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Watching A Horror Movie A Day In October – Week 2 Results

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For the month of October I’ll be watching one horror movie that’s new to me each weekday and writing up my thoughts. Please post your reactions in the comments. Oh, and Happy almost-Halloween.

WEEK 2
Monday
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

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Katie Holmes introduces Tom to her cast mates.

Unfortunately the title is correct and there’s absolutely no reason to be afraid during this movie. While it boasts some great old-school haunted house production design and cinematography, the story is clunky and there’s no internal logic to the supernatural element, leaving the viewer lost, bored, and unafraid.

Based off a 1970s made-for-TV movie about house with dozens of impish creatures living in the basement. Del Toro saw the movie when he was a child and embellished it within his own mind over the years, so that when he saw the original as an adult it was no longer the movie he had in his head. So he hired comic-book artist Troy Nixey to direct a new version, co-written but Del Toro and Matthew Robbins (who teamed up on Mimic in 1997). Much like their previous collaboration, it’s the script which ultimately ruins the movie, relying too much on backstory and unneeded mythology, all conveyed through long sections of expositional dialog. In the end, no one really cares where the creatures come from; in fact it’s far scarier if it’s never explained but Del Toro felt the need to align this story with Pan’s Labyrinth and the movie ends up feeling like a pale copy of that 2006 gem.

Tuesday
Mimic

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It also slices, dices, and makes curly fries.

There is a director’s cut of this film out on blu-ray which claims to be “better” than the 1997 theatrical release, and while I have no doubt it’s more interesting I can’t see how different editing could fix most of the problems.

Del Toro (who directed) tends toward cartoony performances in his straight-forward genre work (his historical/genre blends, like Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth are much more grounded), but in this, his second feature film, the characters simper and glare and shout and scream with the dial cranked to eleven. There is an attempt at character development with Mira Sorvino’s character, but her inability to get pregnant never comes full circle within the story, unless you count a painful Aliens knock-off moment when she shouts at the “king” bug in order to protect a child.

Much like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, the rules in this storyverse are unclear. In one scene, an evolved soldier of the Judas Breed (a genetically enhanced and rapidly evolving super roach) sneaks into Sorvino’s apartment in order to rescue one of its offspring, hiding in shadows and refusing to be seen. And yet, later in the movie, the Judas Breed soldiers attack at the slightest sound and tear any human apart.

Also, the third act devolves into inanity as the characters figure out they can kill a single bug that will result in the rest of the colony dying out (a painfully overused sci-fi trope) and manage to find a way to explode the subway and sewer lines of an entire New York borough without harming a single person, including the guy who ignites the gas at its source.

Meandering, slow, and boring, the best thing about this film is that it united Del Toro and Doug Jones, whose combined awesome allowed for some of the greatest creature creation in recent (or all of) cinema.

Wednesday
[REC] 2

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Is this thing on?

I saw the first [REC] film on Korean YouTube, late at night, huddled in the corner, trying not to wake up my flatmate each time I freaked out. It was a frightening experience and a damn good little horror flick with a simple premise and message: our modern obsession with video recording every aspect of our lives can be dangerous.

Now we have [REC] 2 from the same two filmmakers and it stands as one of the strangest sequels I’ve eve seen. While I can’t quite decide if it’s genius or madness, or ultimately succeeds or fails, at the very least it’s interesting and extremely bold.

While the first flick is a straightforward infection zombie movie, the sequel turns that on its head and picks a whole new genre ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** …………….[REC] 2 is an exorcism movie.

*** SPOILERS END *** In addition to completely changing the mythology, this sequel also tries to spruce up the old “found footage” sub-genre by stopping 40 minutes through, changing to another camera POV, and starting the story from the beginning again. This technique is definitely interesting but ultimately adds nothing to the story.

The ending will divide some fans when it dives head long into the supernatural, but the gimmick they employ to generate scares is ingenious, even if the “twist” is pointless. All in all, it’s an effective film in terms of scares but lacks that punch of social commentary.

Thursday
Dead and Buried

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Her ninth attempt.

From the writers of Alien comes a movie that’s nowhere near as good, a flick with a lot of potential but that is ultimately burdened by an over-complicated and nonsensical set-up. It quickly falls into a far too familiar pattern for horror films: weird things happen that the protagonist can’t figure out, then the bad guy explains everything in the last ten minutes.

