Showing posts with label Movie Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Movie Reviews. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Movie Review: Silent Night (2012)

Just in time for the holidays! We have yet another holiday slasher remake starring the one and only Jamie King. This time it's the loose remake of the 1984 slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night. Here's a little backstory on the original: It caused a huge controversy for featuring a killer Santa Claus. I laugh at the fact that no matter how much sex and violence we saw on TV back then, the parents would rather waste their time on a slasher about a Killer Santa. By the way, Its a horror movie TRAILER featuring a GUY dressed up as Santa Claus. That wouldn't make him actually Santa Claus, right? Anywho, the movie became a cult classic with most notably having a hot male lead. The final results are mediocre at best. It's an above average slasher with some interesting elements. It actually takes the time of developing the villain instead the victims. The rest of the movie, though, becomes a typical by-the-numbers slasher with the main villain going on a killing spree and the film just fades into obscurity from there.
So twenty-eight years later, Silent Night, which is a movie of it's own instead of an all and out remake. The only connection to the original movies (Yes, I said movies, not very good movies by the way) is references like the garbage day joke and a certain death scene involving antlers. My thoughts about this movie seems to be mixed. If it had the chance to take itself less seriously, I would've enjoyed it more. Don't get me wrong, it is watchable enough movie but half of the time I felt, well, bored. It's just as tedious as the original having a deranged Santa Claus going a killing spree. There is a story here somewhere but everything just falls flat by the end of the movie.
The Story: A deranged man dressed in a Santa costume wreaks havoc on a small town. It's up to Sheriff Cooper and Deputy Bradimore to stop his rampage just before completing his naughty list.
The cast really didn't grow on me. Jamie King was as good as always but her character came off bland to me. But then there's Malcolm McDowell and Donal Louge who pretty much stole the show with their over-the-top performances. The rest of the cast are, unfortunately, a bunch of miserable, selfish jerks who meet their maker. And there not much to go from there.

I like Jamie King as an actress and I thinks she deserve much better than this script because I really wasn't invested in her character of Aubrey Bradimore. I guess she supposed to be the audience surrogate, seeing how crappy her hometown has been, becoming one of the few sane people but it doesn't develop her character in anyway. The thing with her backstory is that her husband was killed in a line of duty and is still affected by it/

There's also a twist as well. Her father was the one who shot the killer's dad while he went crazy one night, blowtorching guests at a Christmas party. This all happens in front of the killer as a little boy, no less, which is the catalyst for his rampage.

Other than that, the character is a total bore. Yes, I said it, she is quite boring and interesting for the majority of the movie. She does have some moments of badassery but that doesn't happen until the end. She just a stick in the mud basically but at least Jamie King is a good enough actress to carry the role through, so no problems there.

Malcolm McDowell as Sheriff Cooper was a riot. Although he usually good at playing villainous roles, Malcolm McDowell is a versatile actor like his noble good guy role in Time After Time but he fits right at home playing a grumpy old asshole like in this movie. We never know if Sheriff Cooper is a truly competent, the film doesn't take the time to show that but what we do know of him is that he is a bitter, snarky man, who pretty much hates some of the people in his small town and rightfully so, though I'll get to that later. You would think that he would be a total badass in an all-out battle with the serial killer but no he is easily overpowered and receives the sharp end of the candy cane.

Donal Louge was equally hilarious as the resident town drunk. What could be just a small role is turned into a character of it's own. Donal Louge chews each scenery that he's in, including giving out this overly long monologue about how much he hates Christmas.
The rest of the movie might drag on most of the time, but Malcolm McDowell and Donal Louge carry it through with their hilariously crude performances.
The so-called "victims" include a guy who had an affair with a married woman, a predatory priest, a bratty twelve year old girl, the typical horny teen couple with the guy stealing his grandpa's money to spend time with girlfriend, a drug dealer, and a self-absorbed wanna-be model and her sleazy photographer. So yeah, these are not pleasant characters and I think that's the point of the film, seeing how these miserable degenerates spend Christmas only to see their comeuppance by the killer Santa Claus.

Speaking of Killer Santa, he had a cool look to him. Now I know the whole slasher movie Santa costume is not original but it's the aesthetic of the costume that I like.

The darkened eyes on the mask gives out a menacing look and the tall, imposing stature of the actor gives him an intimidating edge. And since he is based on real life serial killer Jeffery Pardo, he gets a blowtorch as his signature horror weapon. The killer's backstory is probably the most interesting thing about this movie because it's, of course, ripped from the headlines. But I wish the filmmakers went deep into this keep my interest.

