Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Lords of Salem (2013) Review

Lords of Salem seemed a little bit aimless. And blown out of proportion, in terms of how disturbing it claims to be. This film was completely watchable. But there wasn't actually much substance to the plot with which you could engage.  There is a storyline, but it seems we are kept on the periphery of it - focusing more on distracting montages of minimalist imagery. There was no obvious indicator what the witches wanted, or why they specifically wanted revenge on the women of Salem? That seems nonsensical. Why not take revenge specifically on John Hawthorne?

There seemed to be a lot of attention drawn to simplistic sets which lacked an immersive quality. In particular the ending scenes, and when Heidi is staring at the neon signs in room number five. Feeling like a conscious observer sucks, although I suspect to give the film a surrealist aspect it was intended to be presented this way. Heidi's own apartment was probably the best location in the whole film as there was a lot to engage with visually. Especially the d├ęcor, with the giant Trip to the Moon behind her bed and the artwork in her bathroom.  Something seems a little voyeuristic/exhibitionist (depending on how you look at it, with Rob being her husband) about how Sheri is shot in this film. Sheri didn't stand out as a favourite in House as Baby, and in Lords her acting is only minimally better.

Bringing to discussion the villains, aside from their appearance, the damage the witches can cause is disappointingly human. Is bashing a man's face in with a hoover the extent of what they are capable of? The monsters in this were made frightening only by the impact-loud-noise technique. Using this method was insulting, in that the mutant baby and sasquatch could not have had a shocking presence otherwise. They looked terribly unconvincing.

For creating atmosphere, this film works to an extent. But comparatively House of 1000 Corpses supersedes every aspect of this film. For example, such artistic elements; acting, sets and general fear factor, are all inferior. The montages incorporated in House work miles better and the villains were genuinely and believably terrifying as characters. Lords seems disjointed and generally lacking in any actual fear inducing elements. Certainly I will give Lords its due, it was an visual stimulating tale bordering on more of an art film, however not the best or most unusual by a long shot.

Rating: 5.5/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Hitori Kakurenbo (2009) Review

This was an interesting, albeit slightly generic take on the Hitori Kakurenbo urban legend.

Although, the atypical restless yurei villain worked for me. I admit I jumped several times throughout the film. But I was expecting to see possessed teddy bears and dolls wielding knives, not Kayako/Sadako V.346. From the urban legend however, following the idea that the spirits move the dolls, this is completely feasible. Just not inventive. But at least this film was well executed enough to not be disappointing.

The actual 'Hide and Seek Alone' legend itself is one of the most enthralling urban legends to surface for a while. Or at least, the supposed experiences from it are. If you were weak of heart, this would be one hell of a test of resolve if you were to go through with it.
In effect, you're required to follow a voodoo ritual, so that a doll of your choice will (hopefully) become possessed by a spirit. To play a much darker take on the childhood game of hide and seek, with you. Obviously, there's a catch, as there is with any twisted game involving supernatural entities. Of being potentially stabbed to death. Which also applies to anyone else in the household. Therefore, interruption by oblivious participants must be avoided. The only solution to avoiding a gruesome end is by holding salt water in your mouth, then spitting it over the doll. Wherever it is you may supposedly find it. A factor the characters involved with this film seem to whimsically ignore.

Silence was used well to create tension, or at least I remember it to be. Though I was viewing with earphones. And suddenly I begin to wonder, perhaps, is viewing a film with earphones the best experience? Or is that allowing sound too much credit? There's something a little too lazy about being solely reliant on loud noises alone. When, there is a plethora of atmospheric music out there one could utilize, along with the rest of the mise en scene elements of a film, to successfully build tension. Any music that was used did not leave a lasting impression. Memorability points must be given, however, to the sinisterly childlike whispers of 'Ready or not, here I come".

The scenes with the CCTV footage zooming into the closet was a great recurring element. However, extremely reminiscent of Thai horror, Shutter (2004) in the scene showing close ups of the school photograph. Undeniably, works as an effective scare as one of the best jump moments, but it becomes apparent how Asian horror tends to borrow and recycle scenes from all it's encompassing films.

Although this ran smoothly in terms of narrative and was well paced, the only thing that didn't make much sense was the abrupt ending. It felt a little bit lacking in closure terms. There seemed to be some suggestion to do with a backstory, specifically of the character Ryoko. Who was this mysterious ghost girl that latched onto her by the end of the film? A childhood friend of hers, drowned, who wanted revenge? Again, there was a gaping, ridiculous plot hole highlighted in the fact everyone failed to employ the most crucial of rules in that the salt water would protect them.

Ultimately, regurgitated successful elements anchored this film to being a decent watch, with lack of creativity and closure being the only things pulling the film down.

Rating: 6/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Monday, 20 May 2013

Uzumaki (2002) Review

Uzumaki was recommended to me by a friend. Saying it was the most deranged and disturbing film he had ever seen, leaving him with a distinct phobia of spirals.
So, I had pretty high expectations of this film changing my perceptions of swirls forever.
Being as I'd never heard about it before, I was impressed to learn this was based on the series of the horror manga Uzumaki, created by Junji Ito, also creator of the Tomie manga.

