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Sinister (2012)

There is an absolute difference in watching Horror movies at home or at the cinema. At home, you can reduce the illusion caused by our vision to perceive the images as real by simply putting the lights on. And of course you can always have the opportunity of controlling the remote to push fast forward. If you happen to find a horror film on cable, and you either saw the incomplete part of it then most likely the effect of it isn’t there. When you’re in a theatre and you choose to sit at the farthest, there’s unlikely chance of you perceiving that illusion of a visual.

I will not contest with you to be an avid fan of horrors or suspense. There is an entirely different ground to that and I don’t think I am in the position to tell you how to watch something. But here’s a quick review on the suspense horror film directed by Scott Derrickson whose body of work include The Exorcism of Emily Rose. He also co-wrote this with C. Robert Cargill.

At first I thought this would be yet another Oren Peli film because at this point the use of family and handy cam videos are getting on my nerves. It is however an excellent gateway to a perfect horror film. It may all lie in how well the film would be executed, in which it should be in it’s raw format the way Paranormal Activity was first introduced.

But then again this isn’t an Oren Peli film.

The story is about a true crime author Ellison who moves into a house that was once vacated by a family mysteriously killed while their daughter has been missing. Ellison is played by Ethan Hawke who, apart from acting, is a writer in real life. Upon moving he discovers a box filled with home videos each dated apart and goes as far back as the late 60’s. His kids are young and his wife worries that they might be living in yet another blood-bathed home but Ellison denies this with the hopes of getting the bestseller story he needs for his family’s future.

He begins his research on the missing girl, Stephanie, but gets curious about the videos on the box. He sets up the projector and begins to watch a seemingly wonderful family hanging out in the backyard. A few minutes later, with the film being cut directly to the horrific ending.

During his investigation, Ellison gets help from an unlikely fan whom names himself as Deputy So and So played by James Ransone . He  may be the only one who should be providing parts of the connection between all the family videos and the disappearance of Stephanie and all the other kids and his part in the movie is enough to feed us information on how the movie will then progress. But no, apparently the entity that Ellison chooses to put the blame on is a goon called Mr. Boogie.

Cheesy. But that’s not all.

A sign shows up on all the videos and voila, it’s a pagan story. Mr Boogie apparently is also known as Bughuul.

I was horrified as I got out of the cinema. To be honest I even had a bad dream after watching this. It’s not as scary as a black and white silent horror film or Suspiria but I was taken by the time a figure had appeared in the pool. (That’s it. That’s the end of the details) I was impressed by the timing of the suspense scenes in this, I have to say though I got bored during the parts wherein drama had to be added to show tension in Ellison’s family, the ending was something I had already expected but I guess I was too excited to even pay attention to the movie poster to realize something important in the film I did not expect that person to do that.

All in all, I appreciate the fact that I was scared. Whether it was because of that other boy in the box, or all the dead families. The timing as I had mentioned was good. Its just that when all the kids had to be revealed it wasn’t that scary anymore (again, depends on you) additional pagan insights were full of shit but probably relevant in some way but not a really fun way to add it on the movie just to prove that everything has to have a reason. Everything that’s added to have a reason is no longer scary but anyway, you guys already had me scared even before that part.

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Paranormal Activity 3

30 October 2011

Directors by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman surely have had to up the ante in the third installment of this home-video-horror. Set 18 years prior to the first two films, wherein we trace back where the “activities” begun, I expected this to be a bore.

But alas, I was proved wrong.

True to its form of providing us that raw experience of horror, the film starts like how every horror ride begins. Katie and her younger sister Kristi reunite during Kristi’s pregnancy. Katie delivers a box of home videos to her which ends up being mysteriously burglarized a year later in Kristi and her husband David’s home.

We’re then switched to go backwards to 1988, a young Katie and Kristi live with their mother Julie and her boyfriend Dennis, who makes a living out of video coverages of weddings, parties, and the like. Dennis notices a strange noise one evening and then plans to videotape the entire evening on both his and Julie’s room and the kids’. He then finds a footage of Kristi waking up in the middle of the night talking to an invisible entity.