The deaths scenes are extremely gory and over-the-top, to the point of being a bit cartoony but again, I think that's the gist of the film, given how obnoxious the characters are you would expect them to receive such deaths.

Let me get this off my chest, though, we have yet another scene of a naked woman being chased by a serial killer with close-ups of her derriere. Do guys have some sick fetish of this, I just don't understand. I really don't see why it's tantalizing to see a woman terrorized in the nude.

Not to mention getting a incredibly horrible death. Again, it puts a bad taste in my mouth.
I can't say if there was any suspenseful scenes but the climax, I thought, was handled well. At least, I'll give the film more credit for that.

I guess the directing was alright. You do have an occasional shaky cam, disoriented edit shots, and darkened areas where you don't see anything but for the most part it's okay. The director really isn't all that great. He had a certain potential but it never branches out. From what I know, his other films are not exactly high quality, so I think a more experienced professional director would've handled the movie much better. You just don't get the vibrant visual of Christmas with this directing.
the final case in this is that it's a mixed bag. Sure, the 1984 film needed a remake, however, there could've been ways to show this dark tale of the serial killer becoming who he is in a better way instead of some Joe Schmoe killing a bunch of randys on a Christmas holiday.
The Verdict? Both films seem to be forgettable and mediocre, not telling a proper story for me to be invested in. Both films seem to have enough potential but fail becoming typical by-the-numbers slasher films. So my thoughts end there.
My last word: It's a watchable enough film but in the end, it's not going to be highly remembered.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Movie Review: Maniac (2012)

Dare I say this is one of the best remakes we have so far? I have seen a load of crap and finally I found a beacon of retribution.
Maniac was a slasher film, made in 1980, directed by William Lustig, who was best known for the Maniac Cop films, and starred Joe Spinell who co-wrote the screenplay. What separates Maniac from other slasher films is that it dives deep into the mindset of the serial killer and it becomes much more deeper and psychological than the slashers of that time. Maniac is not what I call a great film though it's definitely original of the year it was made.
So I wasn't sure how the remake  of this would turn out but I know it was bound to happen since the original wasn't a particularly memorable film. When I heard Elijah Wood would play the main role I was bit iffy about it but since he has played darker roles before I thought I'd give it a chance. And the result was incredibly awesome. Elijah Wood gave a superb effective performance and the visual artistic flare of French director Franck Khalfoun adds so much more to the film. Complete with a catchy 80's-like synth soundtrack, stylish visuals, and good performance by the leads, this is definitely a major step up from original.
The Story: Frank Zito, who at first seem like a shy, mild-mannered young man, is really mentally disturbed, homicidal serial killer who has taken over his family business, selling mannequins. He has problems dating women, due to his traumatic childhood involving his promiscuous mother. But that all changes once he meets Anna, a photographer who seems caring and supportive of him. But Frank must control his homicidal tendencies before it unleashes on the woman he loves....

Elijah Wood gave an incredibly chilling performance. He was vulnerable yet vicious, exploring the complexity of that character. In this version, Frank Zito gets the "psycho" treatment. Joe Spinell wasn't exactly an attractive man but it worked for the role he was playing and his performance in the m movie was the best thing so far. So in this version, they made frank more mildly attractive and is able to blend in with society, which is the first-case scenario of a serial killer. And the scary thing about this character is that he is charming enough and convincing enough to make everyone believe he's this harmless nice guy when really he's a dangerous psychopath.

We actually see the emotional torture that Frank's mother put him through with her neglect and emotional abuse.  Seeing her degrade herself and eventually living a double life as a prostitute. This is the remaining factor betrayal and hatred of his mother.

In the end, it's really a cry for help and his inability to control his inner demons ultimately destroy him.

Nora Arnezeder was exceptionally likeable as Anna. Both her and Elijah Wood have really good chemistry and the movie does a good job building up Frank and Anna's relationship.

To be honest, the chemistry is much better here than it was in the original and there is much more to the Anna character than just being a designated love interest. The tragic thing about this relationship is that Frank is unable to conceal his dark desires and it unfortunately kills Anna.

Yes, Anna dies in this version. I wasn't really sure what happened to Anna in the original. She just injured Frank and ran off, never to be seen again. So I think the remake fixes this, even though I don't know why the filmmakers choose to kill off Anna.

