October 12, 2012

Half Light (2006)

"Rachel Carlson, a successful novelist moves to a small Scottish village to move on with her life after the death of her son. Strange things start to happen when she is haunted by ghosts and real life terror."

For the 12th movie in my "Hallowe'en Countdown", I've chosen a favourite of mine which has been polarising reviewers ever since it was released. One of the more snarky BBC critics doesn't just stop at bashing the movie but calls anyone who likes this movie "half-wits". If being a half-wit means that you enjoy a good supernatural thriller then I'm proud to be one.

Although it contains themes which are reminiscent of a lot of Asian ghost films from the same time, "Half Light" doesn't have any scary long-haired girls or little boys meowing like cats in it. Unless you find Demi Moore absolutely terrifying (bearing in mind that the jury is still out about some of her close-ups) or extremely attractive then there may not be a lot here for you. It's not a "terror movie" by any stretch of the imagination.

If you are trying to please the ladies with a movie on Hallowe'en, I'm sure they'll be glad that you haven't put on something which will make them soil themselves and give them nightmares. They'll also appreciate that "Half Light" has Henry Ian Cusick (who we all know as Desmond from "Lost") in it plus Hans Matheson as the love interest. Girls goes crazy for these guys. Apart from being very good actors, I don't really see the appeal of either of them though.

Maybe a lot of shock elements might satiate the masses more than a romance with several twists, but "Half Light" works just fine without all the gimmicks. There's certainly enough creepiness in the early part of the film to draw you into the story and keep you engrossed until the very end. That's not to say that "Half Light" wouldn't benefit from a few more clich├ęd jump scares, but it doesn't really need them.

Set on a remote Scottish island which, in reality, is actually made up of locations in Cornwall and Wales, "Half Light" conjures up the kind of isolated and paranoid environment which is sure to please fans of "The Wicker Man". The influence is so apparent in several scenes that it's far too easy to point a finger at the lack of originality. No horror movie is ever very original anyway so you have to give "Half Light" credit when it manages to go in a different direction to what you might expect.

The greatest thing about "Half Light", other than Demi Moore proving that she can actually act, is that it feels "old school". Most of this is due to Demi Moore's character not being all that big on technology. Apart from mentioning the internet in a public library and using mobile phones near the end, this film could have been made 20 or 30 years ago. I doubt anyone would have had a bad thing to say about it if it had been.

Unfortunately, for those of who seen too many films, it's easy to spot that the "old school" twists are lifted from various made-for-TV ghost movies from the '70s. I could list half a dozen titles which "Half Light" made me think of. Obviously, the thriller elements in all those movies originally came from film noir, and this leads to "Half Light" feeling like a third or fourth generation duplicate of tried and tested formulas in some places.

Even with great production values, surprisingly good acting, and a plethora of British talent on show, I can see how the very harsh critics would hate it, but I still think "Half Light" works extremely well indeed.

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