Sunday, 26 January 2014

Apartment 1303

"Apartment 1303" (2012, Michael Taverna) is the American/Canadian remake of the 2007 Japanese film based on the novel by Kei Ôishi.

Janet (Julianne Michelle) moves out into a new apartment of her own after a fall out with her aging-popstar alcoholic mother (Rebecca De Mornay), leaving her elder sister, Lara (Mischa Barton), to deal with her alone.

It isn't long after she's unpacked her stuff that she begins to freak out in the apparently empty flat, but it slowly becomes more obvious that there is something seriously wrong in the place. Her neighbours and superintendant aren't much help, as they are as creepy as the apartment itself, and her new boyfriend, Mark (Corey Sevier), is too busy to spend the night.

A few days into her lease Janet falls to her death from the balcony.

Lara moves in after the funeral to work out why her sister would do such a thing. But she soons begin to find out there is something sinister going on in 1303, and she may have put herself right in the middle of it!

Typical to other Western remakes of J-Horror, there's something lost in the translation. The creepy scenes feel like a lengthy episode of Supernatural but without the scares, wit or budget... The talking scenes feel hollow and forced and the mother is the most lively character, but her sole purpose is to be the driving force for the girls to want to move out.

I'm not sure why Lara would move into the apartment after her sister committed suicide in it and I'm not sure why she would consider staying after all the spooky crap goes on.... Honestly, the whole thing could have been easily avoided if Lara had just took her sister's belongings and got out of there! Or if Janet had been a bit wiser in choosing apartments in the first place.

Not a great film.

[Image: Gravitas Ventures]


Thursday, 23 January 2014


"Twixt" (2012, Francis Ford Coppola, American Zoetrope, Pathé) is a horror mystery film.

Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) is a has-been horror writer doing the rounds of small town America in every bookshop that will take him. Upon visiting a strange little town with an odd 7-faced clock tower, he happens upon a local tragedy; the murder of 12 orphaned children at a hotel, previously famed for having Edgar Allen Poe (Ben Chaplin) stay for a night.

Hall becomes intrigued further when he learns of the recent murder of a young girl and then has a strange dream in which he passes into the land of the dead, where he encounters a female ghost who calls herself V (Elle Fanning). He decides to stay in the town longer to write a book based on its tragic history, telling the local sheriff, and budding mystery author, Bobby LaGrange (Bruce Dern, who I know best as Rumsfield from "The 'Burbs"), that he can share in the novel's credit if he helps him solve the mystery.

An unusually styled film with some creative cinematography. The dream sequences, although strange, are nicely designed and I enjoyed the use of colour. I found the scripting very strange and often hollow, though, but Kilmer seems to really enjoy the role and is good fun to watch.

I really enjoyed the premise of the film and, although it's oddly put together with split scene sequences and a very random low budget 'Lost Boys'-esque 'vampire gang' in the mix, it's watchable. It seems more like Mr Coppola was entertaining himself in the making of this film, and it doesn't fit too well together. More like a made-for-TV film with a hint of Arthouse about it, I wouldn't call it a work of art, but it's certainly not the worst I've seen and it's very visually pretty.

Image: Pathé

Monday, 6 January 2014

Carrie (2013)

"Carrie" (2013, Kimberly Peirce, Misher Films, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Screen Gems) is the remake of the classic 1976 film and is also based on the 1974 Stephen King novel of the same title.

You can find my review of Brian De Palma's 1976 film here

I was unsure of what to expect when they first announced a Carrie remake. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie had created the characters so well that I couldn't contemplate who could do a better job.

This version remains relatively true to the plot and characterisation, however, it does have several flaws... On the whole, it's a good teen horror flick, but just doesn't pack the punch that the original did.

Carrie White (Chloe Moretz) is a young, naive schoolgirl who is bullied at school and is victimised by her extremely religious and troubled mother (Julianne Moore).

The flaw here is that Moretz is textbook gorgeous with very clearly dyed hair... something I doubt Carrie White would have access to. But she gives an excellent performance, switching from tearful to panicked to angry very convincingly. Her being so nice and normal looking makes it slightly more difficult to empathise with her as the victim, however. She looks like she should be popular.

Whilst the terrible relationship between mother and daughter is definitely captured, this version doesn't show as many of the small scenes which really built up the angst that the older film does. Moore gives a stellar performance as the mother, however, and really gives Laurie a run for her money! Absolutely terrifying!

