There’s no denying that Stephen King is a hell of a writer and has been responsible for not only countless acclaimed novels and short stories, but also that his work has made for some classic movies. This latest adaptation, based on the 1992 novel of the same name finds a married couple, Jessie and Gerald who travel to a woodland holiday home in hope of reigniting the fire in their already troubled marriage. Once there Gerald has the idea of a little kinky bondage and role play, of which Jessie is initially game, that is until Gerald has a heart attack, leaving Jessie to ponder a grim fate.
This intriguing concept plays out very cleverly, exploring Jessie’s horrible dilemma, whilst throwing in hallucinations and memories of long buried secrets linked to childhood trauma. It’s brilliantly acted, especially from Carla Gugino (Sin City) who’s plight I found utterly compelling. Add to this a tense, cleverly written and at times creepy as hell plot and this twisting and turning horror-thriller kept me equal parts guessing and gripped.
I felt reminded of that other, claustrophobic King adaption ‘Misery’, and to a larger extent Oscar magnet ‘127 Hours’, and even if where it finally goes is a little ‘oh of course’, I still was both entertained and particularly impressed by this little low budget thriller I’d pretty much stumbled on by accident. A simple idea done well it seems, is all that’s needed sometimes.
I was optimistic about this one. I was initially a little hyped when it hit theatres considering that director Ridley Scott not only created the Alien franchise, but also helmed last year’s (for me) ‘movie of the year’ Martian. So I was thinking, he’s back and bringing Alien back. Oh was I wrong…
The crew of the Covenant are transporting a colony of thousands in hyper sleep, in search of a new planet to call their home. After receiving a distress call from a near by planet, they choose to, albeit reluctantly investigate. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Sort of a direct sequel to the much hyped yet bewildering Prometheus, a film I came away disappointed by, this has returning character David, a synthetic android marooned on said planet who the crew of the space ship meet up with. Amongst their crew is also an identical synthetic called Walter (both are played by Michael Fassbender), who soon finds himself bonding with his look-a-like by way of a drawn out flute lesson (yes you read that right…a flute lesson).
This is a movie in search of an identity. It wants to be a survival horror typical Alien movie, and then like Prometheus it wants to be a philosophical origin story on both the creation of the Aliens and some mumbo-jumbo mythology involving mankind and bio-engineering. The problem is it’s very hard to get invested in much of any of it, what with tedious characterisation and a plodding pace. Fassbender tries his best but is let down by a poor script that is both over-complicated and boring. Unconvincing CGI for the Aliens doesn’t help either and when crew members start dying off and you’re not even entirely sure which ones they were – the movie has problems.
Alien never needed a deep mythology. It didn’t need a back story. The mystery, the foreboding eeriness of H R Giger’s designs was enough – once a director attempts to explain it all, it ultimately kills it … which Scott is very much going to do if he insists on making the franchise something it never needed to be.
I think it can’t be argued by anyone familiar with French horror cinema, that they certainly challenge boundaries and cross lines on what is acceptable or even tolerable in a horror movie. The infamous Martyrs proved that and now we come to this latest, French-Belgian offering that quite literally goes for the jugular.
Justine (Garance Marillier), a gifted female student starts her first week at Veterinary school where she finds herself involved in a brutal hazing ritual. Whilst getting covered in Horse blood and generally abused by the seniors, despite being a devout vegetarian, Justine is pushed into consuming raw meat. However the experience unlocks a new found craving and it’s not long before Justine finds herself developing a hunger for human flesh.
Part coming-of-age movie, part sexual awakening with a twist … this gritty, somewhat tongue-in-cheek drama is equally distasteful and weirdly fascinating. The movie jumps from development to development a little too quickly for me, with Justine’s cannibalistic cravings coming as a bit of a leap. However with at times artfully stylish and unflinching direction from first timer Julia Ducournau – I couldn’t look away. Even during some of the sicker sequences, with a stomach churning finger-eating like it’s KFC scene almost reaching my limit. It never gets as gory as suggested though, but is gradually disturbing in it’s rather ‘matter of fact’ approach to something unthinkable.
Certainly not for a wide audience and well, left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended) … but as an example of daring, provocative movie making, this still proved effective.
Lockhart, a somewhat over-worked executive (Dane DeHaan) is given the task to travel to Switzerland to locate an illusive CEO of the company he works for, which is facing financial problems. However on arrival at a hospital where the wealthy go for ‘the cure’ Lockhart begins to suspect something dark and sinister is afoot.
It’s not hard to gleam Shutter Island vibes from this, what with the lead’s more than passing resemblance to a somewhat younger Leonardo DiCaprio and a setting of a creepy, isolated sanatorium with stories of a violent history. Add to this a lead doctor (Jason Isaacs) who may or may not be up to no good, and I was half expecting Lockhart’s dead wife to turn up. Gore Verbinski however is a good enough director to take such inspiration and lavish it with his own distinct style, albeit with a reliance on animal imagery he used so well in the Ring remake (yup, Deers and Cows are officially symbols of impending doom). Add to this often breath-taking cinematography and this is one eye-catching movie.
When the final twist reveals itself, it’s so blatantly sign-posted that it proves not all that surprising … but paves the way for a decidedly old-school, Hammer-horror inspired climax that works well. However I was left questioning a few things that are not explained.
Dane DeHaan may not be the most interesting leading man but his look and performance suit the eerie, freaky mood. It’s a tad over-long with a first act that drags and some of the more freaky moments confuse (the steam baths scene, the eels). However it nails the setting and has an intriguing mystery, making this still worth your time.
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..