Like the previous Activities, Dennis videotapes the next few evenings and a couple more strange occurrences are caught on tape including a creepy take on the Bloody Mary game. From strange demons lurking in the closet to the most scariest add-ons to a horror flick: creepy single women cult, Paranormal Activity 3 is scarier than the first, much more sensible than the second.

The 500 Film Challenge, Thriller Shocker

I Spit On Your Grave 2010

5 November 2011

I Spit On Your Grave

When a beautiful woman from the city goes into a small town and rents a cabin to finish her latest novel, she realises she may have caught the attraction of a couple of locals.

 In a perverted, sardonic, and sick way.

 Adapted from the 1978 film titled Day of the Woman, I spit On Your Grave is a raw, straight-on horror-thriller-sadonistic shocker that’s not a spite of the ordinary film. Absolutely not for the fainted hearted, once Jessica Hills asks help from one of the locals to fix the water pippings, a little peck on the plumber, a stuttering young man named Matthew (played by Chad Lindberg) takes this peck seriously and forgets to get the payment for his services. Along with some sick friends of his who spotted Jennifer earlier at the gas station, they plan to visit her at her home later that night. This unexpected visit from locals she felt she had embarassed earlier at the service station brings an instant nightmare of degradation, rape and violence.

 Left almost dead, Jennifer stands up in a complete mess, naked but never facing her male attackers. She walks almost out of the woods and into a bridge while her attackers slowly follows her from behind. A last glance at them and she jumps off the bridge, miraculously staying deep into the river and never to show up again in more than a month.

The lowlife locals, alarmed that her carcass might soon turn up at the end of the ravine. continue to search for her by the river, burning all of her possessions that may be claimed as evidence. A couple of months after, signs of that day haunt them one-by-one until Jennifer finally returns back to seek vegeance. Sarah Butler performs frighteningly fit for the role of Jennifer as she inflicts acts of physical torture to each of her attackers until the torment has completely surpassed her. Both the actor and the character succeeds in providing us mad solution to the story’s main problem. Here we find a woman who never agrees to be overpowered by her male attackers.

Reminds of Francois Truffaut’s The Bride Who Wore Black, except that the heroine is also the victim of the story, and I guess the physical torture performed by Jennifer is much more grotesque while that of The Bride is a bit more eloquent.

Andrew Howard's Sheriff Storch gets a taste of his own medicine

Cast include Sarah Butler as Jennifer Hills who plays the role perfectly. Jeff Branson as the egotistic Johnny, Rodney Eastman as Andy, Daniel Franzese as the perverted aspiring freak filmmaker Stanley, Chad Lindberg as the insane nervous wreck Matthew, and Andrew Howard (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) as the perverted Sheriff Storch.

Frightening, freaky, perverted, pitiful, disturbing, and sickening. The rape scene, although not as long as the one in Irreversible, is the most unsettling and emotionally eerie performances I’ve ever seen. Granted to give you the chills whether you’re a man or a woman.

 

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#348: Apt Pupil

23 August 2011

I feel a bit guilty for not being able to keep up with my posts. It’s a great satisfaction to watch more than one film a day and talk about it for hours until you end up talking about another film, and so on. So I obliged myself in watching my sister’s latest flicks (well, not exactly the latest but newly owned films) which I can add up in my growing list of films I’ve seen this year. Today, I’ve rewarded myself with a Brian Singer classic Apt Pupil which stars the late Brad Renfro opposite Ian McKellen (Gandolf in the LOTR film adaptation). This film also stars Joshua Jackson and David Schwimmer.

Brad Renfro, who grew popularity in the 90’s in the Joel Schumacher film The Client plays the role of Todd Bowden, a young achieving high schooler who grew fond of Nazism after passing his paper about the holocaust. On his way home he realizes his elderly neighbor who aliases as Arthur Denker was a former Nazi Obersturmbannführer named Kurt Dussander who escaped from the war and is now considered a war fugitive. Todd knows the old man’s real name and his old profession and he blackmails him into telling him stories of the holocaust.

