Carrie


Viewed – 15 April 2014  online rental

It’s difficult to really say what we as movie lovers actually want from a remake.  In my opinion they have usually only worked when the source material is ropey or lacking in the first place, with some exceptions of course.  So now we come to what was possibly one of my most dreaded rehashes.  First mistake – remake a bonafide classic of the genre, Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel.  Second mistake – the casting of pretty starlet Chloe Grace Moretz, something I have ranted about here on this very blog.

Carrie

But brushing such fears aside, what is it actually like?  Well let’s back track a little and tell you what we have here.  Moretz plays lonely, bullied high school kid Carrie White, who lives in the shadow of her god-fearing, domineering mother (Julianne Moore) and pretty much tries to go unnoticed … until that is she gets her period in the school showers and becomes a cruel laughing stock to everyone who witnesses it.  But hey, Prom Night is on the horizon, so things can only get better … right?

Let’s just say straight away, I was wrong about Chloe Grace Moretz.  She is actually surprisingly convincing as the outcast Carrie, something I didn’t see coming and hey I’ll admit when I am wrong.  She portrays the iconic role previously played by Sissy Spacek very well indeed, and even seems to have grown somewhat as an actress in the process.  The second slam dunk is Julianne Moore – absolutely perfect as Carrie’s demented bible-quoting mother, and does the impossible by equalling the performance of the excellent Piper Laurie – possibly the true highlight of the original.  The rest of the cast aren’t quite so interesting; we get the token popular girl who grows a conscience, the bully who basically is like every other bitch in such movies, and the do-gooder gym teacher … all not adding much.  Director Kimberly Pierce however is clearly well-traversed in De Palma’s movie and this is basically a very close never-really-daring-to-try-anything-new sort of remake – although when the original pretty much hit all the right notes, that can be (mostly) forgiven.

Some bits are drawn out (the car sequence…), there’s too much CGI and the final prom bit fails to go for the jugular … oh and sorry Chloe you don’t look scary covered in blood.  Overall though this is a hell of a lot better than I could have expected.  Recommended.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The ABC’s Of Death


Viewed – 03 April 2014  Netflix Alphabet Challenge

What a suitable way to start off this little (or should that be major?) challenge of watching a movie from Netflix for every letter of the alphabet.  This anthology horror epic pits 26 directors with a task of creating a short film showcasing a death for a different letter.  A rather intriguing concept I’ll admit, and it got me wanting to see just what these collective minds might come up with.

ABCsofDeath

So what you get here are basically a series of films from various countries, mostly horror themed, but not all, exploring such things as mutilation, murder, vampires, Nazis, lesbians, rituals and sex … with a bucket-load (no sorry, swimming pool full…) of blood and guts, an ample dose of nudity, some pretty sick ideas (the one segment featuring two men strapped to chairs and forced to masturbate) as well as some fairly clever direction, animation and special effects.  It’s an assault on not just your senses, but on your stomach, your taste and decency and your limits as a movie lover.  Directors such as Xavier Genz (Frontiers), Ti West (House Of The Devil) and Ben Wheatley a (Sightseers) are the only names I personally recognised, and this does have the power to disturb as well as offend and puzzle.  It’s generally a pretty f***ed as a whole and only has very limited appeal outside of extreme cinema enthusiasts … but for every bafflingly odd entry (death by farting?), there’s a pretty cool or twisted one right after it.

Uneven, but in my opinion strangely entertaining.

Verdict:  3 /5

You’re Next


Viewed – 15 February 2014  online rental

One horror I had heard good things about and wasn’t a supernatural fright fest (shudder) or a remake.  This has a wealthy family gathering together in their secluded mansion(!) for some occasion; three brothers, a sister and various girlfriends and boyfriends.  Now as shown in the opening scene, some masked killers like to break into houses and slaughter the inhabitants, leaving the eerie message ‘you’re next’ written in blood for the next intended victim to see.  Not a bad set up and fairly familiar territory if you’ve seen movies like The Strangers.

you're next

A cast of unknowns (except for an ageing Barbara  ‘Re-Animator’  Crampton and horror director Ti West) are the fodder for the intruders, who are seen wearing weird animal masks and slaying people in increasingly gory but not all that inventive ways (bar a fun wire trick).  The acting is amateurish, and most of the characters fairly unlikable even if a gutsy heroic female quickly proves the most interesting (with good ‘Nancy out of A Nightmare On Elm Street’ DIY survival skills).

Director Adam Wingard (V/H/S) delivers some effective shocks and has put together a competent if unsurprising horror with lashings of gore, a touch of nudity and lots and lots of screaming.  A little more personality thrown around would have been a bonus and sometimes characters acted with alarming stupidity (lets go and have a lie down whilst house is being attacked by psychopaths??) … but if you’re after a slasher that doesn’t hold back and with a couple of fun twists … this still does the job.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

The Fury


Viewed – 29 November 2013  Blu-ray

Growing up this was one film I kept catching on TV, and it left a long standing imprint on me as a movie fan.  Brian De Palma’s 1978 thriller was sort-of his follow up to Carrie, exploring again psychic telekinetic individuals, this time two instead of one and bringing back Carrie’s Amy Irving now alongside screen legend Kirk Douglas.

