Friday, January 31, 2014

The Tortured

How far would you go?
Occasionally, when traversing Netflix and probing through the titles for new releases or recommendations, I come across something that piques my interest and has me add an interesting title to my queue. Sometimes it’s a dud, other times it’s a run-of-the-mill film that’s semi-interesting or not too problematic to get through. But there’s that rare occasion when I find a diamond in the rough that makes me glad I take chances with films I know nothing about.

Such is the case with 2010’s The Tortured, starring Erika Christensen, Jesse Metcalfe and Bill Moseley. Directed by Robert Lieberman, who has directed films like Fire in the Sky, some episodes of Stephen King’s "The Dead Zone" and two episodes of "Dexter," he does a fine job in this presentation written by Marek Posival.

The story is about an upper class couple, Elise Landry (Christensen) and her husband, Craig (Metcalfe), and how their six-year-old son, Ben (Thomas Greenwood) is kidnapped by very disturbed John Kozlowski (Moseley). He takes the boy to his house, tortures the boy, and then kills him. Kozlowski’s soon caught and arrested, brought to trial and is sentenced to 25 to 60 years in prison. With the Landrys life turned upside-down, as well as it causing problems with their marriage, they soon come together to devise a plan to get revenge on Kozlowski, giving him a taste of his own medicine.
First off, whenever I see a movie’s tagged as a revenge story, my ears prick up and I become titillated, eager to dive into it. When done right, a revenge film is right up my alley. Even if some of the subplots or details are illogical—as with this film—I’ll still enjoy it. Secondly, when the revenge is for getting back at someone for killing a loved one or someone as defenseless as an innocent child, I’m there. Third and lastly, if the movie is very explicit and detailed in the act of revenge, you can bet I’ll be enjoying it.

Appropriately, The Tortured doesn’t show too much of what happens to the child in this film. Unlike films like I Spit on Your Grave, we don’t see the horrific specifics of what the child goes through leading to his death. Many of us can imagine what the child went through, so there was really no need to see it; this would be a very different movie if the filmmakers decided to go there.

The performance of Erika Christensen is believable and compelling. I’ve always found her to be a very good actress and I’ve wondered where she’d been since her part in Flightplan around eight years
ago. She played the part well of a woman who has lost her only child to a vicious murder, as she succumbs to withdrawing from the world and her husband, becoming nearly catatonic, yet spiteful.

Jesse Metcalfe, on the other hand, played the part well, but gave the movie a Hallmark or movie-of-the-week feel to it. I felt that he really gave it his best, showing and voicing his emotions as the story unfolded, but didn’t have the strength in his acting to make it convincing. Metcalfe is not a bad actor in any sense and with Christensen playing opposite him, the scenes are sound and pretty solid.

Bill Moseley seemed like he spent a day of filming on this movie, as we don’t see much of him. He basically telephones his performance in, with not much of dialogue spoken, but seeing that the film is not spotlighted on him, all can be forgiven. In some ways, I wish there was more of Moseley in this flick, but it would definitely take away from the impact of the story and change it to something entirely different.

Really, besides some mediocre performances from Metcalfe and some forced backstory involving flashbacks with the boy, there’s only one thing that sticks out and that’s the plan to kidnap the killer as he’s en route to the prison. I can believe the preparation involved, especially as the filmmakers decided to make the character of Craig Landry a doctor so he can easily get his hands on certain instrumentations and drugs, but to see how they were able to abduct the prisoner who was in an secured transfer van was a little off kilter.

Other than that little nitpick, the film was pretty solid and had a nice twist at the end that I really did not see coming. I would’ve liked to see how everything would’ve panned out afterwards, but seeing as how this film made me think about it long after ejecting the DVD, I believe the filmmakers ended it perfectly.

My final "bit" on The Tortured?

If you like films like I Spit on Your Grave or Law Abiding Citizen, I know you’ll like this film. The film definitely shows the ugly side of life that there are psychopaths out there that will do unspeakable crimes like the character of Kozlowski commits. We’ve all heard about criminals out
there who get away with it or just get thrown in jail, when they really should get exactly what they did to their victims. I actually made this last paragraph three times as long by going into the trial of Richard Allen Davis, but deleted it because it may be too political. I’ll just end this with saying I do believe in "an eye for an eye" because I think we’d have a lot less crime if punishment was more severe in this country. In the meantime, check out The Tortured.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Wolverine

Okay, let's get the obvious out of the way.  A lot of people—namely X-Men comic book fans—are not happy with how this whole movie franchise started.  Now, I was never a strict X-Men comic book fan back in my book collecting days.  I'd glanced at a few, collected some key issues, and enjoyed when some of the characters interacted within the comic books I was a fan of and collected.  But I never had enough knowledge of the characters within that universe to really give an opinion of how the movies compared to it.  The only thing I remember thinking, after watching the first X-Men film was that Hugh Jackman was too thin and tall to play Logan, aka Wolverine, but that he seemed to have the character down pretty well.

With all that said, I can understand the strict fan boys’ complaints of how certain characters were introduced before others, screwing up the continuity with how it’s portrayed in the books.  But as an average moviegoer, I see nothing wrong with the first few movies (yes, even part three).  Even after watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I was okay with the lighthearted way the story played out and how it explained everything that happened to the character that made him the way he was.

The problem I see, as a fan of just the movies, is after X-Men: First Class was released.  Right off the bat, knowing that First Class took place before the first Wolverine standalone, there’s a few conflicts within the whole chain of storylines throughout: the character of Emma Frost, when the professor goes bald and becomes paralyzed, the age of William Stryker, when Hank McCoy actually becomes Beast, etc.  But…who knows?  Maybe all these errors will be corrected with the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Of course, you also have the comic book fan boys upset at how Hugh Jackman is a pretty boy Wolverine instead of the short, stocky, hairy character he’s portrayed as in the comic books.  There are also complaints about how he hasn’t gone into his “berserker rage” in any of the films.  Seems that—in the comic books—the character sometimes gets into this rage where he goes nuts, clawing and fighting, increasing his strength and not being able to be stopped until he calms down.  Well…we almost saw that in part two of the X-Men films, when Stryker’s soldiers took over the Xavier mansion and kidnapped most of the students.

Lastly, people just complain about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, saying it was just too soft of a film with a dumbed down story until it climaxed with ruining another beloved X-Men character (Deadpool).  Okay…I can agree with that last part.  But I still loved it.

So, finally…as promised by Hugh Jackman himself…we get the sequel to the first Wolverine film.  No number “2” after the title, no subtitle like “returns” or “revenge.”  Nope, the sequel is simply titled…The Wolverine.

Jackman has been talking about this sequel for a while, telling us that it was going to be based on the storyline of the Wolverine comic books where the character travels to Japan.  Now, I knew nothing of those books and what they were about, but hearing that Frank Miller was involved with those books, I knew they had to be good. 

Talk of the film was all we heard for a year or so, until the news came out that Darren Aronofsky was going to direct.  From what I’ve heard about his work, it seemed like the movie was going to be in good hands.  There was even word about Aronofsky’s concern about Jackman’s look, that he wanted him to bulk up more to make him appear shorter, like the Wolverine character in the comic books.  So hearing that made me feel this director knew the source material pretty well.  But, alas, word had gotten around that Aronofsky wasn’t satisfied with Fox Studio’s cooperation and left the production.
Although no director was tied to the film, Jackman assured everyone that The Wolverine was going as planned.  True to his word, the news came out that James Mangold (Cop Land, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) was hired on as the new director.  I was a little leery of this news, especially after hearing how committed Aronofsky was to the character, and how Wolverine was going to be portrayed in the film, it made me believe that Mangold may not be as committed.  I thought—at the time—that time would tell.

July 26th of 2013 rolled around and I took a trip to the local movie theater, plopped down a few bucks and watched The Wolverine

The film starts out, taking place during World War II, where Logan is being held prisoner in an underground steel-reinforced pit at a Japanese camp.  A Japanese soldier, Yashida (Ken Yamamura), is watching over Logan in the pit when American bombers start flying in to bomb the area.  He frees Logan and goes to the other soldiers who are already starting their ritual of honorable suicide—Seppuku.  Logan, seeing this, goes over and grabs the soldier, taking him back to the pit and throwing him in as the bombs begin to drop.  He jumps down to cover Yashida, taking on most of the fire that come down intothe pit from the bombs, protecting the young soldier and saving his life.  Years later, taking place after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan is now living in the woods, like an animal, unkempt and haunted by the memory of Jean Grey.  A Japanese girl shows up and convinces Logan to come back with her to Japan, telling him that someone wants to repay him for what Logan did for him so many years ago.  But what he faces in Japan is a struggle and test, as he becomes vulnerable for the first time in his life, both with his powers and his feelings for the granddaughter of the man he saved so many years ago.

First and foremost, I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with this film.  This has got to be the best we’ve seen Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.  He really bulked up and looks pretty badass as the character, bringing it full throttle like we’ve never seen him in any of the X-Men-related films.  I
thought he was in great shape before, but, my God, he’s close to Arnold Schwarzenegger size in this flick—very impressive.

I had my doubts, at first, when the synopsis came out that the film was going to take place after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, but it turned out that it helped the film.  As Logan has regressed to the feral side of his character, completely alone with no reason to be part of the X-Men anymore, we realize that this is his way of dealing with the loss of Professor Xavier and Jean Grey.  Since those two characters are what grounded him in the preceding films, not having them sends Logan back to his nomadic ways.  However, we see that Logan can’t forgive himself for what he had to do to Jean, as it’s been lingering and bothering him.  It’s this first part of the film that I really enjoy, seeing Logan with long, scraggily hair and a big, bushy beard, living with the animals in the woods, that he’s almost to the point where he’ll be savage for good.

When the movie gets to the meat of the plot, I must say that I love this Japanese storyline.  Speaking as a guy, when a film includes ninjas, it's always a good thing.  Even if I were watching a Christmas movie, sticking in a ninja or two is always a plus.  But seriously, the foreign intrigue of Japan is there, seen through the eyes of Logan as he’s definitely a man who sticks out like a sore thumb in a far-off land.  In this film, he’s shown as a man of honor and one who is haunted by a long-dead woman who he truly still loves.

The action scenes in The Wolverine are pretty intense, especially the supersonic train scene (even though we’ve seen it before in Mission: Impossible) and anytime Wolverine is up against ninjas…which happens quite a bit in this story.  He gets his ass beat and handed to him, and with the added subplot of him starting to lose his healing powers, it gives him (and us) something to worry about.

The only things I can nitpick about this film are just a few.  The inclusion of the character of Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) is one.  She seemed unnecessary to the plot and could’ve been replaced with anybody else to move the story along.  But since she was somewhat involved with what went on in the film, I’ll forgive this pointless character addition.  Also, just like the mistake, in my opinion, of the first Wolverine film, the definition of Adamantium is just not understood.  It’s supposed to be an
imperishable metal, with nothing that can break, cut, or penetrate it.  Stryker, himself, said the only way to use it and process it is in its raw molten form…after it hardens, it’s indestructible.  Yet, in the first film, they create Adamantium bullets so that Stryker can shoot Logan in the head to erase his memories.  In this one—I won’t give away the scene—a heated Adamantium sword is used to cut off Logan’s claws.  If there are two materials that are of equal strength and durability, they should just bounce off each other, especially after being touted as indestructible.  But…those are just a couple of complaints—very minor and very insubstantial. 

My final “bit” on The Wolverine?

Hugh Jackman is back, and better than ever, as Wolverine.  It’s hard to believe that this is the sixth time he’s played the character, with the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past being his seventh.  Not only that, but to hear hat Jackman knows the source material of this character, citing certain storylines from different series of comic books, makes me have faith in what he’ll bring to the character in any personification of Wolverine.  It’s a shame we’ve all got to age, because playing a character that doesn’t age can’t fare well when casting someone to play that part for nearly 15 years.  Jackman was 31 or 32 when he first played Wolverine; now he’s 45 and they’ve announced a sequel to this one to be released in 2015 or 2016.  Man!  He’ll be around 48 years old!  But I don’t think anybody else can play the character as well as he can.  All that notwithstanding, The Wolverine should not be missed!

By the way, there’s a pretty cool after credits scene that sort of sets up X-Men: Days of Future Past.  Also, now that the Blu-Ray and DVD are out, check out the alternate ending…pretty cool.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Curse of Chucky

One franchise that had come close to dying out, but was hanging on for dear life, was the ever loving story of Chucky from the Child 's Play films.  Sometime after the second sequel (Child's Play 3), filmmakers decided to drop the moniker and just use Chucky’s name in the title for the next two sequels (Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky). I don’t know if that was a bold move of the producers or if they had no choice due to copyright issues now that the franchise belonged to Universal Studios (although I think they had acquired the rights after the first movie), but in all aspects Chucky is the killer doll of all killer dolls.

Bride of Chucky was a nice comedic take on the character, as horrible as the doll still was as a serial killer, and it worked somehow. However, when they followed it up with Seed of Chucky, it seemed to be its downfall and death. Rumors started making its way on the internet about a remake being on the horizon and it seemed like that would be the best thing for it. The concept of that last sequel was so stupid, trying to go the way with the Blair Witch Project sequel, and bringing the dolls into the real world while having all the past Chucky hijinks exposed as only movies within this new movie.
So the future looked bleak for Chucky, with even talks about how Brad Dourif wouldn’t be the voice of the new doll that they’ll be featuring—and no doubt be changed—in the remake. All seemed hopeless.

In comes original writer and director of Child’s Play, Don Mancini, letting the world know he’s going to be making another sequel to the original movie, all while the remake is still going forth. As I was feeling intrigued, I was also pessimistic that anything would come of it. I felt the original was lightning in a bottle and I highly doubted this planned new film would be any good. Add to that, Universal Studios announces the film would be going straight to home media, with no theatrical release at all.

Curse of Chucky felt doomed from the start.

Well, the day finally arrived where the Blu-Ray was released and I decided to give this film a go. Being a completest, I decided to go ahead and buy it; I figured it couldn’t be worse than Seed, so I might as well own it with the rest of the franchise.

After watching this film—and even while watching it—the word that fell from my lips was "wow."

The film opens with Sarah (Chantal Quesnelle) and her wheelchair-confined daughter, Nica (Fiona Dourif, daughter of Brad Dourif), living alone in some desolate large house. Sarah seems to be coping with some problems from the past, but dealing with it through her art. One day, a large package shows up for Sarah and it turns out to be a retro "Good Guy" doll. No return address or letter accompanies the parcel and they both have no idea who sent it. As Nica wheels off, Sarah tosses the
doll in the garbage, forgetting about it. However, that night, Nica hears her mother scream and when she comes out of her room to investigate, she finds her mother on the floor, dead, appearing to have jumped to her death from the second floor. Soon after, Nica’s older sister—with her husband, daughter, daughter’s nanny and family pastor—show up to pay condolences and to try and talk Nica into going to an assisted living facility. Unwilling to go, Nica, says she can take care of herself and refuses to leave. They all stay for the night, save for the pastor, and one by one, get mysteriously picked off until Nica is faced with a dark secret by none other than Chucky!

Curse of Chucky is definitely the movie going back to its original roots, with the mystery and eerie ambience of the original film. It’s definitely a slow burn, but that’s what us older people loved about the horror movies from the 80s, and that’s what’s sadly lacking in today’s horror movies. It’s just too much to have a monster being revealed right off the bat and so much CGI that you get frazzled with too many special effects all over the screen. We definitely needed a film like this where we get good character development and understand everyone’s motivation, yet leave enough hidden for a good twist at the end.

Although most of the performances were mediocre, what really stood out was Fiona’s performance. Her being cast in this film definitely wasn’t a case of nepotism; she earned her place in this movie. The set took precedent as well, adding the mood needed for this film. Not only that, but the look of it made sense, seeing that Sarah was an artist, showing in the character of the house.

Two thoughts went around in my head as I watched this flick. One was about how this film went back to the seriousness from the first film and how it went the way of the horror story, giving up the comedic take it had previously took. The other thought in my head: Why the hell didn’t Universal Studios release this as a theatrical film?! I’m sure it was a studio exec—or a few of them—who thought he or she knew what would fare well in theaters and didn’t think it’d be worth the effort or wouldn’t make any money or whatever idiotic thoughts these officials think they know about filmmaking.

Anyway, my final "bit" on Curse of Chucky is that I had a lot of fun with it. However, as good as it is, I still have to nitpick. During the film, the story flashes back to a time when Charles Lee Ray is still alive and they have Brad Dourif play the part. As good as Dourif has aged in the 25 years since the first film, no amount of makeup is going to have him—at 63 years old—pass as a 38-year-old (his age in 1988). The wig looked ridiculous and the whole scene is a little off-putting. Add to that, they try to mesh the new scenes together with the opening scene in Child’s Play, which was awesome to include in the story, but you need to suspend disbelief, big time, here.

With that little bit of nitpicking aside, the story is definitely a worthy sequel to Bride of Chucky and you’ll thank me if you decide to see this or even purchase it for your home media library. I know I was glad I did. As a small side note, stick around until after the credits for a little two minute scene.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comment!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Friday the 13th (1980)

The world of Horror Cinema has many subgenres contained in it. You have creature features, zombie, supernatural, sci-fi horror, vampire, werewolf, etcetera, that fall within the boundaries of horror.  But the one subgroup of horror that I think of when discussing horror films is slashers. Yes…slashers. Films that usually include a group of victims being picked off, one-by-one, at the hands of some mysterious—usually masked—psychopath, with the help of some sharp cutting tool (like a cleaver, kitchen knife, ax, chainsaw, etc.) is the definition of this subcategory. What films do most people think of when they hear that word? Well, for me—and I think for most—it’s the Friday the 13th films. 

The birth of Jason Voorhees, an iconic, yet fictitious, serial killer that has been a household name since the 1980s was started within these films. Although the character is mentioned and seen in flashbacks within this first film, he wasn’t center stage until part two and on.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, horror films were the way for an actor to get into the business, having to perform in these types of movies as discomfiture and a stepladder to get into more contemporary films. Usually, the casts of these slashers in the 1980s were virtually unknown and never seen again. Some of them, however, feature an actor or actress who becomes a star later in life, like Jamie Lee Curtis (from Halloween) or Johnny Depp (from A Nightmare on Elm Street) or Jennifer Aniston (from Leprechaun) and many others. In 1980’s Friday the 13th, the one player in that film who is most recognizable is none other than Kevin Bacon as one of the camp counselors in training, Jack. I know Curtis and Depp acknowledge and don’t mind talking about their start in horror (I don’t know about Aniston), but it seems that Kevin Bacon never mentions his role in this iconic film. Well, he wasn’t the hero, but merely (spoiler alert) just a hapless victim.

Friday the 13th went underway, knowingly, as an outspoken rip-off of John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece, Halloween. In interviews with Sean Cunningham (producer, director and co-writer of this film), he mentions that with no shame whatsoever. I mean, why should he be embarrassed when the franchise he started has made him so much money and has given movie patrons years of entertainment? In my opinion, and with the exception of the first Halloween film, the Friday the 13th collection of films are better and have more solid storylines. But that’s not saying much, seeing that
most plots of the sequels are pretty thin as it is. However, comparing the two baddies, Michael and Jason, the latter villain has the more understood reasoning. Jason has a hatred for anyone going into his turf, especially if it is teenagers looking to have fun with sex, drugs and drinking. That’s what led to his supposed drowning and subsequent death of his mother, so he has a solid motivation to kill anything that has to do with the tragedies in his life. What motivation does Michael have? Well…none in the first film. But as the story continues in the following sequels, it seems that he just wants to kill off his family members…no explanation needed. That’s kind of thin, in my opinion.

Anyway, enough about that, let’s break down the plot for Friday the 13th, shall we?

The film opens in 1958 with a group of camp counselors sitting together in a cabin, singing camp songs. The guy playing guitar smiles at one of the girls and the next scene shows them meeting in a dark storage building to have sex. From an unknown person’s point-of-view, the guy and girl are interrupted by the appearance and try to apologize. The guy is quickly dispatched and then the point-of-view is turned to the girl who is now being pursued by this mysterious person in the tight quarters of the room. The scene ends with the freeze frame of the girl screaming, obviously killed by this unknown assailant. The opens credits begin and then the movie starts in the present day. Camp Crystal Lake, where we find out shortly that’s where the prologue took place, is being reopened Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer) with the help of a new group of camp counselors, arriving one by one. As the slasher formula has been set in Halloween, all the victims are killed in various ways until one is left.

It’s hard to believe anyone who’s a horror movie fan hasn’t seen this film, but if you haven’t (please turn in your Horror Movie Membership Card!) I don’t want to give too much away about the plot or how it turns out. But I love this film and watch this one as a start to a Friday the 13th movie marathon, usually in the beginning of the summer season. It’s not my favorite of the franchise, but you have to watch this one to get into the sequels…especially if you enjoy part two as much as I do.

First off, the music is legendary and is the quintessential music for a horror film. When I hear that theme music, it automatically fills me with a fun sense of dread (if that makes any sense). When Harry Manfredini composed the music for this film, he either knew what he was doing or happened to be lucky enough to make the best horror movie music ever. But I think he did know what he was doing, because it wasn’t only the music that was iconic, but what he created for the killer’s signature sound effect. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, a lot of people know this sound. You Know? The sound that everybody thinks is "chi-chi-chi, ha-ha-ha"? Well, it’s actually "ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma," as in "kill, mommy." Yes, Manfredini had the perfect idea to record the words in a whisper and add an echo effect to it. The end result? A very frightening sound that brings a sense of foreboding, knowing that something scary may—or may not—happen when we watch the movie. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, just with that music and sound effect alone.

Now, the acting in this film is a little subpar here and there, but that’s what gave horror movies its character in the 80s. But there were stand-outs throughout. Kevin Bacon, of course, was pretty believable; Mark Nelson, as the hilarious Ned (his screaming and running around with an Indian chief headdress still cracks me up) was good; and, of course, Betsy Palmer was marvelous. In my view, everybody gets a pass because this was a low budget horror film that was put together with the best intentions.

Being that this is now a 33-year-old film, when it comes to the fashion and styles the cast have, you definitely have to give them a pass. The one character that makes me laugh every time (and not intentionally) is Peter Brouwer as Steve Christy. When we’re introduced to him, he looks like a porn star. With his shirt off, a bandana tied around his neck, and his cut-off jean shorts (why are those shorts…so short?), I kind of get creeped out when he has his scene alone with Adrienne King toward the beginning of the film. If you can get past the ways of the day, you can easily enjoy this film. Hell, you can laugh about it all you want, but this film will make you think twice about camping out in the woods any time soon.

Another magic part of this film is the make-up effects, making it believable we’re seeing people get killed. This is where the contrasts differ when talking about comparing Friday the 13th to Halloween. See, Halloween is more about suspense and less about the killing, where Friday the 13th is more about the deaths and less about the ominous. In order to accomplish that, to show these victims die in very horrible ways, an awesome special effects and make-up artist was needed. Enter Tom Savini. Famous, at this point, for working on such films as Dawn of the Dead and Maniac, Savini was exactly what Friday the 13th needed. In this film, Savini created some excellent and memorable kill effects. Arrow in the eye socket, ax in the face, throat slitting, and a beheading…Savini really made this film what it was. Of course, the one kill that stands out (and unfortunately is exposed as looking fake when watching the Blu-Ray) is Kevin Bacon’s scene where his character gets the knife pushed through his throat from underneath the bed he’s lying in. Being 11 or 12 when I first saw this, it was years before I could get into bed without checking underneath first. Tom Savini is a genius.

My final "bit" on 1980’s Friday the 13th?

The film is a very nostalgic piece and is a must to understand how this whole monster started. In fact, most times when I intend to get into a marathon of these films, I only watch parts one through four; they’re the best of the franchise. But it all needs to start somewhere and that’s right here with the original. It’s filmed well, has some good scares, fabulous practical make-up effects, and is monumental in the solidifying of this movie franchise as one of the best slashers around. If you haven’t seen it and you’re a horror movie fan…shame on you!

Post "Bit":

Be warned, the snake death was not one of Tom Savini’s effects…it was a real snake that they killed for this movie. Growing up and watching this film countless times, I'd always thought it was a damned real-looking effect, thinking it was amazing how they were able to get this fake snake to keep moving around after getting its head and body chopped up by a machete. So, if you’re a little squeamish, you may want to turn away when this scene takes place.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

You’re Next

Did you remember to lock your door?

The tagline of the film is what you’ll be asking yourself once you get into the first few minutes of You’re Next, a little-known horror film—directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett (both of V/H/S fame)—that was released earlier this year (even though the film is listed as 2011) to a small number of theaters.  Yes, the first part of the film will get under your skin and make you second guess how secure your house or apartment is as you see what goes on in this film.

A while back, I had come across the title of this film on a web site which featured the trailer for it.  The synopsis sounded good so I clicked on the link for the trailer and was amazed by what I had seen, making me want to see this film whenever it was to be released.  Recognizing Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond) and Joe Swanberg (V/H/S), it piqued my curiosity and after seeing this trailer, I was blown away.  I was thinking it may be a while before we see this one because I had noticed that the film was made in 2011.  Even though I missed the short run in theaters, it finally showed up in the OnDemand menu on Comcast, so I gladly paid the $5.99 to take a look.

After an opening scene, introducing us to the mysterious murderers in flashes and show how they brutally kill a couple in their house (neighbors to the family we’ll be introduced to in the next few minutes of the film), isolated in the woods, the main story begins.  Aubrey (Crampton) and her husband, Paul (Rob Moran), decide to have a get-together at their mansion-of-a-vacation-home out in the woods and invite their children, as well as their significant others.   Crispian (AJ Bowen) and his fiancĂ©e, Erin (Sharni Vinson), are the first to
arrive after Aubrey is frightened by what she thinks is someone walking upstairs in the house.  We’re soon
introduced to their other son, Drake (Joe Swanberg), and his wife, Aimee (Amy Seimetz), another son, Felix (Nicholas Tucci), and his girlfriend, Zee (Wendy Glenn), and their daughter, Kelly (Sarah Myers), and her boyfriend, Tariq (Ti West).  Right away, the siblings are at each other’s throats, clearly dysfunctional in every way.  As they all get into an argument at the dinner table, Tariq sees something outside.  He gets up, with no one paying attention as they are all enveloped in a huge argument, and walks over to the window to get a better view at what he’s seeing.  We hear a whooshing sound and see something shoot through the glass, but the family is oblivious to what has happened as they are still absorbed in a massive quarrel.  One by one, they start looking over at Tariq and we see he has an arrow in his head as he collapses to the floor.  As the women scream, arrows start flying into the house leaving the family members to take cover and figure out how to stay alive.

Right away, you’re captivated by You’re Next.  Although it takes a bit to get to know the characters as their backgrounds are developed, it doesn’t take long for the shit to hit the fan.  But each sibling has their own character developed right away and we understand their ways easily, from the brother who has a chip on his shoulder to the asshole brother who gladly points it out, we quickly get to know them all. 

It helps the story tremendously to have the introductory kills in the beginning of the film to familiarize us with the killers.  And by familiarize, it’s just to show us their mysterious appearance and that they seem to kill withThe Strangers, and how much more scary it is that we, as the audience, don’t know their identity or they motives for what they do.
attrition, though it looks as if they’re enjoying what they’re doing.  The way they’re shown—at first—as enigmatic assassins harkens back to the film,

Instead of the typical slasher formula we’re so used to seeing in films like this, we have a strong heroine who decides to fight back and doesn’t make the same mistakes we’ve seen countless times in horror films before this one.  If you’re familiar with Zombieland and the rules the main character is always citing throughout in that film, you may remember the rule about “Double-Tap.”  Well, the girl who fights back in this one goes by the rule of “Decuple-Tap” (you may have to look that up—I did).

It’s good to see Barbara Crampton again after all these years.  I’ve only seen her in Re-Animator and From Beyond, but not much else.  I’d heard she was in Lords of Salem, but I haven’t gotten around to checking that one out yet.  In You’re Next, however, she puts on a good performance as the matriarch of the family, who may have some psychological problems.  Because, although it’s not said out loud, it’s implied she may have some issues that cause her to freak out, as we see the father and son kind of roll their eyes when she’s first terrified that there may be someone else in the house.

Another performance that may be perceived as the comic relief of the film is Joe Swanberg as the asshole brother, Drake.  He easily fits in this roll and gives a much better performance than he did in V/H/S.  The comments that he makes throughout this film had me laughing out loud at times.  One thing that struck me kind of funny is that in both V/H/S and You’re Next, there are scenes where he fails miserably at trying to score with his significant other.

Finally, Sharni Vinson’s performance as the girl who fights back was great.  Even though the reasoning given in the film felt sort of forced, it still worked and gave us someone to cheer for throughout.

What made this film very interesting are the two twists toward the end.  The first one may, or may not, catch you off-guard.  But the second one, I saw it coming as soon as the first twist revealed itself.  Even still, the kills were very inventive and original, the performances give you the sense of dread the characters are feeling, and you can’t help but think about a game plan you might want to get together in your house should something like this happens.

So, my final “bit” on You’re Next?

The movie will hold you captive and enthralled, wondering how the characters will fare against the unknown assailants.  The film is dark and moody, giving us all the right ingredients for a very interesting story.  We have people to cheer for, people to root against, and a character that gives us a chuckle every so often.  As a picky home media collector, I’m going to make sure to add this title to my assortment of films.  You should, too.  If not, at least rent this and give it a look.  I guarantee it’ll keep you engrossed.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

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