[REC] Apocalypse


Viewed – 02 March 2015  Blu-ray

What the previous, third entry in this popular cult franchise had in personality, gore and entertainment, it lacked in under-the-skin scares and dread, whilst adding very little to the story.  Oh and why it was called Genesis is anyone’s idea.  However a bride wielding a chainsaw will always get points from me.

rec-apocalypse.jpg

So we come to this fourth and probably final entry in the franchise, as lone survivor Angela; the reporter who managed to get through the horrors of the apartment building in the first two movies, finds herself on a boat surrounded by scientists and the military amongst the regular crew.  Have they managed to contain the virus that caused people to turn into ravenous zombies?  Thankfully this is a return to the more serious, claustrophobic and tension filled tone of the first two movies, dropping much of the schlock of the third, which at times was more comedy than horror.  The hand-held camera approach that worked so well initially doesn’t make a return however but that’s no major loss (apart from causing the title to make little sense) and I still found this pretty nail biting stuff.  Following on from the shock climax of the second movie, I enjoyed the is-she isn’t-she of Angela’s infection, wondering what the scientists are really up to, and why there seems to be a monkey running around.

In Manuela Velasco’s Angela we have a gutsy, suitably sexy heroine who is supported well by some interesting characters, including a geeky tech guy who just happens to be the plucky reporter’s number-one fan.  The movie barely touches on the demonic possession angle of the previous movies however and is much more straight-forward action horror – with a very exciting and intense final act.  Yet by the time we reach this fourth entry, clearly the story is scraping the ideas-barrel … and a parasitic organism just isn’t as scary as possession, despite the franchise’s initial potential.  For a zombie-fest though, I still had a good time.

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…

[REC] 3: Genesis


Viewed – 05 September 2012  Blu-ray

The first two movies in this Spanish horror franchise were full on knuckle gnawing horror fests of the highest calibre.  So the prospect of another, albeit prequel was considerably tantalising.  Telling the story of a newly married couple as they celebrate their wedding day … this soon falls prey to demonic possession, and before long our love struck heroes are separated and battling possessed family members in order to find one another again.

Shot initially like a wedding video, this seemed like familiar ground.  Yet it soon transformed into a glossy popcorn horror, and quickly I realised this was no quick, rushed out sequel.  The tone is radically different, and this time there is a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour to proceedings highlighted by the somewhat absurdity of setting it all at a wedding reception complete with ravenous guests and a chainsaw wielding bride!  Sadly, for a prequel it surprisingly offers up no answers and actually only takes place a short while before the events in REC 1.  So yes, what ‘genesis’ is relating to is anyone’s guess.

Thankfully, this is stylishly and effectively directed by Paco Plaza (directing partner Jaume Balaguero is busy at work on the fourth instalment), and although feeling very much a deviation from the franchise, retains an infectious personality, and along with some cheer-at-the-screen gory deaths and solid performances from the cast (especially Laeticia Dolera & Diego Martin as the bride and groom) … there is a great deal to enjoy.  If compared to its illustrious predecessors, it can’t help but be a step backwards, but taken as a stand alone movie – [REC] 3 still manged to kick ass.

Roll on [REC] Apocalypse!

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Cinema-du-shock


In the past five or so years, there has been a resurgence in horror movies from foreign climates, most notably France. Where our American cousins may be stuck in remake hell, the French seem to be doing something all together more gutsy and raw. I have always had a fondness with world cinema as a whole, and consider France to be one of the best countries for both drama and action with acclaimed names like Luc Besson and Vincent Cassell among their exports. Yet I only really became aware of French horror with the slasher movie Switchblade Romance (Haute Tension), a quality throwback to the video nasty era of the early eighties, and a movie that left me both impressed with its quality and stunned by its unflinching violence. Yes, American & UK movies have stepped it up as far as on screen violence goes with the likes of the Saw franchise and Eden Lake or The Descent… but something about ‘Switchblade struck a cord with me… and made me thirsty to hunt out more French horrors.

Little did I realise that Switchblade was only the tip of the iceberg, and other horrors were to push my endurance and comfort levels further than ever before. Although ‘Switchblade remains conventional in the slasher flick rule book (apart from a seriously dodgy twist climax), what else I have seen has made me somewhat cautious when sitting down to watch another. Martyrs should probably go down in history as the most disturbing torture / revenge movie ever made – it takes no prisoners, and the on screen suffering is quite tough to watch… but again, it’s done with a great deal of skill, that although I may have been disgusted, I couldn’t help but admire it’s audacity at the same time. Similar in bold attitude is Inside (À l’intérieur), another difficult to watch experience, soaked in blood and featuring a very nasty and unpleasant ending. I also don’t recommend it if you are pregnant or just given birth. Yet I couldn’t help but be impressed. The talent available in France seems to be very different and with less restraints than say Eli Roth or Rob Zombie. These guys do enter the territory explored in French horror, but come away formulaic and not quite as brave (or should that be crazy) as the French, and for me these movies would never get the green light in Hollywood. Also add to the argument that these are in unfamiliar surroundings with foreign speaking cast, and the comfort of a glossed over American or British movie is lost, and all bets are off. This is one reason why Japanese chillers like Ring work so well – it’s the discomfort in the unfamiliar that is completely lost when such movies are remade by American studios.

So if you are into horror, not just casually, but have grown up on Friday the 13th and Halloween, yet yearn for those days when a horror movie was the forbidden fruit and not the audience grabbing new kid of the mainstream it is now, then check out French horror – but I warn you now, it will leave its mark on you, for better or worse.

I still feel a newcomer though to French horror, but plan to review more titles on this blog in the coming months, not just from France but also other countries.  For now here are my reviews as posted on this blog.

Martyrs  (France)

Inside  (France)

Frontier(s)  (France)

Let The Right One In  (Norway)

Rec  (Spain)

Top Ten Movies 2008


Ok, here it is!!

Note:  This list is compiled of movies watched during the year, but some may actually be older than 2008.

  1. ZODIAC
  2. THE ORPHANAGE
  3. HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY
  4. CLOVERFIELD
  5. WALL-E
  6. REC
  7. ENCHANTED
  8. THE DARK KNIGHT
  9. AMERICAN GANGSTER
  10. EASTERN PROMISES

Ironic really, that (one of) the first movies I watched in 2008 ended up being my favourite of the year.