The loveable eccentric inhabitants of a small town in Alaska are at the height of said eccentricity after a full dose of the old midnight sun. Alas, their being kind of crazy doesn't safe them when melting ice frees a wyvern from its monstrous sleep. As you know, global warming is responsible for nearly as many monster attacks as the mad science of the military-industrial complex.
The wyvern is a curious beast. It's not just mindlessly sweeping down from the skies to nibble people's heads off, it does have enough brains to cut off the only road out of town, and even lays simple traps. Might be hillbilly philosopher Hoss (Northern Exposure's Barry Corbin who is also joined by Elaine Miles from the same show) is right, and this wyvern really is a mythological creature rather than just a hungry animal. Be that as it may, the townsfolk - particularly former ice road trucker with an ice road trucking accident based trauma Jake (Nick Chinlund), café owner/waitress Claire (Erin Karpluk), DJ Hampton (Tinsel Korey) and retired military Colonel Travis (Don S. Davis, who, I'm sorry to say, will always be Scully's dad to me) - will have to use all their working class abilities (it's, to get parenthetical here, quite interesting to note how often the heroes of SyFy Channel movies belong to the working class, by the way; even SyFy scientists usually feel curiously working class, at least the sane ones) to defend themselves against the creature.
One thing my half-way insane consumption of SyFy Channel movies in the last few weeks has brought back into perspective for me again is how little a film being formulaic or not has to do with the enjoyment I can get out of it (or not). A good director of films like these - as Wyvern's Steven R. Monroe definitely is - will make even the most formulaic of monster movie rituals interesting or fun, and a good script - as Jason Bourque's script for Wyvern surely is - will include enough that is different from the formula next to the trope check marks. It is a game of small changes and minor twists to be sure, yet these small things are what makes the difference between boredom and fun. Wyvern stays on the fun side of formula throughout, keeping the balance between cheesiness, the expected, and the not quite expected just right. It also helps that its high concept seems to have been "Northern Exposure with a giant monster", and everything gets better when you put a giant monster in (they are a lot like snow in that way).
Actually keeping in the tradition of Northern Exposure, Wyvern manages to turn its cliché characters loveable and charming, making them much more interesting - and sadder monster victims - than the more usual bunch of asshats. Half of that effect is thanks to Bourque's script that knows when to be funny - yes, the film is actually funny when it wants to be - as well as it knows how to sell a silly backstory like Jake's ice road trucking accident (that of course killed his brother) in earnest. The film's cast of experienced TV and low budget character actors are carrying the other half of the effect, generally turning clichés personable and likeable.
By now, I have to say that I also really enjoy that other way SyFy brings variations into their films by having them take place in a variety of US states - generally played by British Columbia, Bulgaria, or Louisiana. The local colour is of course never true "local colour" but a strange backyard version of exoticism that may be annoying when you're finding the place where you live portrayed unrealistically, yet really helps add personality to a movie.
One major surprise for me with Wyvern is its monster, or rather, its monster effects. The CGI in many SyFy movies seems needlessly crappy, probably because so many of them are about swarms of things eating people, which can't be good for detail work on a budget; though some single monsters are pretty bad too. Most of the time, it's a flaw I've learned to tolerate by now. However, Wyvern's CGI is actually pretty darn impressive with few - if any - of the flaws I mention in every second write-up of this series. Like the rest of Wyvern, its monster is realized with a degree of love and care that seems to go beyond the dictates of mere professionalism.Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,american tv,reviews,syfy vs the mynd,horror,giant monsters,steven r. monroe,nick chinlund,erin karpluk,barry corbin,tinsel korey,don s. davis
Panic in a small ski resort in the mountains of Utah. The neighbouring secret government lab experimenting on helpless spiders with gene grafts from their ancestors has hit a spot of bother, and now half a dozen hungry giant spiders on steroids (not a metaphor) are roaming the mountain looking for food, which is to say, ski resort vacationers.
