Monthly Archives: October 2011

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Synopsis:

In 1988, a young family come to the conclusion that a supernatural force is at work in their home and  set up CCTV to film their experiences.

Review:

Predictably similar to the earlier movies in the series and the multiple ‘blair-witch’ clones with their grainy CCTV viewpoints. You can sum the film up with the following: “Young family harassed by a spook who throws things around”. Basically, think Poltergeist (1982) but from the cam-corder perspective.

Nevertheless, this film does what it sets out to do. It makes you jump and delivers the shock sequences with some panache.   I really liked the way the actual motion of the cameras  built-up tension – although it’s a good thing the film is so short for danger of becoming nauseous –  and there is a great scene involving a ‘white sheet’ creeping up behind the babysitter as she sits at the kitchen table, which the audience see in rhythmic shots. Additionally, there is a very cool set-piece in the bathroom where a game of ‘bloody mary’ goes pear-shaped.

The performances are standard for this sort of movie and the two little girls at the centre of it all are more than a bit creepy. However, I was a little surprised at the screen time given to Teddy Ruxpin! In many respects, I thought the script could have been a lot better, some of the dialogue is just unbelievable.  This is especially the case during the scenes between the mother and her camera-happy boyfriend. Furthermore, the plot is rather confusing and the taglines/advertisements used for the movie don’t really bare a strong resemblance to the finished product that I saw on the cinema screen.

Towards the end of the film I lost what was going big-time and didn’t really understand why certain apparitions were appearing nor did I manage to link the events in this ‘prequel’ to the first and second movies in the series. There is a ‘twist’ ending which sort of comes out-of-nowhere which I presume was added to increase the body count of the film from the markedly poor zero.

But, if you want cheap shocks, you can’t really go wrong with this film.

hotdog rating: 5/10

Eastwood on Westerns

and why he hasn’t done one since Unforgiven (1992)

The Prowler (aka Rosemary’s Killer) (1981)

Synopsis:

A masked killer dressed in US military uniform stalks and slashes his way through a Graduation dance….35 years after a horrific double-murder of a young couple. but what’s the connection and who is the killer?

Review:

Joseph Zito directed this quirky slasher which is most well-known for the terrific special make-up effects of Tom Savini – these are probably the best effects in any slasher movie of the period. Blunt instruments burst through prosthetic heads, torsos and limbs all over the place. In addition, there is a cool homage to arguably the first slasher movie, “Psycho”, in the very bloody ‘shower scene’.

There are plenty of scares and Zito handles the pulsating chase sequences with significant directorial flare (he would do the same in “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter”). The eerie camerawork is worthy of a mention too; this movie is fantastically dark with the only let-up from the blackened screen being the piercing thrusts of the killer’s pitchfork. The screenplay is a bit more developed than your average slasher flick meaning that the audience is nearly as interested in plot and character developments as in the death sequences (a rarity in the genre). That said, the producers obviously couldn’t resist the rather tongue-in-cheek shock ending……

I really like this film, it’s a step above most “dead teenager” movies and whilst it certainly isn’t in the spirit of the bloodless genre-masterpiece “Halloween” (1978), there are certain scenes which could have dropped straight out of Carpenter’s classic.

hotdog rating: 7/10

ps. The Prowler is on at The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square this Wednesday; an opportunity not to be missed!

 

A little piece of slasher poster history

Invitation to a Gunfighter (1964)

Synopsis:

Mixed-race gunfighter, Yul Brynner, is hired by a morally dubious town to hunt and kill a confederate war veteran (George Segal) accused of murder.

Review:

A western which is surprisingly lacking in terms of action sequences but heavy on dialogue and dramatic intrigue.  The film is best described as a drama set against a western backdrop. Brynner gives a gifted performance as the gunfighter of the title; Pat Hingle is stunning as the pragmatic and heartless town-leader but unfortunately, George Segal is under-utilised as the “bad guy”.

The movie starts off very well with a great opening sequence and some impressive cinematography of a dark, isolated and corrupt western town. However, the film doesn’t really deliver and suffers from a tedious focus on Brynner’s rationale for gunfighting with too little attention paid to the underlying plot and development of the film’s supporting characters. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable movie for western fans although it won’t convert anyone whose ambivalent towards the genre.

Overall, a picture with much promise which sadly relies too heavily on Brynner’s great performance to carry it through with flying colours.

hotdog rating: 6/10

quick-fire round – movies I’ve watched in the last few days.

The Boston Stranger (1968)

Synopsis:

based on real events, a strangular terrorizes women in boston. the movie mostly takes place from the point of view of the police.

