Diablo Cody followed up her movie Juno with Jennifer's Body, a horror-comedy about a teenage girl who is embodied with a demon spirit. In interviews she said that she was looking to pay homage to horror movies she grew up with like Carrie and The Lost Boys. I think she's done a fair job of it too. Jennifer's Body is a cool little fright flick that feels like it came out of the 80s. Perhaps too much comparison was put towards this and Juno at the time and it was harshly judged by a lot of critics and audiences... another comparison made at the time was that this was like Twilight for boys, but really this shits all over Twilight. Jennifer's Body has it's tongue planted firmly in its cheek and never takes itself seriously. There are some great one-liners and pop cultural references that gave me a chuckle, the gore is decent and the performances are good. Amanda Seyfried is really good (imo) and despite some of the shit movies she makes, there's an appealing quality about her. As much as I dislike Megan Fox I think she gives a solid performance too. As an adult watching this movie I wish I was 16 and watching it because I would have thought it to be pretty fucking cool.
The two guys who directed The Blair Witch Project have done very little since. For such a seminal and influential film its disappointing that they haven't gone onto more prominence. One of them went on to create the Raw Feed horror production company (decent quality low budget direct to dvd movies) and the other went on to direct Altered. Its a small movie but its a good one. It takes the old alien abduction story and turns it into an original and effective little horror movie. A group of friends have spent the last 15 years hunting aliens in the woods after they were abducted and their friend was killed. They capture one and hold it captive in their garage. The whole movie takes place in the one place as the alien controls minds and spreads infection while the men argue and assume the upper hand. It surprised me and I found it to be a pretty clever flick. I reckon it would make for a really cool stage show. It's slightly quirky and the make-up fx are excellent (gross too). If you see it around, check it out. It might surprise you... the finale is conceptually very cool but isn't executed all that well... all the same, a nice little spin on alien abduction.
Ripper Letter From Hell was one of the many post-Scream teen slashers from the 90s and I thought it to be a far better movie than I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend. Its about a girl (Molly) who survives a killing spree and as a means of dealing with the psychological scarring she enrols in a university course 5 years later, which studies serial killing. One by one her classmates are picked off and the killer's MO appears to be in the same pattern as Jack The Ripper. Its a typical formula slasher but the kills are fun and the plot developments work well.... CUT TO...
Ripper 2 Letters Within picks up with Molly admitted to a mental hospital after the murderous rampage of the first movie. And thats where the connection between the movies ends. This is a really weird sequel that almost feels like it was written as a stand-alone movie and they've rewritten it to cash in with an established audience. Molly is transferred to an experimental facility in Prague where she undergoes a series of mind altering procedures that induces an alternate reality inside the patient's head. And so the movie suddenly adopts the whole Nightmare On Elm Street formula and confuses the audience with "whats real and what isn't". It all becomes a bit stupid and the resolution leaves you all... meh. Some cool sequences but ultimately a scattered and cliched psych-horror.
From the very first scene you know that you're about to see something cool. Reeker is about a car ful of travellers crossing a long stretch of dessert on their way to a rave. Stranded at a deserted service station without gas they realise that the roads have been closed and they've unwittingly crossed into no-go-zone. As night falls weird things happen and an unknown menace stalks them. With an odeous stench preempting each occurance they fall victim to a murderous form. It's a clever and underrated horror movie that takes cues from movies like The Hills Have Eyes, Chainsaw Massacre and there's even a hint of the Frighteners. The fx are really sweet for a low budget flick like this and the entire conccept and the movie's payoff make it well worthwhile. I've seen it twice now and have just ordered the prequel (No Man's Land: Rise Of The Reeker) so i am dead keen to watch it and let y'all know what it's like. Reeker is good Halloween stuff.
Orphan reminds me of those psychological thrillers form the 90s. The Hand The Rocks The Cradle, Pacific Heights, Mikey and The Good Son were some notable ones and Orphan embodies them all. While its nothing new and all of the cliches are put to good use, the movie works because of some solid acting. The girl playing the lead is incredible and Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard keep it grounded with their understated performances. As far as the whole "evil child" brand of horror movies go, this is one of the better ones!
A group of teens take off for the weekend to a remote ranch and are killed off one by one. It's the classic formula but All The Boys Love Mandy Lane adds that splash of lemon to the cocktail and freshens it up. There's some nice kill scenes and a slight twist to the typical slasher movie which makes this one stand out above a lot of others. To the horror fans, its a comfort movie! I loved it.
