Monthly Archives: January 2011
SAW III-United States-2006
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
Screenplay by Leigh Whannell
Shawnee Smith as Amanda
Angus McFadyen as Jeff
Bahar Soomekh as Lynn
Donnie Wahlberg as Eric Matthews
Dina Meyer as Kerry
So it is now 2006 and time yet again for another installment of the Saw franchise. Again the formula is followed. A person or persons is put through a grueling and painful test in order to survive or to allow someone else to survive. This time that test is for two people. One is a doctor, a surgeon. Her task is to keep John Kramer. aka Jigsaw, alive. If she fails then the collar around her neck will detonate, or more to the point, go off. Boom, no more doctor. Subtlety is definitely not one of Jigsaw’s stronger character traits.
The other is a man who has lived in anger for the past three years. He is angry at those he feels are responsible for the hit and run death of his eight year old son. He is given a choice as he encounters each of those whom he feels wronged him. He can forgive them and save them or else he can condemn them. The choice is his.
The first Saw is still the measuring stick by which all the other films in the series are graded. However, this installment comes the closest of any film in the series to the quality of the first film. That lies mainly on the fact that it not only answered a lot of questions about past events, but it also raised more questions about things that may or may not happen.
This is Darren Lynn Bousmans second turn behind the camera for the series and he appears to have become comfortable and more sure of himself. In the second film his direction was a bit heavy-handed as if he were not quite sure of himself. I can assure you that is not the case here.
Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith reprise their roles of Jigsaw and Amanda. In Saw II, it was Bell who stole the show with his riveting performance. In Saw III it is Smith’s turn to shine. Her character is full of rage and hatred and Smith portrays that very well. Her performance isn’t perfect, but it is memorable.
By and large Saw III was still a step down from the original film. However, it is a definite step above Saw II. It’s not the best film in the series, but it’s certainly not the worst. The worst, as they say, is yet to come.
The second of a seven-part series focusing on the Saw films.
SAW II-United States-2005
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
Written by Leigh Whannell and Darren Lynn Bousman
Tobin Bell as Jigsaw/John Kramer’
Donnie Wahlberg as Eric Matthews
Erik Knudsen as Daniel Matthews
Beverly Mitchell as Laura Hunter
A man is trapped in a room. On his head is a device that is a cross between a Venus fly-trap and an iron maiden. He has sixty seconds to find the key and remove the device before it snaps shut, killing him. Time is running out, tick tock, tick tock.
So the players are in place and the stage is set once more. It is now 2005 and again we hear those ominous and now somewhat frightening words.
“I want to play a game.”
The original Saw involved two men trapped in a room together. In order to escape, they had to make a sacrifice. In Saw II, there are now eight people trapped in a house together. They are exposed to a deadly gas and are slowly dying. They have three hours before the front door of the house opens and they are free. There is a catch. They only have two hours to live before the gas breaks them down and they bleed “from every orifice”. They are given clues and even warnings, but there is still violent death. Death by gunshot. Death by fire. Death by another’s hand. To quote Jigsaw; “Oh yes, there will be blood.”
Jigsaw was a cruel God and his victims (test subjects) helpless sinners in the first Saw. In this installment, he is a cruel and calculating Shakespeare and his victims are his players. His audience is Detective Matthews, whom all he requires from is his time. All the people involved have something in common that will help them escape their fates. But time is running out.
Saw II picked up not where the original Saw left off, but later in the game. Victims from the first film are long dead. New characters are brought to the forefront, and the first of the Jigsaw ‘Acolytes’ is introduced. This is where Saw stopped being a film series and began being a franchise. Whether that is a good thing or not would have to be answered in the films that remained.
The film is not without its merits. Donnie Wahlberg does a good job in his role, even if he is playing your stereotypical disheveled and divorced cop. Shawnee Smith reprises her role as Amanda and is effective in her role. But it is Tobin Bell who is the scene stealer in this film. Even when he is sitting still his presence is a commanding one. When he speaks, we are compelled to listen, even if Detective Matthews is not. Without his excellent performance this film would have been nowhere near as successful.
