2013-10-31

20131031: Horror Review--Paranormal Activity 3


Paranormal Activity 3
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, rated R, 83 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 5.8/10.0 from 55,999 audience ratings.  Estimated budget, 5 million USD.  Gross box office, ~104 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 68% on the meter; 52% liked it from 72,098 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.4/5.0 from 930,967 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman.  Screenplay: Christopher Landon.
    6. Starring: Lauren Bittner as Julie, Chris Smith as Dennis, Chloe Czengery as Katie, Jessica Brown as Kristi, Dustin Ingram as Randy Rose, Johanna Braddy as Lisa, Hallie Foote as Grandma Lois.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. It's 1988 in California.  Dennis moves in with girlfriend Julie and her two daughters, Katie and Kristi.  When things go bump in the night, he installs cameras to record in various rooms in the house.

    2. There are more bumps in the night.  The family gets used to processing the surveillance tapes.  Dennis investigates paranormal issues via the local library.  He talks to Kristi about the invisible friend Toby.

    3. Dennis and Julie go out one evening, and leave Kristi and Katie with the babysitter, Lisa.  The girls ask for a ghost story.  All goes well; Lisa is a mature, confident sitter.  Dennis and Julie do not return until later than promised, 23:05 instead of 21:45.  Lisa gets a couple of bumps in the night.

    4. Kristi gets sick with a high fever; Dennis and Julie take her to the hospital.  Randy comes to be with Katie, who insists on playing 'Bloody Mary.'  Randy is a bit reluctant, but Katie convinces him.  On the second, successful run, there are several bumps in the night (only it's daytime), Randy gets a foot long bloody laceration on his chest, and Katie gets quite scared.  When they attempt leaving the girls' bathroom, poltergeist activity occurs.  After Dennis and Julie return, and the daughters are OK, Randy lets loose on Dennis, then takes his camera equipment and goes.

    5. After some more serious bump in the night (and day), Julie, Dennis, Katie, and Kristie go to Lois' (Julie's mother) house.  Dennis wakes up alone deep in the night.  Julie is not in bed; Katie and Kristie are not in their beds.  Looking further, he finds the triangle-circle symbol and inverted pentagram on the walls that were formerly covered by paintings.  He encounters a group meeting.

    6. Will Dennis survive this one?  How about Julie, Katie, and Kristie?

  3. Conclusions
    1. About a 40% of the film consists of monochrome video of rooms with zero activity.
    2. One line summary: Hot and cold running boredom; still, ten times better than PA4.
    3. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 Too much monochrome, too much camera shake.  Still, so much better than PA4.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Not bad.

    3. Acting: 6/10 The screenplay did not call for much acting.  Much of the film's running time was consumed by empty rooms.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 Not much of a story, but reasonably done, once the decision was made to execute in 83 minutes instead of 15.


20131031: Horror Review--Paranormal Activity 4


Paranormal Activity 4: Unrated Edition
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2012, UR, 96 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 4.4/10.0 from 32,650 user ratings.  Estimated budget, 5 million USD; domestic gross, over 53 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 24% on the meter; 36% liked it from 114,461 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.2/5.0 from 215,772 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman; screenplay by Christopher Landon.
    6. Starring: Katie Featherston as Katie, Kathryn Newton as Alex, Matt Shively as Ben, Aiden Lovekamp as Wyatt, Bradie Allen as Robbie.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. 'I did not record you, my computer did.'

    2. This quote from Ben symbolizes the whole film.  Did you expect me to believe such an obvious lie?  Worse yet, did you expect me to know you were lying, then act like you were not?

    3. There is nothing even remotely interesting in this film.  Does its director expect me to act like there was?

    4. Ben and Alex are friends.  Alex lives with her two parents and younger brother Wyatt.  Ben is a frequent visitor who likes to record on hand-held and on computer.

    5. Across the street is a single mother and her son Robbie.  She gets carted to the hospital one night.  Robbie comes to stay with Alex and her parents, just for a few days.

    6. This is a 'jump the shark' moment.  Social Services would come for Robbie.  Done.

    7. The parents are presented as clueless, uncaring, usually absent, and far from tech savvy.  Of course, the target demographic seems to be self-involved young people, say, 17-24.  Perhaps hatred and contempt for adults comes with the territory.

    8. Alex and Ben decide to video record in the entire house, and they get some footage that looked paranormal to me, but apparently not to them.  When one of the chandeliers falls in daylight, a lot of attention is captured.  About this time, Alex films the house across the street at night, and gets invited to leave.  Wyatt is recorded on his big wheel; I thought someone would react to the 'poltergeist' activity recorded.  But no.

    9. When Wyatt follows Robbie to the house across the street, Alex follows them, hand-held camera at work.  The furniture is covered up, but something is still going on at this house.  At this point, Robbie's mother shows up, guesses who Alex is, and thanks her and her family for taking care of Robbie.  Alex takes Wyatt back to their house.  This is at 60 minutes into a 97 minute film, but it seems like a good place to stop.

    10. But the film does continue.  The video gets worse, I've filtered out the sound by this point, and the characters continue to be as interesting as mud under my boots.  The SFX are laughable.  Worst of all, the prospect of another sequel is likely; now there is horror.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Boring, murky, non-engaging.  Please, let it be over.
    2. One line summary: Third sequel in a popular series.
    3. One star of five; two blackholes for cinematography and screenplay.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 0/10 Hand-held cameras.  Built-in laptop cameras.  Badly done.  Wretched editing.  Zero of ten is just not low enough.  Hire some competent cinematographers next time.  I've seen movies with budgets of 50,000 USD that look 20 times better than this hideous mess.  Why should I be spending so much time (around half of the picture) trying to figure out who is on camera?  This thing is appallingly bad.

    2. Sound: 2/10 Whenever anything remotely resembling something interesting comes up, the sound is worthless (blaring or silent).  During transitions, there tends to be unexplained booms and bumps.  After an hour of this, with no discernible reason to call this a horror picture, I'm desensitized.  When the sound track goes bump, the movie had conditioned me not to care, not to react.  By the time the depiction of the 'supernatural' elements start, I just don't care.

    3. Acting: 4/10 Hire some actors next time; with a budget of 5 million USD, there should be plenty of competent actors ready to do a better job.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 What screenplay?  They shot some film and assembled in post.  Why is the boy Robbie not with Social Services? Why is his mother not under psychiatric care?  Those would be the correct decisions, and would have terminated this mess very much earlier.  One of the most comical foul-ups in the later part of the film was when Alex was dragged across the street, but still manages to keep filming.  This continues right up to her final encounter with the circle-triangle group.  There is no sense to be made of this.


2013-10-30

20131030: Horror Review--The Lost Tribe


The Lost Tribe
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2009, rated R, 100 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 3.7/10.0 from 1,036 audience ratings. Estimated budget, one million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and 20% liked it from 407 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.9/5.0 from 340,824 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Roel Reine.
    6. Starring: Emily Foxler as Anna, Nick Mennell as Tom, Mark Bacher as Joe, Brianna Brown as Alexis, Hadley Fraser as Chris, Terry Notary as Alpha Male, Lance Henriksen as Gallo.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. In the opening sequence, a woman archaeologist and her team make a big discovery, a skull that is not quite human.  At least the team was very excited about it.  The Church sends Gallo to dispatch her, which he does.

    2. We do a jump shift to a boat at sea.  Anna, Tom, Joe, Alexis, and Chris are on their way to a potentially rich business meeting.  They rescue a man that's been left to drift at sea.  He's out of his mind, for some reason.  When most people are asleep, the rescued man takes control of steering and crashes the boat into an island.

    3. Their advanced location devices fail, but the radio works, and they give the Coast Guard their last approximate position.

    4. They find left over equipment from Gansis Research, which is supposedly connected to NYU.  They also encounter someone/something which has a cheesy invisibility screen; shades of Predator.  The next morning, Tom and the Gansis gear are both gone.  The remaining four pursue.

    5. Something picks off Alexis, lifting her into the canopy, then dropping her to the ground.

    6. The three survivors find a video that they watch.  It involves the 'lost tribe' a missing link (or dead end?) in human evolution.  Supposedly the Roman Catholic Church would be upset about this since this would 'prove' that God did not create man on the sixth day.

