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 (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 (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.
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 (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 (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 (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.
Strange Girls (2007) – [rate 2.5]
Considering the low budget debut for what it is, Strange Girls isn’t bad. The actors aren’t horrible, but not exactly smooth professionals either. The story is a patchwork of cool ideas, but sadly more often than not stolen from other movies. There is a difference between a quote or an hommage and plain theft and the writer and director of this movie seem to be oblivious to such differences.
If you don’t watch a lot of movies, or if you have been living in a cave for the past 20 years, Strange Girls might actually seem like the promising debut with some interesting ideas, but the only asset of this film that is its own is the basic plot. Two sisters, identical twins, live life as one, refusing to communicate with their surroundings.
Disconnected from life and the world by choice and only communicating by letter and by reading books, they live in a fantasy world with each other as the only party worthy of conversation. The story uses their isolation as a fair enough excuse for some socially unacceptable behaviour, but after a good start the story starts to run out of ideas and even shows some of the ideas that would have been better left out.
Seventh Moon (2008) – [rate 2.0]
Set in China and focussing on a newly wed couple, using their honeymoon to visit the groom’s family, the movie start off well enough, although the couple seemed more like two people on their third date than newly wed (or on a collision course with divorce). They happen to arrive on the day of a festival, not unlike traditional Halloween and getting lost in the countryside on that particular night turns out to be a very bad idea.
Having the whole affair shot in shakeycam, fairly lousy acting and poor grime don’t help the movie. A plodding plot also serves to diminish any potential it may have had. The end result is a fairly pointless movie, with some vague life lessons about sacrifice but you won’t miss a lot if you don’t go and see it.
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.