Now, after watching, I lacked the ability to perceive anything exceptionally terrifying about this film. It lacks any real back story or motives to warrant much deep-rooted fear. As the plot progresses, it seems more nonsensically exaggerated and comical in places than anything. In a similar way to how Drag Me To Hell is more amusing than can be taken seriously as a horror. Let me tell you why.
This is ultimately about snails.

Not that this is a bad film at all. I quite enjoyed it as undoubtedly more of a surreal film, but I've yet to read the manga as a comparative. Apparently this isn't entirely correct to the manga, as Uzumaki was still unfinished when the film was released. The stylistic elements of this film are fascinating, even entrancing as you are constantly affronted with visual extremes as the inhabitants warp into monsters, pulsating, gorging. That, added with the consistent green coloured tint, Uzumaki seems potentially Joker influenced on reflection. As if Smilex and the imagery from the scare maze, The Sanctuary had been blended circularly into a film. Especially in the scenes with psychotically grinning corpses. Surrealistic bulging eyes and inappropriately placed canted angle shots add to the madness. To add to its already insanely kooky imagery is the cheerful soundtrack, oddly enough, more suited to a children's programme.
Potential nightmare material for some, absolutely. But my love of spirals stays in tact.

Uzumaki's characters are submissive, placed under the curse of the town they reside in. Under the rule of 'malevolent spirals'. Doomed to become swirl-fascinated half snails. There's not really a clear explanation of why the town and its inhabitants are cursed in this way, which I found slightly frustrating. From the synopsis, the verb 'infected' is curious. A town diseased by 'vortexes'?

I found the lead actress playing Kirie drippy and unconvincing (as is the case with most films), but Shuichi seemed a more likeable character. In his own peculiarly distant way. Especially with his and Kirie's childhood tale. On another note, you could really hear the conviction, surpassing all language barriers, with which younger Kirie's voice screamed she didn't want a boy as a mother. The Stalker, Yamaguchi, was adorably psychotic. The stupidity of close up shots always seem to make me laugh. Especially the initial scenes with Kirie's father and the man with a video recorder in his face.

Ultimately an agreeably weird, visually crazed and blackly comedic horror (dependent on your humour).

Rating: 8/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

Side note: I love the fact that the phrase subtitled 'love-crazed' comes out sounding like 'stalker' in Japanese.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Evil Dead 2013 Review

Evil Dead (2013), as you may already be aware, is the new remake of the 1981 classic. Following the atypical storyline of a group of young people who go into a creepy remote cabin, in this version for support/rehab purposes. Someone incidentally reads aloud an spell from an ominous looking book, which turns out to summon demons. Right. All hell subsequently breaks loose.

Bluntly put, this film met my expectations. That opinion may not be a good representative for you, if you happen to have watched and loved the original, because from general reception it seems it may well disappoint you. Despite the original creators having some involvement with producing the remake.

Going into the film with the mindset of; A) no pre-conceived ideas of a better version, and B) that all of the characters were going to die in an exaggeratedly gruesome way, is precisely how I came out of the cinema fairly satisfied with what I had just seen. Hoping everyone will live, skipping away in a glittering wake of sunbeams guarantees disappointment. Well that false sense of hope stopped me from enjoying The Cottage, anyway.

At times I burst into laughter at just how over the top the progressive violence was. One instance for example, was the endurance of the character Eric. How many times was he stabbed in his vital organs again? The structure of the film seemed after a while, predictably like a never-ending boss battle. Certain elements were inherently obvious for anyone familiar with horror. I mean if you didn't know outright that Eric was doomed to become 'the devil's bitch' as he phrased it... come on?! Of course he was.

Actor wise, Mia (Jane Levy) was the strongest character. With also the prettiest make up (those contacts were awesome). I was undeniably glad to see the rest be violently torn to pieces of their own volition.

This movie was wonderfully shot, the cinematography was excellent. I've read up that there was no CGI used for realism, and yes, the violence does look very believable. The transition from absolute blood drenched carnage, or fast paced hysteria, to silent blackouts gave an incredible impact. People gasped. Everyone in the audience jumped at one point or another. I seem to remember most people jumping at the machete sequence coming to the end of the film. Panic was carved into everyone by the final battle with the abomination.

Unfortunately, Evil Dead was doomed another orchestral number for the soundtrack. Although a failsafe, this was a sore disappointment. After the stunning electronic music featured in the trailer from Randroid music was used, I was expecting a soundtrack along the same lines. Sinister featured dubstep and new age music which successfully worked to a frightening and atmospheric effect. The aggressive sounding glitchhop (? I'm not quite sure what genre the music was, forgive!) really added to the brutal/carnal imagery of ED. I vote they should have used it.

Evil Dead obviously wasn't ground breaking in terms of horror, being a remake and all. But if you enjoy things for their artsy elements, Evil Dead had sufficient visual appeal.

Rating: 6/10
Reviewed by Abigail Lewis