You can kind of imagine the pitch meeting for Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut in the director’s chair. “Hi I’m Ryan Gosling, you know me from everywhere. Can I have some money please?” And that makes sense too. I was keen to watch this mainly for the Gosling, though I had also heard good things about the soundtrack.
We would all be richer though if those pulling the financial strings had done a little more due diligence, perhaps enquiring as to Gosling’s plan for the film’s story and style. The film is set in an America destroyed by the housing and financial crisis, presented with deliberate post-apocalyptic overtones. It’s not as rad as that sounds, trust me. The conflating of a post-apocalyptic wasteland with modern day poverty stricken and destitute parts of America is a really good idea in theory. But in practice, all the lingering shots of overgrown streets, tourist attractions under water and abandoned houses are not imbued with any meaning by the film’s atmosphere or script. Overall it’s a really clunky attempt to say something about the recent U.S. housing crisis. For all the arty trimmings, the story goes to the most obvious places possible and has zero fun getting there. Gosling goes for a lot – an ethereal dreamlike quality, social commentary, absurdity, arthousiness, tension and some occasional sci-fi/horror elements – but he’s reaching and nothing ever feels anything other than really played out.
The end result of Lost River is that it just feels as though Gosling is aping far better directors such as Nicholas Winding-Refn (unsurprisingly) and Terrence Malick, but without their assuredness. Whether or not you appreciate the work of those two names, the kind of films they make are very hard to put together and even harder to make watchable. The opening scene here legitimately feels like Gosling is trying to remake The Tree of Life (2011), and plenty of the imagery is in a similar vein. The oblique dialogue and storytelling is similarly reminiscent of that film and the work of Winding Refn, though here it is filtered somewhat through a hint of pop culture influence. As for the soundtrack, which I mentioned I had heard a bit about, well it’s decent but did not blow me away. Even at that level it’s probably the highlight of the film truth be told. There are some good moments and there’s some nice interplay with the overall sound design. But for the most part there seems a lack of commitment to put any of the boldness on the soundtrack to the front and centre of the film. Instead there is a reliance on the performances to see it through. But whilst the cast has pedigree, you know the performances are flat when even Ben Mendelsohn feels muted. Christina Hendricks, Iain De Caestecker and Saoirse Ronan are all similarly underwhelming. It is only an unrecognisable Marr Smith with any real life to his performance, bringing a real sense of menace to a character that has not had any created by the writing.
Verdict: Unfortunately Lost River really does not succeed on any level. There are attempts at a whole lot of things, but it all feels undercooked and I was totally disinterested throughout. It was always going to be easy for Gosling to snap his fingers and get a directorial debut off the ground. Based on this evidence though, there other voices I would much rather see get the investment and backing. Schooner of Tooheys New
As seems obligatory when reviewing A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014), I better begin with my feelings on Seth MacFarlane. I never really watched Family Guy at all, that whole phenomenon just totally passed me by. As for Ted (2012) I was actually pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed that film. MacFarlane definitely does seem to divide opinion. Quite a few reviews of this film seem to essentially be, I hate MacFarlane, and therefore I hate this film.
If reviews of the film seem to focus quite strongly on MacFarlane, well it is not exactly a surprise. When you write, produce, direct and star in a film, you can expect a lot of credit if it is brilliant, but you best prepare for derision if it is rubbish. And A Million Ways to Die in the West is rubbish. Surprisingly though it is deeply unfunny. I was expecting a few hearty laughs even if the film itself wasn’t particularly cohesive, but next to nothing registered with me. The film makes no real attempt to combine the Western and comedy genres, outside of the opening credits. This is a comedy, vaguely set in the Ol West of John Ford. Very vaguely. There is little plot to speak of, this is all about the jokes really. There is a recurring thread through the film essentially making the point that the old west of beloved Westerns is basically the worst time and place in history. That is an idea with heaps of potential. None of which really gets mined here, save for the occasional titter at one of the titular deaths (thought those get pretty old pretty quickly too). The plot there is focuses on a love story between MacFarlane and Charlize Theron. One that the audience is all of a sudden meant to find quite genuine and affecting toward the end, but nothing in the preceding 90 minutes will make you feel that way.
