change. The film employs intelligent means, both in terms of technique and storytelling in order to create a haunting film. The absence of music is terrifying. Perhaps one of the most powerful sources of horror universally is that there is something buried here on our own Earth that we are unaware of and all it would take is a man and a shovel to bring it to the surface. From there, the sprinkling of unsettling images, flash-frames, and stellar practical effects take “The Exorcist” to another level of horror. It’s a simple story that embodies horror and heroism in it as well. It poses a lingering question that embodies the concept of the film: Is it more terrifying that the presence of the Devil proves the existence of God, or that the existence of God proves the presence of the Devil?
"Red State" is almost a good movie in that it is almost a movie. It’s a difficult movie to place because there are nearly as many likable things about the film as there are lamentable. The film is topical without being exploitative, which creates an interesting perspective on religion and its affect on people. However, the film suffers from having no discernible protagonist, few if any relatable characters, and a very truncated structure and ending. It feels as though there was one draft of this film, they shot 80 out of 90 pages, then wrapped up the rest in one, overly expository ending that was very unsatisfying. Furthermore, it’s damn near insulting to have the director Kevin Smith come out afterward and reveal that there was a different, better ending that he opted not to use. "Red State" is a half-film that will leave you wishing for a more interesting, more complete story. Instead, you’ll be treated to the film-equivalent of a news blurb.
It’s everything you expect it to be. Nothing about “Gothika” is surprising, engaging, thrilling, scary, or even interesting. It follows a typical Hollywood recipe for a horror film, similar to “What Lies Beneath”. The scares are typical and predictable: ghosts and mental hospitals. It feels like a poorly thought out short story that got stretched feature length and got $40 million slapped on it to make it marketable. Skip this one.
A terrible disappointment. Aside from being generally boring, the film has a total of zero likable or relatable characters. It makes the usual set of annoying zombie film missteps but the biggest flaw is the attempt to mess with the biology of zombies. The idea that zombies can somehow learn to use tools and guns is not only upsetting as a fan of the genre, it also destroys what really makes zombies terrifying. The fear that you could lose your humanity and become a flesh-eating drone is much less scary when zombies are firing machine guns and using shovels to break down doors. It’s a different creature altogether and a disappointing take from the king of zombies, George A. Romero.
Frenetic, relentless, nauseating pace that sweeps you up into a world at silent peril. ”Contagion” is an interesting film because it feels like a Zombie film without the Zombies. It’s incredibly poignant given we live in an age where there is hand sanitizer everywhere. We use antibiotics far too often. We are almost at odds with the natural order and must continue to be in order to survive because we’ve created a world of drugs and chemicals. The most horrifying part of the film is the speed at which the characters must process loss, grief, and life-altering changes. It’s terrifying because every day, billions of people on this planet have a schedule, a routine, an expectation about how their day and their lives will continue. What happens when something you can’t see instantaneously destroys all you value? ”Contagion” houses excellent filmmaking, pinpoint cinematography, superb editing that is driven by a pulse-pounding score, and subtle-yet-deep storytelling. The film got the characters and the stories correct, which is what makes it so genuinely effective.
James Wan is a very polarizing director. There are those that herald him as the only notable contemporary horror director and there are those that find his work mediocre and tailored toward mass audiences and making money. Regardless of your stance on Wan, “The Conjuring” undeniably displays his better abilities: creating a strong atmosphere and a distinct visual style. The film blends some old-school touches with new-school, mainstream horror sensibilities, which brings us to Wan’s failings. There is power in the film’s still moments and set-pieces but all the air gets let out every time there is a jump scare, which is very frequently. The film feels like bumper cars, you put the pedal to the floor and muster a frustratingly slow speed, then receive a jarring bump and go back down to zero. The story is weak and predictable. The characters have very little depth or development. As a whole, “The Conjuring” will have a legacy of innumerable scares but a sore lacking of truly indelible, archetypal terror. It may give you pause before opening your shower curtain but it will hardly make you feel like you need a shower.