The brutal yet visceral kills are laced with a stylish artistic delicacy that only the French can master. Most of the directing does feel like a music video but it works for it.

One of my favorite scenes is when Frank and Anna go to a movie theater where they play a German Expressionist film which seems to be a short film of it's own.
Overall, the film is a massive improvement and seems to tell a much more effective and chilling story.
The Verdict? This is a hard choice since the original is a cult classic but I have to go with the remake on this. It tells a much better story, it has a rather sweet (if bittersweet) love story, great visuals and a strong performance by Elijah Wood.
My Last Word: Yes! Watch This!


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Movie Review: I Spit On Your Grave (2010)

I wasn't surprised  that this was going to be remade. Some people wasn't fans of the original, including the late great Roger Ebert. Considering that it's an exploitation film, that's an understatement. But the thing about the original is that it had a gritty realism to it. What I like about was how it had no soundtrack or suspenseful music just to set the tone. And once horrible things start happening, it is as if you're watching a snuff film. Seeing the excruciating rape scene from almost a 30 minute running time is brutal and disturbing and it's kind of psychological how we see the main character's torment, anger and vengeance. Though by the end I didn't get how she would seduce the men and kill them one by one but since they're dimwitted, unsympathetic hillbillies, I'll let it pass. I don't know if I could call this movie a cult classic. Or even calling a feminist film is a bit of stretch. However, it is an interesting film study on the subject of rape and how it affects a person.
So then I wonder what would be different with this remake? Well, there's one thing. Instead of Jennifer seducing the men, why not take the torture porn route? Yes, this movie is, in fact, a torture porn. How. Fucking. Dated. It doesn't ruin the movie but it is far from realistic and it ends up being mediocre. As much as I want to point out the flaws in this remake, it is a vast improvement over the original. But still doesn't leave much of an impression.
The Story: Jennifer Hills, a young woman from the city, decides to go off to the country to work on her novel. But a bunch of out of control, deranged yokels try to break off her summer bliss. Terrorizing her, Raping her, and eventually killing her. But unbeknownst to them, Jennifer survived her ordeal and she's back for blood....

The acting was significantly better than the original.  I thought some of the male actors brought in certain menace into their roles but also express a sense of weakness to show pathetic these characters are. I wish the filmmakers would have a psychological method to their madness. A little character development would hurt. Even Jennifer Hills herself doesn't get any character development. Not major development but things that make the characters more human. Maybe that's one of the flaws of this remake.

Sarah Butler as Jennifer was...alright. She's not the best actress but she does an okay performance. It's just when the script give her these really bad one liners, it felt forced.

As for the character of Jennifer, we never really get to know her. There really wasn't much development on Jennifer in the original but the remake could've taken advantage of that. Like at least of how Jennifer was intelligent enough to set up those traps for her captives. Before the events of the movie, you just sort of see her lounging around, smoking pot, and procrastinating over her novel.

Sure, she is sympathetic once the traumatic ordeal happens but we never really get KNOW her and that's what's missing.
Now let's focus on the villains of this piece:

First we have gas station attendant Johnny, who's something of a Casanova wannabe but is ultimately not successful with the ladies. It's implied that a woman from the past bruised his ego, which is why he has such contempt/fascination with beautiful women. When I first known about Jeff Branson, I seriously didn't know he was daytime soap actor, so I saw really convincing his performance was.

Matthew is the weakest and far more vulnerable than the other men, being constantly bullied by them and is under their toxic influence. We never really know why Matthew is friends with these people but it would make sense to have one of the guys be a family member of some sorts. He is the one that is truly affected by what happened, usually seeing visions of a supposedly dead Jennifer. I thought it was quite effective of what he did really destroyed his state of mind. Chad Lindberg put in a pretty good performance once you do feel sympathy for Matthew, it turns on your head once he is just as brutal as his barbaric friends, choking Jennifer while raping her. And then you see why Jennifer gets him first.

Stanley is the fat slob of the group, who has a habit of committing voyeurism. That's his character in a nutshell, he is a camera fiend. Being the bumbling idiot that he is, he videotapes the whole incident which gets the men in a tight pickle. It's quite jarring to see Daniel Franzese, who was best known for Mean Girls, to see him in a gritty role like this but I wouldn't mind seeing what other versatile roles he would take in the future.