When the big slasher franchises were dominating the screens in the 80s, Sweet Sixteen was overlooked and slipped away into obscurity. It found a cult audience and became an underground hit. I just watched the director's cut and was totally absorbed in it. It's presentation was fantastic with all of its old grainy glitches in tact. What separates this movie from the regular slasher is that it focuses heavily on the investigation of the murders, rather than the murders themselves. Its very much a talkie movie and a well made whodunit. The red herrings are pretty effective and the revelation is good. The finale was open for a sequel and I guess they were hoping that this would become the next Friday The 13th.... I guess they gave the audience too much credit with a movie that's a bit more intelligent than the rest.
Non horror aficionados know George Romero for his zombie movies... few of them know that he made some really amazing movies outside of that universe. Martin is one of them. It was made in 1978 and is a vampire film with a difference. The lead actor sedates his female victims with a syringe, then gets naked with them before slicing their arms open and drinking their blood. It's heavy stuff, even in todays standards, and most notoriously the first kill of the film is difficult to watch. Compared to Romero's other movies this is really experimental. The acting leaves a lot to be desired but the set-ups, cinematography and editing are unique.... Martin is a creepy and disturbing movie that offers an unusual vampire story. Really worth a look and while you're at it check out some other twisted Romero movies like Monkey Shines, The Crazies, Knightriders and The Dark Half.
I kick started my halloween weekend with Jeepers Creepers. When it first came out I was completely blown away by it. At the time I thought it was one of the most original commercial horror movies since A Nightmare On Elm Street and having just watched it again I still think so. Its like an everlasting gobstopper... each sweet layer leads to another until finally you hit that delicious sherbet reward at the end. Jeepers begins with a familiar scenario of a car being tormented by a truck... the menace continually evolves throughout the film... from scary old truck to a sinister figure lurking in the shadows to.... well, I'm not going to spoil that for the few who haven't seen it. It's a clever movie that knows how to manipulate and grip its audience by the throat. Good performances, a fast paced story and brilliantly creepy images make it a movie of it's time. See it if you haven't... and if you have then re-watch it for kicks.
I followed up Jeepers Creepers with A Nightmare on Elm Street tonight. I consider this to be a seminal film and one of the most original commercial horror movies ever made. It was released in 1984 at a time when the slasher movie was peaking with franchises like Halloween and Friday the 13th. Audiences came to expect a formula and became cocky about it all... and then Wes Craven came along with Elm Street and tore those preconceptions to shreds. With all of the horror taking place inside teenager's dreams the movie was able to push the horror into the absurd while keeping it entirely believable and terrifying (within the genre). Even now, almost 30 years later, the movie stands up and remains a terrifying experience. It has dated really well. From start to finish the movie is packed with some of the scariest scenes I can recall. Surreal, artistically magnificent and tormenting... I think it remains of the of the best horror films of all time. [it was remade last year. avoid that movie. it sucks. there's a review of it in this group.]
Winnie The Pooh has always been one of my favourite Disney movies. There's an innocence and poignancy to the stories told and I've enjoyed all four theatrical movies and now comes the fifth. Also considered to be Disney's 51st theatrical release in their famous animation "Classics" collection. It's Disney's attempt to reboot the franchise and in today's misguided trend of CGI family flicks it is comforting to have a traditional hand drawn animation like this. Disney have taken this opportunity to right a few wrongs which were criticised in the original. For example Christopher Robin is given a British accent and they have completely omitted the character of Gopher who was never in the books and was only created to appeal to the American audience. And so you can clearly see a honest attempt to recapture something authentic for a new generation. My problem, however, is that a lot of the magic is lost and much of the innocence is forced. The movie begins exactly like the original 1977 version with a real life glimpse into Christopher Robin's bedroom. The book is opened and we're invited into the magical world of the Hundred Acre Woods... Pooh is introduced in a similar way and embarks on a similar adventure. Everything that happens along the way is new but it pretty much amounts to the same thing with less charm. I do admit that the music and songs are very cute with Zooey Deschanel singing most of them but ultimately this reboot plays it safe and disregards the sentimental subtext of growing up and letting go of childhood things. To me that is the ingredient that really made the original Winnie The Pooh an important movie. This could have been great and sadly it wasn't. Disregarding the end credits, the movie comes in at short 53 minute running time. Perhaps Disney will give it another crack and continue the story with more substance. John Lassiter was behind this and he's usually got a knack for a heartfelt story. This is cute, but thats all.