I was surprised that the incredible cast (Silverman, Theron, Ribisi, Neeson, Seyfried and so on) really did not elevate the material at all. MacFarlane casts himself in the lead role and the film is poorer for it. He has shown his voice work to be serviceable in the past, but he has zero presence or weight on the screen. I know this is not Oscar baiting drama here, but if the lead cannot emote or provide any depth, then the film will struggle. But really no one is good here, even the usually always incredible Theron seems pretty disinterested and not really fussed about being involved. All of the issues with this film and any comedy really, could be at least partly forgiven if the film was funny. No such luck here, in fact the film is actively unfunny. The slapstick for example bombs terribly, yet MacFarlane persists with peppering it through the film, so he obviously thought it would come off. In the end the characters in the film start laughing at MacFarlane’s jokes, presumably in the hope that the audience would laugh along with them. Didn’t work for me though, or anyone in my screening for that matter. The script is to blame, lacking any real wit with and also any of the zaniness that made Ted bearable if inconsistent. I am pretty befuddled as to why MacFarlane would turn out such conventional rom-com dirge, but he obviously thought it would bring him a big audience. In addition to the highly conventional script, this film also looks a lot cheaper than Ted. A comedic Western must be something approaching a costume and set designer’s dream. But there is nothing particularly creative and just as with MacFarlane’s acting, there is really no weight to any of it.
A comedy Western with this cast has potential in spades. But not with this script it doesn’t. Which is a shame because it has been a lean year for comedies so far. Unfortunately though, this was such a non-event that I don’t think I could even recommend this for big fans of MacFarlane’s other work.
Verdict: Schooner of Tooheys New
The South Korean triptych film Doomsday Book (2012) features three short films from two directors, taking a whimsical look at the apocalypse. Whimsy and the apocalypse don’t seem to mix you say? Well on the evidence of this film, you would be right.
Given the title, it is fair to say I was expecting a very different tone to what this film served up. It starts off with a light, comedy of errors segment, examining family relations. This part is delivered jaunty soundtrack and all. The same segment then flirts with the prospect of being an intense ‘patient zero’ focused look at the zombie apocalypse. In the end the first of the three segments lands with a thud. Really not working as either something fun or something intense. In fact it does not particularly succeed as being something of anything. With most films such as this, it is the job of the first short to intrigue the viewer enough to see where the filmmakers take us for the next segment. This doesn’t do that and instead it feels like a gimmicky stand alone short that would not realistically be able to cohere with anything that follows. And it doesn’t. You can dig down and find some thematic connective tissue between the three shorts, but it would be a very big stretch for you.
After holding zero anticipation going in, briefly the second segment ‘The Heavenly Creature’, holds a bunch of promise. A robot, utilised by a monastery, begins to exhibit signs of spiritual growth. But this promise is rubbished by something that cripples the entire film – really terrible writing. It is a shame that a story idea with such subtlety and scope is ruined by a script that is just plain dumb and lacking any of the required philosophical nuance. In fact most of the ‘philosophy’ here just sounds like a reading from Buddhism for Dummies. Along with a great central idea, ‘The Heavenly Creature’ also brings the other only real highlight of this movie. The robot, and the effects throughout the segment look really great. It is a wonder if they could do such a good job on the relative ‘straight’ special effects like this, why not take a straighter approach to the entire film, rather than aiming for the absurdity that is delivered. By the third segment, where a giant 8-ball meteor brings the end of the world as we know it, the film is too far gone to be any kind of a success. In fact throughout this section the film takes it up (down?) a notch from being not very interesting or well made, to verging very close to being incompetent.
Tonally all over the shop, the few good ideas in Doomsday Book are buried deep below terrible scripting and misjudged atmospherics. The reality is that it starts off by misjudging tone and it never recovers at all. A film dealing more or less with the end of the world that manages to establish absolutely no stakes results in a pretty miserable watch.
