Horns


Viewed – 09 July 2016  Netflix

I know why it has taken so long for me to get around to watching this.  Firstly for the most part much of the movies on Netflix are either seen it or pretty lame, bargain bin fair that I quickly regret clicking on.  However starring Harry Potter himself Daniel Radcliffe in an against type role (does he really have a type though?) and with thoughts of his above average turn in Woman In Black … this has always been on my ‘to watch’ list.  The bizarre concept made me hesitant also.

Horns

Radcliffe stars as Iggy who we learn early on has been suspected of his long time girlfriend’s murder and whilst the cops try to build a case against him, he tries to prove his innocence.  One morning however he awakes to find a set of horns have sprouted devil-like from his head and suddenly the towns folks are confessing their deepest darkest secrets to him, whether he wants to hear them or not.

This rather unusual idea took a little bit of getting into but once I caught onto the somewhat tongue-in-cheek tone, I was thoroughly along for the ride.  It plays out like an extended Twilight Zone episode and certainly proves highly entertaining as we watch some outrageous behaviour from people drawn to Iggy as he gathers clues about the murder, interspersed with flashbacks that piece things together for the viewer at the same time.  It has a decidedly Stephen King vibe too, which is never a bad thing.  The whodunit may be a bit easy to guess, but with strong performances, especially from Radcliffe, some decent effects work, and stylish direction by Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D) … I found this original, freaky and darkly funny which is often a great combination.  Recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

Advertisements

Good Movie Remakes


Generally movie remakes have a bad name despite Hollywood’s insistence on making them.  However in my experience there are a few that while not always improving on the original, at least do a good enough job to be worth seeing, without insulting the memory of a classic.  Find below a few I personally have enjoyed.

Little Shop Of Horrors

littleshopofhorrors

Although not familiar with the Roger Corman original, this Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, John Candy starring musical is a riot … very memorable tunes and great practical effects.  I really need to watch this again… soon!

Evil Dead

evildead

Was really expecting this to just not get what made the original so good – but it ramped up the gore and violence to epic proportions, had a great cast and was scary … maybe not as tongue-in-cheek as the series is famous for, but still felt like an Evil Dead movie.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

texaschainsawmassacre

Am I alone in thinking this version rocks?  Tons of gore (which the original lacked, even though I know that wasn’t the entire point) a perfectly mad performance by R. Lee Ermey and a twenty something bunch of ‘victims’ you don’t immediately hate.

Miracle On 34th Street

miracle

Charming with a great performance by Richard Attenborough.  A star making turn by the where is she now Mara Wilson (see also Mathilda).  Haven’t seen original but this was a perfect Christmas treat.

Heat

heat

Am I cheating by including this?  A deserved genre classic with a (possible) career best from both Pacino and DeNiro, and yes it’s a remake of TV movie L.A. Takedown.

The Assassin (aka Point of No Return)

theassassin

Perhaps sacrilege to remake Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita, and another I think I’m alone in loving.  I had a major crush on Bridget Fonda in this… but its a competent thriller with several decent performances, including a cameo by Harvey Keitel that’s worth seeing!

Piranha 3D

piranha3d

Breasts and naked skinny-dipping porn stars aside, this has gore by the bucket and a fast energetic pace that makes for one of the most fun horror movies in a long while.  Director Alexandre Aja cements his reputation as the go to guy for horror remakes!  (see also: The Hills Have Eyes).

Scarface

Scarface

Easy one this.  Not seen the original but with a powerhouse performance by Al Pacino and that line ‘say hello to my little fiend’ this took a basic blue print and seriously went to town with it!

The Thing

thething

This shouldn’t have worked, but with a strong lead by the mouth-watering Mary Elizabeth Winstead  and half decent and freaky CGI, as well as all the atmosphere the original had (ok this is technically a prequel…but it still counts…I think), this really surprised me.

I am starting to think that although they get the worst press, horror remakes have got it right a fair few times going by the list above.  That’s just my opinion though and you may differ.  So what would your choices be?

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

Maniac


Viewed – 25 September 2013  Blu-ray

Anyone who recalls actor Elijah Wood from the acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy, will be totally floored by this – a complete change from this mostly pretty-boy geeky roles that play on his baby faced charm.  Here he’s a mannequin collector who stalks beautiful women in order to find his perfect girlfriend or a replacement for his sleazy mother, but instead ends up brutally murdering them.

maniac

Shot almost entirely from the killer’s perspective, which adds a unique twist to this otherwise fairly by the numbers serial killer thriller, and showcasing a daring, powerful turn from Wood – I found this effective and chilling stuff indeed.  Producer and writer Alexander Aja (Piranha, Switchblade Romance) delivers his renowned reputation for style and gory set-pieces (the scalping scenes are seriously nasty), and for fans of splatter, there is much to revel in here, along with a healthy dose of nudity.

As a remake of one of the lesser known 80s slasher movies, this retains an 80s vibe with an authentic synth score and typical lack of restraint as seen during the notorious video-nasty era.  This is also done with no lack of skill, boasting clever camera work and very impressive make-up effects …. even paying homage to Silence of the Lambs in one stand-out scene.  It’s obviously not a movie for everyone, but as a down and dirty old-school horror, this jaded horror fan still came away suitably impressed.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Mirrors


Viewed – 27 August 2011  Television

French director Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, Piranha 3D) may forever be stuck in remake hell, but although he is yet to  make something on U.S. soil of his own imagining, he still seems to deliver very confident and gutsy material.  This remake of the Korean psychological horror has Kiefer Sutherland as a disgraced former NYPD cop turned security guard who takes a night job watching over an old department store that was the subject of a fire years previous.  During his nightly rounds, he soon discovers there is something very wrong with the place, and especially wrong with the mirrors that adorn much of the interior, and a series of hallucinations soon lead him to the conclusion that supernatural forces are at play.

Aja’s movie is stylish and well made, with plenty of scares and freaky moments (the bathroom death particularly standing out), as well as some decent special effects and unexpected twists.  Sutherland is good as the lead, and has always been one of my favourites, even if he’s more known for his role in TV’s 24 these days.  Yet his character felt underdeveloped with a very vague back story (he shot a cop.  Why?  What happened?).  Supporting cast also pale significantly, and remain no name set dressing, but for some attractive females who seem adept at parading their cleavage.  Plot-wise I was gripped throughout, even if I was left asking a few questions as the credits rolled.  Overall though, this had enough quality moments and chills to entertain and make me avoid my reflection as I went to bed.

Verdict:  3 /5