Review:

A good cast – Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda for example – and a well-regarded director (Richard Flesicher) set the bar high for this film. Unfortunately, I found it rather dull and the split screen editing technique begins to gnaw as the film goes on. Not terrible but very little to keep you enthralled.

hotdog rating: 5/10

Devil (2010)

Synopsis:

A group of people stuck in a lift begin to believe that one of their number is a murderous nutcase, whilst those watching the CCTC footage from outside rather begin to suspect something supernatural is present inside the elevator…….

Review:

A nifty little movie which is both frightening and engaging. Very well-directed too. Look out for veteran character actor Matt Craven as “Lustig”, the sceptical security guard. There is an interesting twist towards the end of the film.  worth watching.

hotdog rating: 7/10

Keoma (1976)

Synopsis:

A half-breed – “Keoma” – returns to his hometown after the Civil War to find it plague-ridden and under the heel of a nasty piece of work…he then sets out to rectify the situation.

Review:

Probably the last great italo-western in which Franco Nero gives a hypnotic performance as Keoma. The film runs more like an opera with plot evolution and scripting occurring through the soundtrack rather than through the visuals on screen. It’s violent, bloody and unique. Pay particular attention to the fantastic slow-motion death scenes. Makes Tarantino look like Disney.

hotdog rating: 8.5/10

Phantasm 2 (1988)

Synopsis:

Giving a synopsis for the Phantasm series is tough – the films include killer metal spheres with drills in in them, dwarf-like goblins, a very tall man who looks like a gaunt irish uncle and some very bad sex scenes….

Review:

Chaos. The acting was bad in part one but by this time around is just diabolical. Script is poor and the plot incomprehensible. nevertheless, a great score and some interesting gore effects. for hardcore fans only.

hotdog rating: 3.5/10

Dario Argento’s Phenomena (1985) great movie, great scene

I love this scene from Argento’s Phenomena (1985). The little boy used to give me nightmares……………

enjoy.

I included this movie in my top ten films of all time, and I stand by that, despite the howls of “how could you possibly love this movie?” from others.

The reason I like this film is because it’s so bizarre. It is the closest I think cinema has come to representing an actual nightmare i.e. stunning visuals, a  sweat-inducing fright factor and a genuine feeling of “what the hell is going on!” because of course, being a “nightmare” in itself, the film makes almost no sense….but that isn’t the point.

A beautiful fantasy film for slasher fans.

and did I mention the AWESOME soundtrack. here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXyRsOJo0fo&feature=related

 

 

hotdog’s pick for mid-week madness – “A Fistful of Dynamite”

mid-week always call for a “mad” movie.

I think this week calls for Sergio Leone’s “A Fistful of Dynamite” (1971). The movie stars James Coburn as the quintessential boozed-up irishman with a fetish for explosions and Rod Steiger as a mexican bandit masquerading as a greasy stand-up comic.

this film is so much fun. Steiger and Coburn are fantastic, the dialogue is hilarious,  and there are smoking guns and explosions a go-go. It all feels like a big self-parodying italo western party on crack.

join the fun.

Scanners (1981)


Synopsis:

A good psychic freak takes on a group of bad psychic freaks……that’s all you need you know.

Review:

An interesting film which has a stimulating plot and eloquent script (despite the impression given by my synopsis above).

Patrick McGoohan gives a star turn as an eccentric scientist who has developed an interest in a group of people who have strange psychic abilities – known as “scanners” – and Stephen Lack does well as a “good” scanner whom he sends on a crusade to track down the “bad” scanners  led by the brilliant and dictatorial Michael Ironside.

Cronenberg handles some decent action sequences, particularly the final battle scene between Lack and Ironside, and also throws in some classic gore effects for good measure. Of course, this film is infamous, for one scene alone: the  head-exploding scene. (see clip below).

Howard Shore’s soundtrack is kind of epic too and gives the film a somewhat apocalyptic tone.

On the negative side, this film won’t really hold your attention unless you’re into sci-fi/body horror and some of the supporting cast are weak as well as uninteresting.

It’s pretty blatant that Cronenberg is playing on society’s fears of the mentally ill here and whilst some have hailed this film as a great comment on the attitudes of the time, I think his earlier movie “The Brood” (1979) offers a more advanced and frightening treatment of this issue.

At the end of the day, an enjoyable and entertaining film for those of us who like the genre but, if you don’t, it’s only really worth watching for the iconic head-exploding scene.

hotdog rating: 6/10

Halloween/The Exorcist double-bill at Prince Charles Cinema!

http://princecharlescinema.com/indexreview.php?display=1834&date=2011:10:31&year=2011&month=10&day=31

what a fitting way to spend the 31st October. Full marks to the guys at the Prince Charles Cinema.

Let’s all go and get scared out of our wits by Carpenter’s genre masterpiece “Halloween” and follow it up with the chilling power of Friedkin’s “The Exorcist”.  Missing this opportunity would be a crime………….hope to see everyone there.