Ring


Viewed – 22 March 2019. Blu-ray

Following the mysterious deaths of a group of students, a rookie female reporter investigates links to an urban legend revolving around a cursed video tape. The movie that started it all. An international sensation that spawned several sequels as well as an American remake. So how does this 1998 original hold up? Well, what Japanese horror does well and this does equally well is that ‘unsettling stillness’. Dark Water, by same director Hideo Nakata, avoids clichéd jump scares or gore, favouring gradual menace this movie cemented and made a genre all its own. Add influences from traditional Japanese folklore, and traditional detective stories as well as Japanese ghost stories spawned what we now know as J-horror.

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More an eerie drama than full-on scare-fest, this feels rather lightweight despite its reputation, even though that slow burning ticking clock plot device helps deliver a sense of dread that makes that famed, often satirised and copied ending all the more powerful. However, performances are largely only passable and often overly theatrical.  Thankfully, Nakata’s direction is restrained but suitably creepy, helped by a great sense of unease if avoiding full on chills mostly., and that incredibly effective, freaky soundtrack does crank up the horror.  Yet overall, this is rather dated today and the plot doesn’t make much sense, leaving many questions unanswered.  A girl trapped in a well, a curse, deaths but er… how does that connect to videotapes? It seems to me like a convenient plot device.  It’s also  to me this was a clear influence on recent cult hit ‘It Follows’ amongst other movies.

The new 4k restoration from Arrow Video boasts a decent picture with effective sound treatment in DTS HD master audio 5.1. The movie is rather stilted and bland to look at yet this only adds to it’s atmosphere. Extras consist of a fascinating commentary from film historian David Kalat. We also get a complete version of the cursed video (date you watch it?) and several worthwhile featurettes.  There are also trailers and a photo gallery. Decent treatment for a classic that whilst diluted by modern standards, still deserves its place in horror movie history.  And yes, I prefer it over its Hollywood remake.

Verdict:

(the movie). 3.5 /5

(the Blu-Ray)  4 /5

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Velvet Buzzsaw


Viewed – 26 February 2019  Netflix

I think it can be agreed now that Netflix has become a force to be retconned with and now attracts Hollywood A-list talent to front it’s growing catalogue of original content.  So we come to this rather strange horror thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and Toni Collette.  Gyllenhaal plays an art critic who works with various art galleries to put on exhibits.  However he is craving the latest big thing and after a mysterious elderly man dies, an undiscovered collection of weird paintings falls into his lap.  However something is very wrong with these paintings, and the gallery owners, employees and critics are about to discover exactly what.

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This was a strange one.  Firstly Gyllenhaal is probably my favourite actor, and here he’s playing a rather camp, self-absorbed bi-sexual character who at times comes off like two separate people (when he’s in critic mode, he’s effeminate and flamboyant, otherwise he’s quite serious and masculine). However like many of Gyllenhaal’s characters – he makes it work.  Russo is the rather bitchy gallery owner and not exactly a stretch from the last movie I saw her in, Nightcrawler, of which this is the same director.  Collette is nothing special and an appearance from John Malcovich is forgettable also.  Zawe Ashton as an ambitious gallery employee however, is just awful with robot-like line delivery making me think she was doped up on medication.  However the core idea of cursed artwork and the mystery of the deceased painter is intriguing, just a shame it goes nowhere in favour of a series of (admittedly imaginative) deaths. 

It may feel a bit lightweight and suffers from a TV movie-vibe but with quirky performances and a strong central idea I did have fun with this … but it’s far from essential viewing.  That title has little reference to the movie either. 

Verdict:  3 /5

Maleficent


Viewed – 03 January 2015  online rental

I hesitated about this because I’m not a particular fan of Angelina Jolie … unlike some guys, I don’t find her attractive and well, she is a bit of a diva, isn’t she?  However this was a movie that kept getting name dropped by people I know, saying how good it was and well, suppose I should pass judgement, huh?

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That evil queen who cursed sleeping beauty … what if the tale was retold from the point of view of such a wicked sorceress, and showed that hey, maybe she was misunderstood all this time?  An interesting concept and one Jolie pulls off with relish – she was born to play this part and suits the freaky costume, horns, wings (and exaggerated cheek bones) intact.  With a backdrop of enchanted woodland creatures, a wicked king, a beautiful princess and lots of spells and curses – this was easy to get swept up in.   Disney have crafted a very unique spin on a very old tale and has some great moments, such as Maleficent’s battle against the king’s army, then the final epic showdown.  Effects throughout are first class (although some of the creatures look a tad cartoony) and those three fairies were quite entertaining.

That’s not to say it works entirely, as some of the hokey plot dating back to the original Sleeping Beauty isn’t particularity built upon (why a spinning wheel?) and it get’s very predictable towards the end.  Casting isn’t entirely perfect either.  Ella Fanning’s Aurora is rather annoyingly sugar-sweet, and Sharlto Copley’s King Stefan despite a good character ark, seemed miscast.  So yes, this was the Angelina Jolie show throughout, and do you know what?  I still enjoyed it.

A fun, if throwaway fantasy, that does the job … but far from a Disney classic.

Verdict:  3 /5