Verdict: Schooner of Tooheys New
Starting off with that tweet sort of ruins any suspense I may have built regarding my opinion of Friday the 13th Part III (1982). That’s kind of apt really, because the film itself utterly fails to build any suspense as well.
After a really enjoyable second entry, I was excited to check this out, especially given I was under the impression this was a straight sequel to that film. I was mistaken though, because even though it unnecessarily rehashes the final five minutes of the previous film, this is not a direct sequel. I have no issue with a film franchise having films that are more or less individual. But for some reason, this series seems to revel in the fact that there is no continuity, which is a major downfall of this film. The plot is the same as the first two films. Teenagers go hang out by a lake. Teenagers get brutally murdered. The plot is so the same, they have even rehashed characters they killed off earlier in the series – there is another crazy old dude who warns the kids not to go up to the lake. The script is worse than just tired. It is numbingly terrible. None of the skill that is required to build a horror film is contained in it and as a result this is one of the cheapest and most obvious horror flicks I recall enduring. A large swathe of it just regresses into a lot of doors opening mysteriously and the film trying to trick you into thinking Jason is around, but ta-da, yet again it is just some random dude. If the script exhibited any suggestion of being able to build some narrative or conflict, the film would have had some sort of chance.
The starkest deficiency between this series and the Elm Street series of films I have just finished reviewing is that these are utterly incapable of building a character that you care about in the slightest. This lack of character building crucially extends to the creation of the all important ‘final girls’, who all kinda suck. The writing is all kinds of bad and the execution of the script is, if anything, worse. The title tune is uber-80s tripe that would have been better suited to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It sounds like a minor quibble, but the title track for a horror film needs to set the creepyarse tone, Halloween (1978) style, not totally detract from it. The acting is uniformly terrible, even by 80s slasher standards. I am writing this half an hour after I finished the film and I can’t remember one redeemable facet of any of the performances. However, there is still one more aspect of this film to talk about that possibly takes the cake as being worse than all the aforementioned rubbish – the fact that the film was shot for 3D and there are endless, utterly boring shots designed to take advantage of this gimmick. Obviously you could understand the odd axe or knife coming out of the screen. But the characters just keep holding random, moderately pointy household objects up to the screen. You can just see the shocked 1982 audiences right now ‘OH MY GOD THAT YO-YO IS COMING DIRECTLY FOR US’. Obviously the filmmakers were not to know how crappy these shots would look 30 years later. But I can’t let that distract from the fact that these shots not only do look exceptionally crappy, they are also repeated ad nauseam. I feel confident in asserting that not one of them would have looked halfway decent in 3D either.
Friday the 13th Part III is such a mess. I can think of possibly two positive things to say on this – some early sequences have such reasonable old school tension to them and the first scene where Jason rocks his famous hockey mask is almost awesome (but it’s not, so guess that’s not really a positive). The rest of the film is so poorly written and executed that I can’t imagine there being anything here to keep anyone interested.
Verdict: Schooner of Tooheys New
Updated franchise ranking below (no surprises where this one comes in):
I checked out Independence Day (1996) for the second of the live tweet reviews that you folk voted for. Gotta say, I liked this a whole lot less than the last time I saw it unfortunately. Chime in with your comments on what Roland Emmerich’s best film is below. Also, it’s still technically a ‘live’ tweet if I need to go to sleep for eight hours in the middle yeah?
The very first scene of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) gives you a good insight into the 90 minutes you are about to endure. As the credits roll an utterly horrific 80s power ballad thunders in the background. I am quite confident in stating that it is the worst horror film credits track of all time. Actually, to say that the horrible credits sequence is an accurate taste of what is to come is a little harsh… on the horrible credits sequence. Because despite the miserable song choice, there is something worthwhile in it, namely the very creepy and cool images that the song is doing an excellent job of ruining.