    7. Gallo kills Joe, and was about to kill Anna, when something kills him instead.  It was one of the lost tribe, who scares Anna, but goes back into the jungle.

    8. Chris is barely alive, and Anna watches the lost tribe Alpha Male kill him for a snack.  The copying of Predator is repeated in regard to camouflage, and the lone survivor against heavy odds.

    9. Will Anna survive?  Will the Coast Guard arrive in time?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Tough call.  Three stars seemed to low, four too high.
    2. One line summary: Small business group encounters Murphy's law and a lost tribe of humans.
    3. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10, Gorgeous in daylight exteriors, better than usual in dark scenes.  The final 10 minutes or so looked like it had a different cinematographer of lesser talent.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Nicely done.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Better than I expected.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10  Was it ever adequately explained why anyone would care about this lost tribe?  No.  Could a skinny, non-athletic woman survive any hit by these ultra-strong animals?  No.  Yet she survives what, 15 or so, plus a forty foot drop from a tree?  I don't think so.


20131030: Horror Review--Unrest


Unrest
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2006, rated R, 88 minutes, horror. Spoken word is in English.
    2. IMDB: 5.0/10.0 from 5,928 audience ratings. Estimated budget 2.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 39% liked it from 6,441 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.1/5.0 from 146,759 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Jason Todd Ipson.  Written by: Chris Billet and Jason Todd Ipson.
    6. Starring: Corri English as Alison Blanchard, Marisa Petroro as Alita Covas, Ben Livingston as Ivan Verbukh, Abner Genece as Malcolm Little, Derrick O'Connor as Dr. Blackwell, Scot Davis as Brian Cross, Joshua Alba as Carlos Aclar, Jay Jablonski as Rick O'Connor, Anna Johnson as Jennifer.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Alison, Brian, Carlos, and Rick meet in medical school in their Gross Anatomy class.  They get to know each other while dissecting 'Norma' whom we get to see the first time in the opening sequence.  After the first shot at dissection, we meet Jennifer, Rick's fiancee.

    2. Alison is an agnostic.  Carlos is into spirits and respect.  During the film, the question 'Is Norma dead?' gets discussed in philosophical terms.  

    3. Jennifer wanted to see the dissected body, and is shocked and repulsed when the internal organs felt warm to the touch.  Rick tells her to cool off in the hall while he re-drapes the body.  When he comes out, Jennifer is dead in a pool of blood.

    4. Come Monday, Rick has dropped out, so Alison, Brian, and Carlos continue on Norma in Gross Anatomy.  Rick has pretty well zoned out as Alison finds when she goes to visit him.

    5. One of Dr. Blackwell's associates, Ivan, was checking out the cadaver when Alison interrupts him.  They have a non-constructive chat.  When Brian and Alison investigate a few things, they find Ivan's body in the cadaver tank.  Both Ivan and Jennifer touched the corpse and were repelled by it.

    6. After Brian and Alison are intimate, Alison discovers one of the morgue staff in the shower, dead, in a pool of blood.  This fellow also touched the cadaver.  Alison and the hospital's staff shrink go to Dr. Blackwell and ask for more information.  Norma turns out to be Dr. Alita Covas, an American found dead in Brazil.  She was on death row at the time for killing johns while being a prostitute.  Oi, in the opening sequence, there were references to Aztec goings on.  Brazil is mighty far south and east of Aztec country.

    7. Meanwhile, Rick is descending into madness.  Alison visits him and he attacks her.

    8. Carlos dies in the library while investigating Aztecs.  Alison and Brian get a bloody drawing on their door.  Rick commits suicide.  Alison and Brian discover more about Dr Covas' archaeological finds; this may prove to be the key.

    9. Will Brian and Alison survive this encounter?

  3. Conclusions
    1. This is not a gorefest or a slasher film, though there is plenty of blood spilled.
    2. One line summary: Medical students versus spirits released from an Aztec digsite.
    3. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 A bit more grainy and soft-focus than I expected, but good on the whole.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Good for atmosphere and spookiness.

    3. Acting: 8/10  Better than I expected.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10  The Aztec vs. Brazil mix up was the film's major goof.  On the other hand, the build up of tensions while dealing with real events was rather good.


20131030: Horror Review--Spiderhole


Spiderhole
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Irish live action feature length film, 2010, NR, 81 minutes, horror.  Aspect 2.35
    2. IMDB: 4.0/10.0 from 581 user ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 25% on the tomato meter, but 'no consensus yet.'  20% liked it from 1,387 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.8/5.0 from 76,002 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Daniel Simpson.
    6. Starring: Amy Noble as Zoe, Emma Griffiths Malin as Molly, George Maguire as Toby, John Regan as The Captor, Ruben Henry Biggs as Luke.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Four homeless art students squat in a supposedly abandoned London house.

    2. Things go well for a while.  The windows and doors look covered with old boards, which should be no problem to break into.  The place has been abandoned for a number of years, and not everything works right at first.  They discover some old clothes with fresh blood on them.  That does not seem to set off their sense of danger.

    3. The next morning, joy turns to despair quickly enough.  The windows covered with boards had solid metal beneath the boards; the back door was the same.  The front door, which Toby so carefully broke into and re-engineered the previous night, has been bolted down with solid metal.  Toby's tool box has gone missing, as has every cell phone they had.  They try to get the attention of the police outside who are looking over there 'borrowed' van.  Hm.  The cops cannot hear them.

    4. The captor gasses them, then takes Toby away.  The rest look for him, but have little success at first.  Their captor ties up Zoe as well, then the torture segment starts.

    5. Luke and Molly think they have the drop on their captor.  They end up killing Toby instead.  Then the captor gasses them.  He saws off Zoe's lower legs, then turns his attention to Luke and Molly.

    6. Molly manages to get free, and strikes her captor with an iron rod, but only once.  She leaves that to chance.  Molly finds what is left of Luke, then tries to find an exit, now that she has a set of keys.  She also finds the captor's back-story which tells partially why he keeps repeating all the torture.

    7. Does Molly make it out alive?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Stoner squatter thieves search for and find their own damnation.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10  Love the 2.35 aspect ratio. This picture starts out beautifully on the visuals, and continues that way.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Creepy, good tracks, well chosen and recorded.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Could have been a lot better.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Tells a story, and does it fairly well.


20131030: Horror Review--Hollow


Hollow
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. British live action feature length film, 2011, NR, 94 minutes, horror,
    2. IMDB: 5.8/10.0 from 3,374 audience ratings. Aspect is 16:9, or ~1.78
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 21% on the meter; 63% want to see it from 160 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.7/5.0 from 67,095 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Michael Axelguaard; screenplay by Matthew Holt.
    6. Starring: Emily Plumtree as Emma Tyler, Sam Stockman as James, Jessica Ellerby as Lynne Driscoll, Matt Stokoe as Scott Brian.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Four friends travel to Suffolk, England to see the house that Emma's grandfather lived in.  At the center of this is a large, old tree that has a large hollow section, where evil supposedly resides; this tree scared Emma when she was a girl.

    2. End summary.

    3. At 1:55 into the film, we learn that all the protagonists die, and that we are going to have to suffer through footage from the handheld camera found at the scene.  At this point, I only watch this picture so as to complete this review.  As a consumer, I would reject the movie and move on to another, better one.  However, if you like found film, this one is worth some consideration.

    4. The policeman from East Anglia does some of his own camera work in describing the tableau after all the principals have been hung by the neck until dead.  He shows a lot of this huge old tree, including the opening of a huge hollow (film title).  The tree is devoid of foliage at this point.

    5. We skip back in time, and start at the beginning of the found footage.

    6. Emma, James, and Scott travel by car to a train station, where they pickup Lynn.

    7. While continuing to their destination, they kill a fox.  They stop, and Emma sees the massive old tree and remembers her fear.  Her mother had a particularly creepy story about it, which is told later.  The tree is in leaf, and looks rather vigorous.

    8. The cottage had been in Emma's family for generations.  While going through papers they find news clippings in her grandfather's belongings dating from 1650 to three days before he died.  The common thread is suicide of couples by hanging from the tree.

