Thursday, 30 July 2015

Shark Night

"Shark Night 3D" (2011, David R. Ellis, Relativity Media) is about an idyllic lake side cabin which is infested with man-eating sharks. Oh, and beautiful people in swimwear. Lots of swimwear. And hillbillies. Also a few hillbillies.

Sara (Sara Paxton) and her friends are staying at her parents' holiday home in Louisiana for a frivolous weekend of sunshine, beer pong, highspeed speedboat chases and water-skiing. Within minutes of arriving they've all practically stripped off and are frolicking in the water. Essentially in doing so they attract the attention of not one, but several hungry sharks. They are then fighting for their lives as they try to avoid being eaten by sharks or killed by angry, jilted hillbilly exes.

This film is dumb. It's dumb and it's completely unapologetic about that fact. From the purposefully bad characters to the completely ludicrous plots and ridiculous shark scenes this film is awful and it knows it. Whilst I'm a fan of so-bad-it's-good as a horror genre, I do draw a line somewhere, and Shark Night sits right on that line.

In some ways it's a perfectly serviceable party movie. It's definitely the kind of film that lends itself to drinking games and I would be happy to have it play along in the background over a few drinks with friends. However, it's not engaging enough to be quotable or interesting enough to have anyone want to actually stop their conversations and watch it. The kills are funny in their unlikeliness but there's no meat to this movie. It's not even shitty enough to be ironic, it's just bad.


[Image: Relativity Media]
Hani

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Shutter

"Shutter" (2008, Masayuki Ochiai, Regency Enterprises, New Recency, Vertigo Entertainment, 20th Century Fox) is an American ghost horror based in Tokyo about a haunted camera.... Kind of. It is a remake of the 2004 Thai horror film with the same name.

Ben (Joshua Jackson) and Jane (Rachael Taylor) seem  like a perfect couple at first. We see them at their wedding, smiling away. We see them coming home together - still smiling. We see them set off to live in Tokyo where Ben, a photographer, has gotten a job with some friends he used to work with in Japan before. On their travels, Jane accidentally hits a young girl in a white dress who was standing in the middle of a dark road. They wreck their car and Jane frantically hunts for the girl, but to no avail; she is gone, along with any trace of her.

With their new exciting life in Japan already off to a less than idyllic start, Jane is further disillusioned once she reaches their destination. Although their apartment is huge, Ben is working all the time. She also doesn't speak any Japanese and feels like an outsider as she wanders aimlessly around the city and when she gets home she is surrounded by beautiful models and fashion entourage who make her feel even more like an outsider. Ben doesn't really notice any of this as he gets stuck back in with his friends and colleagues, getting to shoot fancy magazine pieces.

Jane is so happy when their wedding photos arrive and is dismayed to find that there is a white, ghostly mark through most of them. Confused she asks Ben, who convinces her that there was something faulty with the development and that it will be OK. But Jane is unconvinced as she goes through their honeymoon photos and even her own city snaps to find the same mark is present on all of them - and they were all taken with different cameras in different mediums...

Ben is not convinced, but Jane is adamant that the girl she struck on the road had died and is haunting them. She sets herself to uncover the mystery, but as she delves deeper she begins to regret it as things begin to make sense...

A really good jump scare horror with a dark and twisted plot and some creepy imagery. It has all of the edge and creep of a good J-horror movie, but also a few hollywood horror tropes. The girl haunting them, Megumi (Megumi Tanaka), is your average onryō vengeful spirit with a sad tale to tell, but she is perfectly realised and does not just lift all of the hallmarks from other famous J-horror ghosts. She is sadder. It is like she doesn't want to kill them, but she is compelled to. All of the cast are pretty good in their roles and the sliding of the perfect relationship into this hellish nightmare is captured well.

While it's nothing novel the film is effective in a Saturday night movie kind of way and has a couple of scary moments that I appreciated. I really want to see the Thai version now as it is bound to be much, much scarier!

[Image: 20th Century Fox, et al[
Hani

Monday, 27 July 2015

Dolly Dearest

"Dolly Dearest" (1992, Maria Lease, Patriot Pictures, Channeler Enterprises, Trimark Pictures, Image Organization) is a killer doll movie.