From the get-go this movie has a fun, retro feel but the charm quickly wears off. The basic premise is that a mortician uses voodoo to turn fresh corpses into zombies so that he can put make-up on them (yep, you heard right). Eventually the entire town is “dead” so he orders them to kill random travelers. It’s a fun and kooky idea, but unfortunately none of the scares are actually scary and the acting is mostly atrocious.

Ultimately it’s watchable, but really not worth the time unless you’re such a fan of the genre that a little cold blood covers a multitude of cinematic sins.

Friday
Shiver

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It’s time to wake up for schoooooooooooool.

I rounded out the week with this simple horror film from Spain. It starts off well, with a great idea (the protagonist is allergic to the sun so he must live in darkness), strong acting and good cinematography, not to mention some beautiful locations.

The problem — and this is something I’m finding true of most horror films — is that the scares are out of order. They reveal the “creature” too early in the film, then later shroud it in darkness or keep it off camera, even though we’ve already seen it. There’s no build up to the reveal, which is essential. Also, if you’ll forgive the *** SPOILER ALERT ***, they picked a flat out unscary “monster.” Basically, it’s a nine-year-old girl who was raised in the woods. Somehow she can move with preternatural speed and knows how to hamstring people with a piece of sharp rock, which means the wolves that brought her up must have been handy with tools and bipedal hunting techniques. *** END SPOILERS ***

In the end, all the set-up of the protagonist being allergic to the sun really goes nowhere and the story meanders into Blahsville, making this one to skip as well.


Psychological State After Solid Diet Of Horror Movies (End of Week 2):
Had my first bad dream. It involved Tom Cruise converting Guillermo del Toro to Scientology and sending The Pale Man to my house to convert me. Wife and I got into a fight when she tried to hug me from behind and I put her in a choke hold. These movies might be getting to me. Hopefully week three will be a little easier.

Next Time: From Beyond, Take Shelter, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and more!

Read Week 1 Here
Read Week 3 Here

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5 Comments »

  • gd smith said

    the big problem with a lot of recent horror is that it all seems to take itself far to seriously and all has a samey new Gothic look. There’s no sense of fun or gleeful energy to them. I used to think what horror needed was new Cronenberg’s or Romero’s. I now think what it needs is a new Roger Corman. Someone intelligent enough to know that dumb is smarter than middle-brow. Turn the lights on so we can see what’s happening, throw more of the red stuff and speed the films up a bit. Honestly, none of these films are actually as entertaining as Humanoids From The Deep and that has creatures that look like Ninja Turtles.

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    • Sheridan Passell said
      Sheridan Passell

      For me it’s not the tone so much as I realise having it made in a past era just adds a certain magic that new horror doesn’t have, the 70s were just creepier with the camera stock that was used etc, the 80s look is more nostalgic and has a certain warmth to it. I’ll probably like the horrors coming out this year much more in a decade or two.

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  • Sheridan Passell said
    Sheridan Passell

    Brilliant captions Dalmatian Jaws, as usual.

    Haven’t seen Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark but the final trailer was one family-move-into-a-haunted-house cliche after another.

    Mimic I saw on opening night in the States, and everyone I watched it with was very underwhelmed. There’s a really good idea in there but the execution is flunked.

    I really need to check out the [REC] series.

    Until you explained what happened in Dead And Buried it was remarkable in my mind for being a movie I saw in the last decade and can remember absolutely nothing about. I guess because it’s so random my brain couldn’t figure out where to store it. I did kinda enjoy watching it at the time because it’s that magical 80s era and it’s something a bit different.

    Shiver – I’ll probably skip based on what you’ve said.

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    • dalmatianjaws said
      dalmatianjaws

      Ah shucks, thanks Sheridan.

      @GD Smith, I agree. Except that I don’t think it’s just about being too serious. I think horror movies should be a lot of fun with some silly scares (Friday the 13th franchise) or be an honest to god good film with clever scares that are earned (The Exorcist, The Shining, and … to be honest, not a whole lot more unfortunately).

      Lately, horror films have fallen in the middle. Either they take themselves too seriously but don’t have good enough character development, proper dialog and plot points, or great cinematography (I really did enjoy Grace, but it falls into this category … it could have been SO much more). Or, they don’t take themselves seriously enough (the entire Resident Evil franchise).

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  • The1Cool said

    I agree that the [REC] series sounds appealing.

    My wife and I saw Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and even she was unafraid (she hates scary movies). The free passes we had made us less picky in our movie selection, which we ended up regretting.

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