A Month Of Horror 2012 – Chapter 5

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Batten down the hatches and prep for battle – the horror is among us again…

 

The Hole (2009 – Joe Dante)
Part of me thought this would be a great “first” horror film for my 12 year-old. The characters are likeable, the pace is solid, the gore is minimal and the scares come from empathizing with those characters – not just from random jump scares or loud noises. Having said that, it’s pretty disturbing – both within individual key scenes and viewed as an overall concept. A hole in your basement that will bring your deepest darkest fears to life which you must face in order to survive? A hulking zombie-like father who used to beat his family regularly and still keeps track of where they move? Now there’s a film that understands something about what can scare a kid…It’s pretty entertaining too since they keep the mystery alive long enough and create some engaging moments and dialogue between the two brothers and the girl next door. And you also get Bruce Dern and Dick Miller popping up briefly to lend Dante a hand (which they do with ease). If the payoffs to the stories don’t quite hit with force or perfect accuracy, they still hit. It’s a shame this 3 year-old film never really got the wider audience it deserved. I’d even go so far as to say that I would be curious to see it in its 3-D incarnation because of Dante’s grasp of how to entertain an audience.

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Cabin In The Woods (2012 – Drew Goddard)
I guess I’ve missed the window for any real discussion of this film – since I get the feeling EVERYTHING has already been covered – but even though I greatly enjoyed it (I fall squarely on the “pro-Cabin-In-The-Woods” side of the divide), I don’t know how much I would have wanted to add to the conversation. I mean, it knows exactly what it’s doing and does so in wholly effective ways. I liked the performances across the board, felt every scene with Jenkins and Whitford was a winner and enjoyed the different uses (and meta-uses) of the horror film conventions – like the brief takes on foreign horror, the calling out of stupid decisions (“no wait, we should split up…”) and sudden changes of character to better fit stereotypes. I can certainly see complaints about it not being as clever as it thinks it is, but it sure felt at least as entertaining as it thinks it is. As a bonus, even if this were just a straight-up kids-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods horror film, it would still be a huge cut above many simply because the 5 main actors come across very well, remain interesting and even somewhat sympathetic. And can I just single out Kristen Connolly here for a second? Not just because she is incredibly attractive, but, well, she really is…

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Hot Docs 2012: Despite The Gods Review

“This is mayhem. This is India. Isn’t it beautiful?”

This observation to the camera, uttered by a crew member at one point during a bit of down-time during the shooting of Bollywood horror-fantasy HISSS, nearly encapsulates things in a single thought. A rare US/India co-production involving an indie director Jennifer Lynch, and collaborating with significant Bollywood stars Mallika Sherawat and Irrfan Kahn, featured a six million dollar budget an and heavy media spotlight. Chaos and confusion is nothing new to film sets (or any creative process) but Lynch seems ill prepared for the trial-by-fire culmination the language barrier with her Indian crew, a producer who is the Bollywood super-star’s brother, and the seemingly never-ending battle with nature, cities and the culture. To top things off Lynch, who is a single mom, has her 13 year old daughter Sydney in tow for the ride. The movie begins with the director taking up smoking again, just for kicks. Penny Vozniak was asked to stay on by her friend, the producer Govind Menon, to help Lynch look after Sydney and also to shoot some EPK (behind-the-scenes electronic press kit) stuff for the eventual DVD release. As the production both drags on and spirals out of control with clashing ideals – the crew and producer want speed, the director wants care – Vozniak ended up sticking around for the entire 8 months (only 3 of them were ‘scheduled’) of shooting and the result is Despite The Gods, a very candid look at the experience of an seasoned and pedigreed director (Surveillance took the top prize at Sitges’ in 2008) slowly losing her grip on the production and burning out in the process.

