The ABC’s Of Death


Viewed – 03 April 2014  Netflix

This anthology horror epic pits 26 directors with a task of creating a short film showcasing a death for a different letter.  A rather intriguing concept I’ll admit, and it got me wanting to see just what these collective minds might come up with.

ABCsofDeath

So what you get here are basically a series of films from various countries, mostly horror themed, but not all, exploring such things as mutilation, murder, vampires, Nazis, lesbians, rituals and sex … with a bucket-load (no sorry, swimming pool full…) of blood and guts, an ample dose of nudity, some pretty sick ideas (the one segment featuring two men strapped to chairs and forced to masturbate) as well as some fairly clever direction, animation and special effects.  It’s an assault on not just your senses, but on your stomach, your taste and decency and your limits as a movie lover.  Directors such as Xavier Genz (Frontiers), Ti West (House Of The Devil) and Ben Wheatley a (Sightseers) are the only names I personally recognised, and this does have the power to disturb as well as offend and puzzle.  It’s generally a pretty f***ed as a whole and only has very limited appeal outside of extreme cinema enthusiasts … but for every bafflingly odd entry (death by farting?), there’s a pretty cool or twisted one right after it.

Uneven, but in my opinion strangely entertaining.

Verdict:  3 /5

Ten from another place


Thought I would express on here my love of foreign cinema, and although I don’t get to watch as much as I would like, there have been some real gems over the years.  It is sad whenever I mention foreign (or world) cinema to anyone who isn’t exactly a cinefile, they immediately say ‘Is it subtitled?’ to which my answer is normally ‘yes’ and their reaction is to be instantly put off.  It makes me sad.  However if such things don’t bother you all that much, then the list below has some good titles to check out…

Tell No One

tell no one

Based on the novel by Harlan Coben this mystery thriller follows the story of a Doctor mourning the death of his wife, who one day contacts him via email.  A great cat and mouse whodunit with ruthless villains and a storyline that keeps you guessing to the end.  A great on foot chase and superb use of U2’s ‘With Or Without You’.

Chung-king Express

chungking-express

Discovered this during my ‘have to watch everything Hong Kong related’ phase back in the 90’s.  Yet in complete contrast to the John Woo action movies I had become addicted to, this was a sweet love story about different people and how their lives have an effect on one another.  Beautifully filmed by cinematographer Christopher Doyle to clever, multi-layered direction by Wong Kar Wai.

Howl’s Moving Castle

howl-s-moving-castle

Hayao Miyazaki … surely no need for explanation here.  I think this magical, highly imaginative fantasy based on the children’s book by Diana Wynne Jones and with glorious hand-drawn animation … is a joy.  I may even go as far as saying it’s my favourite Studio Ghibli movie, with a little less Japanese oddness compared to the more famed Spirited Away.

[REC]

[rec]

Stop reading this if you have seen the lacklustre remake ‘Quarantine’ starring that woman out of Dexter … this is a majorly scary, hand-held camera / found footage horror in the style of The Blair Witch Project but so much better.  Superb, fast-paced direction from Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza – the sequel is pretty awesome too.

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance

sympathy

The second movie I had seen by acclaimed director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker), and making up the first part of his famed ‘vengeance trilogy’.  This harrowing tale of human organ trafficking, revenge and a deaf & dumb protagonist trying to save the life of his ill sister, is raw, very violent and powerful.  Made me think a lot afterwards about right and wrong etc.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

girlwiththedragontattoo

Kind of an obvious one and in my opinion superior to the recent remake and also its two sequels.  A mystery involving a missing woman, a cool computer hacker with a troubled past and a disgraced journalist.  Excellent, career making turn from the wonderful Noomi Rapace.

Let The Right One In

let-the-right-one-in

Based on the controversial novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist and with superb, understated direction from Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), another that is superior to the remake and with a touching love story at it’s heart between two lost souls.  One of the finest horror movies of the last decade.

The Killer

the killer

The movie that put famed action director John Woo on the map.  Chow Yun Fat as a charming hitman who accidentally blinds a singer in a club during a hit.  Danny Lee is the tough cop out to catch him but discovers more than he expected.  Superb action sequences with Woo’s trademark slow-motion gunplay, and a touching story of guilt and redemption that went on to shape much of Woo’s career.

