Welcome to the shaky-cam, off-screen gore fest. Leatherface – movie review

A movie so successful and ground-breaking like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) is destined to spread loads of sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots.

The latest of these is Leatherface, the origin story of the titular character, considered one of the most iconic horror villains of all time.

Leatherface 3Before proceeding with my review, I want to raise a question: is it always necessary to give great, mysterious characters an origin story? My answer is that such a thing is not only unnecessary, but could also be dangerous, taking away the aura of mystery and uneasiness linked to a beloved character.

Nevertheless, I’m always open (and hopeful) to be surprised and prone to change my mind.

Unfortunately, Leatherface only reinforced my convictions, being one of the worst and most disappointing movies of 2017.

I went into it saving an ounce of hope, since the duo of directors were French die-hard fans of Tobe Hooper’s most influential film. France is one of the few countries in which the TCSM formula has been tried with outstanding results – check out Frontiers (2007) and Calvaire (2004) for reference (I know Calvaire is a Belgian film, but they speak French in it, so I allowed myself to cheat a bit).

Furthermore, the two directors (Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who previously came out with the fun, gory Inside, 2007) embraced the project with enthusiasm: “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is the real game-changer… it changed the face of cinema… it’s a masterpiece” (Maury). They were also supervised by Tobe Hooper himself as the executive producer who, sadly, died before the film was released.

Leatherface 1.1Back to the movie: the story is about the dysfunctional Sawyer family that, after murdering the daughter of a local sheriff, sees their youngest son been taken into a mental institution. 10 years after his reclusion, the young Jed (Leatherface in the making) escapes with the help of three deranged patients and nurse, held hostage by the gang. The plotline follows their attempt to reach the Sawyer family, whilst being persecuted by the vindictive sheriff.

Now, this movie is full of flaws, but the biggest one revolves around tone and vibe: other than the first 3 minutes and the last 10, this flick doesn’t look anything like a TCSM film. In terms of locations, none of those utilised in the film remind the viewer of the Texan farms and fields – which makes sense, since it was shot over the course of 27 days (!) in Bulgaria!

Yet, the direction completely forgets about what made the original TCSM a ground-breaking piece of cinema: the gritty realism of the 1974 movie is replaced by over-the-top gore and driven by unlikable, idiotic characters.

Leatherface 1Also, in regards to the violence, Leatherface unwisely chooses to keep the most gruesome scenes off-camera, preferring to show two deranged criminals having sex on a corpse and showing signs of necrophilia. Scenes like these are just disgusting and off-putting, which has nothing to do with real horror or uneasiness. Yet, when the violence is actually on camera, who made the film decided to utilise the cheapest shaky-cam effects and shittiest colour scheme to prevent the viewers from enjoying the scenes.

Again, when it comes to the acting, Leatherface delivers us the most one-dimensional characters I have seen in a while, portrayed awfully by the actors – with the exception of Lili Taylor (Jed’s mom) and the titular protagonist (played fairly well by Sam Strike).

Leatherface 2Luckily enough, the portrayal of Jed/Leatherface is quite respectful of the character: he’s not downright evil, more so a victim of his background and the events that influenced his life. However, for some incomprehensible reason, the directors or writers of the script decide to focus more on other, useless characters, such as the nurse and a fat, mentally unstable goof who have no part in the TCSM universe.

Towards the end, we come back to the Sawyer family house, in which location and cinematography pay homage to the original 1974 film, which was kind of cool to see. Other than that, though, even the grand finale is downright ridiculous and disappointing.

Before I get to my conclusions, let me just add a complaint about an aspect of the movie that bugged me throughout. The editing is awfully jumpy during the entire runtime (only 84 minutes, luckily) and gives the impression of a product that has been released before being polished and refined. Since Leatherface has been shot over 27 days, which is insane, the only thing I could think of is that they just wanted to get it over with and come out with whatever shipwreck that could achieve in such a limited time. And this is what really pisses me off about a movie, because it shows little interest for audience and even less passion for your profession.

In conclusion, I strongly suggest not to watch Leatherface: if you’re a huge fan of the TCSM universe, this flick would likely let you down. If you’re just looking for some gory, mindless entertainment, instead, just check out something else which may allow you to see what’s going on. Cheers!

Advertisements

The Classics of Horror #8 – The Exorcist (1973)

I knew when I started my blog that, sooner or later, I would have gotten the chance to review this genre masterpiece. And now I feel like I’m not ready to do it.

