In Review: Silent Hill Revelation

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The Events: I got to see this movie on Thursday thanks to a pair of free tickets scored from a friend for an advanced screening. However, if I had actually paid money for this movie I would be pissed.

Which is not to say that its that bad however… but actually it is. I’m at a total loss of words actually, as I’m stuck between thinking that maybe the makers knew how bad this movie was and it’s just a big joke, or else it was a serious attempt which is much worse.

Evidence for the Jury: The usual scares are there, pyramid head, the nurses, Dahlia – whose botox face is actually more horrifying than any of the monsters. And some new friends: a mannequin head monster, Carrie-Ann Moss as an albino witch lady, Malcolm McDowell as a crazy old guy. Oh and a new death for Sean Bean (maybe, maybe not? Third movie?)

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(She’s never looked worse, not even as Trinity in the Second and Third Matrix movies…That’s dedication to her art though.)

What I will say in its defense, is that filmed in style of a video-game was quite a successful tactic. I kept picturing myself in certain situations and thinking about how I would tackle the threat. A good method for a video-game inspired movie if you want to sell more of the video game…

In closing, the final verdict: This movie was little more than a high-budget, cheap thrills cash grab that was not very frightening at all and riddled with plot holes. As one of my friends said as we were leaving the theatre, they had such a high budget but “they forgot to hire a writer”. The sets are a good backdrop for Halloween though, and if you honestly want a laugh on the 31st go and see this for lack of any other good horrors, or else just wait to stream…

Grabbers: Junk Cinema, Cult Following

Vancouver International Film Festival 2012 Review:

The little Irish film with a genre-blending combination of horror, science fiction, and comedy, Grabbers (2012), is an engaging cinematic experience. Directed by Jon Wright, the plot is reminiscent of any great B-movie, beginning with an alien ship that crash-lands onto a small island off the coast of Ireland. The aliens, a grotesque octopus-squid type hybrid, are vampiritic and feed off human blood. An unusual twist pervades, however, in that the protagonists soon discover an interesting factor, crucial to their own survival: the aliens are allergic to alcohol. Drinking the blood of an intoxicated person can seriously harm or even kill them. We then watch in joy as the cast enjoys party-therapy for survival against the aliens.

While “Cinema of Attractions” is a film term generally reserved for the earliest moments of film, as explained by Tom Gunning, B-movies can also arguably be considered a cinema of attractions. They are meant to be outrageous spectacles: they have quixotic plots, exceed genre expectations, include tropes like monsters, beautiful women, fast cars, etc. Truly, these are films that, rather than trying to delve into deep social or emotional subjects, aim primarily to achieve their effects through physicality and audience participation. In Grabbers, the attraction first comes from the B-movie expectations, then from specific genre expectations linked to science fiction, horror, and comedy. The audience is intrigued, or “attracted” to the genre blending, which, combined with group viewing pulls spectatorship into new territories.

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The film ties into another movement in cinema related to the trope of alien invasions. Prior alien films were more often than not a grand and overwhelming scenario in which the invaders were determined to achieve global domination or extinction of the human race. For example, The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), The Thing (1982), Independence Day (1996), and Cloverfield (2008) are just a few titles from a plethora of films that follow the formula. With Grabbers, however, the focus has moved from the global towards the parochial and domestic. The alien has moved into the role that ghost figures have traditionally played in films, often invading our homes and our favorite locale in town. It takes a community to work together to take the intrusive figure down.

We can look at Grabbers as a perfect example of this shifting trend, along with contemporary films like Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, 2011) from England, and The Watch (Akiva Schaffer, 2012) from the U.S.A. Each film follows a certain formula, in that they all deal with alien encounters, however, each film also inserts their own cultural twist. Attack the Block revolves around a group of young ruffians who band together to save their block from the aliens. Here they are playing off the “Angry Young Men” convention that has been prevalent throughout English Literature and film for the better half of a century, but turns it on its head: instead of remaining angry and causing trouble, they put their collective energies together to defeat the invaders. The Watch is similar to Grabbers, however, in that it blends comedy into the equation. The Watch takes the same theme of neighborhood invasion, but instead centers the film around a giant Costco super-market. This points to the great importance that consumerism holds in American culture, especially as the final showdown occurs within the store walls. Grabbers, on the other hand plays on the stereotypical inebriated Irish image, but uses it in an unusual way, in that it comes to be a crucial part of the community’s survival. What all these films share in common is a need to use and comment upon cultural stereotypes. While not always perceived in a positive sense, it is these stereotypical elements that come to be exactly what the community needs to stay alive and defeat the invasive threat. In using these cultural tropes the films are re-appropriating negative cultural aspects and making them positive. For example, in Grabbers, the entire town bands together in strength against the aliens, by barricading themselves inside the local pub and getting completely inebriated. These films use alien invasions as a medium to defend and re-evaluate social stereotypes.

