Just a short word or two to say I plan to post more reviews, game impressions and the like soon. I feel like I’ve been neglecting this blog and not putting the effort in of late. That’s going to change with several high profile movies on the horizon getting the review treatment from yours truly.
Anyway that’s all for now. Look out for more content soon!
Growing up I must have seen this movie on TV several times, and always marvelled not only at the atmosphere and setting, but those incredible creature effects by makeup artist Rob Bottin. Over the years CGI has taken over considerably, the recent ‘prequel’ being a noteworthy example of CGI not able to replace decent practical effects, and so despite this being over thirty years old, how does it hold up compared to today’s offerings?
Kurt Russell leads a cast of characters which bare at least thematically a resemblance to the crew of Alien’s Nostromo. These guys, working at a remote research facility in the Antarctic are not marines, but simple blue-collar workers, not unlike what you’d find of an oil rig … who are about to get an unexpected and unwelcome visitor. Director John Carpenter took inspiration from 50s b-movie The Thing From Outer Space, but brings his own personality and considerable directing chops to deliver probably one of the stand out horror movies of the 80’s. Colourful characters bring a realism to the movie that works well and the cast all do a fine job with Russell proving a great lead. The setting is also claustrophobic and well filmed; combining a mix of traditional cinematography with hand-held camera work. Once the ‘thing’ starts imitating various characters, tension ramps up and it became pretty disturbing and scary, especially with how the characters convey their paranoia and fear for those they once called friends. However the star of the show is the creature itself and it’s transformations and gory appearances are stuff of cinematic legend by now – and all these years later still impress. The scenes with tentacles, spiders legs and all sorts of other things still sent shivers my way. Yet Carpenter sensibly chose to make this as much a character piece as a creature feature and for that reason it excels.Arrow Video once again deliver a stunning package with the movie’s latest treatment on Blu-ray, improving immeasurably over the previous Universal release which suffered from lip-sync problems. Here we get a 4K restoration boasting a clean, detailed image free of dust or damage and in fine shape, even if it’s not the most vibrant movie you’ll see. All those gory details certainly get showcased however. Add to this a choice of original 2.0 Stereo, 4.1 and also DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio, and along with Ennio Morricone’s ominous score and clear dialogue – this is impressive stuff. Now as usual Arrow don’t shirk on the special features and here we get two audio commentaries; firstly an archive Kurt Russell & John Carpenter one which feels like two old time buddies watching a movie together, complete with laugh-out-loud reactions to certain scenes. The other is a commentary by a trio of podcasters that’s well worth a listen for endless titbits and geeky knowledge. We also get several featurettes, some archive, some new that are well worth dipping into if you’re a fan (and let’s admit it, if you’re reading this you already are). The Blu-ray limited edition I picked up also comes with a fold out poster, art cards and a detailed booklet as well as fancy slip case packaging. Which makes this edition essential.
In the nineties I remember really loving this movie and watched it on a rental double bill with Stephen King adaptation The Dark Half (I really need to see that again also). So when I heard this was finally getting not just a Blu-ray release but was also digitally re-mastered and fully restored with a plethora of extras – I couldn’t resist. Telling a sort-of Romeo & Juliet story of a young teenage kid who’s trashy girlfriend is killed following a motorcycle accident. Said kid then decides to bring girlfriend back to life using his father’s shady military experiments on the recently deceased via a mysterious chemical known as Trioxin.
The poster art of this movie was instantly iconic, what with sexy star Melinda Clarke posing as some sort of sadomasochistic zombie hottie. It may not be all that clever and is mostly low budget fair but for some impressive practical effects work that still look good to this day (bar occasional dodgy puppetry zombie action). Clark’s performance, although nothing all that layered is head and shoulders above the rest of the cast, really bringing home the pain and suffering of her undead cravings whilst resorting to inflicting pain on herself to stop from eating her boyfriend (!). It’s a fun concept and an entertaining ride, with director Brian Yuzna (Bride of Re-Animator, Society) pulling out all the tricks to deliver lots of gory fun.
I suppose with many gorier, nastier movies since, this one’s impact has been considerably diluted and is much more pop-corn schlock than ‘full on horror’. Also, the idea of Clark’s Julie fighting her desires to eat brains isn’t as explored as it should have been, with her gradual transformation particularly rushed. Yet this has it where it counts; great practical effects, lots of blood & gore and plenty of energy, which might not make it the classic I remember it as – but still left me grinning like the twenty something former me.