What can you say about an exceptional product that has been disected over and over throughout the years by the best critics in history? How do you approach the “scariest movie ever made” and make it justice? What smart comment can you add to what has been said millions of times before?

Reviewing The Exorcist is simply an impossible task.

However, I’ll try my best to pinpoint some of the incredible features that made this film so great and influential.

Based on William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name, the first game-winning decision by Warner Brothers in the making of the film was to hire the author himself as screenwriter and put William Friedkin at the helm.

The involvement of the author of the novel guarantees a substantial loyalty to the source material and its themes, whereas Friedkin’s direction adds the gritty realism and shocking value required for a movie like that.

We all know the plot of The Exorcist: a little girl, Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), in Georgetown is possessed by an insidious demon. Her mother Chris (Ellen Burstyn), a famous actress, takes Regan to several doctors, experts and psychiatrists, whose attempts to cure the girl are utterly useless.

Close-up of a bruised Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil sitting in chair.Despite being a devout atheist, Chris then clutches for the last straw and summons a priest to help her: Father Karras (Jason Miller), who himself is dealing with grief and anger due to his mother’s death, is however unable to provide the proper support, so that he uses expert exorcist Father Merrin to perform the exorcism and backs him up throughout the process.

Running for about two hours, The Exorcist never has a single dull moment. The build up to the climactic battle between good and evil, God and Devil, the two priests and Pazuzu is as compelling as the ritual itself.

The Exorcist 1The story, unheard back then in a first-class drama, is compelling because there are no disposable characters. Every single cast member is on point in their performance: the doctors are not just oblivious paper-thin figures; instead they cleverly try every way to improve Regan’s conditions, convinced they derive from some form of disease or mental illness that could be treated medically.

The accuracy with which Friedkin approaches the medical exams and attempts is mesmerising. From the machinery to the hospital procedures, every single scene involving a scientific feature is spotless.

The audience is, therefore, compelled to the story because it looks extremely realistic (even though the subject matter might seem absurd to the sceptics) and emotionally attached to the characters.

Ellen Burstyn’s performance, in particular, is truly Oscar-worthy: the viewer feels for her as a mother, mostly because her acting is top-notch and her love for Regan overcomes her fear and desperation even in the darkest (and scariest) moments.

Linda Blair, as Regan MacNeil, is also perfectly cast. Starting off as a sweet, innocent girl, she soon turns into one of the most iconic and scariest characters in cinema history.

The Exorcist 3The practicality of the effects, combined with Blair’s acting skills, make for gut-wrenching possession scenes. Although a couple of them were clearly sped up in the editing room, The Exorcist holds up better than 95% of the movies that came out in the 2000s.

This film is genuinely frightening on many levels: from the actual scenes depicted in the movie to the implications hidden in every dialogue.

Featuring no exposition whatsoever, The Exorcist is ahead of its time and, thus, an immortal motion picture that unlikely will lose impact in the years to come.

Since it’s an actual scary film that doesn’t need jump-scares to startle the audience, this movie is not an easy watch. For example, my parents (who are in their 50s) still can’t manage to sit through it in its entirety.

The Exorcist 4In particular, the sequences in which Regan stabs her intimate zone with a holy cross or those where she unnaturally twists her neck are genuinely off-putting and disturbing, no matter how old you are or how many horror movies you’ve seen.

Yet, the constant aura of angst and uneasiness is carried throughout the film because of the immaculate cinematography created by Owen Roizman and the soundtrack by Michael Oldfield, easily the best horror score in cinema history.

Besides a minute lack of explanation about the death of a doctor (probably killed by Regan under the control of Pazuzu), The Exorcist is a solid film that has it all. Do you really need me to recommend it?

Final Destination meets Jacob’s Ladder. Camera Obscura – movie review

A war photographer affected by severe PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) picks up the camera again after more than one year of inactivity due to the terrible things he’s seen and photographed in war zones (presumably Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria).

Jack Zeller (Christopher Denham), the titular character of Camera Obscura, is given an old camera from his fiancé Claire (Nadja Bobyleva), who desperately wants him back on track.

camera Obscura 1.jpgHowever, the photos Jack takes are black-and-white – despite the rolls being coloured – and, mostly, show dead bodies that lay in the locations he shot.

What started off quite premising, with a first half hour that features non-linear storyline and good character development obtained without exposition scenes, soon enough turns into a bloody mess that doesn’t know what’s aiming for.

