Christine


For me director John Carpenter has been one of the greatest genre film makers probably since Roger Corman, and through the late seventies to late eighties had a streak of classic movie after classic movie.  Who can argue with his pedigree when he’s made such entries as Halloween, The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China?  The fact he also composes all the music for his movies as well just shows a dedication to his craft.

Christine

This 1983 effort may not get the same kind of love as the aforementioned titles but still has a status as once again another decent, if rather low-rent adaptation of a Stephen King novel.  The quirky tale of a high school nerd, Arnie (Keith Gordon) who stumbles upon a 1957 Plymouth Fury in an old man’s back yard and decides to buy it and restore it to it’s former glory.  Said shiny red car named Christine, of course soon changes Arnie’s persona from the nerdy victim to a somewhat cooler kid about town, attracting not only the hot girl in school but also the attention of a group of bullies.  The only thing is, Christine has a bit of a mind of her own and quickly get’s protective of Arnie and jealous of anyone who tries to take him away.

Alexandra PaulOf course it’s a bit dated and the acting is passable at best, and well, everyone (especially the bullies) looks way too old to be in high school.  That being said as a master of the genre, Carpenter still fills the movie with assured direction, solid atmosphere and some effective moments (the attack on the gas station, the final showdown). The mixture of Carpenter’s own synth soundtrack and 50’s rock ‘n’ roll songs also works a treat.  I’d have liked it to have got a bit more violent as the kills are tame as hell … even for the time this was made.  The plot also jumps from one thing to another with this viewer not really getting that invested in Arnie’s descent into madness, and well Harry Dean Stanton’s detective just seems to wonder into the movie like he’s walked onto the wrong set.  But for an old-school horror, this was fun, inoffensive stuff and I’m glad I’ve finally seen it.

The Blu-ray from Indicator comes with a detailed booklet that covers not only the movie but also the director’s influences throughout his career.  What looks to be a new documentary is also on the disk, split over several parts with interviews with John Carpenter as well as several cast members, as is an audio commentary from Carpenter and lead actor Keith Gordon.  Add to this a handful of deleted scenes, a photo gallery and an isolated score.  The image quality whilst not amazing pops with Christine’s bright red paint work and overall is very pleasing.  We also get the soundtrack in a choice of the original 2.0 or a more than welcome 5.1 even if surrounds aren’t really used.  Top notch treatment then for a worthwhile, but not exactly essential entry in both Stephen King movie adaptations and Carpenter’s filmography.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

31


Viewed – 30 October 2016  Online-rental

I like Rob Zombie, at least as far as his intentions are concerned.  The execution, not so much but for me he has still delivered some effective movies with a grindhouse, video-nasty feel many horrors ignore in place of glossy production values and pretty actors.   As fairly typical for a Rob Zombie movie a group of travelling carnival-types (included Mrs Zombie herself, Sheri Moon Zombie as well as a few other Zombie regulars), find themselves kidnapped by a mysterious organization and thrown into a deadly game, involving an increasingly psychotic bunch of killers and a cat and mouse night of survival.

Doom-Head

The poster art and the trailer promised so much, with some freaky, stand-out images and what appeared to be Rob Zombie back on gruesome form after a poorly realised Halloween sequel and a diversion into the supernatural with the (rather good) Lords of Salem.  So let the red stuff flow!   Yes we get some inspired creations, from a Nazi midget, a Harlequin knock-off and well, Zombie’s version of The Joker in the shape of Doom Head (Richard Brake) – easily the star of the show.  Acting is passable and how things play out fairly predictable, but still fun if you’re into unlikable idiots getting bumped off one by one in increasingly gory ways.  Zombie doesn’t hold back in such regard and we get beheadings, a graphic throat slit and some fun with chainsaws!  However, the editing is so crazy at times that it’s occasionally difficult to tell what’s going on  … but with a good feeling of unease and tension throughout … I was still glued.

