Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Diabolique (1996)






In 1955, A hitchcockian thriller called Les Diaboliques scared up French audiences with high tense suspense and a shocking surprise ending that had everybody talking. 41 years later, writers Herni-Georges Clouzot and Dan Ross and Director Jeremiah S. Chechik, whose best known for National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Benny and Joon, decided to remake the movie starring Sharon Stone, Isabelle Adjani, Chazz Palminteri, and Kathy Bates. Now I wouldn't call the original a "horror movie", It was just psychological thriller with horror movie elements. So I really don't see how a director, who's not particularly known for thrillers, would remake this.
Looking at this movie was like watching an overly long, over-the-top soap opera to the point where it becomes campy and unintentionally funny. Even Sharon Stone thought this was a black comedy, which the movie could've worked better that way. Most of the film drags on too long to the point where you just want to get it over with and it has no suspense what so ever. A Lifetime Movie Of The Week would have  better payoffs and suspense than this movie. Actually there was a Lifetime TV version of this that was much better in my opinion. In the end, it could've went well with what it was given but besides the great cast, it's wavered down by a bad script and bad choice for a director.
The Story: The wife of an abusive headmaster and his mistress decides to get rid of him once and for all by drowning his body and leaving it for dead in the pool. After that, strange events occur and panic and paranoia starts to creep on the two women. Which brings the question is the husband is dead or.....alive.


Again, you have really good actors for the cast, however, it still doesn't save the movie and you're kind of left disappointed.


Sharon Stone is playing her usual ice queen roles, a role that she plays best. Her character in the movie is sort of like the scary stern teacher trapped in a body of a glamorous movie star.


Speaking of which, it shows that the Nicole character lives in this rinky dink apartment in Pittsburgh. I know Teacher's salaries are pretty low these days but how the hell could she afford those expensive clothes?


Anywho, the movie tries to play up the ambiguity of the character whether she is with or against Mia, which works in a way I guess. Sharon Stone was actually the highlight of the movie. I thought her catty remarks and saucy spitfire attitude was just a treat to watch. It shows that she didn't take the movie seriously as much as the audience did.


Isabella Adjani was perfectly casted for a role like this since she's known for playing broken-down fragile characters. Though there were times where she's a little stiff but it was all about the emotion she put into the performance. Isabella Adjani is a very expressive actress and it was good that she was able to convey a put-upon character like Mia is.


But it all comes down of how the character is written. There were times where Mia comes off like a bumbling idiot and you just wanted to slap her. She couldn't just keep it together for one second after her and Nicole "murdered" Guy. I know the character is supposed to be paranoid and nervous, which is the catalyst for her weak heart, but the choices she makes make her less than smart. But I would say that Isabella Adjani gave an okay performance.


Chazz Palmentiri is pretty much known for playing menacing villains, especially in mobster films but I can't help to say he was kind of phoning it in. The same goes for Sharon Stone because she's good at what she does though Palmenitri was expected to play a role like this. So I'm not going to dwell too much on his performance, he was good either way.


As for the Guy character, one of the more abusive things he does to his wife is say how much she's lousy in bed and in one scene forces her to eat cafeteria in which all the teachers and students refer to as 'dog shit'(even though it doesn't look that bad) and is also implied to be something of a gold digger, marrying Mia so he can have full control of the school. So the Guy character is pretty much comes off like the generic villain and there's not much more to that really.


The one drastic change the movie did was by changing the detective character into a woman to have some sort of feminist underling to survey the plot of the story. Played by Kathy Bates, the detective seems a little bitter about men. It's one thing to have a strong female character, I would give the movie points for that, but to have her be this ball-busting crusader against men is a little contradicting and you sort of know where the film is going at the point. It's best to show not tell is what I'm saying. Even Sharon Stone's character bitches about her and says, "I hate that in-your-face survivor crap." You see comments like that makes me wonder why wasn't this movie turned into a comedy or a parody of some sorts.
There is absolutely no suspense or tension in this movie. I barely wouldn't even call this a horror movie even though the 1955 movie is called a horror movie in it's own right. However, this fails to capture any of the scarier moments the original had.


