Monday, 21 October 2013

Insidious Chapter 2 Review (2013)


As a serious extension, Insidious Chapter 2 was unsuccessful. But, viewed light-heartedly, this film is a hilariously entertaining watch.
In light of Insidious, any sinister atmosphere that could have been retained was undermined, despite the larger budget. Insidious: Chapter 2 felt as if it had been shot far less refined than its predecessor. Most notably, it seemed to have been shot at a higher frame rate, reminiscent of The Hobbit and its criticised hyperrealism. The experimental camerawork was extremely evident; every other shot was either zooming, or shaky hand held camera. Which proved to be very distracting.

The exaggerated surreal visuals in Insidious worked successfully in making the ominous inhabitants of the Further unnerving. But, in Chapter 2, these elements were overdone to such a degree, there was no sense of them being ethereal or supernatural. Particularly how the ghosts remained static in Insidious reflected, far better, realistic examples of 'ghost sightings' than the pantomime-esque interactions of Parker's mother. The monsters became garishly humorous, and unintentionally so. Which seemed especially apparent, from the contrasting serious performances of Barbara Hershey, Rose Byrne and Lin Shaye.  Personally, I didn't feel the Parker backstory worked too well for the old woman. It seemed disjointed and unnecessary for the sake of an otherwise mysterious monster, frightening without any expansion.

The continuity between Insidious and Chapter 2 didn't adhere well, through the tenuous connections made. For example, the flashback to Insidious to explain the break ins during the night. The mysteriousness of the scene was sufficient to create tense atmosphere. To suggest that astral forms of Josh and Elise (who was dead at this stage?) were the culprits, was completely unnecessary. Given that, the same demon in Insidious in that scene returned to harass Renai later in Insidious. Therefore, this demon wasn't driven out by Elise, or Josh, rendering these later interventions purposeless.

This also brings into question how, given that our astral selves leave at the present and must return, in order for a traveller to become conscious again, feasibly... wouldn't it be impossible to time travel to see past versions of yourself? As for Josh's younger self to be paralysed in that state, wouldn't that have made young Josh possessed from the beginning? If he was still permanently suspended in the Further at the time of Elise's video interview?

Renai also knew at the ending of Insidious (or at least, we as an audience are lead to believe this from her reaction), that Josh had killed Elise from the photograph revealing him to be possessed. So, it seemed illogical she became blatantly ignorant of this knowledge, in the face of Josh acting obviously out of character.

Chapter 2 niggled me with it's sense of recyclability from Insidious. Significant segments of footage were taken directly from Insidious. We didn't see any new pictures from Josh's youth as he was being harrowed by the ghost of the old woman. The credits seemed very similar. Even Renai hadn't managed to write a new song by the time they had moved house, or even perform the full song sampled in Insidious. It would have been nice to hear some expansion on Joseph Bishara's soundtrack?

The jump scares were less ingeniously thought out. One couldn't have gotten more brash than the demon behind the chair, as far as subtleness goes. But it still worked better than Renai finding her baby on the floor. The horrific musical baby walker was obvious in intending to be a jump scare source, right from the beginning of the film. Like the Conjuring, another recently released creation from James Wan, segments of Chapter 2 were heavily reminiscent of classic horrors such as the Sixth Sense ("look at what you made me do") and The Shining/Amityville Horror (archetypal psychotic father). This I feel was disappointing in regards to both films respectively, as James Wan's previous efforts have been able to stand on their own creatively (Dead Silence, Insidious, Saw), rather than becoming watered down sequel material.

Chapter 2 was concluded with another queasy cliff hanger, therefore no doubt Chapter 3 shall emerge, and further devolve the series. And so begins the slow, untimely death of Insidious by sequel. Fortunately, in this instance, the follow up worked miraculously in it's favour as something of a spoof. 

Comedy value: 8/10
Continuity value: 3/10

Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Audition (1999) Review



 
Both images sourced from tumblr

Audition has been for years consistently described as highly disturbing for torture content. But from seeing it myself after being warded off, Audition has left me impressed with how well built the unnerving atmosphere is, as opposed to anything visually gruesome.

In fact, I was delighted to see there wasn't an excessive emphasis on gore. The reliance on tension was key. What was left to the imagination and subtleties are Audition's strengths, notably Asami's fruitcake ballet tutor. Of course, during the concussion/hallucination sequence, the deformed torture victim lapping up Asami's freshly regurgitated vomit will serve as eye candy for anyone wishing to be revolted, I am sure. There was also a fair use of piano wire in Audition. The gore simply wasn't anything notable by today's standards.

Audition is a slow burner, starring Ryo Ishibashi as the widowed protagonist Shigeharu, whom I had previously seen in the remake of The Grudge, as Detective Nakagawa. Predictably, from what I had already sampled of his more recent involvement in film, in Audition he served as a very much one dimensional character. In particular, the initial hospital scene seemed rigid and unnatural in terms of acting. Alongside the garish piano soundtrack (which, usually characterises many Asian horror films) this offset the intended atmosphere of sadness. Audition progresses into sinister territory as we follow Shigeharu's journey of unfolding Asami's background, following her mysterious disappearance.

However, Shigeharu met his much deserved end, following his deceiving machinations. Comparatively, much in the vein of House of 1000 Corpses, as a viewer one is more inclined to achieve gratification sympathising with the 'villain'. Which, I feel we are obviously more inclined to align with. Asami is painted for the majority of the film, a meek and emotionally damaged woman, who elaborates to have had her lifelong aspirations crushed. While, Shigeharu is seen to be passively manipulating women through his co worker's objectifying suggestions. We can only sympathise with his character to a little extent given the death of his wife, which he seemed generally unresponsive towards.

 

Much like the structure of the highly overhyped and controversial Megan is Missing (which one could assume has taken influence from Audition in its similarities), the entirety of graphic/bizarre visuals are contained within the final 20-30 minutes of the film. Descending into a disorienting hallucination sequence, leaving the audience confused as to whether chronologically we have jumped back to an earlier stage of the film, and with the madness being all a delusion. 

Incidentally, in the final scenes is where my main complaints with Audition would be. Specifically where Shigeharu was supposed to be paralysed. I say supposed, given he was mobile enough to be violently jerking about and screaming. It not only seemed infuriatingly unconvincing, considering it would be physically impossible, but also highly illogical for the actor to be doing so. As if, mid way through such a crucial segment of the film, everyone on set had forgotten Asami's character had stated she had paralysed him? Symptomatic of a rushed ending perhaps?

That aside, I was impressed for all the right reasons with Audition. Although it wasn't as flawless as it could have been with some careful (rational) reconsideration, it also wasn't exaggeratedly repulsive as I'd been led to believe. Rather, transpired to be a cleverly constructed and somewhat fetishistic thriller. With ample piano wire.

Rating: 7/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Friday, 9 August 2013

American Horror Story Summarising Review: AHS Vs. AHS Asylum

Since I've long since completed the first two seasons of AHS, with AHS: Coven looming in October, I decided a dual comparative review so far was in order.

To summarise, American Horror Story: Murder House was, and still remains highly overrated. While I enjoyed the first season, the second season was far superior in terms of setting, narrative and character rationale. Although like most, I enjoyed the Romeo & Juliet-esque dynamic of Tate & Violet's relationship, Murder House was undermined by the weak extension of Violet's mother and father. Vivien's relentless persistence with her husband was utterly illogical after acknowledging his infidelity, and so were the subsequent (weakly written) spats between the two characters.

Dylan McDermott's character in Season 2, was much more favourable as Bloody Face's successor. As Violet's adulterous father, he was infuriatingly feeble. Utilising the same the quiet, unnervingly personality as a volatile flayer of females, it worked.
The experimental cinematography, although speaking as a whole was mostly fantastic throughout the entirety of AHS, seemed oddly disjointed in the first season. Unnecessarily even, considering it was deliberate. In regards to title sequences, for each season respectively, are probably one of the most original and beautifully shot facets of both seasons.
Frances Conroy/Alexandra Breckenridge dually portrayed Moira. The ruthless predatory/seemingly innocent elderly maid with a gender dependent illusion abilities. But, there was no variation in how the character presents herself as the softly spoken personification of Death in AHS: Asylum. Thus France's Conroy's reappearance seemed tedious. Which also brings me onto the aspect of how significantly more sexually gratuitous AHS: Murder House is compared to the second season.