Still, the spiders shouldn't be much of a problem, for spiders generally can't cope with cold too well, but mad scientist Professor Marks (David Milbern) has doped them up so much, they don't even care about the weather anymore. Since the soldiers stationed to protect the spiders aren't very good at their job (and, you know, not actually stationed where the spiders were but a twenty minutes drive away), it falls on not mad scientist Dr. Sommers (Vanessa Williams), skiing instructor, ex-marine and nearly Olympic ski talent Dash Dashiell (Patrick Muldoon), and ski resort owner Frank Stone (Stephen J. Cannell) to heroically fight off the ice spider menace. Unfortunately, our ski resort is the only place in the USA where no firearms at all can be found, so our heroes will need all their creativity and natural talents (skiing, pulling levers, running) to survive.
There's an old saying among my people that states "everything is better with ice and snow", and Tibor Takács' Ice Spiders clearly displays the truth of it, for the ice-bound nature of our SyFy menace of the week does provide ample opportunity for things like spider shenanigans on a ski lift (pro-tip: don't jump down) and a climactic race between our heroic ski instructor and three skittering, jumping, and tittering CGI spiders. Truly, it is a thing only possible in the Great White of Utah.
All of this is - obviously - supremely silly business, exactly the sort of thing that could descend into the deepest chasm of camp, but through powers won in a long career of films made from the most dubious of scripts (or at least with the most dubious of stories), Takács manages to keep things funny-silly instead of "oh-look-how-ironic-and-subversive-I-am-because-I'm-crap". It's mostly the director's judicious sense of pacing that makes the difference here, I think, as well as the ability to know when a silly joke works, and when making it would annoy.
The actors are no help at all: Muldoon, Williams, and Millbern are all kinds of dreadful and earnest, neither able to convey any believable human emotion, nor fit to deliver their lines; it says something rather rude about them that TV producer Cannell is the best actor in the film. But hey, it's not as if the rest of the cast weren't at least trying, and it just might be exactly the misguided earnestness of their performances which make our heroes somewhat endearing. It sure isn't the characterization. Truthfully, I don't really care (much) about the quality of the acting in a SyFy creature feature as long as I get to regularly see giant spiders munch on people.
This, Ice Spiders provides in spades, and tops it off with letting the munching happen in ice and snow, therefore earning itself my seal of approval.
Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,american tv,in short,syfy vs the mynd,horror,tibor takács,patrick muldoon,vanessa williams,stephen j. cannell
Following orders of his mafia bosses, Luca Albanese (director Gianni Manera) - a man we are traumatically informed carries "balls like watermelons" - and some colleagues rob a safe with a lot of money. Against their orders, one of the gang members shoots a civilian, so word comes down for the team and their girlfriends to lay low somewhere with the money until the eye of the public looks elsewhere.
Alas, some masked, gloved killer strangles one of the girlfriends in the safe house (but don't worry, only after the mandatory random lesbian shenanigans), painting her brow white. Clearly, a new safe house is in order, so the gang goes to the summer country house of one of the girlfriends' uncles in Abruzzo. To nobody's surprise, the killer, slowly, oh so very slowly, kills himself through the cast while babbling nonsense, and nobody else does anything of import.
Now, this short description makes Gianni Manera's Ordine sound like a taught little thriller attempting to find the golden middle ground between eurocrime and giallo, but in truth, the film is an absolute mess made by a director who couldn't tell a story to save his life. Stylistically, the film jumps randomly between cliché giallo shots as reconstructed by a blind man editing with a pair of paper scissors, would-be existential dialogue scenes, and melodramatic gangster shit that doesn't seem to realize you have to earn your melodrama. There's an awkwardness surrounding every single element of the film.
The plot is presented as a series of random vignettes, overlong transition scenes, sudden inexplicably bizarre dream sequences, and clichés half-remembered and badly digested from other movies until they turn into something like a baked-beans induced nightmare, full of non-sequitur dialogue ("Don't you think it's…who knows? Something? Strange?" is rather typical for the film's style), sudden outbreaks of monologizing about one of the gang's dream to make a film, and what can only be described as random pieces of other films. Quite consequently, Ordine also ends on what feels like fifteen minutes ripped out of a totally different film about a minor character, some sort of political sub-Damiani abomination. It's clear that Manera would very much have liked for the film to be read as a political allegory, or some sort of existentialist tract (the assistant director was supposedly called "Albert Camus", for Sartre's sake!) but it probably would have helped his case if he had actually shot one.
