Archives For 7 – 8.2 (Highly Recommended)

V/H/S 2

June 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

11171092_800Two investigators looking for a missing student break into a house and discover its strange contents of static video displays and piles VHS cassettes. VHS is back with a new collection of found footage shorts from a variety of up-and-coming directors.

This time around we have four shorts and a wrap around story called Tape 47. Let’s start with the wrap around. It continues using the same format (I’m not quite willing to call it a story) as the first VHS film. A questionable choice, as the format was weak to start with, offering very little in the way of structure and only loosely connecting each segment within the film. I can only think it’s been done to give some consistency between the two films. Tape 47 doesn’t really develop the narrative established in Tape 56, the wrap around from VHS, and much like the first is rather bland and unimaginative.

The first segment is called Clinical Trials, and is directed by (and staring) Adam Wingard. Hang on, we know that name right?  Yeah, this is the guy we have to blame for the Tape 56/wrap around story from original that has continued into VHS2.
Clinical trials revolves around a man who, following a car accident, is fitted with an artificial electronic eye. An unexpected side effect of the new eye is that the he starts to see ghosts in his apartment. What can I say about Clinical Trials? Well, it looks professional, at least as professional as a found-footage style film can look I suppose, and you do get to see some boobs…so it sorta has that going for it, but as you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t really like this segment. I found it a bit cliche; just another predictable and unoriginal ghost story. Not a great start to VHS2.

The second segment is a zombie film called A Ride in the Park, which is directed by modern ‘found footage’ architects Gregg Hale and Eduaro Sanchez, the team that arguably put found footage horror on the map with The Blair Witch Project in 1999.
This is where things turn around for VHS2. There isn’t much story to A Ride in the Park, but then, we all know the zombie story. What we do have is a gory, darkly comic and thoughtful zombie short that has a charming and surprisingly innovative feel for the tired zombie genre.

The third segment is called Safe Haven. Filmed in a documentary style, it follows a news crew as they investigate the practices of Indonesian cult. It is directed by Gareth Evans, who gave us the brilliant nonstop action thriller The Road, and Timo Tjahjanto. They have packed in a lot into this segment, it’s the only one that truly feels like a complete story, and even comes with traces of sub plots and superb character development, all of which culminates in an action packed ending. What stood out for me was the foreboding sense of doom and intensity felt throughout the segment.  A brilliant piece that could have easily been made into a full feature film.

The last segment, Slumber Party Alien Abduction (award for best title) is my favorite. The title pretty much explains the story, but it does little to sum up what you are about to experience. I sort of ended this segment like ‘what the hell did I just watch?’ but with a big smile on my face. This segment is crazy, in the best possible way. Directed by Jason Eisener, who is most well-known for directing modern grindhouse cult classic Hobo With A Shotgun. Although, don’t expect anything like that here. Slumber Party Alien Abduction is more like an 80s movie on steroids. Some of the edits and cuts are very disjointed, however, so much so that I suspect that this was deliberate, and adds to intentional chaos and rapid pace.

Overall, VHS2 has a bit of a feeble start, but stick with it. The last three segments might be some of the best found footage style filmmaking you’re likely to see for a while (VHS3?). A sequel far superior to it’s predecessor.

Segment ratings:

Tape 47: 3.0/10

Clinic Trials: 5.0/10

A Ride in the Park: 7.5/10

Safe Haven: 7.8/10

Slumber Party Alien Abduction 8.0

I’m not going to include Tape 47 for the overall score because I feel that it’s broken into such small parts that there is very little negative impact to the film as a whole package. If nothing else it serves as great time to get up and grab a drink or snacks between the segments.

 

Our Rating 7.0/10

 

Cabin In The Woods

April 15, 2012 — 37 Comments

A gang of ‘Scooby-doo-style’ teenagers plan to spend a weekend in an isolated cabin, and it’s not long before they find themselves trapped and fighting for survival against the living dead.

Cabin in the Woods is directed by Drew Goddard and written by Joss Whedon; the writing force behind Buffy, Dr. Horribles Sing-along-blog and the sci-fi masterpiece series, Firefly. It’s been a long time in the works, having been shot in 2009, but conflicts between Whedon, Goddard and the production companies regarding whether the film should be released in 3D or not, delayed its release until 2012. It’s not in 3D.

The story sets up quickly, sliding effortlessly into the deliberately clichéd plot that we all know and love, but soon unfolding into something more, as it masterfully walks the fine line between easy watching, and inventive twists and layers. Cabin in the Woods stands out because it is imaginative and original, traits that have been scarce in recent cinema. Whedon’s quirky story telling and attention to detail makes it an interesting and thrilling watch, with sharp and playful humour. Goddard has done an admirable job piecing together his directorial debut into a fantastic looking movie, combining a handsome cast and polished production quality with a film that feels fun and exciting throughout.

Just for good measure, Whedon and Goddard have thrown in some fun references to the horror genre, including nods at Evil Dead, Ringu, Hellraiser and Lovecraft, among others that diehard fans will enjoy.

