January 30, 2011

Grizzly Park (2008)

"Eight young adults are sent to do community service at Grizzly Park. There, they are hunted by an escaped serial killer along with the animals of the forest."

Even though most people would say that this film is only made bearable (no pun intended) by Glenn Morshower's performance as Ranger Bob, I actually managed to switch my brain off enough to almost enjoy it. Admittedly Emily Foxler (as Bebe) was the only one of the actresses who kept my interest as none of the other characters were overly likable and the story itself wasn't at all as involving as it could have been.

I suppose "Grizzly Park" is a comedy. The IMDb describes it as such and there are far too many amusing moments for it to be a real horror movie. Whether any of that is intentional or not is another matter. I found it all very entertaining though and not just because I wanted to tear it apart for yet another movie review.

The main problem with "Grizzly Park" is that it was short on anything remotely horrific until the last twenty minutes or so. Until that point it could have been just another teenage soap opera like "Dawson's Creek" or something. When the horror did finally come it was all extremely fake looking but nicely violent. Really there needed to be some more kills spread out through the running time to keep things interesting rather than padding it out with two-dimensional characterisation, expositions and some pretty bad dialogue.

There were a couple of twists at the end which I didn't see coming at all. Perhaps if the "Sleepaway Camp" series that this was so obviously modelled on had been fresher in my mind then I might have realised what was going on sooner.

Although I don't recommend "Grizzly Park" for anybody sane to watch (especially as I'm not one of those people who believe that any film can be "so bad that it's good"), it certainly wasn't the worst horror-comedy that I've ever sat through.

January 29, 2011

They Wait (2007)

"A young mother and her six-year-old son come face to face with the mysteries of two murders and a great crime against the Chinese community into which they have recently arrived from Shanghai."

I must admit that I only bought this DVD because of the picture of Jaime King on the sleeve. It had been a month since I last visited the local "Swap Shop" and I think "They Wait" had been on the shelves there for at least the last year. Every time I went in I would pick it up and then put it back in favour of something else and I nearly did this this time too except that I remembered looking the title up on the IMDb before Christmas when I was in the mood for ghost stories. It'd been ages since I'd watched a sexy blonde being menaced by oriental ghosts so I thought I'd finally give this film a try. I'm glad I did too.

Although it's not strictly a "J-horror" (especially since it's Canadian and most of the actors are Chinese), "They Wait" is very much in the tradition of "The Ring", "The Grudge", "Shutter" and all that other good stuff featuring scary ghostly girls with long black hair. In many ways it's a lot like "What Lies Beneath" too especially as it has a dark secret behind the haunting which gets revealed at the end. I suppose you could probably say that it was really like any other ghost story that you've ever watched as, apart from the Chinese elements, it really is a straightforward and formulaic story with no real surprises except that it isn't a remake of anything.

Since the trailer pretty much gives away the entire plot, I'm not going to spoil things further by giving away even more of the story but will instead just mention a couple of things which stood out for me. The first is that Jaime King spends a lot of time with both hands over her face for some reason. In fact, if she is given any opportunity to show fear or emotion then up they go. I didn't find this distracting at all but it was amusing. Also in her obligatory shower scene, there's no nakedness because she seems to already be wearing a beige coloured towel before she puts her bathrobe on. I suspected that this might be a PG-13 film at first but it's actually rated R so a bit more nudity would have been absolutely fantastic as far as I'm concerned.

There are a couple of decent scares and some gore but mostly things are pretty tame. The camerawork is good and the acting is fine even if the relationship between Terry Chen and Jaime King lacks chemistry. I'd put that down more to the script and how Terry Chen has a lot less screen time than anything else. Regan Oey who plays their son, Sam, is really good. These three actors pretty much carry the story along in its very discernible sections with hardly any overlap or interaction between them and that is a major weakness. Again, without spoiling it, Terry's reaction to what should be some very worrying news half way through seems very cold and mechanical.

Anyway, even though just like every other film ever made, "They Wait" has a lot of flaws, it's still very entertaining, has good production values and was just nicely done overall. It could have been scarier and a lot more adult but it's still a decent and enjoyable ghost story.

January 26, 2011

Season of the Witch (2011)

"14th-century knights transport a suspected witch to a monastery, where monks deduce her powers could be the source of the Black Plague."

I wasn't really expecting much from "Season of the Witch" and was at least hoping to be entertained in a completely anachronistic action-packed way. I like films about witches and medieval witchcraft but this wasn't even as much fun as Full Moon's "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1991) which I watched a couple of nights ago just to get myself in the mood.

The highlights for me were Ron Perlman's character and, of course, Claire Foy as the witch. I just wish that the story had gone a different and more witchcraft based way rather than ending up with a messy CGI demon. Given the amount of effort that was obviously put in to make everything else look right, it was a shame.

Although I'm a big fan of Nicolas Cage, I have to say that "Season of the Witch" is far from his finest hour. He occasionally does the action hero role really well but this was not one of those times. Apart from getting a bit shouty and looking really awkward in his armour, I can't say that I'll remember his role as Behman. It was just so two-dimensional that he was eclipsed by everyone else that he shared a scene with.

The dialogue is what really let "Season of the Witch" down the most though. Sometimes it was all mock-Shakespearian hyperbole and then everyone seemed to forget what time period the film was set in completely and it all got jarringly modern. With too many comedic elements thrown in anyway, this kind of bathos just doomed the whole production to lacklustre B-movie status.

I don't recommend "Season of the Witch" unless you are really bored and can't find anything better to watch. Bear in mind that it's just a PG-13 film released in January with all the other movies that the studios don't really know what to do with.

Hopefully the year will get better but, from what I've seen so far outside of the horror genre, I don't think it will.

January 17, 2011

Don't declaw!