You know those movies you come away from thinking "wow... just wow"? This is one of them. You'll find it filed under drama but I assure you this is as scary as movies get. It's every parents worst nightmare and tells a story about a 14 year old girl who gets swept up in an online flirt with a strange boy. At first he's 16... and then reveals that he's in his 20s... and then in his 30s, all the while showering her in affection and tenderness. As many teenage girls would, she becomes besotted with him and they finally meet. I'm not spoiling the film by revealing that he rapes her. That is the anchor of the film that fuels everything else that comes. The consequences of this and the impact it has on the girl's family is immense. Clive Owen is amazing as the father who becomes fuelled with so much rage that he loses sight of where his responsibilities lie and Katherine Keener is great as the mother who tries to be the strength for both. Its a real performance film and newcomer Liana Liberato is nothing short if phenomonel as a teenage girl who falls victim to an online predator. Wow. As a parent this is a terrifying film. It certainly brings comfort to the fact that in our home we are strict on our kids access to the internet... but this film needs to be seen by those parents who neither know what their kids get up to online in their bedrooms or care. Trust is definitely one of the more potent films I've seen this year and it's pretty close to perfect. David Schwimmer (of Friends fame) is proving to be a versatile and talented director. This could not be any further from Run Fat Boy Run.
So I'm thinking that Get Low might be the finest performance of Robert Duvall's career. He plays a hermit (Felix) who has been isolated in the woods on the outskirts of a small town in the 1930s. For 40 years he's lived alone and become a figure of rumour and legend. Everyone's heard stories about him and most are afraid of him. And so one day he emerges and arranges his own funeral. He wants it held before he dies and he wants anyone who has a story about him to come along. That's the premise and from there the movie slowly unravels and becomes an intriguing and unique story. Bill Murray plays the funeral director and his performance is typically brilliant (give this man an Oscar or something for god sake). Lucas Black is great in a supporting role and Sissy Spacek seems an obvious choice as the one person who knew the Felix from way back. I caught myself constantly smiling throughout this film. It's quietly whimsical and oddly poignant. The performances are the strength and they lift what would ordinarily be a good movie into something special. Duvall shines!
I've been banging on for years about watching movies with the right atmosphere. Every genre lends itself to a different ether and it can be the difference between a movie being shit or being awesome. Tonight all of the elements aligned for me when I watched Insidious. It truly freaked the hell out of me and these days thats a rarity. I watched it alone at night in total darkness with a tap dripping in the kitchen. This is an unconventional haunting movie that strangely uses all of the conventions at the same time. James Wan & Leigh Whannell (of Saw fame) have crafted yet another stand-out horror movie and have officially proven to be an effective and credible duo within the genre. Their previous collaboration was Dead Silence which I thought was highly underrated... and now with Insidious they again gravitate to a different sub-genre and avoid being designated to a brand. To the movie itself... think Poltergeist, The Exorcist and Nightmare on Elm Street amalgamating into a strange and creepy reflection. A family move into a new home and their son unexplainably falls into a coma. While he's out the mother is tormented by apparitions and not long after, so is the father. From there on the conventional cliches fall away and the rest of the movie becomes it's own thing. Performances are great and most notably Lin Shaye is fantastic as the medium who recognise the true reason behind everything. Insidious is genuinely scary and might just creep the hell out of ya. Of course when the atmosphere is right!
I'm really digging the way Marvel are stringing together their movies as a tie in to the upcoming Avengers movie. As with Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Captain America Thor offers a small revelation at the end of it's credits. Movie geeks salivate with each teaser which promises an almighty culmination of heros. I found Thor to be a strange movie. As with the comic the character and his people are from a neighbouring "realm" which acts as a protector to 9 adjoining planets. I'm fine with this concept but when compared with the other connecting movies its kind of stupid. Hulk, Ironman and Captain America are all products of science and of Earth. Adding an immortal being like Thor into the mix might work in a comic book but it doesn't sit right with me.... but it is what it is and the movie is big and epic. The constant shift between Earth and the realm of Asgard annoyed me but I'm not sure I was ever fully prepared to commit to this movie... having the Asgardian costumes come to Earth really gave the movie a kitschy feel and there was nothing I could take seriously. Quite disappointing considering the massive cast of credible players and with Kenneth Branagh directing. But hey, it gave the surround sound a run for it's money and I'm sure it was the subwoofer that gave me the farts all night... at least thats the theory I'm running with. Thor: 2 farts out of 5.