Thursday, April 8, 2010

Movies I've Seen (Recently): 2 period and 2 evil children.

Ratings determined using a five blood drop scale.

A posse of men set out to recover a missing woman in J.T. Petty’s period horror flick The Burrowers. Expecting the culprits to be a band of hostile natives they are caught off guard when the identity of their true foes is revealed.

Horror has been met by a fresh crop of young directors who are as focused on constructing human relations as they are creating horridness for their characters to endure. (Greg Mclean comes to mind.) J.T. Petty is no exception. However, so much of The Burrowers is spent observing men engaged in futile exchanges that you sometimes forget you are watching a
horror movie. Beautifully shot and interesting in concept the film unfortunately comes off as a bit dull.

A holiday vacation turns into a yuletide nightmare for two families as their children begin to crave more than just Christmas turkey.

This year’s hot ticket is evil children. This effort, from severely disappointing Ghost House Underground, starts out well enough, utilizing a saturated color scheme and subtle soundtrack to create tension, but quickly falls off course. Director Tom Shankland’s inability to manage
action destroys the second and third acts of the picture.

A young couple adopts a 9-year-old girl to fill the void in their lives created via the loss of their baby. The mild-mannered Esther however comes with a bit of excess baggage.

For the first 80 minutes the Orphan is genuinely creepy, admirably acted and competently directed. However, as the picture breaches the two-hour mark, it swaps its sense of mystery and suspense with cheap thrills and laughable revelations. The exposing of Esther’s true identity ranks among the more ridiculous moments in recent horror history. This Bad Seed-style flick may outdo The Children, but offers nothing new to the evil adolescent subgenre.

A grave robber recounts his years of plunder and torment to a 19th century clergyman while awaiting execution in the new horror/comedy from Larry Fessenden’s Scareflix.

Inspired by gothic horror and macabre humor the picture fails to fully live up to either. Still its amusing FX and b-movie zeal will please most horror enthusiasts put off by the glut of recent remakes. And the alien corpse scene is worth the price of admission.

I am an admirer of Fessenden, Scareflix, the Victorian horror pics that instigated I Sell the Dead and wanted to love this movie. While it didn’t quite live up to my lofty expectations, it’s hard not to appreciate the degree of heart and enthusiasm exerted via first time director Glenn McQuaid and Fessenden’s low-budget production outfit.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Top 10 HORROR films of '09 (part 2)

These lists are fun to make but are all so relative. A number of the pics mentioned are ’08 productions that didn’t see US distribution until ’09. A few are ’09 releases that didn’t hit DVD until early 2010. I hold off on printing any “best of” list until after the awards season to allow myself the opportunity to catch all those “tiny” films that are rushed into limited release at year’s end to gain eligibility. I’ve watched a boatload of horror flicks throughout the year to get to this list (view my earlier posts for why Deadgirl (ugh), Thirst and other fan faves didn’t make the cut) and hope you enjoy my line of reasoning in making my selections.

6. Let the Right One In (March 10, 2009) A foreign vampire love story, Let the Right One In succeeds not only as a horror picture, but is one of the best looking, most adeptly told narratives of the year. Both eerie and heartwarming, it is one of the most affecting horror films you’re likely to see. (Note: this should be placed much higher in the rankings, however, I was one of the lucky few that caught it during its initial release and it made a couple of my lists back then).

7. Trick ‘r Treat (Oct. 6, 2009) Anthology of shorts, each taking place on Allhallows Eve. The film lingered in distribution hell before finally receiving a DVD release from Warner Home Video – and just in time for Halloween. Packed with style and glee and enough holiday lore to make Jack Skellington jump for joy, the picture is sure to become required holiday viewing for young fans.

8. Bad Biology (Jan. 26, 2010) When two biologically malformed beings meet the result is an explosively lewd and bewildering experience in tune with the midnight movies of the late 70s. A master of low budget cinema, Frank Henenlotter was removed from filmmaking for far too long. His return boasts the same magnificently shameless style and stop-motion FX that made him famous among dedicated horror fans.

9. The Last House on the Left (Aug. 18, 2009) When the Collingwoods discover the gang of drifters staying in their guest house may have assaulted their daughter they decide on a rather gruesome method of settling the score. The only of the horde of current remakes to outdo its predecessor, The Last House on the Left is stylishly photographed, tightly directed and wonderfully acted. Though the strong message of the original is weakened by the survival of the Collingwood girl, the moment in which the parents decide to resort to violence is truly affecting.

10. Pontypool (Jan. 26, 2010) A deadly virus is sweeping a small Ontario town and the only source for information is newly appointed shock-jock Grant Mazzy. Very stylish and extremely claustrophobic, Pontypool is a zombie flick minus the zombies. Transpiring completely within a crude radio station the picture remains inventive up until the point that the source of the disease is revealed (where it becomes a tad corny).