Cinepub


31 Days of Horror 7: V/H/S (2012) by Jamie

Ah, the horror anthology. It’s a tradition that dates back to a time immemorial when cavemen would sit around campfires telling tales of Neanderthal ghosts, trying to scare each other before all piling into their foot-powered cars and heading to the local fast-food eatery for some giant ribs I assume. That proud tradition returns once again with ‘V/H/S’.

Ok, first I feel as though a quick history lesson is in order. VHS cassettes were large, rectangular blocks of plastic filled with tape that allowed you to view your favourite films in ever decreasing quality. They had no way to skip between chapters meaning, if you were so inclined, you’d have to fast-forward to your favourite scene which essentially involved still having to watch everything that came before it but at a slightly higher speed. Oh, and you had to rewind it all the way to the beginning once you were done. Rental shops in particular got very angry if you didn’t… Ok, rental shops were basically Netflix but you had to go outside to get the movies on the ever-decreasing quality plastic blocks and then return them, rewound of course, after a set period of time. It was a dark and barbaric time.

The premise then of V/H/S is that some twenty-something ne’er-do-wells discover a cache of old VHS tapes and discover that each one contains an horrific story filled with terror! So yes, this is another found footage movie much like yesterday’s entry The Bay. Unlike The Bay, however, V/H/S is nowhere near as well shot. In fact it has some of the shakiest shaky-cam I have ever had the misfortune to see. Seriously, I contemplated turning it off during the first segment because it was borderline unwatchable. Still, I figured that then I’d have to figure out what movie to watch instead and changing my mind after coming to a decision is difficult because I find myself paralysed by near-infinite choice, so I decided to stick with it. And I am actually kind of glad I did.

V/H/S is by no means as satisfying a film as The Bay, not by a long shot but It certainly has moments of genuine creepiness that compelled me to keep watching. One of the problem with the film is that some of these segments, whilst building quite a decent amount of tension, end rather disappointingly. On the other hand some of them work too well, leaving you feeling as though they actually might work better as a stand alone feature, given a little time for the story to breath a little better. Still “a mixed bag” is often the best way to describe any horror anthology movie and so it I with V/H/S

Over all, I would definitely say this is worth a watch. The good segments are genuinely good and the even the mediocre ones have something to keep you hooked for a while. Perhaps it’s biggest fault is it’s running time. A movie like this didn’t really need to be nearly two hours long and I can think of at least one segment that the loss of which might have improved it slightly. Still, other than that a generally enjoyable experience. Three pints out of five. Laterz.



31 Days of Horror 6: The Bay (2012) by Jamie

In 1975, a film was released that made people afraid to go into the water. That movie was, of course Jaws and it is probably my favourite film of all time. Despite having watched it ever since I was a little kid, it has never made me particularly afraid of sharks or the ocean. Perhaps this due to so many repeated viewings having desensitised me or perhaps it’s due to living in England where the chances of being eaten by a shark are comparatively low. Still, I may have finally found my Jaws.

Don’t get me wrong. The Bay is not as good as Jaws but fuck me if it isn’t an effective horror movie. It manages to build tension through creative edits and managing to weave different characters story lines in an effective manner. Yes, this is a found footage movie but it might just be the best damn found footage movie. Trust me, I’m sick of them too but The Bay is different in that it manages to be somewhat original in it’s use of the format.

Rather than tell the story from one group of people’s point of view with one camera, it rather links together various different camera sources such as a budding reporter, an internet chat between a doctor and the CDC, a teenagers phone and many more to tell a cohesive story that gives you the sense of a town completely ravaged and breaking down. There is one scene where… Well, I won’t say except that it involves a n otherwise complete silence being interrupted by distant sounds that I found utterly chilling. It was incredible.

See, I’m not even gonna tell you the story since I think you should just watch it already. Seriously, it’s great. If I have one complaint it’s that the acting can be a little ropey at times, a symptom of found footage movies where people try and act realistic which never comes of a realistic. Still, I fully recommend this goddamn movie. Four pints out of five.

 



31 Days of Horror 5: Room 237 (2012) by Jamie

So I decided to take something of a different route for this entry into 31 Days of Horror. I honestly haven’t had that much to say about the films that I’ve watched so far. The ‘let’s randomly watch a film that I just stumble upon’ approach has been, let’s say, unrewarding for the most part. So I reckoned I’d take a look at a film that I’d heard a lot about. It’s not a horror film itself persay. Rather it’s a documentary about one of the greatest horror films of all time, a little film called ‘The Shining’ by Stanley Kubrick. It is not, however, a film about the making of The Shining. Instead it is a film about all the conspiracies and secret meanings that certain fans have read into it.