Then there's Andy, the more playful and most immature of the group. He's played by the very handsome Rodney Eastman, who I adored in Nightmare 3 and 4 but is quite unsympathetic in this movie, which for his benefit worked.

Finally, we have a new character in the mix. You remember when the ad for the 1978 film said Jennifer killed FIVE men when the actual film there was only four? Well, the remake at least corrected that mistake. The fifth guy in question is a sheriff but, then again, they should've made him a tad bit younger and wrote him in as the deputy. Anywho, if he was the town sheriff, this must be the smallest police station there is because there should be other policemen around. Beside the point, the sheriff is a family man with a pregnant wife and daughter, as it shown him talking to his daughter while the other men frequently terrorize Jennifer. it's like the movie is making it obvious for us. They never really explore why he does the things he do, even resorting to murdering one of his friends just to keep his dark secret. We never really see him mistreat his wife or kid in anyway. He's the perfect husband and father.

But then the movie never really tells us why one day he would decide to just rape and kill someone. It's a really big plot hole.

The actor did a good enough job but I wish they cast somebody more menacing, more intimidating. I just wasn't all the way impressed.

I would think the directing is okay. I do like how the movie sets in the mood, having this dreary, depressing feel with most of the shots with washed with gray. I know that's pretty generic in certain horror films though it does fit in right with the movie's tone. Though there were times where I felt like I was watching an hour long trailer.

The deaths in this movie are WAY more gory and brutal than the original, I'll give it that. Jennifer really put the ringer through these guys. She is a woman you don't want to mess with and even though I'm not a big torture porn fan, I did like the traps Jennifer set up for her victims. There is one objectification though, and that's Stanley's death with the cartoonish CGI crows. Again people, CGI is NOT effective or scary in away, shape or form in a horror movie. The script is a little 'meh.' Like I said it need more a psychological impact and more character development to make the characters seem real in some way.
Overall, I thought this was a good enough remake compared to the original but it's still not memorable and it's just a mediocre revenge film.
The Verdict? Both movies seem to stand on solid ground. They're not perfect movies, not great by any means but the 70's version could be looked at as a film study and the remake could looked at as a standard revenge horror film.
My Last Word: It could be worth a watch, but still nothing to be remembered by.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Movie Review: Mother's Day

Just in time for Thanksgiving. Well, the movie's not entirely based on Thanksgiving but you get the gist. Mother's Day, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who's best known for the Saw Sequels and Repo: The Genetic Opera, is a remake of the 1980 cult classic Troma film. There's one thing I would say about the original, is how the tone is all over the place. You don't know whether you're watching a comedy or straight up horror movie. The first half is just some campy, silly road trip farce about three female friends and the second half becomes some rape-revenge thriller with some truly disturbing scenes. It's really jarring. It's a hard film to recommend but I say watch just because of how weird and offbeat it is. It's also hard to say this version is darker and edgier since the original was already in it's darker territories. Unlike most of these reviews, there's not going to be too much comparisons because it's a completely different movie. It's more of a psychological crime thriller than your usual horror film. And most of the "horror" that goes on is basically torture porn which have been fused out ages ago. Enough with the goddamn torture porn! But since the director is know for the Saw sequels, he said "why not?" Besides all that the acting was good, the directing was okay, though however, the weakest point of the movie is the writing. It would've help if the protagonists made more smarter decisions. It's like seven of them and five of the antagonists. But we would've had a much shorter movie. All in all, it's just forgettable. You can see why it had such a hard time getting distributed because the film is just a waste of time, it goes at a very slow place when it shouldn't be. And it's also quite frustrating to watch because of how dumb the characters are. It's not a horrible movie, but it's not great either.
The Story: On the run from the cops, A female fugitive and her criminal son are finding a hideout spot after a bank robbery gone wrong with one son wounded. Once they stop at their former home, they soon find the house owned by a married couple, having a birthday party with their friends. The criminals take this to their advantage and holds the group hostage, driving them deeper and deeper into their web of terror.

The cast was actually good. We have remake regulars like Jamie King from My Bloody Valentine, Briana Evigan and Matt O'Leary from Sorority Row, and Kandyse McClure from the awful remakes of Stephen King's Adaptations of Carrie and Children Of The Corn. Although the actors were great, What really bugged me was how incredibly stupid the characters were. Every little chance they had from escaping the villains and they screw up big time. BIG TIME. I never been so frustrated with a movie, I mean good god! So I'm going to explain this further in the review.

