Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Halloween II (1981).

Having now seen all of the (original) Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street films, it's time to get to work on Halloween.

Taking place directly after the first, Halloween II is set almost exclusively in the local hospital Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is taken to.

A very quiet, understaffed hospital, considering everything that has just happened...?

Michael continues to stalk Laurie and kill anyone unlucky enough to cross his path, while Dr. Loomis trails behind until the finale. So, more of the same and nothing remarkable from plot or actors here.

There are some interesting (though logistically shady) kills, I suppose. Boiling a woman's face off:

Bleeding a nurse to death:

He slips and bangs his head. Such a hero.

These are kind of fun to watch as they are being set up, but that's about it.

The strength of Halloween II then, even if in the grand world of horror, it's only equivalent to kitten-strength, is that every so often this movie seems to - almost accidentally - present a really satisfyingly crafted shot.

My favourites were plays with perspective, and the "he's behind you!" work.

We also have Laurie cornered in an elevator. I just love the colours in this:

Michael, having been shot in the face, crying bitter bloody tears. Then being set on fire.

And that is what I took away from this second installment. It's dull but for occasional eye candy.

Next up, Halloween III: Season of the Witch!

That's a pretty special trailer right there.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

[Rec] 2 release.

I've just found out that [Rec] 2 is set to hit cinemas over here in May, with the States trailing behind with a July '10 theatrical release.

[Rec] directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza are both back for the film, which takes place shortly after the end of the first. It involves a medical officer and SWAT team (with video cameras, of course) entering the same apartment building.

Horror sequels are generally an excitement hit-and-miss affair for me, but I'd be fibbing to you if I said that poster didn't make me uneasy. There is definitely something about the inclusion of eyes in horror that increases the creep factor tenfold.

Check this screen cap out, too.

Yeah, preeeeetty sure I won't be watching this one alone...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

30 Days of Night (2007)

"When a man meets a force he can't destroy, he ends up destroying himself instead."

I didn't ask for much, just a modern horror. Something with a lil' slickness to it, something that took itself seriously and might yield a review which didn't involved the word "meh".

30 Days of Night was what I reached for. I wasn't expecting miracles and I didn't get them. But honestly? I have to say that on a couple of levels, this film still kind of blew me away.

The story takes place in Barrow, Alaska. It depicts how the city fares when attacked by vampires, during an annual occurrence of thirty days of complete darkness.

As if you needed telling, it doesn't fare very well.

The vamps knock the city's legs out from underneath it at the beginning of the blackout, proceeding to pick its bones for the rest. A small group of terrified survivors are left to fight for their lives, whilst counting down until the sunlight comes to save them.

Early on, the sequence showing the violent taking of Barrow got me extremely excited, as a fan of the aerial tracking shot. The camera travels rigidly along a main road, observing the tiny figures below, vampires and humans in bloody conflict: bodies strewn all over, snow sprayed red, cars alight.

The caps don't do it justice. It's a simple tableau and a short sequence in itself, but within moments conveys the devastation upon which the others will have to exist.

Clearly, these vampires are not the romantic, tortured, frilly-bloused type. Thank god.

They are more like animals, screaming, scratching and ripping out throats. The way they feed on their victims is reminiscent of a dog shaking a rabbit to death.

Barrow is completely isolated and this isolation becomes a villain itself. It aids the creatures in their capture of the city and serves to drive many of the leftover normal folk mad. Near the end of the film, at day 27, a policeman is found to have slain his family. His desperate thinking that he'd save them from a fate at the hands (well, mouths) of the invading monsters. He had three more days to get through, but instead he chose to put bullets in the brains of his wife and daughters.

Every group needs a leader, and a natural choice here is Sheriff Eben Oleson (Hartnett). He, more than any other character here, must overcome the shock of what is happening and face up to what he must do to survive it.

Just yer standard good-guy stuff in horror I know, but Hartnett - someone I formerly thought nothing of, to be honest - does a surprisingly good job. From heartbroken loner to axe-wielding hero to ultimately, a sacrificial lamb.

Speaking of the axe, I was pleased this one played quite a large part in the film, being Eb's weapon of choice. It's been a while since I watched a horror flick with decent axe action in it. Maybe I should do a series of axe-centric reviews...?

When Eb encounters a former towns person who has been turned, he takes drastic action and makes his first kill of someone he knew as a human. He... well he hacks the guy's head off. For something so brutal (it's off screen but c'mon, we can and do imagine it) the post-act shot is a thing of beauty.

This isn't an isolated incident, either. The film is chock full of stunningly composed images. This should come as no surprise, bearing in mind this film is based on a comic. It should look incredible, like art, in order to honour the medium that birthed it. It's fair to say this is achieved and then some.

Take a look at these, some breathtaking shots I simply had to share...

That last one... You could show me that, tell me nothing else about the movie it came from and I'd be sold.

As those images illustrate, the film follows the comic's lead, appearing in dark, muted colours. Until red appears, leaping out of the murk, often garish and startling.

Red, the only colour shown with any depth. Red: signifying blood, a warning of danger. Uh-oh.

The group of survivors whittles down to practically nothing. and then, then my friends, one of the most well done graphically violent scenes I think I've ever seen occurs. Be warned, I have obsessively capped this...!

As already discussed, Eb uses an axe throughout - but for the most part what he does with it is not shown on screen. As we near the film's climax, however, when the Sheriff finds himself faced with an act of killing his own deputy, we get an absolutely unflinching view of the beheading.

It is good, SO good. So horrifically, stomach-churningly good. Almost beautiful, actually. Should I be worried about myself, thinking this way? I got disturbingly carried away capping this. Oh dear. It's just such an incredible sequence, look:

I think this is a fair enough reaction for a bystander.

Do you have any words for that? Because I don't. I can't even really tell where the actor, prosthetic and CGI work cross over, it's just one gloriously horrendous collection of images, soundtracked with screaming and axe chopping heavily through thick flesh. THIS is why I love horror, moments like this!

Ahem, anyway.

Where can the film go after something like that? There's only one place really, destination Turn Hartnett Into A Vamp And Have Him Punch Through The Skull Of The Bad Guy.

It sounds worse than it is! Yeah it sits a little ridiculously next to what went before, and I did vocalise something like a "Say wha...?" when it happened. Thankfully though this double take of a plot development is sandwiched between two of a higher calibre: the wonderful beheading and an admirably low key, downbeat ending.

Eb's estranged wife Stella (Melissa George) holds him as he burns in the long awaited sunrise. Surprisingly powerful stuff.

I've thrown a bit of a spoiler party with this review haven't I? Apologies, but I assumed in my being three years late to see it, it was pretty much fair game.

Having not read the comic I haven't attempted a comparison in that respect, but as a film in its own right it entertains to a far higher standard than I anticipated - giving me two new 'favourite genre moments', in fact. It's well worth checking out.