Friday, October 15, 2010

Horror Thoughts 2010: Week 2

Let the Right One In (2008) ****
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writer: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lena Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Peter Carlberg, Ika Nord, Patrik Rydmark, Johan Sömnes, Mikael Erhardsson

There is so much to admire about this film. It has serenity, beauty, and substance. It is cold. It is not filled with pretty faces and sweaty bodies. While it lacks the common vampire theme of sex and lust, that’s because it centers on an age before such things have become an issue for it characters. Although, there is an underlying suggestion about the sexuality of the characters that they will never have the chance to explore. The vampire says, “I’m 12. But I’ve been 12 for a long time.” Just that line is as chilling as the film’s Scandinavian winter setting.

For the first time I’ve ever seen, a filmmaker takes a shot at just what might happen if a vampire were to enter a residence without being invited. This was always one of those vampire myths that seemed like something just added to the story, but never truly thought out. In fact, many vampire tales drop this particular convention. But here, for the first time, there seems to be a purpose to the myth. How can a person truly relate to a vampire? The same way we have to relate to anyone. We have to let them in. Of course, when you’re talking about a vampire, you better be very careful about which ones you let in. Apparently, the vampire takes the same risks.

Ghostbusters II (1989) ***
Director: Ivan Reitman
Writers: Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd
Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Peter MacNicol

“Who you gonna call?” Well, I guess I’m just a child of the ‘80s, but I find it hard to knock the Ghostbusters. The second movie isn’t as good as the first, but Bill Murray sells the whole silly thing. I could do without the cheesy theme songs that spackle the soundtrack, and really, Rick Moranis is ridiculous, but Annie Potts is awesome. While you could sit down and pick Ivan Reitman’s clunky direction apart, he is smart enough to just let Murray go when the camera is on him, and this is most of the time. Murray’s snide, take nothing seriously Dr. Peter Venkman is a testament to the performer. How incredible that he could be such a jerk to everyone around him and somehow still be likeable. It’s worth it for Murray alone.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008) ***½
Director: Chris Carter
Writers: Frank Spotnitz, Chris Carter (also creator of television series)
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner, Mitch Pileggi, Callum Keith Rennie, Adam Godley

I like this movie more every time I see it. When it was released, it was virtually disregarded by the public at large. Most likely this was because it was seen as part of the X-Files mythology, which doesn’t really allow entry for those who aren’t already initiated. Surprisingly, however, “I Want to Believe” doesn’t require much knowledge of X-Files mythology and works very well as a stand-alone project.

What has surprised me to see recently is that it now seems even X-Files aficionados are disregarding this entry. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps, it suffers with loyalists because the romantic dance between it two protagonists is over. They’ve accepted their feelings for each other. So that tension’s gone, although Moulder’s involvement in another FBI case does create some friction with Scully. However, the way the movie presents their relationship is unique and quite interesting when considering that movies so rarely portray a couple that isn’t fresh and new. It’s nice to see a veteran couple at work, how they help each other, how they can bring out old pains.

 Of course, that makes it sound like a romance, not a horror movie. But that’s the other thing I like so much about this X-Files. It isn’t some government conspiracy/alien hunt. It’s a horror flick.

Read my original review here.

The Shining (1980) ****
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson, Stephen King (novel)
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Cruthers

It occurred to me, while watching “The Shining” on Blu-Ray that although Stanley Kubrick often tackled dirty or ugly subject matter, his films always have a certain degree of antiseptic appearance. The Overlook Hotel in this movie has a very clean look, almost as if it hasn’t ever been lived in, a little like a stage set, or an old Hollywood movie set. Much if the interiors were indeed studio sets built in Hertfordshire, England. Then rebuilt and redesigned by Kubrick after they burned down. Even the external shots of the hotel, while certainly not a set, have an incredible crisp and clean look to them. That’s mostly due to its beautiful Rocky Mountain locations. Kubrick seems to have knack for presenting sanitized worlds where our deepest darkest fears become manifest.

Dead Snow (2009) ***
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writers: Stig Frode Henriksen, Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Røsten, Jeppe Laursen, Jenny Skavlan

This is what Horrorfest is all about, finding some obscure, goofy, but skillfully made shlock that I might otherwise never see. In the past, I’ve seen zombie sheep, zombie servants, even zombie beatniks, but this is the first time I’ve seen zombie Nazis. These war time zombies come from Norway in a movie that knows it kids and has a great deal of fun with its silly premise about a group of medical students taking their Easter vacation at a remote winter cabin where, during WWII, a group of Nazis tried to escape with a stash of stolen treasure; and now they’re back from the dead to collect what they lost. The filmmakers take the notion of finding new ways to kill your young adult victims to new heights with some of their sight gags. It’s all good gory fun.

Left Bank (2008) ***
Director: Pieter Van Hees
Writers: Christophe Dirickx, Dimitri Karakatsanis, Pieter Van Hees
Starring: Eline Kuppens, Matthias Schoenaerts, Sien Eggers, Marilou Mermans, Frank Vercruyssen, Robbie Cleiren

OK class, its time for another lesson in Horror 101. If you are someone whose life is filled with activity, like an athlete, never ever get bored. If you should find yourself injured, don’t fall into the trap of being so bored that you are compelled to look into some sort of unsolved mystery. Watch movies. Watch Jeopardy. But please don’t go looking into someone else’s death just because you don’t have anything better to do. This will never lead you to anything good. The only thing that could possibly come out of this scenario is the discovery of some sort of cult, or family, or club that has spent the last several decades looking for people with nothing better to do than to stumble upon them and become their next victim. And don’t think that just because you’re the star of this particular story that you’ll come out smelling like roses in the end, because this is a horror movie, and all those conventions about the good guys always prevailing don’t apply here. If all your restlessness doesn’t end you up in the grave, it may put you someplace even worse.


Chris said...

I saw Dead Snow earlier this year. Not the best zombie film ever, but certainly was a good one.

Andrew D. Wells said...

Certainly nowhere near the best zombie flick ever. But it was a hell of a lot of fun, wasn't it?