I would say the lesbian subtext that was in the original was just subtext. In this version, they try to play that up. Since Sharon Stone and Isabella Adjani are two attractive women, the movie tries to have sexual tension between the two characters just so it could be a ploy to have male butts in the theater. It's implied that Nicole is secretly in love with Mia and is jealous of Guy, even though she's in a sexual relationship with him but it doesn't go anywhere.  You're left wondering what if but it's all sexual tension and nothing else.
The original's ending after the shocking twist, really didn't dwell on me. The movie just abruptly ended and that's that. But this version changed that all right. So this is the moment you've been waiting for the twist ending that pretty much had everybody talking....though not in a good way:
So Mia, in full sense of panic and paranoia, is wondering whether she is hallucinating if Guy is alive or not, finally sees him in the bathtub, seemingly dead. Then all of a sudden, he rises, staring at her with dead white eyes. Mia in full shock, has a heart attack and dies. Okay just to add this here: what made the twist of the original great was how unexpected it was while the suspense and tension was on full high. Unfortunately in this version, it fails to capture any of that and also felt rushed.




So Nicole comes in and Guy is all happy that their 'plan' worked, then once Nicole looks down at Mia, turns out Mia is still alive and once Guy catches wind of this, the two women play a cat and mouse game until all three of them duke it out in the swimming pool until Mia and Nicole are able to drown Guy, again, leaving him dead once and for all.


Then Detective Voguel comes along and out of nowhere punches Mia in the face, claiming that will be evidence for self defense. And so as the two women leave off and move on with their lives, Voguel triumphantly smokes a cigarette while looking down at Guy's drowned body.
Wow. Just wow. I have never seen an ending so stupid. It had no excitement what so ever and it just left me blank the entire time. I wasn't really bothered that the movie kept Mia alive, I will give more points to that, but again like the original's ending, there's just no impact.
There's nothing more for me to say except this was marketed it as a sexy Sharon Stone thriller but it's neither sexy nor thrilling and the audience was therefore left unsatisfied as this was box office bomb upon it's release.
The Verdict? Watch the original or better yet the 1993 Lifetime version. Yeah, it's kind of cheesy but at least there's more to it. But for your amusement, you could probably give the 1996 a watch as well.
My Last Word: it's up to you, though this could be a chore to sit through.














 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Night Of The Living Dead (1990)





In  1968, a young special effects master by the name of Tom Savini had his first gig working on the George A. Romero Classic, The Night Of The Living Dead, though that never came to be since he was called on duty during Vietnam. Now 22 years, at the top of his prime, he recaptures the same intelligence and masterful effects in his 1990 remake, which is incredibly awesome.
What was so great about the original was it's strong political message hidden in the film. It was a rarity to have a black male hero in a horror movie and have him to be the rational, resourceful, quick-witted thinker, among the irrational and not so smart white cast. By the end of the movie, nobody lives and it has an all around bleak ending. At the time, it's one of those horror movies that will make you think and think till this day.
So It was probably a challenge to have that same political message in a 1990 setting and in Technicolor. But the political message still works in this movie as we see it through Barbra's eyes, shifting much more towards a feminist perspective, which is great because it adds a fresh new take on the story while putting much more action and conflict between the characters and the situation.
The Story: Unbeknownst to a plague turning people into walking corpses, Barbra and her brother Johnny are on their way to visit their mother's grave. Suddenly, a zombie appears out of nowhere and attacks them both. Unfortunately, Barbra's brother doesn't make it. Almost barely escaping from yet another zombie attack, Barbra hides out in an abandon house where she meets Ben, one of the survivors from the zombie outbreak. With five other survivors joining along the way, the group of strangers must find a way to prevent the zombie from killing them and from killing each other.


The cast is fantastic, along with horror veterans Tony Todd and Tom Towles. The biggest change in the new Night Of The Living Dead remake is the characters. They're still the same, just updated in a modern way.


Ben played by Tony Todd is still a competent leader but rather flawed. he's just as scared and irrational as everybody else and not taking the time to listen to anybody's ideas, especially Barbra and Cooper's, knowing in the spur of things they could be right. He realizes this tragic mistake in the end and eventually seals his fate.


Tony Todd is just awesome in this and there's even an iconic shot in the movie when he first appears. Just to let you guys know this came out BEFORE Candyman. Anywho, Tony Todd gave a head-on performance and knows how to do karate well.


Then we have the true star of it all.....Barbara! She is just all kinds of kickass! I like how they make her a strong capable heroine who holds her own this time and that's probably the best change that the filmmakers did with the movie. Looking at Barbra from the 1968 original, she was kind of meek and useless, just sitting around being in a dazed, confused state. To be honest, Women in films back then weren't as progressive as they are now.

So It was really refreshing for Barbra in this version to get angry, aggressive and take charge with a firey haircut, giving off a Ripley vibe. Hell Yes! it's about time.