Although rather original, Camera Obscura tries too hard to resemble the Final Destination movies and Jacob’s Ladder (1990) in its themes and development.

Unfortunately for the director Aaron B. Koontz, the film falls short in its attempts: the campiness of Final Destination is replaced by an unnecessary seriousness, whereas the social commentary on the horrors of war are completely avoided. What a missed opportunity!

The overall movie is quite confusing.

Camera Obscura 3More or less 40 minutes into Camera Obscura, the main character is convinced he has to do something extreme to protect his fiancé from an impending doom. The decision to include this sudden change of tone in the script, makes Jack less compelling (he was rather relatable up to this point) and the plot take a convoluting route involving paranormal elements.

Yet, an initially psychological thriller/horror begins to include supernatural features and a good dose of laughable gore that adds up to the general confusion.

The ending, which I’m not going to give away, is probably the pinnacle of frustration in Camera Obscura, since it doesn’t resolve any question or sub-plot brought up throughout the runtime.

Camera Obscura 2.jpgAgain, the characters are overall formulaic: we have the main character (fairly portrayed by Denham), his screaming and confused fiancé, a police officer who knew everything before the audience, another one who couldn’t figure out the simplest clues and the junkie, silly protagonist’s best friend who is helpful like a toothbrush on a desert island.

Especially Walt, Jack’s best friend, is highly disappointing. He represents my biggest disappointment with the direction: Walt is, in fact, portrayed by Noah Segan, a more than decent actor who proved himself in the past to be able to pull off complex roles.

Seemingly, Koontz has no idea what to do with him, since he randomly throws Segan in many scenes without developing the character’s arc or purpose.

Nevertheless, this is the only mistake made by Koontz. Besides that, his direction is really good for an indie horror. The cinematography is impressive and the editing cleverly resembles a sequence of photos projected on a wall.

Entirely shot on location (in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA), Camera Obscura makes good use of the environment, whilst the bright colours are toned down to make the atmosphere gloomy and sumber.

On a side note, Koontz’s direction avoids silly jump-scares and futile loud music to mark a moment of tension. Instead, the soundtrack is persistently earing and purposely irksome.

Since the direction is, overall, pretty decent, I’d say that the script is what scales down the film. It simply doesn’t make any sense and hides the redeeming qualities of Camera Obscura.

If you ask me, Camera Obscura is not a completely shipwreck, but the script for it is plain awful nonetheless.

Quoting directly from the movie: “this seems one of those weird episodes of Goosebumps!”. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend to watch it, but neither I’d say it’s a complete and utter waste of time. Cheers!

The hunting game we were waiting for. Killing Ground – movie review

Has anyone seen Eden Lake (2008)? It is that British movie starring Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender go on a camping trip by the lake and get assaulted by a group of twisted teenagers who turn their love escape into a terrible nightmare.

Well, Killing Ground, written and directed by Damien Power, is the Australian counterpart of Eden Lake, although better executed and acted than the already very good English film.

Killing-Ground- 3By the clever usage of non-linear storytelling, Killing Ground tells the story of a couple who go to a remote location to find peace and spend a nice weekend away from the civilisation. Soon their expectations will be let down and they’ll find themselves immersed into a mortal hunt-and-pray game where the odds are extremely adverse.

Simultaneously, though, the movie tells another story, which happened before the main one.

Other than the particular technique utilised to tell the events (never left to exposition, instead always for the viewer to figure out), Killing Ground is a straightforward horror thriller which runs for 89 minutes without a single dull moment or a sequence that makes you feel relieved.

Everything but pretentious, this flick is a pure adrenaline ride filled with compelling characters (villains included), drama, action and an overall sense of dread and tension.

The biggest achievement Mr Power reached in this movie consists of the ability to give a new look to something we have seen before tons of times.

The direction is immaculate. The editing, only external interference to the story, perfectly connects the two storylines and is refreshingly clean and subtle. The soundtrack – or I better say lack thereof – is barely noticeable but fully part of the story development.

Yet, the restraint location and limited use of actors makes for compelling characters in Killing Ground. Every single one of them is well-rounded and, pleasantly surprising, none of them is formulaic.

Shot entirely on location, the movie doesn’t use CGI throughout the entire runtime. The practicality behind every special effect cooperates to create a greedy atmosphere, despite a colourful and vivacious cinematography.

