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

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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

Christine


For me director John Carpenter has been one of the greatest genre film makers probably since Roger Corman, and through the late seventies to late eighties had a streak of classic movie after classic movie.  Who can argue with his pedigree when he’s made such entries as Halloween, The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China?  The fact he also composes all the music for his movies as well just shows a dedication to his craft.

Christine

This 1983 effort may not get the same kind of love as the aforementioned titles but still has a status as once again another decent, if rather low-rent adaptation of a Stephen King novel.  The quirky tale of a high school nerd, Arnie (Keith Gordon) who stumbles upon a 1957 Plymouth Fury in an old man’s back yard and decides to buy it and restore it to it’s former glory.  Said shiny red car named Christine, of course soon changes Arnie’s persona from the nerdy victim to a somewhat cooler kid about town, attracting not only the hot girl in school but also the attention of a group of bullies.  The only thing is, Christine has a bit of a mind of her own and quickly get’s protective of Arnie and jealous of anyone who tries to take him away.

Alexandra PaulOf course it’s a bit dated and the acting is passable at best, and well, everyone (especially the bullies) looks way too old to be in high school.  That being said as a master of the genre, Carpenter still fills the movie with assured direction, solid atmosphere and some effective moments (the attack on the gas station, the final showdown). The mixture of Carpenter’s own synth soundtrack and 50’s rock ‘n’ roll songs also works a treat.  I’d have liked it to have got a bit more violent as the kills are tame as hell … even for the time this was made.  The plot also jumps from one thing to another with this viewer not really getting that invested in Arnie’s descent into madness, and well Harry Dean Stanton’s detective just seems to wonder into the movie like he’s walked onto the wrong set.  But for an old-school horror, this was fun, inoffensive stuff and I’m glad I’ve finally seen it.

The Blu-ray from Indicator comes with a detailed booklet that covers not only the movie but also the director’s influences throughout his career.  What looks to be a new documentary is also on the disk, split over several parts with interviews with John Carpenter as well as several cast members, as is an audio commentary from Carpenter and lead actor Keith Gordon.  Add to this a handful of deleted scenes, a photo gallery and an isolated score.  The image quality whilst not amazing pops with Christine’s bright red paint work and overall is very pleasing.  We also get the soundtrack in a choice of the original 2.0 or a more than welcome 5.1 even if surrounds aren’t really used.  Top notch treatment then for a worthwhile, but not exactly essential entry in both Stephen King movie adaptations and Carpenter’s filmography.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

The Mist


Viewed – 06 October 2015  Netflix

Dru Struzan is an artist for Hollywood movie posters who lives in a small American town. One morning he wakes up to the aftermath of what appears to have been a hurricane and subsequently heads off to the local supermarket for supplies. Once there with his young son, he meets up with various locales, just as a strange mist descends on the town.

the mist

Now I jest, as it’s actually Thomas Jane and not the famed movie poster genius whose work is curiously portrayed in the opening scene.  Jane leads a d-list cast who you’ll most likely recognize from various TV shows.  Some will also be familiar to fans of The Walking Dead, no big shock as the movie is directed by Frank Darabont (The Green Mile) who helped launch that popular show.  This is a similar group who we get to know as they get to know one another, whilst holed up in a supermarket; a setting not that far removed from famed zombie classic Dawn Of The Dead.  However, this isn’t about zombies but ‘things’ lurking in the mist. So we get stupid people going outside and meeting a grizzly end, whilst everyone squabbles, a religious loon gets people worked up, and generally they’ve all got to figure out a way to survive.  An always fun concept no doubt, but let down by only passable acting and fairly limp characterization.  Thomas Jane as the lead is rather wooden, especially when he has to deliver earnest and emotional lines, where he just fails to convince.  Some of the other cast fair better – but this clearly wasn’t the focus here (but should have been).  Thankfully we do get some nail biting and freaky encounters that although horror-lite, still pack a punch.  Darabont’s direction, working from a fairly run-of-the-mill Stephen King story is well done thankfully, and he brings what feels like a hand-held camera style that helped crank up the claustrophobic tension.

With a reliance on clichés and stereotypes (yes, there’s a hill-billy whose a bit of a dick), however and some instances of very ropey CGI, the potential here mostly fell short.  The ending also felt like a last ditch attempt to throw a curve ball – but fails.  That being said, for typical monster movie thrills, I still managed to have some fun with this regardless of shortcomings.

Verdict: 2.5 /5