Through the use of B-movies, genre blending, and audience participation, Grabbers has built the foundations to be a movie with a cult following. The film drew in a large crowd, and did not disappoint in its use of horror, science fiction and comedy. All of these elements came together to kindle physical interactions with the film. The eccentric plot drew in a crowd that largely enjoyed physically interacting with the film in a sociable environment. Part of the enjoyment came from reacting to the spooks and uncanny elements of the horror and science fiction genres, but it also came from the comedy of re-appropriating social stereotypes. The invasion genre is advocating a cultural need for communities to work together against adversity whether interstellar or other.

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Fall Music Time: Tune of the Week VI

This song speaks for itself. If it doesn’t put a smile on your face I just don’t know what will! When I first heard ∆ (Alt-J) this summer, I didn’t think they were even speaking English. I figured oooh, something upbeat from Iceland for once instead of Sigur Ros (no disrespect, but its not exactly uplifting music).

If you like this song, grab their entire album “An Awesome Wave” and have fun walking home on crisp fall nights with a smile on. Jump in the puddles with your gumboots and revel in the little things! You wont be disappointed! Enjoy!

31 Days of Horror, 31 Horror Movies.

In lieu of my favorite month, October, my top 31 horror movies. Some obvious, some classic, but I hope there’s something in here you haven’t seen before and love! To all my creepy, disturbing, funny, grotesque and spooky movies out there, I salute you! (I have a feeling I’ve left out a few things worth mentioning, but alas, another list for another day)

Top 31 Horror Movies:

31)      The Ring – 2002 – Gore Verbinski  – Okay so not the best movie, but when I was 12 and saw this in theatres in scared the hell out of me!

30)      Gothika – 2003 – Mathieu Kassovitz – Again, not the best, but I great mix of ghost, mystery and disturbing.

29)      Absentia – 2011 – Mike Flanagan – A very well done horror film, I wrote a review about it which you can check out, but it’s so far up on the list because it’s not very jump-out-of-your-seat “spooky”

28)      Carrie – 1976 – Brian De Palma – One of those essentials, I mean how many horror movies have been made about the revenge of the high school student who was bullied since?

27)      The Stepford Wives  – 1975 – Bryan Forbes – A feminist classic, although the pace may destroy our modern audiences with ADD, this movie was very disturbing to me as a child.

26)      Drag me to Hell – 2009 – Sam Raimi – Not the only movie by Raimi on this list, this film was panned by some critics who couldn’t see the humor behind it. A fun, disgusting, creepy film.

25)      The Fourth Kind – 2009 – Olatunde Osunsanmi – This movie was very creepy to me. I don’t so much care about the whole “based on true events” thing, besides the fact it is still really jumpy!

24)      In the Mouth of Madness – 1994 – John Carpenter – Certainly not the only film by the master Carpenter, this film has everything: psychological horror, blood, guts, twisted human creatures, and so on!

23)      Videodrome – 1983 – David Cronenberg – Never one to be afraid of being disturbing, Cronenberg weaves a terrible tale that will leave you feeling dirty yourself.

22)   Saw Franchise – 2004 to 2011 – Various directors – Of course the first is the best, but that can be said of almost every horror franchise. I know many will disagree, but I’ve always loved these movies, and making fun of the gaping plot holes is always entertaining.

21)   Cabin Fever – 2002 – Eli Roth – I also enjoyed the sequel, but Eli Roth deserves a shout out. This is one of those gag-inducing, bodily fluids filled gore fests that will make you squirm!

20)   Halloween – 1978 – John Carpenter – Carpenter is a master in his own right. This film is so creepy! Most of the remakes are just terrible, however.

19)   Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 1974 – Tobe Hooper – A classic, leatherface has inspired many other people… to wear other people’s faces. I won’t lie, I also enjoyed the gory remakes.

18)   Friday the 13th – 1980 – Sean S. Cunningham – A wonderful film, and arguably one of the best introductions to the character of Jason, or any supernatural murderer ever. Also the 2009 remake is pure stoner genius as well.

17)   Nightmare on Elm Street – 1984 – Wes Craven – My favorite Craven film and the best in the franchise by a long shot. Johnny Depp smoothie anyone?

16)   I Saw the Devil – 2010 – Jee-woon Kim – A great horror movie, thriller combo, which blurs the lines of evil and makes you question your own morals.

15)   The Shining – 1980 – Stanley Kubrick – Such a classic, and of course extremely well made. What makes this movie so creepy is the fact that is seems so plausible. What if your Dad went crazy from isolation (and ghosts) and tried to murder you? *shudder*

14)   Rec and Rec 2 – 2007 and 2009 – Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza – these films are really some of the best that POV camera movies have to offer. Especially the second one which gets really creative about how they continue the genre (and kill people)

13)   The Mist – 2007 – Frank Darabont – the classic, community grouped together for survival story but with a great and tragic twist.

12)   Suspiria – 1977 – Dario Argento – It’s hard to narrow down at least one Dario film to use, but this one is a classic. Watch all of his works if you’re into classic horror though!