See.
Really, how this contributes the plot I fail to comprehend.

On a positive note, the most outstanding part about AHS: Murder House regarding Moira, was her biting off Joe Escandarian's genitals. To give the character credit, other than just appearing as a sex object, as it transpires in fact Moira hated the unfaithful natures of the male characters.

As someone who closely observes soundtrack, AHS: Murder House couldn't help itself becoming somewhat grating. Given, one can immediately identify the obvious recycling of music from other cinema. To mention some, the violin refrain from Insidious, Kill Bill (Bernard Herman's Twisted Nerve whistling) and The Beginning theme from Dracula (1992). Actually, it was the latter song in particular that made me smash my face into my keyboard, due to it's obvious recognisability and repetitive use. Which is a shame. As, with the likes of Charlie Clouser on board the AHS project, who composed a quality title sequence song, along with the soundtracks for the Saw films and Dead Silence ... what's the necessity to reuse extremely well known music from other/recent cinema?

On the note of blatantly obvious referencing, American Horror Story as a whole is littered with homages to popular culture, horror film and incidences, particularly of famous murders. For example Tate's name being a reference to Sharon Tate and the Mansons. The fact his character committed a school shooting set in the 90's, the Columbine Massacre. Plus the skull paint he dons for the act, obviously Rick Genest inspired. Just to name a few. The first season is potential drinking game material.
At least in AHS: Asylum there are more interesting songs utilised from the appropriate era such as Dominique, which have not made a debut in horror before...

AHS: Asylum has better overall continuity, although the fact Kit saving Sister Jude seemed laughably unlikely. After all of the physical abuse and emotional turmoil she inflicted upon Kit and Grace, I doubt he would sympathise with her to the extent of saving her from being condemned to the asylum herself.  Given the fact Kit was wrongly committed, Jude was effectively having a taste of her own medicine. This also reinforced my suspicion of the writers making up the story as they have been going along.
Though in all fairness this season had more tangibility as far as story is concerned. The plot in Murder House and the characters' actions were poorly justified or reinforced. Whereas AHS: Asylum provided a much more satisfying conclusion. To see Lana shoot her son, and for the majority of characters to rightfully escape, was awesomely gratifying, for once. However unconventional of the genre.
Grace's character was highly believable, as was Lana Winters and Bloody Face (Dr Oliver Thredson). In fact it was (hilariously) true to life that Grace would kill Alma given the predicament, and transpired to be a genuine axe murderer. Rather than following the piteous wrongly imprisoned backstory. Zachary Quinto has always played a psychopath excellently since Sylar in Heroes, but the situations between Lana and Thredson/Bloody Face were unsettlingly realistic at times. Lana's ambitious ruthlessness and remorselessness as a character was admirable indeed.


Thematically, ghosts are preferable to aliens in the traditional horror story environment.
However, despite this, the asylum setting worked better, along with the time shift from the 60's to present day. Shelley's macabre transformation into one of Arden's deformed, immortal science projects was fascinating. While Infantata from AHS: Murder House was more visually impacting for scares, there wasn't quite the same transformation which made Shelley's story all the more terrifying. Jessica Lange has played a consistent horror of a woman, but in AHS: Asylum perhaps more a sympathetic villain, than as Constance. With the second season, Lily Rabe as demonically possessed Sister Mary Eunice has taken the opportunity to shine, from the comparatively meek role of Nora Montgomery. Ian Mcshane has most certainly set the bar for the nightmare Father Christmas trope. Perhaps the Nazi undertones incorporated into AHS: Asylum might offend somewhat (which one would imagine to be the intended purpose anyway), but assists with character believability in regards to Doctor Arden.

Conclusively, as the seasons have progressed, character quality and story seemed to improved along with it. Therefore! I hold an open mind towards Coven. Hopefully it won't be too... distastefully sentimental or repetitive, considering a 'prominent romance' has been projected with Taissa Farmiga yet again.

Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Conjuring (2013) Review



The Conjuring was not disappointing as such, but certainly not too inventive. Seems again to be yet another amalgamation of recycled elements from other recent horrors, in an attempt to patch together a generically popular horror film-Frankenstein.

Structurally speaking, Wan harks back to his last and extremely well executed supernatural horror, Insidious. The narrative is near enough identical. With the demonic entity latching onto an unassuming family, followed by house cleansing with the comic relief of an additional two helpers. Plus eventual parent possession. And of course, there’s the obvious aspect of actor Patrick Wilson returning, but this time as the spiritual medium role. What was unusual about Conjuring was the amount of tension building without any climax or relief. It was enjoyably manipulative given sound is one’s weakness, especially when at the mercy of cinema speakers on full volume. This is usually and frequently exploited as a lazy alternative to constructing ominous environment.

Soundtrack at times sounded like Christopher Young’s score from Sinister. But, I liked the inclusion of songs In the Room Where You Sleep by Dead Man's Bones and Sleep Walk by Betsy Byre, as they worked well to unnerving effect, just as Tiptoe Through the Tulips did in Insidious. The scene involving a ghost with slit wrists "dressed like a maid" was almost a carbon copy of a scene from the Sixth Sense (I almost certain they used the same lines ‘look what you made me do’). Birds crashing into the house seemed exactly like the extra terrestrial horror film Dark Skies released earlier this year. A haunted house cliché becoming tiresome, along with 3am being a focus time frame for paranormal activity. The infamous cymbal banging monkey toy made an appearance in the Warrens’ gallery of cursed goodies/oddities (similar to Woman in Black, but the toys are slightly different). No doubt there’s many references I’ve missed, James Wan is fond of placing props from previous films around. I also noted the cinematography seemed a little shaky around the beginning of the film.

Annabelle served no real narrative purpose. While the new doll was beautifully macabre and aesthetically awesome as a prop, there’s already a film devoted to original ventriloquist ’creepy doll’ Billy and his backstory, with atmosphere to match (Dead Silence. Also, Saw Billy seemed to work better in his own environment). And as the story progressed, Conjuring turned into more of an exorcism film, as opposed to a supernatural horror, which it sold itself as. In the vein of all the recent popular demonic possession related films. While I can pick out familiarities in this film that are somewhat overused at this point, it was fairly engaging and kept up steam with such an eventful narrative. So, while the Conjuring wasn't the most creative of horrors, it wasn't a disagreeable film either. Lukewarm horror.

Rating: 6/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Power Poverty & Conflict FM4: La Haine & City of God Comparative Essay

I've posted this in light of my dreadful educational experiences at Oldham Shit Form College. To all the poor Film students out there who suffer such a carefree tutor as my own for 2 years, hopefully this will be of use to you (as it's supposedly A grade).

La Haine (Matheiu Kassovitz, 1995) presents a clear message of the world it represents to audiences. Kassovitz intended to present the reality of the banlieue – more specifically of the prejudice against banlieue residents in Paris, and also of African or other ethnic background. La Haine contrasts to the highly romanticised perspective of Paris that we are shown commercially in advertisements and films such as Midnight in Paris (2011) (Woody Allen)

La Haine’s message is explicit. That French society is in a freefall, and drawing attention to the social fracture in Paris, in particular for the people of the banlieue. This is reinforced with Hubert (Hubert Kounde) repeating 3 times throughout the duration of the film, “so far so good”, the notion that a man falling to his death is fine until the impact happens. This is reflective of how it is only a matter of time before there is a social ‘explosion’, in retaliation to the divide created by the French government.

