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Horror

Hannibal Rising

dir: Peter Webber
[img_assist|nid=781|title=Have you been brushing your teeth since your last appointment? Have you?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=200]
Hannibal Lecter: The Wonder Years, or Look Who’s Stalking could have been better titles for this new prequel chapter to the Hannibal Lecter legend. Did you wonder what Hannibal was like as a child? How was his toilet training conducted? At knifepoint? Did mummsy and daddsy punish him for wetting his bed by ripping out his liver and feeding it to him with a mediocre Chianti and some azuki beans as an accompaniment?

All Hannibal Rising is and ever will be, is another trip to the well for fun and profit. The makers, especially ancient Dino De Laurentis, have confused the popularity of Thomas Harris’s initial books (Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs), and the iconic status of Sir Anthony Hopkin’s portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in Silence, with an unquenchable thirst in the audience for anything with a hint of Lecter-related marketing attached to it.

I’d understand if Thomas Harris has written a book that resonated with the public, garnered major sales, and seen a resurgence in demand for a cinematic version. Since the book in question was released simultaneously with the film’s release earlier this year, we know that’s not the case, and that it’s just merchandising.

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Bug

dir: William Friedkin
[img_assist|nid=790|title=Bugfuckingly crazy|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
Friedkin has had a many and varied career, probably best known for the classic horror flick The Exorcist. However many and varied his abilities might be, we should, at the very least, expect him to know how to depict all kinds of crazy on the silver screen. Oh, and he does.

Bug is based on a play, and it pretty much looks like a play, since most of it transpires in a single hotel room, with a few outside and aerial shots to make you forget how much like a play it really seems. There are more than two actors, as well, but mostly it’s a two-hander between Ashley Judd, yet again playing a white trash down-and-out with substance abuse problems and poor taste in men, and Michael Shannon, who regularly plays lunatics in movies.

And what this kind of story needs is people that are comfortable with playing absolute lunatics for the majority of a movie’s length.

Agnes (Judd) lives in a hotel room and waits tables in a nearby bar. She is clearly an alcoholic, loves her ganja and doesn’t mind the old crack/crystal meth pipe. In the flick’s opening minutes, we see that she’s probably been on the downward spiral for a while, and the silent, harassing phone calls from, she suspects, her recently paroled ex Jerry (Harry Connick Jr), are tipping her further over the edge.

Rating:

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

dir: Scott Glosserman
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You might have thought that Scream and its pale shadow sequels were going to be the last word on self-aware horror flicks deconstructing the horror genre even as they celebrate their dearest clichés. But no.

There’s more of that filthy, filthy lucre to mine by taking more trips to the well. In truth, these kinds of self-aware flicks will always be viable, and always be relevant as long as horror flicks keep being made.

The reason is that, as an audience member, you often sit there wondering why the characters in a horror film who are seemingly trapped in a building they can’t get out of and being stalked by an implacable killer don’t realise they are in a horror film. The willing suspension of disbelief necessarily has to extend to allowing for the protagonists, police chiefs, their neighbours and work colleagues to have never seen a horror flick in order to not know what the conventions are governing their survival or death, and therefore what is going to happen to them next.

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Turistas

dir: John Stockwell
[img_assist|nid=798|title=Come to Brazil: You'll lose your heart. And probably your kidneys too.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=360|height=259]
Bunch of backpackers go to Brazil. Evil locals catch them and harvest some of their organs. The other tourists try to escape.

The end. Is there really a need for any further review? Unfortunately for you, I can’t help myself, so yes, there are acres and acres of more review to plough through.

I can’t really explain how this flick is different from, say, Wolf Creek or any other flick where a bunch of clueless white people are preyed upon by evil dark-skinned locals. I guess the Brazilian setting is different. The motivation of the villains is slightly different. Having Melissa George play an Australian is a bit of a stretch as well.

All up it’s still super generic in its genericness. It’s no better than the movies it copies, but it’s not significantly worse either. It’s reasonably well done for a flick of its type.

I didn’t hate it, and there was at least one sequence that was genuinely tense and scary, which is one more than most horror flicks seem to manage these days.

Who the actors are, and why their characters are in Brazil is irrelevant. You don’t care, the director doesn’t care: they’re there alternately to die, or run and then die, or if they’re lucky and attractive, survive.

Rating:

Grudge 2, The

dir: Takashi Shimizu
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This Japanese director has gotten to make this same film six times. It’s not like he hasn’t been given adequate opportunity to get his groove on, and to work out whatever the hell he wants to get out of his system.

I’m sick of it. Stop now. Kudasai, domo arigato gozaimashita.

He made the first Ju-on (Grudge), remade it another three times in Japanese, then was hired to remake it in English (twice thus far) and to wedge Sarah Michelle Gellar into it. Big bucks apparently in remaking Japanese Horror for the American market.

Problem is, even as exponents of J-horror these flicks are excruciating.

I don’t mean that in a good way, since they’re all supposed to be horror films. They’re excruciating because they’re so abstract and untethered, and repeat boo moments until you’re so sick of them.