Seeing the film you are checking out is directed by Renny Harlin is never a good sign, and a Nightmare on Elm Street 4 proves that adage. In an attempt to seamlessly connect this film with the excellent A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), the film brings back Joey, Kristy and Kincaid. Bringing back beloved characters is always a good move. But bringing back characters that no one really gave a shit about first time round (speaking as a massive fan of the third film) smacks of desperation and the fact you couldn’t afford the decent characters. Not only that, this is a connection with the excellent third film on a superficial level only, with no connectivity in terms of tone, theme or quality. Also, if you are going to bring characters back, at least do something with them. Don’t just kill them all off un-climactically in the first act of the film. Unfortunately this narrative choice is reflected throughout the film as the plot is teen slasher paint by numbers of the highest order. Plenty of people have told me how the series descends as it becomes more and more comedic, especially the character of Freddy. There were hints of that in the third film, but the balance between humour and horror was more or less spot on in that film. Here though the Freddy character is too far gone into the realm of comedy and he lacks totally in menace. This got me thinking actually that in none of these films, even the better ones, the audience is not particularly aware that Freddy is a child murderer. I’m not so sure that is a good thing.
The major problem with this film is not that it is bad (it is though), but that it just feels utterly and irredeemably unoriginal. Every sequence feels like it is some amalgam of parts of the first three films. Not only that, rather than combining and improving on the aspects it borrows, it all feels worse, somehow like a ‘lite’ version. Not content to rip off earlier films in the series, the film is also a raging success at ripping off parts of basically every big film from the 1980s – The Karate Kid (1984), Back to the Future (1985), The Fly (1986) and Ghostbusters (1984). Not only is this painfully obvious and cheap, it also makes parts of the film feel totally out of place and like they belong in a completely different film. The part that borrows heavily from The Fly is especially guilty of this. Thankfully though it dispenses with the 80s-ness of the second film. Aside from the power ballad at the start. And then continually repeating the line “major league hunk” in one scene. Oh and absolutely every single thing about this film which is one of the most 80s of the 80s. Time has not been kind to you A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Warriors. Not that you were any good to start with.
I think I have made myself abundantly clear on this one. It even pales in comparison to the first sequel which was no fun at all. It is silly and lacks any of the charms that this series has brought so far. Any film that manages to make a ‘final girl’ letting fly with the phrase “fuckin A” after suiting up for the final battle sound utterly lame, deserves neither your respect nor your support.
Verdict: Schooner of Tooheys New
Another Nightmare on Elm Street review will be coming your way next week. If you have missed any of my earlier reviews, be sure to check them out: The classic first film, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
I watched The Impossible (2012) the other night as part of my mad dash to catch up on films released in 2013 before I compile my best and worst of the year lists. I was not intending to write a full review, but after becoming increasingly flabbergasted as the film went on and writing more and more notes, I thought that I should. However I wanted to capture exactly how I was feeling whilst watching the film in the moment, so what follows are the notes I scrawled whilst watching the film, with only the slightest edit (paragraphs inserted, minor changes to make it flow a little better). As a result, the review is a touch all over the place and there is a fair bit more swearing than usual, so I apologise for that.
Also, for more views on the racial aspects of The Impossible, put far more eloquently than mine, read this.
Even before seeing it, I have major issues with this film. Think it is disgraceful to focus on a white, western family when telling this horrific story. It is a trite and contrived start introducing the family. A total focus on Westerners even before the tsunami hits. Lol. A video camera. What an unnecessary contrivance. This is rubbish aside from the racial stuff. The whole thing is so incredibly contrived. Barely even see a brown person, let along need to bother caring about one. Even the much touted technical aspects are only middling really. Endless contrivance. We see a (presumably) local baby swept to their death. We pass right by that tragedy to return to a wailing Namoi Watts and her kid. This is the whitest film ever. And because the filmmakers don’t care about any locals, I don’t care about this white family. Haha, oh fuck. They save a kid (after inexplicably arguing over if they should bother making the effort)… don’t worry though, it’s a white kid. This movie is mind blowing. They just totally forgot about the little white kid. Then as they are driving along ALL THE FUCKING INJURED PEOPLE ARE FUCKING WHITE.