The Wade family move to Mexico because of father, Elliot (Sam Bottoms)'s new job as the operations manager of the Dolly Dearest Factory. Unbeknownst to them, a cult's burial ground has recently been unearthed and an evil spirit has escaped, finding refuge inside the bodies of abandoned dolls within the factory's stockroom. When Elliot's daughter, Jessica (Candace Hutson), finds the dolls she is allowed to keep one. Soon, Jessie and her new little friend are running amok, taking down anyone in their way and behaving altogether very strangely.

A weird film that is partly Child's Play and partly the Omen. Both the doll and the little girl are supremely creepy and while Chucky was decidedly more animated, Dolly enjoys some effective shots and prehensile, plastic fingers. I didn't dislike this movie. It is a little slow moving, but on the whole it delivers an average amount of action. Whilst it's decidedly not scary, and is very predictable, it's a good crappy horror film.

[Image: Trimark Pictures, et al]
Hani

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Haunting (1999)

"The Haunting" (1999, Jan de Bont, DreamWorks Pictures) is the remake of the 1963 movie of the same name and, like the original, is based on the book, "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson.

Eleanor "Nell" (Lili Taylor) has just found her freedom. Her mother, whom she cared for, has just passed away and her sister has just evicted her from her home. She's invited to apply to be a part of an insomnia study by Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson). The study involves staying in the secluded mansion called Hill House with two other volunteers as well as the doctor and his associates.

Hill House is an unusual building full of creepy cherub carvings, gothic architecture and strange theme rooms including a glass, animated ballroom (very reminiscent of the one in the Labrynth) and a submerged hallway with books instead of stepping stones.

Nell is shown to her room by the housekeeper, Mrs. Dudley (Marian Seldes) who explains in very clear language that both she and her caretaker husband (Bruce Dern) do not stay after dark in the house. Nell is later joined by a bouncy insomniac called Luke (Owen Wilson) and a rich, bisexual lady called Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones) as well as the doctor and his entourage. Unbeknownst to the participants, the study is really about fear and the good doctor intends to terrify his volunteers in order to study the impacts of fear. Therefore, during the first night, Dr. Marrow tells the story of the house that Crain built; Hill House.

The legend has it that Mr. Crain (Charles Gunning), a rich tycoon, built the house for he and his wife, intending to have a huge family. Alas, all his children died whilst very young. The story is very provocative and the volunteers become intrigued, letting their imaginations run away with them. However, Nell, above all the others is most affected. The house seems to be calling out to her; she can hear the ghostly screams and cries of children, see things out of the corner of her eye.... Eventually she comes to find that the true story of Hill House has a much darker level to it, a level that may involve her personally....

A fun film which manages to maintain the plot and nuances of the original tale, whilst updating the context and characters, although it is nowhere near as effective. The effects are pretty dated by today's standards, but there are some genuinely creepy, if cheesy, scenes (it's more the small movements of things at the start of the film that make the biggest impact. By the end of the film there is just too much going on).

The film does play as a cheesy spook story though, and relies overly on the effects, where the older 60s film used a build of dread to spook us. This has dated it very much, minimising any scare factor that it had.

For me, it was a bit of 90s nostalgia from when I was first discovering 'modern' horror films as a pre-teen. Good times.

[Image: DreamWorks Productions]
Hani

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Housebound

"Housebound" (2014, Gerard Johnstone, Semi-Professional Pictures) is a horror comedy from New Zealand.

Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O'Reilly) is a troubled young woman with a sharp tongue who turns herself to petty crime with a hapless accomplice. Their actions result in her getting caught and being sentenced to house arrest in her mother's home with an electronic ankle tag. Kylie would apparently have preferred actual prison because her nutty mum, Miriam (Rima Te Viata), and her mother's equally strange boyfriend, Graeme (Ross Harper) are boring her to death.

Her mother is also convinced that the house is haunted, and embarrasses Kylie non-stop by talking about it on radio call-in talk shows. Kylie becomes suspicious that what her mother is experiencing is actually a hidden intruder after she feels a hand grab her from under the stairs in the basement. But she soon begins to share her mother's paranormal suspicions after finding the same creepy, electronic teddy bear cropping up all over the place going through the unnerving death throes of a dying talking toy... The scenes with the bear are just the best!

She makes reluctant friends with the security guy called Amos (Glen-Paul Waru) who is supposed to be monitoring her ankle tag, but he instead becomes roped into the investigation - with his own ghost hunting equipment. Together they begin to uncover what is really going on in her mother's house.

