Sunday 4 September 2011

Basking In The Cesspool Of Filth #18

I like it when it's Ladies Choice...

Alone In The Dark (1982 - Jack Sholder) - By just about any measure, this is not a good movie and, if memory serves, not overly scary either. However, it's one of those early 80s horror films that still somehow manages to be fast-paced, create memorable scenes (even a few "thrills") and allow "creative" and entertaining acting choices - even if it is far from being horrific or even spooky. That point about the acting isn't completely meant sarcastically - sure there's some poor acting here, but the actors seemed to relish their roles and really put forth a variety of approaches (granted, many of those approaches defaulted to "big"). Given that the cast consists of Jack Palance, Martin Landau and Donald Pleasance playing insane asylum patients and doctors, you've got the makings for an interesting brew. The basic premise is that a power outage allows a group of 4 inmates to escape the asylum and terrorize the family of one of the new doctors in town. I can't really pretend that the "punk rock" concert and the no nukes rally weren't completely ridiculous, but it's Carol Levy's performance as the blond babysitter (in particular when in peril) that was the nadir of the film - or high point depending on your enjoyment of excruciating acting. The flip side is that it had Jack Palance with a cross bow. The 80s sure had their moments...

Ju-On: White Ghost (2009 - Ryuta Miyake) - Marking a decade since the first Japanese Ju-On film ("Ju-On - The Curse" was actually a 45 minute made-for-TV program), the double release of "Ju-On White Ghost" and "Ju-On Black Ghost" step back to the simpler roots of that initial film. Both movies have lean running times (each almost right on the hour mark) and mostly use practical effects. "White Ghost" is closest in approach to the familiar "Ju-On: The Grudge" films in that it sets up a new set of murders in that same old house, pulls in the innocent victims and shows them to us in non-linear fashion. It's frankly nowhere near as good or creepy as any of the previous films (even the U.S. remakes - though let's not include "The Grudge 3" in that list...ugh), but if you can't find entertainment in a dessicated old woman floating towards the camera holding a basketball then we obviously have different tastes...The scares don't really work as the director simply doesn't handle reveals and timing very well, but even more frustrating is that the dread doesn't come across at all. There are some disturbing scenes, but the buildup to them (I should say that lack of buildup) never once makes you curl up tighter on the couch. However, I do have to admit that I enjoyed the hour. You could easily see where the "moments" were going to occur and I couldn't help but laugh out loud at the absurdity and silliness of several of them. The key to the earlier films is that as goofy as the concept may have sounded were you to describe it to someone, any laughter during the film typically came as a release mechanism after breaks in tension. You could laugh with the movie, not at it.

Ju-On: Black Ghost (2009 - Mari Asato) - The "Black Ghost" film is both much more successful then "White Ghost" and, at the same time, far less fun. Branching off from the standard Ju-On concept a bit, this time the grudge manifests itself in the cyst of a young girl due to the fact that her twin sister died at birth. There's a slower feel to the film and it manages a much stronger feeling of dread throughout with a few genuinely creepy moments, but it suffers from maintaining the fractured timeline structure of the other Ju-On films. Though the grudge spreads in this film just as in the others (which normally allows the different timelines to work), the non-linear story takes focus away from the most creepy central part of the film. There's also a distinct lack of fun to this particular film. "White Ghost" couldn't effectively use its very goofy tropes, but it still essentially knew what it was. "Black Ghost" loses its way and never finds a good place to dwell between its creepy concept and its implementation. Filled with promise, but coming up short.

[rec] 2 (2009 - Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza) - Though this sequel (and I do mean immediate sequel) to 2007's pretty damn wonderful "[rec]" took an unexpected plot path and was likely far better than anyone had a right to expect, it still remains a disappointment to me. I suppose that's partially because of elevated expectations after I heard some very high praise, but it's mostly due to the fact that it left much of its previous creepy atmosphere behind and went with a more full blown EXPERIENCE. What I assume was designed to be more of an intense ride eventually became a bit tiring and, if not dull, at least rather ho hum (it's actually not a bad example of "Chaos Cinema"). The tension from the first film felt drained in spots as they tried to bring in more effects, focus on some of the demon-like beasts and really shake the hell out of that camera during the in your face attacks. The shifting plot was also a problem - every interesting tweak or new revelation was usually followed pretty closely by an eye-rolling moment. A mixed bag overall, but in the end simply not that scary. Or fun.

Count Yorga, Vampire (1970 - Bob Kelljan) - OK, now we're talking...This 1970 vampire flick is the exact perfect mix of creepy, funny, scary, purposely goofy and always unpredictable that the above movies couldn't find. It starts out at a seance and moves to the inevitable evening at the count's house - sexy vampires and all. Bad things happen to these people, but there's simply no way you can miss the good-natured fun of the film while also being just a bit on edge throughout. There's thought put into the compositions on screen and very effective use of the many shadows supplied by the house. Personally, I was extremely happy to make the count's acquaintance and look forward to catching up with his follow-up film (also directed by Kelljan) entitled "The Return Of Count Yorga". Apparently this time around he lives near an orphanage...and that's all I really need to know right there.

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