You can argue that the story would never get told it if wasn’t whitewashed. Don’t bother telling it then. Keeps the triteness going too. Everyone in the fucking hospital is white. Didn’t they let the brown people in the hospital? Seriously everyone this little kid is trying to help is a fucking westerner. This is just beyond belief. Where are the fucking locals at? Yay the white boy reunited another white boy with his Dad. Phew. I was worried someone white would come to harm for a second there. They aren’t even bothering to show the locals. They must all be totally sweet. Plucky Thais. Sorry what was that? Over 200,000 dead throughout Asia? Mustn’t have gotten to that bit yet. Even if this was set in England and the tsunami hit there, this would still be rubbish. Slightly less racist, but arse nonetheless. Hey look, Ewan McGregor is still alive. Shocker.
Ewan McGregor fell of an extremely low stool: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. They have helicopters coming for all the white people. Subtle uplifting celebratory music. DON’T PLAY IT DOWN. THIS SINGLE WHITE FAMILY IS GOING TO BE OK. Praise the Lord. Haha, Ewan McGregor just had an encounter with an obnoxious white couple. Ooh insightful. Don’t worry, Ewan made his way to a white people only shelter where they can share their tales of woe. To stop being a sarcastic wanker for a sec, obviously the tale of this white family is horrific. But fark me, the way this story is handled is offensive. Go on Ewan! You can do it man. Make that phone call. Be strong. This overwrought soundtrack believes in you and goddamit so do I. Holy shit, I thought that was a Thai person with a speaking role. Never mind. It’s just a Westerner that is old and covered in grime. Oh this is good. It had been a good three minutes since I had felt the thrill of a white folk reunion. That feels good. These white folk reunions are coming thick and fast now. That’s good. Was worried for a sec this might be a sad film.
I am literally in disbelief. The ratio of westerners to locals that appear in this film is literally 100:1. Hahahahaha. By the most incredible run of sheer coincidences, the whole family all happen to be in the same place at the same time. Fuck this film. What an utter piece of shit. How can you be so triumphant about one person’s survival when so many perished? Fuck this film and its triumphant tone. All the shots of Western suffering are close up. Can see the injury and tears. The images of broader, societal suffering (i.e. a non-white one) are wide shots. This means that there is no human face to it whatsoever. Woah. Not one mention of the death toll whatsoever in the credits. Simply that the white family (who they even changed from Spanish to English) survived. Mind blowing. Fuck this film.
Verdict: Schooner of Tooheys New
The other night I thought it would be a good idea to live tweet a film. I thought it would be a good idea to live tweet Badges of Fury (2013), a Jet Li buddy cop comedy. That second part was not a good idea, because the film was woeful. Hopefully this review is mildly better. I did end up going off topic and rambling about Limoncello and pondering decent Jet Li films a fair bit. Limoncello is awesome. This film is not.
I thought this focus on horror cinema was a good chance to wrap up some of the horror flicks that have been released this year. Here are five that fit the bill, nicely capturing a fair range of horror tropes – vampires, monsters, horror-comedy, alien abduction, home invasions. In order to keep your reading time somewhat manageable, I have tried to restrict myself to 300 words per film which is pretty short for a rambler like me. Speaking of rambling, I went on a fair rant earlier in the fortnight in terms of the state of distribution here in Australia when I was sharing the Patrick (2013) trailer with you. Well here is some more evidence for you about how rubbish the system has become here. Three of these films (including the two which blew me away and got top marks) did not even get a cinema release. Another film I considered reviewing as well was The Evil Dead (2013) which only managed to play in a single cinema in the entire country. Anyways enough ranting, onto the reviews!
Let’s get the bad out of the way first of all shall we? The Guillermo Del Toro produced Mama (2013) is all kinds of bad. The film starts promisingly enough, with an atmospheric opening and the really high production values shining through (however it does feel a little too glossy). I was a big fan of the first appearance from the titular Mama as well and quite like the change-up when films reveal the monster early, like in The Host (2006) for example. The premise is classical, but not without promise – two young children are found after surviving a number of years in the forest, watched over by a spirit of some description.