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Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

The Proposition

2005 Australia. Director: John Hillcoat. Starring: Ray Winstone, Guy Pearce, John Hurt, Emily Watson.

Without venturing into the realm of gushing hyperbole, I am uncertain that I would be capable of providing my thoughts on The Proposition. At its very core, it is a story of utilizing the ends to justify the means – kill a monster (your elder brother, purveyor of atrocities), save a saint (your younger brother, tragically along for the ride), so to speak. In this version of the tale, however, nothing is black and white, with dulcet tones of gray (a)morality seeping through every frame – the viewer is fully capable of empathy for the protagonist, but there is no semblance of a cliché ‘rooting interest.’ The acting, particularly from Winstone, Pearce, Watson, and the always impressive Hurt, is top-notch, and painfully believable. The score and cinematography are brilliant, drawing you into the well-crafted environs without hesitation. And yes, I am painting with broad strokes, with the hope that those who have not yet seen The Proposition will do so immediately, and experience the film without bias or stilted expectations … beyond my own admiration.
– DOMENIC

Mission to Mars

2000 USA. Director: Brian DePalma. Starring: Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen.

Made a deal with Andrew that if I rewatched Mission to Mars he would rewatch Red Planet. Clearly, I got the short end of the stick. I have grown to like a handful of DePalma’s films, and know all too well how inconsistent he is with the quality he puts out. I remember loathing this film when I saw it in the cinema; now, over a decade later, I am merely seething. The film does a decent job of depicting Mars, more so than Red Planet, and it pleasures in the afterglow of Kubrick’s 2001 with all of the play inside the spaceship. The script, however, is insufferable, eye-rolling on repeat insufferable. The difference between this and Red Planet is Red Planet never forgets it is a b-movie, and while some of its dialogue is equally bad it is contained within a film that is shorter and lighter, it feels like a dumb escapist movie whereas Mission to Mars feels like it is trying to teach you something about humanity. The final revelation of what is on Mars and what it means is all celestial and self-important and misses the mark so entirely it is laughable. Also, I will take Val Kilmer and Carrie-Anne Moss over Gary Sinise and Tim Robbins (and Jerry O’Connell!) any day. Don Cheadle, what the fuck are you doing in this movie?! It hurts to watch him try his hardest to make the dialogue work, if there was ever proof of his talents it is how hard he tries to make something out of nothing in this script.
-ROT

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Cinecast Episode 135 – I Want a Korean Taco

Episode 135:
Almost a full hour on Neil Blomkamp’s District Nine **SPOILERS ABOUND** We do not completely disagree about the overall film but we certainly disagree about the ins and outs and the what-have-yous of various aspects on the film. It certainly gets rather spirited as Gamble (of High and Low Brow podcast) defends the film with what could be described as angry passion. Then it is on to lesser talked about films as of recent including The Time Traveler’s Wife, Taking Woodstock, Ponyo, a bit of a tease with Inglourious Basterds, and all the goods from Toronto After Dark 2009. DVD picks are at the end. Thanks for checking out the show.

Listen. Enjoy. (and apologies about some of the strange bumps on the audio, we are working on the problem!)

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Trashy, Pseudo Porn With a Message? Thoughts on Boxing Helena

Boxing Helena Movie StillBored and a little high from having seen the awesomeness of The Girlfriend Experience (our review), I thought I’d prepare for a screening of Surveillance (our review) by checking out Jennifer Lynch’s debut film Boxing Helena. Oh how quickly my afternoon went from uncommon to downright twisted and though the fact that the Lynch marathon started immediately after seeing Soderbergh’s film is pure coincidence, I can’t help but think that I couldn’t have found a better collection of films to watch together.

But this is about the younger Lynch. The one that started her career with a film that seems to have stunted her career for 15 years. So is Boxing Helena that bad? I’m not sure it is though it does provide a glimpse into Ms. Lynch’s take on sexuality, something which is also present in her recent films.

My first run in with Boxing Helena was in the mid 1990s on cable TV. Showcase had a tendency to show “risky” films in the late evening and flipping through the channels one night I caught the last 15 minutes of the film and I was morbidly curious as to how the woman ended up with no arms or legs. Lucky for me the film was re-aired immediately and I caught my first and final glimpse of Lynch’s career.