Killing-Ground 1I found myself looking in pure delight at the lack of black and white in this film: the good guys are not heroes and the villains (although fairly depicted as sadistic psychopaths) appear normal to the rest of the community and, therefore, to the audience in the scenes where they are dealing with other people.

Unapologetic without being gruesome or needing to show extreme violence on the screen, Killing Ground ends with a blast. The grand finale is, indeed, very fulfilling (something I experienced only with Get Out this year) and profound enough to make you reflect upon it for a while.

Killing ground 2Killing Ground is a film that tells a story we’ve seen tons of time, but it does it including an unconventional form of storytelling and clever twists every here and there, proving that a movie can be (incredibly) good without overturning schemes.

With Killing Ground, Australia proves once again to be a fertile ground (sorry about the pan!) for great horror entertainment. I honestly can’t wait to see what Damien Power will come up with next. Meanwhile, I strongly recommend to watch this film, one of the best I’ve seen the whole year. Cheers!

The Classics of Horror #5 – Psycho (1960)

As I previously mentioned in my Rosemary’s Baby review, I have a ‘special’ chapter of The Classics of Horror dedicated to Psycho.

My girlfriend and I, in fact, went to watch the screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece at Grosvenor Park – a quiet oasis in the middle of the chaotic Londoner nightlife on a summer Friday night.

The location itself – which my girlfriend will talk about shortly on her blog – was worth the price of the ticket (22£ each, including a glass of fine wine) and created a mystical atmosphere that added to the quality of the film.

If you’re interested in Nomad Cinema initiatives and want to catch a glimpse of our day at the outdoor screening, check their website and enjoy the photo gallery at the end of this post.

In regards to Psycho itself, I thought to write about what makes it so iconic and inspirational to these days, since its plot, cinematography and general features have been discussed quite a lot within the last… well, 57 years!

Considered as the first slasher flick ever – although the origins of this sub-genre may find their roots back in Maurice Tourneur’s The Lunatics (1912) and countless giallo novels in the late 1880s – Psycho is much more than that.

Its influence spread through various cinema genres, such as psychological thriller, mystery and, of course, horror. Putting aside various attempts on imitations of sorts and a shot-by-shot shameless – and soulless – remake (Psycho, 1998), Hitchcock’s movie has inspired, deliberately or unconsciously, an endless number of directors and filmmakers.

Needless to say, the iconic stabbing in the shower has had tons of reenactments in probably half of the modern horror movies. That specific sequence has been received as shocking and gut-wrenching for the 60s audience but, in all fairness, experiencing it before a big screen and surrounded by an excellent sound system… well, it’s striking enough even today.

Again, the sudden change of main character – typical Hitchcock’s signature – has pushed brilliant directors to try unconventional story-telling patterns.

As if atmosphere, cinematography and music (damn, that score!) weren’t enough, the abrupt switch from one protagonist to the other puts the viewer in an uneasy condition, where the audience feels abandoned within a film universe where there is no one left to rely on.

However, what keeps me – and, I guess, all the cinema lovers – going back to Psycho and re-watch it any time with the same attitude is the character of Norman Bates (masterfully portrayed by Anthony Perkins, in the role that made him immortal). First great horror villain, Bates’ personality and psychology are compelling and captivating to these days. His character, despite the psychiatrist’s exposition scene towards the end of the film, is still a mystery for viewers and critics.

Even though the direction of Psycho is nearly immaculate, in my opinion the success of the movie – as well as its effectiveness – massively rely on Norman’s bony shoulders. Bates is an unsolvable enigma, portrayed in a various range of emotions that make him more and more unpredictable as the movie progresses. He’s also such a quotable villain, whose statements will remain impressed in people’s memories, similarly to Darth Vader’s and Heath Ledger’s Joker’s.

No antagonist in slasher flicks history has ever reached such a complexed and all-rounded characterisation. The invincibility of Myers and Voorhees, the sarcasm of Krueger, the cruelty of Leatherface, the intelligence of Vernon, the pure evil of Pinehead can’t rival with the ‘regular madness’ of Norman Bates.

Hitchcock, similarly to a few directors in cinema history, had also a strong faith in audience’s intelligence and pleasure in challenging it. There aren’t many films, in cinema history, that feature nearly no exposition as Psycho did. Here, the story-telling develops through the characters’ actions and the actions, whereas the dialogues serve as creation of compelling protagonists.

