Tuesday 5 October 2010

October Horror 2010 - Installment #1

And we're off! Not to a blistering start (not many scares in this first batch), but we'll pick up steam no doubt.

Child's Play 3 (1991 - Jack Bender) - Why start a month of horror with the third in a series of Chucky films? Well, even though I did like the first two more than I expected (not really as horror films, but they were self-aware fun), it was mostly to prepare myself to watch both "Bride Of Chucky" and "Seed Of Chucky" - two films I've been eager to pop in the player. I mean, I couldn't watch them without the full back story now, could I? It was good to get the final installment of the initial trilogy behind me - it's easily the worst of the bunch. Oh sure, The Chuckster gets off a couple of zingers, drops the old f-bomb a couple of times and even manages to use a walkie-talkie while throwing a hand grenade, but it's not much more than that. Not a single human actor registers, the story is lame (Chucky is reanimated in a new doll and follows his old owner to military school still hoping to take over his body) and it isn't scary or even tense for one moment. By this point in the series, though, I guess that's not what the movies are about. There is some colourful art direction in the final showdown in a haunted house ride, so along with a foul-mouthed, heavily armed, freakish looking kid's doll the movie does have a few things in its favour.

Frozen (2010 - Adam Green) - The concept is an easy elevator pitch: "Three people are stuck on a ski lift with the resort closed for the following week". Can it actually sustain itself for a feature length film, though, and keep it interesting and tense with occasional shiver-inducing moments? Apparently it can. Like many of these beautiful-young-people-in-danger stories, the opening can be a bit of a struggle as you try to figure out whether you care about these navel-gazing characters. Fortunately they do end up with some subtle shades and the premise gets underway in a fairly realistic way. Since it looks like they used an actual old style ski lift as a location, you can feel the height and the frigid surroundings almost as much as the characters. Sure it stretches itself out more than needed, but it captures the many scenarios that could play out - broken limbs, escape possibilities, frostbite and other natural obstacles are all thrown into the mix.

Don't Look Up (2009 - Fruit Chan) - What a calamitous mess. Ever since his breakthrough film "Ringu" (and the success of the U.S. remake "The Ring"), I've wanted to see Hideo Nakata's early horror film "Don't Look Up". Using the story of the haunting of a film production which is set on a soundstage from a previously haunted film production has great possibilities, but for some strange reason it was never released in Region 1 (and as far as I can tell not easily available in other regions - at least, certainly not for cheap). So when I found a remake of it produced by Nakata and helmed by Chinese director Fruit Chan (he made the "Dumplings" segment of "Three...Extremes"), it sounded like it would be worth a try. Short of one or two well-realized images (a shadowy figure appearing on film, hands arising from a backpack, eyes on a video screen), there's nothing here. Crappy CGI, terrible performances by everyone (in particular the main actor) and sloppy story-telling. Simply not worth your time.

Critters (1986 - Stephen Herek) - I guess this turned out to be exactly what I expected it to be: a mid-80s creature feature with some cheesiness, a story that's pretty inert and some fun moments. Not quite enough fun moments to sustain it for 82 minutes, but Dee Wallace Stone and M. Emmet Walsh are always welcome. The creatures from outer space are Gremlins-lite, but have a vicious streak about them. Aside from some havoc that the shapeshifting bounty hunters cause in town, the action all takes place on one family's farm. This reduces the carnage, but I'll give them critters one thing - they offed Billy Zane pretty darn quick. Give them credit for that.


Vulnavia Morbius said...

Don't Look Up shows up on The Sundance Channel sometimes under the title Ghost Actress. It's okay. I like it fine, but it's not particularly distinguished.

Courtney Small said...

Child's Play is still one of my all-time favourite horror flicks. The franchise has become a parody of itself over the years but the original still holds up well.

Might need to breakdown and rent Frozen, noticed a lot of reviews popping up for it online.

Bob Turnbull said...

Yeah, I'd heard that about Nakata's film, but would still like to see it one day. I'd like to think more subtlety was brought to the table in his version.

I do like the Child's Play movies (and am eager to get to Bride and Seed), but they are only peripherally within the horror genre by this point - that's not bad, just an observation.

I would certainly recommend Frozen.