The Blob


Viewed – 06 February 2018  Blu-ray

You have to love the 80s.  It was a golden era for horror, and a time when horror could be fun as well as horrifying. Today a lot of horror movies go straight for the jugular and can be way too nasty   They’re almost a test of endurance.  That can’t be said for this rather under-appreciated 1988 remake of a 50’s b-movie of the same name.

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When a meteor crashes near a small town, biker rebel Kevin Dillon (The Rescue) finds himself thrown into a battle for survival alongside high school cheerleader Shawnee Smith (Saw).  Even as authority figures and adults dismiss the disappearances along with sightings of a weird goo … of course it’s up to the kids to find a way to stop what’s happening.  Yeah, there’s nothing all that clever here, but it retains that b-movie tongue-in-cheek tone that perfectly suits such a silly concept, with cast all doing a great job of going along for the ride.  Director Chuck Russell (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) piles on some effective gore with still great practical effects and a couple of genuine shocks (the kid in the sewer).  Also I’d forgotten how likable Shawnee Smith is, and well Kevin Dillon’s always been a great bad-boy (where’s he gone?).

It reminded me at times of John Carpenter’s seminal The Thing remake but fares poorly in comparison due to clichéd characters and only passable acting, and that silly tone stops it from being scary even for a second.  Yet as it stands this is still a great deal of fun and is certainly worth your time.

The Blu-ray is rather a pleasant surprise … image quality may seem a bit soft but colours are vibrant and overall the picture is clean, and free of any print damage.  The sound gets the lossless 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio treatment, but seems to lack a bit of ‘punch’ overall.  Extras feature a trailer and a director interview, but that’s it.  Considering the movie at time of writing still lacks a UK Blu-ray release this Region B Australian release is a godsend.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3 /5

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Life


Viewed – 15 August 2017  online rental

Science-fiction has become one of my favourite genres, with such gems as The Martian and Interstellar impressing me.  There seems to have been a bit of a resurgence in such movies, albeit stepping away from the flights of fantasy we’ve seen and instead focusing on a more semi-realistic tone.  The same can be said for this latest space-set thriller starring amongst others, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds.

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A team of astronauts orbiting the earth reprieve a probe that has been on it’s way back from Mars, and discover a life form within it’s gathered soil samples.  Nurturing said life form in an incubator, the astronauts try to figure out how it responds and whether it’s harmless or deadly.  I’m guessing you probably know the answer to that one, huh?

I got a serious Alien vibe from this but stripped down to actual realistic space travel and science rather than H R Giger inspired horror aesthetics.   The creature, nicknamed Calvin is initially cute but eventually shudder creepy-crawly, and as the scientists attempt to contain it, this set into action some seriously well done thrills.  It’s not a subject that breathes new life into a tired genre but it’s done well, has some genuinely heart-in-mouth moments and is topped off by decent effects work (but for the occasional obvious CGI monster) and great set design that transported me right there … and I didn’t want to be there.  Gyllenhaal, considering his usual brilliance is a little side-lined and the star of this turns out to be Rebecca Ferguson who is very good.  Ryan Reynolds seems like he’s just playing Ryan Reynolds, but the rest of the cast do a decent job.  It’s also a movie, despite it’s familiarity that still managed to keep me gripped and wondering how it might end, and in this day and age that has to be commended.

Verdict:  4 /5

Prometheus


Viewed – 05 June 2012  Cinema

When news hit that acclaimed director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) was revisiting the franchise that made his name, Alien, with a movie set before that legendary sci-fi horror – understandably the movie-viewing public sat up and took notice.   I had been awaiting it from the early word a year or more back, and with some interesting casting choices, anticipation built gradually, until when finally sitting down to watch it, I had to stop myself from cheering at the screen – especially when the title appeared in full Alien-franchise style, letter by letter.  Nice.

Two archeologists discover evidence of a race of beings from another world having made contact with ancient civilizations on earth, and so become involved in an expedition aboard the space ship Prometheus to land on an unexplored planet that may hold the secret to the birth of mankind.  Noomi Rapace (The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo, Sherlock Holmes 2) heads up a recognisable cast featuring Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender and Idris Elba.   The first thing I have to say about this, is it took a long time to kick into gear, and the first half of the movie was very talky, cave wondering and to be honest, a little boring … thankfully by the second half the proverbial shit hits the fan and it became more of a thrill ride.  Rapace holds her own next to bigger name stars, and proves a leading lady to watch.  Theron on the other hand seemed wasted as a stiff collared commanding officer considering her physical beauty (showcased in a gratuitous exercising moment), whilst Fassbender came off perfectly creepy as Android ‘David’.