Nonetheless, there is a huge exposition scene towards the end of Psycho, which makes it a bit less timeless than it could have been, although it doesn’t affect the perfection of the film itself.

Needless to say, I strongly recommend this film. If you can, try to find a cinema nearby where they show old classics, so that you can enjoy Psycho to its finest. Cheers!

The movies of James Wan, part III – Insidious (2010) and Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

*Skip the premise if you read the previous posts*

Regarded by many as the best horror director working today, James Wan (27 February 1977) went on also screenwriting and producing many of his movie as well as various flicks connected to his works, such as the Saw and Insidious sequels.

Being able to revitalise several horror clichés, such as tiresome jump-scares and redundant possession-driven plots, Mr. Wan is surrounded by a claque of die-hard fans.

Independently from the single person’s opinion, throughout the last 15 years or so James Wan has had a strong impact on both the independent horror market and the public discussions on the genre. Because of his impact, I decided to analyse and review his movie from the perspective of a neutral horror-lover and passionate moviegoer. I hope you will enjoy this new series.

*Check my previous series on here and here*

Insidious (2010) tells the story of a married couple whose oldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) ends up in an inexplicable coma after falling from a ladder in the new house’s attic. After three months of treatment without result, Dalton’s parents Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Patrick Wilson) are allowed to take Dalton home where, soon after, paranormal activity begins to occur and involve all the family members, including the other children (Foster and Kali) and their grandma Lorraine (Barbara Hershey).

I can imagine what you all think: “I’ve been there, I’ve seen the same story thousands of times already!”. And yes, besides a small detour – “It’s not the house that’s haunted. It’s your son”, the famous quote referring to the out of body experience of Dalton – the plot has nothing new to offer to the hunted house sub-genre.

However, the execution sets Insidious apart from most of the similarly plot-driven films.

hero_InsidiousChapter2-2013-1Clearly executed in a highly stylistic, old-fashioned(-ish) way, the movie recalls an old style of horror filmmaking, relying on all the clichés you can think of but, at the same time, renewing them. The infamous jump-scares are revitalised in Insidious due to Wan’s direction, which relates them to those moments and situations when the audience is actually supposed to be frightened.

Beyond that, the unsettling atmosphere is established also through a great camera-work, supported by immaculate editing choices, and an eerie score which gets under your skin increasing the creepiness of the movie.

Insidious21Furthermore, the characters are compelling and the chemistry between them is palpable and feels real, mostly thanks to Patrick Wilson. On a serious note, why the guy doesn’t star in more films? If you’ve seen him in Hard Candy (2005), you can’t help but notice he is nothing less than a great actor.

Back to Insidious, there are three other characters I didn’t talk about yet: the demonologists Elise Reiner (amazingly portrayed by Lin Shaye) and her sidekicks Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). Called by Lorraine to help Dalton getting rid of the entity who is possessing hid body, Elise gives us the background to this world (the Further) where demons hide and people born with the ability to travel mentally to the astral plane (like Dalton and his dad, Josh) can get lost. Beyond being a bit too heavily exposed, this key concept introduces us to a universe we will be able to experience again and more in-depth in Chapter 2.

Before jumping to the ending and my final thoughts on Insidious, I can’t refuse to mention Specs and Tucker: many viewers hate these characters and consider them the weakest part of the movie. On the contrary, I believe they are the show stealers to some extent. They provide this light, quirky comic relief which is vital in this movie, which thanks to them gets also funny and entertaining.

ade7f5246cbc933b0c9cd80495670300As the last two characters mentioned, the ending of Insidious is very polarising and I can, in all honesty, see why. The final head-to-head between Josh and the Lipstick-Face Demon (yes, I know its name. How nerdy is that?) looks a bit cartoonish and not as tense as the rest of the film was. But, seriously, it doesn’t ruin the film either.

Nevertheless, Insidious is a first-class horror movie. And me claiming it, really does say something, since I’m usually more intrigued and curious about hybrid and non-cliché films. In fact, Insidious might be one of those rare cases when a movie pleases both the average viewer – the one who says Paranormal Activity and Silent Hills are good movies, for instance – and the mature audience as well. Yes, highly recommended for everybody.