    9. They talk to a local clergyman, who will not tell them anything.  A local fisherman recounts two versions of the first suicide.  Scott finds a book where an entire chapter is devoted to the tree and the suicides, notably 9 in a period of 18 months around 1983.

    10. The four have other issues.  James and Emma have known each other the longest, but were not right for each other.  James cannot quite accept that.  Lynn definitely draws Scott's attention.  Lynn has a child, Kyle, by James, but James and Lynn are not married.  What could go wrong there?

    11. Doing recreational drugs seems like a mistake, in any case, but given all the suicide build up, this is a perfectly stupid move.  After they work themselves up, they go out in public yelling and screaming.  Brilliant.  Then they go driving while under the influence.  Doubly brilliant.

    12. Emma decides to go back to the cottage herself after Scott gets the car stuck off road.  She needs her inhaler, but probably cannot get to it.  She heads to the tree for some reason.  James catches up with her inhaler, and gets her pointed back to the others.

    13. Scott challenges the tree in the dark.  How dramatic.  Scott and Lynn start making out in the blackness; James catches this.  Emma defuses it, somewhat.

    14. The next day was to be the last day in the area: turn in the keys and leave.  Things are broken here among the couples. The local clergy insists that avoiding the tree is the right thing to do, so the history of hangings won't be resolved.  Going home, forgetting this place, seems like the clear decision.

    15. They don't do that.  The last 20 minutes felt like 200; heavy breathing and screaming in blackness.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Two couples fail to resolve their issues; no supernatural elements.
    2. One star of five; three blackholes for cinematography, acting, and screenplay.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 0/10 Found footage. This is better than most; fairly long segments of the first half of the film are in color.  The second half is a different story.

    2. Sound: 4/10  As with many dreadful 'found film' projects, sound was recorded. The repetitive sound of the wind screen wipers, for instance, is of exactly zero interest to most viewers especially with the camera focused on uninteresting objects during travel in a car.  Listening to James breathing as he walks around confused or scared did not heighten tension.  Video footage of a fly on the inside of the car's wind screen was the topper: James' finger impacting the screen and the fly moving about in agitation.  Wonderful use of the viewer's time.  Some of the yelling overloaded the video camera's ability to record.  The breathing in near darkness gets really annoying after a while.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Get a bigger budget and hire better actors next time.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 At least 50 percent of the film is spent on couples fighting verbally.  Perhaps 15 percent is recorded in blackness with barely useful sound.  Another 10 percent is focused on auto ceilings, fidgety knees, or the ground.  Who cares about any of these three categories?  What does this have to do with horror? with thrillers? with mystery?


2013-10-29

20131029: Horror Review--Zombie Diaries 2


Zombie Diaries 2
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. British live action feature film, 2011, rated R, 88 minutes, action, horror, scifi.
    2. IMDB: 3.7/10.0 from 1,672 audience ratings.  Aspect: 1.33; estimated budget, 1.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 0% impressive, but 'no consensus yet;' 19% liked it from 1,642 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.8/5.0 from 67,603 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates, written by Kevin Gates.
    6. Starring: Philip Brodie as Maddox, Alix Wilton Regan as Leeann, Rob Oldfield as Jonesy, Vicky Araico as Kayne, Toby Bowman as Nicholson, Okorie Chukwu as Carter.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Set in the UK after some contrived zombie apocalypse.  Reporter Leeann follows some British soldiers as they try to survive in the hostile and ever changing situation.  They hope to go to Hope's Point on the coast and then to Netherlands.  Supposedly there are enough normal humans there to have a viable stronghold.

    2. What could possibly go wrong?

    3. Besides the zombies, the failure of peacekeeping immediately launches a growth industry in banditry.  Since zombies have nothing to offer, the bandits are only after normals less well-armed than themselves.

    4. The boat to Rotterdam is leaving at a fixed time on a fixed date.  They lose their truck on the first night, so it's forced march through hostile territory.

    5. Fire fights, zombie fights, attempted rapes, and slow progress follow.

    6. The team is down to four fairly soon.  They lose a member, then regain one they thought was lost.  Still, things are not going well, and their march to the coast does not look possible.  The 'final solution' is revealed.

    7. Will the rescue come before the military burns down the UK?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Has all the look-and-feel of Syfy's Paranormal Witness, Ghost Mine, or Ghost Hunters.  That is, 'reality' shows that are entirely based on falsehoods, hand-held cameras, and the conceit that the worse the video is, the more likely it is that what is being presented is true.  The dialog is horrible, to the point of being insulting to the viewer.
    2. One line summary: Normals versus zombies and bandits; the viewers lose.
    3. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 0/10 The observed aspect ratio of 1.33, big disappointment.  IMDB lists this film as having an aspect of 2.35, but there is no way that this is true.  The picture looks like VHS from the 1980s done on bad equipment.  Most of the movie is in 'found film' mode, which is a huge minus.

    2. Sound: 3/10 Bad even for Blair Witch style poorness.  The gunfire sounds are ridiculous.

    3. Acting: 4/10 Better than expected.

    4. Screenplay: 3/10 There is a narrative, which tells a story of sorts, with plenty of flashbacks.  What are the flashbacks for? Watch the whole thing to find out, but it's not worth knowing. The flashbacks just make the film worse. The main story could have been done in much less time.  As it is, the film alternates between stretches of complete boredom and short bursts of running or fighting with extremely bad camera work.


2013-10-28

20131028: Horror Review--The Hamiltons


The Hamiltons
  1. Production Fundamentals; reception
    1. American live action feature length film, 2006, rated R, 86 minutes, drama, horror, thriller.  Aspect: 1.85
    2. IMDB: 5.1/10.0 from 6,118 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet...' and 40% liked it from 6,480 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.9/5.0 from 102,604 audience ratings.
    5. Written and directed by Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores.
    6. Starring: Cory Knauf as Francis Hamilton, Samuel Child as David Hamilton, Joseph McKelheer as Wendell Hamilton, Mackenzie Firgens as Darlene Hamilton, Rebekah Hoyle as Samantha Teal, Brittany Daniel as Dani Cummings.

  2. Setup, Plot
    1. The Hamiltons are a family of six who move around a lot.  Mom and Dad pass away during the opening narration.  The oldest of the three brothers more or less runs things, such as scheduling appointments and arranging moves.  They moved six times in two years, for instance.  The middle son usually works double shifts to pay for expenses.  The daughter attracts girl friends to come and visit.  The youngest boy is a maladjusted twerp with a hand held low end movie camera.

    2. Why is this horror?  The family tortures human beings, drinks their blood, and sometimes eats their flesh.  They keep captives in the cellar to have a steady supply of fresh blood.  They also keep a spare monster in the cellar.  One gets to see the monster at the end.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Slightly better than the British film Vampire Diary, with roughly the same premise: real vampires can be more ordinary than you think, but are still mighty horrible.
    2. One line summary: Traveling family is so much worse than you think.
    3. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 No real problems here, except for the occasional Blair Witch moment, when the director forces the hand held footage on the viewer.

    2. Sound: 8/10 More good moments than bad.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Between passable and bad.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 Not much material, not much tension.  Runs more or less like a documentary, but with zero facts.  This would have been a better 20 minute short.

20131028: Horror Review--Vampire Diary


Vampire Diary
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. British live action feature length film, 2006, rated R, 89 minutes, horror, aspect 1.85; spoken word is English.
    2. IMDB: 4.2/10.0 from 492 user ratings.  Estimated budget, 650,000 pounds.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 38% liked it from 1,375 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.4/5.0 from 43,494 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Mark James, Phil O'Shea; screenplay by Phil O'Shea.
    6. Starring: Anna Walton as Vicki, Morven MacBeth as Holly, Jamie Thomas King as Adam, Kate Sissons as Haze, Justin MacDonald as Brad.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Holly is doing a low-budget documentary about the Goth scene in London, UK, and in particular about faux vampires.  She meets Vicki, who claims to be a supernatural being, a 'real' vampire.

    2. On that note, is Vicki just another Goth cosplay enthusiast?  If so, this looks like a psychological drama, not horror.  If not, then how much of reality are we expected to ignore to embrace the film?

    3. Someone (who else...) kills Eddie early on. Holly and Vicki record the reactions to his death by substantial exsanguination.

