Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled (2002)

Director: Chris Angel
Studios: Overseas Film Group, Artisan Entertainment
Starring: Tara Spencer-Nairn, Michael Trucco, John Novak, Jason Thompson
Tagline: Leave No Soul Unturned
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: horror, thriller, folklore, religious occult
Scare score: F
Rating: D+

Plot overview:  In the final installment of the Wishmaster movies, the djinn (Novak) has returned yet again to unleash his race unto the human world.  Roused from the stone by Lisa (Spencer-Nairn), the djinn takes the human form of his first victim, Lisa's lawyer Steven (Trucco), in order to gain her trust.  This time, Lisa makes all three of her wishes, but when love comes into the picture, the djinn will have a harder time than he expected to fulfill the evil prophecy.

Now that this movie is over, only this blog post is keeping me from bed.  At this point I don't know why they bothered with a fourth straight-to-video movie, but I did read it was filmed only a week after the previous film.  Two bad birds with one stone I guess.


I didn't dislike this movie actually.  It's nothing special, but unlike the third film I found the plot much more compelling.  Based on the title alone I figured that the 'awaker' would make her three wishes this time, and I was hoping we would see some other djinn (which we did!  a little monster peanut gallery tucked away in the flame, but hey).  The cool part was the third wish itself.  I really liked the whole love bit which then put the power of the fulfillment of the third wish in the hands (or heart) of Lisa herself because of her free will.  The plot thickens!

The djinn costume didn't seem as bad in this movie, but he certainly seemed softer as a character.  Certainly he didn't try as ruthlessly to collect three wishes from the person who woke him up, and he didn't lose his patience until the very end.  Deaths were less creative and gore wasn't as plentiful as in other films.

Final critique:  Now that I'm done with the series I hope it doesn't affect my fondness for the first installment.  This wasn't an awful film but it was cheesy and the general audience certainly wouldn't like it.  Like the last film, I wouldn't really recommend this unless you are simply trying to complete the Wishmaster movie marathon.

The first one was good so I got hopeful.  Just goes to show you, be careful what you wish for.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell (2001)

Director: Chris Angel
Studios: Overseas FilmGroup, Artisan Entertainment
Starring: A.J. Cook, Jason Connery, Tobias Mehler, John Novak
Tagline: Three Wishes, One Nightmare
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: horror, thriller, folklore, religious occult, college
Scare score: D-
Rating: D-

Plot overview:  The wishmaster (Novak) is back again, this time awoken by the wholehearted college student Diana Collins (Cook).  In his pursuit for Diana's wishes and therefore the freedom of his evil race, the djinn takes the form of Professor Barash (Connery) in order to track down his victims without drawing attention.  This time, however, the djinn must battle powerful forces of good, but who is the only one that can try and stop him?

I didn't hate this movie as much as the second one, but I suppose that by this point my expectations had already been lowered.  This time around we have a totally different djinn, be that plot or the poor change of makeup and lack of continuity.  In fact, we don't actually see the djinn in his true, bad-costumed self, but rather in the Professor's body the entire time (gee that must help with the budget), not that Connery was anything special (letting his dad down just like Diana in her childhood car accident...oops too soon for her traumatic childhood which causes her trust issues now?  Excuse me while I puke... but actually, Horror Buff has a stomach bug at the moment).

Here we have your typical college movie: the group of friends (50% guys, 50% girls), as usual two couples each with a unique personality.  Diana is our virgin of course, with the kindhearted but frustrated boyfriend, a girl best friend who is sexually active and a little crazy, and her sex-driven boyfriend.  We've never seen anything like that before...  Each classroom scene is filled with literary allusions that just so happen to relate to our plot, and during killing sprees the rest of the school is off partying.  Cliche cliche cliche.

I read a theory online that this is supposed to be a totally different djinn than the previous films, which I like an accept due to a lack of continuity regarding the fire opal and the djinn himself.  He acts totally different yet again, acting as more of the devil himself than merely one demon, and this time around he is able to hurt people even when they don't necessarily wish it.