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) kicks off right after the events of the second movie and we are immediately immersed in the world we got to learn throughout the first instalment.

insidious-chapter-2-horror-movies-2013_0Same characters, same cast, same problems for our main guys to deal with – although the Red-Face Demon (A.K.A. the Lipstick-Face Demon. Gosh, I’m a freaking nerd!) is replaced by The Old Lady, which is a better and more realistic villain, in my opinion at least. She also resembles a lot Mary Shaw from Dead Silence, as I hinted in the review of that movie.

Anyway, this movie takes also a different direction compared to the first one. Indeed, there is a mystery/paranormal detective investigation which adds layers of interest to the story but, contemporarily, makes it drag a bit too much.

insidious-insidious-24669369-1280-536Nevertheless, what Chapter 2 perfectly achieves is the characters’ arc development. The protagonists, once again, look like real, reliable people.

Let’s get it out of the way: Chapter 2 is a great sequel because it fills the gaps of the first movie and, in general, it enriches plot and characters. Long story short, it’s a necessary sequel, not one made to milk more money out of people’s pockets.

Although I would slightly pick the first over the second instalment, I believe these films should be watched together as chapters of the same story (as the title suggests). Unlike the third movie in the franchise which, beyond not being completely terrible, is quite useless and disposable. But it’s not directed by James Wan either, so this is not the place and the moment to tackle it. Cheers!

The movies of James Wan, part I – Saw (2004)

Regarded by many as the best horror director working today, James Wan (27 February 1977) went on also screenwriting and producing many of his movie as well as various flicks connected to his works, such as the Saw and Insidious sequels.

Being able to revitalise several horror clichés, such as tiresome jump-scares and redundant possession-driven plots, Mr. Wan is surrounded by a claque of die-hard fans.

Independently from the single person’s opinion, throughout the last 15 years or so James Wan has had a strong impact of both the independent horror market and the public discussions on the genre. Because of his impact, I decided to analyse and review his movie from the perspective of a neutral horror-lover and passionate moviegoer. I hope you will enjoy this new series.

*Check my previous series on here and here*

Saw (2004) is the movie that set Wan to the Olympus of horror cinema directors and gave birth to the second highest grossing horror franchise in movie history – only behind the Friday the 13th films by a margin of $10 million. Also, alongside with Leigh Whannell – who went on writing and producing nearly all the Wan’s movies – Mr. Wan has been working on the synopsis of Saw for almost 10 years.

Beyond the technical aspects, indeed the passion behind Saw is clear, almost tangible. Most of the horror fans have noticed it, since this film is considered as a masterpiece among them; however, the critics have drastically scaled it down and given it quite mediocre grades.

As per usual, though, I am not quite apt to be convinced by others’ opinion and I try to be unbiased as much as possible in my reviews.

That’s why, even from a technical standpoint, I’d say Saw looks carefully made, with great attention to the locations, smart utilisation of colours and tones, spot on and subtle soundtrack. The production values, although not perfect, are astounding considering the small budget Wan and Whannell had on their disposal.

saw-1-01Assuming that everybody knows the plot, I am going to explain it very briefly: two men awoke in a dirty, desolated bathroom. They are chained to the furniture and nearby a dead body with its head smashed. While they are figuring out a way to escape from this nightmare, Jigsaw – the villain – talks to them through a creepy doll, telling them what to do and explaining his motivations. In the meantime, a police squad led by Danny Glover is trying to solve the mystery surrounding tons of gory and nasty deaths which occurred in the area and that eventually will lead to save the two trapped men and reveal Jigsaw’s identity.

Despite its alleged originality, Saw clearly has its ancestor in Cube (1997) in regards to tone and plot. However, James Wan’s first film is executed in such a mature and convincing way that it is tough not to praise him for what he has achieved. The twist at the end, which I am not going to spoil, although probably everybody has seen it, is amazing and totally unexpected.

jeff-tapp-singUltimately, even though most of the people seem to enjoy this movie for its gory element and the complexity of the tortures, the great extra value of Saw consists of utilising them as accessary to the movie, not as necessary. Whereas the sequels did the exact same opposite, which is the main reason why I simply cannot even stand their existence and, thus, their success.

Nevertheless, this film has a couple of flaws, namely the acting, which is really amateur and unconvincing, beyond the performances provided by Danny Glover and Tobin Bell, who was born to be Jigsaw, honestly.

Yet, a couple of gory scenes are a bit damaged by the improper camera movements and they would have been highly more effective if filmed in a more static way.

Overall, Saw is quite a cult, a film able to combine the expectation of soft and hard core horror fans altogether, filled with interesting ideas and seeds typical of a well-done thriller, featuring an astounding plot twist. For those of you who have not check it out yet, go see it now. Cheers!

