Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Movies I've Seen (Recently)

Ratings determined using a five blood drop scale.

Ink introduces us to the fanciful Emma and her dispassionate father, John. As night ascends, two groups of mysterious beings materialize outside of their home – one aimed at delivering subconscious bliss, the other intent on doling out torturous nightmares. Emma quickly becomes ensnared in their fairy-tale dream battle and has to hope her father gains focus in time to save her.

A fantasy-rich sci-fi pic, Ink boasts a number of moody visuals and ambitions set pieces despite its limited budget. The film does well to balance an intriguing narrative with scenes of pure action (it appears the purveyors of dreams have had a class in MMA) while generating a sense of compassion for the characters involved. If not for the out-of-place adult language that permeates John’s workplace, Ink would be an excellent film for the whole family to share.


When Justin’s sweetie is abducted by demons he must summon a member of the netherworld to get her back. Shot on a shoestring budget in just five days, Lo feels like a movie shot on a shoestring budget in just five days. While the exchanges between Justin and the demon Lo are at points witty and humorous, there isn’t a whole lot else in the movie worth getting excited about. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will either appreciate the director’s attraction to that show or scorn him for his many obvious homages.

The flesh eating virus that decimated a cabin full of coeds eight years ago is back to pollute movie screens once again. The original was a derivative piece of horror fiction that webbed gross-out humor around contrived genre elements to create a movie not worthy of the attention it garnered. Its sequel is an equally juvenile effort that may satisfy those with a fascination for brainless, blood-filled gruel but does nothing for the genre. A minor stumble in the promising career of director Ti West.

A selfless priest volunteers for a medical experiment that turns him into a bloodsucking vampire. Not Park’s best work (that would be the soon to be remade for American audiences cult film Oldboy) but its poetic tone and mysterious mood make it oddly compelling. A bit long and slow, and I’m not a fan of the goofy humor that often floods Asian horror, but Thirst does enough to modify the vampire mythology to gain my recommendation.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Top 10 HORROR films of '09 (part 1)

Here’s the first half of my list of the ten best horror films of 2009. The dates refer to the US DVD release of each title. Enjoy.

1. Martyrs (April 28, 2009) A young girl’s quest for vengeance against abusive kidnappers ends in a brutal scene of carnage. The story defies conventional script format, instead layering a series of unperceived events that blend to form, as Mr. Fox would say, a complete mind cuss. Pascal Laugier’s assured direction endows each blood-drenched scenario with a sense of beauty, and according to the DVD’s behind-the-scenes featurette, he shoots with nary a storyboard or shot list.

2. Drag Me to Hell (Oct. 13, 2009) A loan officer with the unpleasant task of evicting a gypsy woman from her home finds herself the recipient of an ancient and deadly curse. Sam Raimi’s triumphant return to horror provokes as many laughs as it does chills. With the current economic downturn providing a tinge of social commentary, the picture is an inspired about-face from the bawdy tendencies of modern horror pictures.

3. House of the Devil (NYR) A happy-go-lucky college student takes an unusual babysitting job and quickly discovers her employers have a nefarious motive for hiring her. Inspired by America’s obsession with the occult and satanic worship in the 70s and 80s and packing a retro look customary for those eras, the movie slowly and artfully builds to a gruesome payoff. Relying on mood and atmosphere, director Ti West constructs an experience that is equal parts horrific and cool.

4. Splinter (April 14, 2009) A group of unlucky persons find themselves trapped in an isolated gas station by an infectious disease that transforms its victims into zombies. Particularly good of its type, Splinter is a pleasant reminder that horror filmmakers are still capable of building character and producing calculated exposition.

5. Carriers (Dec. 29, 2009) Four friends attempting to escape a world-wide epidemic flee toward an alleged “safe zone.” The best of the friends trying to find sanctuary from a universal pandemic film released this year, Carriers boasts a sense of pragmatism absent from most works of this ilk. The cast make the most of a simple script and the direction is taught throughout forcing me to wonder how this picture has eluded the horror-viewing public.

(Part 2 Coming Soon)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Top films of 2009

As the Oscars fast approach, the decade that breathed new life into the epic film, produced a remunerative version of the documentary and saw the rise of digital distribution bids adieu. Their exit strategy: make life extremely easy for overly critical film reviewers and nerdish cinephiles set on compiling one more “best of” list. Below are my picks for the top movies of 2009.

10. Bad Lieutenant

9. Limits of Control

8. Moon

7. The Fantastic Mr. Fox

6. Drag Me to Hell

5. Inglorious Bastards

4. Crazy Heart

3. House of the Devil


2. Hurt Locker

1. Fish Tank

Also worth checking out: The Road, Sugar, A Serious Man, Red Riding