    4. Holly and Vicki start their lesbian relationship, which is, not surprisingly, neither believable nor interesting nor titillating.  It is, however, out of focus, out of frame, low on contrast, low on color saturation.  It is rather emblematic of the film as a whole: dreary and non-engaging.

    5. Brad disappears from the Goth scene; some weak indicators point to Vicki.  Vicki shows Holly a tape of her killing Brad.  Holly helps Vicki with the problem.

    6. The discussion of what 'real' vampires are like was boring, over long, and not believable.

    7. Holly tries to find a way for Vicki to survive without killing people.  Surprise.  This fails.

    8. Vicki came to Holly already pregnant by a male vampire.  The gestation and the police investigation consume the rest of the film.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Skip this one.  It's ugly to look at, is short on plot, and has little to redeem it.
    2. One line summary: Documentary film maker goes looking for Goths also finds a vampire.
    3. One star of five; one blackhole for cinematography.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 0/10 Hand-held badness in the style of Blair Witch.  Almost everything that can be done wrong with a video camera was done in this film.  The dueling feeds from two different very-low-quality hand-held cameras (Holly's and Vicki's) was amusing for a good 8 or 9 seconds.  After that, it was just one more constant nuisance in this train wreck.

    2. Sound: 4/10 Mixed bag.  Sometimes in sync with visuals, other times not.  Horrid incidental music.

    3. Acting: 4/10 Not too bad on the face of it. Actors hit their marks and read their lines. Still, nothing is memorable about it because no actors were engaging.  This is more about delusional idiots posturing for one another, not about character motivation, or exposition of why certain events happened.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 Twenty minutes of plot stretched out to 89 minutes.  This film has the indie look of keeping whatever footage is recorded, then putting it together in post.  A lot of the footage (particularly at club scenes and some party scenes) does nothing to advance the narrative and does nothing toward explaining character actions.


2013-10-27

20131027: Horror Review--Halloween Night


Halloween Night

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2006, UR, 85 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 4.2/10.0 from 657 audience ratings.  Aspect: 1.78.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No Score yet...' and 33% liked it from 902 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.0/5.0 from 57,692 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Mark Atkins.
    6. Starring: Derek Osebach as David Baxter, Rebeka Kochan as Shannon, Scot Nery as Chris Vale, Sean Durrie as Larry, Sean Durrie as Larry.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Chris Vale witnesses a rape-murder as a child.  He is disfigured at the time, and he's a bit unbalanced mentally as well.

    2. Fast forward to the present.  There's a Halloween party being setup...at the house where the rape-murder occurred.  There are intricate costumes, and authentic looking weapons. A young man and woman drive there.  When they stop for petrol, the man goes to the rest room.  Chris Vale (now a man, escaped from an insane asylum) overpowers him, kills him, puts on a leather mask, then goes to the car.  The young woman does not figure it out, but his bad driving tells her there is something wrong.  The killer hacks her up.

    3. Chris Vale gets to the party alone with a backseat full of steel weapons.

    4. What could possibly go wrong?

    5. Quite a lot.  The film is high on slasher deaths, splatter, screams, and psychotic behavior.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Deranged, disfigured, psychotic killer joins Halloween party.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Excellent for daylight exteriors.  A bit jerky on some of the darker interiors.

    2. Sound: 6/10 Did not expect the lag of lips versus voice, which makes it look like a bad Eastern European production made by/for the SyFy network.

    3. Acting: 4/10 Lots of non-actors in this one.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 The dialog is terrible.  I would have preferred a English subtitles and the spoken word in the first language of the screenwriter.  As it is, the lines are stilted, and just not what one would expect from English speakers.


20131027: Horror Review--The Faculty


The Faculty

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 1998, rated R, 104 minutes, horror, mystery, thriller, scifi.
    2. IMDB: 6.3/10.0 from 72,536 ratings.  Estimated budget, 15 million USD; aspect 1.85
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 53% on the meter; 54% liked it from 185,366 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.5/5.0 from 1,225,710 user ratings.
    5. Directed by: Robert Rodriguez; written by: Kevin Williamson.
    6. Starring: Salma Hayack as Nurse Rosa Harper, Jordana Brewster as Delillah Profitt, Clea Duval as Stokely Mitchell, Elijah Wood as Casey Connor, Laura Harris as Marybeth Louise Hutchinson, Josh Hartnett as Zeke Tyler, Famke Janssen as Miss Elizabeth Burke, Piper Laurie as Mrs. Karen Olson, Bebe Neuwirth as Principal Valerie Drake, Robert Patrick as Coach Joe Willis, Jon Stewart as Prof Edward Furlong, Usher Raymond as Gabe Santora.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Odd goings-on at Herrington High in Ohio, featuring an all-star cast.

    2. First the faculty, then most of the students, get taken over by alien parasites.

    3. A small band of outsiders among the students manage to evade the parasites.

    4. The local pusher discovers that one common drug kills the infested humans.

    5. Next job, taking out the faculty, and finding the 'queen' of the parasites.

    6. It all goes right down to the wire.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: How would high school students handle the faculty being replaced by aliens?
    2. Four stars of five.  I highly recommend seeing an uncensored version in HD.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Quite good.

    2. Sound: 10/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Mostly fine, with a few exceptions: Laura Harris, and Usher  Raymond come to mind.  On the other hand, most of the acting was competent or better.  I enjoyed Elijah Wood, Famke Janssen, Bebe Neuwirth, Piper Laurie, Clea Duval, Robert Patrick, Jordana Brewster, and Josh Hartnett.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Story hangs together nicely; it's well worth watching.  Some years ago, I saw this on commercial television; that version had only VHS quality and about 200 lines of dialog replaced.  I found that version annoying, and would have rated it around 5/10.  With better picture quality, zero commercials, and the original lines in place, the film is much better.


2013-10-26

20131026: Horror Review--To Catch a Virgin Ghost


To Catch a Virgin Ghost (Sisily 2km)

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. South Korean live action feature length film, 2004, NR, 102 minutes, comedy, crime, horror.  Spoken word is Korean, subtitles in English.
    2. IMDB: 6.6/10.0 from 366 user ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and zero audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.3/5.0 from 7,831 user ratings.
    5. Directed by: Jeong-won Shin; written by: In-ho Wang and Chang-shi Lee.
    6. Starring: Chang Jung Lim as Yang Yi, Oh-Jung Kwon as Seok-tae, Yi Shin as Ghost, Eun-kyeong Lim as Song Yi.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Our protagonist, Seok-tae, is a thief who murders his friend then flees.  He seems amused as his friend suffocates during their last telephone conversation.  Nice start.  When he sees the sign 'Sisily 2km' there is another sign warning of serious accidents in the area.  As per cliche, he decides to put out his cigarette, thereby taking his eyes off the road, then rolls his SUV off the road through the guard rail.  Apparently he's a man of robust good luck, since he was able to walk the 2 kilometers to the town of Sisily.

    2. The setup is clearly that Seok-tae has a hard time during the film, and he's moving there swimmingly.  His friend told him that their mutual boss will kill him in three days.  One can only hope.

    3. Seok-tae faints under embarrassing and humorous circumstances.  The locals think he's dead, and also find one of the diamonds he stole.  While walling him up, he rouses and won't shut up.  They give him an extra shovel to the head.  They have no idea that he swallowed many of the diamonds.

    4. The gang arrives and sets about provoking and bullying the locals.  The idiot relative to an even bigger crime boss is with them.  He keeps finding just the right things, and they keep ignoring him.

    5. During the first night staying with the locals, the thugs start getting rattled from bad dreams and waking hallucinations, plus the locals doing Buddhist chants to drive out bad spirits.  That trend continues the next day, though a bit more slowly in the light of day.

    6. The assassin named The Monk keeps talking about local ghost lore, including the Virgin Ghost.  The Monk tells them that the Virgin Ghost type is afraid of 'man things' which results in ridiculous and funny visuals.  The thread that allows Seok-tae to 'survive' is hilarious.  When the crooks recover the diamonds, the locals find out there were several.  After that, they attack the crooks and do rather well, but not well enough, of course.

