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.


  1. Good to have you back, Ern. I look forward to seeing 7 DAYS, although torture porn vs. gut-wrenching moments of cruelty sound disturbingly like the same thing. However, I will take your word for it. THE ECLIPSE's director was interviewed on NPR and it sounded like a cool movie but I had forgotten all about it. I am glad you mentioned it here or it may have remained forgotten. Lastly, I loved LAKE MUNGO and highly recommend it. I will say that, for most of it, I thought it was a true story and was way more freaked out. Once I realized it was a mockumentary, it did lose some of its steam.

  2. 2 blood drops for Mungo is a bit harsh. Thinking it's based in truth would affect one's opinion. I just felt the twists got a bit tired. An American remake is in the works btw.

  3. eclipse deserves another blood drop...at least a half drop....!