But the overall experience of Mama is one that does not entirely flow. The creepy-arse kids give good performances but I did not love their characters. Unfortunately Jessica Chastain, one of my favourite actors, is not very good in this at all. I am all for breaking down typecasting and exploring new genres, but here as a tattooed rocker chick, she does not seem to be feeling the role which results in one of her lesser performances. Not only is the performance bad, her character is entirely unsympathetic too. Narratively the film is both derivative (the ol’ long shut-down nearby mental asylum plays a major role here) and on more than one occasion pretty nonsensical too. Not only that, but for long stretches of the film, nothing at all really happens.
Mama was a flat experience for me that only managed to provoke annoyance rather than anything approaching a satisfying horror experience. Poor casting and a tepid, confusing narrative round out a ride that is nothing but a disappointment.
Verdict: Schooner of Tooheys New
From the terrible to the really good and more importantly in this case the absurdly fun Grabbers (2012), which went straight to DVD/blu-ray out here. Horror-comedy films are so hit and miss. When they are good, they are exceptional, when they are bad they are truly terrible.
Most of the best horror-comedies in my experience tend to focus on the horror aspect more than the comedy. Grabbers is an exception to this rule though, as it is really quite hilarious, in an Irish kind of way. Much of that Irish kind of way is down to booze. Hilariously, one (scientifically proven) way to survive the terror that is afflicting all these folk, is to lock themselves inside the pub and get pissed all night. But it is underpinned by the horror elements and the fact it is a seriously well made film. It is beautifully shot, the performances are all good and when it wants to, the film creates tension of the highest order. The two lead performances, from the hilarious Richard Coyle who I know best from the TV show Coupling and Ruth Bradley as his sassy cop offsider are really wonderful. And one of the best aspects of all are the effects. For what I assume is a pretty low budget outing, the creatures look amazing. Everyone loves a good creature feature, and the sea monster/alien hybrids that are the focus of Grabbers look amazing and act really logically too.
I cannot emphasise enough how fun this film is. A hilarious script with leads who have wonderful comedic chemistry and effective monsters wreaking havoc on a sleepy coastal town are a great start. Any film that manages to successfully combine the adventure, comedy, crime, horror and love story genres as well as this is more than alright in my book. Destined for cult classicdom, so jump on the bandwagon early.
Verdict: Longneck of Melbourne Bitter
I can’t really remember the last alien abduction style flick I saw, so checking out Dark Skies (2013) was an interesting experience for me. Particularly because against expectations, this film scared the utter shit out of me more than any other film in this wrap-up and actually more than any other film this fortnight.
The story is set in arch suburbia where a young family begins to be plagued by increasingly strange goings on. Every night, something happens in their house, ranging from the playful to the sinister. The early going sets up the rhythm of the film – blandly scripted and poorly acted (with one exception) daytime scenes and really moody, chilling and original night time scenes. I am rarely scared by horror films, but the night time set half of this scared the pants off me. I was watching it late one night, sitting up by myself, and I actually had to turn it off and regroup the next arvo. And the conclusion wrecked me, the director wisely holding most (but not all) of his cards close to his chest for a really frightening, alien filled finale. I’m getting flashbacks to those creepy silhouettes now. It is a shame then that the rest of the film, the characterisation and progression of the family narrative, is so weak in comparison. Mad props must go to Keri Russell who plays the mother though. She is a really good actress and stands out in comparison to those around her.
I liked Dark Skies, but the overwhelming feeling I am left with is that there is almost unlimited wasted potential here. The real meat of a horror film, the scares, are so exceptionally done here. But everything else is midday movie standard… and not even good midday movie standard at that.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
One of the most beloved horror releases of the year, along with The Conjuring (2013), is the home invasion slasher You’re Next (2011). It even managed to get a release in cinemas out here, though I am not sure how much the casting of Aussie actress Sharni Vinson helped with that.
