Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Final Destination 5 - Fright Fest Review #2

Just in case you don't know how this works......

A group of colleagues on a team building weekend get caught on a collapsing bridge.  One of the team has a premonition of them all dying on the bridge, freaks out and gets them off the bus.  Cue Tony Todd to tell them they cheated Death and it will be coming for them one by one.  Haven't gone through the plot in too much detail as it's more or less only there to engineer the way to brutally murder some good looking Americans.  Only this time there is a slight change to the rules.

Very slight!! This is essentially same film, different actors and different death defying set piece.  And all shot completely unnecessarily in 3D. An improvement on, certainly, the last one and probably on a par with 3, you get what you pay for with this film. 

The title sequence is nicely put together with imagery showing the instruments of death from this films predecessors and the film itself ties up quite nicely with them. 

The film, as you'd expect, contains more inventive deaths but as with the other sequels you get a long build up but the actual death is over very quickly.  I found the original's extended death sequences (shower strangulation, and the teacher's death for example) made the film far more intense.  When you know that you're going to get a few seconds of over indulgent CGI gore then the impact is dampened. That said, the deaths are gruesome with the laser eye surgery being one of the better ones.  I would expect a number of people cancelling their appointments after this.

But once again at the core of the film is weak dialogue and very little characterisation.  But then that's not what you go into these films for so it can be excused for overlooking these elements just like the previous films.  As for the slimline plot, well it simply feels like it merely gets in the way of getting to the next death sequence.

Overall an enjoyable film experience but don't expect anything highbrow or original as you get exactly what it says on the tin. 


Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark - Fright Fest Review #1

From producer Guillermo Del Toro, we are delivered a haunted house story, well, of sorts.

Alex (Guy Pearce) is a resotorator and he hopes his new project will place him on the restoration map.  Divorced and now living with Kim (Katie Holmes) in their restoration project, Alex has to take in his daughter Sally as his ex wife decides she can no longer handle her. However they are not alone in the house with an evil living deep inside it, trapped away in a long forgotten, sealed, basement.  When Sally discovers the basement skylight in the overgrown gardens no-one could foresee the danger this would put all connected to the house in.

The film begins solidly enough with an opening giving us some background on the history of the house. Unfortunately the problems lie with the present.  Undeveloped, selfish characters make it very difficult to actually care about what happens to them.  Guy Pearce's Alex, especially, doesn't appear to care much beyond the house and being famous. It is this main issue that prevents the film from delivering real scares. Also the continual desire to constantly show where the creatures are simply serves to lower any built up tension, the exception being a well executed sequence in the library.

The exposition as to what was happening was handled far too briefly and lightly considering we expect these people to believe they have ancient monsters living with them.  All brought out in a five minute conversation with a librarian.  It seemed the filmmakers were less interested in bringing us into the story as trying to deliver cheap scares.

Shallow dialogue and a far too slowly paced build up made it hard for me to remain particularly engaged in this feature.  However I will say that it was beautifully photographed and competently directed, making great use of torches an other light sources to light the certain scenes.  The creatures are too much of a mixture between Gollum and Gremlins for me but granted they did carry a certain sense of malevolence.  And a special mention has to go to Bailee Madison who plays Sally as, for such a young actress, she pulled off her part superbly.

Overall though this seemed more a horror film for the twilight horror audience than for those who like their horror horrific.  Or at least scary.  Unfortunately this was neither and felt a little like Del Toro was merely a figurehead marketing tool rather than someone who actually provided insight and assistance to a new director.


Fright Fest 2011 - The Overview

For the last two months, since booking my first Fright Fest, I have been experiencing child like excitement that was usually reserved for the build up to Christmas when I was young.  Along came Thursday 25th August and it began......

Walking into the Empire Leicester Square amongst so many likeminded horror fans was a treat in itself.  The foyer was packed and conversations about the good and bad of modern horror as well as the most influential horror films of days gone by filled the air.  The atmosphere of anticipation was immense and so I walked into Screen 1, located my seat and sat.  The lights went down and one of the festival organisers took to the stage.  It was time!!

Over the five days we were treated to films ranging from the good, the bad and the ugly.  There were John Carpenter tributes filmed especially for the fest (the They Live and Assault On Precinct 13 ones being my favourites), Trailer Trash, short films, special presentations of footage from upcoming horrors including Cockney's Vs Zombies, Q&As with cast and crews, giveaways and more. 

It lived up to every expectation I had.  The fans there were fantastic and met some really lovely frightfesters who hopefully I will see next year (or at the Halloween special event in October).  If you love your horror or even like it quite a lot then this is truly a unique experience and one you should grab with both hands.

My highlights of the fest were Kill List, The Glass Man, Tucker & Dale vs Evil, The Woman, The Innkeepers and the stunningly shot A Lonely Place To Die.  Lowlights consisted of Vile, The Wicker Tree, Saint and Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark.  Also recommended are the short films The Love Bug, Banana Motherfucker and Brutal Relax.