11)   Cube – 1997 – Vincenzo Natali – Woo Canadians! This is a creepy but smart horror film which follows the anguish of the prisoners. What is not explained remains the creepiest aspect of the film.

10)   The Thing – 1982 – John Carpenter – My favorite film by Carpenter. The isolation, what the alien does to your body, not knowing who the alien is? All come together for a terrifying and disgusting combination.

9)   Kill List – 2011 – Ben Wheatley – There is something about this film which really struck me – I wrote and entire review about it before – the gruesomeness, the disturbing-ness… none of these will disappoint you.

8)   Planet terror – 2007 – Robert Rodriguez – Just pure fun and madness. Typical gore and splatter-fest activities, I’ve always enjoyed a horror with a sense of humor.

7)   Sleepy Hollow – 1999 – Tim Burton – This is just head-chopping good fun. Creepy, twisted and a disturbing take on the light-hearted classic.

6)   Session 9 – 2001 – Brad Anderson – This is one of those serious horror films, with a great mystery and a great twist. Who doesn’t love abandoned mental hospitals?

5)   Tale of Two Sisters – 2003 – Jee-woon Kim – A beautiful,  disturbing, and tragic tale of a family gone wrong. The twists are wonderful and artfully revealed. A masterpiece!

4)   Return of the Living Dead – 1985 – Dan O’Bannon – Just far too much fun. Punks and zombies. A hilarious zombie film not a dull moment.

3)   28 Days Later – 2002 – Danny Boyle – A stunning work, the shots of an abandoned London are enough to place it here alone… That and the Zombies can run…fast!

2)   The Evil Dead – 1981 – Sam Raimi – My favorite cult horror movie, hands down, ever made. It’s just too much ridiculous fun. Is it serious? Is it a joke? Who knows, who cares!

1)   The Signal – 2007 – David Bruckner et al. – My personal favorite. This film blends humor and disturbing elements so well it leaves you laughing and gasping at the same time. In a way I didn’t even think possible! The best take on people-gone-crazy genre I’ve ever seen. A surprising little independent film.

A Horror Movie So Bad, I’m At A Loss For Words…

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, thank you school. A special shout-out to the 400+ words of Marcel Proust’s modernist French classic, Swann’s Way and the amazing but utterly dense word stylings of my beloved Simone De Beauvoir in her Memoirs Of A Dutiful Daughter.

As I’ve written, it’s my “thing” to put on a horror movie and study for my science class – Yay Rocks! Recently, however, I put one on and I have not watched a single horror movie since. I’ve literally switched to rom-coms (gasp) and a few Pedro Almodovar films. Side note: The Skin I Live In was so utterly amazing, and a hell of a lot more creepy than the film I’m about to discuss. But I’ll save that for another time.

Have you ever seen one of those films, that just makes you feel uncomfortable, and sick? I don’t take this lightly, and I consider myself to be a well seasoned pro when it comes to gore, grime and gruesomeness. There’s always been the one genre that has truly annoyed me. Torture Porn. I’ve never seen Hostel and I don’t plan to anytime soon. Sure I’ve seen every single Saw movie but I mean… Those are SO over the top and unbelievable that its easy to laugh and gag and look away. What bothers me is this wave of highly realistic torture movies that have absolutely no relevant message that I can find.

The movie I watched was called Dread (2009, Anthony DiBlasi). Based on the imdb description:

Three college students set out to document what other people dread most.

I figured, ooh, ghosts, demons, murderers! How wrong I was. Apparently based on a short story by Clive Barker, this film does not exactly remain true to the story as I’ve heard. This is basically smut. It’s got the gross yellow lighting that tends to make everyone feel uncomfortable:

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Absolutely everything that happens to these people, does not deserve to happen to them. Everything that these people do is completely and utterly stupid. The tortures don’t even make any sense…Eat this piece of meat… OH NO! And really? No one that ended up in the hopsital tells anyone about this crazy fucking asshole that did this to him, and where he lives because they’ve all been there?? UGH!! I’ll save the woman I love by going by myself to this crazy guys house. I could call the police and she’d be free today, but no I have to be a hero. Such obvious and plain ridiculous plot holes riddle the film.

I feel the story was meant to be a deep psychological exploration, with maybe a twist ending, but this just felt deranged and not in a good way. I love my derangement and this just made me mad. Its just like the move Martyrs (2008, Pascal Laugier)… does anyone really enjoy pure torture? I like my violence to have a little humor, a little fun, or at least a whole lot of scary. These are NOT scary films, they’re uncomfortable and disturbing in their verisimilitude. I’d better be a little bit more careful about what I choose in the future.

My love of horror has not been dampened completely, though. I did see a wonderful little Irish sci-fi horror flick for the Vancouver International Film Festival which I will be writing about soon. I have to do a review for a film class, and so I’ll copy and paste later.

Anyways, one to avoid, as well as all the others in the Films To Die For Festival as I’ve been learning. I think I may have to do a throwback to the campy 70’s-80’s B-films I love to reignite some passion for my beloved genre.