Complexity and unicity to come up with an original mystery. A Cure for Wellness – review

A Cure for Wellness (2017) is directed by Gore Verbinski and stars talented actors such as Dane DeHaan and Jason Isaacs.

A young, successful and unscrupulous business man (Lockhart, played by DeHaan) is forced by his board of directors to move to a sanatorium in Switzerland where he has to convince an older colleague (Roland Pembroke) to come back to New York and face some serious consequences of financial frauds committed by the company.

As soon as the protagonist gets up to the hill, at the castle-like recovery centre, it seems to him that something is off, out of place and, perhaps, it will not be easy to leave the sanatorium nor to ‘rescue’ Mr. Pembroke.

Most certainly the concept of unsettling asylums filled with uneven doctors (such as the director Mr. Volmer, portrayed by Isaacs) is not new, however, in A Cure for Wellness, it’s handled in such a unique and dreadful way that is impossible not to consider this film as a stand-alone product.

hqdefaultDefinitely, the movie is reminiscing of The Shining and Shutter Island for many aspects – the build-up is similar to the Kubrick’s masterpiece, whilst DeHaan and DiCaprio’s character in Scorsese’s film follow alike paths. Nonetheless, the plot development as well as the way Lockhart progressively discovers the secrets of the structure make for an original movie which, honestly, has no benchmark in the history of cinema.

cure-for-wellness-3Moreover, the visuals are simply outstanding. Verbinksi has always been a great visual director – for instance, the look and feel of The Ring, which I’m not a big fan of, are hands down the best part of that movie – and here he gets over himself, exceeding the brightest expectations. Every shot looks beautiful, the editing and camera work are immaculate and, sincerely, they are very close to those in The Shining, or at least closer than the other ‘horror’ movies made throughout the years.

A sharp eye may have noticed the ‘bunny ears’ around the word horror and that’s because A Cure for Wellness is not a straight-up horror movie by any means. Honestly, this film is so original that it would be unfair to restrain it within a single genre boundary. Most definitely, though, it’s a complex pile of puzzles which the viewer tries to solve through the eyes of the main character.

a-cure-for-wellness-official-trailer-2-twThe characters, indeed, are both interestingly developed throughout the movie and amazingly portrayed by DeHaan as the protagonist and Isaacs as the villain. DeHaan, in particular, gave the best performance of his already brilliant career ever since Chronicle – which is the most underrated super-hero movie and the best one, except for the Nolan’s Batman trilogy, obviously. Mia Goth (Nymphomaniac Vol: II) is also in this movie, where she plays the creepy but innocent Hannah who, beyond being a ‘special case’ in the sanatorium, might also be the key to solve the mystery…

As per issues with this movie, I have only a couple. The biggest one concerns the exposition. Sure enough, the key-element of the ‘cure’ is depicted as something to be paying attention to since the very first sequences at the sanatorium, whilst it would have been better, in my opinion, to keep it more hidden and subtle.

In addition, this movie is long. Two hours and 26 minutes’ runtime, where the audience has to pay careful attention to every single detail given. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly prefer to watch complicated films than those where the viewer gets fed up and treated like a 15 years old idiot. Nevertheless, I am quite sure that A Cure for Wellness will make a lot of people really angry due to its slow pace which requires an unusual effort.

Furthermore, but here I’m probably nit-picking, a couple of scenes realised with the CGI would have been highly more effective if done with practical effects. Also, if it does make any sense, I would have preferred the ending to be less abrupt and hasty, to maintain the same tone throughout the entire film.

All in all, A Cure for Wellness exceeded my expectations by far (although it was on my most anticipated movies list) and it’s absolutely the best Verbinski’s movie so far. It’s probably not a masterpiece, nor something that will revolutionise the contemporary cinema, but I’m sure it will develop a cult and a clique of die-hard fans. And I’m already among them. Don’t miss it out, guys. Strongly recommended. Cheers!

It finally came to an end. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter – review

 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017) is directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, stars his wife Milla Jovovich and is the last instalment of the long-lasting franchise inspired by the videogames of the same name.

 

Now, notoriously movies from videogames are not good and Anderson’s direction is worth shit. We also know that, for some – to me inexplicable – reason, all of the six films (yes, we have six of these!) of the Resident Evil saga made a huge profit, despite being panned by critics and hated by mature audiences.