When the movie focused on Rapace however, it found its voice and any scene with her livened up proceedings no end.  If it wasn’t for the trudging first half this would have been better, and the story certainly offers a new perspective on the Alien mythology, even if it left me with more questions than answers.  The movie also had a tendency to overlook some glaring scientific implausibilities  (scientists landing on a planet without sending probes first?  Then taking their helmets off?).  So to conclude … an entertaining but flawed return to a franchise that for a long time has struggled to get back on track.  Perhaps Ridley left it too late?

Verdict:  3 /5

Pandorum


Viewed – 04 April 2010  Blu-ray

An astronaut wakes up after extended hyper-sleep only to discover he has no memory of who he is or where he is apart from a name on his sleep pod.  He soon awakens a fellow astronaut and together they come to the conclusion that whatever mission they were on, they’ll only find out by powering up the reactor and getting onto the bridge.  One problem though … as the ship is in a low power state, they’re only choice is to navigate air ducts and search the rest of the ship – but guess what?  It has become overrun by blood thirsty monsters, and soon a battle for survival is on.

This atmospheric if somewhat derivative sci-fi horror borrows heavily from better movies such as Alien and Event Horizon, but still has a few ideas and some quality action set pieces to be worthy of your time.  The cast including Dennis Quaid, a token sci-fi female bad-ass (Antje Traue) and an everyman likable lead (Ben Foster), amongst others are all credible and  interesting if under developed, and the monsters reminded me of a cross between the cave creatures from The Descent and the aliens in PS3 game Resistence: Fall Of Man.  Although the movie is called Pandorum, the central idea of paranoia and cabin-fever causing hallucinations and people turning against each other is only lightly explored, which is a shame, as I feel beyond the generic monster movie trappings, this could have been something a whole lot more interesting and more importantly scary – something a few jump scars don’t quite accomplish.  Also for the most part the movie is in dark and dreary cookie-cutter locations and lacks much of the eerie personality and set-design of the aforementioned Event Horizon – a movie this most closely resembles, if only to make you want to see that again instead.

Verdict:  3 /5

Alien


Viewed – 17 May 2009  DVD

Director’s Cut

In 1979, following George Lucas’ crowd-pleasing space opera Star Wars two year’s previous, Ridley Scott unleashed upon unsuspecting audiences the complete polar opposite to that film’s feel-good showmanship – a dark, claustrophobic sci-fi horror that went on to become a classic.  Spawning 3 sequels of varying quality, with James Cameron’s epic ALIENS the obvious high point, this smaller, gentler paced film had an intelligence and realism that was fresh, exciting, and genuinely terrifying.

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Viewed today with much more jaded eyes, as a horror fan burned out on the torture-porn of Saw, Hostel and their like … the subtle qualities of Scott’s film are somewhat subdued, but I still admire it as a lesson in slow-burning shocks, that many have imitated but few have got quite as right as this.  Sigourney Weaver plays Ripley, a character that has become an icon in sci-fi horror and probably her finest role to date, who is surprisingly, to anyone more familiar with the sequels, more of a secondary cast member with at the time Tom Skerritt and John Hurt taking top-billing.  The premise is simple – the crew of a mining ship is awakened from sleep by a distress call, and so they have to investigate and unwittingly bring on board an alien life form, that soon begins to pick off the crew one by one.  Classic horror set up, a cliché by almost anyone’s standards, granted, but as with any classic film the concept is not necessary what makes it work – more how the story plays out and the skill of the director and cast to suck you in and make you grip that seat.  Ridley Scott is at the top of his game here with expert camera work, some stunning set design and alien make-up effects inspired by artist H R Giger’s weird paintings, and perfectly timed shocks that should still make you jump even after your umpteenth viewing.  That’s not to say this film is perfect, as theres some shocking moments of character stupidy, and one plot hole involving the sudden huge size of the alien that is never satisfyingly explained.

Unfamiliar am I with the differences here between the director’s cut and the original, apart from the fact this version is six minutes shorter than the original, but what I have sat through remains tight, atmospheric and gripping cinema … that is easy to recommend.

Verdict:  4 /5