Rebecca De Mornay gives a chilling performance as "Mother." Just imagine her character from The Hands That Rocks The Cradle with three grown psychotic sons. It's pretty much like that.

Every line she delivers is lace with cold calculation. It's sends a chill down your spine and I appreciate that. Mother is rather complex villain is that although she does the most heinous of things, she still deeply cares for her children and is willing to do anything to harbor their needs. Which, yes, makes her really creepy.
Then we have the sons:

Ike is the older brother who takes charge of things. I mostly would say that the main characters are dumb but Ike would be equally dumb.

While forcing one of the hostages, Beth, to get money out of an ATM, they run into these two party girls (A.J. Cook and Alexa Vega in throwaway roles). Then out of nowhere, Ike forces them to play and choose and pick game, which results to them stabbing each other and I'm like what? Isn't he supposed to focus on the plan at hand? Why is he wasting his time with these girls? And I think Beth had the perfect opportunity to escape, but no, she just stands there like an idiot. It's just one of those moments that really frustrates me with this movie. But that's not even the thick of it.

Addley, is the hothead middle brother, who does most of the torture and usually puts his frustrations out on the hostages. He is definitely the most destructive and is considered the muscle of the three men.

Johnny is the youngest of the three brothers, who usually spends the rest of the movie, laying on a couch, screaming in pain. But then there's this one weird scene where Mother forces one of the hostages to deflower him. With a gaping wound, no less. It just comes out of nowhere and is unnecessary.

Deborah Ann Woll, best known from True Blood and the new Netflix series Daredevil, did a good job as the reluctant younger sibling who may or may not have been kidnapped as a infant. Deborah Ann Woll gave a really intense vulnerable performance and is a much better actress than people perceive.

We have Jamie King in another remake again, though I would say this is much better than her last one.

She plays Beth, the jilted wife of the very idiotic Daniel. I'll talk about him later. Overall, Jamie King did a pretty good performance and is equally as strong as Rebecca De Mornany. And when these two go toe to toe, it's awesome.

Now let's get to Beth's husband Daniel, and oh boy, what a jackass! Okay, not only does he cheat on his wife with one of his colleagues but he ruins the chances of his friends escaping.  Just as Kandyse McClure's character makes a run for it, he CHASES her down. Just as she's close to getting safety, he grabs her and takes her back, just to save his own ass. It just shows how selfish the character is. I seriously wanted to see guy get the shit beat out of him and thankfully by the middle of the movie he does.

Kandyse McClure's character is probably the only one with any common sense, which ultimately saves her in the end. To be sure, Kandyse McClure is a good actress, it just depends on what material she works with.

Briana Evigan did a good enough job, I guess. There really wasn't much of her to be honest other than playing the sexy bad girl type.

 I would say this though, her character puts up one hell of a fight. However, there was something that bother me about the character:

And that's her boyfriend. At first, I thought it was her dad (because he looks old enough to be her dad) but then once I saw her grinding up on him, I realized it was her boyfriend. Eww! Don't get me wrong, I do like older men, But this guy seems like a total sleazeball, it wouldn't hurt to cast a more attractive older guy.

Then lastly, we have Shawn Ashmore, who plays a doctor...That's his character. Besides the fact that his girlfriend gets shot by one of the criminals and is miraculously saved at a hospital, he's mostly there to tend to the wounded Johnny and tries his best to convince Lydia to help the others. I actually do like the scenes between him and Deborah Ann Woll. They have an intense chemistry that pulls through the more quiet scenes of the movie.

The suspense is thoroughly on a high level but only chunk of the scene is gratuitous torture porn, when it really shouldn't be. Sure, maybe some high intense interrogational scenes would work but the tension is lost once it goes into a typical gorefest. Not to mention the fact that the characters can easily fight off these people. Since Darren Lynn Bousman is known for the Saw films, he makes it quite obvious. What makes it even more obvious is that the writer named the family "Koffin." Get it? Ugh. Making more of a crime caper thriller in the vein of movies like Bloody Mama would work. Less of a horror movie with over the top gore and more of a home invasion thriller like, say, Panic Room.
The Verdict? I'm not totally sure if there is a verdict. Although this movie is okay, it's just forgettable. It has some well done scenes but there's too many stupid moments from the characters, it becomes tedious at the end. And I don't know about the Troma film version, it's pretty out there and it's hard for me to recommend.
My Last Word: It's watchable, but not worth your time.