The more he spends time with Dussander, the more he seems to be detached with his studies, his own normal unconscious slate, even with his girlfriend. In turn he conceals his bad grades from his parents, turning to the man he blames to be causing his sudden failure. Dussander then uses the boy’s situation to sort of “control” him in a way, like pretending to be his grandfather during his parent-teacher counselling with guidance counselor Edward French (played by David Schwimmer). Due to this meeting with the guidance counselor, Todd is forced to stay frequently after school at Dussander’s house to do errands, study harder, pass his grades and do one last chore for him.

One evening Dussander, while dressed in his army uniform provided to him by Todd as a notorious gift, he is noticed by a hobo neighbor of his while picking up empty bottles of wine. They meet again the next evening on a bus ride home. The hobo thinking that he might trick the old man by giving him more wine and afterwards money insists on helping Dussander with his groceries. A sinister turn of events occur once Dussander permits the hobo into his house. He stabs the hobo in the back and drags the bleeding man into his basement up until he gets a minor heartattack. He kicks the bleeding hobo into his basement and rings up Todd.

He advises Todd that he needs him to do a chore for him and that he cannot do this as he is having a heartattack. Todd lies to his parents telling them that he needs to read a letter to Denker.

As soon as he arrives Denker’s home, he finds the old man having a hard time breathing as well as the dinning room in rumbles. Denker, still not finished with his evening plans asks what to do since he’s having a hard time breathing. Todd remains to be confused, as what every twelve year old boy in that case would feel (panic would never be the first reaction they would admit), but follows anyway since there seems to be nothing that he can do (except, I don’t know. go home. forget about the old man and let him die there..). He asks Denker what had happened. Dussander/Denker says he’s done it as an act of self-defense. As Todd screens the room, he finds the man lying in the basement, still with a knife stuck behind his back. We’re taken into a close shot between Todd and the lying man and the door. Which could possibly mean that there’s something fishy in this scene.. and voila! Denker shuts the door leaving Todd with the hobo. In this scene, we’re supposed to believe that this is where Todd unleashes his pristine evil, that sense of pleasure he’s been dreaming of, he’s been reading about, and he’s been thinking and finally will be able to live about. But for some reason the execution seems natural. Natural in a way that makes Todd a natural evil person, not something of an Apt pupil as the title serves.

Anyway, so the hobo dies of course. The cops arrive, as well as Todd’s parents. The teacher and his pupil have created a story for themselves wherein a guy had forced himself into the old man’s home while the pupil reads to him a letter, in German. Denker is forced to go to the hospital as well despite fear of compromising his identity in public. Todd cleans up the mess left at the scene and throw away every evidence of that night and of Dussander’s real identity. But trauma is as strong as a very nurtured memory. Apparently Dussander’s roommate in the hospital turns out to be an old detainee at the death camp in which Dussander was a high official with a very familiar face.

And so, Dussander chokes himself to death rather than sparing his life on a death sentence, Todd graduates high school in high honors, and Edward French’s undeveloped character gets a little breath of rehab from Character Development and plays a minor role in uncovering the real relationship between Dussander and Todd. Todd’s narcisistic evil character blackmails Mr. French by coming to terms with his ex-Guidance counselor’s sexuality.

Not bad for a suspense film. As for an adapted story from a book? Nah, I was never really a fan of these books – to – film genres, except for Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice though. I haven’t read the book version of this but I’m hoping it’s better.

If you are scared of Nazi inspired films, then this will be a huge shocker for you. But if you’re more interested in what Brad Renfro had to offer, then I recommend you watch this film. He was never, by any chance, overpowered by Ian McKellen’s unsurpassed talent. It’s script, I must say, would be convincing, just as long as you don’t have the book version in mind and for comparison.

blogger, Hitchcock, Movies, The 500 Film Challenge, The Good Stuff, Thriller Shocker

#360: Shadow of a Doubt

8 August 2011

Joseph Cotten seemed familiar to me the first time the camera had closed up on his face as he laid on his bed while his maid reported to him that two men were looking for him. As my sister had raised up the other film I had promised and had kept erasing from this list since I haven’t fully finished it, we remember now that he too stared in Carol Reed’s The Third Man.

