Friday, October 29, 2010

Hour of the Wolf

This post originally appeared as part of the Wonders in the Dark horror countdown. You can view all entries here.

"The Hour of the Wolf" is the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful.

Imagine if I told you that the tagline above is for a movie called The Cannibals – sounds like an ordinary horror film, doesn’t it? Now, imagine I tell you that the above tagline is for a movie directed by Ingmar Bergman – you would probably think it was an art-house film about the dark night of the soul. Okay, so now I will tell you that Ingmar Bergman – after having a nervous breakdown – decided to make two of his darkest and most personal films in the form of Persona (a wildly popular and revered film art-house film) and Hour of the Wolf (originally entitled The Cannibals).  As odd as it may seem to see an Ingmar Bergman on a list for the best horror films I’ve always felt that it was around this time of the 60’s and 70’s that Bergman was not only making the best movies of his career, but he was also doing it in the form of deeply introspective and contemplative films that came from the darkest depths of the man’s artistry and philosophies.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Catching up with 2010: Capsule Review – The Killer Inside Me

Not since John McNaughton's Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer has a film attempted so closely to follow and track the depravity of a killer, but Michael Winterbottom's latest experiment (based on a popular piece of pulp fiction) tries its hardest to do just that, but is sadly derailed by superfluous story threads and unnecessary supporting characters that seem to just drift in and out of the story with no rhyme or reason. The major difference between the two films, and one of the reasons the former works so well, is that McNaughton's film isn't stylized in the way that Winterbottom's film The Killer Inside Me is. McNaughton's film also wasn't interested in cluttering the story with those aforementioned unnecessary elements. Here was have a film that seems like it's going into an uncomfortable territory – into a place where there is nowhere to hide and we must confront the brutality of the killer we're watching (and being led through the story by); however, this is not the case with The Killer Inside Me which sadly devolves into normalcy when the film really calls for all-out, unflinching nihilism.

I'm not saying that's a requirement for a film of this nature to be good, but if Winterbottom and his crew (and the crew does great work as the production design and cinematography are top notch) were content on giving us scenes like they do where a character is brutally punched to death (with sound-mixing that churned my stomach) then they can't back down the rest of the way by making the film a banal procedural with unnecessary periphery characters and a horribly misused soundtrack. Sadly, that's what The Killer Inside Me amounts to. I really wanted to love this movie. I was ready to go there if the film would have been willing to go to the places, the depths, it promised it was going in its opening 30 minutes. Alas, it's somewhat of a miss for Winterbottom, one of the most prolific (and one of my favorite) filmmakers working today. The Killer Inside Me is a beautiful looking film with the appropriate pulp/noir aesthetic, but a tone that is all over the place (especially in the way the film juxtaposes the brutality of its moments with a 50's soundtrack that is just all wrong all the time). There's enough here in the performance of Affleck and the style of the film to make it more than a worthwhile curiosity, but considering the talent and the subject matter it's a surprisingly disappointing and banal one.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Catching up with 2010: Capsule Review – Date Night

Here's the type of comedy that just doesn't work in 2010. The actors, bless their hearts, try their hardest to make this pseudo-screwball comedy work, but the writing and the directing (specifically the asinine idea to add 20 minutes to the film for home release) completely derail the film. In other words: it's hard to make a screwball comedy in 2010 because directors and studios think screwball today equates to guns, car chases, and poorly directed action scenes involving normal, everyday people. Steve Carell and Tina Fey are Phil and Clair Foster, a married couple looking to have an exciting date night in New York City after hearing about how their friends' (great supporting performances from Mark Ruffalo and Kristen Wiig) marriage has died due to lack of excitement. What happens, of course, is a misunderstanding in the city that puts the Foster's smack in the middle of a situation involving crooked cops, a corrupt D.A., and a coveted flash drive that links the cops with the D.A. with a mob boss (Ray Liotta).

It's all a convoluted mess that results in more groan inducing moments than laughs. Part of the problem is that director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum films) has no idea how to direct a comedy (or an action picture for that matter). The actors do their best to show the appropriate emotion as all of the screwy madness swirls around their normalcy, and half the fun of the movie is just looking at the Fosters as they experience these crazy situations. However, the banter between Carell and Fey is mediocre at best (Fey really isn't a movie star, her performance was all wrong for a film), and they are upstaged by the supporting cast that includes the aforementioned Ruffalo, Wiig, and Liotta; as well as James Franco (in a role that steals the film, and actually makes it worth watching), Mila Kunis, and Mark Wahlberg (another great comedic performance). When it's all said and done the film is too long at 108 minutes (the theatrical version was 88 minutes…so you're telling me they felt the need to add 20 minutes to the DVD!) as there are countless scenes that kill the momentum of the film, and I imagine had I seen this in the theater the pacing would have been quicker (adding to the screwball element) and more tolerable; instead, the pacing is atrocious, specifically a scene near the end where the Foster's must pose as strippers. It just killed the film right there for me. If you run across the film on TV late at night it's worth checking out for the scenes with Wahlberg, Franco, and Kunis. Everything else in Date Night is a big time failure.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I hope that's shepherds pie in my knickers...

Forty years ago, a film appeared that was so shocking, so terrifying, it was sealed in a concrete vault deep beneath the earth. But even the new management of Sony Tri-Star could not contain the pure evil of The Bloodening. A registered nurse, trained in the treatment of terror, will be on duty during the showing of The Bloodening.

For a truly terrifying film this Halloween make sure to watch The Bloodening. It has a high likelihood of causing fear-induced heart attacks, and you get to find out how creepy little kids know about how the doctor and the bootblack have been rogering the fishwife in the crumpet shop. Oh, and you find out about the constable who has been sneaking puddings. Because those creepy little kids "KNOW ALL YOUR SECRETS".

Video after the jump (for some reason when I embedded the video it wanted to go outside of my margins)...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

In the spirit of "friending"...

There's no doubt what the movie of the moment is right now: the Fincher/Sorkin (accredited in the trailer the same way Welles and Toland were in Citizen Kane, suggesting, perhaps that the film wouldn't be what people are calling it if Fincher didn't have Sorkin) collaboration, The Social Network. It will be a looooong while before I see this (okay, not really, but at least a few months), so in the spirit of online friends and community and such, (and living vicariously through other people's ability to get out there and see the film...not to mention their talents in writing about it) here are some of my favorite bloggers and critics discussing the film. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Images from a night of movie watching without my wife...

So my wife is gone this weekend at school (she's in a program that meets two weekends every month at Portland St.), and so I decided to be mature and instead of throwing a big party I decided to work on my work samples for my masters degree. I need background noise when I I went to the one genre that always gets me through schoolwork (surprisingly not horror): the action film*. Here are some images of what motivated me while I typed up lesson plans, assessment data analysis, and other various forms of busy work. Enjoy. (oh, and in case anyone is wondering where the second episode thoughts for "Boardwalk Empire" are...sorry. I just don't have the time. The Q&D, though: Michael Shannon is awesome. Oh, and "Eastbound and Down" was highly disappointing considering the amount of talent working on that show.)

*One thing I did notice when I randomly payed attention to these movies: Andrew Davis is a really goo action filmmaker, and his Above the Law is not only the best Seagal movie, but it might be one of the better action films of the 80's. Out for Justice is just goofy, Bronson-esque vigilante fun, and of course Under Siege is beyond awesome thanks to a brilliantly manic performance from Tommy Lee Jones...oh, and Garey Busey!