Don't declaw your cats!!!

This cruel and inhumane practice still occurs in America and it disgusts me. There's a good reason why declawing is illegal in every other country in the world.

Declawing is painful, leaves a cat maimed and changes its personality for the worse. Yours would change too if you had feelings of phantom toes, the inability to stretch properly and crippling arthritis later in life.

And what's the point of this anyway? So your cheap chipboard Sauder furniture doesn't get scratched? If you care more about your sofa than you do your cat then you shouldn't even have a cat in the first place.

Boycott any vets who still perform declawing operations and hit them where it hurts - in their wallets. Maybe the laws will get changed for the rest of America as they have already started to in California.

Yes, this is a horror blog and stuff like this is truly horrific.

January 10, 2011

My Night Watch / Day Watch collection so far

I know this isn't really horror (even though the movies were incorrectly marketed as such), but I took this photo for another site recently and thought that I might as well share it on here as well.

The big, shiny, round thing (which didn't photograph properly) is a Night Watch mousepad with crows which move inside it.

Apart from that, from left to right (and below the bottom of my Night Watch poster), I have:

  • Night Watch shot glasses (actually made out of metal not glass)
  • A Day Watch badge featuring Masha (the spider-doll)
  • A Night Watch iron-on shield patch and (below it) the lapel pin
  • The PC DVD game of Night Watch (I also have Night Watch Racing and Day Watch inside the box)
  • Night Watch US DVD
  • Night Watch (2 disc Special Edition) UK DVD
  • Day Watch (Unrated) US DVD
  • Wanted (2 disc set) US DVD - which is kind of the third part but not really
  • A wind-up Masha spider-doll (I took the legs back off because it scares me)
  • The four Sergei Lukyanenko novels (Night Watch, Day Watch, Twilight Watch and Last Watch) which are a little bit different to the films
  • A Day Watch (Gorsvet design lightbulb emblem) iron-on patch
  • A Russian Vostok watch (nothing to do with the films but it's a Russian "watch")

I haven't collected everything to do with the films as there are Day Watch shot glasses, a "flick story" notepad, a mini-Maglite with Night Watch written on it, and, an unofficial diecast model Gorsvet truck (which I know is not even the same kind of truck as the ones in the film) which I still have to find. I do, however, also have all the t-shirts and posters. I just didn't take a picture of them this time.

In case you've never seen "Night Watch" (2004) or "Day Watch" (2006), I highly recommend them. The sequel is 100 times better than the first one but you need both for the story as it was supposed to be a trilogy originally. The third part never happened, but the second movie tied everything up anyway.

I don't know what it is about these Russian fantasy films which appealed to me so much, but they just did. Some people hate them, call them "style over substance", or just don't get them at all.

No matter how many times that I've tried to write reviews of "Night Watch" or "Day Watch", I have never been able to get very far since there's just too much in them to do them justice.

January 3, 2011

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

"Kirsty is brought to an institution after the death of her family, where the occult-obsessive head resurrects Julia and unleashes the Cenobites once again."

Now I know it's bizarre to rate a sequel higher than the first film in a series but while I found the original "Hellraiser" (1987) impressive, it wasn't until Clare Higgins came back as the skinless Julia (albeit with Deborah Joel as her body double) that I really felt that true horror had been achieved.

It's a pity that all the later "Hellraiser" films are so appalling compared to this as if they'd continued to get more brutal and surreal then I think a lot more people would be buying into them today rather than discounting "Hellraiser" as a franchise which has outstayed its welcome.

Every actor in "Hellbound" gives an outstanding performance which is only possible because they are all what I term "real actors". Apart from Doug Bradley and Ashley Laurence, none of the actors were known to me for doing horror and it was quite a shock to see the calibre of Kenneth Cranham, Clare Higgins and even Imogen Boormen (also known later for being the lead in the BBC's "Iphigenia at Aulis") in something like this.

The surrealness of the monsters and the effects used to create them in "Hellbound" really make this extraordinary.

January 2, 2011

Grace (2009)

"After losing her unborn child, Madeline Matheson insists on carrying the baby to term. Following the delivery, the child miraculously returns to life with an appetite for human blood. Madeline is faced with a mother's ultimate decision."

I watched this ages ago through Netflix but forgot to post the review up until now. Anyway, "Grace" was more of a drama with a few horror moments than a real horror film and it certainly wasn't in any way scary.

It's no spoiler to tell you that it was about a dead baby which comes back to life and needs to drink blood to live. You'll get that from the DVD sleeve and the trailer.

What you won't expect is how slow and character driven it all is. To say that it's another typical Canadian independent film would just be an insult to Canada and independent films but that's really the only way to describe it. There's a certain subgenre of Canadian movies which all have the same pacing and would drag if it wasn't for the camerawork and story. "Grace" however isn't as good as any of those.

"Grace" is really something that would be better as a 15 minute short as it doesn't really go anywhere. There are no twists or real surprises and it's 100% predictable. The only saving grace (yeah, I realise the pun) is that Jordan Ladd is quite easy on the eye.

I also noticed a really good goof at the 45 min. 49 sec. mark. One of the crew is clearly visible hiding in the doorway while Jordan Ladd is emptying meat into her wheelie bins outside. In fact he's so visible that I thought she was going to go back indoors and have an intruder jump out on her. He didn't and the director's commentary doesn't even mention it either so it just shows how little attention was paid to the editing.

It's still not a totally bad film for one viewing but the more times you watch it, the more you can tear it apart. I watched it twice over and my rating went down from an initial 5 out of 10 to just 2.

I hated Jordan Ladd's weirdo vegan character and all the stuff with breast feeding just made me want to keep saying "Bitty! Bitty Now!" like the David Walliams character in "Little Britain". One scene involving the old mother-in-law really was that sketch too.