Saw II is a good film. It’s not as good a film as the first, but it does show us that the creators still had a few tricks up their sleeves.
I bought the final Saw film on January 26, 2011. I was all prepared to watch it and review it for my blog. Instead, I decided to take a different approach and take a look back at the other six films in the series. So I will be posting what will amount to a seven part series on the films that, for better or for worse, have been a major part of the horror genre since 2004.
So, without further adieu we begin with the film that introduced a new horror icon to the public eye. He didn’t chop them up with a machete like Jason, or slash them with razor claws like Freddy. In fact, he never laid a hand on his victims. He let them do all the work. He is Jigsaw.
Directed by James Wan
Written by James Wan and Leigh Whannell
Leigh Whannell as Adam Faulkner-Stanheight
Cary Elwes as Dr. Lawrence Gordon
Danny Glover as Detective David Tapp
Shawnee Smith as Amanda
What is your life worth to you? Do you cherish it or do you waste it? Do you live life unselfishly or are you an egotist? If your life were in danger and you were given the choice of kill or be killed, what would you do? Is your life more important than someone else’s life? These are the questions that shape the premise of Saw; a film that introduced a new and altogether different horror icon to the public.
Jigsaw is a different breed of horror villain. A villain who never lays a hand on his victims but instead gives them a task in the form of escaping elaborate and deadly traps. Escape and you live. If not, you die, and violently. A man is given 2 hours to crawl through a path of razor wire. Another man is covered with a flammable substance and given a candle in a dark room so that he may find the combination to a safe amongst the hundreds of numbers painted all over the walls. A woman must remove a key from her dead cellmates stomach in order to escape a trap that if sprung will rip her jaw apart. Two men are chained to pipes in a nasty abandoned restroom. Their task. One man must kill the other man to win his freedom and save his family. Jigsaw may never lay a hand on his victims, but his cruel intelligence and meticulous planning of each and every trap is far worse than anything Jason or Freddy could ever hope to achieve. Those two don’t give their victims a choice. They just kill, period. In making us choose our fates and the opportunity to change them Jigsaw is a sadistic God and his victims the helpless and hopeless sinners. Saw is a masterpiece of a horror film that stays with you long after you leave the theater or eject it from your DVD player.
Directed by John Eric Dowdle
Chris Messina as Detective Bowden
Logan Marshall-Green as Tony Janekowski
Jenny O’Hara as Old Woman
Bojana Novakovic as Sara Caraway
Bokeem Woodbine as Ben Larson
Devil begins with a quote from the Holy Bible from Peter 5:8. It is the verse about us being vigilant, about the devil prowling about like a roaring lion. Almost immediately afterward, there is a suicide. The narrator of the film tells us that his mother told him when he was a child that this is how it would always begin, with a suicide.
We are also introduced to Detective Bowden, who is a recovering alcoholic. His wife and child were killed by a hit and run driver who left a note on the windshield expressing his sorrow (“I’m so sorry”). Detective Bowden is investigating the body found on top of a delivery truck; a body that definitely fell from a great height. Maybe even from the 35th floor of a high-rise office building.
Five people step onto an elevator. They are three men and two women. The elevator breaks down and they are stuck high above the ground floor. By the time they are rescued all but one will be dead. One of them also will not be who they appear to be. In fact, one of them may indeed be that roaring lion. Prowling about, seeking to devour.
To be honest, I was ready to absolutely hate this film. I mean, after all isn’t it cool to hate whatever M. Night Shyamalan puts his hands on nowadays? The thing is, after a while, after turning out crap movies with crap plots eventually someone gets it right again. Shyamalan didn’t direct Devil, but he is a co-writer. This film appears to be his turn at getting it right again.
The film reminded me of a horror film from the 1972 entitled Tales From the Crypt. It is the story of five strangers who are given a glimpse of their fates. All of them have secrets. So do the people on the elevator in Devil. All of them must eventually pay for their transgressions as do the people in Devil. That is all I’m going to say. To tell anymore would ruin the film for you.