Don't get me wrong, though. If you have the patience to wade through the film's needlessly long transitional scenes, don't fall asleep even though its scenes just never seem to want to end, and are able to see Manera's attempts to have not a single coherent conversation in his movie as rather charming, you may find Ordine Firmato In Bianco to be rather hypnotic in its incoherence, interesting in Manera's technical incompetence, and really just way too strange to be ignored. The film does at the very least contain a handful of scenes so awkwardly staged and bizarre it's quite impossible for me not to feel the kind of misguided love one feels for a mutant teddy bear. Just take the endless sequence where the crazy wife (I think) of the caretaker of house number two (whom I didn't mention before because she doesn't actually have a reason to be in the movie) finds her husband knifed by the killer and is then hunted through the house by her half-dead husband. It's stupid, ill-advised and goes on much too long, but it's also the kind of scene you just won't find in a sane movie.
I'm not saying this lightly, but Manera's technical awkwardness, the obvious lack of a budget, the absolute loopiness of his dialogue, and the sheer unfulfilled ambition of Ordine Firmato In Bianco remind me most of saintly Edward Wood (jr.). And really, what greater compliment could I make a movie and a filmmaker than that?
Technorati-Markierungen: italian movies,reviews,wtf,giallo,eurocrime,gianni manera
After watching the final film of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, I've worked through various pieces of criticism about it, and I have to agree with about fifty percent of it. So yes, I agree this is a perhaps overlong, often overreaching and internally conflicted film. However, I actually think these things aren't bugs here, they are features; indeed they are for me what makes this a great film.
The thing with the film's overreaching, the way it wants to be about three or four films at once (one of them even a superhero version of A Tale of Two Cities) really comes down to what you expect of your multi-multi-million dollar movies: a tight, slick product, or an actual creative endeavour that sometimes won't be able to fulfil everything it tries, but that makes up for the moments - in this case about twenty percent of the time - when it fails with a willingness to go to interesting, sometimes even surprising, places between the spectacle and loud melodrama the blockbuster business affords. In other words, if we as an audience want our mainstream entertainment to take risks, we also have to accept that not everything in it will work out perfectly and slickly, that there will be roughness, but also honest excitement and actual ideas when things work out, which is what happens in about eighty percent of the movie.
The Dark Knight Rises is a film full of conflicting impulses in its narrative, its politics, its emotions, even its concept of heroism; despite being a superhero movie, it's a film lacking moral certainty (especially in the few moments when it pretends to have it). Things here are messy, and clear-cut answers are not to be found; this is about striving and asking questions, and questioning answers which for my tastes fits the character of Batman much better than making him a barrel-chested 70s love god and international adventurer or a grim and gritty psychopath. It's these cracks and the breaks in the film's structure and meaning that truly make the film work for me, its imperfections working as a reflection of the messiness of reality as well as the messiness of dreams.
Despite the remaining prevalence of Michael Baysian crap, it's a pretty exciting time for blockbuster cinema right now, when movies as different and great in their own ways like this or The Avengers can be made and will be watched by millions, movies that have no problems with pushing all the spectacle buttons while still being ambitious and aggressively non-dumb.Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,in short,christopher nolan,christian bale,gary oldman,tom hardy,joseph gordon-levitt,anne hathaway,marion cotillard,michael caine,superheroes,sf
Tyrone Tackett (Bernie Casey) returns to his native Los Angeles from Oakland, where he works for a shady porn tycoon, to attend the funeral of his brother. Tyrone's brother supposedly drove to death in his car while drunk (though there are also hints of suicide), but Tyrone quickly figures something was wrong with the death. It's not very difficult to think so, really, what with a couple of gangsters working for Tyrone's former boss, porn tycoon and racist Nano Zito (Don Diamond), following him just as soon as he arrives in town, pressing him to leave again right after the funeral, his brother's girlfriend having nothing to say to him at all, and his niece Rochelle (Candy All) just acting off.
Threats of any kind don't work on Tyrone, so he starts to ask questions, annoy powerful people, and give as much violence back as he receives until he'll find out how and why his brother truly died. He also finds time to sleep with any woman (including Pam Grier when she was Pamela Grier) he encounters. One would not want to be in the shoes of anyone he finds responsible for the death.