    7. There are several places where the movie might have ended, but the comedy was not exhausted yet.  Will the ghost resolve this, or just the normal course of real events?  Loved the Virgin Ghost's explanation of who the local farmers really were, and the lead gangster's discussions with her.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Criminals are undone by clever locals, ghosts, and Murphy's law.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Super in daylight exteriors.  Not too bad for the darker interior and night shots.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Rich and kind to the ear.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Hate the character Seok-tae, since he listens to Chuck Mangione. (That's just me, of course.) On the whole though, I liked the acting.

    4. Screenplay: 9/10 Pleasant comedy of errors; nicely directed.


20131026: Horror Review--The Shock Labyrinth


The Shock Labyrinth (Senritsu meiky├╗)

  1. Production Fundamentals; reception
    1. Japanese live action feature length film, 2009, NR, 88 minutes, spoken language is Japanese; English subtitles.
    2. IMDB: 4.0/10.0 from 493 users. Aspect: 1.85
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 17% liked it from 113 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.7/5.0 from 13,591 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by Takashi Shimizu (Ju-on, remade as The Grudge for the USA); screenplay by Daisuke Hosaka.
    6. Starring: Ai Maeda as Rin Takeshima, Yuya Yagira as Ken, Misako Renbutsu as Yuki Toyama, Erina Mizuno as Miyu Toyama, Ryo Katsuji as Motoki.

  2. Setup, Plot
    1. From the opening scene, one gets a brick in the face: this film is loaded with supernatural nonsense.  A stuffed rabbit floats through the air, seemingly of its own accord; the rabbit can proceed effortlessly through solid walls, plural.

    2. Rin, Ken, Yuki, Miyu, and Motoki were at an amusement park when they were young, in particular in a mostly dark labyrinth.  Something bad happened there.  In the present, Rin is blind, Yuki is presumed dead.  However, Yuki shows up at Rin's door.  Rin calls Ken and Motoki.  It does seem to be Yuki; she claims she's been in a hospital for all these years.  They find Yuki's younger sister Miyu at the old family home.  While the group was talking, Yuki bolts up to her old room; there they see the stuffed rabbit that was with them in the labyrinth.  The rabbit shows a few supernatural signs, and Yuki bolts out again, this time to fall down the stairs.  The group takes Yuki to the hospital.

    3. Sigh.  Twenty minutes in.

    4. The rest of the film is about getting to a doctor; well, at least at first.  The teenagers confront all sorts of obstacles after they arrive at the hospital.  Where are the nurses?  Where are the doctors?  Where are the emergency staff, and so on?  Then Yuki runs away and they cannot find her.  What trauma dramas do they need to resolve before they leave this shared nightmare?

    5. That is what the last 68 of 88 minutes is about. Layer upon layer upon layer of hallucinatory experiences are dumped on the four teens.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Teens confront abandoning their friend in a haunted labyrinth.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 0/10 In the second scene, the Blair Witch bovine scatology starts. Why the director chooses to go back and forth between trash and splendor (10% of the film is absolutely beautiful) in the visuals is not clear.  The credits and subtitles all look fine and professional.  It is unfortunate that they have to be conjoined to the wretched camera work. 

    2. Sound: 10/10 As good as the visuals are bad; creepy and atmospheric.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Reasonably good.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 This is a 10 minute short.  Why drag it out to 88 minutes? The endless repeated flashbacks do not add anything except irritation.

    5. Special Effects: 8/10 This is a mixed bag, but more often than not, the SFX look fine.

2013-10-25

20131025: Horror Review--Sick Nurses


Sick Nurses (Suay Laak Sai)

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Thai live action feature length film, 2007, NR, 82 minutes.  Aspect 1.78 as listed by IMDB, but it looks more like 1.33.
    2. IMDB: 5.2/10.0 from 1,297 user ratings.  Spoken word is in Thai, subtitles in English.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 31% liked it from 160 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 2.8/5.0 from 44,748 user ratings.
    5. Directed by: Piraphan Laoyont, Thodsapol Siriwiwat; screenplay by Chon Wachananon.
    6. Starring: Chon Wachananon as Tawan, Wichan Jarujinda as Dr. Taa, Chidjan Rujiphun as Nook, Kanja Rattapetch as Aeh, Dollaros Dachapratumwan as Jo.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. At Apai Dharma Hospital, Nurse Tawan thinks Dr Taa might marry her, but he proves to be interested in her sister, Nurse Nook.  The jealously arising plus other irritations causes Tawan to threaten the other nurses and Dr Taa with exposure of their lucrative body selling.  Criminals seldom have much sense of humour; the others kill Tawan.  The prepare Tawan's body for delivery to the usual body seller, but no one comes to collect.  Odd.

    2. So, how did we get there, and what were the consequences of one more murder?

    3. Nurse Aeh asks how long has it been since they killed Tawan?  This was the seventh day.  Aeh adds that the acts from the dead spirits happen on the seventh day.  She countdown to midnight ensues.  Aeh thinks Nook is the target, since she took Taa away from Tawan.  Another nurse thinks it's Aeh, since Aeh had her own baggage.

    4. The nurses have a lot of free time, money, cosmetics, and high calorie junk food on their hands.  As the clock ticks down to midnight, the various nurses encounter the ghost.

    5. Nook gets a positive on her pregnancy test.  She emerges from the toilet to see the lesbian twins (Orn and Am) with their forearms somehow stuck to a low table.  Nook edges past to get away from this scene.  Aeh runs past her; Nook tries to follow.

    6. The ghost pursues the nurses relentlessly, and seems always to have the upper hand.

    7. Does anyone come out of this OK?  Do we care?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Cheesiness factors: Nudity, slim to none.  There was quite a bit of gore for a low budget effort like this. Inventiveness was shown in this area.  On the other hand, the long-haired ghost looks and moves like Sadako at times (or the hair demons in Inuyasha), so there's a derivative layer that I could have done without.

    2. At Apai Dharma Hospital there are no recovering patients, no emergency patients, no lab tests, no admissions personnel, no custodians.  Just the protagonists and the walls.  Seems to be more of a context-free play filmed as a movie in an abandoned hospital.

    3. Flashbacks are endless, and not always helpful.

    4. One line summary: Poor story and non-engaging characters, but plenty of gore.

    5. Two stars of five.  The two stars are for the last three minutes before the credits, where the doctor's role in all this foulness is revealed, and for the wonderful score during the credits.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 4/10 Yikes, saw it on Netflix, streamed in standard, and looks more like VHS.  The aspect ratio I observed was 1.33 which looks bad to start with.

    2. Sound: 10/10 A bit florid at times, but much more effective than the visuals, the acting, or the screenplay.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Varies, but most of it is mediocre, some of it downright wooden.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 The fracturing of the timelines of the nurses is rather severe, and none of the timelines is all that interesting.  Why not?  This is because I never saw any reason to care about any of the characters to begin with.  They are all black market organ thieves, after all.  Following each one to their own particular grisly death was more ho-hum than anything else.


2013-10-24

20131024: Horror Review--The Pot


The Pot
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. South Korean live action feature length film, 2008, NR, 113 minutes.  Spoken word is Korean; subtitles in English.
    2. IMDB: 5.2/10.0 from 52 user ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and no audience responses at all.
    4. Netflix: 2.6/5.0 from 7,658 user ratings.
    5. Directed by: Tae-gon Kim; written by Tae-gon Kim, Seong-hwi Kwon.
    6. Starring: Jung-woo Choi, Hae-yoen Gil.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. A family of three (Miae, the daughter; Youngae the mother, Hyunkuk Kim the father) moves to Seoul; the movie starts with moving into the new residence in progress.  Lots of little things show up: the elevator 'open' function is flaky; the drain in the bath is clogged badly with hair; the husband has recently ruined a nail and cannot use his right index finger well.  Bad portents.

    2. Hyunkuk is the new CEO of a small firm in Seoul.  The second day he meets his troops. Hyunkuk joins the church of the people who live upstairs.  He becomes friendly with one of them, and drives him to work.

    3. The daughter Miae is a handful; this gets worse as the mother's current pregnancy advances.  Miae has an affinity for her grandmother (Hyunkuk's mother).  When the grandmother dies, Miae faints at the burial ceremony.

    4. Hyunkuk starts making donations to the church large enough that household expenses get a bit tight.  The pipes start putting out bad stuff that is not similar to water.  One of the air vents starts putting out bad air.  Youngae misses Miae's coming home from school because she went shopping.  The older man from upstairs who had befriended Hyunkuk has gone missing.