Now, I don’t think I’d be causing any waves if I said that Stanley Kubrick was undeniably a genius filmmaker. Many of his films are considered among the greatest of all time with The Shining in particular often topping horror film list and with good reason. He was also something of a perfectionist and a somewhat private person. This privacy garnered him the somewhat unfair reputation as a recluse. It is this famed attention to detail plus this supposed reclusiveness that has certainly helped some of the conspiracies and myths build up around him. There is also the fact that some of his films are, well, kinda batshit insane.

Still just because The Shining has something of an aura that is conducive to conspiracy does not mean that conspiracies actually exist as is true of any conspiracy theory. And this is one of the problems with ‘Room 237’. The film is literally just voice over of people explaining their particular conspiracy theories over often slow motion shots of the film. In terms of style, the film I could most compare this to is ‘Zoo’, a film which I was not exactly a fan of. So all you get is the someone talking largely nonsense about how The Shining is actually about the genocide of the Native Americans or the Holocaust or how Kubrick faked the moon landings or some other bull crap. I’ll admit, some of the conspiracies are somewhat interesting though still so loosely cobbled together as to be laughable, all the result of random coincidence and self-delusion. Seriously, if I watched it enough times I could probably come up with a theory about how ‘Freddy Got Fingered’ is actually a treatise on the Kennedy Assassination that reveals the identity of the true shooter.

The truth is that conspiracy theories aren’t nearly as interesting as the people who come up with them and that’s what could have made this film a whole lot better. Show me the people behind the conspiracies. Let me get to know about them and more about why they think this way. As it is, all I have is a collection of faceless voices giving me their secret meanings about a film. In essence, someone has made a documentary about an internet message board. Well done.

In summation this could have been a really interesting film if it had delved just a little deeper than the surface it offered. Still it has left me wondering just why the fuck Jack Torrance is reading an issue of Playgirl while he waits to meet the hotel manager? Two pints out of five. Laterz.

Room 237



31 Days of Horror 3: Carved (2007) by Jamie

Ah, Japan. Home to big titted zombies, executive koalas and battlefield baseball. Yes, the land of the rising sun is often a source of fascination for those in the West because sometimes their cultural output can seem a little… odd to our sensibilities. Awesome but still odd.

So hey, I thought, let’s go for a good ol’ fashioned Japanese horror film for this edition of 31 Days of Horror. Something different to excite the blood a touch. And was I disappointed? Well, yes and no. Carved (aka Kuchisake-onna or Slit-Mouthed Woman) is based on a modern Japanese urban legend about a woman with her mouth slit open from ear to ear, ala the Joker from ‘The Dark Knight’. I won’t recount the entire legend here so I shall point you to the wikipedia entry here. Needless to say, it is exactly the kind of thing that kids come up with, no different really than something like Bloody Mary or the like.

And the legend actually makes a fairly decent, if somewhat subdued, movie. It’s obviously something of a low budget film as the few times that you do see make-up effects, they are clearly a bit budget but they are used sparingly enough that it doesn’t really matter that much. Despite it’s low budget, the movie manages to serve up a few creepy and shocking moments, particularly moments involving children that I don’t think you’d ever see in an American horror movie.

Despite the fact that the film was enjoyable as a whole, I did feel as though it did start to drag towards the end and I found my mind wandering a little. There is also some kind of message about child abuse (the hitting kind not the catholic priest kind) that is a little lost on me. So if you hit kids you become a slit-mouthed crazy lady? But people who didn’t abuse their kids were also possessed by her and… No, I’m just not sure I’m getting it. As for the acting, well, I can’t really comment. When someone’s talking in a different language, they could be Japanese Tommy Wiseau and I’d be hard pressed to tell.

So overall not a terrible film but nothing spectacular either. I guess it’d fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum so 2.5 pints out of 5. Laterz.

 

Eeek!



31 Days of Horror 2: Walled In by Jamie

Part of what I was hoping to uncover during this 31 Days of Halloween adventure were some hidden gems, some little seen movies that were actually deserving ofway more attention. When I saw Walled In on Netflix, I hoped that it might be one such film. The premise seemed interesting. It was abut someone who trapped people inside walls and the image on Netflix showed a screaming woman buried up to her waist in wall. Awesome, I thought, already imaging a twisted psychopath surrounded by people wailing in horror as they were trapped halfway inside walls.