Sad then that the movie lacks anything resembling a new idea … even for Zombie (we saw very similar fair in House of 1000 Corpses).  Yet it all looks good, Zombie certainly proving he has an eye for iconic imagery and can shoot a scene with genuine skill – but when what’s happening is simply rinse and repeat violence with little creativity, it all starts to get a bit boring.  That ending also was begging for a twist – but no, we don’t even get that, finishing everything on a whimper rather than a scream.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Lights Out


Viewed – 08 September 2016  Cinema

I was certainly intrigued by this concept.  A malevolent spirit that disappears in direct light but is deadly in the dark, who seems to be haunting a small family, that of a single mother and her little boy.  When said boy turns to his older, rebellious sister for help after one too many strange goings on, soon an investigation ensues … subsequently causing the family to look into their own past in the process.

lights-out

Whilst fairly simple in it’s idea I did find this pretty unnerving throughout what with an evil spirit seemingly capable of jumping out from any darkened corner or darkened room.  The maker’s had a field-day with this idea and I certainly got a kick out of the various ways the idea was explored, complete with an effective ‘shooting at the ghost’ sequence.  However the frights don’t exactly come thick and fast and rely a little too much on loud noises and character reactions more than being scary in their own right … which they are but the other stuff dilutes the experience somewhat.  Also I wasn’t keen on the occasional times the spirit spoke … again diluting the scariness by giving it too much character (the remake of ‘Ring’ had a similar misstep).

The casting is pretty decent, although only Maria Bello is recognisable but suitably unhinged as the troubled mother.  I also thought the young actor playing the boy was above average.  Add to this a complex turn from Teresa Palmer who manages to be more than a typical, moody twenty-something.  The final act is also solid and full of action with some novel twists on the concept.  But I did hope for a bit more light to be shed on the spirit’s origins, which sadly is ignored in place of a rather ballsy ending.  So despite good intentions, this doesn’t quite reinvent the horror movie and is a bit too Hollywood with some of its scares … but regardless this was still a suitably creepy and entertaining experience.

Verdict:  3 /5

What We Do In The Shadows


Viewed – 02 September 2016  Netflix

A satirical fly-on-the-wall documentary following the day to day activities of a group of flatmates … who just happen to be vampires.  It’s a good idea and one I sat down to with intrigue and curiosity.  An unseen film crew are given the opportunity to follow around these ‘creatures of the night’ as they go about their vampire ways, luring innocent humans to dinner parties only to kill and feed on them, or night clubbing only in clubs they get invited inside of and trying to avoid confrontations with the neighbourhood werewolves.

what-we-do-in-the-shadows

This New Zealand effort is cleverly observed, ticking all the vampire mythology boxes and with a group of interesting personalities with each vampire coming from different eras in history, I found myself really getting into this.  The story such as it is doesn’t really have much to it as far as an all that interesting series of situations and we’re basically just watching these creatures squabble, talk about their pasts and do vampire stuff like flying or turning into bats (in a stand out, funny fight scene).  It sits on an uneasy precipice between satire and all-out comedy, and although it leans more towards comedy, its not really that funny despite fairly sharp dialogue and decent performances.  However effects work including some slapstick gore and the aforementioned flying and transforming is done well, even if make-up effects are more miss than hit.

Overall this was a quirky idea that worked mainly down to it’s cast and less down to it’s structure or writing; like the maker’s had a great idea but were not entirely sure what to do with it.  That being said, this is worth seeing basically because it’s an original take on a very familiar subject.

Verdict:  3 /5

The Boy


Viewed – 30 August 2016  Online rental

Taking one look at the poster of this intriguing horror conjured up memories of the Chucky franchise.  Yet, my liking of said psycho doll aside, I’m happy to report this doesn’t quite go down that road.  Lauren Cohen of The Walking Dead plays Greta, an American woman fleeing an abusive relationship who comes to England to accept a job as a Nanny but soon finds out she’s not looking after an eight year old boy called Brahms, but that of a life size porcelain doll.  However once the elderly couple who hire Greta decide to leave on a trip, strange things start to occur.

the boy

Lauren Cohen, one of the more diverting actors from the aforementioned Walking Dead is easily up to the job and her blend of Hollywood good looks and likeable demeanour suited her character well.  The doll that takes centre stage is also undeniably creepy and his milky white face and staring eyes create the desired effect.  However despite some fun plays on this viewer’s preconceptions and good support from Rupert Evans as a local delivery guy, all good work is almost undone when the movie descends into typical horror movie territory in the final act.  I also noticed more than a few tricks being pulled from the horror movie cliché bag; the dream sequence, the false jump scare etc.  No bad thing really and makes for a fun experience, but along with a twist that made me puzzle over the entire premise (and not in a good way) – I was ultimately disappointed.

That being said, with a suitably creepy old English house, Lauren Cohen’s plucky (if by the numbers) performance and earlier scenes creating plenty of tension – this still proved effective.  So maybe give this a go, especially if unlike myself you’re not too demanding when it comes to your latest horror fix.

Verdict:  2.5 /5