Monthly Archives: July 2012
Turn off the lights, and stare into a mirror….I dare you.
Whilst on a tour of a haunted swamp, an eclectic group of people are stalked by the ‘local-legend’ Victor Crowley – a deformed boy killed years ago by his father in a freak accident.
‘Hatchet’ starts off very well and initially, it looks as if the picture is blessed with an all-star horror cast including Robert Englund, Tony Todd and Kane Hodder. That is until you realize that most of these parts – excluding Hodder’s as ‘Victor Crowley’ – are mere cameo appearances. The plot of this movie is best-described as “vintage” and I liked the back-story to Crowley’s maniac (beguiling, if unoriginal) as well as the atmospheric setting of a rain-drenched and gothic swamp.
The first and foremost thing that hits when you watch ‘Hatchet’ is a gore content set admirably and lovingly above the levels of ‘torture-porn’. Some slasher fans may find this aspect imploring but it should more appropriately set alarm bells ringing; gore has never been a good guide to this genre.
For a film which claims to follow the slasher genre so closely, the absence of suspense is hard to swallow. The most interesting characters are regrettably killed off early in the movie, leaving a group of wooden actors to see proceedings through in a manner which isn’t too far off tortuous; and leads inevitably to the audience experiencing ambivalence as the film goes on. Of course, ‘Hatchet’ doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a campy and fun tribute to ‘dead-teenager’ movies. Nevertheless, even on this level, the film’s comic aspects go far beyond the subtle parody of ‘Scream’ (1996) and enter the depths of nonsense.
Furthermore, the killer is uninteresting and jester-ish, owing more than a nod to the pathetic ‘Madman Marz’ from the dire ‘Madman’ (1982). Lamentably, the audience see Crowley – ‘warts-and-all’ – far too early in the picture. The film-makers reject any element of mystery surrounding the killer’s appearance; unfortunately, once the ‘slasher’ has been revealed and shown on-screen in full view, the impact of further appearances are sadly nullified and the film really suffers for it. (Think of movies like “The Burning” (1981) for the opposite effect, where a ‘full-frontal’ of the killer is held back until a consequently hotly-anticipated finale).
The script has its witty moments and whilst it is quite regaling to pick out the many references to movies of the past, ‘Hatchet’ ultimately has little of the charm of the movies it claims to homage. Aside from the sometimes rousing visuals, slasher affectionados looking for a new nostalgia may end up feeling circumvented. This one did.
hotdog rating: 4/10
Roberto (Michael Brandon) is an accomplished drummer in a rock band. After accidentally killing a man he believed to be a stalker, Roberto is tormented by a masked figure who witnessed the crime…..
One of Argento’s most Hitchcockian efforts is a sublime but mostly experimental picture woven around some elaborate murder sequences. These set-piece death scenes are perfectly executed, drawn-out and dripping with an intensity rare in movies to this day. Two such scenes are clear homages to “The Birds” (1963) and “Psycho” (1960). The first involves a woman stalked menacingly in a children’s park after dark and the latter showcases a woman being slashed, stabbed and falling backwards down some pretty hefty looking stairs.
It’s interesting that there is no-one the audience really connects with in this film. Michael Brandon’s character is portrayed as nonchalant and aloof as well as both morally and sexually ambiguous. We aren’t meant to care for him too much. The dark cinematography often revolves around our protagonist, standing alone in his apartment knowing his tormentor is standing in the shadows, for what appear to be entire minutes at times. In many respects, the play on what may be lurking in the darkest parts of our homes is the key focus of Argento’s movie.
Quirky and interesting supporting characters shower red-herrings all over the place; the best of which is a homosexual private detective whose camp improvisations are nothing short of hilarious. The’ reveal’ at the film’s climax is brought about by a frankly ridiculous plot-device – apparently the retina stores the last image someone sees directly before they die – but when it comes, is a palpable surprise and despite what Roger Ebert and others say, there actually are hints as to the real identity of the killer. Not that it matters in the end, Argento’s movies aren’t true murder-mysteries despite what the critics seem to think.
Ennio Morricone’s minimalist score is a long-way from the pounding Simonetti soundtracks which so many of Argento’s later films run off; and for once, it’s the silence in an Argento film which actually grabs you.
The editing technique employed is heterodox – the camera’s gaze is sharply cut to and from different times and places – this sometimes works fantastically well whilst in other instances it falls flat on its face. But, more annoyingly perhaps, Argento doesn’t get the balance right between humour and suspense at times. But these are minor gripes with a film that bowls you over time and time again until a final scene which must surely remain one of Argento’s finest moments.
If you’re looking for a bizarre horror-thriller, or if you like watching a juvenile but immensely talented director paint your mind with the colour of kooky suspense, then you cannot go wrong with this film.
The great thing is that Argento never did know how to tell a story – but he’s that good it just doesn’t matter.
hotdog rating: 8/10
I really dislike Halloween 3: Season of the Witch but I have to say, the opening titles are nifty….although there is something just so uneasy about this whole film.
Low-life drug dealer Chris Smith has bad debts and convinces his family to have their mother killed, in order to obtain the hefty life-insurance money. The family enlist the help of the curious ‘Killer Joe Cooper’ who demands the virginal younger sister, Dottie, as collateral…….
In “Killer Joe”, Friedkin’s daring movie-making turns to a trailer-trash sitcom about a cop who moonlights as a hired killer. The end result is a visceral blend of savage sexuality and violent comedy.
It’s not often that modern audiences can be made to feel awkward and even rarer, that they are truly shocked. But, Friedkin pulls it off with the help of a prodigious cast. The film looks raw and feels defiled. If ever a film was ‘shower-inducing’ then this is it; but the realism that this adds to proceedings is difficult to overplay.
McConaughey monopolizes parts of the movie as “Killer Joe”, a character who is as alluring and magnetic as he is repellent. There was always a risk of McConaughey over-shadowing the film and ‘eating the scenery’ but importantly, McConaughey does not subjugate the other players. Thomas Haden Church as the craggy and sullen father figure is captivating whilst audiences cannot fail to be enamoured by Juno Temple as the stunningly beautiful trophy-daughter “Dottie”. Emile Hirsch gives a memorable performance as the imprudent “Chris”, a man who continually finds himself making poor life-decisions.
In general, the contempt for human life and ordinary morality displayed by this disparate group of characters is astonishing. For much of the movie, we are treated to a sort of strange soap-opera surrounding these individuals and their ‘live-in’ hitman; with their frazzled moral compasses serving as the offbeat subject matter.
A crazily comic script added to the lashings of acid humour layered all over the film cannot prevent at least 2 scenes from being almost impossible to watch; and it’s a real struggle to keep your eyes on the screen without looking away. These scenes are not notable for excessive violence but involve McConaughey’s unrivalled sexual decadence and enticing delivery. Nevertheless, when the violence does come, there is no holding back – it’s unapologetic, hard-hitting and in line with the movie’s gritty realism, leaves you emotionally blanched.
If I have any complaints about “Killer Joe”, it’s that it is actually too short. Running at just over 100 minutes, you want to see more and more of the characters but instead the film races towards histrionics of farcical proportions in a finale which is melodramatically mind-blowing.
Friedkin has always pushed the boundaries of cinema in a career which has been spattered with some of the greatest films ever made (“The Exorcist”, “The French Connection”) and it’s endearing to see that even in an era where audiences are familiar with some of the most violent and disturbing images imaginable; he still retains the power to shock, amuse and excite. A bold and unique film indeed.
Hotdog rating: 9/10