It stars Sherilyn Fenn (mostly of “Twin Peaks” fame) as Helena, a gorgeous, firebird of a woman who sleeps with and disposes of men like tissue. At some point, she has an encounter with Nick Cavanaugh, a rich but timid man played by Julian Sands who becomes obsessed with her but after much counselling from his good friend (strangely portrayed by Art Garfunkel or Simon & Garfunkel fame) he appears to move on. But he never fully gets over Helena. One night while on a jog, he peeks the woman of his dreams with another man and the obsession resurfaces. He throws a soirée, invites all the right people and to his pleasure, Helena makes an appearance. It’s here that the film takes an interesting turn. A series of events leads Helena to run away (down an embankment) and onto the road where she’s hit by a car and from here on in, we follow Nick and Helena into a twisted world of sexual repression and release.

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Cinecast Episode 125 – Cultural Collateral

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Episode 124:
Somehow both Kurt and Andrew managed to miss out on Will Farrel running from dinosaurs as well as the Vegas tomfoolery in The Hangover. Instead we watched a bunch of subversive, exploitative and downright nasty cinema on DVD – that includes Twilight. New is overrated. Oh, and three cheers to Don Bluth.
Thanks for listening!

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Lynch’s Hisss Gets Official Trailer

And it looks pretty awesome.

If you missed Andrew’s earlier post with the “contraband” trailer and all of the film’s details, now may be the time to check it out. For the rest of us, just take a look at the spiffy new trailer, found via Dread Central, which makes me want to see the movie tomorrow.

And in case you’re wondering, Hisss‘ tagline reads: “She’s sexy… venomous… and she’ll swallow you whole…” Doesn’t get much better than this.

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mallika2After last week’s festival screening of Jennifer Lynch’s Surveillance (our review), I’ve recently become pretty interested in the up-and-coming career of daughter of David Lynch. Lo and behold, despite Surveillance having not even been released commercially yet (to my knowledge), post-production is already complete on her newest project, Hisss:

Based on the Far Eastern myth of the snake woman who is able to take on human form, The Curse of the Cobra Goddess. Anytime man desecrates or violates the cobra, they are doomed to suffer the petrifying curse of the snake woman, of death and infertility. Only respect and worship can keep the population safe and the women fertile.

While the trailer below does look a bit campy in some places, it also has some pretty stunning moments and my guess is it will work pretty well as a super-natural/mythological scare-fest of a thriller. The films stars the beautiful Mallika Sherawat, the great Irrfan Khan and is scheduled to be at Cannes later next month.

CHECK THIS OUT NOW AS STUDIO IS REQUESTING IT BE TAKEN DOWN ALL OVER THE WEB!

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Cinecast Episode 119 – Mildly Harrowing

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Episode 119:
Kurt and Andrew sort of return to their roots with an epic, tangential episode full of off-topic subjects and deeper discussions… and Bill Pullman. Enjoy.
P.S. The time tracks below might be off by just a few seconds. Deal with it.

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Below the fold are the Show Notes…
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MSPIFF Review: Surveillance

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Director: Jennifer Lynch (Boxing Helena)
Writers: Kent Harper, Jennifer Chambers Lynch
Producers: Kent Harper, Marco Mehlitz, David Michaels
Starring: Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman, Pell James, Ryan Simpkins French Stewart, Ken Harper
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 97


Not your daddy’s cinema. Sure there’s definitely a trace of fatherly influence here, but this is far more of a Rob Zombie tribute than David Lynch. This is hard exploitation at its finest. Unlike Zombie however (specifically The Devil’s Rejects), this movie doesn’t seem to be here just for the sake of violence and victimization; there are some technical mechanics at work here that really delivered… at least for me. Not to say there aren’t some glaring weaknesses, but for the most part it’s fair to say I was on board with this movie from the get-go.

The first two minutes: a quite brutal murder sequence involving two masked figures (one sort of resemblind Michael Myers) bludgeoning and running down a seemingly innocent couple. Lynch left very little to the imagination here as blood splatters across the opening credits. We then cut to Pullman and Ormond; two FBI agents pulling into a rural police station to set up questioning of three witnesses to a crime. Each witness has a different perspective of what happened and each witness has something to hide. Lynch shows us what really happened in flashbacks mode while simultaneously we hear the witnesses tell their own version of what happened in a series of half-truths and distortions.
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