Unfortunately, this was not the film I got. It in fact takes place 15 years or so after a maniac trapped people inside the walls of a building and suffocated them by pouring concrete in with them. The film is, in actuality, an attempt to be every other film, lifting plot points, shots and even sounds from other films. Sometimes it’s Nightmare on Elm Street, sometimes it’s Psycho, sometimes it‘s The Shining. Sometimes it’s the tale of a woman haunted by the ghosts of those who had died in this building before her, sometimes it’s the tale of a psychologically damaged person torturing and tormenting another out of a twisted sense of vengeance. Walled In is many, many things but the one thing it isn’t is good.

It’s boring, the acting is about one degree above that in Birdemic, the plot is nonsensical at best and I fell asleep a couple of times, leading me to have to rewind the damn thing to try and see what I’d missed which served to only prolong my misery. I’ll admit that there were a couple of moments where I found myself a little engaged by the plot but these were few and far between. Overall a deeply disappointing experience. One pint out of five. Laterz.

Walled In



31 Days of Horror 1: In The Mouth of Madness (1994) by Jamie

It’s the most wonderful time of year, the time when killers stalk, monsters hunt and ghosts haunt. When the deep, dark fears that dwell within the collective mind of mankind are given form and allowed to roam free on our movie screens. Yes, once more ‘tis the season of Halloween. To celebrate this year, I’ve decided to engage in an activity that I’ve seen a number of people indulging in, namely watching a horror film a day for each day of the month of October or should I say Spooktober! No, my legal team have informed me that I should not, in fact, say Spooktober. Ever.

Anyway, my criteria for this 31 Days of Horror thing is rather simple. Pick a horror film I haven’t seen, watch it and then review it. Of course, this can garner a mixed bag of results. Some movies can be so painfully middle of the road that they just kind of aren’t worth reviewing. Still, I shall soldier on regardless safe in the knowledge that there’s at least a new ‘Child’s Play’ film in my future. Anyway let’s begin with John Carpenter’s Lovecraftian tale ‘In The Mouth of Madness’.

One of my biggest regrets, other than not attempting to have sex with Scarlett Johansson that one time I was in the same room as her, is the fact that I have never read any of HP Lovecraft’s works. Every now and then I’ll get it in my head to but then I look at his bibliography and the arguments about a suitable reading order online and I eventually give up. Still I have absorbed at least a passing knowledge of the Lovecraftian mythos from the general pop-culture milieu and one day I will finally settle on where to start and actually indulge. Until then, I figured that maybe ‘In The Mouth of Madness’ might be a good place to look to satisfy that longing for eldritch abominations that I seem to harbour. Sadly, it kind of wasn’t.

Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the film, I did for the most part. I just think that perhaps the pacing was a little off. Hmmm, let me begin at the beginning. The film basically follows the recollections of John Trent, insurance fraud investigator, as he tells the story of how he came to end up in an insane asylum after attempting to find out what happened to horror author/Lovecraft surrogate Sutter Cane who has vanished just before his new book ‘In The Mouth of Madness’ is due to be released causing his rabid fans to partake in a bit of rioting.

The trail of clues that Trent uncovers leads him and Cane’s editor to a town that fans of the author’s books may be familiar with. Will Trent find Cane and his new manuscript and is there any truth to the rumours that Cane’s work can turn people mad?

Now like I say, for the most part I did enjoy this film. Sam Neil plays Trent and he can play a man unsure of whether or not his sanity is slipping away with the very best whilst still managing to maintain an air of scepticism in his portrayal. The film also isn’t short on classic Carpenter style with the film bringing ‘The Thing’ to mind on more than one occasion and even reminding me of a less comedic ‘They Live’ at times.

My main problem with the film is the pacing. It just doesn’t give enough time for the tension to build properly. It feels as though there’s an attempt to make the film feel like it’s about the slow, creeping rise of insanity and the realisation that reality may not be as real as you thought but the film moves too fast for that feeling of tension to ever really build and in the end, you can’t help but feel slightly disappointed because of that. Still, this is definitely one for Carpenter fans who may have overlooked it. Three pints out of five. Sorry that this review is a bit truncated but the idea for this came late and now I must sleep to be refreshed and ready for another spooktacular review tomorrow!… What’s that? Never use the word spooktacular either. Fine. Laterz.

 

 

SPOOKTACULAR SPOOKTOBER! MWAHAHAHAHA!



Review: World War Z by Jamie

The best Zombie fiction is, at heart, about humanity. The zombies themselves are a containment system, a way to keep people trapped together and come into conflict with each other. Of course if a storyteller is really good, the zombies can represent much more than a barrier. They are a force that look ostensibly human but they cannot be fought in ways that you would fight people. They cannot be reasoned with and they know no fear. They will keep coming, wave after wave. Some of them may even have once been people you know. People you loved. The psychological horror of having to smash in a loved ones head before they start munching on your intestines is quite intense. Zombies are death, zombies are disease. Zombies are the hopelessness that humanity feels at the hands of both these things, the unstoppable force that will claim us all.

