Thursday, January 27, 2011

Movies I've Seen (Recently) 1/27/11

Ratings based on a five blood drop scale.
When Karma’s sister is found beaten to death, she infiltrates Canada’s underground sex trade to find her sibling’s killers.

Every rape/revenge flick released post I Spit on Your Grave (1978) affirms the feminist proclamation of that universally despised film. Rape is a brutal, disgusting act and if witnessed, would probably look something like what is depicted in ISOYG. The victim in that R/R classic spends the majority the film’s running time in a comatose state, bruised and bloodied and crawling through the dirt. Andrew Thomas Hunt, the director of Sweet Karma, is a little too infatuated with his “babes in the woods.” Karma (Playboy playmate Shera Bechard) is a beautiful girl; you need only look to the film’s seductive box art to see that. But she shouldn’t come off as appealing to viewers when being attacked. She goes through more undergarments in a single day than my new born son.

When Lola’s invitation to the school dance is dismissed by Brent, she and her father cook up a macabre plan for revenge.

This movie represents everything that is wrong with horror today. While more competently crafted than most films of its type, it is nonetheless torture porn. It spends about six minutes building character and sprinkles a few morbidly humorous antics throughout, but is fundamentally a depthless tale focused on exhibiting low-rent gore and relentless terror. Genre fans should demand more.

Added to which, there is nary a likable character in the bunch. Brent is no catch. Everyone is basically unattractive. In fact, the most physically appealing of the lot is the geek – Lola and she inflicts pain as punishment with true delight. Which raises the question, what would she have done had Brent accepted her invitation?

Kelly and her autistic brother Tom are attacked by a ravenous tiger when their stepfather attempts to turn their home into a safari ranch.

An absurd premise designed to provide thrills and keep the audience cliff-hanging. It approaches this aim like so: Kelly and her brother retreat to a bedroom – the windows are boarded up as protection from the hurricane outside – Tom becomes disturbed by the change in his routine - the tiger claws his way into the room just as the protagonists escape into the hall. This happens over and over in the film, effectively destroying any attempt at suspense in subsequent scenes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Movies I've Seen (Recently): Back from the Grave

Ratings based on a five blood drop scale.

When the late Alice Palmer begins appearing in photos and video footage, her family calls on a parapsychologist to investigate her mysterious death.

These faux-documentary types either work or they don’t. Lake Mungo manages in its opening moments to set up a genuinely compelling scenario and the restrained cast do well to maintain an air of authenticity. However, each striking disclosure is revealed in the same manner: the camera zooms in slowly on a portion of a distorted image or piece of footage to divulge a shape that may be that of Alice, thus diminishing any sense of suspense the film worked to achieve. (BTW, where do the protagonists in these films find such technologically ineffective equipment? If I ever feel compelled to capture the spirit of a past loved one on video, I’m seeking out the highest res camera on the market.) Still, director Joel Anderson has command of the form and for every uninspiring moment there is one of sheer creepiness.


Set in a charming Irish costal town during its annual literary festival, The Eclipse witnesses widower Michael Farr (Ciaran Hinds) invoking the knowledge of ghost scribe Lena Morrell (Iben Hjejle) when he starts seeing spectral apparitions in his house.

Not to be confused with the latest installment in that famed vampire series, The Eclipse is a character vehicle driven by the stoic Hinds as a school teacher and festival volunteer who goes about the mundane activities of life so as to make things feel as normal as possible for his grief-stricken son and daughter. It is a ghost story in that if features a couple of ghostly figures that pop up at the bottom of the stairs and the foot of the bed just long enough for Michael to rub his lids and refocus his eyes. It is in effect, however, a tale of romance between the repressed Michael and the writer who gets him to release his emotions. The scene in which he comes to terms with the loss of his wife is truly haunting.

A doctor seeks revenge against the man who raped and murdered his daughter in 7 days.

Despite its log line and a few of the publicity stills used in marketing the film, 7 Days is not torture porn. It does contain disturbing scenes of violence and gut-wrenching moments of cruelty. However, there are issues brewing beneath the surface of this daring thriller that will impinge upon the moral sense of even the most casual of horror fans. First time director Daniel Grou pushes the same puritanical buttons as his counterparts, however, even in their darkest of moments, his characters cling to that thing that define us as a people: humanness. Finely acted and expertly directed, 7 Days is one of the best horror pics of 2010.