George Armitage's Hit Man is based on Ted Lewis's Jack Returns Home, the same novel Mike Hodges's classic British crime movie Get Carter adapts. For me, this resulted in a rather confusing viewing experience where nearly identical scenes play out just slightly different, yet the film as a whole feels utterly different from Get Carter. It's a bit like meeting someone who nearly looks like a dear old friend, but isn't; still, you can't help yourself and compare, and really become confused when your mysterious stranger suddenly goes off in a totally different direction.
For large parts of its running time, Hit Man feels much looser and more leisurely than the British movie, with Tackett sharing Carter's propensity for violence but seeming much more relaxed and at one with himself, even when he's dodging bullets and paying people back for racist insults. Casey's performance is rather laid back, and while he is no young Michael Caine, he does give Tackett more depth than the first look at his pimp-tastic clothes leads one to expect. The whole "unstoppable sex god" thing does get tiresome, though.
Tonally, Armitage's film feels less dark, even though both movies do share a plot. Armitage clearly loves slightly off-beat humour where Hodges just looks at the world with grim distance. I wouldn't exactly call Hit Man friendlier (it does after all end with Casey basically killing everyone) but it does at least crack a smile from time to time. Armitage's movie also changes the final fate of its protagonist, which to me felt like the result of a lack of courage.
I'd rather prefer to be able to talk about Hit Man without permanently comparing it to Get Carter but both films are just too close to each other to; and in direct comparison Hit Man is just the lesser movie, even though it certainly is a good one.Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,crime,george armitage,barney casey,pam grier
We agents of M.O.S.S. defy your oppressive assumptions about seasons in the northern hemisphere. To prove you (yes you!) wrong, May will be all about ice, snow and everything cold for us. Everything is better in winter, after all. What better way for me to begin this exciting venture than by taking a look at those Alaskan heroes, ice road truckers?
Little do Alaskan ice road truckers and best buddies Jack (Ty Olsson) and Neil (Dylan Neal) expect their final haul of the season before the ice road is melting to be quite as dangerous. Sure, having one of two trucks full of explosives, and environmental scientist Rachel (Brea Grant) as part of their load while the road they're driving on is already turning to slush sure sounds interesting and dangerous enough, but it's also - except for the scientist - all in a normal day's work for the two guys.
However, things that happen at the site our heroes are driving to are a bit out of the ordinary. I do at least assume it's not an every day occurrence up in the icy north for illegal blasting operations to free a living and very hungry specimen of a giant lizard from Inuit legend that may or may not belong to the dinosaur species called "Predator X" (environmental scientists know just about everything). The lizard proceeds to eat everyone it finds (apart from two characters needed for exposition to our heroes, obviously) Soon enough, our protagonist trio find themselves in a race against the ill-mannered CGI beast, the weather, and everything else the script can come up with.
It's not difficult to imagine the thought processes that led SyFy Channel executives to this one. Everyone, they must have thought, loves ice road truckers (a phenomenon I only ever realized is a phenomenon thanks to the movie) and everyone likes Wages of Fear, so filming a variation of the movie taking place in Alaska (or "British Columbia", as we call it) and adding an evil giant lizard to it really must have been a no-brainer. And honestly, they weren't wrong about this one.
As TV veteran (a guy with particularly many films with the word "Christmas" in their title, so at the very least an expert in filming the best white thing I know, snow) director Terry Ingram films it, Ice Road Terror is a perfectly great little movie based on a perfect low budget movie idea. Ingram doesn't linger on the weaknesses - see all my reviews of all SyFy movies ever - of his CGI monster too much, and stages a few surprisingly dynamic monster attack and truck stunt scenes that are really rather on the exciting - if physically dubious - side.
After about half of the movie is through, Ice Road Terror turns into a more typical "characters hole up in a hut and try to keep the monster out" film, which may sound a bit disappointing but is actually a good decision. There is, after all, only so much cheap action you can stage with two trucks, ice, snow, and a giant CGI lizard before things start to get boring and repetitive. The change of pace also gives the movie space to include Michael "Colonel Tigh" Hogan and Merrilyn Gann in rather delightful performances as owners of the only truck stop in in ice road county, which helps with characterization as well as providing opportunity for a smidgen of gore.
When Ice Road Terror doesn't spend its time on the lizard action - and this is a movie going out of its way to include as much as possible of said lizard action - it does the expected clichéd character work in a perfectly likeable manner, assisted by a cast full of perfectly likeable actors being, well, perfectly likeable.
Surely, that's more than anyone can expect from a movie that marries Wages of Fear, the working class romanticism of idealized trucker-dom, and a frigging giant lizard.Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,american tv,in short,horror,giant monsters,brea grant,ty olsson,dylan neal,michael hogan,terry ingram
Isn't it rather strange that it needs Barry Levinson, the director of fucking Rain Man to make creative use of the POV horror style rather than his more horror based colleagues, breathing life into a sub-genre that has grown pretty stale through everybody's insistence to attempt to remake Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity again and again and again? And if I, as someone still somewhat beholden to POV horror, am getting impatient with the genre, I can't even imagine what sane people will think about it.
Levinson's approach differs in two major aspects from POV standards.
Firstly, where most POV horror uses the found footage approach to limit its perspective very closely to a handful of characters in one place, Levinson takes different kinds of footage to create a larger view of a community hit by a catastrophe, still leaving room for individual horrors but showing the individual suffering as part of a bigger whole. That approach feels particularly fresh because films about (minor) apocalypses seldom use it; if you think about it, it's really rather close to the 70s disaster movie formula, just without the interest in washed-up stars and Charlton Heston speaking into things, and carrying a much nastier undertone. And make no mistake about it, The Bay's catastrophe isn't just a particularly icky one, this is also a film perfectly willing and able to kill off the kinds of characters all of Levinson's Hollywood instincts should actually make sacrosanct. The whole thing really gets surprisingly unpleasant, as if the director had discovered his inner exploitation filmmaker and indulged him as much as possible.
Secondly, The Bay's danger isn't a supernatural one, but belongs into the hoary and wonderful tradition of eco horror, a sub-genre I'd call rather more science-fictional if the science in it ever were much good. This leaves Levinson open to actually explain what's going on in the film without having to betray the gruesomeness of it all. It's not that I don't love ambiguity, it is, however, from time to time nice to encounter a film that just wants to shout its background story into your face while nasty things eat away at its tongue.
Subtle, The Bay consequently isn't: the characters - though decently acted by people like Kristen Connolly and Kether Donohue - are drawn in the broadest of strokes, the conspiracy theorist elements are a bit talk radio (though they don't include the Illuminati nor reptoids, so it's not that bad), and the narrative has the bluntness of an object the film wants to cave your head in with, but there's something to be said for a lack of subtlety when the resulting film feels as unpleasant and tight as The Bay does. I think I've just forgiven Barry Levinson for Rain Man (though not for the reactionary bullshit of Sphere).
Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,in short,horror,sf,barry levinson,kristen connolly,kether donohue
aka The Indian Scarf
After Lord Lebanon dies of a heart attack that looks a lot like him being strangled with a scarf, a rather large group of disparate family members is called together for the reading of his will by lawyer Frank Tanner (Heinz Drache). Lebanon's wife, Lady Emily (Elisabeth Flickenschildt) and her obsessive pianist son Edward (Hans Clarin) aren't too happy to share their inheritance with people like the Lord's bastard son Peter Ross (Klaus Kinski), the pretty young Isla (Corny Collins), explorer Sir Henry (Siegfried Schürenberg for once not working for the Yard), or Mrs Tilling (Gisela Uhlen) who is - gasp! - married, unhappily so, to an American (Hans Nielsen).
However, before Tanner is actually allowed to read the will and anyone is coming into one's fortune, the whole family has to spend six days and six nights in the family manor in Scotland together. Soon, it looks like one among the gathered - perhaps with the help of butler Bonwit (Eddi Arent, of course) or handyman Chiko (Ady Berber)? - would really rather prefer a larger share of the inheritance and begins to strangle a family member per night with one among the numerous Indian scarfs in the house.
Thanks to a fortuitously arrived storm front, the mansion is cut off from the outside world, so it falls to Tanner to play amateur detective and find out who is killing off people left and right before nobody is left to read a will to.
Das Indische Tuch is far from your typical Rialto Edgar Wallace adaptation (except for the number of murders, of course), for it rather prefers to be your typical old dark house movie, despite a deplorable lack of men in gorilla suits. It's a nice change-up for the series, and, given the small number of necessary sets, was probably also a nice way for Rialto to save a little cash. Why, even the mandatory outside shot of the old dark house is replaced with a highly theatrical slide in an act of conscious artificiality.
That sort of artificiality is of course something director Alfred Vohrer excelled at, and he consequently uses Das Indische Tuch to wallow in everything anti-naturalistic he loves so well - dramatic zooms, cameras positioned at curious places and angles, lots of shots of people peeping at other people through various holes, steaming phallus-shaped objects, and moments of what Germany in the early 60s imagined to be risqué filmmaking that look all the more awkward because they're positioned among so many sexual symbols.
Vohrer, ably assisted by production designers Walter Kutz and Wilhelm Vorwerg, also loves to include never explained, utterly weird details in the sets, like the gigantic Beethoven bust (who knew Beethoven's head was that of a three meter giant?) standing behind Hans Clarin's piano, and the stuffed horse taking up a third of the music room. The Vohrer-typical moments of high melodrama are more often than not pulled in rather ironic directions by these curious elements of the film - creepy and loud mother/son relationships take on a rather funny dimension when played out in front of a stuffed horse.
The film also finds time to update the rule of Chekhov's Gun to that of Vohrer's Tarantula, gives Kinski and Clarin time to show off their respective skills at making crazy-eyes, teaches us that all artists as well as all members of noble families who aren't young women for the leading man to romance are crazy, includes an often absurdly chipper Peter Thomas score, and ends on one of those silly, self-conscious notes Vohrer loved so dearly.
Needless to say, Das Indische Tuch feels often even more like a black comedy than your usual Vohrer krimi, but since I found myself laughing about its jokes and strange digressions more often than not, I don't think that's a bad thing. After all, how could one make an old dark house movie in 1963 while keeping a straight face?Technorati-Markierungen: german movies,reviews,krimi,comedy,alfred vohrer,heinz drache,klaus kinski,corny collins,eddi arent,siegfried schürenberg,hans clarin,elisabeth flickenschildt
Three Films Make A Post: Horror so incredible it stretches the mind of man beyond the breaking point!
Armored Car Robbery (1950): Working for RKO's b-unit, Richard Fleischer learned early on some of the virtues that would make him one of the better work-for-hire directors in years to come: an ability to tell a story in the most economical manner while still giving it room to breathe. Case in point is this hard-boiled movie about the hunt for a quartet of armoured car robbers, a film that uses its 67 minutes of runtime to the fullest, trusting in the abilities of a fine cast (particularly Charles McGraw, Adele Jergens and William Talman), and its audience's knowledge of the basics of the genre its working in. I'm tempted to say there's not quite enough depth to Armored Car Robbery but then, like its title, this is a movie that is all about a slick, polished surface that already says all there is to say.
The Crimes Of The Black Cat aka Sette Scialli Di Seta Gialla (1972): For most of its running time, Sergio Pastore's giallo comes down on the side of the giallo as a murder mystery, using a lot of favourite giallo bits and bobs (the amateur detective, fashion models as the main victim group, the black-gloved killer) in an entertaining, yet also somewhat conservative and certainly not lurid manner. Which is a curious thing to say about a movie about a blind composer (played by old wooden face Anthony Steffen with a quiet intensity of obsession I'm not surprised anymore now that I've seen him in enough movies where he actually acts) hunting a killer who uses a black cat as his murder weapon, but there you have it.
The film only becomes truly lurid and crazy with its last murder and final plot twist; fortunately, as the very solid and stylish suspense scene surrounding that final twist and luridness demonstrate, Pastore is well equipped to make a perfectly fun film even without the lurid and the crazy whose absence so often breaks a giallo.