Betty Blue

bettyblue

One of my all time favourite foreign movies.  A tale of free-spirited Betty and her struggling-writer boyfriend during a wild road trip.  It’s French, its full of sex and nudity and became a cult favourite during the late eighties.  Béatrice Dalle is magnificent and extremely sexy in the lead role.

Pan’s Labyrinth

pan's labyrinth_edited

Guilermo Del Toro may be more known overseas as the man behind the Hellboy movies, but on his own turf he makes intelligent, often hauntingly beautiful movies most notably this acclaimed fantasy that crosses real world horrors of civil war with the imaginary world of a girl’s imagination.  Beautiful imagery, great special effects and strong performances makes this a true classic.

If you’re one of the crowd that just don’t do movies in a foreign language, can’t abide subtitles etc … I really urge you to give at least one of the titles above a day in court.  World Cinema can be braver, more daring and just as well made as anything from the states.

Those more than familiar with these types of movies … what are some of your favourites?  Any recommendations?  Leave your comments below…

Birthday prezzie highlights…


Just a few things I got this year…

Enjoying Batman so far … don’t know why I took so long to get around to it.  Not watched any American Horror Story yet, but from what I have heard I will enjoy it.  Oh and expect a review in the next few days once I have sat down with The Fury – early impressions?  Very nice HD image quality!

The Crazies


Viewed – 04 September 2010  Blu-ray

Another horror remake, but this time of a little seen no-budget shlocker from George A Romero, more known for his Zombie movies than this off-shoot.  Thankfully without the knowledge of that 1973 movie to blight my viewing I was able to sit down to this afresh.  Starring Timothy Olyphant, probably best known recently for his turn in Die Hard 4, this time plays a Sheriff in a small American town where after the water supply becomes tainted finds seemingly normal folk turning crazy and in one example, setting fire to their own house. Then as he tries to figure out exactly what is causing it, the military descend on the town, quaranteening it and separating people showing any sign of infection.  Then its all about a battle for survival as the Sheriff and the dwindling number of uninfected try to escape.

Not as vicious or blood splattered as much horror around these days, this is more a story of survival and trust, with elements of John Carpenter’s The Thing with characters not knowing who will ‘go crazy’.  I enjoyed it, and its full of suspense and some good action, with heart-in-mouth moments such as a battle in a car wash and a fight against a morgue attendant wielding a bone saw.  Olyphant delivers a likable lead, even if he is missing some of that more well-known intensity because he’s playing the good guy, and the supporting cast, especially Radha Mitchell also offer gutsy, emotional performances, even if lacking any real characterisation.  Perhaps it adds nothing new to the idea of infected towns folk, and could have easily been another Zombie splatter fest, with a bleak ending that left me thinking this was more of a roller coaster ride than anything with actual meaning … but then this was never going to be about deep social commentary, and with that in mind this is a worthy nights viewing, even if you’ll be hard pressed to watch it again.

Verdict:  3 /5

The problem with remakes


Not all horror remakes are bad, and some can bring a lot to an old concept, ultimately improving upon it … yet last night I sat down and watched on television the remake of Japanese cult horror The Ring.  Ok, it starred Naomi Watts, had a decent director (Gore Verbinski) and was fairly well put together on a technical basis.  Much like the original too, the use of a creepy videotape and hallucinations helped build an unnerving atmosphere.  Yet then the movie does the unthinkable, and humanizes the character of the evil girl, this time named Samara, by showing footage of her time in a psychiatric hospital, and instead of the horrible vision of a small figure with hair over their face, we see it’s actually just a very troubled child.  Naomi Watts over-acts somewhat from the very beginning and frankly her young son is creepier than Samara, which just baffles me.  Now looking back at the original ‘Ring’, I recall only glimpses of the girl, Sadako, a flash of a hand with no fingernails, the same creepy atmosphere, but very little humanization – and you never saw her face.  This then makes the ending something of horror legend, copied in the remake, much more terrifying as what crawls out of that TV and stands up to scare its victim to death, is not human, but pure evil – and just a close up of a blood-shot eyeball is all the viewer gets.  In the remake we see the girl, albiet zombiefied, but still a girl, with a stern pissed off look, and guess what – it’s not scary.  Well done remake.  You just killed the money shot! Continue reading