The arc of Vinson’s heroine is probably the most interesting aspect of the film actually. The new girlfriend who appears to be a highly trained expert in handling any horror film situations, preferably in slow-mo. This is a really well told story, the setup of Vinson’s Erin as an outsider to the well-off family is succinctly and well handled. Actually a good sense of character is quickly established for all the main players in the film. You’re Next does not waste too much time though and ramps up both the blood and the action relatively quickly as the family members are picked off one by one. Whilst there is a hell of a lot to like about this film, the big twist was a fairly big letdown for me. Not only that, but I feel like it sucked a lot of the tension and fraught atmosphere out of the goings on. Sometimes simpler is better and I think this is an example of that. Plus, knowing who was behind those freakyarse masks made them less horrifying. Having said that though, the very end of the film is I think handled very strongly and makes up for the lag.
Managing to be both really original and to incorporate elements of numerous classic slasher films, it is easy to see why You’re Next has so many fans. And despite my issues, I definitely count myself amongst them. A brilliant Home Alone (1990) reference and a very black sense of humour help.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
I so wish I had more than 300 words to profess my love of Neil Jordan’s Byzantium (2013) to you. This is a surreally good film, a classic vampire narrative that reminds you just how artistic and adult a truly great horror film can be.
To put it in exceedingly simple terms, Byzantium deals with the eternal limbo of vampires. It is a very classical notion and it is brought to life by some classically beautiful photography. Gemma Arteton and Saorise Ronan play the mother and daughter vampires respectively. Ronan’s character is the focus and so much of the film’s success is down to the fact that she gives a stunning performance. I was actually quite taken aback by how good she was, because I have actually not been a fan of hers in anything else I have watched. If, like me, you are always disgruntled at the manner in which vampire mythology is treated in horror films, you will love this one. It examines, interprets and showcases so many classical ideas but manages to mix them with the contemporary as well. The manner in which the two of them feed is just one really good example of this. As well as doing all of these things, the film manages to throw in a teenage love story that actually enhances the whole film. This subplot gives us the third really excellent performance of the film from Caleb Landry Jones, who I have not come across before.
Bloodthirsty, pretty, classical, intense, contemporary, adult, frightening, romantic, chilling, rich intelligent, moody, atmospheric, dark, weighty and steadfastly refusing to deal with events or people in black and white terms, Byzantium is seriously a great film. One of the best I have seen in all of 2013.
Verdict: Longneck of Melbourne Bitter
This guest post of awesomeness comes from everyone’s favourite elusive blogging figure, The IPC. Some say he refuses to visit Australia because there are not enough animals that can kill you here. Some say that Mrs The IPC and Daniel Day-Lewis have never been seen in the same room at the same time. Some say that he considers Billy Bob Thornton’s performance in Sling Blade to be “tepid”. All I know is that he drinks moonshine for breakfast and literally put his head inside a pumpkin to bring us this killer post. And for that, I am exceptionally grateful.
There’s a back-story to this movie that I’ve always found funny which I am going to share and hopefully you appreciate it. I’ve whined before about being an only child and sitting around moping and being depressed and such, but I did have one friend I more or less grew up with (even though I only saw him once a week or so). Anyway, we spent a lot of time at the movies as kids and by 1988 we were into our teens and going in separate directions in our lives. I was running off to chase chicks and drink beer and he was pursuing higher education. Anyway, this was the last movie we ever saw together and to this day, when and if we talk, we still argue over whether or not it was any good. I’ve always claimed I liked it and he thought it was total crap.
This movie stars Lance Henrickson, who is one of my favorites, as a hillbilly farmer type who runs a general store in the middle of nowhere with his heavily bespectacled kid. One day some punks from the big city roll into town and accidentally run over the child so Henrickson gets a witch to call up the monstrous Pumpkinhead and avenge his death. Blah, blah, blah kids get killed and Henrickson grows a conscience and eventually almost everyone’s dead. It’s your typical monster story with Monster Man Stan Winston directing and there’s really nothing too remarkable about it (think 80s hairdos, outfits and music).
