I'm currently 44 films behind on my reviews. I find myself skipping movies at night, simply because I don't want to get further behind. Which is not what I want to do. I want to watch as many movies as I can. So there will probably be more postings like this in the future, with mini-reviews. Today I'm going to focus on three 2007 films that could fall under the horror genre. One near classic, one mediocre film, and one terrible film; can you guess which is which yet?
(Seen on 5/27/08) Vacancy was a film I didn't have a ton of interest in seeing, the trailer made it look okay, with nothing special or unique. I still have the same feeling after seeing it, the only part that truly stood out was the opening credits. But I'll recommend it as a decent thriller, that's pretty well made, and not too stupid.
I was actually surprised by how smart they made the lead characters. Instead of constantly putting themselves in harm's way, they were making the right decision. The bad guys kept one step ahead for most of the film, simply because they were on their home turf. There were a couple of good jumps and I was pleasantly surprised they were restrained in the ending and didn't go for the obvious horror cliche'. Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale have a good bickering chemistry together, it convincingly felt like they'd been together a while. And I think this is the first time I've liked Luke outside a comedy, he doesn't seem to do drama well. You could do a lot worse in the thriller genre than Vacancy; it's a tight film, moving along quickly and smartly, without any truly dumb moments to drag it down. - Grade: B-
(Seen on 5/25/08) I'm a huge fan of Aliens, James Cameron's vision of the universe that Ridley Scott created, is one of my all-time-favorite films. It set numerous sci-fi and action precedents, that filmmakers continue to rip-off today. John Mctiernan's Predator, is another of my favorite films; it's pretty much a perfect action flick from beginning to end. Arnold in his prime vs. the Predator is one of the all-time great fight scenes. So by all rights the Alien vs. Predator films should at least be some good mindless entertainment, but so far they've completely missed the boat. The first one sucked; the Antarctic pyramid setting was lame and too alien, if you're going to set it on earth, make it somewhere realistic, the human characters were completely forgettable, and the alien vs. predator scenes weren't done well and too far in-between. So when I saw the trailer for Aliens vs. Predator - Requim, which was set in an American town and there were new filmmakers involved, I got my hopes up a bit.
But within a few minutes it was fairly evident that this sequel wasn't going to be much better. They take way too long setting up the characters that are mostly going to end up fodder for the two species of aliens to maim and kill; with none of them are memorable. Where's our Ripley, Dutch, Hicks or "I ain't got time to bleed" Blain? I couldn't care less about a single one of these folks, they couldn't kill them off fast enough. I'll admit that the fight scenes in this film are done much better than the first Alien vs. Predator, but they're the only scenes in the film worth watching. I actually found myself getting bored about half way through the film, a real no-no for something so stupid.
Directors Greg & Collin Strause try way, way too hard to make us think about the classic film Aliens, there are a ridiculous amount of allusions to that film; from the music and sound effects ripped straight from that film, to the character archetypes and they even include military vehicles and weaponry extremely similar, even though this film takes place now and Aliens is hundreds of years into the future. The second half of the film is pretty much nothing but a bad Aliens rip-off, with a few Predators thrown in to kill an alien here or there. Another worthless addition to both series. - Grade: D
(Seen on 5/23/08) Ultra-talented writer/director Frank Darabont could go on making Stephen King adaptations for the rest of his career and I think the world would be a better place. His film Shawshank Redemption, is the absolute best King movie ever put on film; yes, I believe it's even better than The Shining. The Green Mile, was another excellent adaptation, a little long in spots, but tonally just right. With The Mist, he moves away from the prison-drama setting, into more familiar King territory, a horror story. And in my opinion he made the best horror film of 2007. One whose reputation will grow with time; because like many great films it was misunderstood upon it's first release.
The Mist takes the classic horror cliche' of trapping a bunch of people together with monsters banging on the door, and turns it on its ear. Darabont started out in horror films, writing the best of the Nightmare on Elm St., sequels with The Dream Warriors and also wrote the completely underrated remake of The Blob. So it's with no surprise that he's created a wonderfully built, incredibly well thought out B-Movie. If it weren't for a few spottily built computer monsters, The Mist would be an almost perfect horror film. There are great characters to root for in the hero David Drayton, a painter and dad, who stays calm under pressure; played nicely by the underused Thomas Jane. I particularly dug the character of Ollie; he's a chubby, balding, overage bag-boy, who has a big brain and a kick-ass action hero brewing inside him. They gave them a great human villain, in Mrs. Carmody, an over-zealous religious nut, who believes the monsters are God's apocolypse and she's ready to sacrifice the sinners to save the believers who begin to follow her. Marsha Gay Harden, brings this woman to life with such ferocity, that she is often more terrifying than any of the creepy-crawlies outside.
Although there are definitely a couple of classic monster scenes; the first time they get a taste of what's really happening, some incredibly creepy spiders, and I thought the "fishing for monsters" scene was darkly hilarious. I like how the monsters have an ecosystem all their own, with creatures of all size, from insects to dinosaurs, feeding on each other, and only turning to the humans as another source of food. The grocery store setting is the perfect place to bring characters from all walks of life together and it gives them ample food and shelter. It's only when things start to go so wrong on the inside that the heroes dare to venture out into The Mist. Once they do, it brings a whole other level to this already excellent film. The end is one of the most pessimistic I've ever seen, it leaves you with an ache in your gut, for what these characters have gone through. And I believe that's why the film didn't catch on like it should have, it's not the typical "everything is going to be okay" type of wrap up, and the film is much more powerful because of it. - Grade: A-