The Blu-ray from Lionsgate as part of their Vestron Video Collector’s Series is impressive stuff. The soundtrack may only be in the original 2.0 stereo but has clear dialogue and plenty of atmosphere. For a mostly low-budget movie where clearly all the money was spent on the make up effects, the movie has some nice detail, retains clarity and depth despite mostly night-set scenes and facial detail is decent. Add to this extras that consist of two worthwhile commentaries, interviews and stills galleries. Great treatment for what may be a cult favourite but doesn’t get talked about all that much..
As an admirer of director David Fincher, this thriller from 1997 was one of those movies I’d forgotten he’d actually made. At the time still riding high after the success of Seven, this rather high-concept but somewhat under-the-radar effort proved an obvious follow up; throwing in all the traits we’d come to expect from the director – bags of style, a twisting narrative and an attention to detail that has him often compared to Stanley Kubrick.
Michael Douglas stars as wealthy businessman Nicholas Van Orton, a guy who seemingly has it all but is ultimately cold and miserable. That is until on the day of his birthday, his brother, played by Sean Penn gives him the gift of ‘the game’. Baffled and intrigued at the same time, Nicholas agrees to attend an interview at the organization responsible … and so sets into motion a unique thriller that clearly borrows from the likes of Hitchcock as Nicholas struggles to stay one step ahead of an increasingly bizarre series of events.
I’ve always liked Michael Douglas and he’s very good here, proving complex and likable for a character that is otherwise mean spirited and selfish. Penn hams it up a little bit but proves enjoyable and Deborah Kara Unger is also decent. The idea itself is great but ultimately isn’t fully realised and despite Fincher’s assured direction and best intentions … it could have gone further, been more elaborate but sticks rigidly to plausibility for the most part (despite throwing all that out the window for the final act). Not one of Fincher’s best but still worth a look or revisiting for the concept or if you’re a fan of either Douglas or Fincher.
The Blu-ray boasts a quality image despite the occasionally soft-looking exterior or wide angle shots. Close-up detail is good and dark scenes offer plenty of detail. The movie is delivered in DTS Master Audio 5.1 and is for the most part punchy and immersive, even if in certain scenes dialogue gets a little lost in the atmospherics. Extras consist of merely a couple of trailers – very poor, but perhaps not surprising for one of the director’s more over-looked movies.
Let me say straight away that I regard Korean director Park Chan-wook as one of the best around and his much acclaimed vengeance trilogy (which includes the famed ‘Oldboy’) speaks for itself. Add to this his previous American debut ‘Stoker’ being an underrated gem and well to say I was looking forward to what came next, was an understatement. Once I discovered it would be a period piece though, for a director more known for contemporary (and bloody) revenge thrillers … I did feel a little trepidation.
A seasoned crook (Ha Jung-woo) with his eye on a wealthy heiress (Kim Min-hee), sends a trusted young pick pocket (Kim Tae-ri) to pose as her handmaiden. Once gaining the Heiress’s trust the crook himself poses as an eligible count in hope of marrying the heiress and gaining access to her fortune. Once plan is set in motion however the pick-pocket/handmaiden finds herself drawn to the lonely heiress who has lived all her life in a secluded mansion, overseen by a controlling and perverted uncle.
This beautifully shot film is full of character and period atmosphere, complete with stunning costumes and spot-on performances. It’s an intriguing premise that twists and turns, spread over three distinct parts, where we get to see the differing points of view of the various characters and gradually learn about each of their underlying plans and cunning manipulations. Who will come out on top? Think to some extent Dangerous Liaisons and you’ll have a good idea what this about. It’s got a quirky sense of humour (especially during some explicit but not particularly erotic sex-scenes) and some of the Korean / Japanese traditions are fascinating. For a film by Park Chan-wook however it lacks the showmanship he’s displayed in the past, going for a more sedate, realistic vibe that’s still eye-catching thanks to gorgeous cinematography and lavish locations / set design. At over 2 and half hours, it’s a bit drawn out, but packs in a lot of personality. Not as immediately essential as his best work … but still one to check out if your a fan or enjoy quality Korean cinema.