    5. Financial stress and religious differences, plus a troublesome child and a new pregnancy add up to tension.  Throw in rising business expenses to keep the factory's machines running, and we're getting close to actual horror, if not screen horror.  Another miscarriage scare adds to the worries; the physician warns that repeated miscarriage may result in not being able to have a successful gestation.

    6. From the apartment building staff, Hyunkuk discovers that the grandmother's death was not exactly from natural causes. Youngae finds Miae outside on the play set.  Some monster touches her abdomen; she loses the baby.  The Christian ladies from upstairs visit her in the hospital.  They check her out and claim to have taken her to another hospital.  Miae is very well-behaved with Hyunkuk.  He has to face the mess at home (laundry, dishes, mail...) and at work.

    7. The babysitter calls him from a hospital; Miae has turned into a raging little ball of anger.  His brother Donsik returned from attending to another family matter.  To deal with the factory's rising cost trend problems, Donsik has sold the factory that Hyunkuk was attempting to run.  Hyunkuk loses his temper with Donsik.

    8. Things get worse with Miae.  Things get worse with Youngae; she thinks her husband is Satan, for instance.  She's upset that she's had to clean up after Miae for years, while her own children (as opposed to Miae) have died.

    9. So, how does all this end?  Will anything get resolved?  Does anyone go to jail for murders committed?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Young family encounters more than the usual growing pains in Seoul.
    2. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 2/10 It's a bit better than VHS, but not much.  The picture in back of the subtitles consistently looks wrinkled.  A fair number of minutes is all jerky motion.  The dark passages were tough to make out, and there were too many of those.

    2. Sound: 8/10 No real problems.

    3. Acting: 4/10 Wooden, not engaging.  The actor who played Miae seemed more of a brat than an actor.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 There's a story here, I guess.  The narrative does not complete as far as I could see, nor was there much attempt to explain many dead ends in the screenplay.


20131024: Horror Review--X Game


X Game
  1. Production Fundamentals; reception
    1. Japanese live action feature length film, 2010, NR, 119 minutes, horror. Aspect: 2.35
    2. IMDB: 5.5/10.0 from 185 users.  Spoken language is Japanese; English subtitles.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes:  'No reviews yet,' and zero audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.0/5.0 from 19,548 user ratings.
    5. Directed by Yohei Fukuda; screenplay by Mari Asato and Yoichi Minamikawa.
    6. Starring: Hirofumi Araki as Hideaki Kokubo; Kazayuki Aijima, Shota Chiyu.

  2. Setup, Plot
    1. 'Mr Morino committed suicide' is what the opaque opening sequence is about.  Hopefully this will resolve.  Early on, Morino is just a sixth grade teacher.  Also, part of a university lecture is shown discussing 'urban legends' about the bullied getting retribution against the former bullies.  The stage is set at 10 minutes in.  The question is, who is going to be thrust into the meat grinder?

    2. Hideaki is an obvious jerk, and would be my lead candidate.  Why his girlfriend, Rikako, puts up with him is hard to see.  One finds out toward the end of the movie.

    3. Takeshi and Tetsuya were leaders in the stylized bullying done in the sixth grade, and they get to join the festivities.   Chie Koizumi was also a contributor.

    4. After a bit more stage setting to justify vigilantism, these four wake up in a locked room.  They are compelled by two large hooded people with powerful electric shock weapons to play the X game, as explained on tape by the dead Mr. Morino.  There are 13 levels of punishment.  At each turn, a victim and a perpetrator have to be picked.  If the punishment is completed in under 3 minutes, the game goes to the next turn.  If not, the loser gets to be branded with a large X, about four inches in diameter; the spokes close to an inch across.

    5. This game was played in the sixth grade by the bullies; the main victim was a girl named Mariko Kaburagi.  By one means or another, all the contestants are made to remember that fact.  One of the final points of the film was made by the character Tadashi Ishimatu: the bullies all forgot about him, but he still has PTSD from the bullying.  Not one of the four bullies even remembers him, much less what they did to him.

    6. So, this is the vigilante justice mentioned academically in the beginning of the film.

    7. How far does the vigilante justice succeed?

  3. Conclusions
    1. Probably the saddest thing I saw about this film was the tone of the comments made on Netflix.  About half of them had the same attitudes as the bullies mentioned above: that was ages ago, have you not forgotten?  We were just having fun; what's wrong with you?
    2. One line summary: Vigilante action of the formerly bullied against their oppressors.
    3. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 9/10 Excellent in the well-lit scenes; reasonable in the dark ones.

    2. Sound: 10/10 OK; fairly good on creepiness.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Hirofumi Araki was rather good at being almost clueless to scared out of his wits.  Some of the other performances were a bit wooden.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Had a beginning, middle, and an end.  The exposition of motivations was good.

2013-10-23

20131023: Horror Review--Muoi



Muoi: Legend of a Portrait
  1. Production Fundamentals; reception
    1. Korean live action feature length film, 2007, NR, 94 minutes, horror.  Spoken languages Vietnamese and Korean; subtitles in English. Aspect: 2.35
    2. IMDB: 6.0/10.0 from 548 users.  Estimated budget, 2.3 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and 62% from 268 user ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.4/5.0 from 49,748 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by Tae-Kyung Kim; screenplay by Zizak and Tae-Kyung Kim.
    6. Starring: Ye-ryeon Cha as Seo-yeon, Anh Thu as Muoi, An Jo as Yun-hui.

  2. Setup, Plot
    1. Yun-hui travels from Korea to Vietnam to learn about the legend of a painting of a woman named Muoi.  Seo-yeon meets her there, and guides her regarding the legend.  The two women have some sort of past but have not seen one another for three years.

    2. Seo-yeon explains the Muoi story in brief while walking in the places where it happened.  Muoi was born of low parentage, but managed to attract an artist who took time to paint her portrait.  Unfortunately, he was engaged to a rich, vindictive woman, and had to return to her.  Muoi's rival came to her while he was gone, and had Muoi's legs broken; she also threw a pint or so of acid on Muoi's face.  When the artist tried to see Muoi, she would not see him because of her damaged face, and subsequently hung herself over the loss.  The story goes that she became a grudge ghost because of the unresolved anger and desire for vengeance.

    3. Yun-hui takes this in.  With more details and embellishments, she hopes to write a bestselling book. Seo-yeon hands her a batch of old papers, photographs, and notes that she had collected for Yun-hui.  Yun-hui starts through the stack; Seo-yeon starts a large painting.

    4. Through some machinations, they get to see a copy of a painting of Muoi.  Just after this, Yun-hui tells Seo-yeon that she had already seen a painting of Muoi.  When she tries to show the photo to Seo-yeon, the camera had only a blank.  Seo-yeon tells Yun-hui that there was no painting there; it had to have been that Muoi's ghost.  Yun-hui dreams about Seo-yeon confronting her about how she had libelled Seo-yeon in her last book.

    5. Oi, this films seems to be much more about Yun-hui's guilt about writing ill of Seo-yeon in her previous book than anything else.  The two women have a confrontation about the book, and Yun-hui decides to return to Korea.  Before she goes, Seo-yeon tells her of how a woman had commissioned three men to rape her while her boyfriend filmed it.  This was why Seo-yeon left Korea, never to return.  Yun-hui did not know about this.

    6. The two make nice. Seo-yeon has some sort of problem overnight, and Yun-hui goes to a temple to find out more about the case.  The temple seems to have a lot of Muoi artifacts.

    7. This is the point where the film really gets creepy.  It proceeds quickly to a grim and thorough conclusion.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Writer works off her guilt over trashing a friend in her last book.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Fine.