She does, of course, starts off kind of meek and scared but it makes since because it's real human emotion and she doesn't understand what's really going on.


Though once she takes wind of things she gets a lot tougher and stronger and is pretty good with ammo, too. By this time, she is just as much of a capable leader as Ben is and a lot much smarter than the 1968 Barbra who was kind of....well....idiotic in some places. Okay guys, I'm going to spoil it for you a little bit but for those of you who haven't seen it, go watch it now!.....
Barbara is the sole survivor which is very fitting in my opinion. Since the 1968 movie had a strong political message with racism, Vietnam, and social class issues. This version has a sort of feminist message as it focuses on Barbra and how she grows as a character through the crisis that she's experiencing but it still has the important new world issues that it had in the 1968 film. Once Barbra escapes with a new group of survivors, she looks at the people, as they torture the zombies like toys in playful glee, and says, "We're them and They're us." Which is something to think about when watching this movie. Patricia Tallman is the strongest actress in this. She can be vulnerable and tough at the same time and it takes a good actress to handle that emotional range. Overall, Barbra is an awesome character with an even more awesome actress.


Tom and Judy are a lot more active in this as opposed to them being typical lovelorn teenagers in the original. Tom is now a local good o'l boy who knows his way with guns and Judy is taking Barbra's old role, but even though she's usually whiny and screaming most of the time, that doesn't mean she's totally useless. After all, she IS a teenager in this situation.


And I would like to say that William Butler was at his prime as a Scream King. He starred in a Friday The 13th sequel, starred on a Freddy's Nightmares episode, starred in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel, and now is being attacked by zombies. He actually gave a good performance and quite the looker, too.


Harry Cooper in this version is way much worse. He berates his wife whenever she desperately tries to find a way to help her sick daughter, even slapping her, fights constantly with the other strangers, especially Ben, and selfishly goes up the attic for Ben and Barbra to fend for themselves. In the original, his jerkassery came from how scared he was in the situation, scared for his family. But in this, he's just a plain o'l asshole. He doesn't get off easy though once Barbra finds him, she says 'fuck it' and shoots him in the head. Tom Towles does a good job and was able to add more layers to the character which is why he's honored as a veteran in the genre.




The suspense is at a high and so is the action. It makes the experience of watching this movie much more enjoyable.



And since this was directed by Tom Savini, His special effects is great on display, making the zombies very nasty and menacing-looking.
The movie was met with negative reviews at the time, which I don't understand. I feel it should have the same praise as the original. Though years later it has received a cult following and the horror community greatly appreciated it.
The verdict? Yes, watch this! Both movies should be watched and analyzed. They both have a strong political message yet the 1990 version is much actionized, having it's own spin to it. Both movies are definitely worth-seeing.
My Last Word: Like I said go watch this and the original. Definitely a good time.
















 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Blob (1988)



Chuck Russell, who was riding off the success of A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, decided to remake the  1958 Monster Movie The Blob, Starring a young Steve McQueen, 30 years later. The Result: Fan-fucking-tastic!
But before I get to this review, let me give a quick overview of the original..... it's so boring! It's so boring, you guys. And I'm not saying this because I'm young and therefore not up to par with classic movies, I happen to enjoy classic movies, however the 1958 version I couldn't be invested in. Everything about the movie was bland. The acting, the characters, the writing, and all the way down to the directing and special effects. I think in my case, the movie is only remembered because it was Steve McQueeen's first major role and nothing else. So this definitely needed to be remade and it was only a matter of time during the 80's, which was the golden age of Sci-fi, where this could happen.
The Story: On a typical day in a small idyllic town, strange event occurs. A meteor suddenly falls from the sky. Once the town drunk takes a hold of this, a glob of goo attacks his hand. Meanwhile, likeable jock Paul and innocent cheerleader Meg is on a date when they suddenly encounter the homeless man, desperate for their aid, along with resident rebel Brian who also helps. While in the hospital, Paul checks on the ailing man, only to see the blob devouring his first victim, getting bigger and bigger, eating anyone who comes towards it's path.....


The characters are just awesome in this film. While the original had your stereotypical 1950's teenagers, the 80's version already have the characters fleshed out, we already know them well, and we already CARE about them. just enough time and care put into this movie.


Let's start with Brian Flagg and his luxurious hair played by sexy Kevin Dillion. Brain is your typical rebel without a cause, at first. You would never expect a character like this to be a hero, but the presence of Kevin Dillion, with his charming loveable rouge attitude makes you root for the character. And that's what I like about this movie, it's not just the character development that fleshes the characters out, it's the acting as well.