In the Crossing Continents BBC Radio 4 series, it is known residents of the banlieues are often prejudiced against in employment, as their applications are immediately refused if they are seen to have a surname indicating African background, or have a banlieue postcode. This is illustrated specifically in how Hubert (Hubert Kounde) and Said (Said Taghmaoui) are beaten by members of the police but not Vinz – this seems to be specifically racial discrimination as Hubert has an African background, and Said is from an Arabian background. It is also known that a man interviewed from the banlieue was deported for setting fire to a bin in protest simply because of his background. The motive behind one of the three protagonists in the narrative, Vinz (Vincent Cassel) was to shoot down or fight back against the police with a gun retrieved from the implied riots before the film begins as Abdel, a youth, was struck down in police custody and in a coma. This reflects on as a story element, the high amount of deaths in police custody in France between 1980-1995 and also the injustice of the police towards residents of the banlieue in Paris. Said during the course of La Haine as a character comments on the difference of treatment between how a policeman in the city centre addresses him more politely as ‘sir’ in contrast to the brutality of the police in the banlieue. Politician Sarkozy, in reaction to the riots at the time (on which the film La Haine was based), addressed all the residents of the banlieue as ‘scum’, illustrating the reality of how the government and officials of Paris look down upon the banlieue and its residents.

The Bob Marley song used in the beginning sequence of La Haine, ‘Burning and Looting’, with the lyrics, “with uniforms of brutality” anchors the theme of police brutality which is one of the addressed issues in the film. We are aligned with the banlieue residents in a number of ways (seeing the perspective from the side of the rioters in the genuine riot footage from the Paris riots, and also following the story of three protagonists from the banlieue rather than the perspective of he police) as we are intended to sympathise with and see the lives and prejudices against the three specific banlieue residents Said, Vinz and Hubert, and how aimless their lives seem in the midst of unemployment that they suffer. Often up to seventy percent of people in the banlieues are unemployed, and it is a serious issue for the people inhabiting them. This issue also perpetuates crime – as shown through Hubert who dabbles in drug dealing, but the other two protagonists are shown as having very little to occupy their time.

In City of God (Fernando Meirelles and co director Katia Lund) (2002) the purpose of the film was to draw attention to the poverty and extreme violence in the favelas, the reality of life for its inhabitants and the entrapment they suffer, in contrast to the carnival-esque image projected of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro. There are 32 million people of the population of Brazil living in dire poverty and it is considered to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world. With the highest amount of homicide deaths yearly, and also holds infamy for being extremely dangerous for tourists – hold ups are rife for visitors. To help create a sense of realism for the film, the actors were employed from within the favela and trained in workshops, also the film was based on a novel of research based on the favelas. However, realism is a relative concept.

This film has a more ambiguous message than La Haine but illustrates the claustrophobic and highly violent general environment of the favelas, through both fast paced, panicked cinematography and close up shots. This is shown in City of God both in the initial chicken chase scene, and also during the disco scene where Bene (Phellipe Haagensen) is killed, portrayed in a very disorientating way for the viewer. The strobe lighting during the sequence where Blacky shoots Bene by accident emphasises the violence, tension, and the speed at which death occurs – how quickly people die in the favela, and also creates a sense of the audience knowing what is happening not really being able to see. The rapid style of cinematography is also reflective of the upbeat, fast paced samba music of Brazil (described as the ‘Heartbeat of Brazil’) and Brazilian culture.

The initial and ending scenes of City of God use a chicken as a parallel for Rocket’s (Alexandre Rodriguez) character and his trapped situation, between the police and the gangs – which is the case generally for the residents of the favela. There are many forces at work against the people of the favela – alongside the violent gangs of criminals and presence of guns ; the favelas are highly hostile, but what residents fear more than the gangs are the corrupt police force and also the militia (organised groups of right wing ex security guards and soldiers, for example, the Red Command) who intervene with the gangs and consider all residents the same. Bene as a character like Rocket, who wishes to escape, is a representation of how despite his eventual wish for an honest life, because of his ultimate involvement with crime and with Lil Ze (Leandro Firmino da Hora) he ends up being killed, showing the difficulty of escape for members of the favela. To reinforce the sense of difficulty to escape from this lifestyle, most of the characters are linked together by crime. Shaggy, for example being a member of the Tender Trio from the sixties, who is the brother of Rocket, envelopes him in crime in a way, as he is related, although not necessarily involved in crime himself.

Like City of God, the worlds of the characters in La Haine and their poverty is shown through the settings of their homes – they are extremely cramped in their flats, how in the city centre of Paris ultimately they are socially excluded and not at home, as they are refused from nightclubs –which is very much a common issue for the people in the banlieue. The dichotomies shown thematically, for example the protagonists are only in Paris at night time, but are in the banlieue during the day, reinforces the sense of unwelcome.

With the two films’ purposes being to raise awareness of the situations they represent, both films put us as spectators in alignment with the people whom the film’s message is regarding. Both texts take an ideological stance, and we are implicitly placed on the side of those who suffer in society. We see La Haine from the perspective of the banlieue residents even in the initial scenes we are on the side of the rioters literally facing the police. As City of God is from the perspective of the favela gangs, the character of Rocket as a contrast - the figurative chicken on the run, emphasising how despite their difference in characters, their unity is the entrapment felt in the favelas.

In conclusion, although City of God draws attention to the violence in the favelas, there is no specific message. Only an illustration of the cyclical nature of the violence, and how it grows and feeds on itself. Especially from the end scene where the runts are devising a list of people to kill. There will always be a new, younger generation to perpetuate the conflict. La Haine ends with Vinz dead and the fate of Hubert or Said is unknown to us as viewers. Ultimately how the narrative ends in conflict, (like most of the interactions of the characters throughout the film end in conflict in how they are constantly socially excluded and refused from places in the city such as the art gallery and Asterix’s flat) there will be consequences.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Monsters University (2013) Review

Philosophical rant on the hardships of Mike Wazowski,  and how negative trials of life are being presented in growing frequency in children’s films. Initially intended to be a Monsters University review. An essay, by me.

Monsters University was watchable. No faults with quality of special effects, the animation was flawless. The plot was eventful enough and some aspects of MU were humorous. For instance, Art provided sporadic comic relief being a quirkily amusing and relatable character. As were the rest of Oozma Kappa. But I didn’t find this film light-hearted enough to be satisfying.

What concerned me were the underlying messages. MU seems to resound the idea that for societal outcasts, dreams will be unachievable. Particularly relating to physical appearance. And as an alternative to being brow beaten into submission, you can be cast out and go and work in a minimum wage job.

While this can be the case, as many unfortunate situations can be - who expects this sort of oppressive realism to be present in a children’s film? Even though mature undertones are ubiquitous in just about everything, I don’t believe this is a necessary message to be conveying. Life will guarantee you meeting fierce opposition on the path to what you strive to achieve. But perseverance does pay off.
The infallible positivity of Mike’s character is aspirational, but I think this personality trait should be sequentially rewarded throughout the narrative at least. Where is the archetypal happy ending?  Mike as a protagonist meets disappointment, underestimation and ridicule at every turn in his life, and it’s not a healthy projection of what to expect.

Of course, I reflect on this as an adult. Ultimately, the likelihood of the target audience taking such a profound observation is unlikely.

But where has the lighthearted nature of children’s animation gone?
In comparison, due to its realism and reflection on some severely negative aspects of life, Up has become the embodiment of a depressing children’s film. In the opening sequence, with the infertile mother and conclusively the loneliness faced by one partner dying and leaving behind the other.
Generally speaking, two worst case scenarios for many people.

Now, of course things don’t turn out idealised as we imagine in reality. While I acknowledge this… film is an escape. Where the enjoyment lies is in the fantasy, in this case, of everything working out fine and perseverance paying off. Not in being subliminally conditioned through our allegiance with the protagonist, to believe that we shall be alone and unsuccessful like them. Due to our own probable insecurities we already harbour and assume ugliness and alienation in regards to ourselves, thanks to mass media. It’s film psychology.

Yet in the context of a children’s film it seems just that more inappropriate.
Why can’t a children’s film project a positive progression through life? Encouraging people in that, although it will be a struggle you can achieve something great. Justifying why these characters ended up in a mail job was something of a grim journey, unnecessary to boot, and the undertones got me pondering philosophically far more than I would have liked a children’s film to do.

Fin.

Author, Abigail Lewis
Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Last Exorcism Part II (2013) Review

Lets begin with the illogic of the title? How can you have the last occurrence of anything twice? There's the Last Exorcism... which was supposedly this films predecessor. Now by the creation of this film, it's finality has been invalidated. Along with it's title... this film was pointless.

