dir. Chan-wook Park
Can we just settle right now that Chan-wook Park is pretty much one of the most interesting filmmakers of the past few decades? Are we good for that? Yeah? Okay.
As per usual, this is a really beautiful film, it looks phenomenal, sharp contrast, lit like a dream, really interesting mise-en-scene. It’s really funny as well, which was delightfully unexpected. It looked more like a proper horror film at first, but it ended up kind of a dramedy featuring lots of blood and gore.
I don’t really know what else to say about this. I personally would’ve enjoyed it a lot more it’d been a little shorter. A hundred and thirty minutes is too much for this kind of film, but I didn’t mind it as much I thought I would. Overall, an excellent film that I’m looking forward to including in horror watches in the future.
dir. Vincenzo Natali
[DISCLAIMER: I had to do this a day late because I had no time yesterday to watch the film. This will happen tomorrow as well, since I’ll be out from 8:30AM-11PM, but I’ll review stuff on Saturday; today I’ll watch two films]
This was excellent! It’s a shame that Vincenzo Natali’s career didn’t take off as well as it should have because this film is fantastic, and Splice is great as well. He has really good sense of tension and pacing, and the whole set up for this film is really interesting. The way this film was shot is very ingenious, and you can’t really tell that it’s all handheld camera, which to me is a super kudos because when you CAN tell the handheld camera is there is a huge big fat irritating bummer (looking at you, American Honey.)
The cube itself as a set is great, because by virtue of being so Nothing it becomes extremely oppressive, and it almost reflects the characters’ frustrations back at themselves, which in a way fuels their anger at the situation and at each other. And these characters were really great, because it flip-flopped the usual tropes of films like these, when the hero guy ended up being the super villain who is a gigantic asshole. All the characters have their little moments, even Kazan, which is neat.
This is definitely an underrated movie. There are moments of real tension there, when they are in the sound-activated cube, when they find the edge of the supercube-thing and Holloway drops, at the end when Quentin catches up to them. And the biggest moment of tension is this thrumming kind of feeling that carries through the whole film. You’re expecting these characters to all turn out to be child molesters or drug addicts or money launderers, because why else would they be in this punishing situation, but it turns out that they are just regular people who were probably (maybe? we never really find out) randomly picked out to be in this cube, for no apparent reason. And this lack of purpose for the cube or for their being in the cube is the most terrifying aspect of it all because it’s not really a punishment, it just exists. This nihilism is pretty fascinating to me.
Props to Mr Natali, he has wowed me again.
The Witch, 2016
dir. Robert Eggers
Absolutely stunning and haunting.
The fact that this is a new horror film makes me really happy, most of all, because it means not all it lost. (Though to be fair, outside the mainstream Paranormal Activity stuff, there have been some pretty solid horror films recently.) This film is very beautiful, very simple, and most of all, quite scary. The music is those shrill choirs that get right under your skin, and sets a pretty grim tone throughout the picture. The greyness of it is very effective as well, to convey a feeling of desolation and grief. It makes it perfectly plausible that a mistreated young girl would want to run away to join a coven.
What interested me most about this though was what seemed like a commentary on young women living at that time. Thomasin is not a witch, she takes care of the farm, helps her parents, and yet she is the first suspect, because young women were always the first suspects at that time. And today, even. “What was she wearing? What was she drinking?” I think it’s interesting to look at this and think of the helplessness of a young women dealing with an entire world (because at that time their family was their world) who are against them and who tell them they are lying. It’s no accident Thomasin is in the cusp of womanhood, her body is developing, and even her mother at the end calls her a slut, accuses her of seducing her brother and her father. It’s great when period films can successfully comment on the issues of the present.
Go watch this now! Seriously.
Julia’s Eyes, 2010
dir. Guillem Morales
Proper chilling! This film felt really new and refreshing, and the whole idea behind it is very clever. When it gets to the end, a real tension sets in, and there’s an element of danger that makes it very thrilling to watch. I loved it!
The best part about it was how it was shot. We are never shown faces of people Julia doesn’t know. If she doesn’t know what they look like, neither do we, and it’s almost like we’re blind together, which builds a great deal of tension and horror, and then shock when we finally get to see “Ivan” and he looks wholly unthreatening and sort of pathetic.
It’s a well put together film, and there are elements of Del Toro in it, even though he is only the producer (I don’t know how much involvement he had in the making of this) and the etherealness of it is similar to Pan’s Labyrinth. There’s a somber quality to it, the film itself is very blue and downcast, and it feels like a suspended reality.
Fantastic film, could not recommend it more.
The film yesterday (16/10) was supposed to be The Vanishing (1988). I tried watching it when I got home from work at around 11:30pm because I had no time during the day to do it, but I was too tired, and decided to give up and go to sleep at around 00:44. From the hour I kind of watched, it didn’t look like a particularly scary film, but honestly I didn’t follow the plot very well as I was very very tired. Oh, well. Fifteen more days to go.
P.S. I did get to watch three other films yesterday, The Queen of Katwe, Moolaadé, and Theo and Hugo, all of which I heartily recommend even though none of them are horror films.
The Children, 2008
dir. Tom Shankland
Overall I would describe this film as The Happening but with children instead of pollen, but also a lot better.
It’s good! I liked it a lot. There’s some fun kills, and interesting development of the plot. I like the idea of murderous children because children are already the scariest things ever anyway. The shit kids say, it’s like they crawled all the way up from hell sometimes, it’s terrifying. So it was very fitting. But my favourite part was that there was never any attempt to explain anything. The characters were just thrown into the mess and their thoughts were just on how to survive — there was no news broadcast saying children were killing everybody, and it’s not until the end that we learn that this is ALL the children. Plus, the open ending was great, I love when horror films end open like that. The cinematography is beautiful at some points as well, there’s some great shots of blood in snow and frozen things, pretty fantastic.
Of course there were some problems with it, I thought the characterisations were bit flat for the most part, and the ADR was terrible up until the middle of the film, but once it gets going, you really forget about all that, because it’s goes from 8 to 80 and it’s murders galore.
Really fun film! And perfect for a Scary Children movie marathon.
The Howling, 1981
dir. Joe Dante
I got this film from Edgar Wright’s 1000 favourite films list, which is full of amazing stuff, and I’m really happy I did because this is excellent! Kind of schlock-ish, but still great.
The plot itself is fairly simple, and the whole telecasting stuff reminded me a lot of Dawn of the Dead, while the townspeople going mental reminded me of another film I saw this week: Dead and Buried; it also reminded me of The Fog. But I suppose these were common in films at the time because, well, telecasting is an easy way to get exposition out and flesh out your main mythology, while evil townsfolk are always terrifying (even in Hot Fuzz those old folks are a bit spooky.)
But what really takes the prize in this film is the make up and visual effects. Some fantastic work done in the werewolf transformations, really seamless and detailed practical effects — a wonder to watch! I think when it comes to transformations like these, it’s so much more powerful to have practical effects, real make up, and all that, rather than CG, because it looks far more realistic and it’s a lot more brutal. Like An American Werewolf in London, which I believe came out the same year as The Howling, and is also an amazing film.
Definitely deserves a place in a body horror marathon, alongside From Beyond and The Beast Within.