Thursday, November 28, 2013

Curse of Chucky (2013)

Genre: Supernatural
Director: Don Mancini
Country: USA
Availability: Amazon On Demand

I had some pretty harsh words for why I had absolutely no interest in seeing Curse of Chucky.  I mean, it would be terrible. And not even a fun kind of terrible, but a kind of terrible that just makes you angry. Granted, I hadn't seen any of the Child's Play sequels. But this franchise is based on campy one-liners and a killer doll - with titles like Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky. Yeah, I'll pass.

But in Rue Morgue's November issue Dave Alexander had this to say, "Curse of Chucky is a well-acted, effectively told, technically tight horror tale with a lot of care put into it. Some toys are just built to last." Well, shit. Well played, sir. Challenge accepted.

As it turns out, Curse of Chucky was not terrible. In fact, it was pretty damn good. With a creepy old mansion giving us excellent atmosphere, a fun soundtrack that is both ominous and energetic - bringing to mind elements of Goblin, solid acting with likable and despicable characters (hey, you have to root for someone to die) and some great classic moments creating that tension where you know there's a jump scene coming but you're still going to jump anyways.

But I think the secret to Curse of Chucky's success is the less is more quality. Chucky doesn't actually speak until more than halfway through the movie. He just sits there, silent, with his glassy stare - watching you. He goes missing a lot but you never see him move. This doll is fucking terrifying by what he's NOT doing. By the simple implication that there is something off. Something strange about him. And isn't that what makes dolls terrifying in general? The idea that they have a life just on the periphery of vision. That those unwavering eyes see everything. That they're just waiting for you to look away, to close your eyes, for that perfect moment when they can finally come to life and kill you in your sleep.

"Hi, I'm Chucky, and I'm your friend till the end!"

4 out of 5 stars

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Frozen (2012)

Genre: Supernatural
Director: Andrew Hyatt
Country: USA
Availability: Netflix Watch Instantly

I was remarking to myself the other day that I'm beginning to think that horror movie writers/directors don't actually watch horror movies. Sure, they may cite The Greats as their heroes and inspirations, their childhood Gods if you will. I can't tell you how many times I've read some random horror movie director recalling how seeing - The Exorcist or The Shining or Evil Dead or The Omen or Psycho or Night of the Living Dead -changed his life and he knew from that moment that he wanted to write horror movies. Or maybe they'll throw a name into the mix - The Great Wes Craven, The Amazing John Carpenter, The Brilliant George Romero! And of course, they wouldn't be wrong in their praise, but the real question remains - have they seen any of the other 10,000 horror movies that are out there? The little indies that could? The little indies that couldn't? The shit-splattered reels that roll on and off of the video shelves faster that you can decide that you want your 90 minutes back? Or the small gems that go under-the-radar and are only whispered about by the ones In The Know. Because I don't think they've seen jack shit. If they had they'd know that their tired little "twists" had been done ten times over and a hundred times better. Which brings me back to The Frozen.

Kudos to The Frozen for taking some of my horror movie loves - camping, snow, being stranded, lone survivalist chick, creepy dead kids - and then adding 90 minutes of watching paint dry and a ridiculous overused twist ending - to kill any desire I may have in the near future to watch any of the aforementioned horror movie tropes.

Fuck you The Frozen. I don't know who in their right mind gave you the genre badge of Horror Movie but someone should rip it right off of your chest and leave that open wound bloody and oozing. You suck.


2 out of 5 stars

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Evil Dead (2013)

Genre: Demons
Director: Fede Alvarez
Country: USA
Availability: Still in theaters

As I sit here and write this review the original 1981 The Evil Dead plays in the background. Having just seen the Evil Dead remake not four hours ago, I wanted to make some general comparisons while everything is still fresh in my mind, and my eyes are still recovering from the absolute horror I've recently witnessed. (she says with affection)

First off, the Evil Dead remake is more of a re-imagining than anything else. We've got the general outline that is the same - five people go to a cabin in the middle of the woods, they find a book, read some evil words aloud (like fucking idiots), and then demons start to inhabit their bodies. They'll eventually wise up and try to leave but won't be able to. Most of them will die. Some of them will fight. Blood will be spilled - oh my god, so much blood. There are some nice homages here and there, some you'll probably only catch if you're very familiar with the original, while others are so visually recognizable you'll spot them right away.

Otherwise the movies are pretty different. In the original Evil Dead there is no real character development. These people simply exist with no past, no history, nothing but a blank slate and the present. The remake attempts to infuse their characters with a bit more life. The success of this "character development" is questionable. As with most horror movies these character storylines serve a very one dimensional purpose, which is usually simply to inform us of the reasons our characters are a.) all together b.) in this particular place c.) having conflict so that later in the movie it can be resolved right before one of them dies so we feel extra special sadness d.) all of the above.

If you're not busy being pissed that The Evil Dead was remade, or busy spending every moment comparing every scene and noting all of the differences, the Evil Dead remake is a pretty riveting horror movie. It has incredible atmosphere, genuine creepiness, and once the gore starts happening... omg. People are shot, stabbed, slashed, sliced, hacked, bludgeoned, burnt, bitten, cut, punctured, penetrated, broken and vomited on. Relentlessly.

However, there are a few glaring shortcomings that stop this fun, stylized, polished, gory horror flick from being truly great. A few of them are somewhat forgivable - like the standard tropes of Chekhov's gun, or characters being generally idiotic in unrealistic ways. But the few that aren't forgivable are the film's downfalls - like hiring a completely boring and lackluster actor to fill the role of Bruce Campbell's character, and most notably - SPOILER ALERT - reverting to the Final Girl trope instead of sticking with a lone male survivor like in the original. Oh god, I almost yawned while typing that, that's how boring and predictable the Final Girl has become in horror movies. And sadly just another example of how a promising horror movie can rely too heavily on the horror movie staples and miss their opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

With that said, the remake got one major thing right - spirit. When the original The Evil Dead was made, sure it was low budget and cheesy, but it was cinematically creative and incredibly gory for its time. And while it's hard to believe when you rewatch it today, but it actually took itself quite seriously. It tried to be scary and horrifying and sinister and to one degree or another, it succeeded. And in that way the remake succeeded as well by keeping the spirit of the original and applying it to today's standards. The result is a fresh and captivating horror movie that, despite this reviewers nitpicky opinions, manages to terrify and impress its audience in a genre that is currently drowning itself in the unremarkable and the forgettable.

4 out of 5 stars