Given I've yet to see The Last Exorcism, I fail to imagine how much of an improvement it could possibly be on its unnecessary follow up, according to the general consensus of reviews. For one, the cinematography couldn't be better, as the Last Exorcism was a found footage film. And the family of found footage and demon related films surrounding Paranormal Activity fail to alarm me, even with earphones.

The undermining components were, first of all the length of the film vs. story substance. There was little to no plot worth elongating to 90 minutes. Even if all of the explanation as to why Abalam wanted Nell was included entirely in the first film, there wasn't really anything intriguing going on in the plot other than this same pursuit. The positive aspects I can define occurred within the first thirty minutes of the film. Incidentally, by the end of which period, one can discern whether the plot is taking an extensive amount of time to unfold. Which it was.

The cinematography was great. The slow motion sequence where Nell was wandering about Mardi Gras and observing the props was beautiful. Before watching I heard this was supposedly a b-movie, but there was no way you could easily identify this as one. Except for maybe the special effect fire, but even so.
Ashley Bell has incredibly dark eyes which attributes to her general creepiness. There wasn't really much else in terms of costume worth noting. She's got a naturally unnerving look to her, and her acting was convincing enough.

But, there was no exceptional frightening atmosphere about this film. Nor was there anything conceptually new. Which is expected to an extent, there's a whole genre nearly of exorcism/demonic possession related films. But surely you'd expect to at least see the demon's true form, like in The Possession. Or have some deviation on this genre other than purely seeing possessed women?

My biggest confusion lies with why Nell was avoiding Abalam in the first place. He turned out to be one hell of a nifty extension. Who wouldn't kill to have invincibility and unlimited fire powers? Seems difficult to believe anyone would waste the duration of two films trying to evade such a privilege.

Due to the success of the film's predecessor is the reason I assume why this tedious extension was spawned, but other than it's more refined execution there isn't much else to be contributed. To alleviate one's boredom, to the horror genre, or to films anywhere that aren't a complete waste of a bigger budget than the predecessor's. Which again, reinforces success and material quality is never determined by how much money you throw at a project.

Rating: 3/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Noroi: the Curse (2005)



Noroi follows the journey of now 'missing' documentary filmmaker Kobayashi, who took to uncovering paranormal incidents linked by the mythological demon Katagabu.

For a found footage film, this wasn't the worst of the bunch. The likes of Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield were enough to set a permanently low expectation bar for horror films of this subgenre.
Noroi was another film whose reputation exceeded itself, but I'd expect fans of that genre to get the most out of this film, as I wasn't left shaken by the ending. Although it was much more satisfying visually than the Blair Witch Project, in that we do actually see a ghost.

For the first hour or so Noroi remained fairly engaging. Or at least, Aluminium Hat Psychic Man was fun to watch. Definitely, there were a couple of intriguingly unstable characters in Noroi. However it seemed that the actress playing Marika was struggling to contain laughter throughout the entire film, which was a bit of an atmosphere obliterator. The horrendous Carved performance style of; unresponsively-standing-by-as-your-family-are-brutalised-by-monsters, struck yet again. Of course, if you were my beloved spouse I’d let you set yourself on fire and record it too. Realism at it’s finest…

The set of Junko Ishii's suicide attic was impressive, with the reams of eerie Katugaba masks, the linked circle chains strewn from the beams like psychotic birthday decorations. Such a shame these props made little sense, given there was no clear explanation as to why they were linked to the Katugaba ritual. Most of Noroi's disturbing events (for example, the group suicide at the park) and props are left up to the viewer's speculation as far as relevance goes.

In fact, there were many inconsistencies. Undoubtedly, as Papa Lazarou would say, this was a saga, and has a intricate plot to follow spanning the duration of about two hours. Noroi became an endurance test trying to follow the events, so as to join the dots. Why the particular characters were linked to the demon, other than their sensitivity to psychic/paranormal activity is still uncertain. Junko's purpose as a character was fairly obvious, she was possessed. But why Kana was chosen as the medium to the ritual, psychic powers aside, made no sense. There was no connection to her and Junko. And what about Junko's 'adoptive son'?
As they have no souls to consume, why are the aborted foetuses of any importance to the demon?
And what are the pigeons intended to represent? While I can acknowledge characters mention to beware the pigeons, is this the extent of how these features tie in? Tenuously at best. And tension or frightening atmosphere is not built well from ambiguity.

The lack of clear connections between characters and supernatural recurrences detracted away from any coherent storyline. From criticisms that I have read, it appears to be apparently part of the film's pros that many questions are left up to viewers' imaginations to answer. Which is justifiable if that equates to some events, not a great deal of them. And still, unfortunately does not excuse a plot with such little substance/continuity.

Rating: 4/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Friday, 28 June 2013

Dark House (2009) Review











Here is a real underrated gem of a film. Led by the infamously creepy Jeffrey Combs and Meghan
Ory, Dark House is a good old fashioned ghost story with a schizophrenic twist. This was a low budget horror, and the majority of criticisms have been too crucifying towards its subsequently endearing cheesiness.

True is the general consensus, judging the majority of the characters as bubbleheaded and lacking in depth as the next death fodder. Tacky humour, corny performances... cliché behaviour? Generically stereotyped characters? Nothing new there. When do victims behave differently in this genre? There would be no longevity to the plot. This was the first film in which I'd ever seen actress Meghan Ory. In comparison to the series Once Upon a Time, I still maintain her acting in Dark House is superior.

What shone for me, was the highly convincing performance from Diane Salinger. Playing the psychotic role of Ms. Darrode, a knife wielding bible-basher. Who, after wreaking massacre-havoc in her children's foster home, returned from the dead to haunt the scare attraction residing there in present day.

I've never seen a horror film set in a scare attraction environment before which I thought was an interesting concept. Genuinely haunted haunts? Sadly the soundtrack and setting were generic, and generally unintimidating, but did not impair the film.
The technical inaccuracies during the virus scenes were amusing as opposed to anything. Though I can understand why criticisms are so enraged, regarding something in an otherwise silly environment, given Rebecca Black's Friday spawned so much hatred. Lighten up, people.

For what it is, Dark House is fairly well paced and enjoyable as a horror. There are the few ubiquitous jump scares to be had, but Dark House is not nightmare worthy. If you are looking to be left traumatized from a film, I would suggest looking elsewhere (unless incidentally, crazy old women are a phobia).

Obviously, the lack of realism is where most criticisms are concentrated. The realism of a Trojan virus extending to a ghost sat spinning around in a chair with a matrix backdrop is about all you will encounter. If you can manage to put any nerdish sensibilities aside as far as special effects are concerned, and adopt a more lighthearted approach, you may well enjoy this film.

Rating: 7.5/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Monday, 10 June 2013

Dead Silence (2007) Review

Dead Silence happens to be one of those horror films where I find I can put aside the ghastly resolution to the plot, in favour of its visual elements. The cinematography and stylistic elements of this film are, without a doubt, where an incredible amount of effort and attention to detail has been channelled. The story centres around a curse upon the fictional Ashen family, tormented by the ghost of the vengeful doll fanatic and talented ventriloquist, Mary Shaw.

James Wan indeed puts particular emphasis on the colour red, reminiscent of the Saw films (one to three) he directed/produced, all of which are equally as carefully crafted. Incidentally, Billy the puppet from Saw, is incorporated into the set of Mary's dressing room.

Dead Silence is stunning. Everything down to the tattered curtains, and the FX fog, were eerily perfect. The sets with the abandoned theatre were beautiful, especially Mary Shaw's dressing room at the back. Her conceptual drawings for creating her living dolls were positively macabre. As was the living doll boy product. Mary Shaw herself was a formidable villain. Ghosts of the decrepit old woman variety have always frightened me.


Charlie Clouser, who has also worked with James Wan on the soundtrack for Saw, has produced yet another a distinctly unique and memorable accompaniment to the film. This soundtrack has been a favourite for years, and it possesses the most unnerving quality. A childlike blend of nightmarish music box tunes, choral vocals and sinisterly gentle off-key piano music.  Even the more calmly tempered tracks are addictive. Particular tracks I noted for their excellency were Dad's House, He Talked, and Funeral. You should probably go and listen to them for the good of your own health. The main titles music is vastly overused in many Halloween attractions across the globe. Mainly because, it's brilliant.