There were a few plots points that weren’t explained or would have benefited from being explored further, but these are only minor shortcomings. Towards the climax the CGI was shoddy and somewhat unnecessary, which is a shame as the rest of the special effects and make-up were superb.

Overall, don’t expect to the take the film too seriously and you will be entertained.

Our Rating: 7.1 / 10

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is a documentary that takes viewers through a definitive and nostalgic look back down Elm Street. Never Sleep Again starts in 1983, looking at the humble beginnings of New Line Cinema, where a handful of people distributed films from the boots of their cars to any cinema or video store they could. It explores how the first Elm Street films would launch New Line down a path that would make them modern cinematic pioneers; The House That Freddy Built, until they were sadly brought by Time-Warner in 2008.

Each of the Elm Street films are broken down into roughly four segments; Writing and casting. Interviews looking at the conflicts and friction amongst writers, directors, cast and New Line, along with a superb collection of first hand inside stories and trivia. Special effects and box office reception.

Not only does the documentary look at each of the seven original movies and Freddy Vs Jason, but it revisits the long forgotten Freddie’s Nightmares television series and musical collaborations with Dokken and The Fat Boys. It also includes a collection of never-before-seen photos, footage and behind the scene clips that hadn’t been released with previous bonus material. (Much to my approval it skips over the Time-Warners 2010 remake; like me, choosing to pretend that doesn’t exist.) The many cast and crew that have contributed to the in-depth interviews would take too long to list, obvious people missing from the line up are Patricia Arquette and Johnny Depp. Watch out for a great cameo from Jay, of Jay and Silent Bob. The real treat for hardcore fans is the marvelous stop-motion animated clips that have been made for this documentary. Darkly beautiful, these clips recreate some of the most memorable scenes and deaths spanning the series.

At four hours you’d better set aside a while evening, any shorter would have been an injustice to any self-respecting Fred-head. This documentary is certainly best and most informative guide to Elm Street available. Brilliant.

I’m not going to rate Never Sleep Again, but I have listed The Nightmare on Elm street Collection in descending order, from best to worst.

1. Nightmare on Elm Street

2. Dream Warriors

3. Freddy Vs Jason

4. Wes Craven’s: New Nightmare

5. Dream Master

6. Freddy’s Revenge

7. Dream Child

8. The Final Nightmare: Freddy’s Dead

Underworld: Awakening

January 21, 2012 — 13 Comments

Kate Beckinsale returns as the latex clad, vampire warrior, Selene, caught up in a war between Vampires, Lycans and Humans. Kate’s Husband, Len Wiseman has stepped out of the director’s chair for this latest addition to the Underworld series, handing the reins to swedish duo Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, to make their theatrical debut.

First, lets get one thing out of the way, Underworld: Awakening has shamelessly ripped off Resident Evil: Afterlife. The similarities are numerous, from the way the film is shot to the story line. But then, why not? Resident Evil: Afterlife breathed life back into the Resident Evil series, and if there were ever a series that needed resuscitating then Underworld was it. How the series managed to ride the success of the first Underworld, through almost ten years and two lousy sequels is an impressive accomplishment of its own. It took four attempts, but they finally got it right.

Underworld: Awakening is fast and exciting from the opening scene to the credits, its packed with edge of your seat action that doesn’t flag or become repetitive. Some of the Lycan CGI is questionable, but the rest of the film looks beautiful and sleek, using the series’ signature dark greys, solid blacks and striking blue tones, blended with bold lines and sharp angles. The story moves extremely quickly but is easy to follow, and barring a few minor plot holes, makes sense. There are a few things that will make your jump and cringe, but this is more of an action horror so don’t expect to lose any sleep. After seeing this, your more likely to go out and buy a cool leather jacket than go to bed with the lights on. At 88 minutes, it’s relatively short, but it doesn’t feel like it, the ending wraps up perfectly, leaving you wanting more. Underworld: Awaking is a lot fun.

Our Rating: 7.2 / 10

Tucker & Dale vs Evil is an entertaining horror comedy staring Alan Tudyk (Firefly / Dodgeball) and Tyler Labine (Reaper) as a hapless hillbilly dual that cross paths with a group of American teenagers on a camping trip with comically disastrous results. The story unfolds as Tucker and Dale inadvertently kidnaps one of the teenage girls, setting off a series of misunderstandings between the two groups.

The jokes are sharp, surprising and smart. The gore is relentless and blackly brilliant, paying homage to cult horror films of the slasher sub genre, such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. The acting, by some of the teenagers is questionable, especially from Jesse Moss (Final destination 3); however, they all look beautiful and fit their stereotypical characters well. The story and plot is solid, fun and original. Ultimately, the films merits are overshadowed by flawless performances from Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine as the loveable Tucker and Dale. The chemistry between the two charms and captivates the viewer from beginning to end.

The only negative I should point out is the trailer, in three minutes they manage to reveal important story plot points, the top gags and most of the ending, leaving very little to speculation. Skip the trailer and go straight to the movie.

The film was made in 2010 and has had limited screenings through 2011, primarily at independent cinemas, film festivals and special events. It is being release on DVD on 26th September 2011. There are already active talks of a sequel.

Our Rating: 8.2 / 10