This movie takes a weird turn when Diana wishes that the spirit of St. Michael - who takes the bodily form of Diana's dedicated boyfriend Greg (Mehler) - to come help stop the wishmaster.  That's new for me!  Of course not even the archangel is a cure-all, and Diana must take on the djinn pretty much by herself in a final rooftop battle *yawn*.

The best thing about this movie is A.J. Cook because Criminal Minds is my jam.  The gore is also pretty decent and I think there was a death scene I liked but honestly I can't remember anymore, so I guess it couldn't have been too great.  Come to think of it, one girl wishes to lose weight and as you might imagine, things get pretty gruesome.

Final critique:  This movie wasn't awful but there's no need to ever watch it unless you're just really into djinn or otherwise stuck in a movie marathon like I am.  The Wishmaster series continues to go downhill in this installment which depends heavily on sex-driven college kids and a bad, corny script to get us through eighty-nine minutes of cliches - well, except for the whole archangel bit.  Still it had a few scares and some gore, so at least it kept things entertaining.

Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies (1999)

Director: Jack Sholder
Studios: Artisan Entertainment
Starring: Andrew Divoff, Holly Fields, Paul Johansson
Tagline: Evil Has Been Summoned... Again!
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: horror, thriller, folklore, religious occult
Scare score: F
Rating: F

Plot overview: After being summoned back into the human world by an unsuspecting thief Morgana (Fields), the djinn (Divoff) continues his mission to fulfill the prophecy to bring about an apocalypse at the hands of his race.  Morgana turns to her ex-flame-turned-priest Gregory (Johansson) to stop the evil genie from collecting 1,000 souls and bringing the rest of the djinn into the world.

This movie was awful and I wasn't even going to blog about it except that there is a Wishmaster marathon on TV (literally be careful what you wish for...) so I figured why not?

This is a made-for-TV movie and it certainly feels like it, if not an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? which I would prefer to have watched.  The script is bad, the acting is bad, the plot is bad, and worst of all it makes a lot of the errors that I thought the first movie neatly avoided.  It furthermore opens up too many plot holes that a viewer can't easily ignore.

For example, this movie draws in some dumb comedy that can so easily ruin a horror movie.  In the beginning of the movie, a cop yells at the djinn "Freeze!"  First of all this is a command, not a wish, and second of all it is directed at the djinn to do to himself.  Although the djinn never listens to anyone else's command without specifying that they wish something of him, he manages to freeze this cop, and then declares "He needed to chill out," a line straight out of Schwarzenegger's mouth in Batman & Robin from two years earlier.

In fact, Divoff, his character, and even his M.O. were almost totally changed in this movie.  I hated Divoff so so so much.  He was creepy and irritating, and reminded me of some nerdy pricks that I met in college.  Whereas in the first movie the djinn spoke as though he were, in fact, coming out of the neo-Persian empire well before the Early Middle Ages, in this movie Divoff was a slick, quick-speaking, modern business man... with a really annoying, self-satisfied, Jack Torrance grin stuck on his face.  The whole plot involves so much sex which is typical of horror movies of this caliber, from the nude art-stricken walls of Morgana's apartment to her nightly lack of pajamas to her love for Gregory.  Furthermore, the movie takes this wild, religious turn (Jesus imagery?  stigmata?  really and why?) with Morgana becoming some pure-of-heart virgin with some apparent tie to the prophecy because of her orthodox religion or because she awakened the djinn - we're never really sure.

Something annoying about this movie is that you can almost tell that the writers (and Divoff) think the whole thing is so clever.  I guess they were following the lighter, more comical standards of horror movies from the time, but it gives no credit to the film.  The whole casino thing was embarrassing, strange, and over the top.  It doesn't even begin to touch the opening or ending sequence in the first film.

Final critique:  Oh well, now I'm stuck in the middle of a 4-installment series that will probably only get worse.  This is the kind of movie that gives the horror genre a bad rep, so while I wouldn't recommend it I guess I'd say it's still not the worst horror movie I've seen and at no point did I want to stop watching it.  I guess give it a try if you're looking for something dopey; there is some gore so if you're not into that, it's only a win-win if you stay away.