Douglas is a secret agent whose son has powerful telekinetic abilities that his shady friend, John Cassavetes wants to take advantage of.  After an explosive opening where Douglas is betrayed and his son kidnapped – we switch to 11 months later where we meet Gillian, a young woman only just discovering her abilities who seems to have a psychic connection with Douglas’ son – and therefore becomes of interest both to Douglas and Cassavetes.

TheFury_3

With a haunting, eerie score by John Williams and several stand-out set-pieces (the fairground ride, the slow-motion institute escape) this is De Palma at full tilt.  Strangely it remains one of the famed director’s lesser known efforts, but with a solid turn from Douglas and an emotional performance from the often underrated Amy Irving – I still got a kick out of this, even all these years later.  It’s still scary, especially with Douglas’ son’s powerful, malevolent incidents (hovering in the air in a darkened room, the murder of a woman by making her body spin…) although at times it resembles a 70s cop show with unfortunate comedy bits – and for a movie often labelled as horror – gore and scares are infrequent.  Overall though this is one 70s movie I highly recommend seeing again.

The Blu-ray from Arrow Video is decent.  The picture is vivid if at times a little soft and over-saturated but in good shape mostly – and the sound punchy and fitting to the period. The 4.0 DTS soundtrack can jump about at times from clear dialogue to an echoey locked in a closet sound (?), so I found the 2.0 soundtrack the most pleasing.  Extras are also plentiful with documentaries, interviews, an isolated music score, a nice booklet with a new write up on the movie, and a reversible sleeve with new art work.  Again another stellar job from Arrow.

Verdict:

(the movie): 4 /5

(the Blu-ray): 3.5 /5

High Tension


Viewed – 12 November 2013  Blu-ray

Director’s Cut

Amongst horror fans, this one movie has quite a reputation.  Firstly it spawned the surge of extreme horror coming out of France, that unleashed such cult favourites as À l’intérieur (Inside) and the infamous Martyrs.  It also kick started the career of director Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D, The Hills Have Eyes).  This tells the tale of best friends Marie (Cécile De France) and Alex (Maïwenn) who travel to the countryside residence of Alex’s parents to stay for a holiday.  However, amongst the idyllic surroundings, there lurks a serial killer, who drives a rusty old van and is waiting for the right moment to strike.

high tension

This atmospheric and nerve-shredding slasher movie is France’s answer to all those American genre movies that copycat Friday The 13th and Halloween – albeit with a brutal unflinching intensity that’s not easy to recover from.  In America this was initially cut by several minutes to avoid the dreaded NC-17 certificate, but this unrated ‘directors cut’ restores all the blood and violence that the director intended.  Rejoice gore-hounds, their is much to get your hands dirty with here – graphic throat slitting, beheadings, stabbings and even a chainsaw!!  But I digress – above all else this movie is primarily about tension.  Violence is spaced out, infrequent, but when it comes – it packs a punch … made all the more effective by intense build-ups.  It’s clear why the movie’s title is High Tension (Haute Tension) when translated, as apposed to the less ideal Switchblade Romance as it’s known in the UK. 

Now let’s get to why this movie has also divided critics.  There is a twist, that is much talked about and is basically why this isn’t perfect … and for me ruins the overall effect.  All I can say to Alexandre Aja is … why?  My only explanation is that when this movie was released in 2003, there were many a movie that had a twist – it was the in thing, but the movie worked well enough without one.  It’s a real shame because this is brilliantly shot, with a superb use of sound and music (especially Muse’s New Born) that regardless of such a fault – still manages to be a cut above similar horrors.  After repeated viewings, I can’t forgive what direction Aja chose to take, which means it’s far from a masterpiece, but oh boy … will you remember it!

The Blu-ray from Lionsgate features the movie in eye-catching HD and although the muted colour pallet and the mostly night time setting prevent this from being a showpiece title – the movie is in great condition, and the 7.1 DTS French Soundtrack is superb and really effective.  Some controversy has been labelled at the dubbed French voices, but I found it barely noticeable.  There is also an English dubbed soundtrack (best avoided) if you just can’t do subtitles (shame on you!).  Add to this several featurettes exploring the making of, as well as an English language commentary by the director and producer (well worth a listen) and scene specific commentary also – that for fans this is an essential purchase.  Everyone else I recommend this if you’re after a really tense and brutal slasher that doesn’t hold back … but perhaps leave your brain on pause.

Verdict:

(the movie):  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray):  4 /5