La Horde

La Horde (2009) – [rate 3]

In recent years, some excellent horror has come out of France (Inside and Martyrs were shown at previous AFFF editions) and I suppose it was only a matter of time before a typical zombiemovie was added to the list.

La Horde is likely to feel as a fresh take on the genre by those who don’t play a lot of computer games. It pits a number of highly unlikely heroes in an urban environment against an unstoppable horde of zombies. It offers no explanation for the source of the sudden breakout, nor does it offer any particular background as to why and when this is happening – to its credit in my opinion.

But considering the typical demographic this type of movie will reach, assuming they don’t play a lot of videogames is a bit of a stretch. And those that do won’t be able to watch La Horde without Left 4 Dead popping into their minds every couple of minutes. It’s definitely an original story that has little to do with that game, but the styling, the setting and the flow of the movie all reminded me of L4D.

And although the movie has great sound design, is properly scored, looks good in every way and has all the right actors in all the right places, it’s not really about anything. Sure, the cops have to work with the robbers and that yields some results, but nothing much beyond the predictable. Most zombie movies have an agenda, but in La Horde, it’s either absent or too subtle for yours truly.

Still a good watch if you really like zombie flicks in general.

Monkey Boy

Monkey Boy (2009) – [rate 4]

Monkey Boy surprised me with its left uppercut, just when I was getting tired of the weak bitch slaps it was throwing from the right. I completely missed the point as the movie was starting to remind me of such duds as Castle Freak, when I suddenly realized what was going on.

Monkey Boy is a deeply layered and interconnected story with only a few characters, reflected and shattered like simple colors in a caleidoscope into a picture worth seeing. From about a quarter into the movie, I had to work hard to remember what I’d seen before to be able to put the puzzle together. And even though the movie leaves you with the feeling that there’s some loose ends that may well be impossible to tie to anything, I think it’s a true original.

Still, I feel it’s no to its credit that it managed to repulse me at first. And some of the acting is a bit off. It’s a low budget production, so there’s no point in going into the special effects, which are pretty good all things considered. But a masterpiece it is not. So, with a 4/5, this is one for the horror-fairy tale fan.

The House of the Devil

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.

Thirst

Bakjwi (Thirst) (2009) – [rate 2.5]

I was fairly disappointed with Park Chan-Wook‘s traditional vampire tale. Sure, it had some of the pacing of scenes that give Eastern movies their specific feel and some of the graphic violence is very explicit. But instead of focussing of on the attraction of violence instead of love, or digging a little deeper into the implications of a priest turning vampire, Chan-Wook turn it into the usual tragic love-affair that goes exactly where you expect it to go once you know what’s going on.

Fairly forgettable and only for Park Chan-Wook fans. If you don’t know his work, watch Oldboy or Sympathy for Lady Vengeance before you decide on this one. If you want to see a good vampire movie, there’s 100’s out there better and more interesting than this one. Certainly not a bad film, just not a very good one either.

Dante 01

Dante 01 (2008) – [rate 4.0]

Think French mashup of Cube and the Fountain with an odd Christ-theme and you’re probably pretty close to Dante 01. In a remote space station, prisoners of the worst kind volunteer to be guinea pigs for experimental drugs, to escape a death sentence. An original premise for sure, but it works ok and the actors perform well enough to prevent you from being distracted by such incongruity with reality.

The story may come across as somewhat unsatisfactory, especially once you see the ending, but it actually makes sense in a metaphorical sense if you give it some time to simmer and stew in your mind. Clever and novel, I liked it a lot, but I’m certain it’s not for everyone. Don’t go and see this if you expect to see some Event Horizon action and fx. Do see it if you’re into stuff like Solyaris or Pi. (though truth be told, Marc Caro isn’t a Tarkovsky or Aronofsky just yet)

Embodiment of Evil

Embodiment of Evil (2008) – [rate 2.5]

You either love it or hate it, no middle ground, though loving it doesn’t make it a good film. That much is safe to say about this hommage to the B-movie days of actors like Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price. The devil is about to be released from prison and when he gets back to his dungeon, he is welcomed by his gothic followers and gratuitous sex and violence ensues.

It’s like a Dario Argento and Ed Wood mashup and unless you enjoy watching movies of either (or rather both), you’re probably better off giving this one a pass. Suffice it to say it made me chuckle and remember the good old days, whereas it made my girlfriend hurl and spit with anger at time wasted.

Chemical Wedding

Chemical Wedding (2008) – [rate 2.5]

All through Chemical Wedding, I had a feeling of “for television”. A TV movie, but a very good one at that. Decent actors, nice locations, a strong – if somewhat eccentric – episode of a british crime mystery series perhaps. The overall premise isn’t all that original and the logic of the story is full of holes, but that hardly ever stops horror movie directors.

What’s missing in Chemical Wedding is real mystery, threat or excitement. The story unfolds, but there is hardly anything to be anxious about and that’s sort of the point of a thriller or horror movie. And since this doesn’t succeed in being either, it is sort of a tame supernatural drama, which may be the one genre with even fewer good movies in it than black-and-white space opera western musicals.