Wishmaster (1997)

Director: Robert Kurtzman
Studios: Pierre David, Image Organization
Starring: Tammy Lauren, Andrew Divoff, Robert Englund
Tagline: Be Careful What You Wish For.
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: horror, supernatural thriller, folklore, religious occult
Scare score: C-
Rating: A-

Plot overview: After centuries of being trapped inside the magical fire opal, an evil djinn (Divoff) is finally released into "present day" Los Angeles by an unsuspecting Alexandra (Lauren). Ultimately, the evil entity must track Alexandra down in order to grant her three wishes which will release the rest of the destructive race of the djinn from their realm between worlds. Along the way, however, he collects the souls of other victims slowly and painfully by tricking them into asking for a wish. The fate of the world lies in Alex's hands as she plays the djinn's terrible game, hoping to outsmart him before making her third and final wish.

While laying here sick in bed, I came across Wishmaster 3 on TV and realized that I had never seen any of these movies aside from their VHS cases on the shelves of Blockbuster back in my youth. So with all the time in the world ahead of me, I flipped off the TV and went straight to the internet.

I, uh, really liked this movie. I'm a sucker for big movie plots and romance and cool sets and costumes, so the opening sequence in Persia alone had me hooked. The first thing that strikes you about this movie aside from the sort of mystical plot (which, aside from the whole wishing bit, I found to be pretty closely related to what I had learned about jinn—ghosts of sorts that linger between worlds but often interfere with humans in playful or malevolent ways—in a class I took on Islam in college) was the gore. There is plenty of fun, colorful gore in this movie that reminded me a lot of '80s horror (after all, Wes Craven's name is attached to this first film in the Wishmaster series), a mix of Hellraiser with perhaps some Nightmare on Elm Street. We're talking fun, explosive, makeup-heavy bodies with skeletons breaking out and goo pouring from every orifice, the type of gore that makes you smile but still feel just the slightest bit queasy. I thought the gore was so creative and the costumes and makeup were excellent, specifically in the opening scene in Persia and Beaumont's (Englund) party towards the end of the film. I hope this film got some recognition for that.

The whole plot is just plain fun. The djinn/ genie himself is such an evil jerk we have to hate him. In his natural form is he is kind of scary, although I found his look to be a little too Star Wars meets Jeepers Creepers. Actually, adults with acne scars really freak me out, so I thought that the Nathaniel Demerest human form was even more creepy. I think the best thing they did with this djinn was keep him serious and not let him make any one liners like we see so often in the Leprechaun movies or even in Nightmare on Elm Street (sorry, Freddy). Keeping this genie meanie (I had to) allowed him to actually be a smart, formidable enemy.

Alexandra is a cool, likable leading lady with a sort of '90s girl power about her; we find her somewhere in between the hopeless, clueless, sexy horror movie girls from the '80s and the hopeless, clueless, sexy horror movie girls from the '00s. This girl is all about brain but with looks to boot; thankfully she is never exploited for her femininity, as overall this film stays away from the sex card. Her only fault is that she loves her family and friends, and almost throws away the well-being of the world to save their lives. So selfish! (Just kidding, it's a really tight situation.)

Hey there Robert Englund! Isn't he so evil looking even with no makeup on and while playing a perfectly ambivalent character? This movie has a few familiar faces that we love to see in our growing horror family, such as Tony Todd (Candyman himself!) who I love and Jenny O'Hara from Devil who has a great face and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw her in more movies in the future.


