Monday, October 22, 2012

October Horror Part II

More Movies of the Horrific Persuasion!

Pontypool - Or rather, Noam Chomsky's Dawn of the Dead.  Just when you think there's nothing left to be done with the Zombie Movie genre, a gem like this one comes along and surprises you.  Seriously, the vector for infection is unlike anything I've seen in movies or literature, and actually kept me interested. The setting is claustrophobic, the acting is superb, and it's developed in such a manner that keeps you involved until the bitter end.

Splinter - I don't think I can overstate how low my expectations were for this film, so that probably helped cement it as a favorite when it actually turned out to be good.  Even with that caveat, I think most would agree this was a fantastic horror film.  It has what you want - an original villain, special effects that are horrific, but well (and selectively) used to maximize impact, decent acting and a great ending.  I went into this expecting a SyFy Original Movie, and got something else entirely.  The setup is basic - two couples have an unfortunate chance encounter and are trapped inside a remote gas station - it's the execution that matters.  It got nominated for a slew of awards when it came out, but lost to bigger budgeted movies, even though (IMHO), this movie used its money far more wisely and effectively than any of their competitors (which included Saw and Hellboy II).

AM1200 - "Lovecraftian" is a term that gets tossed around quite a bit in the reviews of this short film, and not undeservedly so.  At 40 minutes, this is less of a film than it is a visual business card for first time (non-documentary) director David Prior.  With so little time, there's no need for filler, it gets straight to the point and never lets up, cranking up the tension.  After stealing a bunch of money from his employer, the protagonist goes on the lam, jumping into his car and heading off cross country to escape.  He tunes into the titular radio station as he goes, which preaches an evangelical message at first before morphing into a cry for help.  Continuing his streak of bad ideas, the protagonist decides to track down the station and try and help out.  Anything more would spoil this one, so if you haven't seen it, find it.  The DVD is for sale on the movie's website, by the way.

End of the Line - I was rolling my eyes at parts of this, but stuck with it till the end, and I'm glad that I did.  What at first appear to be rather hamfisted swipes at modern religion actually serve a purpose, setting the viewer up for the ending of the movie, which is both horrific and unexpected.  The upshot is that a cult decides that the end of the world is nigh, and go about "saving souls" using sharp pointy objects.  Some folks are trapped in the subway with some cultists, and drama ensues.  The acting leaves a bit to be desired, but can be forgiven.  Watching it for a second time means wading through the eye-rolling again, and I think the payoff only works once.  So I'm not sure how much replay value this movie has, but if you haven't seen it before, it's worth it, at least once.

Frailty - Speaking of eye-rolling religious symbolism that ends up being better than expected, there's Bill Paxton's directorial debut.  Maybe it's his terrifying earnestness, maybe it's the better than average performances by the kids, but whatever it is, this movie works.  Paxton comes home one day to tell his children that God has told him that there are demons hidden inside some people, and that it's his job to "destroy" them, and he really loves his boys and wants them to be a part of his vocation.  There's a bookending piece to this that provides a nice twist, but it's not really needed - the core story is riveting enough.

House (Hausu) - I try and avoid spoilers in these reviews, mostly because I don't want someone to lose some of the impact of the movie by knowing what they're getting into.  Imagine seeing Dark City for the first time, and knowing that.... what happens... happens ahead of time?  It's still a good movie, but it looses some of the punch.  In this case, I'm not revealing anything because it wouldn't make any sense anyways.  There's really no way to explain this movie without the shared context that comes from having seen it.  Filmed in 1977 but only released in North America several years ago, I can almost guarantee that you will utter the some iteration of the words, "What the hell?" at least once during this movie.  I wasn't even sure whether or not to include it in the list because I'm not sure how much of a horror movie it's supposed to be.  While it uses many of the tropes of horror movies, it has characters with names like Gorgeous, Fantasy, Prof and Kung Fu, and that's the least of the weirdness.  Upshot is, you're never sure exactly how seriously you should be taking this.  Definitely worth the watch, just to say that you have.

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