Devil is not a perfect film. There are spots that drag and the pacing of the film is off a time or two. The performances are all good for the most part even if some of them are somewhat cookie-cutter. How many films have you seen with a cop who is an alcoholic or a security guard with a criminal record?
The film is the first in what Shyamalan refers to as the Night Chronicles 1. These are stories of the supernatural within modern society. It will be interesting to see what 2 has in store.
But, alas, Devil is better than the sum of its parts. So at the end of it all, I choose to give it a good review and a positive rating.
By the way, the devil didn’t make me do it.
CORPSE MANIA-Hong Kong-1981
I apologize for not having a trailer for this film. If anyone knows where I can acquire a trailer or clip please let me know.
Directed by Chih-Hung Kuei
Written by Chih-Hung Kuei
Ni Tien as Madame Lan
Yung Wang as Inspector Chang
Tsui Ling Yu as Yan-erh
Siu-Kwan Lau as Lin Pin
Okay, so my editor (publisher? manager?) sends me a letter in my e-mail asking me if I would review a few films that he has listed. One of the films is the one I am talking about right now and that of course would be Corpse Mania. It is a film released in 1981 by the legendary Shaw Brothers studio that operated out of Hong Kong.
Now, this is my first time actually watching a SB film and I have to say that this one is a doozy. The plot of it is real simple. Boy meets girls. Boy has sex with girls. Wait, scratch that last part. Make that boy has sex with girls after they’re dead. Yes, dead. Deceased, pushing up daisies, taking a dirt nap…you get what I’m saying. Well, after they discover two maggot infested bodies in the guys home they have him sent away to an asylum. That was the flashback. Now the guy is out and has picked up where he left off, only this time he’s killing the girls at a local brothel and having his way with their corpses.
This movie has a little something for the Hong Kong kung fu crowd and a little something for the horror crowd. There’s karate and there are stabbings, beheadings and dead girls covered in maggots. There’s not much of a plot and there’s even less credible acting. But, hey, you know what? When you’re playing a corpse covered with maggots you really don’t have to be Meryl Streep.
PERKINS 14-United States-2009
Directed by Craig Singer
Written by Jeremy Donaldson and Lane Shadgett
Patrick O’Kane as Dwayne Hopper
Richard Brake as Ronald Perkins
Michale Graves as Eric Ross
Mihaela Mihut as Janine Hopper
Shayla Beesley as Daisy Hopper
Perkins 14 is the 3rd annual After Dark Horrorfest answer to a documentary on the dangers of PCP. Patrick O’Kane stars as Deputy Sheriff Dwayne Hopper. In 1999, his son Kyle was the 14th and final child abducted by the serial kidnapper Ronald Perkins. His family did what any family would do and they went out and tried to find the kid. But after so much time not finding Kyle they gave up any hope of seeing him alive again.
Present day-2009. Lo and behold but who should be in the holding cell of the same police station that Deputy Dwayne is watching than good old Ronald Perkins himself. Well, Dwayne isn’t as dumb as he looks and he puts two and two together and figures out that this is the very same guy that took his son all those years ago. Turns out that old Ronald wanted to be caught. He has a grand scheme to get revenge on the town for turning their back on his parents and their murder. It involves the very same 14 children that he kidnapped. Seems that he kept them in the dark and fed them a healthy diet of PCP. So, whenever these involuntary drug addicts are finally free they wreak absolute mayhem on the town of Stone Cove. Of course there’s gotta be a sub-plot to all this. That would be in the form of Dwayne not wanting to shoot his whacked out kid because he thinks he can cure him with fatherly love. Hey, Dwayne, I hate to tell you this but if I were you I’d shoot the little bastard dead in his tracks. I mean, you watched him literally bite a man’s head off.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about the acting. It’s bad. Patrick O’Kane is an over-actor’s dream come true. Mihaela Mihut has one of the most annoying voices I’ve ever heard. Michale Graves merely takes up space. Shayla Beesley is the only one who even does a decent job with her character. Richard Brake as Perkins has watched Kevin Spacey‘s performance in Se7en way too many times.