 

However, people keep going to watch them, increasing the bad reputation of horror cinema as a source for cheap entertainment, while this genre should be treated and respected with the same dignity as the others.

 

I apologise, I went out of track for a while, but I figured it was necessary to remind you what the Resident Evil movies are about, before tackling the Final Chapter (thanks God!).

 

Nicolas%20Cage%20Laugh.gifThis movie starts as it was a TV series that came out in the middle 90s, with a seven-minute recap of what happened in the previous instalments, in case we missed them. I wish I did, though. Then, there are tons of fight scenes between Alice – Jovovich – and many zombie-like creatures, a zombie dragon (yes, it’s in the movie), her main antagonist played by Iain Gland.

 

trailer68374Seriously, there’s nothing else to say about this… thing. The best part of The Final Chapter is by far Milla Jovovich as Alice and this is saying something.

 

Other than that, shaky cam, horrible CGI effects 90s-like and meaningless dialogues between paper-like characters are the only features the viewer should expect from this atrocity.

 

f1cb3213249c849827956a72442401f6Let me just jump right into the final act of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. As you might guess – in fact everyone sees it coming – at the end of the flick there is the big, final face-off between Jovovich and Gland. And you know what happens? Their fight, beyond being realised with one of the most chopped editing I have seen in a movie, is continuously interrupted by flash-forwards, which show on screen (!!) the percentages of success the fighters may have if they do this move or this other trick.

 

I have no words to describe Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. So far, it’s the worst movie of 2017, there is nothing interesting or worth mentioning about it. Also, the action/fight scenes that could have made this movie an average Sci-fi flick to watch at 3am with friends and some boost are washed out and poorly executed.

 

Don’t see this movie guys, save your money for other stuff; don’t allow Anderson to make further profit; don’t underwhelm the horror cinema by watching this cash-grabbing awful thing. Cheers!

 

Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #8 The Bay

*The general premise to the list is available in my previous posts, go check it out*

The Bay (2012) is a mockumentary horror movie in found footage style, directed by Barry Levinson who previously brought on screen great films such as Good morning Vietnam (1987), Rain Man (1988) – winning the Award both for best direction and best pictures – and Wag the Dog (1997). The Bay was indeed a shot in the dark for Levinson, who, however, nailed it once again.

Before diving right into the movie, I need to say that the next three films on this ‘top ten of most underrated horror flicks’ – The Bay itself and the next two – have been welcomed enthusiastically by critics and reviewers, whereas being disapproved by the public. I feel relieved not being the only one who sees potential and goodness in them.

Let’s now talk about The Bay, which plot consists of a little town on the Maryland shore where an infection of some kind starts infecting people, causing them to have their body covered by warts and boils. As the disease progresses, the symptoms get worse and worse, up to the death of the infected.

This film is not your average contagion flick, though. To be clear, none turns into a famished zombie. Without spoiling anything, The Bay looks more like a documented viral contagion that spreads the virus unstoppably.

thebay_02

Levinson’s most ‘out of place’ work has numerous qualities. First of all, the found footage is always believable. It does make sense even in the minute details, where the exposition is left to the scientists who are documenting their studies in order to figure out what is going on in the town.

Secondly, the atmosphere is unsettling and dreadful throughout the entire runtime – 85 mins of edge-of-your-seat type of deal – even in the first scene, when the location seems paradisiac and the people look cheerful. As the movie progresses, the whole look and feel drag the viewers into a very credible nightmare with the sensation of no possible escape.

Yet, the acting is surprisingly good and the cast – composed by not even decent actors, in my opinion – did a great job in this movie. The camera work, the lightening and the performances make the story look more like a real documentary rather than a cheap mockumentary. I think the one who should be praised the most is Barry Levinson, who did a great job out of an average script and a mediocre cast.

Plus, The Bay is way more disgusting and disturbing than your usual found footage. It’s not scary, though, in the traditional way – jump scares and all that tiring stuff – but it’s unsettling. Therefore, there are few jaws dropping scenes, when the viewers literally jump on their seats, which you don’t see them coming. Something quite rare in the horror cinema nowadays.

All in all, The Bay is an intense, dreadful and disturbing movie with an actual social commentary that should make people think and reflect on the way we treat our environment. It’s a shame this movie is so overlooked. If you guys read this review, please check out the movie and tell your friends to do the same. You won’t regret it. Cheers.