If anything could come close to being the aesthetic bible of ventriloquist doll horror films (alongside Puppet Master), Dead Silence would be it.  All of the dolls featured are the absolute manifestation of what one would acquire, if you reached into the back of a pediophobic's head and pulled out a toy collection. Aside from Billy, the clown doll was a particular favourite. Plus the tension built with it sat on the rocking chair as the protagonist was forced to approach, was brilliant. As was the scene in the motel with the ominous red flashing lights. As Billy was propped up against the window, Mary Shaw herself just discernible behind the curtains. Like the Grudge, the subtle appearances of ghosts who are barely visible among the sets and shadows, are the most impressive for psychological effect.


 
Ultimately, however, the ending fell flat. The protagonist was gratingly weak, and there could have been a better conclusion thought out to kill him more logically. Totally nonsensical was it, that after everything, he decided to throw the towel in and scream. If the crucial continuity rule is to refrain from screaming, why on earth would he decide to do it? Admittedly, it would be creepy to have Mary Shaw tailing you for the rest of your life. But, she's potentially harmless given you keep your mouth shut. Or so states the related Mary Shaw nursery rhyme. And surely she would make the most entertaining permanent roommate.

10/10 for visual value.
4/10 for plot.

Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Purge (2013) Review


Image from here

From the trailer, the Purge promised an interesting concept. What would happen if, in an attempt to reduce overall crime rates, the government introduced a 12 hour yearly period where all crime was legalised? Of course, realistically, this would not be feasible. If the majority of the population who committed these sort of atrocities were remotely capable of self restraint, maybe. But what are the chances of that?

Although there is mixed reception towards The Purge, the execution of this idea wasn't as substantial or satisfying as I imagined. Engaging with this film was extremely difficult, as there was no consistency to the plot. If you had seen the trailer, from the beginning it becomes instantly predictable how the following hour or so is about to be spent.

In fact, within the trailer, you've probably seen all there is to the film in it's compressed worth. Everyone already has the knowledge that the house will be accessed by these mysterious masked killers. Anything else?
Not really, to be perfectly honest.
To justify an hour and a half's worth of a film, you must witness these characters' utter stupidity and genuinely unrealistic reactions to their situation, following up to the house being invaded. Which, in itself, kills any potential tension. Watching the characters act illogically from square one, to perpetuate the storyline with their contradictory decisions, made for a most frustrating experience.
Talk about making a meal from a crumb?

Lena Headey’s character, Mary, was cyclically idiotic in particular. If someone had threatened your own childrens' lives, why on earth would a sudden urge to be moralistic about sparing them come over you? It wouldn't. And her character demonstrates this on more than one occasion.

There would also be no ignorance or complacency about an intruder in your home. Not on an established annual night such as the Purge, when, the risk of being murdered in the most brutal fashion without consequence is present. Yet, all the characters seem to conveniently ignore the presence/absence of an intruder wandering about their home. Of course...

Given that a deliberate air of jealousy and unease was created between neighbours and Lena Headey's character, it was about as subtle as a brick to the face in terms of foreshadowing an attack. Following onto this point, is how equally nonsensical James (Ethan Hawke's character) was in his actions. Why would you knowingly arm your own house with a faulty security system that could be breached?
However, I had the (horrendously drawn out) pleasure of seeing him die, which unfortunately did not go for every character, like I had desperately hoped.

The main villain, credited as the Polite Stranger failed to leave a threatening impression for some reason. Though, this could be put down mainly to the fact he didn't actually have much screen time. Which was a shame. Perhaps this film would have worked better from the killers' perspective.

Since the flaws in the film's coherency were so polarising, very little of my attention was drawn to much else in terms of mise en scene. However, the extremely inconspicuous remote controlled doll (which incidentally managed escape characters' attention to the point of startling them), was actually quite pretty.

Ultimately the absolute illogic of the story is the Purge's downfall. There's no reason a more realistic/gratifying storyline could not have been born from this concept. Since cheap jump scares were resorted to, a cheap and generic brutal-death-to-all resolution could at least have been incorporated.

Rating: 2/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Lords of Salem (2013) Review

Lords of Salem seemed a little bit aimless. And blown out of proportion, in terms of how disturbing it claims to be. This film was completely watchable. But there wasn't actually much substance to the plot with which you could engage.  There is a storyline, but it seems we are kept on the periphery of it - focusing more on distracting montages of minimalist imagery. There was no obvious indicator what the witches wanted, or why they specifically wanted revenge on the women of Salem? That seems nonsensical. Why not take revenge specifically on John Hawthorne?

There seemed to be a lot of attention drawn to simplistic sets which lacked an immersive quality. In particular the ending scenes, and when Heidi is staring at the neon signs in room number five. Feeling like a conscious observer sucks, although I suspect to give the film a surrealist aspect it was intended to be presented this way. Heidi's own apartment was probably the best location in the whole film as there was a lot to engage with visually. Especially the décor, with the giant Trip to the Moon behind her bed and the artwork in her bathroom.  Something seems a little voyeuristic/exhibitionist (depending on how you look at it, with Rob being her husband) about how Sheri is shot in this film. Sheri didn't stand out as a favourite in House as Baby, and in Lords her acting is only minimally better.

Bringing to discussion the villains, aside from their appearance, the damage the witches can cause is disappointingly human. Is bashing a man's face in with a hoover the extent of what they are capable of? The monsters in this were made frightening only by the impact-loud-noise technique. Using this method was insulting, in that the mutant baby and sasquatch could not have had a shocking presence otherwise. They looked terribly unconvincing.

For creating atmosphere, this film works to an extent. But comparatively House of 1000 Corpses supersedes every aspect of this film. For example, such artistic elements; acting, sets and general fear factor, are all inferior. The montages incorporated in House work miles better and the villains were genuinely and believably terrifying as characters. Lords seems disjointed and generally lacking in any actual fear inducing elements. Certainly I will give Lords its due, it was an visual stimulating tale bordering on more of an art film, however not the best or most unusual by a long shot.

Rating: 5.5/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Hitori Kakurenbo (2009) Review

This was an interesting, albeit slightly generic take on the Hitori Kakurenbo urban legend.

Although, the atypical restless yurei villain worked for me. I admit I jumped several times throughout the film. But I was expecting to see possessed teddy bears and dolls wielding knives, not Kayako/Sadako V.346. From the urban legend however, following the idea that the spirits move the dolls, this is completely feasible. Just not inventive. But at least this film was well executed enough to not be disappointing.

The actual 'Hide and Seek Alone' legend itself is one of the most enthralling urban legends to surface for a while. Or at least, the supposed experiences from it are. If you were weak of heart, this would be one hell of a test of resolve if you were to go through with it.
In effect, you're required to follow a voodoo ritual, so that a doll of your choice will (hopefully) become possessed by a spirit. To play a much darker take on the childhood game of hide and seek, with you. Obviously, there's a catch, as there is with any twisted game involving supernatural entities. Of being potentially stabbed to death. Which also applies to anyone else in the household. Therefore, interruption by oblivious participants must be avoided. The only solution to avoiding a gruesome end is by holding salt water in your mouth, then spitting it over the doll. Wherever it is you may supposedly find it. A factor the characters involved with this film seem to whimsically ignore.

Silence was used well to create tension, or at least I remember it to be. Though I was viewing with earphones. And suddenly I begin to wonder, perhaps, is viewing a film with earphones the best experience? Or is that allowing sound too much credit? There's something a little too lazy about being solely reliant on loud noises alone. When, there is a plethora of atmospheric music out there one could utilize, along with the rest of the mise en scene elements of a film, to successfully build tension. Any music that was used did not leave a lasting impression. Memorability points must be given, however, to the sinisterly childlike whispers of 'Ready or not, here I come".