I guess my biggest issue with this film is that I thought the resolution brought up some pretty big plot holes. We've all seen Disney's Aladdin, and more importantly we've all seen Kazaam (coincidence that Wishmaster came out only a year later? I think not) so we know the yesses and nos regarding genies: they can't bring people back from the dead, they can't make people fall in love, and you can't wish for more wishes. Like duh this is so sophomoric why am I even reviewing it, right? Well Alex tries making the evil djinn kill himself, and she gets a bit too literal by saying "blow your brains out," and not to our surprise we find that the djinn cannot commit suicide/ die because he is older than time yadda yadda yadda. At the final climax of the film, however, Alex simply wishes one specific detail (omg because she studied newspapers!! so smart!!) that takes everyone back in time, preventing the djinn from being unleashed from the stone in the first place (for now). Okay... so there were a million other wishes that would have had the same positive result? What if I wished the djinn back into the stone? What if I wished he never was created? What if I wished he wasn't evil? What if I wished him powerless? What if I just politely asked him to stop? The third and final wish and the subsequent 'defeat' of Mr. Genie becomes a bit anti-climactic, and tons of plot holes are opened up. Oh well, at least we have room for a sequel now.

Favorite scene: Hands down, following Alex's second wish when she is returned safely back to her apartment (what a waste of a wish) and the djinn is leaving a message on her answering machine (classic 1997). In the middle of his threatening message, she picks up the phone and yells a forced "F*** you!" Oh snap girl you just shut that djinn djownn!

Final critique: I can see why people wouldn't like this movie. It can be borderline cheesy at times even though it avoids humor which so many horror movies of the '80s and '90s tended to include in some way. My response would be that this movie falls under the horror genre but not under terror. While the djinn is evil, he's a colorful '90s evil. This isn't a dark thriller that instills terror in our hearts by any means, but if you accept that this is a fun horror film, you will be thrilled by the plot and the plentiful gore. I recommend this movie for anybody looking for a fun, light horror with a few scares, but if you can't handle gore (even though it's not realistic), this isn't the movie for you.

Also, is The Horror Blog complete now since I referenced Kazaam? I think that's how life works.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Director: Scott Derrickson
Studios: Lakeshore Entertainment, Firm Films
Starring: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Jennifer Carpenter
Tagline: What Happened to Emily?
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: drama, thriller, exorcism, possession, religious occult, courtroom
Scare score: F+
Rating: C-

Plot overview:  Following the attempted exorcism performed on the now deceased 19-year-old Emily Rose (Carpenter) by Father Richard Moore (Wilkinson), the priest finds himself on trial for negligent homicide.  Assigned to his defense is the self-declared agnostic, career-driven Erin Bruner (Linney), who makes it her job to prove that a darker, spiritual realm exists, not only to the jury, but to herself as well.

I don't really like this movie, so I'm not going to write much about it.  It's one of those "based on a true story" jobs that has virtually nothing to offer us, and in my book (or blog) it shouldn't even be considered a horror movie.  I'm over exorcisms.  I don't really like exorcism movies because they're all the same, and this one proves no different as it brings nothing new to the genre except perhaps that it is actually more of an Inherit the Wind than The Exorcism (which looking at the poster it so desperately markets itself to be), with the 'scary' parts only retold in flashbacks.

I saw this for the first time in about 2006, and I didn't like it then especially because I was surrounded by people who thought it was terrifying.  Even recently I heard someone consider this movie scary.  Like, what?  The fact is this movie is not scary minus perhaps a few good moments as Emily begins experiencing demonic forces (or not) surrounding her at college.  Hence the F+ rather than an absolute failure.

It gets real old real fast that it is constantly raining in this movie, and that the movie itself is so dark (making it very difficult to watch in the daytime).  This film is filled to the brim with pathetic fallacy and exorcism cliches in general.

Luckily Linney is a great, fun actress who just keeps her cool throughout the film and her character's self journey.  Father Moore is a nice guy but pretty blah in general, the character of Emily bugs me in her creepy, wallpaper-patterned dresses and drab Kansas turn of the century, Puritanical look.  I don't like the way the the prosecutor Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott) speaks, or the way he fails to act during most of the film.  I did, however, think the exorcism scene was fun to watch and interesting with its various references to the Bible and history.