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
But it’s a fuckin’ masterpiece compared to:
Pumpkinhead 2: Blood Wings (1994)
WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS THIS??? Did anyone even read the script??? This was TERRIBLE. At one point the sheriff and the CSI lady go into some barn / post office where some bald, fat guy was murdered. Well wait, this is how it went. The night before, fat guy is bopping some blond. After he – uh – is finished he sends her out to the truck for some more beer. As he is pulling up his drawers, Pumpkinhead roars in and rips him to pieces. The next morning (somehow) the sheriff and the CSI lady get news that he’s been killed so they’re at the crime scene investigating when the blond comes running and screaming out of a closet. Being the badasses they are, the CSI lady pulls a syringe out of bucket and tranquilizes her. “What’s happened here?? What’s happened here??” Talk-screams the sheriff. “Can’t you see??” CSI lady responds. “She’s in a fright induced coma.” *CUE CLOSE-UP OF BLOND’S FACE* “It’s one step away from being…. scared to death.”
In the first one, Pumpkinhead was a malevolent demon thing hatched from the pumpkin patch. This time he’s something like the mutated monster of some deformed kid killed 40 years ago. And the monster goes around drawing “red wings” in blood on the walls of his victims… because the group of kids that killed him were in a clique at the local high school called “The Red Wings”…. but he would never have ever EVER known that since he was a deformed kid living in some run down dump eating slop out of a bowl like a dog. Oh, and Punky Brewster is in this.
I know I run the SHITFEST but I always do try and find some sort of merit in the things I watch but there’s not much to go on here. I suppose the practical creature effects were decent enough but the rest of this movie is awfully laughable.
Verdict: Schooner of Carlton Draught
Pumpkinhead: Ashes To Ashes (2006)
No matter how bad Number 2 was, this was measurably worse. I have to be honest and admit that, in order to get this done on time, I had to watch some sort of Nordic version of this on YouTube with Nordic subtitles and terrible English voiceovers (Christ you should search it out just to hear the treatment they give Doug Bradley’s voice). I also think this version is cropped for length. Either that or this is some of the shittiest editing I have ever seen. Either way, this is an awful movie and I’m not looking forward to number 4.
This time around,
Pinhead Doug Bradley runs a funeral home, harvests live human organs to sell and dumps the bodies out in the swamp. Lance Henrickson (from the first) shows up as a ghost and a blond lady summons Pumpkinhead after Bradley “butchers her baby”. I could have missed something if this was cropped for run time but she didn’t seem to care about her missing baby until she sees its corpse. Huh? BLAH BLAH BLAH Pumpkinhead kills a bunch of redneck assholes… this movie was totally stupid. Oh yeah, there’s some pretty hilarious looking 2006 CGI in this too.
Verdict: Schooner of Tooheys New
Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud (2007)
BY GOD THIS WAS BAD. Filmed in Romania – using Romanian actors trying to pull off a deep south, American accent – boy – yeah, I uh,…. not good. I mean – it’s laugh out loud quality. And, Jeez, the acting is just pitiful. This was gory though – probably more bloody than all of the others put together but it was just awful. Thinking about it, the script could probably be done right – or better – if there was some money behind it but this end product is pitiful
In America there is an old folk story about two groups of families who have a “blood feud” for dozens of decades – the Hatfields and the McCoys. For some reason this version of Pumkinhead finds us dealing with those two families in modern day America. One of the Hatfields (I think) is in love with the McCoy daughter (a good looking English actress who really has a lot of trouble filtering out her accent). One night they are out by the wishing well making out when her McCoy brothers come out and accidentally kill the Hatfield sister. So, the Hatfield boy sets Pumpkinhead on them since nothing says I love you more than having a demon kill your entire family.
Verdict: Schooner of Carlton Draught
Well – that’s over with. Aside from the first one this franchise is pretty bad. It’s OK if you have nothing else too do but -…. THANKS TIM for having me over again!! These weren’t great movies but this was good fun!
Thanks so much to Mr Pictures Conclusions for taking part. Please head on over to Isaacs Picture Conclusions and get involved with some of the fantastic stuff he has going on over there.
Over this fortnight, you have the chance to win an as yet unconfirmed (but definitely choice) prize courtesy of Madman Entertainment, so be sure to get liking and commenting to go into the draw