The scenes with the CCTV footage zooming into the closet was a great recurring element. However, extremely reminiscent of Thai horror, Shutter (2004) in the scene showing close ups of the school photograph. Undeniably, works as an effective scare as one of the best jump moments, but it becomes apparent how Asian horror tends to borrow and recycle scenes from all it's encompassing films.

Although this ran smoothly in terms of narrative and was well paced, the only thing that didn't make much sense was the abrupt ending. It felt a little bit lacking in closure terms. There seemed to be some suggestion to do with a backstory, specifically of the character Ryoko. Who was this mysterious ghost girl that latched onto her by the end of the film? A childhood friend of hers, drowned, who wanted revenge? Again, there was a gaping, ridiculous plot hole highlighted in the fact everyone failed to employ the most crucial of rules in that the salt water would protect them.

Ultimately, regurgitated successful elements anchored this film to being a decent watch, with lack of creativity and closure being the only things pulling the film down.

Rating: 6/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Monday, 20 May 2013

Uzumaki (2002) Review

Uzumaki was recommended to me by a friend. Saying it was the most deranged and disturbing film he had ever seen, leaving him with a distinct phobia of spirals.
So, I had pretty high expectations of this film changing my perceptions of swirls forever.
Being as I'd never heard about it before, I was impressed to learn this was based on the series of the horror manga Uzumaki, created by Junji Ito, also creator of the Tomie manga.

Now, after watching, I lacked the ability to perceive anything exceptionally terrifying about this film. It lacks any real back story or motives to warrant much deep-rooted fear. As the plot progresses, it seems more nonsensically exaggerated and comical in places than anything. In a similar way to how Drag Me To Hell is more amusing than can be taken seriously as a horror. Let me tell you why.
This is ultimately about snails.

Not that this is a bad film at all. I quite enjoyed it as undoubtedly more of a surreal film, but I've yet to read the manga as a comparative. Apparently this isn't entirely correct to the manga, as Uzumaki was still unfinished when the film was released. The stylistic elements of this film are fascinating, even entrancing as you are constantly affronted with visual extremes as the inhabitants warp into monsters, pulsating, gorging. That, added with the consistent green coloured tint, Uzumaki seems potentially Joker influenced on reflection. As if Smilex and the imagery from the scare maze, The Sanctuary had been blended circularly into a film. Especially in the scenes with psychotically grinning corpses. Surrealistic bulging eyes and inappropriately placed canted angle shots add to the madness. To add to its already insanely kooky imagery is the cheerful soundtrack, oddly enough, more suited to a children's programme.
Potential nightmare material for some, absolutely. But my love of spirals stays in tact.

Uzumaki's characters are submissive, placed under the curse of the town they reside in. Under the rule of 'malevolent spirals'. Doomed to become swirl-fascinated half snails. There's not really a clear explanation of why the town and its inhabitants are cursed in this way, which I found slightly frustrating. From the synopsis, the verb 'infected' is curious. A town diseased by 'vortexes'?

I found the lead actress playing Kirie drippy and unconvincing (as is the case with most films), but Shuichi seemed a more likeable character. In his own peculiarly distant way. Especially with his and Kirie's childhood tale. On another note, you could really hear the conviction, surpassing all language barriers, with which younger Kirie's voice screamed she didn't want a boy as a mother. The Stalker, Yamaguchi, was adorably psychotic. The stupidity of close up shots always seem to make me laugh. Especially the initial scenes with Kirie's father and the man with a video recorder in his face.

Ultimately an agreeably weird, visually crazed and blackly comedic horror (dependent on your humour).

Rating: 8/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Side note: I love the fact that the phrase subtitled 'love-crazed' comes out sounding like 'stalker' in Japanese.


Monday, 6 May 2013

Evil Dead 2013 Review



Evil Dead (2013), as you may already be aware, is the new remake of the 1981 classic. Following the atypical storyline of a group of young people who go into a creepy remote cabin, in this version for support/rehab purposes. Someone incidentally reads aloud an spell from an ominous looking book, which turns out to summon demons. Right. All hell subsequently breaks loose.

Bluntly put, this film met my expectations. That opinion may not be a good representative for you, if you happen to have watched and loved the original, because from general reception it seems it may well disappoint you. Despite the original creators having some involvement with producing the remake.

Going into the film with the mindset of; A) no pre-conceived ideas of a better version, and B) that all of the characters were going to die in an exaggeratedly gruesome way, is precisely how I came out of the cinema fairly satisfied with what I had just seen. Hoping everyone will live, skipping away in a glittering wake of sunbeams guarantees disappointment. Well that false sense of hope stopped me from enjoying The Cottage, anyway.

At times I burst into laughter at just how over the top the progressive violence was. One instance for example, was the endurance of the character Eric. How many times was he stabbed in his vital organs again? The structure of the film seemed after a while, predictably like a never-ending boss battle. Certain elements were inherently obvious for anyone familiar with horror. I mean if you didn't know outright that Eric was doomed to become 'the devil's bitch' as he phrased it... come on?! Of course he was.

Actor wise, Mia (Jane Levy) was the strongest character. With also the prettiest make up (those contacts were awesome). I was undeniably glad to see the rest be violently torn to pieces of their own volition.

This movie was wonderfully shot, the cinematography was excellent. I've read up that there was no CGI used for realism, and yes, the violence does look very believable. The transition from absolute blood drenched carnage, or fast paced hysteria, to silent blackouts gave an incredible impact. People gasped. Everyone in the audience jumped at one point or another. I seem to remember most people jumping at the machete sequence coming to the end of the film. Panic was carved into everyone by the final battle with the abomination.

Unfortunately, Evil Dead was doomed another orchestral number for the soundtrack. Although a failsafe, this was a sore disappointment. After the stunning electronic music featured in the trailer from Randroid music was used, I was expecting a soundtrack along the same lines. Sinister featured dubstep and new age music which successfully worked to a frightening and atmospheric effect. The aggressive sounding glitchhop (? I'm not quite sure what genre the music was, forgive!) really added to the brutal/carnal imagery of ED. I vote they should have used it.

Evil Dead obviously wasn't ground breaking in terms of horror, being a remake and all. But if you enjoy things for their artsy elements, Evil Dead had sufficient visual appeal.

Rating: 6/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Jack of Blades by Peter David Review





 
Since I am a big fan of the Fable series and its associated villains, (having played all of the games aside from Fable: the Journey as I refuse to buy yet another extension for the sake of it), I have started reading some of the (much cheaper) related fiction. In this review, I am looking at the short story Jack of Blades eBook, written by Peter David and part of the Fable Legends series.

I read each page in consistent trepidation, on the basis that this was seemingly focused on one of my favourite villains. Or at least, the blurb on Amazon leads one to believe so. Thus ultimately, upon finishing I was a little bit disappointed that the whole story primarily was about an imposter. An imposter, who had some tenuous links to the Fred of Blades grave in the later Fable games. From the grave description, Fred was Jack's actual brother, not 'like a spiritual' brother in a way, which Xiro stated. This I found contradictory to canon information already supplied by the Fable games.

Personally, if I had the license to write brand new canon material for the Fableverse I probably would have not made up back stories for irrelevant wannabes (psh!). Thus I was a little disappointed that it did not shed any more light on Jack of Blade's character like I had hoped it would. This would be my primary source of disappointment being a sadly devoted Jack fan. Moving on.

Any form of colloquial expression used, in what seems overall to be a short story in formal tone, is a little bit cringeworthy somehow, in my opinion. Especially when there are free fan fictions out there using more sophisticated language. While I can appreciate that the Fableverse has an overall humorous tone in dialogue, 'what the hell' seemed a little inappropriate where it was used. Almost like a feature of a My Immortal-esque fanfiction. Thankfully, it wasn't consistent throughout, and David is a clearly skilled writer.

I must admit I initially thought Jack sounded out of character until the reveal happened, which obviously made a lot of sense progressing to the end. Xiro however turned out to be one harsh son of a gun. Well, to the Blacksmith's daughter, anyway. The others clearly deserved his unforgiving side. This makes me wonder, was he perhaps the reincarnation of Jack? Especially with his harrowing final words. Just a thought.