Final critique:  This is a boring movie.  It isn't scary unless you get scared by the slightest things, which take place only during about 5 minutes of the movie.  I don't really recommend this film if you're looking for a horror movie, although the religious supernatural courtroom plot does become pretty compelling as the main plot of the film.  Boom, roasted.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Funny Games (1997)

Director: Michael Haneke
Studios: Filmfonds Wien, Wega Film, Österreichischer Rundfunk
Starring: Arno Frisch, Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Mühe, Stefan Clapczynski, Frank Giering
Tagline: Ein Alptraum ("A Nightmare")
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Genre: foreign film, German language, horror, thriller, psychological thriller, suspense, drama
Scare score: D+
Rating: A-

Plot overview:  Wealthy German family Georg (Mühe), Anna (Lothar), and son Georgie (Clapczynski) arrive at their lake house for a relaxing vacation.  While still unpacking, the odd Peter (Giering) shows up at the door asking to borrow eggs for the neighbors, which he clumsily breaks two separate times.  When his eloquent friend Paul (Frisch) shows up, the unpleasantness begins and they break Georg's leg with a golf club.  With the husband out of commission, the family submits for a night full of more terror than they could ever have imagined.

The entire time I watched this movie I was just thinking about how great a shot-for-shot, verbatim English remake would be.  After finishing, I was glad to hear that that already happened in 2007, so I will have to check that out some time soon.

This film was bizarre; it certainly kept me attentively watching throughout its entirety, but it was never really too scary.  In fact, I read that Haneke didn't intend for this to really be a 'horror' film, which it certainly isn't if you limit your definition of horror films to slashers and monsters.  The best way I could describe this to a more mainstream horror audience would be that it does everything right that The Strangers does wrong.  Basically, our two antagonists (but are they really antagonists?) show up at a nice house to torture an unsuspecting family simply because they can.  Perhaps this film makes the torture even sicker than the sheer violence of The Strangers because Peter and Paul's acts are carried out always in game form.  Some of the worst psychological torture came for me in moments such as when the men play a German version of eeny meeny miny moe (a la Elephant) in order to chose a victim, or when Anna is told to play along in order to chose her husband's fate.  Each member of the family at various times is falsely given the power to determine how another family member will be harmed, thus straining one's own conscience as well as the family relations.

Perhaps more than family, this is a movie about a woman.  Lothar shines as a believable wife and mother (perhaps the former more than the latter) from basic tasks such as cooking then later on as a protector and even as a tragic hero.  In fact, unlike women in most horror movies, Anna is never a victim of her womanhood (in the scene where she is made to strip, the environment - though certainly hostile - remains polite under the manners of the psychopaths, and her body is only complimented and neither touched nor violated aside from taking away her privacy).  While Georg's manhood is taken away after his leg is broken, and while Georgie's innocence is lost throughout the ordeal, Anna is our hero - strong and able to attempt escape - but she always remains a mother and wife although she suffers for it.  The filming and script make her the most important member of the family for us, and from the beginning of Peter and Paul's reign of terror we find ourselves rooting for Anna to triumph - a fact which Paul is aware of and calls us out for.

The most unique aspect of this film for me was Paul's character, his breaking of the fourth wall, and his god-like control over the events of the movie.  Although a negative force in the film (assuming we root for the wholesome family, their lives, and their values), Paul becomes the lead player drifting in and out of our reality as viewers and the fictional reality within the movie.  Paul and Peter's conversation at the end of the film is a commentary on the events of the film itself, and Paul - aware that he can break the fourth wall as he pleases - even makes the statement about fictional realities or dimensions being real and actual merely because they do exist, by definition, albeit within some realm of fiction.  Some of the most chilling moments of the movie for me were when Paul would turn around and look through the camera directly at us.  I thought it was funny when he would talk about how the movie was progressing, what we wanted and expected as viewers, and what would be good action and suspense within the events of the film.