Eyeball (1975): This one is generally treated as one of Umberto Lenzi's best giallos but I can't say I see it. Sure, there's a killer in a stylish red raincoat haunting Barcelona stealing eyeballs, but the red raincoat is as stylish as anything here gets, and the eyeball-stealing less lurid than is sounds. Meanwhile the plot slowly plods along, the mystery bores a bit, and the murders just aren't all that interesting. It's an okay film to watch if you don't have anything exciting at hand, but that's as far as it goes for me.Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,italian movies,in short,crime,giallo,richard fleischer,charles mcgraw,adele jergens,william talman,sergio pastore,anthony steffen,umberto lenzi
People will call me mad when I tell them that this Lou Diamond Phillips starring SyFy movie by the director of Kaw is one of the best pieces of US small town horror I know, but then, we can keep this our little secret, right?american movies,american tv,reviews,horror,syfy vs the mynd,sheldon wilson,lou diamond phillips,alan c. peterson,vlasta vrana,simone-élise girard
Because she was mildly naughty, her agency ships model Anni (Tiina Björkman) off for a few days away from the limelight. Anni ends up in a hut somewhere far out in the Finnish countryside, with her teenage brother Johannes (Kim Gunell) supposedly bound to follow the next day.
Of course, we all know about the pleasures of country life from many a horror movie, so it'll come as no surprise when Anni's closest neighbours turn out to be rather peculiar. The Kyyröläs consist of a religiously crazy Mum (Soli Labbart), her panty-stealing giggling crazy son Arvo (Kari Sorvali) and Sulo (Mikko Kivinen), the son so crazy the family locks him up in the root cellar so he doesn't roam the snowy woods at night, howling like a wolf.
Needless to say, pretty Anni soon awakens the interest of Arvo, whose particular type of country hospitality becomes increasingly threatening. Cue "Dueling Banjos".
As is obvious by now, Olli Soinio's Finnish backwoods horror film Kuutamosonaatti (which translates into "Moonlight Sonata") sets out to prove that the language of evil, unwashed country people hunting much prettier city folk is very much an international one. And what could be better than to use the rural landscape of your (sometimes metaphorical) backyard if you're making a low budget movie?
As far as the violence goes, the film at hand is on the more harmless side of its genre. There aren't all that many characters to kill off gorily, and the film prefers a mixture of dry, off-beat humour which my very basic knowledge of Finnish film and music interprets as typical of the country, and classic tricks of suspense and thriller filmmaking as brought down to us by Hitchcock (who even has a kind of guest appearance).
While that may disappoint the gore hounds among its audience, Kuutamosonaatti's suspense scenes were effective enough to keep me interested. Sure, there's a degree of silliness to the set-up of various scenes you need to ignore to enjoy the film on a straightforward level, but if you do, there's a pretty tight low budget movie to enjoy.
Additionally, if you've seen as many backwoods horror movies as I have, you learn to enjoy the slight differences in local colour, and Kuutamosonaatti's well photographed snowy North of Finland provides a marked and pleasant difference in a genre generally taking place in the woods somewhere in Backwoodlandia, USA. There are also too few tractor chase scenes in the genre outside of Finland.Technorati-Markierungen: finnish movies,in short,horror,olli soinio,tiina björkman,kim gunell,kari sorvali
Spy Jonathan Chandler (Henry Silva) is saved from the electric chair - to which he was condemned for a crime he may or may not have actually committed - by his spy masters, so he can take on the role of his non-existent brother Philip and attempt to infiltrate some sort of dangerous group that will much later turn out to plan the assassination of a US senator to disrupt peace talks between the USA and the USSR. Plagued by an identity crisis, an unresolved obsession with his wife (Evelyn Stewart), and a thirst for vengeance towards someone or something, Chandler stumbles from New York to Hamburg, confused, attacked and threatened by his own side, as well as the side he's supposed to infiltrate.
This debut feature of director Emilio Miraglia (whom you should know from two fine, and sometimes equally ambiguous giallos - The Red Queen Kills Seven Times and The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave) is a Eurospy movie only if you call every movie about spies made in Europe one, but it's tonally too different from other films of the genre to fit the label for my taste. Rather, it's a film working at inducing a feeling of alienation in its viewers equal to the confusion and alienation of its protagonist. It does this via a spy movie assassination plot that isn't really explained, character whose motives are not just being slightly ambiguous but opaque to utterly confusing, and a conscious avoidance of explaining anything that's going on for most of its running time. It's a bit as if Kafka instead of Ian Fleming had written the James Bond books, and Italian filmmakers were now desperately trying to rip off the adventures of James K. instead.