Rating: 5/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis/Ab-nor-mew

Edit: Apparently Xiro is Jack of Blades, but on first impression I didn't pick up on this. It would make ten times more sense, but there seems to be a lack of continuity here given that Xiro is not donning the mask.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Dark Skies Review



Previewed before watching Mama during the trailers, Dark Skies promised to be a supernatural-horror-come-UFO film. Dark Skies' poster, plastered about the Underground, looks like an exaggerated version of the 2011 Insidious poster, the little boy with a nosebleed and white eyes. Nothing new. But also not surprising considering the film was by the same people who produced Insidious.

Extremely similar in nature to the 2012 supernatural horror film Sinister and Insidious (2011), it seems whoever directed this film observed the flaws of Sinister and remade the film to some extent with a significant amount of plot holes resolved. Of course there is a different monster completely being that the villains of Dark Skies are the 'greys', aliens come to abduct one particular member of certain families. The unstoppable paranormal force come to abduct children aspect stays the same, however.

This was a satisfying film, if not borderline predictable. The plot twist, for any horror watcher, was almost obvious, thus the recap/flashback of information at the end revealing why the other son was the chosen subject was tediously unnecessary. There is truly not much to complain about with the narrative, it was completely logical, albeit the father character who, under the circumstances would probably suspect something paranormal. As already mentioned, extra care had been taken to reinforce understanding of the plot with the flashback, but how on earth after all the warning did the parents allow the other son to be taken?

Admittedly the setting was a little bit boring, as alongside the plot is where it shows too much to be like a reinvention of Sinister. The acting was pretty good, the entire Dark Skies floorshow wasn't so original, but it was a decent horror movie watch, and that is all that was expected in this sudden flood of supernatural horror, along with the Conjuring, Evil Dead, and Mama.

Rating: 6/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis/Ab-nor-mew

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Rise of the Guardians Review



Well. I have a lot I could pick holes at with this movie. But, I found this film miles easier to just ride along with in its inconsistencies, than say Once Upon a Time (purely for the amount of episodes it has been running now). That, and I have to admit... its kind of grown on me since I intially watched it. I have somehow gained an appreciation for its stereotypical features, so I'm always cautious to say its alright for newcomers to RotG.

After seeing images of Jack Frost around while it has been at the cinema, I was surprised to find out Jack is in fact not a little boy, but eighteen years of age with a surprisingly deep voice. When I first saw him, also, my first impression was he was another version of Zero from Vampire Knight, to reap in the fangirls with his tortured backstory (and unusual white hair) by design. Pitch Black I have grown to like (Jude Law is still a weak actor in my opinion), but admittedly he's not really original per say. Kind of like a fusion of the titular Sandman from the 1992 animation, Benedict Cumberbatch (facially anyway) and the Crawler from Fable III. Venger from the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon had a steed called Nightmare, so yeah... Pitch's character kind of takes from many places and, subsequently, is generically likeable/dislikeable by design.

There's no real substance or in depth reason as to why he wants the world to be consumed by darkness, other than it giving him... power? Which, you know. Is your atypical/nonsensical reason for a villain to drive the plot as an opposing force. Honestly as a villain obsessive, I fail to see the draw - if life as a guardian, or mythological figure of belief is quite a lonely existence, why would you want that anyway? Especially with Pitch, if you look into his backstory and he remembers he had a daughter and a family, wouldn't he empathise with Jack? Wouldn't he want to regain that himself, his family? Wouldn't he want to help children? I find this makes characters less believable in terms of lack of logical motives, and disappointing a lot of villains are, pretty lazily put this way.

So yeah, unintentionally I've gone off on one philosophising about characters. Onto less contemplation and more on how it was enjoyable on a superficial level. The actual animation is beautifully done, I'm always in shock at the amazingly intricate level of detail in these films (the glitter looks so pretty). The expressions and expressionisms of the characters, and how the animation switches from different depths of focus is so realistic. The humour was... amusing for kids? I guess? (it really depends what appeals to you). As for me, I don't really rate myself as a humour critic. (If it's totally nuts, and involved people screaming chances are I will find it funny.)
But... it's so adorable and hilarious when Baby Tooth pecks Pitch's hand!
The voice acting was great. Especially Alec Baldwin and Isla Fisher.  Tooth was an interesting portrayal of the tooth fairy, but compared to other versions I'm not entirely sure I prefer her appearance over, say, the Neopets one? As a 'fairy' anyway.   

Basically, overall; generic modernised fairytale plot ,with a whole bunch of unresolved plotholes. But, it is an awesomely intricate animation that is very watchable, and not really painful to get through as films go.

Rating: 6/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Ginger Snaps Review


Honestly I don't have a lot to elaborate on with Ginger Snaps. Worth Watching? I guess so, but I understand if you skip the end, because I know I ended up doing. In short, good but too long. Much like Django Unchained. Tolerable to a point then I just had to walk away.

This film was really promising, though. The actors were brilliant in comparison to most 30 year old teen-pretenders you see these days in films. Katharine Isabelle delivers a convincing role. I can't say I relate much to characters in teen movies despite them being aimed at and/or supposed to be representative of my apparent age group, but the characters weren't too grating to me. The only downfall of this is it dragged out too long. On the positive side, I even liked the initial credits with the death photography/slideshow made by the Fitzgerald sisters. I just couldn't quite make it to the end credits.

If they had rounded the movie off at about what, and hour and a half? It would have been perfect. I'm too impatient for movies to go on beyond two hours and for me to still be watching them (unless they are absolutely fascinating and/or are LOTR). So I have never watched the ending, and probably will take several years to do so. Regardless I still think it is a good film & Ginger's style is boss. So yeah, I think you should watch it.

Rating: 6/10 (-4 for the missing ending)
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis/AbiNor-mew

Brief Thor Review

Saw Thor last weekend... and it was great! Despite my thing about films that have deserts in them... or are desert themed, it surprised me by being really quite brilliant (similar to how Rango did, which was also good).


Shockingly I have nothing to bitch about with Thor. However I am insanely sick of the 'we want to destroy the world without any apparent motivation' backstory behind the villains. I was also really suprised that Kenneth Branagh (a.k.a Gilderoy Lockheart) directed this movie. But not in a bad way.

This movie includes; cool villains lacking in  depth (I still don't really get why they wanted to destroy Asgard before they lost the weird blue cube, 'tesseract' was it?), lots of hilarious nonsense which gave me cramps in my lower back because I was tittering so much (which I won't even bother trying to list), cute Rooney Mara lookalikes if Rooney Mara genderswapped, amazing contact lenses, and hey a half decent story. The hour and something that the film was certainly did not drag. Go see it.

Rating: 10/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

(Edit: This is an old-ish review, I will do an in depth one at some point)

Psychoville (First Season) Review


Hmm, I see I haven't reviewed Psychoville at all yet... I have only just finished watching the first episode of the new Psychoville series, which I have been majorly psyched up for.

Why is Psychoville worth your precious time? I do find this show terribly funny and interesting throughout. Also it is not too long, (about 20-30 minutes an episode?) which is both a good and bad thing. To be honest, I never got into Psychoville until I started liking the character of Mr Jelly (who is a hook handed clown from Salford). Yes, it incorporates clowns... and it is done by the same two writers from the League of Gentlemen (Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton), which is another horribly twisted and hilarious show.

Besides that, the other characters are equally as interesting. Especially Oscar Lomax. I find it so hard to believe that is Mr Pemberton under there! Steve & Reece are fantastic actors no doubt about it, and really immerse themselves in the characters that they play. The humour is definitely dark, but also silly at times, which appeals to me, so it really depends on what kind of humour you enjoy. Linking with the series, the interactive web experience & the characters' web pages are impressive... honestly I wish people would go in depth with characters like that more often.

Anyway, the first episode of Series 2. I cannot tell you how flabbergasted I was when the credits came up, I literally gasped out loud at how fast it was over. So I can only assume I was really engrossed in the story. Was delighted, however that I got to see the new and highly fussed over Silent Singer who seems intriguing enough so far... the sounds played when Jeremy sees him is reminiscent of Salad Fingers, the psychosis of the situation is really fantastically conveyed, even already (since we haven't really got into Jeremy's character). The new character Hattie seems very similar to the old League of Gentlemen character Trish. Also, the altercation between Oscar Lomax, Tealeaf, Mr Jelly and the police investigator was funny, but I shan't spoil it for you.