If you want to see a good horror film about wigged out people running fast and devouring non-wigged out people then see 28 Days Later. If you want to see an anti-PCP message disguised as a horror film then see Perkins 14.
Directed by Anthony DiBiasi
Screenplay by Anthony DiBiasi
Based on the short story by Clive Barker
Jackson Rathbone as Stephen Grace
Shaun Evans as Quaid
Hanne Steen as Cheryl Fromm
Laura Donnelly as Abby
Jonathan Redwin as Joshua Shaw
What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you? Is it the abandonment of your brother leaving you when he is killed in a car accident when you are only a teenager? Is it your father coming into the privacy of your bedroom smelling of work to do things to you that your mother ignores? How about the beauty that you have on the outside not matching the beauty you have on the inside? Or maybe it’s watching your parents being hacked to death and reliving it over and over again in your dreams. What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you? That is the premise and the reason behind Clive Barkers’ Dread.
Stephen (Jackson Rathbone ) is a young film student. One night he meets another student by the name of Quaid (Shaun Evans). Quaid proposes to Stephen that they do a documentary on fear as their thesis for college. Along with Cheryl (Hanne Steen), they interview people from all walks of life about what their first memory of true fear was all about. After listening to people talk about worms crawling into their penises and phony suicide attempts, Quaid has had enough. He wants to take it one step further, to ‘chase the beast’. But how far is he willing to go? Is he willing to kill? I’ll never tell.
As of this review there have only been three films based on works by Clive Barker that have had any amount of credibility. The first of course being Hellraiser. The second and third films are Candyman and The Midnight Meat Train. Now, you can add Dread to that list. Dread is one of the films featured in the 4th annual After Dark Horrorfest series. It is written and directed by Anthony DiBiasi from the short story by Clive Barker. Often, the ADHF can be hit or miss with its choice of films to include each year. I can easily say that this one is a hit.
The directing is top-notch, as is the writing. There are scenes in the film that elicit a response from the audience and rightfully so. I can’t imagine any of them being pleasant responses.
Abby (Laura Donnelly) is the most likable and sympathetic character and Donnelly does a fantastic job in her portrayal of her. Jackson Rathbone is quite talented as well and does a fine job as Stephen. Shaun Evans and Hanne Steen round out a twisted and talented cast. Dread is one of the few films that I have seen in the last ten or so years that elicited a response from me. I felt moments of fear, of pity and of disgust. For a film that involves people and how they deal with their fears, I’d say that this was exactly the response it was looking for. The only complaint, and it is a small one, is that it relies too much on gore to carry the story through to conclusion.
THE COLLECTOR-United States-2009
Directed by Marcus Dunstan
Written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan
Josh Stewart as Arkin
Michael Reilly Burke as Michael Chase
Andrea Roth as Victoria Chase
Karley Scott Collins as Hannah Chase
The Collector is a hybrid horror thriller that starts as a heist/slasher film and ends as a slasher/rescue film. It was originally intended to be a prequel to the original Saw. The idea was nixed, but the influence is still evident. The film could have been called Saw Lite or Saw: The Early Years.
Josh Stewart (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and TV’s Criminal Minds) plays an ex-convict named Arkin, who owes money to his estranged wife. He is doing contractual work for a wealthy jeweler who keeps a large uncut gem in the family safe. Deciding to rob the family, he arrives later that night and breaks into the house believing that the family (they have a little girl of about six and a teenaged daughter ) are away on a trip. What he hopes to find, and what he does find, are very different indeed. The husband and the wife are being held captive in the cellar by the titular character of the film. So now Arkin must put aside his opportunity to rob the family and figure out a way to save them instead. This will not be easy. Not only is the youngest child missing, but the Collector has the house set up with an arsenal of deadly booby traps such as a room full of spring-loaded traps and a window that acts as a guillotine when triggered.
The Collector is a decent entry into the slasher sub-genre of the horror film. It would have made a credible prequel to the Saw films if the creators had decided to go along with it. The traps in the film could be seen as the kind Jigsaw would have set while in the beginning of his new “career”. The opening credits are straight out of Se7en with its’ industrial rock music and random images designed as an insight into the Collectors mind. Josh Stewart does a good job as Paxton. However, he brings nothing new to the role and it could have been filled by any actor looking to make a paycheck. The rest of the cast is your typical interchangeable and expendable family that you see in countless films of this type. The Collector is an interesting and somewhat creepy villain. I would have liked to have seen what his creators would have done with him had they decided on a sequel.
The film definitely has its’ flaws. The most glaring being the traps. Unless the Collector broke into the house and set them while the family was still at home (unlikely). then there is no way he could build them all in the short period of time from when Arkin leaves the house to the time he comes back to break in. This could have been thought out more thoroughly had the writers taken a little more time with the script.
The Collector is a film that has its moments as well as its mistakes. If you have nothing better to do and can’t decide what to rent at the Red Box, then it can’t hurt to give it a shot.
- The Collection is Nearly Complete (dreadcentral.com)
- Exclusive: Patrick Melton Talks a Black Light film, The Collection, Piranha 3DD and Rise! (dreadcentral.com)
- Angelina Jolie In The Bone Collector (films.ie)
- PIRANHA 3DD Release Date Confirmed (geektyrant.com)
- Alfa adds to first slate (variety.com)
- More Low Budget Horror Flicks Coming from Warner Bros. and Primal Pictures (dreadcentral.com)
- First Teaser Trailer for SAW 3D from Comic-Con (collider.com)
- Movie Posters: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark Comic-Con Poster, Saw 3D’s Eye-Popping One Sheet (slashfilm.com)
- IFC Acquires Tetsuo III and Wake (dreadcentral.com)
- New Piranha 3DD Stills Surface with Blood in the Water (dreadcentral.com)
Directed by Sean Ellis
Written by Sean Ellis
Lena Headey as Gina McVey
Ulrich Thomsen as Dr. Robert Zachman
Richard Jenkins as John McVey
Melvil Poupaud as Stefan Chambers
Lena Headey stars in The Broken; a film that was a part of the 3rd annual After Dark Horrorfest series. Headey stars as Gina McVey, a successful radiologist. One day, she sees a woman drive past her who is an exact duplicate of herself. She pursues the woman and is involved in a head-on collision that puts her in the hospital. When she comes to, she has no recollection of what happened in the accident. She goes to live with her boyfriend while she recovers. She notices, as does his dog, that he does not quite seem like himself. Gina conveys this belief to her therapist and he tells her that she may be suffering from Capgras’ Syndrome. This is a rare disease in which a person believes that a close friend or relative has been replaced by an exact double. The film goes from psychological to supernatural thriller and back again quite often. Is Gina hallucinating? Are her friends being replaced by duplicates? Is she being replaced by a duplicate? These questions are answered throughout the course of the film.
The Broken borrows quite a bit from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It also relies quite a bit on the plot of the Korean horror film Into the Mirror (remade as Mirrors in the United States). Usually I would be shouting “RIP-OFF” at discovering this. However I don’t feel that ripping someone else’s work off was what director/writer Sean Ellis intended to do. I believe he set out to make a good horror film that would keep the audience guessing right up to the very end and I believe that he succeeds for the most part.
Lena Headey is very good as Gina Mcvey. She brings a calm to the character that I don’t think any other actress could have done except maybe for Nicole Kidman or Kate Winslet. Richard Jenkins as John McVey, Gina’s father, is also quite good and reminds us why he received an Oscar nomination. The rest of the cast is a credible one and there really are no weak performances.
The Broken is a good film. It is just not a great film. It borrows from other films a bit much and that hurts its’ credibility. Sean Ellis clearly shows talent as director. I for one would like to see something entirely original from him. I don’t think I will be waiting very long.
The inventive spelling of the title reads somewhat silly in Norwegian and Danish since the Ø in broken is a letter in the alphabet in these languages and sounds like the “u” in “burden”. In addition “brøken” is the Norwegian and Danish word meaning “the fraction”.
