Films viewed in 2011

Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

364. Devil

In Horror on November 1, 2011 at 4:53 PM

Dir. John Erick Dowdle

A group of people are trapped in an elevator and the Devil is mysteriously amongst them.

MY TAKE

There are moments when Devil is close to working, but some of the worst acting this side of an M. Night Shyamalan movie prevents any effect from taking root. Speak of the devil, Shyamalan produced and conceived this low-budget feeling horror entry by John Erick Dowdle, that needlessly tacks on a fruitless detective story even though the title tells us we’re in for a super-natural solution. The approach in a subtler film might have paid dividends, but all it does here is give us reprieve from the confines of a haunted elevator. Which, after the first fairly impressive establishing shots, only goes down.

362. Paranormal Activity 3

In Horror on October 31, 2011 at 2:18 PM

Dir. Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

In 1988, young sisters Katie and Kristi befriend an invisible entity who resides in their home.

MY TAKE

Laying criticism against Paranormal Activity 3 for being just like the other two misses the point. Like all brands of horror, the trilogy captures a signature style, pacing and substance that will certainly spin into an extended franchise. Catfish co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman expertly execute their shots, respecting the eerie silences and staging of the first two entries, while lifting other influences directly from Poltergeist. The resulting tension is earned, even if not all the “gotchya” moments got me. As a prequel taking place in the 80s, there’s also a missed opportunity for the characters to embrace the novelty of the technology and taped experience more.

361. Final Destination 5

In Horror on October 31, 2011 at 12:07 PM

Steven Quale

Survivors of a suspension-bridge collapse learn there’s no way you can cheat Death.

MY TAKE

I make no apologies for my love of the Final Destination franchise. Each subsequent film isn’t so much a sequel as a remake of the original formula, and each sequence shamelessly tries to out-shock, out-surprise and outdo the last.  The gymnastic scene in Final Destination 5 might be the best of the whole series, and the opening bridge disaster is inspired throughout. Director Steve Quale also gleefully disregards everything he learned working for James Cameron by unapologetically hurling 3D objects in our face throughout. That’s not a complaint – subtlety has no place here. In fact, the subdued character reactions are the film’s biggest flaw (I miss Devon Sawa’s paranoia from the first film). So despite the film’s attempt to bring everything full circle at the end, I’ll bet good money there are more destinations to come.

333. Fright Night

In Horror on October 14, 2011 at 1:14 PM

Dir. Craig Gillespie

A teenager suspects that his new neighbor is a vampire.

MY TAKE

The best part about this re-vamped Fright Night is that Colin Farrell actually seems to be having fun playing a frightening vampire. His hisses and growls are surprisingly fitting, and his antagonizing role often feels genuinely threatening. The film still has major faults, like the car sequence and Toni Collette’s entire performance, but an inspired third act helps pull the film together. I don’t think it’s even possible to make a great vampire film anymore, but I’m willing to call this a good one.

332. Fright Night

In Horror on October 14, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Dir. Tom Holland

When a teenager learns that his next door neighbour is a vampire, no one will believe him.

MY TAKE

Let me start with what’s good about Tom Holland’s Fright Night from 1985. The vampire isn’t an action hero or a misunderstood teenager. He’s a violent predator living in the suburbs who enjoys killing and isn’t cute about it. Unfortunately, Chris Sarandon’s performance undermines the often serious treatment of the material. But the film itself also feels stuck at times as a cross between A Nightmare on Elm Street and Revenge of the Nerds. The scares are generally effective, but the last act really falls apart.

331. The Thing

In Horror on October 14, 2011 at 9:56 AM

Dir. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.

The discovery of an alien craft in Antartica leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate Lloyd and scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson.

MY TAKE

The Thing walks a strange middle ground of being a remake in spirit, but a prequel in practice. As such, purists of John Carpenter’s classic will be happy to see upgrades include not one, but two inexplicable flame-throwers, a new version of the hyper tense alien-testing scene, and a genetic mutation of Kurt Russell himself in the icy eyes of Joel Edgerton. But a sexed-down Mary Elizabeth Winstead is our new hero in this impressively made sci-fi thriller that embraces the rhythm, mood and visuals that made the original so effective, but also has the freedom to cover new ground. Aside from some overly energetic camera movement during the action scenes, most genre fans should be pleasantly impressed at this intelligent 80s metamorphosis.

328. Scream 4

In Horror on October 13, 2011 at 11:12 AM

Dir. Wes Craven

Ten years have passed, and Sidney Prescott, who has put herself back together thanks in part to her writing, is visited by the Ghostface Killer.

MY TAKE

Wes Craven’s return to the Scream franchise 10 years later is framed as a reboot, which really means cash-grab by the old guard. The idea of a “new decade, new rules” sounds nice on the poster, but doesn’t mean much in practice. The multiple false start openings get things rolling up front with dizzying layers of self-awareness, but the film quickly settles right back into formula. The story re-discovers some momentum near the end and the false third act, but just doesn’t end with nearly enough bravery from the filmmaker. I guess it’s hard to kill the thing you love, even when killing is the name of the game.

280. Shark Night 3D

In Horror on September 27, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Dir. David R. Ellis

A weekend at a lake house in the Louisiana Gulf turns into a nightmare for seven vacationers as they are subjected to shark attacks.

MY TAKE

A movie that combined my favourite horror franchise (Final Destination) with my wife’s unnatural shark fixation equaled a date night we inexplicably looked forward to for weeks. But director David R. Ellis’ half-hearted efforts to embrace the absurdity of the genre make it hard for even us to recommend. There’s only one real cheer-worthy moment as a shark leaps through the air devouring a Jet-Skiing teen head on. Katherine McPhee is also a fruitless tease and Canadian Dustin Milligan is far too good looking to play the supposed nerdy lead.

255. Twixt

In Horror on September 20, 2011 at 10:45 AM

Dir. Francis Ford Coppola

A writer with a declining career arrives in a small town as part of his book tour and gets caught up in a murder mystery involving a young girl.

MY TAKE

You’ll need to put on your silly hat to enjoy Twixt, which is more likely to leave people baffled with contempt. Cinematic legend Francis Ford Coppola doesn’t answer to anyone as the writer/director/producer in a film that forgot B-movies don’t exist anymore. The film goes so far as to deliver a painfully goofy visual cue to tell the audience when to wear 3-D glasses – twice, each time to disappointing effect.  Val Kilmer is having fun, especially in a montage where he’s breaking through writer’s block, but otherwise what’s funny doesn’t feel intentional. Of course it is, but Coppola is probably the only one laughing.

228. Apollo 18

In Horror on September 6, 2011 at 3:04 PM

Dir. Gonzalo López-Gallego

Decades-old found footage from NASA’s abandoned Apollo 18 mission reveals the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon.

MY TAKE

The “Found-footage” subgenre of horror isn’t going anywhere, but Apollo 18 should have gone back to the editing room. “Blair Witch in Space” actually looks better than all the others, but struggles to maintain its diegetic logic more than most – especially at the end. The epilogue title card may be the most laughable I’ve ever seen. Seeing the film with a bunch of Quebecois friends also made me realize how much the dialogue is just control room bafflegab and acronyms that don’t even mean much in English.