Small nuances and details are present throughout the film which really give a nice edge. Things moving slightly around Carrie for instance before she sets her powers loose.

Carrie, knowing nothing of bodily functions and puberty, is panicked to find herself bleeding from below in the locker room. She is ridiculed by her hateful classmates and is saved only by her gym teacher, Miss Desjardin (Judy Greer), who appears to be the only person remotely on her side.

The updating of the story is done quite well, with mobile phones, YouTube, etc... managing to add to the plot rather than detract from it. The styling of the film is very High School Musical though, and often you began to think you were watching "Mean Girls" more than a retelling of a modern classic.

Life is seeming to turn around for Carrie, however, when a boy asks her to prom. The prom scene was good. It wasn't as good, in my opinion, as the '76 version though. It lacked some of the build up that the older film possesses and we were disappointed to see so much apparent CGI in the blood scene. But on the whole, it got the point across: Carrie has been pushed too far and now she knows just what to do!

The effects on the whole are excellent. There's even some nicely placed gore and a fair bit of action.

I found the ending to be a slight disappointment though. Crucial things were skipped and I just didn't get the same thrill as the old one gives.

On the whole: excellently acted, nicely pieced together and with nice special effects. Moretz plays the part well, but I think her look was a bit too pretty for the character. It all seemed a bit pointless remaking it though, when the original is still very poignant to this day. And it didn't do anything so fabulously different to merit a remake!

[Image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer]


Sunday, 5 January 2014

The Black Cat

"The Black Cat" aka "Gatto Nero" (1981, Lucio Fulci, Shameless Screen Entertainment) is a film loosely based on the Edgar Allen Poe story.

A black cat stalks an English town, killing under the orders of its master, Psychic Medium Professor Miles (Patrick Magee). However, it would seem that the murderous moggy has turned upon its master, and is now killing at its own will!

It's not on the level of "House by the Cemetery" and its gore cannot compare to many of Fulci's other works, but "The Black Cat" is a moody piece with some very good scenes.

Whilst it's not likely to give you many nightmares, and it does suffer from long dull scenes between kills, it has the same wonderful charm of many Fulci pieces added to some nicely selected scenery.

Underrated, but admittedly completely batshit insane with a thin, shaky plot.

[Image: Shameless Screen Entertainment]

Friday, 3 January 2014

You're Next

"You're Next" (2011 - released 2013, Adam Wingard, Lionsgate, Icon Pictures) is a 'home invasion' slasher film.

The advertising for this film was very promising. From the creepy masks, secluded setting and traditional stalk-and-slash genre, it seemed like a winner.

I'm sure from the tone of this post, however, that you have guessed that I did not find this film to be much of a winner...

The kick off is fast and bloody. It almost has a 70s slasher feel to it, too, which is then carried on into the next scene where we are introduced to some of our main characters Crispian (A.J. Bowen) and his fiancée Erin (Sharni Vinson), who are on their way to visit Crispian's wealthy parents in their new luxury holiday home. It seems that all of Crispian's brothers are also visiting for the weekend with their girlfriends/spouses and fiancées too.

Unfortunately, the family reunion is to be spoiled when a small band of animal-masked killers target the family with a range of weapons in an organised assault.

An odd film, it couldn't decide if it was going for the feeling of an older film or trying to be modern.

The characters also lacked a lot of development, resulting in them becoming, to me, very disposable. I found myself rooting for the killers just to see what imaginative killing devices they had cooked up next!

Where the backstory was provided it seemed forced and patchy, and acted as nothing more than an excuse to create a kick-ass female character. Now, I'm not complaining. I'm a Whedon fan. A kick-ass female lead is always fun, but maybe a bit more thought could have went into the character set up there.

The twist, because let's face it there was always going to be one or two... or three..., is intriguing but not clever. And the plot is painfully slow, allowing me to begin thinking about other things while our boring collection of characters did some stuff.

Also, the mother looked younger than her 'sons'. A bun hair do is not sufficient as 'older person' make-up!

Of course, I do have nice things to say about this film too.

The action, when it gets around to it, is impeccable. The gore is fun and shocking, the killing techniques are interesting and believable. The scary bits are indeed scary. The masks are an excellent touch and the blender kill is pure genius!

While I would hasten to add that I think gore hounds and horror fans should definitely all see this film just to appreciate its ups, I found its downs to outweigh the fun and horror and leave me feeling mostly unimpressed.

[Image: Lionsgate & Icon Pictures]