In short if you haven't watched it already, you're missing out! But I also say that for the whole series if you haven't seen that either.

Rating: 7/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Insidious (2011) Review


What a gem! Admittedly, I was cowering behind my hands too many times to count during this film. Even when the usher was looking at the audience (and probably laughing about it to himself). However, that didn't come as a surprise to me, after finding out James Wan was the director. No pressure to him, but I didn't expect this to be anything less than fantastic and suspense filled.

James Wan is a brilliant, (and also one of my favourites) director. His films (and I refer here to the first three Saws and Dead Silence) are beautifully and artistically refined, but also extremely eerie - he has really got it down to a T in building a tense atmosphere and has created some truly frightening ghosts. Personally, female ghosts hold the scariest presence (such as Kayako from the Grudge, Mary Shaw etc.), so this film really worked for me, as it incorporated several of them.

Saying that, even the not particularly nightmare worthy monsters wreaked seat jumping havoc! In comparison with Dead Silence, it was definitely an improvement in his works. Mainly down to the fact Insidious had a consistent storyline, & ended with a conclusion that at least made some sense. Whereas the ending for Dead Silence was a bit ambiguous, and it brought the film down somewhat.

Being the observant creature I am, I knew I would be buying the soundtrack for this even while I was sat in the cinema. I mean, it was genuinely incredible. Emotion is delivered through the soundtracks of James Wan's films exceptionally. Take a listen to Reverse Beartrap from Saw. He really, really knows his stuff when it comes to detail, and making a truly phenomenal horror film.

Insidious had a compelling story, and completely lacked any long period of time during the film where you weren't kept on edge. Basically, you were on the edge of your seat near enough straight from the beginning. I couldn't even finish my sweets by the end of the movie, because of the silences that came during the suspense and just completely captured the atmosphere over and over again, despite the bustling amount of people that came in to see the film.

Oh and the screening was absolutely full of people, by the way. Several people screamed in the front row, which is a first for me - I've only ever heard people being as enthusiastic as to scream in cinemas when I was over in America. There is also an element of silliness several times in the film which I thought was a nice addition to help temper the perpetual terrifying atmosphere throughout the film.

In short? It was fantastic. Definitely go and see this. I think associating this movie with Paranormal Activity does it no justice. There's is absolutely no comparison. This has been an impressive horror film, despite how many displeasing films of the genre have been emerging recently. Yet again James Wan has done a brilliant job of a film & I hope he continues doing so!

Here's a twee little tune from the movie, that can lull you into sweet nightmares.

Rating: 10/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

House of 1000 Corpses Review


I've shied away from this film for eight whole years since it was released, just from the look of the poster - it looked gritty and psychedelic, and at the time my young mind was still mentally impaired from viewing the Grudge. Also I had heard House was gory, a feature in horror movies I have only recently become accustomed to. This remains a factor of horror I do not hold of paramount importance. Critically, House was panned but it still remains a cult classic today.

Although frighteningly realistic, not as heavy on graphic content, like H2 (Halloween remake from Rob Zombie) for example, or any of the later Saw movies. However there is gore, so be prepared.

To get a full appreciation of it & become accustomed to the insanity of it all, I had to watch this film several times. At first I felt extremely intimidated by the presence the actors Sid Haig, Bill Moseley and Karen Black projected. As serial killers, these three play their roles far too naturally for comfort (well done to all three!). But I warmed to this film despite my initial fears. And so, here I am, reviewing, and drawing thousands of pictures of Otis.

Though, I acknowledge this will not be everybody's cup of tea. As I keep repeating, the entire atmosphere is highly believable. When Sid Haig started losing his temper with Bill from behind the counter I genuinely felt very unnerved, as if it was actually happening before me. As with all slasher/serial killer family orientated horror, obviously there isn't much of a happy ending for the normal folks involved. So, despite the story being actually very compelling and the characters fascinating - it truly isn't for the faint hearted. In fact, it's brutal. And this film is one that is capable of creating a great atmosphere of dread, and does do very well, especially in transporting you into the position of the victims and killers alike. So whether it floats your boat or not depends on what you're looking for in a horror film.

That aside, HOTC has definite elements of an art film. The sets are fantastic; gritty, tacky, elaborately and carefully designed and have a lot to absorb with your eyes. The cinematography is brilliant, inverted shots give this film a real surreal, garish B-movie atmosphere. I loved the short recordings of characters talking to the camera interspersed throughout the film. Noteworthy sets I would say are Otis's own bedroom, of course the Museum of Monsters and Madmen plus Spaulding's shop. Really I felt quite sad that Rob Zombie decided to ditch this style for the Devils Rejects in order give the film a more 'down to earth' feel. Also, the soundtrack is fantastic - sound is used to great effect to reinforce the grittiness of the . There is a good splash of black humour in this movie that I thought helped temper the terror of it all, should you eventually side with the killers.

In short, it's disturbing but compelling.  Might not be your cup of tea, but I'd recommend at least try watching it if you're a fan of horror and haven't watched it already.

Rating: 10/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis/Twiste

Mama Review


I think I just gave myself nightmares :(

So, I went to see Mama today with a good friend. And would you know, honestly, there's not much to complain about really. Gasp! I was a little distressed prior to watching; after seeing the monster wholly revealed in the trailer and clips. But it turns out most of the tension built in these scenes had been cut out in the clips -thus not really ruining the effect when you finally see the film in full.

Therefore I ultimately I saw Mama herself at her creepiest during the film - it looks terrifying as I don't know what when she's crawling after the children during the latter scenes on all fours. Which brings me to my one and only plot critcism- Lily remaining to be with Mama until the end. She is physically terrifying, and from what we see of her interactions as an audience... not particularly nurturing or affectionate - so, yeah... why on earth?

Guillermo del Toro was involved in this film somewhere vaguely, I'm assuming art direction (wrong! he was the executive producer), which is what inspired me not to get my hopes up for this film, as I found the last horror film he was involved with to be an absolute shambles (Don't Be Afraid of the Dark) although I loved the tooth fairy art. This time, on the other hand, the film was great and possessed effective creativity plus a decent story, so there you go. Safe win this time, but then again, he wasn't directing.

This film is laced with artistically spooky features. The moths reminded me of The Possession. But of course its categoric that horror films borrow, and reinvent, and lend scenes and themes all over the place. The attention paid to the abnormal, distorted movement of Mama and her adoptive daughters I think paid off - it was worth those extra 'making of' videos I saw. There's a scene in the movie that reminded me of an art exhibition I visited a couple of months back at Liverpool Tate called Pak Sheung Chuen's A Travel without Visual Experience, where Mama can be seen progressing towards her victim through a series of camera flashes. I think I'd like the idea of incorporating this into a scare attraction as the strobe maze is a done and tested element, the idea of being in control of what limited vision you have as a monster approaches, seems much scarier. Anyway enough babbling about that.

Successfully did this film manage to 'weird it up' for me. Like the imagery of the band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum- a product of a nightmare lost somewhere in the early 19th century. Mama was definitely... unnervingly vintage. There is something undeniably eerie about this time in history. I always find old pictures disturbing to a degree, with how the subjects essentially look dead already, (especially the notion people would want to keep these ? these are made to be nightmare material!).Guillermo really plays on that, with how he presents the flashbacks and such. There was something archaically frightening about the whole concept of Mama - the emotional distress driving a warped, wraith like apparition to claim any children she came across - from an era where the world just was wholly less humane than the present. It's very relatable that in the 1800's, life was a lot scarier in general for everybody, and therefore would understandably produce a much more ominous ghost. Supposedly Mama was kept in an asylum in these times. What I can't relate to however is how the children warmed to such a thing.

I was quite relieved it wasn't all jump scares and no plot, which is what Sinister was veering to. The story was quite nicely tied together, and although it wasn't original in the slightest, the continuity really did it for me. Not left feeling frustrated is all I could ask for really.

Rating: 8/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis