The House of the Devil (2009) – [rate 3]
If you’ve survived the 80’s, like myself, and watched any of the horror movies created in that era – I watched a serious number of them – you’ll be amazed at how well this movie gets it right. That is, looking like one of those. I actually caught myself wondering “haven’t I seen this movie at some point in high school?” but that’s absolutely impossible, since it was released last year.
Though the makers deserve credit for getting that down to the smallest details, it doesn’t make it a good movie per se. Luckily, they managed to get most of that right too. The introduction of the main character is simple but enjoyable and not overly long, but long enough to start to care. The typical suspense arc starts well and builds up with excellent sustain, although you’ll be hard pressed to detect originality (girl babysits in remote mansion, with the movie being prefixed with a fact about satanic sects).
What prevents this movie from being a modern retro-classic is the ending. It’s a rushed jumble which merely serves to shatter the suspense. And even if that is a quote as well, it’s a quote of the movies that I didn’t like in the 80’s vs. the great many that I did like (and had better endings). House of the Devil is comparable to better movies like The Sect and even though it does almost everything else better (sound, music, camera, acting, props), it fails in the one that matters the most – to me anyway -: story.
(2010) – [rate 3.5]
A typical Philip K. Dick type of story, this is not a bad science fiction movie at all. It tells of a near future where expensive cybernetic implants have become commonplace, but are very expensive to produce. People take on insane financial plans to save their lives and when they can no longer pay the bills, the repo man comes around to take back the company property.
You can pretty much see where that’s going and the movie couples it with a buddy movie of the ‘military buddies sticking together’ kind. The plot develops in a decent enough way and though it loses some of its pace halfway through, I found the ending redeeming.
But I did have many issues with it. The characters are stereotypical even though the movie offers ample opportunity to change that. Also, I was incredibly annoyed by the blatant Volkswagen ads that appear every few minutes, with no bearing on the story whatsoever. I would recommend that people who rip and torrent this movie take those scenes out, for the same reasons they take commercials out of TV series. (of course, you shouldn’t be doing that kind of stuff in the first place, but you know what I’m saying…)
If you like dystopic scifi and don’t mind a bit of very graphic body horror, this is probably going to be right up your alley. It sure beats watching pointless torture porn like Saw XIV and it has some interesting themes, but don’t expect a masterpiece.
Book of Blood (2008) – [rate 1.5]
I happen to be a fan of some of the work of Clive Barker. And even though I like his fantasy (like Weaveworld or Imagica) better, I do greatly appreciate his horror (Cabal, The Great and Secret Show). Book of Blood is some of his old work and fits right in with the material in movies like Hellraiser (1987) and Nightbreed (1990). But Book of Blood misses the mark rather severely.
The chemistry between the characters just isn’t there. And the special effects serve to do nothing but repeat the point of the movie, that has already been made 4 times in dialogue. I’ll spoil it here, since someone already says it in the opening sequence. The dead have highways, the highways intersect and at some of these crossroads, the dead spill over into our world.
A female researcher, with some experiences in her past, writes about the paranormal and has her eyes on some haunted house. She meets an apparently psychically gifted student and they end up in the house, along with one of her colleagues. Drama ensues, the dead walk and it all ends predictably.
Only if you really like Barker’s stuff and don’t mind sitting out a poor plot and aren’t expecting amazing effects would you want to watch this movie. Nothing sparkles, but I suppose it isn’t a real bomb either. It would have been better if it had been made just like this in the 80’s, where it really belongs, considering the competition it has to live up to nowadays.
100 ft. (2008) – [rate 2.0]
The premise of 100 ft. was good and had me interested because of an interesting angle on a tried and true thriller format: the haunted house. In 100 ft. a recently released convict, played by Famke Jansen, returns to the house where she killed her abusive husband in self-defense. She’s under house arrest and gets an ankle bracelet that makes it impossible for her to leave the house for more than a few minutes without the police showing up.
Adding to the interesting situation is the fact that her husband used to be a cop himself and his former partner is now assigned the case. Her husband may be dead, but as the character puts it herself: he isn’t taking it so well. Haunting ensues and you can pretty much guess what the bulk of the movie looks like.
But though the setting may be original, the setup is good and Famke Jansen portrays a strong, modern woman in a believable way, this movie didn’t work for a number of reasons. First of all, besides the main character, this movie is filled with stereotypical, shallow characters that are all over the place. Her husband’s paranoid partner seems to be ready shoot and kill whoever thinks about breaking the law one moment and is all loving and caring the next.
You can act like there’s no tomorrow and give the best performance of a career, but if the script has your characters make stupid decisions and gives you lousy lines, there’s no saving the movie. This is Famke’s plight. And the special effects are pretty and impressive in some scenes, but corny and needlessly over the top in others.
With a better scenario, better extra’s and another director, this would have had potential, but as it stands, I would only recommend it to the fans of a genre and even then, only to pass the time.
Notorious (1946) – [rate 4]
A classical spy movie and an undeniable Hitchcock. It has it all, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, oodles of suspense, intricate and complicated cinematographic novelties, the works. If anyhting is wrong with this movie is that a lot of movies like it have been made over time, including quite a few by Hitchcock. In its genre, it has some original twists and it makes effective use of a love interest to drive the plot, but I still feel it falls well short of a masterpiece. Continue reading Notorious (1946)
Rope (1948) – [rate 4.5]
What never ceases to amaze me about Hitchcock pictures is that they seem so modern. Rope is no exception. The acting, the camera work, the dialogue all seem well beyond 1948 – though not quite 2008 of course. It’s an amazing feat of cinematography, shooting a psychological thriller in only 5 shots (did I miss any cuts?) with clever transitions. Rope follows all three Artistotelian unities: it takes place in a single appartment, sometimes even shooting other rooms from within the main living room. It takes place in the timespan of a single afternoon and evening. And it just deals with the murder that the movie starts with. Continue reading Rope (1948)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) – [rate 2]
B-movies, impossible to rate. If you look at this movie with modern eyes, it hard to see any quality at all. The plot is shaky and incredibly stereotypical. The special effects are limited to a sliding door in a big metal box and a big ray of light emanating from the eyes of a robot that makes weapons disappear. Stuff you can reproduce with garden-variety toys available to everyone today, even without the use of a PC. And there’s not a lot of acting going on either, though that’s not the worst part of the movie, considering other contemporary pieces. Continue reading The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Burn after Reading (2007) – [rate 3]
After No Country for Old Men, this definitely feels more like a ‘classic’ Coen-brothers production. The characters all seem to be confronted with situations that are outside their ability to deal with things. Greed leads otherwise innocent characters down a dark path of punishment, which I think is a recurring theme in their movies and everything is soaking in a fairly bleak humorous light. Continue reading Burn after Reading
Hellboy (2004) – [rate 2.0]
After watching Hellboy II on the big screen, I felt the need to rewatch Hellboy, since I’d missed the middle part the first time I watched it and never gave it a good look. One thing I immediately noticed is how much Hellboy and Hellboy II are the same. The story, the characters and even some of the visual jokes and action scenes are so much the same that, in retrospect, I should really lower the score (3.5) I gave Hellboy II. Continue reading Hellboy
Hellboy II: the Golden Army (2008) – [rate 3.5]
The signature style of Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola’s comic universe of Hellboy and the BPRD mix surprisingy well in this fantasy action thriller. Although the story is fairly straightforward and bears little hidden meaning, it’s entertaining and it looks great on the big screen. With a fantastic universe that’s likely to remind you strongly of del Toro’s recent Pan’s Labyrinth, the movie has its own feel, but lacks real originality, both in story and in setting. What originality it has, it lends from the comic book intellectual property of Mignola. Continue reading Hellboy II: the Golden Army