No person got this balance between the humanity of the zombie narrative and the psychological horror of fighting what is essentially death itself better than Max Brooks in his 2006 novel ‘World War Z’. By writing the book as a series of interviews performed around twenty years after the initial outbreak and ten years after the end of World War Z, Brooks was able to explore the politics of a global zombie apocalypse as well as the smaller, more human stories. From Israel’s closed borders to starving survivors turning on each other in the frozen North, he managed to give us glimpses of what would occur on each level of human society. He also gave us an insight into the impact of fighting a horde of zombies and how ineffective modern military tactics would be against them such as in the disastrous battle of Yonkers.

It was a book that lifted zombie fiction as a whole so, of course, they decided to turn it into a movie which, after many problems during it’s development was finally released yesterday. Holy fuck, is it awful. I must say that congratulations are in order. It takes some massive balls to strip both humanity and zombies from World War Z and these filmmakers clearly have them. Huge swinging brass balls.

Ok, first to the zombies. These aren’t zombies. The creatures in this film are velociraptors in zombie form. They run, the scream, they jump. They also don’t eat people so I guess maybe they are vegetarian velociraptors. They still bite though. They bite and run off and the people who are bitten turn instantly. Instantly. So you have a creature that can run without getting tired, leap like a grasshopper and only thinks about biting other people so that they can turn them into creatures like themselves, essentially giving them an unlimited and insanely fast reproduction rate. Do you know whtat that is called? It’s not a zombie or an epidemic, that is an extinction. Pure and simple. After the initial outbreak in all major US cities, we see the family stop to raid a supermarket which has been stormed by a good hundred or so others. No. Just no. There is literally no way that, given the type of enemy humanity is facing, any unarmed person should be able to step outside, let alone large groups of noisy, panicky people. It’s just so fucking stupid.

This insanely fast breed of whatever the hell these are also manages to eliminate one of the more interesting aspects of the book. Without the traditional slow-moving zombies, we don’t get a build up to World War Z. We don’t get to see the political ramifications as countries either take the threat seriously, ignore it or try to calm their population with placebos. Israel still walls itself off but the explanation as to why and how they did it so quickly is pretty fucking stupid. The only other time that we get a glimpse of any kind of political strategy that any country has for dealing with the outbreak is being told that North Korea organised a program where it pulled the teeth of it’s entire population because no bite means no infection. Other than that, there is no political strategy, no military strategy. Nothing going on globally except for Brad Pitt trying to find a cure, going all around the world to do it and finding everyone largely receptive to his visits. You’d think that people would be more suspicious of anyone travelling anywhere given the state of the world but seeing as people turn instantly I guess there’d be no need to worry that someone might have been bitten and snuck on to a plane. Thank fuck they completely closed off that possible avenue of dramatic tension. We wouldn’t want things to become interesting in any way, would we?

So that’s the zombies, what about the humanity? Well Brad Pitt really cares about his family. It’s a good thing that after the first half hour they are literally never in any danger again. Then Brad Pitt is off travelling around the world, meeting folks. Some of them get killed but we never get to know them well enough for anyone to care. There is a female character he befriends, Segen an Israeli soldier but she is as characterless as the CGI hordes chasing them. We don’t ever get a moment where someone has to feel conflicted about killing a zombie who, moments ago, was a loving member of their family. We never even really get to see anyone conflicted by the fact that the monsters hunting them were ever humans at all. Like I said, there is no military strategy here. There’s no moment where they realise that the creatures can’t be fought like you would fight people. There is just soldiers firing into waves of velocizombies as they hurtle towards them. There is nothing deep here. There’s barely even anything shallow.

In essence, World War Z is a Roland Emmerich disaster movie. It’s ‘2012’ except that the tidal waves are made out of people instead of water. It’s a CGI-fest with dull action scenes plastered between dull scenes of exposition. It is dull. Still I can understand why they decided to make this so different from the book. I mean, framing the film around something like interviews in order to tell a story about undead creatures through flashbacks would be impossible and certainly nothing in Brad Pitt’s past would suggest otherwise…

Still, this was completely the wrong way to go about adapting this book. Not that they did adapt the book, they just bought the rights to the title and slapped it on this. The only way that World War Z could ever really be brought to life is with something akin to a miniseries and hopefully one day we’ll see it. Until then, avoid this piece of shit like the plague. Zero pints out of five. Laterz.

World War Z? More like World War GO FUCK YOURSELF!




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