Pet Sematary


Viewed – 23 January 2017  Blu-ray

I seem to be doing a Stephen King season lately with my viewing, and with this fondly remembered entry from 1989 I was very excited to check it out again.  It tells the tale of a family who move into a house located near a busy main road where truckers drive seemingly with no awareness of their surroundings.  A kindly, elderly neighbour (the late Fred Gwynne) befriends the family and soon tells them about the aforementioned Pet Cemetery, a place where for decades children have gone to bury their pets.  However something sinister lies beyond the cemetery, that of a sacred Indian burial ground – and we all know they’re never good places.

Pet Sematary

I was surprised how well I remembered this adaptation and it certainly has a slightly goofy charm along with it’s intriguing concept.  Acting is serviceable and a little cheesy in places (especially Fred Gwynne not that far removed from his turn as Herman Munster in The Munsters TV series).  Yet it certainly has it’s moments; the child actors especially stealing the show, with the stand out being toddler Gage who turns rather iconic in later scenes.  Also it’s got effectively freaky flashbacks / dream sequences that send shivers (creepy sister ‘zelda’) and a few solid set pieces with effective gore.  Yet the movie didn’t entirely get under my skin, not helped by questionable motivations of certain characters (despite warnings and shit-going-down) which ruins the movie’s second half.  Yet for one of those 80s horrors that has for some reason always stayed in my mind … I still had fun with this.

The Blu-ray, part of a ‘premium collection’ boasts a very detailed and vibrant picture that I wasn’t expecting.  Sound is delivered in the original 2.0 stereo or a very effective and immersive 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio (just hear those trucks shake the room).  Extras aren’t exactly plentiful but we do get a commentary from director Mary Lambert as well as welcome featurettes on the making of as well as Stephen King himself.  The set also boasts a nice slip case and art cards.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

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IT


Viewed – 19 January 2017  Blu-ray

Stephen King has always been a great writer of children characters, often portrayed as outsiders and free of that Hollywood cuteness we often see.  They’re relatable and often complex on a par with their adult counterparts.  This latest adaptation, a sort of remake of the 1990 two part TV movie and a closer interpretation of King’s book has a group of school kids all seemingly haunted by visions of the same creepy clown.  It begins with the disappearance of one kid’s younger brother and soon these kids find themselves thrown together to face an evil that has lurked in the town for decades.

IT

Although at first a scary movie in typical sense, with an over-bearing orchestral score and a reliance on jump-scares, this thankfully focuses on character for the most part and presented this viewer with children to really care about and rout for.  There’s overly-vicious bullies seemingly out to beat up any nerdy kid for no apparent reason, and parental supervision is either completely absent or abusive.  So demonic clown Pennywise is free to lure in his next victim and only the ‘losers club’ can do anything about it.  Bill Skarsgård, at first a strange casting for the role previously filled by genre favourite Tim Curry … is a revelation; creepy, unpredictable and mischievous, whilst at times genuinely frightening.  The way the movie has Pennywise playing of certain kids fears is well done even if that ‘hair in plug hole’ sequence seemed plucked from another movie.   With that said, the movie isn’t afraid to go for the jugular and some of the violence is pretty brutal even when aimed at children (that opening scene).  So I was impressed at how this movie simply went for it, wasn’t trying to tame itself for a wider audience and piled on the scares and gore to full effect.  It’s also surprisingly effective as a coming-of-age story, leaving quite an emotional impact on me towards the end.  The young cast also do a great job, especially Sophia Lillis (looking like a younger Elizabeth Olson) and Jaeden Lieberher.

Director Andrés Muschietti (Mama) has delivered a thrilling and freakily effective experience that’s despite a few clichés is well cast and left this viewer thirsty for more.  Let’s just hope ‘chapter two’ isn’t the let down the second half of the original movie was.

Verdict:  4 /5

Carrie


Viewed – 09 January 2017  Blu-ray

I have memories of this 1976 horror classic as being really unsettling and disturbing, and recall catching it on TV a long time ago, back when I was first discovering horror.  Based on the Stephen King book of the same name, incidentally the famed author’s debut – this tells the simple story of an outcast school girl, bullied by other students and living in the shadow of a controlling, deeply religious mother.  However Carrie hides a secret, the fact she can movie objects with her mind, and sometimes experiences such power manifesting when she’s at her most troubled.

CarrieBrian DePalma’s movie is mostly a teen drama; an exploration of youth and peer pressure from woman’s perspective.  To this extent it’s a very feminist movie with strong themes of puberty, menstruation and womanhood.  It’s also of that glut of religion themed horrors that over-flowed from the 70s, like The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby even if it’s never quite as gritty or unsettling as those two.  Add in elements of exploitation movies and schlocky-horror of the time and quite a cocktail we have.  Sissy Spacek as the title character is mesmerizing and iconic, but then again so is Piper Laurie as her nutty mother who gets all the best lines and is probably the real creep factor of the show.  Add to this decent runs from Amy Irving, a bitchy Nancy Allen (Dressed to Kill, RoboCop) and a memorable John Travolta and this ticks all the boxes.