My reviews of all the films I saw will be up shortly.  Hopefully next year I will be seeing you there.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Super 8 - how super was it?


The story of a young boy coming to terms with the grief of losing his mother, falling in love and finding his way all set to the backdrop of a monster terrorising a small town.

JJ Abrams has crafted a spectacular piece of 80's based, Speilbergian storytelling with modern day effects.  The result is a superb, well paced film with eminently likeable characters and a young hero for whom you truly root for throughout.  Films with the main protagonists being kids whilst not a kids film is often a tricky problem for filmmakers and rarely do they manage to bring it together well enough that you forget it's badly acting kids your watching but sometimes they do. Stand By Me anyone?   JJ Abrams has pulled this off and that was vital to the success of this film.

Some of the things I loved about Super 8 will potentially be areas that people will be less enthused about.  I mentioned earlier about the pacing which is true, for me the film was well paced.  For a modern monster feature it may not bang along at the rate of knots we have become accustomed to in recent years but if it had I feel that it would have lost of what made this film stand out from the ever increasing crowd.  With few exceptions we were following the story from viewpoint of the kids and as they weren't seeing everything that happened, sometimes the film took its foot off the gas and allowed us to get to know the characters.  This is very rare in modern summer blockbusters and a quality I miss.  Anyone really know much about Sam Witwicky?  And yet that character has been through 3 overly long films.  By allowing these characters to develop organically and not being forced to come up with poorly scripted dialogue to move them forward in order to maintain a high octane pace, the film becomes significantly more likable.  I felt I took this short, yet exhilarating, journey with them.

The film has action, love, tension, good vs evil, friendship, loss but most of all it has redemption and forgiveness.  With everything getting as bad as it can be people put aside things which, in the face of total destruction and the loss of loved ones, no longer matter and become human to each other.  In the wake of the riots in the UK this is a telling story arc and one which when you saw the clean up the next day is one of the most real things in the film.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and would recommend you go see it.  If you purely want big explosions and lots of killings then perhaps this isn't the creature feature for you (although it does possess plenty of both - the train crash was an excellent example) but if you fancy a big summer blockbuster with a brain told through the eyes of innocence then you won't go far wrong with this one.  I have deliberately tried to avoid too much detail about the plot as I want to be able to persuade you to go see it without spoiling any story for you.  Whilst not full of twists and clever plot points it is one to enjoy being told in front of you than by me.


Monday, 15 August 2011

New Tunes

Had a need to find me some new music to soothe my ears with.  After some searching I have found a few things, some you won't of heard of and some you may (one you will).  Here is what is currently tickling my fancy

Mads Langer - singer songwriter with beautifully crafted songs.  Not my typical listen but the music is genuinely gorgeous.
Mumford & Sons - took me a while but heard Little Lion Man and White Blank Page and wondered to myself why have I not gotten into this before!!
Funeral Party - punchy, punky and dancy tunes from this New York based band.  Well worth a minute or two of your time.
Neon Trees - catchy as Hell.  Especially Animal and In The Next Room.  A brilliant slice of pop.
Metric - again late to the party with this one but been hard to stop listening to it.
The Joy Formiddable - I first encountered these guys backing up Silversun Pickups in the Borderline club in London.  Now they are playing main stages at festivals and sold out venues such as Camden Koko.  They have moved up at great speed but deservedly so.  And it certainly doesn't hurt with the sex appeal they're given through frontwoman Ritz Bryan.  Their live performance is truly outstanding bringing aggression, fun and banging tunes right into your face.

There is more but I'll leave that for another time :)

Blue Valentine

Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams the film portrays a couple at the end of their marriage.

The film opens to a little girl calling desperately for her missing dog.  Sadly the tone of the film doesn't get much happier than this yet somehow it manages to engage all the way through and provides a thought provoking and telling lesson of how true love can seemingly crumble away if you don't look after it.

Gosling and Ryan are on top of their game as the film intertwines the beginning of their relationship with the end of it.  They move effortlessly between falling for each other to not being able to be around each other.  Gosling especially provides his character with the ability to be likeable at the outset of their romance and, not without your sympathy, to a disdainful person who likes a drink or two with breakfast.

The pacing is perfect for the subject matter and although a very downbeat film, this was showcasing what low budget films and filmmakers are capable of.  Sadly more and more films like this don't get made due to the lack of investment in edgier material that, with the advent of internet piracy, the studios are less willing to gamble on.

I would recommend this to anyone that wants to see a beautifully played out romance (the tap dance in the shop entrance way by Williams while Gosling semi serenades her is particularly heartwarming) but can handle the inevitability of this love crashing down around the couple you root for. Definitely  not a date movie but absolutely one for films fans.

4 out of 5