Saturday, January 21, 2017

Lord of the Rings trilogy extended editions

I picked up a bit of a post-Christmas bargain today from a charity shop. They were selling the extended editions of the three films for £1.99 each. They are selling for a lot less now than they were when they first came out but even so, I think it was a bargain. I do have the films anyway but to have the extended editions is still very cool.

Raze (2013)

I watched Raze the other night and without knowing what to expect I was pleasantly surprised. It turned out to be a subversive little film in ways I wasn't expecting. The film was very simply about a group of kidnapped women who are forced to fight to the death in hand to hand combat for the amusement of an odd husband and wife and some wealthy guests. If the women refuse to fight, there are cameras in the homes of people they love and they are told that their loved ones will be killed if they refuse to fight or they lose a fight. It's a very odd film in respect to the story.
There is a lot of violence in the fight scenes but I didn't feel it was ever excessive. It could have been a lot more graphic than it was and the women  keep their clothes on as they fight, I was pleasantly surprised that they weren't sexualised. It's not a film that's going to win awards based on its script because there isn't that much dialogue but what there is is enough to portray the story and keep it moving along. The film isn't over-long and it never lags, so it feels like a nice, compact little movie. I don't know what audience it would appeal to, perhaps one that likes to watch women fight in a ring, fans of Mixed Martial Arts I guess.

Pernicious (2014)

I watched this film this week and was kind of disappointed by it. It features 3 very beautiful women in Thailand who are there to teach English but as soon as they reach their accommodation in the middle of nowhere they come under the spell of an evil spirit. The supernatural element of the film actually misses the horror spot entirely in my view. There is a visit to a witch, which is the least spookiest witch scene I have ever seen. There are some scenes of gore when the women bring some British guys back to their house but even these are a disappointment. Overall, it's largely a missed opportunity to do something original. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that it was an American remake of a genuinely scary Japanese horror film. I can't recommend Pernicious to audiences of either gore films or supernatural films.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Texas Chainsaw (2013)

I watched this film last night and was thoroughly disappointed. The premise might have been interesting, picking up from the end of the original Tobe Hooper film. There were a lot of things to go wrong when picking up such a story beloved by many fans and yup, practically everything went wrong with this.
The family at the farmhouse seemed much larger than I remember and they are shot and burned by a lynch mob led by a man who years later becomes the town mayor. The sheriff is black and seems to have no authority of his own, despite seemingly to have his own strong views it appears that the police department have just three staff - the sheriff, an officer who is there for cannon fodder and a deputy who turns out to be the mayor's son.
The film tries to blend different styles of horror film rather than sticking to the original film's bleak and terrifying style.
I can't recommend this film because it does such as bad job. The actors can't be blamed, the performances are not terrible. The effects are respectable too. It isn't scary though and it tries to soften Leatherface's character, which is a cardinal sin and is ultimately the film's biggest fail. I watched the film in 2D but I understand there is a 3D version. I can't think that a 3D version of the film I just watched would be any better though.

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Directed by Lucio Fulci who is apparently a respected name amongst gore film fans. I watched this film with increasing confusion as it made less and less sense. There are moments of extreme gore, so if you like skin tearing and blood spurting then you'll like this film. The gore that you see is quite excessive but also obviously fake, so it never feels unwatchable. The dubbing from Italian to English is quite laughable, I assume it is dubbing just because the voice acting is so stilted and wooden. It's not a film worth watching for the plot because the story is really terrible. I don't know if this film is a standalone or part of a genuine story trilogy, if it is it might explain some of the back story I just wasn't getting.
This film seems to suffer terrible translation difficulties. There are lots of funny looks and close-up eyes-only shots. They might have meant something but to me they were laughable. There is a creepy librarian character who is just plain weird but, apart from being weird, seems to play no part in the story. I don't know if this version is a version that has been cut or not, it was a film that originally suffered heavy cutting by the BBFC. It may explain some of the incoherence.
I can't really recommend this to anyone apart from fans of gore films.

Dark Circles (2013)