A fun comedy horror with some unnerving bits and one or two nice reveals, "Housebound" was great for four reasons:

  • Our lead actress is funny, strong and fairly unflappable as well as unafraid to utter some colourful language
  • When it gets gory... it gets GORY
  • There are some genuine scares and a good level of suspense built up, despite the tension-breaking humour
  • It's relatively unpredictable and the plot is engaging
So if you're sick of tired out zombie comedies or looking for something refreshing to watch that packs a punch but with a smile, then I highly recommend giving this one a try.

[Image: Semi-Professional Pictures]
Hani

Monday, 6 July 2015

Cannibal Holocaust

"Cannibal Holocaust" (1980, Ruggero Deodato, United Artists) is an Italian cannibal exploitation movie about a group of young people, lead by Alan Yates (Gabriel Yorke), who go into the Amazon Rainforest to film a documentary about cannibal tribes and fail to return.

We follow Prof. Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) who has been tasked with going into the rainforest to search for the missing film makers. He is helped by the military who take a young indigenous tribesman hostage to help them bargain with the tribes.

During their journey they come across some horrific scenes of cannibalism and butchery of wildlife. After randomly bathing naked, Monroe and his team are taken to the cannibals' place of worship where they have to join in the feast in exchange for getting the remaining film cannisters back from the first group, who they have learned by now are dead and eaten.

Monroe takes the surviving film back to New York where he learns from watching it that Yates and his team were far from nice people and possibly deserving of their horrific fates...

Essentially this film is gross. Gross beyond gross. The number of real animals slaughtered live on camera is just sickening and, considering that is just for the film's benefit, kind of marrs any comment the film was making about documentaries creating situations for effect... One particularly graphic scene involving a monkey's face and a knife I'll never unsee. There is also a lot of torture of women and sexual violence, the iconic skewered woman scene and the slicing of body parts for food. I'm not afraid of gore. I enjoy gore, even. But I like my gore fun and fake.

Really the film is more than just a gross out movie about cannibals, but the style of it was more car crash than intrigue: I couldn't look away but I wasn't enjoying what I was seeing. It's a social commentary about journalistic practice, integrity and ethics. But it's also a shock-film made to make you squirm, and while it is highly successful in doing that, I wouldn't say that I enjoyed it or would put myself through watching it again.

Image: United Artists
Hani

Sunday, 5 July 2015

The House that Dripped Blood

"The House that Dripped Blood" (1971, Peter Duffell, Amicus Productions) is a British horror anthology about a cursed house which sees the strange and unusual deaths of its inhabitants. I actually watched it as part of my personal homage to the life and works of Christopher Lee upon his recent passing. But, in true Hani style, I didn't actually get around to writing up the blog post until now!

We follow Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) as he is summoned to solve the disappearance of someone in the house. He goes to the local police station where he is told several tales of the house's strange past and we are taken along for the ride.

Each short is about the house's previous inhabitants. There are 4 shorts in all.

"Method for Murder" starring Denholm Elliot, Joanna Dunham and Tom Adams is about a horror writer who begins to see his new creation stalking him. It's a nicely realised piece with some quite disturbing stealth stalking and an ending very typical of British horror shorts. But in a good way.

"Waxworks" stars the legendary Peter Cushing and Joss Ackland who are both friends who become obsessed with a local waxwork museum's prime attraction: a beautiful murderess who looks like someone they once knew. It was a little slow in the uptake, but had a lovely proper feel to it that made up for that. And who doesn't love a good severed head on a plate?

"Sweets to the sweet" stars the wonderful Christopher Lee as a widower with a young daughter (Chloe Franks) whom he treats very strictly, not even allowing her to play with dolls. The daughter's new home-school teacher (Nyree Dawn Porter) thinks that he is being very unfair and buys the girl a doll.... Big mistake. My favourite of the collection because it went a way I wasn't completely expecting. The young Chloe Franks also did a fantastic job as the creepy child.

"The Cloak" is the final short and stars Jon Pertwee as a horror movie actor/diva, who has moved into the house whilst shooting a vampire film. He sources a strange black cloak from a local antiques and oddities shop ran by Geoffrey Bayldon, only to find that the cloak has special powers. His co-star is the fabulous Ingrid Pitt.

The pieces aren't ground breaking storytelling, but they are all well made, star studded and engaging. The film holds together well as an anthology and keeps the viewer interested.

Images: Amicus Productions

Hani