Piper LaurieI didn’t find it anywhere near as scary as I remembered, and it’s occasional light, almost comedic moments sit uneasy with the horror.  This is however a movie where DePalma shows his true colours, with a mostly haunting, dream-like atmosphere throughout, leading to a stunning, still show-stopping finally that sent equal amounts of shivers and relish through me as Carrie takes her vengeance.  For me it remains one of the most heart-stopping moments in cinema history.  With this movie DePalma brings together all the techniques he’d honed in the earlier years.  It’s as showy and eye-catching as you may expect from the director but also surprisingly touching and sweet, which you may not expect considering the movie’s legacy.  It’s also a lot better than any carbon copy remake.

Arrow Video Limited EditionI managed to pick up the limited edition version of the Arrow Video blu-ray and well, what can I say?  The packaging firstly is stellar, housed in a nice slip case that has a 40 page booklet, art cards and a poster.  Also, the movie is in great shape.  The 4K restored image is vibrant and detailed despite an intentionally soft-focus look, and sound is also excellent with clear dialogue and an especially thumping soundtrack when the prom (from hell) occurs.  We get soundtracks in both the original 2.0 stereo as well as very good 5.1 DTS Master Audio.  Add to this the disk itself being filled with extras, with a brand new audio commentary from two film critics that is both funny and fascinating, and a wealth of features comprising of interviews, behind the scenes footage, location footage and explorations of all the various version of Carrie that have been made, from remakes to a musical(?).  The absence of both King or to a lesser extent Travolta is disappointing, however this is a small niggle for what is mostly an exhaustive and epic release.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

Top Ten 2017


It’s that time of year again and once again I’ve compiled what I feel are the ten best movies I managed to see this year.  Note: some may be older than 2017.

10.

Your Name

your-name

‘A beautifully animated, heart-warming, emotional and funny body-swap drama’

9.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian_

‘Pure escapist entertainment at it’s finest.  Luc Besson is back’

8.

Wonder Woman

Wonder-Woman

‘DC gets it right and one of the most purely enjoyable comic-book movies in years’

7.

War for the Planet of the Apes

War-For-Planet-Of-Apes

‘Full of heart and emotion and spectacle.  The most satisfying rebooted franchise ever’

6.

Annabelle Creation

AnnabelleCreation

‘Atmosphere, well-judged scares and solid performances make for a surprising sequel’

5.

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

‘Cleverly structured and powerful relationship drama with excellent performances’

4.

Gerald’s Game

Geralds_Game

‘A Stephen King adaptation that does a great deal with a very simple premise’

3.

Train to Busan

train-to-busan

‘Korean genre cinema at it’s finest.  Action, thrills and a surprising amount of heart’

2.

Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw-Ridge

‘A powerful true story with expert direction and great performances’

1.

Logan

Logan_

‘An incredibly effective take on a familiar character turned into a road movie with powerful performances and genuine grit …  and Hugh Jackman deserves an Oscar’

 

Honourable mentions:  A Street Cat Named Bob, Hell or Highwater, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Gerald’s Game


Viewed – 08 October 2017  Netflix

There’s no denying that Stephen King is a hell of a writer and has been responsible for not only countless acclaimed novels and short stories, but also that his work has made for some classic movies.  This latest adaptation, based on the 1992 novel of the same name finds a married couple, Jessie and Gerald who travel to a woodland holiday home in hope of reigniting the fire in their already troubled marriage.  Once there Gerald has the idea of a little kinky bondage and role play, of which Jessie is initially game, that is until Gerald has a heart attack, leaving Jessie to ponder a grim fate.

Geralds-Game

This intriguing concept plays out very cleverly, exploring Jessie’s horrible dilemma, whilst throwing in hallucinations and memories of long buried secrets linked to childhood trauma.  It’s brilliantly acted, especially from Carla Gugino (Sin City) who’s plight I found utterly compelling.  Add to this a tense, cleverly written and at times creepy as hell plot and this twisting and turning horror-thriller kept me equal parts guessing and gripped.

I felt reminded of that other, claustrophobic King adaption ‘Misery’, and to a larger extent Oscar magnet ‘127 Hours’, and even if where it finally goes is a little ‘oh of course’, I still was both entertained and particularly impressed by this little low budget thriller I’d pretty much stumbled on by accident.   A simple idea done well it seems, is all that’s needed sometimes.

Verdict:  4 /5