One of the strangest things for me was after Anna successfully grabbed the gun and killed Peter.  That made sense to me; it was what we expected (maybe) because it's how most horror movies go, a sudden turn around so that our heroine can break free.  When Paul pulled that stunt with the remote I knew that it was hopeless and that the family was really doomed.  (Well actually, I already knew how this ended because I read about the final scenes before watching. Womp womp)

I thought Paul and Peter were so perfect, so psychotic, so creepy.  Their dialogue made their characters so excellent to me, and that's what I wanted most to be replicated in the English-language version of this film.  I most liked how well-spoken Paul was, and how he kept teasing Peter for his weight.  The scene when Paul keeps talking about Peter's background - with the story constantly changing - was really eerie.  Also, the fact that they kept wanting to eat and play games during their stay at the household further showed the 'ennui' they claimed to be suffering from, and as I've stated in previous entries, the worst kind of terror is a realistic terror that happens simply because it can.

We have to appreciate the commentary this film makes on violence - pure and pointless violence - which is always appropriate considering the amount of terrible shootings, killings, and fights we hear about in our world today.  The cruel and blasé happenings in this film, and the possibility of them happening in real life, push Funny Games into the horror genre in my book.

Final critique:  A lot of people would find this film disturbing, which I can only assume Haneke wanted to happen after watching.  It isn't a scary film, per se, rather what happens in the film and the lack of any motive thereof is what becomes scary for us,  the viewers, no longer safe in our reality that Paul is able to penetrate and even perhaps control as this film breaks away from most horror movie archetypes, going so far as to break two of my cardinal rules in an anticlimactic, unimportant way.  Funny Games, then, becomes not only a horror movie, but an interesting look into a terrible nightmare void of reason that will have us questioning what we would do in a situation where our rights as humans and love as a family are tested and stripped slowly away.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Waxwork (1988)

Director: Anthony Hickox
Studios: Vestron Pictures, Contemporary Films, HB Filmrullen
Starring: Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman, Michelle Johnson, David Warner
Tagline: Stop On By and Give Afterlife a Try
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: horror, comedy, voodoo, teen
Scare score: D
Rating: B+

Plot overview:  A group of teenagers is invited to a late-night showing of a new and mysterious waxwork in town by its suspicious owner (Warner).  The inside of the museum holds a large collection of morbid scenes featuring wax models of 'the most evil men from history.'  As some of his friends begin to disappear, Mark (Galligan) begins to suspect that these life-like waxworks may be sucking in victims in one madman's plot to unleash unspeakable evil into the world.

I stumbled upon Waxwork almost completely randomly during a late-night Wikipedia search session, and I was so happy with my choice.  This movie has a little bit everything for everyone.

Coming more than forty years after the 1953 House of Wax really left its mark in the wax sub-genre of horror, I thought this movie had a cool plot for a horror basis with just enough of that '80s sci-fi and humor to make it an interesting, although not particularly frightening - film.  What I guess drew me most to this movie was the numerous fantastic references to historical and fictional characters such as Dracula, the Marquis de Sade, and the Mummy.  I thought it was strange that the waxwork/ plot of the movie pitched these as all being real people (a werewolf?), but hey I guess the whole plot is out there so why sweat the details.

Back to the details actually (okay, so I'm a stickler), a big problem I had with the movie was that the whole evil plot of the waxwork caretaker was referred to as "voodoo," which it really had absolutely nothing to do with beyond the usage of specific possessions of these 'real' men in their wax recreations. Oh well, that's corny '80s Hollywood horror for you.

All the acting is pretty '80s, which is hard to get away from, but I did enjoy all the quirky, archetypal teens dealing with their day-to-day and then their separate fights to survive various imaginative sequences.  Again, I thought all of these horror allusions were really cool, it allowed the movie to explore various genres and break away from the confining wax museum.  We as viewers were given a selection of refreshing death scenes from across the ages, from Dracula's castle to a mummy's tomb to a nice nod at Romero's living dead.  Sure it was easy to crack up at that oversized gremlin that was the werewolf, but later on I thought the brief gore in the Dracula sequence was pretty gross, and then the large final battle was really a blast.  I didn't actually expect Galligan (what's good, Gremlins?) to be the star of this show, nor did I expect the weird and quiet Foreman to become our leading lady and final girl even though she was the obvious virgin throughout.  Either way, I enjoyed Galligan as a hero we could get behind and cheer on, but I wasn't a big fan of Miss Foreman as Sarah.