- Look for Lena Headey in Gary Sinyor’s The Unseen (dreadcentral.com)
- A Dr. McNinja video game, a Star Trek jazz album, and a fairy tale cartoon starring Lena Headey [Video] (io9.com)
- Lena Headey Heads Out to Vigilandia (dreadcentral.com)
- Emily Watson, Anna Friel, and Lena Headey to Star in WWI Dark Comedy THE POISONERS (collider.com)
- Mark Webber and Chloe Sevigny to Star in PANAREA; GAME OF THRONES Star Lena Headey Joins Sci-Fi Thriller VIGILANDIA (collider.com)
- 300 (jmountswritteninblood.com)
- Warming up to the role of ice queen on Game of Thrones (canada.com)
- Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke: ‘Game of Thrones’ at BAFTA LA (celebs.gather.com)
- Lena Headey to star in Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tales (graphicpolicy.com)
- Lena Headey to Star in Zenescope’ s Grimm Fairy Tales (comicbooked.com)
FROM WITHIN-United States-2008
Directed by Phedon Papamichael
Written by Brad Keene
Elizabeth Rice as Lindsay
Thomas Dekker as Aidan
Kelly Blatz as Dylan
Laura Allen as Trish
Adam Goldberg as Roy
From Within is not so much a film about what happens when a rash of suicides befall a quiet, God-fearing town. It is more about what happens when that town points the finger of blame at someone for the deaths because their beliefs don’t fall into place with their own. The film is one of the films in the 3rd annual After Dark Horrorfest series. It is a good film, even though it has its share of flaws.
Elizabeth Rice is Lindsay. She is a young girl growing up in a town where everyone knows everybody. Her would be suitor is Dylan, played by Kelly Blatz. He is the son of the town preacher. Dylan blames the local bad boy for the suicides that have befallen the town. The bad boy is Aidan, played by Thomas Dekker. Aidan’s brother was the first person to kill himself at the beginning of the film. This sets in motion a chain reaction. The person who witnesses the suicide, finds the body or even unknowingly goes near the body is the next one marked for death. Before they die, they see a doppelgänger that pursues them until they finally kill themselves or the doppelganger completes the act for them. Lindsay is the next in line for the curse when she finds her step-mothers body in the bathroom after she unwittingly swallows drain cleaner.
The secret to ending the curse lies in a book that belonged to Aidan’s mother. The book contains spells and rituals and it contains not only the curse that began the suicides, but also the one that can end it. Lindsay and Aidan must not only race against time so that they can find the spell to lift the curse, but also against Dylan and the group of men that he has set up to make a scapegoat of Aidan.
Like Slaughter, From Within has the feel of ‘been there, done that’ to it. The town making an example of someone for not believing in what the rest of them believe in has been done to death. A lot of the characters in the film are one-dimensional. Thomas Dekker does a passable job as Aidan; his major flaw being that he plays the forlorn young man so well it is almost to the point of being annoying.
Elizabeth Rice is a bit better as Lindsay. She brings a sense of vulnerability to the role and was by far my favorite character. Kelly Blatz as Dylan is paper-thin in his performance. He is your typical religious fanatic that you see in horror movies like this. He brings nothing new to the role.
Despite these flaws, I found myself enjoying From Within. It is a good horror film. It’s just not a great one.
As the end credits start to roll the fate of the survivors is revealed.
- Blake’s Beaus (huffingtonpost.com)
- Blake Lively’s very telling interview (khmx.radio.com)
- Levon Helm, key member of The Band, dead at age 71 (fox6now.com)
- Being Human: Worst House Party Ever (tv.com)
- Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (jmountswritteninblood.com)
- Is Blake Lively Trying to Fool Us All? (eonline.com)
- Lindsay Lohan Caught in a Lie Over Nightclub Assault?! (celebs.gather.com)
- 2012 South African HorrorFest Now Open for Entries (dreadcentral.com)
- Down There (getwritedowntoit.wordpress.com)
- Dylan Thomas Festival 2010 | Win Tickets , Festivals (visitwales.co.uk)