Monday, 10 October 2011
October Horror 2011 - Chapter #3
The horror is just gonna keep on comin'!
The Caller (2011 - Matthew Parkhill) - For a film about which I had heard absolutely nothing and which was given to me by a friend (Thanks Dave!) with the following description "It wasn't terrible...", The Caller was a very happy surprise. There are plot holes a mile wide (similar to time travel paradoxes, the story would be hard pressed not to have a few incongruous moments) and some scenes that frustrate due to the main character's poor decisions (ie. if she just did what any logical person would do, the story would have petered out), but director Matthew Parkhill injects the ever-wonderful DREAD into the movie by using great framing of his character (she appears behind bars numerous times over the course of the film) and using a very solid sound field that doesn't fall back to the same old obvious tricks. A very nice lead performance by Rachelle Lefevre rounds out this tale of a recently separated woman (with an awful ex) who answers a call in her new apartment from a stranger living 30 years in the past. As their relationship builds and deteriorates, the calls become more threatening since the past can reach out and change the future. One of the better straight to video releases I've seen in some time.
Apt Pupil (1998 - Bryan Singer) - Singer's follow-up to "The Usual Suspects" was a bit of an odd choice - a story of a high school student who, after becoming fascinated with the Holocaust in school, finds a Nazi war criminal hiding out in his own town. In exchange for hearing the Nazi officer talk about his horrible acts in the prison camps, the teenager promises to keep his years long secret safe. It gradually shifts towards a battle for control between the two and becomes an interesting look at how some people can be capable of almost anything especially when their own self-interests are in peril and their backs are up against a wall. The descriptions of the war crimes committed are indeed horrifying and truly unnerving, but basing your horror movie around these inhumane acts is a strange concept. However, as it moves away from these straight recollections, it becomes a tense battle between the teenager (Brad Renfro) and war criminal (Ian McKellen - fabulous as always). Though it stumbles a bit trying to wedge in all the closing plot points (and adds in a few more ridiculous coincidences), it still remains an effective thriller with great shot choices from Singer - from the get-go you know you are in the hands of someone who knows what to do with a camera. Its horror is certainly far beyond any monster or nighttime ghostly vision...
Phantom Of The Paradise (1974 - Brian De Palma) - De Palma's rock musical variation on Phantom Of The Opera always struck me as being a bit too goofy to really be considered a horror film. Turns out I was right, but it doesn't mean it's not fantastically fun. I'm not likely to run out and buy the soundtrack tomorrow, but the songs are actually pretty memorable and fit the within-the-film musical. Said stage production is being put on by famed record producer Swan (played by Paul Williams) after having stolen all its music from a piano player named Winslow who auditioned for him. After being framed by Swan and sent to jail, Winslow escapes, tries to stop Swan releasing his music and becomes horribly disfigured in a record pressing plant. Swan chooses a young singer (played by Jessica Harper who would go on to appear in "Suspiria") and convinces Winslow (now with a mask to hide his scarred face) to finish the musical for her. Buried below the stage of the Paradise theatre, the "phantom" works long and hard to finish the music for his new muse, but Swan has new plans for everyone. As you might expect, it doesn't quite end smoothly. The set designs and De Palma's camera angles are the real stars here and it makes for a goofy but very entertaining take on the classic horror tale. And the last 15-20 minutes or so are deliriously nuts.
Event Horizon (1997 - Paul W.S. Anderson) - It's not that I wasn't enjoying this almost 15 year-old space horror, but by the half hour mark I felt I could just stop the film and write the review. Great atmosphere, fine build-ups while searching the abandoned ship, false scares, cardboard characters, stock dialogue, lazy and mostly pointless CGI - the good stuff is good, but why-oh-why do they have to be so lazy with the rest? A fine example of this lazy thinking is the little bits of CGI refuse that rattle around the abandoned ship in weightlessness - the crew have already mentioned several times how the temperature in the long abandoned ship is a deep freeze and yet one of the items that floats by is a full water bottle complete with sloshing sounds of its contents. Picky? Sure, but it goes to show the attitude in the creation of the film. However, the first hour certainly doesn't waste a lot of time as it delivers a great vibe, never gets boring, provides a solid amount of creep and even the unwarranted jump scares are kind of fun. However, the last half hour pretty much spirals out of control in trying to literally show the private hells of some of the crew and what lies beyond the gateway the ship has opened. It's a mess and loses all the tension of the first hour. A shame.