I watched this film this week and thought it was ok but nothing very unique about it, the jump scares were quite effective. It concerns a young couple who have busy lives in the city, the man is a musician that is about to leave a regular band to go solo. He has a demo to finish and it seems as though success as a solo artist is just around the bend. His partner wants her next project to be a baby and a house in the country where the two of them can enjoy his success, him by composing in his own space and her by renovating the house. Nice plan.
Things don't get off to a good start. He misses the birth and arrives to see the baby in her arms at the hospital, at least her friend was there though. Aside from that, nothing unusual happens until they take the keys and move in to the new house. They find a half-burned and blackened child's doll under the lid of a barbecue in the garden. They don't seem to be able to get rid of it because after putting it in the skip it turns up somewhere else. There are a few of these sort of incidents but neither partner mentions them to the other, frustratingly!
The dark circles relates to their physical degeneration. The baby doesn't sleep. They don't sleep. They have less and less energy to do anything apart from look after baby. This part is done quite well, you do feel for them. The man is always patient but it does drive a stake between them as the resentment builds and he can't compose because he falls asleep. All the time this is happening, both of them feels they are having hallucinations because they think they see a woman in the house or the garden.
Towards the end of the film, after wandering around the local grocery store, at the checkout the man impulsively asks the 19 year old cashier if she can babysit one night to allow him and his wife to sleep. She agrees.
The film is well-crafted and builds but with such a limited story while it does this well, I felt the ending was a bit of an anti-climax. There is a great, chilling moment when the babysitter opens a cupboard in the kitchen but I won't spoil it by revealing what happens. I can recommend this film for a watch but it will resonate more with parents than others.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

A Perfect Getaway (2009)

I watched this film this week and enjoyed it quite a lot. I wasn't really sure what to expect but was pleasantly surprised. It is a thriller set on an island of Hawaii. There are some couples on holiday who learn of another honeymoon couple who have been murdered via police reports. The story is cleverly told, the viewer is never given all the facts. We seem to learn as the characters learn. There are some great actors in the film, Milla Jovovich for example plays a great part in a very different kind of film than her usual sci-fi ones. The twist at the end is a good one so I won't spoil it. I'd recommend this film to anyone really, especially if you like thrillers.

To The Devil A Daughter (1976)

I watched this film this week and it was an interesting effort from Hammer but ultimately not a vey satisfying one. The story's central character is a nun called Catherine, played by Natasha Kinski, who has been raised by an excommunicated Catholic order in Bavaria I think. The order is led by a priest played by Christopher Lee who is using black magic to bring Asteroth to life, which I understand to be the devil. Catherine's father last name of Beddows, played by Denholm Elliot, has arranged for her to be picked up by a character, last name Verney, played by Richard Widmark. He seems to be a good guy and knows about black magic. In his care, he recognises that Catherine's behaviour is troublesome and begins to understand why Beddows asked him to look after her. In some back story scenes we understand that there was a pact made between the priest and Beddows' wife. The priest and his disciples travel to England with an incubator that we presume contains a baby demon. The point of Catherine is that she is needed to perform some black magic ritual on her 18th birthday, which is why the priest and his disciples have come to England. It transpires that Catherine is under the spell of the priest and he performs some kind of mind control when she is alone. Verney leaves Catherine with friends while he goes to look up some important black magic information that he thinks the priest is aware of but while he's out the spell Catherine is under makes her kill one of his friends and she escapes. So Catherine falls into the priests hands and he can perform the ceremony. One of the priests disciples is seen donating blood, all of her blood infact for the ritual. The ritual is performed in a ruined church and the priest uses the blood to create a protective circle. The ritual starts and Catherine is briefly seen naked. It seems to be that the baby demon climbs inside her through her vagina however I'm not too sure about that. Verney manages to kill a disciple guarding the ritual by cracking him on the skull with a stone he picks up. But the priest thinks he is safe and powerful inside the circle of blood and standing on stone ground made from flint. What he doesn't know though is that Verney learned that he can enter the circle if he carries a flint rock with the blood of the priests disciple on it. Verney attacks the priest with the rock and the film ends with Verney carrying a limp Catherine away to safety outside the circle.
It is a strange, downer of an ending because the viewer is left with the impression that actually Catherine has not really been saved. It is an odd film and one that doesn't leave me feeling like I understood everything in it - I probably have some of the above wrong. It is based on a book by Dennis Wheatley, who apparently didn't like the film because it didn't follow the book and he didn't want Hammer to use any further novels of his in further films.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year, 2017 is here

A wet and cloudy 2017 greeted us today, so its been a rather dark and inauspicious start to the new year. I return to work the day after tomorrow, which will arrive soon enough. I saw the new year in watching the final Harry Potter film in the series Harry Potter and the Deathly Harrows part 2.
Today I have been mostly playing videogames and watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
On New year's eve we visited a restaurant that was new to us for a meal and then we went to see a film, Singing in the Rain - a sad reminder of how beautiful Debbie Reynolds was in her prime but also a classic film. My son and I took our cameras and took some shots, here are a few of mine.
 I wanted to record the Christmas lights before they are taken down and the high streets return to their usual presentation.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Julia X (2011)

This film begins in a way I expected, a woman (Julia, I guess) gets chatted up in a cafĂ© by a date she met online. He turns out to be a serial killer and abducts her. She tries to get away but is re-captured. She is then driven out to an old oil well where he disposes of the body of a dead naked woman that she shared the van with.
She gets away and starts to fight back. Eventually she turns the tables and captures him. It gets weird after that. She has a sister. There are flashbacks to her child abuse. I can't really go on without spoiling the story but I was intrigued as to where the film was eventually going. It confused the hell out of me, not necessarily in a good way either, I found the sister's behaviour extremely odd. At one point she also entices a neighbour into the house and restrains him blindfolded in a chair directly opposite the serial killer. She does this for no apparent reason. In a later part, she also puts a pair of wire cutters in the serial killers hands, allowing him to free himself.
This is a strange film. It's another film that has a bit of an identity crisis due to a confused script. Not exactly rubbish and not good either, somewhere middling for this attempt. I think there was some attempt at humour but with the child abuse elements, you could hardly laugh at this.

Don't Look Up (2009)

This was a bit of an odd film. It told the story of a film maker making a film that was unfinished from many years ago. It isn't a documentary film or anything like that. I thought it was a bit of mix of different films blurred together to tell a story that wasn't very interesting. The not looking up of the title relates to some stills of the original movie that show a woman holding a candle and looking up. The part where the main character visits an ex-girlfriend just feels slightly like its in the wrong film and it's not clear sometimes whether he is just having a seizure and is dreaming or not. The effects are mainly just CGI and are pretty bad but probably just a reflection of the type of effects possible in 2009. I don't think the scares were very creative in this film, so were mainly based around the special effects. I was dissatisfied with this film, I can't say I was disappointed though because I didn't have any expectations to begin with,

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Crawl or Die (2014)

I watched this film this week, I started it about 3 times without being sure I was actually watching it from the start, the premise is explained a few minutes into the film. Not that there is much premise to it. It is set in the future sometime, a "package" must be delivered safely by a crack team of special forces operatives. It sort if gives a nod to Aliens or a multitude of other films like this. Probably Aliens is the closest though.
Amongst the special forces is a blonde with a partly shaved head, her name is Tank. Don't know why and it's never explained. The package is the last fertile woman alive, the team are to deliver the package to a lab on Earth 2. earth 2 turns out to be inhabited by a predator and it starts to kill off the team of special forces. The remainder of the team enter a series of narrow tunnels with the predator pursing them and killing them one by one as they protect the package.
The film uses very confined sets and abridged storytelling, the action is largely just grunts and noises as they squeeze through tunnels. I don't know why the tunnels are there, I think they are going through the tunnels to get somewhere but I wasn't sure where that was.
I wasn't surprised, horrified or terrorised by the film. Infact if anything, I was a little bored I've got to be honest. I watched it until the end and despite feeling uncomfortably claustrophobic during most of the last half, I can't say I was sorry it ended.
Probably not a film I would watch again, not awful but not much happens and the ending isn't anything special either. I can't even tell if the acting was any good, there was so little dialogue. I imagine the actors faces were not faking the effort it took to get through the tunnels.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Dark Summer (2015)

I watched this film on Friday night, start of the weekend. It's set in the US and is mainly about the house arrest of a teenager who seems to have been guilty of stalking a fellow pupil, a girl. It is a slow film generally, set mainly in the house. The boy somehow is able to circumvent the Internet prohibition and gains access to the net. He has a couple of friends who visit him, one of whom is clearly in love with him. I don't know why, I found the lead actor rather annoying. There is no explanation of why he was infatuated with the girl he stalked and rather unbelievably she skype calls him and proceeds to commit suicide while he watches. She then seems to haunt him in his house. Or is it his mother's house? Why was he alone and she not there? So much was left unexplained in this film. I just got the sense of this selfish boy who was self-absorbed and didn't really need the friends he had got. I just don't get why they were his friends and what they got out of the situation. I found this quite a frustrating film in the end and was glad when it finished. There were probably only two jump scares in the film. The ending wasn't that surprising either. No recommendation from me for this one.

Wolf Creek 2

I enjoyed this return to Wolf Creek and the crazy Australian who likes to chop up bodies and torture backpacking tourists. Now I'm familiar with the character I didn't find this as disturbing as the first film. I did feel sorry for the German couple at the beginning and I thought that they would be the central victims in the story but instead it was the Englishman and history graduate. That was a surprise, I enjoyed that part. If "enjoyed" is the right word! Sorry to everyone, if that's a spoiler!
This film belongs to the same genre as Hostel and Saw, about some evil whacko who kills because he enjoys it. Like a butcher, humans are just meat to be carved up. No sense of conscience about them. It's hard to imagine someone like that but they must exist because you read stories like it in the newspaper. The story of poor Becky Watts from Bristol in 2015, for example, in which her step brother and his girlfriend murdered her and chopped her up. An awful and harrowing story but one that was true. So these things do happen in real life.