I watched this movie immediately after watching Human Centipede, yet surprisingly this one had me jump one or two times, which the former film did not.  True, it was like 4 AM, but to this fun movie's credit, it did have me a little scared at least two or three times (mainly jumpy moments while my guard was down).

Final critique:  I can't think of much more to say about this movie.  I really did enjoy it, and I think a good thing about it is that it provides a few silly scares that everyone can enjoy.  It's rated R I think mainly due to language and some slight gore, plus it's about a group of teenagers and you know how they can be, but all in all I thought it was pretty harmless.  I definitely recommend this movie to anybody looking for a fun '80s flick with a few thrills.

Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2010)

Director: Tom Six
Studios: Six Entertainment
Starring: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura
Tagline: Their Flesh is His Fantasy
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: foreign film, horror, thriller, body horror, mad scientist, torture, tourists
Scare score: B-
Rating: A-

Plot overview:  After their rental car blows a flat tire in Germany during their European vacation, best friends and girly New Yorkers Lindsay (Williams) and Jenny (Yennie) seek shelter in an isolated house.  As their dream vacation quickly turns into their worst nightmare, both girls are drugged and captured by the owner of the house, the misanthropic Dr. Heiter (Laser), a renown surgeon specializing in the separation of Siamese twins.  Now hoping to perfect a reverse surgery, the two girls and a third victim (Kitamura) become the living pieces of the sick doctor's new pet.

I know there was tons of talk and shock etc. when this movie came out a few years back, but it never really piqued my interest.  To be honest it sounded to me like the film took a wild, gross plot (rumor even had it that Six though such an operation would be possible) and went really mainstream with it, resulting in a sell-out that I didn't end up hearing too much about afterward.  Well I don't know if all of that is even true, but I have to say that I finally got around to seeing this the other night and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I was honestly surprised that this wasn't a low-budget gore fest.  I thought this movie had a pretty decent story behind it, with the vacation-gone-wrong theme that scared us so much in Hostel or Turistas.  I specifically appreciate horror based on tourists being kidnapped/ tortured because it is a very practical fear that I think most people (or their mothers) can relate to after stepping out of their homes or off of a plane.  While the whole co-joining of people was something new to me, it came as no surprise that it was done so clearly as a continuation, of sorts, of Nazi experimentations.  Like, the story is about a German doctor - no shocker there that he is portrayed in long, clean lab coats; tall, shiny boots; a modern and extremely clean house where he can conduct his crazed experiments on live specimens.  To me, this was just another joust from the Dutch in their endless game of how they can still insult Germans by calling them Nazis.  Gotta love Europeans.

Dieter Laser was such a weirdo in this movie and I loved it.  From the first scene when the girls arrive at his house and he looks outside with those creepy eyes, or when he bluntly tells them "I don't like human beings."  Ugh that was so good.  Big applause to his freak out scene later in the movie as the cops get on his trail and he begins to realize he may not be getting away with all his crimes.  I read that he stayed in character at all times while on set, which would have made filming this with him even more uncomfortable.

Speaking of filming... what was that like for Williams, Yennie, and Kitamura?  Like imagine you're an aspiring actor or actress and you land a lead in this film and then they're like "Ohh yaa the only catch is that after the first third of the movie where you scream and cry a lot, in the last two-thirds of the movie you're on your knees with your mouth against so-and-so's butt.  K see you on set byee!"  I want to go find interviews with these people to learn how weird that must have been.

I liked our three victims.  I was almost surprised in the first few scenes of the movie when the girls are getting ready for their night out that they didn't come across as the typical immature, annoying, all around bad actresses that we are so used to in modern horror.  Especially Williams struck me as a mature, serious actress... I mean yeah, that changed later on when their acting was reduced to crying, screaming, and then crawling around, but props to them anyway for those first few scenes.  Kitamura pretty much cracked me up the entire time.  I really wasn't expecting some random Japanese guy in the film, but I loved how vocal he was and I thought the Japanese language was beautiful even though it was distressed and probably vulgar most of the time.  But what a character, with some interesting dialogue to boot.