I’ve already seen this before in Cinemax but never had gotten the title. I felt then that this film could be a Hitchcock film. The feel and the music seemed similar. It was just the actors that made me think twice. Hitchcock is best known to use two of his favorite actors in Hollywood: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Or if the latter was not available (like when she got married and became Princess to Monaco, she neglected to play the part of Marnie in Marnie as a comeback to movies after her marriage. The role ended up to Tippi Hendren instead. The same blonde he used in The Birds) he selected from wide range of Blondes that were available. In this film, he cast a brunette Teresa Wright.

A man who turns out to be a charming and calculating killer phones up his relatives in the sleepy suburb of Santa Rosa to tell them that he’ll be staying with them for a while. The man’s name is Charlie. As he arrives, he befriends and charms (in a freaky, incest-ish way) his niece and namesake Young Charlie. He gives his sister, his brother-in-law, his other niece and nephew gifts. As he gives Young Charlie a ring with an engraved name she couldn’t make up of, she begins to have suspicions about her uncle to be the Merry Widow thief.

When Uncle Charlie suspects too that Young Charlie might have doubts about his purpose and his identity, he plots her death to protect his secret. The film ends as one of them dies and everything ends like nothing at all has ever happened.

This film is said to be Hitchcock’s most favorite film. Screenplay co-written by the great Thornton Wilder, along with Sally Benson and Alma Reville, this film also co-stars Henry Travers (the guy who played the angel Gabriel in Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life), Patricia Colinge, Wallace Ford and Hume Cronyn. Although this wouldn’t be my favorite Hitchcock film, I loved it’s cinematography and the way each scenes were built to build up enough tension for suspense especially between the main characters.

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#359: The Birds

The Birds is Coming!

10 August 2011
This would be the third time I’d watch this nature-gone-berserk thriller from the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock in my entire lifetime. Written by mystery-crime novelist Evan Hunter (if you’d notice in the opening credits, his name too gets 50% credit, same as Hitchcock’s. That’s ’cause according to Evan Hunters short biography about this film and his work experience with Hitchcock entitled ‘Me and Hitch’, Hitchcock had asked the projectionist to place Evan’s name to 50% in the opening credits, right before Hitchcock’s credits would come in at 50% as well of course.) who worked on the screenplay in September 1961. The film was released in the Museum of Modern Art Theatre on 27 March 1963.


The movie is based on the novella of the same name by suspense writer Daphne Du Maurier. The book however is about a farmer and his wife whose crops are being attacked by massive flock of birds until they too were attacked. When Hitchcock approached Hunter about the story, he said that he didn’t want to work on a farm in Britain and most certainly would not use an inarticulate farmer and his dreary wife as main characters.


And so, a couple of brainstorming after, they came up with famous characters such as glossy blonde beauty Melanie Daniels (played by then unknown Tippi Hedren, who ironically had her then infant child named Melanie. Yes, she turned out to be Melanie Griffith. Who knew.), the brunette school teacher Annie Hayworth (played by a low-voiced Suzanne Pleshette), the bachelor criminal lawyer Mitch Brenner, his mother Lydia played by Jessica Tandy, Cathy Brenner, and of course Hitchcock’s feathered friends who brought terror to Bodega Bay —- a total of 3,407 pieces of birds.
The story apparently begins as a screwball comedy between Melanie and Mitch when they both meet in a bird store in San Francisco. Mitch mistakens her for a saleslady when he recognizes her face as the daughter of a big newspaper company as well as for her being in court recently for something she did in a fountain in Rome. Melanie plays along as Mitch asks if he can buy some lovebirds for his sister’s birthday this weekend. Later on when they both uncover that they were only fooling each other, Melanie gets his plate number and rings up one of her friends to locate his address. She too buys lovebirds and sends this to his address only to find out he’s gone to Bodega Bay for the weekend. She leaves in her convertible, wearing a mink and a green dress very much looking like the grand socialite that she is. She rents a boat and travels to the Brenners’ home to drop off the lovebirds and leaves a note for Mitch’s younger sister. As she travels back to the other end of the dock Mitch sees her and drives all the way to the other side to fetch her. It would have convinced me that this would be the start of an icky love story. But as soon as Melanie gets to the other dock a seagull attacks her for no reason. Suddenly thousands of birds begin to flock the town, which had caused in burning a local gas station, creating massive frenzy while several school kids attempt to do a fire drill “silently”, and attack homes by simply pecking and coming into chimneys and crashing into windows.