Watching Assassination is a peculiar experience which is as close as suffering from actual hallucinations instead of just watching a movie as some of the weirdest noirs were, the film always threatening to break down on itself completely. The movie is just held together by Miraglia's very stylish direction, a particularly intense Henry Silva going through the film as if it were a series of hallucinations he'd just love to punch in the face, and Evelyn Stewart making patented Evelyn Stewart tragic suffering faces. Though "held together" really is a rather relative description for a film as purposefully confusing and frayed as this one is.
In any case, Assassination is a pretty fantastic movie if you're willing to share in its perspective on life as a tragic, perhaps frightening and quite unanswerable question for an hour and a half of your time.Technorati-Markierungen: italian movies,in short,emilio miraglia,henry silva,evelyn stewart,fred beir,spies
I'm pretty sure Argento's version of Dracula will automatically get the critical drubbing all his late period films get, be they great like Mother of Tears, abominations like Giallo and The Card Player, or fine workman-like efforts like his Masters of Horror episodes. Argento shares the fate of his co-sufferers in directing horror films like George Romero and John Carpenter of having turned their once rabid fanbases against themselves by continuing to change their styles. And we all know by now that "fans" only stay "fans" as long as you give them exactly what they expect, lest they turn into a highly enthusiastic lynch mob that wouldn't even realize if you made the best movie of your career. Thusly, the Internet has turned my private definition of "fan" into "person who hates something so much (s)he won't stop shouting about how horrible it is", but I digress.
Not that Dracula (3D) is the best movie of Argento's career. It is, in fact, a rather curious artefact that attempts - and perhaps half of the time succeeds - to build a luridly dream-like mood out of a mixture of operatic theatricality, cheapness, misguided uses of modern technology, an improbably bad soundtrack, and plain weirdness. When this works, Dracula becomes rather magical, like a pulpy version of that weird vampire sex dream (vampirism is all about sex and domination for Argento here) you once had after reading Bram Stoker and drinking too much red wine. When it fails, Dracula turns into a horrible mess half bad soap opera, half gore flick made by a teenager.
The most curious thing about it is how easily the film slips from one extreme to the next, with nearly awe-inspiring moments of Gothic horror turning into poor cheese and back again at the drop of a hat. Really everything in Dracula is changing from one moment to the next in this way - the acting (with generally lovely actors like Asia Argento, Thomas "Dracula" Kretschmann and Rutger Hauer as the least interesting Van Helsing imaginable) is convincing in one sentence, stiff in the next, and melodramatically overdone in the next, the special effects permanently meander between decent practical effects, utterly horrid CG most SyFy channel movies were ashamed of, and beautiful and imaginative CG, while the script wanders between homages to every other Dracula adaptation in existence, clever changes to the original (for example, not taking the plot to England doesn't just put away the xenophobic subtext, and is good for the budget but also makes the film dramatically tighter, or rather would make it tighter if this were a film interested in it; and I love what the film in the end does with the old, terrible "Mina is the reincarnation of Dracula's wife" bit), random weird shit I can't help but approve of (I'll just say "mantis"), and stuff that is of little use however you look at it.
Locations and sets are at times beautiful and atmospheric, and at other times so ill lit they have the fake, plastic-y look of a doll house. In this Dracula, the sublime and the ridiculous don't just go hand in hand, they change from one into the other like a hyperactive werewolf. I'm actually pretty sure Argento does this all on purpose (for he can hardly not see it), but what his purpose is - apart from making it much easier for people to hate on the film without having to think about it - I surely don't know.
What I do know is that, even though Argento's Dracula surely isn't his best film, or even a good one, it is a film containing as much personality, strangeness and idiosyncrasy as I could have wished for. It's certainly not the film I would have wanted Argento to make, but then I'm convinced that if you're expecting any artist, in whatever part of his or her career, to do the exact sort of thing you want from her or him, you're doing art appreciation wrong.