    2. Sound: 10/10 No problems.

    3. Acting: 7/10 A little uneven but mostly good.

    4. Screenplay: 9/10 Comes to a reasonable conclusion given the build up.

    5. Special Effects: 7/10 Reasonable.

20131023: Horror Review--Hansel and Gretel


Hansel & Gretel (Henjel gwa Geuretel)

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. South Korean live action feature length film, 2007, NR, 116 minutes, horror.  Aspect 1.85
    2. IMDB: 6.8/10.0 from 2,539 user ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 73% on the meter; 69% liked it from 1,139 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.4/5.0 from audience ratings for 28,817 users. Estimated budget, 4 million USD.
    5. Directed by: Pil-Sung Yim.
    6. Starring: Jeong-myeong Cheon as Eun-Soo Lee, Eun-kyung Shim as Young Hee Kim, Young-nam Jang as Soojeong, Ji-hee Jin as Jung Soon, Kyeong Ik as Youngsik, Hee-soon Park as Deacon-byun, Eun Won-jae as Man-bok.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. An irresponsible husband, Eun-Soo, goes off on a wild goose chase instead of being with this pregnant wife.  He totals a hugely expensive vehicle to avoid an already dead squirrel on the road.  He was fooling about with his telephone right before this happened.  Brilliant.

    2. When he wakes up again, it is night, and Young Hee has found him.  She has a lantern, seems kindly disposed toward him, and leads him to a place to stay, the 'House of Happy Children.'  It is lovely inside, and looks like everyday is Christmas.  They patch up his more major wounds from the accident.

    3. Eun-Soo meets Young Hee's mother, father, younger sister, and older brother, Man-bok.  He wakes up in a room full of toys and Christmas gadgets.  The family treats him to a breakfast of sweets, claiming that they had already eaten.  A bit suspicious, perhaps?

    4. Eun-Soo looks for a way out on the first day.  He does not find it, and the day seems woefully short.  The family of five and Eun-Soo have some strange discussions.

    5. On the second day, Eun-Soo awakes to find the parents gone.  They left him a note asking him to take care of the children.  He does for a bit, but then tries to make it to town.  He fails again.  He thought he saw someone in the woods; the children deny this as a possibility.  The phone is still out; how would they call to ask for it to be fixed?  Eun-Soo continues hearing unexplained bumps and the like.  Then, there seems to be something in the attic.  When examined with a torch, though, the attic only contains more children's toys.  After expressing his dismay, Man-bok gives him a map.

    6. On the third day, he goes exploring using the map.  He meets another couple from the road; they insist on going to the house, despite his advice against.  He eventually returns rather than die in the snow and cold.  The new couple turn out to be Christians, which adds a different layer.

    7. The snow continues on the fourth day, and Eun-Soo's desperation rises.  He finds a television that still runs with the power cord not plugged in.  This does not help.

    8. Eun-Soo finds a fairy tale book, and the boy gets cross with him for touching it.  Three of the book's characters had their faces cut out and replaced with cut out photo pieces of the three children.  He discovers the 'mother' from the initial meeting in the attic.  She shows him that the attic can be a limitless maze, rather like the surrounding forest.

    9. He has a long metaphorical talk with the three children.  He tells an engaging fairly tale, then weaves himself into it, as the prince who must return to his pregnant princess.  Man-bok, however, concludes the tale by telling Eun-Soo they will cut off his arms and legs so that he is unable to leave.  Great stuff.

    10. The 'Christian' woman turns out to be a thief, and the man someone who wants to rule the roost with an iron, bible-thumping fist.  Eun-Soo warns him against this, but he physically attacks in return.  Yet another monster; great.

    11. Eun-Soo gears up to try to escape again, this time leaving a trail of breadcrumbs.  Then he discovers that the meat in the refrigerator is from the first 'father' that he met.  So the kids are carnivorous fairies or demons or whatever.

    12. The layering keeps getting deeper for Eun-Soo, as he makes his way through more documents in the attic.  He finds orphanage birth records for the three children, from 1959, 1960, 1965.  Apparently they were frozen in time somehow, except perhaps for Young Hee, who looks 47 in one of the rooms.  He makes another attempt to escape and fails again, stopping just short of a cliff edge overlooking and ocean.

    13. The Christian man has a confrontation with the children.  He has a certain box, and has gagged the younger girl.  He and Man-bok share the act of patricide.  Man-bok knocks the man out using magic.  The youngest whines about all parents being the same, that is, rotten.

    14. So that's it.  Man-bok killed his father, and decided that all bad adults need to be punished like the punishment in Hansel and Gretel.  He shows Eun-Soo the small book of line drawings of Hansel and Gretel.  The children recount more of the past, regarding the depths of the 'bad adults' problem.  It is a nasty story, but the ultimate culprit in the piece is an amusing choice.

    15. Can Eun-Soo help break the obsession, the lock on this delusion?  The children want him to stay forever, but he feels obligated to be with his own child, yet to be born, and Hae Young, his child's mother.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Irresponsible husband gets lost in the woods, then in his own delusions.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 For the introduction and credits: jerky camera movement, keyhole sized vignette filters, with poor focus, on multiple badly done overlaid images.  Even after this terrible beginning, the jerky camera movements continue, accompanied by soft focus and 'who cares?' framing.  The over saturated colors are pleasantly chosen, at least.

    2. Sound: 10/10 As good as the visuals are bad.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Rather good.  I liked the child actors better than I thought I would.

    4. Screenplay: 9/10 A bit long, but a good story told through the movie.


20131023: Horror Review--Bedevilled


Bedevilled (Kim Bok-Nam Salinsageonui Jeonmal)

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. South Korean live action feature length film, 2010, NR, 116 minutes, horror, drama, crime, aspect 2.35.
    2. IMDB: 7.1/10.0 from 5,302 users.  Spoken word in Korean, subtitles in English. Estimated budget: $700,000
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No Score Yet,' and 82% of 410 audience ratings liked it.
    4. Netflix: 3.6/5.0 from 53,266 users.
    5. Directed by: Cheol-su Jang.
    6. Starring: Yeong-hie Seo as Kim Bok-nam, Sung-won Ji as Hae-won, Min-ho Wang as Dodger, Je-eun Lee as Kim Yeon-hee.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Self-involved bank officer Hae-won (makes decisions about loans) witnessed an attempted rape, and does not want to identify the perpetrators for the police to support the victim's case.

    2. She gets people irritated with her at work, and her boss decides she should take a vacation.  She goes to Moo-do Island, which is currently rather sparsely populated, where her old friend Bok-nam lives and also where she grew up.

    3. Oi, what a primitive island.  Bok-nam's husband is a real control freak, and imports a prostitute from the mainland.  He seduces Bok-nam's daughter, who is putatively his.

    4. Hae-won gets fired by e-mail.  Nice touch.  She's about to go home when Bok-nam tells her about the daughter.  The matriarch of the island invites her directly to leave, or stay forever.

    5. Bok-nam tries to escape to Seoul with her daughter, early in the morning, before Hae-won wakes up. The husband beats her up instead, badly, and kills the daughter.  Explaining this to the police officer who visited was amazing in the depth of the lying.  The locals encourage the policeman to leave before Hae-won can go with him.  He does.

    6. What could possibly go wrong at this point?  That is basically the heart of the movie.  Will Hae-won survive with these terrible people, who used to be her people?  If so, what will she do when she gets back?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Island woman returns home from Seoul to visit a friend; terror ensues.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 No problems.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Just fine.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Yeong-hie Seo and Sung-won Ji were just terrible.  The fellow who played the violent husband was even worse.  The supporting players were OK.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 Should have been a 30 or 40 minute short, part of an anthology.  Stretched way too long.


2013-10-22

20131022: Horror Review--Bestseller


Bestseller
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Korean live action feature length film, 2010, NR, 117 minutes, horror, mystery, thriller. Spoken language is Korean; English subtitles.
    2. IMDB: 6.3/10.0 from 415 users.  Aspect 2.35
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet...' and 50% want to see it of 99 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.4/5.0 from 32,722 user ratings.
    5. Written and directed by: Jeong-ho Lee.
    6. Starring: Jeong-hwa Eom as Baek Hee Soo, Kang Hee Choi as Whisper, Jin-Woong Jo as Chan-sik, Hwa Yeong Kim as Director Song.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The writer Baek is doing well when she gets hit with charges of plagiarism in 2005, then with writer's block. (Or was it writer's block, plagiarism, then more writer's block?)  She takes her daughter to a backwoods village, and stays at what used to be a wartime orphanage.  The locals say it is haunted by a ghost.  The daughter, Yeung-hee, claims to see a friend, but the mother does not see that friend.