The cinematography, namely the exterior shots of the house (and the interior, too) impressed me.  It was nice to see some thought put into what I was expecting to be a sell-out blood bath.  Honestly, the good filming combined with the several *almost* escapes plus the amount of time it even took for the whole centipede bit to begin really surprised me; together they really gave a thought-out movie feeling to this film, and I spent my night pretty delighted to be watching a fun and often funny movie (it had me laughing quite a bit).

Final critique:  This movie certainly wasn't what I was expecting it to be.  I know now that I'll be recommending this to people, although it certainly is not for everyone (just mention the basic plot to most people and you risk them vomiting on your shoes).  To be perfectly honest, however, I thought that the movie stayed on the polite side of things, and I found myself wanting more gore, more excrement, and maybe less tears (does that make me weird?)  Well I guess my next step would be checking out the sequel, which I've heard makes up for the blood etc that this first one leaves out, but after reading the synopsis I don't know that I can handle it!  Stay tuned, my pets.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Victim (2010)

Director: Matt Eskandari, Michael A. Pierce
Studios: Pierce/ Williams Entertainment, Kingdom of Light Entertainment, Zero Gravity Management
Starring: Stephen Weigand, Bob Bancroft, Brendan Kelly
Tagline: It's Not Always Who You Think
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Genre: psychological thriller, drama, mad scientist
Scare Score: F
Rating: D-

Plot overview:  A young man (Weigand) is kidnapped and forced to undergo extreme mental and physical torture in a surgeon's (Bob Bancroft) twisted plot for revenge.

I realize I have been gone for months, dropping out of the horror movie and blogging scene to enjoy a lazy summer.  Well boredom has kicked in, and my duty to The Horror Blog has found its way back into my schedule.  

Unfortunately, this is the movie I chose to start with.  I was looking forward to a lazy Saturday night on Netflix's awful horror movie selection, and for some reason this seemed appealing.  The movie poster certainly helps, but what really pulled me in was the the short description for the film basically made me think I was in for a perhaps gorier, English-language version of Almodovar's La piel que habito which was so excellent I don't know why I haven't blogged about it.  

This movie was nothing that non-spoiling internet reviews promised it to be: it was boring, not frightening whatsoever, there was no gore considering the movie is about forced surgery, there was very little plot evolution and everything was predictable.

Returning to Almodovar, I don't get how the two movies can exist separately, and I was upset to learn that Victim is the older of the two films.  The plots are exactly the same except Victim is boring and slow and cheap and poorly done with no artistic valor that I could find.  I mean, to be honest I did really like Georgie (Kelly), and while Dr. Volk really annoyed me I thought he was pretty perfectly creepy.  In fact, this movie is saved by the fact that the acting is not horrible; the actors are just not given much room to do their thing, per se.  But really, this movie has the same exact plot as La piel que habito - like the plots are 98% identical.  How is that legal?  Oh well.  Almodovar trumps.

Back to the bash, this movie was boring and frustratingly predictable - but to its credit, I didn't feel the urge to turn it off (hence a D- rating instead of a flat F).  The movie delivers in no way except for a kind of sadistic pleasure of revenge which kept me hoping something shocking would happen.  There was that one little plot twist regarding Rachel (Jennifer Howie), the daughter's, fate, so I guess that was interesting, but still this movie was a kind of one-time mistake in my book.

Final critique:  I'm back on the horror blogging scene and this is my flaccid debut.  This movie has a cool (though not unique) plot which had me setting out with big expectations.  The film didn't deliver, but I was able to sit through it hoping it would improve.  While it never was great, this is not the worst horror movie I have seen, so if you feel like sitting through La piel que habito's ugly little sibling, this is the film for you.