Speaking of good actors, Shawnee Smith is full of pure awesome along with the character Meg Penny who is incredibly badass. She starts off as your typical happy-go-lucky cheerleader but as the movie progresses, we can see that she is an intelligent, resourceful, strong-willed, and all around kickass girl.


It is SHE who defeats the blob. Yes guys, it's the cheerleader who saves the world and this was way before Buffy came along as a butt-kicking cheerleader. How awesome is that! This was the Post-Ripley era where more female characters in horror/action movies take charge and fight to the finish which was why I was so enthralled by Shawnee Smith's performance. She is definitely an underrated Scream Queen alongside Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis.


And lastly we have nice jock Paul played by the dreamy Donavan Leitch. He's nice, helpful, upstanding, mild-mannered and all around perfect boyfriend. It seem he might be the hero of the movie but I was in for a big shock when he went out in the most gruesome of ways. This is when it shifts to Brain as our main hero, who turns out to be very effective as a strong male lead.


Along with Meg, which they both make a very effective action couple.

So it leads me to this:

 
Who Would You Rather: Brian or Paul? Well, of course, I would Choose Brain, at least he doesn't get killed in the first 15 minutes and who could resist that gorgeous hair and that bad boy swag.
 
 


The one thing that brings much more to the story and how it keep things interesting, is that the blob isn't the only antagonist of the film. There is the leader of this science project group who intently cause the man-eating blob to land on earth just so he can get his greedy hands on his next experiment, quarantining the whole town and putting them in danger. Then there's the town priest who has turned crazy from the experience and has kept a little piece of the blob, still forming in a jar at the end of the movie. As in the 1958 version, the blob came out of nowhere, with no sense of how and why it crashed on earth.





The special effects, which were inspired by The Thing, another 80's remake from 1950's monster movie, are NASTY. There are so many ideas and creative choices done with the blob monster and how it devours it's victims is probably some of the most goriest things I've seen a movie. Where as the deaths were off screen in the original, you get to see the deaths in plain view in the remake. The filmmakers even takes the risk of killing off a child onscreen, which was totally unexpected, giving the 'anybody could die' motif, which always works in horror films in my opinion.



And yes there were moments that were actually suspenseful and where I was truly scared for the characters. As for the original, it lacked any suspense and I just kept waiting, impatiently, for something to happen.
Chuck Russell surprised me again with his strong directing skills, putting in much effort with the special effects and more intense action scenes. To be honest, I think HE would've been the right choice to direct A Nightmare On Elm Street 4, but seeing that he put his passion into all of this, it's worthwhile.
The Verdict? Go for the remake. It's much more fast-paced, the characters are interesting, there is actual action and suspense and plus much better special effects. Enjoy this while you can.
My last word: Go watch the remake. Like right now!












Friday, April 3, 2015

The Thing With Remakes







I meant to make this a short overview but somehow this turned out to be a rant/discussion instead. There have been a slew of remakes lately and it's gotten kind of out of control almost like it's a marketing ploy. It 's been a hit or miss in some movies, however it's been mostly a miss. Statistics show that Hollywood since the coming decade has literally run out of original ideas. This isn't always the case all the time but, trust me you guys, compare to the horror movies or movies in general back in the 70's, 80's, and 90's and the movies of modern times. Without a doubt, there is just no original ideas that pop out anymore. No movies that pop out or stand the test of time. I know I'm being a little overdramatic, however, it's only my opinion. There are some movies that heighten our expectations  though you get your occasional remake, reboot, re-imagining, re-do, redux, it never ends. This have been trending since the 90's and I am a firm lover of the 90's though that's not really the issue. People will eventually keep making remakes whether it's necessary or not(like the recent re-do of Poltergeist I might add). The problem is the people behind the movies don't put any sort of thought or passion into the project or any respect for the original. I feel like if the filmmakers doesn't know what they're doing, what's the point of remaking the film at all. If somebody took the time to re-evaluate what was missing from the original and put on a new perspective on the new material, I'll probably give a lot of respect towards that filmmaker. I want to keep this short and simple because I know I have a lot of remakes to review though since there are so many I can only review a quarter amount that I have which is about 18 or so and that's a lot. And maybe in the future, I can make a vol.2 to this.
So that's pretty much all my venting into this whole remake phenomenon. And I'll be sure to hope to go on with the reviews as much as I can, this isn't an easy task. So wish me luck!