Thirty years from now, Jessica Chastain‘s lifetime achievement awards should be something to behold. The mercurial actress appeared suddenly in 2011, fully formed, and has since played housewives, Shakespeare’s Virgilia in Coriolanus opposite Ralph Fiennes, and a Mossad agent, all with fluid ease. Last year, she won her second Academy Award nomination in as many years, for her remarkable turn as a government agent on the heels of Osama Bin Laden in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. She’s been on stage with Al Pacino, starred as a nineteenth-century heiress on Broadway, and just landed the coveted lead role in Liv Ullmann‘s upcoming screen adaptation of the play, Miss Julie. Now here she is, all sleeve tattoos and Lizbeth Salander jet-black hair, dropped smack-dab in the middle of Mama, a generic PG-13 horror movie that creates plenty of mood, but generates few scares, and likely would’ve failed completely (as opposed to mostly) without her as its center.
Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category
Tags: Film, Jessica Chastain, Mama, Movies, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Review
Tags: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Film, Guillermo del Toro, Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Movies, Review
It takes a poorly executed horror movie to show its creature in full CGI glory only minutes in, but it takes a colossally bad one to not only give away its premise at the outset, but repeat that premise only moments later in writing during the opening credits. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, a film I’m hoping writer-producer Guillermo del Toro doesn’t consider a high point, does both of these things. How could a movie developed by one of modern cinema’s finest filmmakers go so horribly wrong? And how could del Toro have allowed such fatal mistakes?
Tags: Film, House of the Devil, Movies, Review, The Innkeepers, Ti West
Ti West’s The Innkeepers is a brisk, creepy little thriller, despite the fact that nothing much of significance happens for the first 90 minutes. It’s like the twin brother of West’s fascinating The House of the Devil (2009), a film that builds its scares with mood and quiet, instead of false jumps and musical stingers. Few horror movies any more have me sitting on the edge of my seat, but The Innkeepers somehow managed to do it, and do it well. I have a suspicion that, based on these two films, West may well be the new horror auteur.
Tags: Christmas, Film, Finland, Kris Kringle, Movies, Rare Exports, Review, Santa Claus
What does every little boy want for Christmas? Surely dying at the hand of St. Nick has to be right at the top of the list. That, and finding that all the little boys and girls in town have been kidnapped in sacks and readied for a bizarre sacrifice.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, a deliciously mischievous fairy-tale horror film, starts out with the premise that the Santa Claus we all know and love, who slides down the chimney to deliver presents to all the good little boys and girls, is a myth. Pietari knows this, cynically so. He sits in the attic of his father’s tiny shack at the base of Korvatunturi mountain, itself the source of an actual Father Christmas legend, braced against the cold, a book of Santa Claus legends open on his lap. The children in the pictures are roasted, beaten, and otherwise torturously dispatched by an evil Kris Kringle. This is the real story.
Tags: Film, Movies, My Soul to Take, Raul Esparza, Review, Slasher, Supernatural, Wes Craven
What’s It About: Serial killer Abel, aka The Riverton Ripper (played by the talented and criminally underutilized Raul Esparza, who really should be discussing these things with his agent before signing a contract), murders his pregnant wife in front of their young daughter, is blasted full of holes by the cops, and vows to return with a vengeance. Alas, the ambulance transporting him to the hospital conveniently crashes, and the psycho vanishes–after being blasted full of holes by the cops. Oh, and he stabbed himself with a kitchen knife before the cops even arrived, but never mind. Meanwhile, at that same moment, seven babies–seven babies!–are born in the hospital at the same time, which somehow causes complete chaos among the staff, despite the fact they’re supposed to be trained for that very sort of thing. But never mind that.
Let’s be real, here: Ken Russell isn’t exactly known for being comprehensible. Take a look at Lair of the White Worm or Gothic, and tell me you don’t agree. He works in the bizarre, the fantastic; the outré, if you will. His films deal in symbolism and religious allegory and sexual expression, and often times challenge the notion of good taste. But comprehensible? No.
And why should Altered States be any different? Hovering uncomfortably above the intersection of science fiction, fantasy and horror, States, based on a novel by Paddy Chayefsky, employs the “kitchen sink” theory, which says that every device, image, shot, angle, color, sound or texture must be gathered up, shaken vigorously, and thrown back at the screen with force. Unfortunately, in some cases it doesn’t matter if any of it makes sense. This film is a mess, moving from one concept to the next without care for continuity or context; that it’s mildly redeemed by a trio of good performances–by William Hurt, Bob Balaban and Charles Haid–isn’t saying much.
Somewhere between Born Innocent and the regrettable Savage Streets (“Too bad you’re not double-jointed…you’d be able to bend over and kiss your ass goodbye!”), Linda Blair slipped in this little genre gem about a group of Greek pledges terrorized by a crazed mongoloid.
The hazing is deceptively simple: spend one night in Garth Manor, an overgrown castle at the edge of town, where the patriarch slaughtered his family–and then committed suicide–years ago. There’s a catch, the pledge master informs us: one of the sons, Andrew, a mangled “gork,” is said to have survived the massacre, and still resides somewhere in the house. Off the pledges go, locked in till dawn. Now, if you don’t believe Andrew is still alive and ready to tear a bunch of teens limb from limb, you a) would be wrong, and b) should be ashamed for even trying to watch a movie called Hell Night. Andrew is, indeed, still alive, skulking about a maze of underground tunnels. If he doesn’t exactly tear body parts asunder, he manages considerable damage with an assortment of sharp and rusted weaponry.
Back in 1984, when it was still acceptable to present an original horror idea, Wes Craven unleashed what is arguably his most famous film. And with that, he brought about a new genre icon, Freddy Kreuger, who would forever be copied, parodied, and satirized–and exploited in a series of increasingly poor sequels.
Everyone knows the story by now: A group of post-nuclear teens in acid-washed jeans and and over-sized sweaters is having nightmares, all involving a horrifically burned man with razors for fingers. This is Freddy Kreuger (née Fred, in this first installment’s credits), a child molester who was lit up like a Roman candle by the town’s parents after a technicality got him acquitted at trial. Kreuger is back, and the children are paying for the sins of the elders, who have, themselves, kept the secret buried all those years.
On the eighth day, God said, “Let there be early-80′s exploitation and slasher.” And so it was, and it was good. And then He commanded the good folks at Troma to take a holiday (or any other special occasion) that hadn’t already been pilfered for profits (Friday the 13th, Halloween, Prom Night, Happy Birthday to Me) and make a rollicking awesome slasher flick. And behold! Graduation Day came into the world, fully formed.
Now that I’ve exhausted my questionable metaphors for the day, there’s very little I need to tell you: Poor Laura, Midvale High track star. She’s been pushed to the limit by her sadistic coach (that gleefully awful genre staple, Christopher George) and dies during a meet. The titular day of commencement arrives, and someone starts killing off the rest of the athletes. Laura’s sister arrives in town for the ceremony and tries to uncover the identity of the killer. Who is it? If you don’t figure it out in the first five minutes, you shouldn’t be watching these kinds of films.
Military atomic testing in the Arctic unleashes an ancient dinosaur from hibernation. A physicist (Paul Hubschmid), the only witness to the monster, can’t get anyone to believe him that it exists. Soon enough, the beast emerges on the East Coast and proceeds to devour a few fishing vessels before stomping most of Manhattan flat to the ground. The physicist partners with an anthropologist (or archaeologist or dinosaurist–I can’t remember) to stop the carnage.