Forty-eight years later, we still don’t know why the birds attacked Bodega Bay. Many speculate that this may have been a real story that happened in California which Hitchcock may have been inspired from apart from the Du Maurier story. This remains a true classic in which cinephiles and movie-lovers must see above any other suspense film on their list.

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#429: Hard Candy

6 May 2011

 Ellen Page always gives out a kick-ass performance as shown in this film and in hr 2006 Oscar winning performance in Jason Bateman’s Juno. Two years before Juno, she opted to shave her head and play the role of a girl who’s just shaved her head and cares no less at what people may think or see about her.

Hence, in this film she plays [yet again] a kid who meets up with a guy she chatted up with online who’s about 18 years her senior with whom she suspects is a pedophile.

 Patrick Wilson plays Jeff, a photographer whose subjects mostly incorporate women, and girls way young to be his niece. At the first part of the movie, we see the two chatting up online. Ellen plays Hayley, a fourteen year old honor student who thinks way beyond her years. After flirting up with Jeff online, she asks him if it’s okay to hook up. Jeff being slightly unaware of the way Hayley throws herself at him incessantly agrees and meets up with her at a coffee shop.

 

Upon “hooking up”, Hayley takes a bite out of the chocolate cake she orders, leaving a mess of chocolate in her lips. Jeff comes into the scene as if that part was a bit acted out accordingly by Hayley to see if Jeff will feel turned on by this gesture… which I think he does feel after introducing himself to her, and her introducing herself to him likewise.

Jeff invites Hayley to his home. Hayley never forgets to mention the fact that out of 5 doctors, 4 of them thinks she’s insane. Jeff thinks perhaps that Hayley’s just playing coy and doesn’t really mean what she just said. As soon as they get to Jeff’s home, Jeff shows her some of the photographs he’s taken including one for a woman named Janelle. Hayley asks him if he’s aware of the legal boundaries there is for taking photographs of women and girls being exposed in this kind of form. Jeff says that he is aware. Hayley though insists that he might want to do them deep inside. Jeff admits that the only girl he wanted since he was young was Janelle. A couple of screwdrivers after, Hayley insist that Jeff take a photograph of her like the models who throw themselves at him for a picture. She runs into his living room and strip dances for him, Jeff walks in carrying a camera to try and get a photo of her. As effect though of something Hayley put in his drink, he gets disoriented and falls. He wakes up tied up in a chair and soon begins a series of torture Hayley does to get the truth from him about his pedophilia and about a girl that is currently reported missing.

 One thing I could never fathom to do while watching this flick was to eat chocolate ice cream in a cup. Yes, in a cup and not in a cone. Or even if it was in a cone, I would never eat it. You’ll understand why when you see the fourth or third from the last torture done by Page. Although I don’t carry any balls, I don’t think I’d need a medical text to understand how difficult and how painful that torture scene might be to play. I like how Patrick Wilson played Jeff. He kept his cool for the most part of the film, was indirectly malicious and still charmingly handsome. I’ve seen this movie before on cable but I never remembered him to be playing the part of Jeff. I always thought it would either be Mark Wahlberg or Sam Rockwell would fit the part, but then again it would look assumingly possible.

The cinematography and the camera angles were great, too. The stunts, although I don’t think Ellen Page would need a double for the stunts she made on this film, were quite accurate and possible. I was bothered though how on earth would she manage to carry Patrick Wilson? I guess for that she needed help.

Anyway, I’d watch this film again and would remember it as a fantastic thriller similar to the way I felt when I watched Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. I didn’t feel cheated at all and my time was well spent just watching this. I must say as well that David Slade is now officially an expert at making me feel uneasy. Sandra Oh’s cameo was sufficient, and it wasn’t necessary for her anymore to come back after her 15 minute exposure in the film. Otherwise it would have been a completely different ending.