This surge in J-horror for the American market is really about being able to make horror flicks that pander to the horror-liking audiences but also getting the flicks in under a PG-13 rating. All of the remakes (Ringu, Dark Water, these ones) retain most of the plot aspects and visual elements and repeat them, with some success (and a lot of failure) ad infinitum.

Rating:

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

dir: Jonathan Liebesman
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Oh, what a woeful, woeful film. Hopefully it’s an Ending instead of a Beginning. It’s bad enough that they did a remake of the original in the first place, but now, compounding their crime by following the redundant with the plain unnecessary, they’ve gone and prequelled a horror classic. In doing so they’ve so how managed to make it anything but horrific, and substantially less than a classic.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is not so much an origin story about the origins of the murderous Hewitt clan so much as it is the endpoint of intellectual bankruptcy that serves the interests of greed without an ounce of creativity. The TCM remake made some money, so another flick scraping through the bottom of the barrel just had to be made, even though from watching this crap I can see clearly now that they had no idea what they were doing from start to finish.

In ripping the shit out of a review for a prequel / sequel / another trip to the well to whip the dead horse dismembered by a chainsaw, it requires an apologia or defence of the original. For perspective’s sake, at least.

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Silent Hill

dir: Christophe Gans
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There really isn’t any logic to the way producers think making a film out of a computer game will work at the box office. Sure, it’ll get them extra money, but rarely does it result in anything worth watching in any state apart from being drunk. From Super Mario Brothers onwards, the vast majority of computer games transferred to the silver screen have stunk like a crate full of decaying skunks.

Look at the illustrious list of movies that have undergone this transformation from nerd property to mass entertainment: Doom, Resident Evil, House of the Dead, Bloodrayne, Alone in the Dark, Wing Commander, Mortal Kombat, Streetfighter, Tomb Raider 1 & 2. Were any of these films watchable in any state apart from being drunk? And would humanity be any worse off if these films were never made and the actors and directors responsible for them were banished to a lower level of hell?

Rating:

Saw III

dir: Darren Lynn Bousman
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Saw III, which is currently dominating the US box office, might actually be an okay movie. It might even be better a better movie than Saw II, which goes against the Law of Sequels that states as more sequels get made, the quality declines exponentially.

Even if that is the case, it still does not make this a good horror movie.

If horror movies are meant to scare audiences, to instil fear in them, by that standard Saw III is a failure. Because as uncomfortable as it is to watch people being torn apart or tormented by complicated machines, and as disgusting as some of the scenes in this movie are, they are not actually scary. We are not afraid about what is going to happen to most of the people who are introduced into the story only to die a few minutes later. Because they’re not characters, on the most part, they’re just props whose usefulness is soon to end.

In that sense, identifying with any of the characters in these flicks is virtually impossible, which means their ultimate fates are only of mild interest to the audience.

Saw III also goes to extraordinary lengths to tie up loose ends from the earlier movies, even to the extent that a major plot hole identified by many audience members after enduring the first instalment is not only referenced but dealt with.

Rating:

Slither

dir: James Gunn
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Sure, some horror flicks are dumb. And some are derivative. Sometimes they’re dumb and derivative at the same time. But they can be entertaining.

There’s not a single original idea in this flick, not for a second of it. And the story is the laziest amalgam of generic genre horror television and movies ideas and clichés from X-Files episodes, The Blob, Tremors, Cronenberg’s Shivers, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and probably dozens of other crapfests. There is also a cheap feel to the proceedings, the CGI work is lame, and the flick is so predictable I felt like I’d watched the flick before I’d actually watched it.

But, and this is a big but, I still found it sporadically entertaining. I got a few laughs out of it, and there are only two real reasons why the movie works, if in fact it does at all.

One is that the script has obviously been compiled by horror film geeks with an ear for the genre. So some of the quips and lines are amusing. They won’t result in legions of viewers being admitted to hospital in need of stiches for their ruptured sides, but they don’t do too badly.

Rating:

Descent, The

dir: Neil Marshall
[img_assist|nid=883|title=Oh, there will be blood, lots and lots of blood|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=293]
Decent horror flicks are few and far between. The Descent is a decent descent into both the earth and the murky depths of the human soul, descending as it does from done-to-death horror staples, but remade in such a way as to make it more than an exercise in repetition.

When you hear a premise like ‘Six women go on a cave expedition that goes horribly wrong”, the first thing you expect, when you’ve seen as many trashy flicks as I have, is that it’ll mostly be about scantily clad women getting their tops wet and/or off, writhing around with each other in between pillow fights, pedicures and giving each other massages and drunken fistings.

Or, it’d be about women banding together to fight off predatory men, strengthen the bonds of sisterhood and to affirm that the Thelmas and Louises are doing it for themselves, or to themselves, or each other, in between teary arguments and lots of chocolate eating.

Neither, fortunately or unfortunately, apply here. This is played as a straight horror flick, with no knowing nods to the audience, and a grim and claustrophobic aesthetic that permeates throughout. It also doesn’t stint on the gore, for those that like their horror gruesome and bloody.

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