    2. There are several interludes that seem to be flashback, but are instead reverie, where the writer's concentration on imagination blocks out other events.  I found these to be counter-productive; if she's writing in her head, why not do it at the typewriter or computer?

    3. Baek has Yeung-hee pinkie-swear that she won't play with her invisible inaudible friend who lives upstairs.  Is that going to work?

    4. When she throws her laptop on the floor, then stomps on it until it is badly broken, I gave up on this film. Two minutes later, the stomping turns out to be another false scenario that the writer daydreams.

    5. Her husband loses a piece of career advancement over her controversy, even though they have long separated.  So her support from other people is weakened.

    6. Her attempts to write do not go well. She starts pumping her young daughter for details about the stories that her invisible friend keeps repeating.  The daughter says she will not, naturally enough.  The friend is repetitive and boring as well.

    7. The place they are staying at is also being upgraded for other tourists to use, so the locals on are scene.  One of these is the son of the 'Sheriff' who more or less runs the town.  The father is well-organized, and runs other people's lives.  The son is slow (mentally and physically), fat, awkward, entitled, and has little sense of personal boundaries.  He's a loose cannon that just about everybody despises.

    8. During the period of the refurbishment, we first see that the daughter is imaginary.  The writer has long heated discussions with her, but the workers just see a woman getting wild and animated while she's talking to herself.  They figure artists just are not like regular folks.

    9. So, the writer is delusional, and the real or imagined loss of the daughter has cost her a lot.  Why is she left alone?  She clearly needs at least nearby professional assistance since she does not seem to be able to prosecute her own life.

    10. Watching the nonsense with locked doors and the daughter going missing, then showing up again gets very tedious.  The daughter is the muse, I guess, and she tells Baek the story her friend told her.  Baek goes on a binge of writing.  She takes the end result to her editor who just loves it.  The picture should be over.  Now and forever.  But it goes on.

    11. Baek's new book is published and she is quite successful again.  Let the horror end.  Her book races to the top of the charts and stays there for a while.  She's having a relaxing bath with her daughter (hm, still crazy) when the problems hit.  Apparently her 2007 book bears a strong resemblance to a book written by someone else in 1992.  Great, double plagiarism.

    12. She goes home and looks for her daughter in vain.  She goes to her ex husband, who of course does not have the dead daughter.  A shrink confronts her with the daughter's accidental death.  She has difficulty embracing it.  Yeung-hee died because she dropped a running hair drier into her bath water while Baek was arguing with someone on the telephone.   Guilt, squared and cubed.

    13. What to do next?  The story of the dead daughter telling her the narrative of the book does not gain much acceptance.  Her ex asks her the birthday, the favourite colour, the favourite food of Yeung-hee.  Baek does not know.  Guilt again.  Her publishing house is up for sale because of the scandal.

    14. Baek does some digging to find that the person who wrote the 1992 book got the story from his dead wife.  Baek decides to solve the riddle involved in that case, which should restore faith and trust in her, and remove the plagiarism scandal.  (Really? You've got to be kidding.)

    15. Does the second half work, where everything is gone over a second time?

    16. Baek definitely stirs things up in the village where the orphanage resides, and real miscreants are not happy with her.

    17. Does she prevail against such long odds?  She has precious little support, and the only ones with the full truths are the guilty.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Crazy bestselling book writer struggles with plagiarism charges.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Exteriors: excellent.  Interiors, no so much.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Fine.

    3. Acting: 1/10 The lead actress is over the top most of the time and convincing very little of the time.  The actor who plays the sheriff's son is either a fine actor (like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, 1988) or just the opposite, a non-actor with the character's traits.  I think it's the second.  The other actors are forgettable, except the fellow who played the husband.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 Solving an old murder cleanses away the new plagiarism charges?  No.  Her 2007 book came directly from the 1992 book, so the central point of the movie fails.  Also, the lead character is certifiably insane and should not have been conducting anything on her own, much less a murder investigation.  The horrible consequences of her actions are plenty of proof.


2013-10-21

20131021: Horror Review--The Unseeable


The Unseeable (Pen choo kab pee)
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Thai live action feature length film, 2006, NR, 93 minutes, horror, mystery, romance.
    2. IMDB: 6.4/10.0 from 366 users. Spoken word is Thai, English subtitles.  Aspect 1.85
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and 54% liked it from 395 audience ratings.
    4. Netflix: 3.1/5.0 from 16,909 audience ratings.
    5. Directed by: Wisit Sasanatieng
    6. Starring: Suporntip Chuangrangsri as Madame Ranjuan, Tassawan Seneewongse as Ms. Somjit, Siraphan Wattanajinda as Nualjan.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Pregnant Nualjan is on the road, walking, and in discomfort.  She comes upon Madame Ranjuan's house, which seems to be an inn within a walled, gated compound.  Ms. Somjit works as maid for for Ranjuan.  Choy lives on the compound as well.  Nualjan is looking for her violinist husband Chob, who has gone missing.

    2. Choy is quite the chatterbox.  Somjit is imperious with Nualjan and Choy.  Somjit deigns to allow Nualjan to stay until she finds (hopefully soon) a new place to stay.  Choy and Nualjan are relegated to the guest quarters, and told forcefully to stay away from the main building, where Madame Ranjuan lives.  There's a shack on the compound where Grandma Erb lives; she's reputed (by Choy) to be crazy, reclusive, and next to silent.  To add to the fun, there's a crumbling shrine on site on which Ms. Somjit regularly drops offerings of food.  Someone apparently takes the offerings.  Plus there is some man who digs in a garden area, but only at night.  Lastly, there have been sightings of a long-haired woman using the swing on the 'rain tree' at night.  Supposedly she committed suicide by hanging at that spot.

    3. Creepy setup, check.

    4. Nualjan explores a bit timidly.  Ms. Somjit reads her the riot act for that, but then gives her a small tour, and some history.  Somjit asks Nualjan whether she believes in ghosts, and gets a negative.  Somjit, on the other hands, is very much a believer.  Choy is not impressed; apparently Somjit tells everyone the same stories.  That night, though, Nualjan wakes up to see a small girl, who challenges her to follow.  This results in trouble again from Somjit.

    5. The baby arrives.  Various odd things happen.  Madame wants to see Nualjan and the newborn. Then she wants to see them both everyday. Nualjan sees the little girl again, and follows her into yet another building on the compound.  Choy follows.  They visit Grandma Erb, but do not wake her up.

    6. The next morning she leaves her child with Madame Ranjuan, who promises to have Ms. Somjit return the child the afternoon of the same day.  Nualjan has some bad dreams. Ms. Somjit warns her against poking around in the antiques room again.  Perhaps it was not a dream?  She takes a walk, finds Chob playing his violin.  He tells her that he has been at the compound for some time, as Madame Ranjuan's lover.  She wakes up later, in the evening, wondering where her baby is.

    7. So, what's left here?  Why is the Madame interested in the baby?  Did Nualjan actually see her husband or something else?  What is Grandma Erb up to?  What of the hanged woman and the little girl with anklets?  Do the loops get closed?

    8. Spoilers below.

    9. Nualjan confronts Ranjuan, and a number of issues get exposed.  Chob was Ranjuan's husband, but was going to leave her since she was barren and Nualjuan had conceived.  Choy is the 'vampire' who ate the umbilical cord and the offerings at the shrine.  Chob is the man who is digging, but only at night, for his own corpse that Ranjuan buried after killing him.  The girl ghost does not run this time, but does not explain either.  Toward the end, Nualjan is surrounded by ghosts.  She falls into the antiques room, where Somjit is eating rats.  Somjit had died from a fall down stairs after seeing that Madame had killed Chob.  Doors open and close.  Behind each lie more ghosts of the compound.

    10. After that, even darker realizations come to the fore regarding the girl with the anklets, Erb, and Nualjan.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Sad, dark ghost story from Thailand.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 Woof: buy a better camera system for the next movie.  I experienced this film on streaming Netflix.  The visuals are poor quality throughout: soft focus, low contrast, dim in broad daylight, grainy.  On the other hand, the film is low on camera shakes and jerks, and reasonable on framing.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Much better than the visuals.

    3. Acting: 8/10 No particular problems.

    4. Screenplay: 10/10 Good story, well executed.